Back To The Modelling Bench

I’ve spent the last couple of months getting used to having my home life split in two living in a rented apartment on weeknights and at home on weekends. As I’ve mentioned before, I really don’t like having two modelling projects on the go at once. If I want to model on one project at a time this means I have to take everything with me to the apartment during the week and then haul everything back home with me on the weekends. This doesn’t work very well. It’s amazing how one item I might have left at the other location – some styrene, a particular type of glue or a vital tool – can mean a wasted few days till I can pick it up from where I’ve left it. You can’t always foresee what you’re going to need.

I’ve managed this for the last couple of months by working on the turntable at the weekends and by gradually sending myself insane on weeknights by scribing bricks into DAS modelling clay on the station building. I have no doubt that this method of producing brickwork is the best way of getting a realistic result: it produces a brick and/or stone effect that has an organic quality that mimics the way real brick and stonework is laid down. Each course of bricks has a texture and quality of its own that plastic simply cannot match, but it is incredibly time-consuming. One outcome of my dictum that I don’t have two projects on the go at once is that instead of moving onto something a bit easier when I get stuck or hit a a boring patch (a recipe for not making progress on a difficult project in my experience) I tend to simply slow down, trying to avoid an unpleasant task. I didn’t quite reach the stage where I was only carving one brick per modelling session, but sometimes it felt like it. Anyway, last week I finished the carving and you can see the result in the photos I’ll post when I’ve finished writing this text.

Was it worth it? Yes it was. Was it fun? No, it was a pain in the rear end but I think the result speaks for itself. This model – the platform and its associated buildings – sits in the landscape with a mass my earlier structures frankly lack. At this stage I’m not exactly sure why this is so but I have a feeling it has something to do with the way the clay wraps the ply former and gently bends and forms to the pressures it’s undergone as I’ve push and prodded the clay into the shape I want. We think of buildings as straight and level but we know on another level that they rarely are. You can chip and dent the faces of the bricks if you like but I’ve found that this is rarely necessary. Just the process of scribing them produces plenty of this character building aesthetic. Anyway that’s my excuse for the chips and dents 🙂

This past weekend I had the genuine pleasure of sitting down to do some modelling that didn’t involve scribing bricks. I spent a couple of hours putting the finishing touches to the claywork by running a skirting layer round the base of the building and then laying in the two window sills. These steps reproduce two layers of surface texture that I left off till last because it was far easier to scribe the bricks as a flat surface. I applied a thin bead of white glue to the surface of the builidng where these details were to be applied beforehand to ensure they stayed put.

After applying the final details I was able to get on with painting the brickwork. I wanted both the station and the separate toilet block to have a fairly “sandy” colour because this is what I’ve convinced myself the photos of the prototype structures show. I could have gone for a simple painted surface but I really wanted a slightly mottled mix of brick colours and the only way to achieve this effectively is by applying a base colour and then picking out individual bricks in a range of colours of similar tones. I began by using Tamiya Buff as the base coat and then gradually went over both buildings using a range of acrylic sand and brownish tones on individual bricks. When this paint had dried I ran a yellow/white mix of artists watercolour into the motor joints and then rubbed over the surface with wet cotton buds (que tips) to remove most of this from the faces of the bricks leaving the watercolour in the mortar lines. The first layer of acrylic colour must be allowed to dry and it must be applied in a paint that will not reactivate when water is applied to it, as artists watercolours will. This allows you to have coloured bricks but also lets you to get the mortar colour off the brick faces with the cottom buds.

I’m quite happy with the overall result. I’m not sure I should have used quite so much of the dark brown tones I did: I think one of these dark colours would have been sufficient. On the plus side I know of no other method of producing the “set in” windows and doors you can see in the photos as easily and naturally as they can be produced using this method. In addition this is the first brick building I’ve produced where I’ve bothered reproducing the sills and lintels above and below the windows and doors. When I worked in plastic I never bothered with these features. I feel they add immeasurably to the realism of the model.

And if you’re wondering why the photos don’t show the building with the windows and doors in place, it’s because I left them in the aparment! 🙂

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