Monday, 20 August 2018

HQ12-02 Race Queen [WIP - Skin Tones Phase One]

Investing in a mid-range airbrush is turning out to be the best decision I've made in this hobby so far. It has allowed me to achieve ultra smooth skin tone transitions quicker and better than I ever could with regular hand brushed strokes. And because it's only my first attempt at airbrushing flesh hues on a figurine, there is still room for improvement. This is in itself extremely encouraging as it points to the tremendous potential to be had from being able to master or at least become proficient in using an airbrush to paint skin tones. After all realistic skin tones is my holy grail in this hobby.   

Skin tones airbrushed on a resin figurine using Gaianotes lacquer paints

In keeping with the subject matter being painted, I sought to recreate a fair East Asian skin tone for the atlier iT HQ12-02 Race Queen. Paints used were Gaianotes lacquer ones that I previously experimented with on plastic spoons. Ranging from shadows to midtones to highlights, they comprised Gaiacolor No.53 Notes Flesh Pink, No.51 Notes Flesh, Ex-05 Ex-Flesh and No.52 Notes Flesh White (see below) mixed with Gaiacolor T-06h thinner at a ratio of one part paint to slightly more than one part thinner. My aim? To slowly build up the skin tone with thin layers of paint.   

Gaianotes flesh colored lacquer paints ranging from shadows (right) to highlights (left)

In my very first skin tone airbrushing session I had already experienced the limitations of working with just one airbrush. When trying to blend smooth skin tone transitions, there is sometimes a need for constant back-and-forth between two shades of flesh color e.g. shadows and mid-tone. Having only one airbrush makes for a disruptive painting experience. This is because it takes time to properly clean/rinse an airbrush before loading it with a different colored paint in order to prevent color contamination. It's doable but I've begun the process of saving for a second airbrush.     

Frontal view of both the Race Queen's legs
Side view (from the left side) of both the Race Queen's legs

Taking photographs of skin tone can be tricky especially when considering the subtlety of color transitions involved between the shadows, midtones and highlights. If the lighting is too harsh or the ISO settings are set too high, then the skin tone takes on a washed out monotone look. Moreover when you factor in the fact that most electronic displays aren't color accurate i.e. they aren't 100% sRGB or Adobe RGB, then you face the issue of viewers not seeing hues as how they were intended to be by the painter. All things considered, the naked eye remains the best judge of colors.   

Back view of both the Race Queen's legs
Side view (from the right side) of both the Race Queen's legs

Results on the face, arms and hands weren't as satisfactory but it was to be expected. They all have smaller nooks and crannies which will require good old fashioned hand-powered brush strokes to reach. Details like the Race Queen's eyes, lips, cheek blush, teeth, nail, veins, etc. will have to be brought out using paint and/or pastels. Meanwhile on a more macro level, the overall skin tone currently has a semi-glossy to glossy sheen to it. This I may yet flatten with a matte clear coat later.

Arms and hands of the Race Queen with flesh shadow hues emphasizing contrast on the elbow joints
Her hands in particular will require additional work with traditional hand brush methods using paints and maybe pastels
Contrast was least pronounced on her face but it won't be a problem seeing a lot more work is to be done

Silly as this may sound, skin tones are the main reason why I continue to invest so much time in this hobby. Or course, I still find painting other textures such as cloth, hair, metal, wood, etc. rewarding. But none of them feels as satisfying as layering on flesh hues. Because for me, human skin color is the veritable definition of the realism that I try to recreate through art. No matter how well you paint or draw something, it all falls apart if you get the skin tones wrong. Anyway, enough of my platitudes about skin tone. There's a lot still to be done on the skin. But it has been a promising start. Cheers!

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

MENG Sd.Kfz.182 King Tiger with Henschel Turret [Assembly Completed]

Assembly of the Meng Model 1/35 scale German Heavy Tank Sd.Kfz.182 King Tiger (Henschel Turret) kit is complete. It took a while but the King Tiger is now ready for its coat of primer. In this final stage, the only things left to be assembled were the main turret hatches and the tank crewmen. Once done, the turret was then attached to the main hull and the figures posed perched halfway in open hatches. Going forward it's going to be all about painting and weathering the tank.

Mein kommandant, ahead lies the path to priming ... Ja, I too have spotted the Tamiya Fine Surface Primer  

First two of the final three steps of assembly involved putting together the main gun and hatches before attaching them to the turret. The machine gun was excluded from this build because Tank 124 of Pz.Abt. 505 was missing its machine gun, at least based on the historical photos I viewed. The final step involved the assembly of the tank crew figurines. Once done, they were posed in the open hatches of the turret, which was subsequently attached to the main body of the King Tiger. 

Step 33 and 34: Assembly of the main hatches and main gun barrel (machine gun excluded for this build)
Step 35: Assembly of the figures and attachment of the turret

Details-wise the MENG King Tiger looks excellent for a scale model kit assembled right out of the box sans any external parts ave for for its zimmerit decals. For a kit to look this detailed, usually a lot of external third party parts would have to be added, for example specialized photo-etch parts, metal tracks, etc. In fact, you could even ratchet up the (already good) level of detail by using Meng Model's specialized parts for the King Tiger, namely workable tracks with a form of suspension as well as an interior set. I'm forgoing these extra detailed parts for this particular build.       

Assembly of the MENG King Tiger tank and its crew is now complete
Fully assembled, the German Heavy Tank Sd.Kfz.182 King Tiger cuts an impressive figure
Parts such as spare tracks, pioneer tools and tow cables all add to the tank's impressive detail

Having red oxide as the molded color was, to me at least, a cool move on Meng Model's part. In instances where the paint is accidentally stripped all the way down to the molded plastic, the red oxide color will ensure things look natural. This might not be too clear now but with my track record of messing up a kit's paintwork, it's only a matter of time before the usefulness of a red oxide part is laid bare, pun intended of course. Incidentally, the situation is the same for the zimmerit decals as damaged zimmerit coating tends to show up as a whitish gray color.        

Zimmerit decals were the only external parts used to complement the straight out of the box build
Inward tilt of the tracks is even more obvious when viewed from the back
Grilles located towards the rear form the tank's prominent photo-etch parts

Only thing that bugs me about this build is the inward tilt of the King Tiger tracks. The fact this has also happened to other modellers means either the problem is a byproduct of bad kit design or due to the assembly of the swing arms, wheels and tracks being a tricky process to get right. Either way, I'm trying to figure a way to make it right. In reality, (nearly) 70 tonnes of the tank would weigh down on its tracks thus ensuring no inward tilt. In other words, this tilt looks unnatural. There have been cases where the tilt became less obvious after painting/weathering. Let's hope it'll be the same for me.      

Square shaped zimmerit-less section on the turret will  house the 'charging knight' emblem
Perched halfway on the open turret hatches, the tank crew figurines add scale to the overall piece
Overhead view of the fully assembled Meng Model King Tiger

So the assembly process is finally over, leaving the King Tiger ready for the next step, i.e. application of a primer coat. At 1/35 scale, there is a lot of tank surface to prime so it will be a time consuming process. Only once the tank has been primed will any form of painting begin. And slowly but surely, the German Heavy Tank will start to take its chosen form namely Tank 124 of Pz.Abt. 505 in Poland during September 1944. That's it for this week. May you be well and happy until the next!

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Mr. Hobby Procon Boy FWA Platinum 0.2 mm Double Action Airbrush [Unboxing and Review]

Finally the last hurdle to regular airbrushing sessions with miniature figurines has been overcome. Needing more control in how paint was being dispensed from an airbrush, I now have it with the Mr Hobby Procon Boy FWA Platinum 0.2 Double Action airbrush by GSI Creos. While it may not be the flagship airbrush in Mr Hobby's line of products - that title belongs to the Mr Airbrush Custom 0.18 - the Platinum 0.2 is a good enough mid-range airbrush that's well suited to my current needs. Here then is a short unboxing and review post on Mr.Hobby's Platinum 0.2 airbrush.  

Mr. Hobby Procon Boy FWA Double Action Platinum 0.2 Airbrush

This airbrush usually retails for about ¥13,300 but I bought it online from HobbyLink Japan for a good price of ¥10,640. When I last checked it was selling for ¥11,970 at the site. For this price, the Mr Hobby Procon Boy FWA Platinum 0.2 Double Action airbrush comes with a Micro Air Control (MAC) air valve below a 10 cc. capacity paint cup. Allowing for better control, the MAC air valve alters paint velocity, changes how paint atomizes and fine tunes spray patterns. Even more control is to be had via the needle stopper at the end of the airbrush that determines the amount of paint flowing out the tip. Essentially a quality airbrush allows one to work slowly with more accuracy.

Detailed description of the airbrush listed at the back of the box is all in Japanese
Tools and accessories included are shown in the side box art
A clear plastic sheet helps prevent scratches to the airbrush container

GSI Creos provides two different sets of instructions for the airbrush. One is a dual language (English/Japanese) guide describing installation, operating and maintenance steps (bottom, left). The other is a Japanese language only troubleshooting guide listing common problems faced by modellers when using the airbrush and the corresponding fix to the problem (bottom, right). Both the airbrush and its accessories are housed within a sturdy plastic casing with extra foam protection inside. 

While a set of English instructions is provided, the more detailed troubleshooting guide is in Japanese only
The Procon Boy FWA Double Action Platinum 0.2 mm airbrush is encased in a solid plastic container
An angled view of the airbrush and its accessories inside the soild plastic container

The airbrush sports a nice chrome finish and has a nice heft to it. In addition to the airbrush, GSI Creos also includes accessories comprising a nozzle wrench, a 1/8" hose and joints, a 1/8" hose connector and an air adjustment valve for use with air cans. The tip of the airbrush has a crown-type needle cap and that can be closed off by a clear rubber-like cap during storage. Meanwhile, the 10 cc. paint cup mentioned earlier comes with a lid containing a bleed hole in the center.

Inside, the airbrush and its accessories were held securely in place by a rigid foam material
Mr. Hobby Procon Boy FWA Double Action Platinum 0.2 Airbrush and its accessories

Straight out of the box, the 1/8" airbrush hose male connector provided isn't of much use to me because my air compressor has a 1/4" hose female connector. So I replaced it with a Quick Release Disconnect Coupler containing both male and female hose connections in 1/4". I wholly recommend getting disconnect couplers with a quick release mechanism for it makes for a much more efficient way to detach an airbrush from the connecting hose. This will translate into less mini-accidents on the worktable e.g. spillage from the paint cup, etc. especially for someone as clumsy as me.  

Tip of the airbrush comes with a protective plastic cover that can be used during storage
Mr.Hobby's Platinum 0.2 airbrush needle cap is of the crown type
Closeup view of the delicate 0.2 mm airbrush needle

Performance-wise, the airbrush worked like a charm. It afforded me enough control to airbrush thin lines and small areas quite easily. Trigger tension felt comfortable as did the balanced weighty feel of the airbrush as a whole. This coupled with the MAC valve and the needle stopper provides modellers with a high level of control to dispense paint slowly and accurately. Of course it goes without saying that more trial and error is required before optimal airbrush/pressure settings can be established and requisite muscle memories can be built in order to achieve a specific desired result.

Airbrush offers a high level of control to allow one to paint slowly and accurately
This airbrush is capable of very fine lines for precision work

That's it then. No more pussyfooting around. No more excuses that allows me to procrastinate airbrushing an actual miniature figurine. No more airbrushing just plastic spoons. It's time to airbrush flesh colors on the atelier iT HQ12-02 Race Queen miniature resin figurine. For now though I'll take my leave of you, my dear readers, with this quote from oil painter extraordinaire Bob Ross ... "Talent is a pursued interest. Anything that you're willing to practice, you can do."

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

MENG Model Sd.Kfz.182 King Tiger with Henschel Turret [WIP - Partial Turret & More Hull Details]

Assembly of the MENG King Tiger is very close to completion now. In this latest series of steps, I managed to finish assembling the hull and partially complete the turret. That leaves just the main gun barrel, a few more turret parts and the figures to work on before the German heavy tank is ready to receive a coat of primer. So here then is the penultimate post on the King Tiger assembly process. 

MENG King Tiger work-in-progress: Partially completed turret with spare tracks
MENG King Tiger work-in-progress: Assembling and attaching the headlight on the front glacis
MENG King Tiger work-in-progress: Assembling and adding a lifting jack to the rear hull

Assembly of the King Tiger hull is now complete with the assembly/addition of the following: a lifting jack and its supporting brackets as well as tow hooks on the rear hull; a front headlight; and the left front fender. Both side skirts and the front right fender were not utilized in this build version so as to stay true to Tank 124 of Pz.Abt. 505 found in Poland sometime in late 1944. Actually, my version isn't 100% accurate as the historical version is missing its headlights. It was an error on my part so I might still remove the headlights. But I'll leave it where it is for now and only decide later.     

Step 21: Assembly and attachment of the lifting jack (rear fenders were excluded from this build version)
Step 22: Assembly and attachment of the headlights on the front glacis
Step 23: Attachment of the front fenders, side skirts (excluded in this build) and rear tow hooks

Subsequently, more details were added to the King Tiger turret such as hooks for the spare tracks; covers for the viewports and other miscellaneous parts. This leaves only the gun barrel and main hatches left unattached to the turret. So the German heavy tank is essentially 98% assembled. 

Step 29 and 30: Attaching turret parts such as hooks for spare tracks, viewport covers, etc.
Step 31: Adding more hooks for spare tracks and other miscellaneous turret parts
Step 32: Assembling and attaching spare tracks on the hooks, gun mantlet and miscellaneous parts

A pair of crewmen is included in the kit and that together with the rest of the King Tiger should be assembled by the next post. Until then, I'll hold off on sharing my thoughts regarding how the MENG model kit compares to Tamiya kits. Soon the iconic WW2 tank will be ready for its coat of primer. And only then will the hard work of painting begin. Now though, it's back to the assembly process.

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