Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Rainbow Connection

A while back a friend gave me some very specific instructions on how to get the credit for three MB-1377s. Well . . . I think it worked.

I don't think it's any great secret that many of the games I run lately owe a debt to Joss Whedon's Sci-Fi Space Western. After all, it fits. The plots to his shows could have been rolled up in Rogue Trader and he's borrowing from the same sources as all the rest of us anyway: Star Wars, the old Battlestar Galactica, A Fistful of Dollars, Yojimbo, you name it. There's inevitably going to be some commonality between one Western in space and the next. But his Western had one significant thing mine was still lacking. No, I don't mean horses. (Though there is that too.) He had a spaceship for his ensemble cast. And that is what I most wanted.

There were a few things required of the spaceship: it had to be large enough to plausibly carry a dozen or so people and a useful payload. It had to be neat looking. It had to fit inside my budget. And I wanted what in theatre would be called a "practical" cargo bay. (A "practical" door or window actually opens. A practical faucet runs when you open the tap. You wouldn't necessarily drink it, but water comes out. It functions in some obvious way.) I'm a fan of what the Gov' General over in Sector Six calls "bathtubbing," whereby you leave out the unnecessary things and compact things for scale. But even using a fair bit of that I still wanted a larger than usual model. There's only so small you can make a thing and still fit your bathtubbed truck into the cargo hold, for instance. This one had some physical minimums if I wanted it to be "practical." I've also had a theory for a while now that spaceships and submarines have a few things in common, thus submarines would be a good source of inspiration for spacecraft art. So I set out on a quest to find appropriate children's toys and submarine models.

The orange creature below was one of several somewhat promising broken toys I found in charity shops for the purpose. It . . . seemed far fetched, but the hinged nose, low floor, and large diameter made me think it might work. Lying next to it are two halves of the hull from a model submarine I found on eBay. This is an old Revell SnapTite kit, and I loved the look of the thing and figured between the two items maybe I could get somewhere.

I knew I only wanted to use the airplane for part of the hull, so the first step was removing the end I wouldn't use. In this case I cut off the "tail," which was really too small and kidsy anyway. The "nose" would become the aft end of my ship. At this point I also added the first details to what would be the cargo bay.

This still left me in a bit of a quandry about the forward section of the ship. I'm getting to be a fan of cardstock, but I didn't want to craft the cockpit entirely from scratch. At some point, in one of the Governor General's posts, he pointed out a line of modular Matchbox rescue toys. While looking through that I discovered some large shuttles that looked really promising indeed and came across several job lots on the bay.

I feel quite certain this will provide several spaceships, some surface vehicles, and maybe even a few buildings. (It's worth noting the specific cockpit that went into the gangs starship was removed from the box before any of those pictures were taken.) In any case, with cockpit in hand it was finally a matter of finishing up the middle. Cardstock provided a solid middle. The first piece was formed over the top of the rear section, glued in place, and then fitted down to the cockpit. I marked and measured the second piece in order to cut it into a more roughly conical section and then glued it in place as well. The cardboard would cover all but the aftmost two windows of the toy jet hull. These would become doors onto a gallery level somewhat above the cargo floor. The submarine would provide the hull sections of this gallery or wing level. (And it is on this gallery level that I imagine the crew and passenger accommodations to be. I briefly toyed with detailing the interior here, but it would be nigh unto impossible to see through the tiny windows, so I abandoned the interior aside from the cargo bay.

At this point I needed propulsion. I had originally planned to use some transformer parts leftover from the TransRim MB-1210 Starshuttle project. I even went so far as pinning them in place.

Before deciding they looked terrible and I didn't like them and pulled them right back off. At this point I undid nigh on half the build, cutting cardboard and deciding I wanted to add more detail to the bay. If I can glue cardboard in place once I can do it twice. But it's just so much easier to work on the thing with it open. No laproscopic surgery here.

And to figure out the fit of things I tacked them together with painter's tape. Which gave me an idea for later.

New details included oxygen tanks, a stowage rack, and a rail along the overhead from which a hoist could later be hung. (Made from assorted model aircraft parts.)

Having a sorted that out a little better it was back to propulsion land. Among the parts in the big toybox were a couple of rocket sections. I figured the body of a booster rocket would make a nice proxy for an external engine pod. For the actual engine section I used the cowl off a Monogram C-47, a large marble (that was a painful sacrifice, by the way) and a toothpaste tube cap. You can also see more of the craft mesh material i use for my non-slip floors.

For the nose gear I used the nose gear off a B-29 extended with some leftover tube from a detail brush and a piece of sprue. The landing gear bay doors are the flaps off an A-10 that's been slowly donating parts for years. The chain motor is jewelry supplies, paper, cardstock, styrene rod, and half the cover to a disposable shaver.

Here you can see things finally start to shape up. Connecting the hull halves left large gaps which needed filling. I was worried I wouldn't be able to fill them, but the painters tape looked fine. Just blue. Trouble is paper tape eventually decays. But electrical tape lasts decades. Huzzah! E-tape! (3M Super-88, even. The good stuff.) This may turn out to be a mistake, as the stuff lasts decades, sure, but not in places where people handle it. Well.. We'll see. If it falls apart I'll fix it later, I guess.

Next up I needed a load ramp to get into the cargo bay. Making one out of cardstock sounded simple enough. With a little standard craft grid anti-skid grating it would even look okay. I did a little quick measuring, cut the ramp to size and . . . it didn't fit. It swung up too far on its hinge. So I trimmed the front corners off and it fit better. And when I put it down it didn't lower far enough so I trimmed the back corners and angled the brace and, boom, it went up far enough and down far enough.

And it even fit the mu . . . I mean burro grande. Did I say there was some Firefly in this? Totally lying. No. The big donkey has nothing to do with the mule from Firefly. And even the bilingual Chinese and . . . Spanish . . .Well, there's so much Chinese in so much Sci-Fi at this point. And has been. And, yeah, I have actual honest to god Asian family and friends. Some of whom even speak Chinese. (Among about a dozen other languages.) But anyway . . . hat left fitting the hinge itself, closing up some gaps, fitting the engines, and painting it. The gap filling was accomplished with the usual spackle. Love that stuff. 

After adding a few grbbles to represent radar units, radio antennae, the receiver for the in-flight wifi, and so forth I opted to start the painting process. For the time being I left the the engine nacelles off. (In order to prevent the painter going on holiday between the hull and engine quite so easily.)

With a quick coat of paint I was getting close. I attached the nacelles to a couple more small half pipe pieces to give them a little more separation so they didn't interfere with the aft loading door, and enough distance back that maybe the exhaust wouldn't cook the rear bulkhead. I added a main body engine to make it a tri-rocket. (Everyone loves a tri-rocket.) More gribble would be required inside the bay door to power that engine, but some quick test fits showed the space was there.

Everything fit. It had engines. The cargo hold was practical. It even kind of looked a tiny bit like a lifting body, which was a plus. It's fantasy. You have to squint a little. But with some imagination (and appropriate small boy sound effects) . . . this bird was going to fly. I present to you the McDavies-Brickyard Corporation MB-1377 Starlifter.

And just for the record, it's even big enough to fit a small tank. Whether the load ramp would really support that thing . . . I'm not sure.

But dang, does this make me happy. This model is the purest bundle of joy I've built in a very very long time. :) And thank you so much for joining me on the flight.

The Composer

Monday, January 28, 2019

Outlandish Shadows

On to the first (and last) post about a 2018 project. Not quite caught up yet, but getting closer. (See how blinking far behind I was? This is what happens when you don't update your blog for a year kids. Don't do that.)

The miniatures below are from yet another Kickstarter, but unlike some of the others most or all are actually available and in regular production. They're from a company called Blind Beggar Miniatures. I'll say right here that these won't be for everyone, but if you're a little tolerant and enjoy a miniature that's got just a bit of the "blank canvas" to it, these are for you.

First let me start with the "specforce ranger." I suspect he's probably another take on Lawrence of Arabia, rather like the Imp Guard Scout from a couple of posts back. But where I ran with that a little more on the last Lawrence, I tried to treat the current fellow more as a young Faisal of Arabia, which is to say more authentically local. (And less Dune. No blue washes on the eyes this time.) The scarf, which I again take to be a kind of khefiya, I gave somewhat more traditional colors. (Which is to say black and white.) Such things really do benefit from some kind of pattern, particularly since I now have several and I think blank colors would look cartoonish fast.

I tried to give the dog-bot a weathered look, where the paint was maybe half stripped away by years of natural sand blasting. (I'm fighting to recall how I did that. I want to say it was maybe silver damp-brushed with red, dry brushed with silver, and maybe washed with a red ink that covers absolutely snot.)

Next up is a pack labeled The Bounty Hunters. I actually prefer to think of them as nomads, and I painted the short one as a young child. (With a whimsical flower to kidsify her sand-mask. Yeah, she's got a gun and all, but . . . kids can be kids.) Apart from that small bit of freehand I suspect this was a fairly obvious paint job and it's quite a lot closer to what's on Blind Beggar's website than most of what I've done. But painting off white robes is actually a lot of fun. There's so much room for variation and subtle shading there. Besides, the three of them make a great family.

Have you noticed that every second Western seems to have at least one fellow with a Cockney accent? Yeah, this is that character. And where there is a bowler there should be pinstripes. Again, a little freehand makes nearly any model pop just a bit more, and it is REALLY hard to argue with a pinstripe vest in the middle of a dusty frontier setting. Officially he's the manhunter, but I prefer to think of him as a grox herder or some such. Get away from the smog of New London and enjoy the smell of fresh air and grox leavings.

The next set is labeled as The Mechanics: Joe, Kaero, and BOB 2. (I assume BOB 2 stands for Bits of [Busted] Bot or something like.) Joe and Kaero seem a clear enough reference. The lady with the oversize wrench got some freehand to spice her up a bit. The striped blouse is fairly obvious, but I think the camouflage pants in the same pattern as the First Logansport might almost slip past. (Perhaps she mustered out at some point not too long ago. Or maybe she just shops military surplus for work pants. Either way, it can be a subtle connection to her surroundings.) The Sapiens non-homo got a fairly simple orangutan inspired treatment. The busted bot is heavily weathered, but otherwise pretty simple. iR2 is from a separate line of miniatures, but I like him and got him painted fairly quickly anyway.

I rather broke some rules with the next few. They come from a few different sets respectively called the Priest and Acolytes, Baronial Guard Characters, and an alien monk fellow that was, I fear, a kickstarter exclusive. I believe the guards were originally marketed as a customs inspector and his guard. Moab III already has a spaceport official with a rather different look . . .

. . . But he quite reminded me of the Colony 87 pilgrim (seen below in grey) . . .

. . . And so I painted him in similar grey and blue colors with the guard decked out to match.This, of course, had certain religious implications, and so he became yet another cult leader. (Probably not the same cult as the pilgrim, but quite possibly related.)

So the acolytes gained a new preacher, but otherwise remained much the same. (And I think their habits look much more akin to the tech collars of the Baronial forces anyway.) The priest became a monk, if a somewhat angry looking one. And the alien monk became the friendlier alternative.

I still have a few miniatures to go in the set: most notably the mayor, his wife, and a bunch of small animal robots, but all told I'm fairly please with them. Many of them benefit from some judicious freehand, as there are large fairly plain stretches of cloak or shirt to paint. The sculpting is fairly simple, at times maybe even just a touch crude, but that actually works well for the environment I have in mind. And with paint? I'm really quite pleased with what they add. All told, these have been fun. They're probably not for everyone, but if you want civilians for a Space Western you could really do quite a lot worse. These folks will add some bustle to any half-forgotten settlement on the edge of flea infested nothing.

As always, thank you for reading along.

The Composer

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Hexapodal Messianists Daughter Congregation

Another very worthwhile acquisition during 2017 was the new Bob Olley cult. These were comissioned by some folks on the Oldhammer pages, to which I eagerly added my name, and cast up by Uscarl Miniatures, who sell them as La confrerie des mutants. (They also sell some fantastic space dwarves.) They're on the pricier side, but you cannot beat the sculpting or casting quality. These are, quite simply, top notch. That said, art:

I wanted to make this new cult both compatible with and somewhat visually distinct from my previous cult. My old hybrids had been heavily blue and white, so I used a blue note for the first of the new, but also bright green pants and a dark grey cloak that felt rather different.

With that as a launching point I had to decide how to paint the preacher. My previous circuit rider had been purple with a stary cloak, so I decided to work off the green of the previous fellows pants.

Yellow is always a nice combination with green, and suns, moons, and planets made for a nice cloak. There's a certain comfortable primary school teacher vibe to her dress that I feel gives a quite interesting contrast to her otherwise rather disturbing demeanor.

One of the problems I run into of late is the increasing number of miniatures to whom I don't want to impart a completely matte finish. To that end I matte varnished her and then hit certain key elements with a gloss acrylic coating. (Notably the dress and the gold icon on her staff.) While this works, I'm not completely satisfied. The glossy ink on the very flat acrylics gives a neat rather satiny effect. The acrylic sealer, on the other hand, is almost too glossy. Ah well. You win some and lose some. And at least she's minimally protected.

Anyway, I cannot over-emphasize how much I enjoy painting Olley's models. The man does good work and his stuff is a joy to color. It's a bit of an acquired taste, but once you get there it's a fun ride. :)

Thank you for reading along.

The Composer