Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Looking for crazy to paint - Suicide Squad proxies using Nocturna Models resin figurines

Critics may have slated the big screen adaptation of DC Comic's Suicide Squad but I honestly enjoyed the movie. Not being a huge fan of DC Comics I naturally approached this movie with low expectations. To me, DC always have had better villains than heroes so perhaps it wasn't that surprising to find myself more receptive to Suicide Squad than any of the previous Batman or Superman movies. Story-wise Suicide Squad didn't quite cut it but character-wise it was superb.     

Suicide Squad's Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and Katana (Karen Fukuhara)

With books and movies forming a large percentage of what serves as inspiration for my miniature painting projects, it wasn't long before I started looking for Suicide Squad proxies to paint. Luckily, I found two in my collection that could serve as substitutes for Harley Quinn and Katana i.e. the Nocturna Models 80 mm Alice (Fairy Tale Girls) and 70 mm Soum, 13 Moons (Malefic Time)

Nocturna Models 80 mm - Alice (Fairy Tale Girls) tin box packaging
Alice (Fairy Tale Girls) unboxed
Resin miniature parts of Alice, Fairy Tale Girls

Both are resin miniatures with fantastic details. More importantly both contain key features that allow me to link, ever so tenuously, to the subject matters that form the main inspiration. When doing a paint-job miniature conversion, I try to use appropriate colour schemes, freehand painting, and if possible mini-sculpts in order to 'convert' an otherwise unrelated miniature into proxies for the more well known characters which as mentioned above are Suicide Squad's Harley Quinn and Katana.  

Nocturna Models 70 mm - Soum, 13 Moons (Malefic Time) tin box packaging
Soum, 13 Moons (Malefic Time) unboxed
Resin miniature parts of Soum, 13 moons (Malefic Time)

One movie screenshot more than any other set off a light bulb in my head as to which miniature in my small collection I could use as the infamous Harley Quinn. It was one of her sitting in a cell, sipping on a cup of tea (see below). After that eureka moment, the creative floodgates opened and I began to notice many other features of the Noctuna Models Alice figurine which lend itself perfectly to a Harley Quinn-Joker themed diorama piece. Here they are in no particular order:
1. Said teacup in hand;
2. Pigtail-like hair for Harley's iconic tri-coloured hairstyle;
3. Large leg stockings which can painted to resemble her in-movie ones;
4. Playing cards which offer the opportunity to paint Joker cards; and
5. A large mushroom which can be painted in purplish Joker hues (not to mention the phallic symbolism it offers to represent Harley's relationship with the Joker).    

The picture that, for me, linked Nocturna Models Alice to Harley Quinn

As for Katana it was more a case of finding a miniature with oriental features who happened to be holding on to a traditional Japanese sword i.e. the character's namesake. Cue yet another Nocturna Models figurine namely Soum, 13 Moons of the Malefic Time series. She also had some workable similarities to her DC counterpart which made her, in my eyes, a suitable proxy:
1. Soum's katana which is self explanatory;
2. She's of East Asian ethnicity, also self explanatory; and
3. Round signage offers an opportunity for some Suicide Squad-related freehand painting.

With Katana it was all about finding a miniature with an Eastern Asian look and a ... well ... katana

As alluded to above, there will likely be some sculpting as well as freehand painting that needs to be done. To keep things as simple as possible, I plan to sculpt Harley's baseball bat and Katana's face mask. Easier said than done for someone with zero sculpting skills but you never know. All those play time with plasticine way back during my kindergarten years could yet pay off (all tongue-in-cheek of course). Meanwhile, the easiest Suicide Squad-related freehand painting I could think of are the 'floating head' pop culture art for the respective two characters (see below).  

"Floating head" art of Harley Quinn and Katana - inspirations for freehand painting
Harley's baseball bat (above) and Katana's face mask (below) are iconic items which I may sculpt

When on a budget, us miniature painters can't always get to paint the model we want either because they either don't exist or are too pricey if they do. Moreover it's rare to find proxy miniatures that closely resemble or have the potential to closely resemble the original characters. I don't want to jinx it but I'm truly excited by both these Nocturna Models figurines which show great promise as Harley Quinn and Katana wannabes. All that remains to be done is to turn that potential into reality. Huh? What was that? I should make blood sacrifices to the miniature painting gods for the skills to pull this off. Sorry. The voices. Ahaha, I'm kidding! Jeez! That's not what they really said.      


Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Star Wars Star Destroyer [Completed]

With the Star Destroyer done, that's another must-do-item ticked off my bucket list. Finally that space ship that filled the entire movie screen much to the wide-eyed wonder of a then 5-year-old is up on my shelf amongst my other collectibles. Granted Bandai's existing version is a tad small at 111-mm in length. But until the day I can get my hand on a bigger-scale Star Destroyer, this one will do nicely.  

Bandai Star Wars Vehicle Model 001 - Star Destroyer [Completed with paints]
Main ion engines are just coming online but the emergency ion engines are still offline

Painting the Star Destroyer's hull saw me use Tamiya Acrylic Paints for the first time. I found the solvent-based paints to be a bit more of a hassle to use especially during the clean up process which involves the use of isopropyl alcohol in place of water. Attuned to working with water-based paints and a wet palette for so long, I guess I've gotten used to the minimal cleaning. Getting smooth coats with either types of paint is essentially based on the same concept i.e. patiently applying numerous very thin coats of paint while making sure each layer is dry before applying the next one. For the hull, I used a mixture of Tamiya Flat White (XF-2) and Sky Grey (XF-19) at a ratio of roughly 9 to 1.  

Vallejo fluorescent yellow mixed with white provided a simulation of the ship's lighting
To mimic the main ion engines in action, a mixture of blue and white paint was used
A very light grey hue covers the Star Destroyer's hull; mixed using Tamiya XF-2 (Flat White) and XF-19 (Sky Grey)

To simulate lights emitting from the Star Destroyer, I reverted to my good old water-based paints or more specifically the Vallejo Model Color Fluorescent Yellow mixed with White. While the final effects will never be as good as actual emitted light, it still looks acceptable enough at this scale. Meanwhile I used Citadel Regal Blue mixed with white to simulate the ion engines with their hyperdrive engaged.

Bandai Star Destroyer [Side view, leftt]
Bandai Star Destroyer [Side view, right]
Bandai Star Destroyer [Top and bottom views]

Admittedly I got bored pretty quickly with the Star Destroyer's monotone colour scheme.This plastic model kit is all about the iconic triangular design with the paint job a secondary concern if at all.

To bring out details, a mix of Tamiya Panel Line Accent Color Black plus Grey was applied
Based on looks alone, I would say it's an Imperial II-Class Star Destroyer
At certain angles the light catches the display stand thus breaking the illusion of a vehicle in space
Primary docking bay would have benefited greatly from some LED lighting
With such a monotone colour scheme, the 'sexiness' factor lies mainly in the ship's hull design

Based on close scrutiny of movie screenshots, I'm aware random grey panels can be found scattered all over the ship's main hull. However, I felt it was impossible to accurately depict the grey panels at such a small scale without causing the Star Destroyer to take on a darker hue. So I made do with washes and panel lining (Tamiya Panel Line Accent Color - Black/Grey) to bring out the details.

Lets put all our senior officers on a bridge that sticks out like a sore thumb ... what could go wrong?
Hyperdrives engaged, course locked in ... the rebels are doomed

This mini Star Wars project was ever only going to be a short diversion to keep me busy while I was trying to figure out some colour schemes for other projects. In a way it was the perfect in-between-project due to its simplicity. Sometimes it's good to keep busy while allowing ideas to gestate on the back of your mind. Also in the midst of this busywork I was inspired to add two new figurines (70 mm and 80 mm) into my project pipeline. Details to follow but suffice to say for now that it involves a long-standing universe that I have yet to sink my teeth into, miniature painting-wise that is.


Friday, 19 August 2016

Star Wars Star Destroyer [Assembled; unpainted]

Assembling this Star Destroyer is so simple that if you aren't a perfectionist the whole process can be completed in under two hours or even within one. Of course if you're like me, then assembly can take considerably longer what with the careful removal of the runner/gate from the actual parts; the tedious cleanup work after; the gluing together of certain sections for better adherence despite parts being of the snap-fit variety; and last but not least the constant dropping of small parts by clumsy fingers followed by expletive-filled-rants while looking for said parts while they just under your nose.

Bandai Star Wars Star Destroyer - assembled but unpainted
Unpainted, this Star Destroyer could almost pass off as a brand new vehicle fresh off the space dock ... almost

Even unpainted the Bandai Star Destroyer already looks very impressive indeed. They could almost pass off as those new whitish Star Destroyers you see in the Rogue One movie trailers. But almost doesn't quite cut it and something feels incomplete about them. With good LED lighting, one could perhaps get away with not having to paint this model kit. Unfortunately microelectronics is a skill set I do not posses hence I'll have to rely on old fashioned acrylics paints to breath some life into it.

Bandai Star Destroyer [Front view, assembled but unpainted]
Bandai Star Destroyer [Back view, assembled but unpainted]

Without any panel lining or washes, it's a bit hard to make out the fantastic details on this plastic model kit especially those on the Star Destroyer's main hull. However, at certain angles (see photo above) you can clearly see the potential this model kit has even at this small scale (see last photo). 

Bandai Star Destroyer [Top and bottom view, assembled but unpainted]

The fact that in addition to a black wash I only have whites, greys, yellows and blues to work with on the colour scheme - it's going to be tough to paint/create a realistic looking Star Destroyer especially one that's in full flight in space. If there was ever a model for which LED lighting was better suited than solely paints then the Star Destroyer is it. Best I can hope for is to give it an illusion of reality.  

Shadowed exterior of the Star Destroyer's lower hull 
Course calculated, hyperdrive ready to engage ... but sir she's still unpainted

Measuring about 111 mm in length, the Star Destroyer just about fits into the palm of my hand. I hope Bandai eventually produces one at a bigger scale but for now she'll have to do.

Measurement of the Bandai Star Destroyer plastic model kit - about 111 mm in length

She - Star Destroyers are always a she aren't they? - will be painted by the next post but there will be a couple of firsts involved. For one, I'll be using Tamiya Acrylic Paints for the first time and with a brush rather than the recommended air brush. Also I'll be mixing a Vallejo fluorescent colour into its regular paints to hopefully create some oomph in the Star Destroyer lights in lieu of actual lighting. If things don't turn out all bad I'll put up the results in the next post. If things go very badly though, I can always smash it in two with a hammer, sprinkle lots of sand on it and ... voila ... a Jakku diorama. Let's just pray it doesn't come to that as I'm not very dexterous with a hammer. 


Monday, 15 August 2016

Star Wars Star Destroyer [Unboxing]

Three days ago, the latest Star Wars Rogue One trailer was released and it was glorious. Vehicle-wise the second official trailer showcased the Galactic Empire's old school trinity of the Imperial Star Destroyer, TIE Fighter and AT-AT Walker albeit in conditions/versions we've never seen before. I'll explain further at the end of the post. But first, let's get to the unboxing of Bandai's first miniature in its new line of Star Wars 'mini' plastic model kits - the Star Destroyer. Why 'mini'? Well, it's a range of Star Wars miniatures that are smaller than Bandai's usual 1/12, 1/72 and 1/144 scale model kits. They don't offer an official scale measurement other than to state the length of the kit in question, which is 111 mm for the Star Destroyer. It's small enough to fit into the palm of my hand.

Bandai Plastic Model Kit - Star Wars Star Destroyer [Vehicle Model 001] packaging
Assembly instructions were printed directly on the inside on the box cover
Colour guide was based on GSI Creos Mr Color solvent based paints

As per Bandai's usual top-notch quality and design, the details on this plastic model kit's parts - even at such a small scale - were simply astounding. Iconic sections of the Star Destroyer were readily spotted on the sprue such as the ion engines, primary docking bay, deflector-shield generator domes, and of course the triangular upper and lower hulls. Assembly looks so simple that instructions could fit/were printed directly onto the inside of the cardboard box packaging. And it was there that they also provided a colour guide for this original trilogy version of the Star Destroyer. Paints referenced were the Mr. Color solvent-based model paints. I plan to use Tamiya acylic paint equivalents instead.

Sprue A1: Rear hull with emergency ion engines, primary docking bay, and parts of the bridge
Sprue A2: Lower hull, parts of the bridge and communications tower
Sprue A3: Side hull, ion engines and central crewed section of upper hull
Sprue A4: Lower hull with solar ionisation reactor, part of the bridge and deflector-shield generator domes
Sprue BM1: Base with display stand

With all this glorious detail at such a small scale, there exists the possibility of creating (read assembling and painting) a beautiful looking model even without the help LED lighting. This is exactly what I'll be trying to do with the Bandai Star Wars Star Destroyer plastic model kit.  

Relatively small size of the Star Destroyer meant that it fit into the palm of my hand

Do I wish the Star Destroyer model was bigger? Definitely. Does it mean I don't like this model kit? Hell no. An Imperial Star Destroyer retains a cool factor regardless of scale and size. Below are three beautiful glimpses of the Star Destroyer from the second Rogue One trailer in the unlikely off-chance you haven't caught the trailer yet. I screen-captured them from a HD resolution version of the trailer. 

Close-up of the Star Destroyer ... it's a little bit whiter than I remembered
Part of the Death Star forms the backdrop for a wide shot of the Star Destroyer
A Star Destroyer in low atmospheric orbit ... how cool is that

Returning to the topic of the latest Rogue One trailer, all three iconic Galactic Empire vehicles look different and/or are operating in conditions different to their counterparts in the original trilogy. Firstly, the Star Destroyer looks much whiter. My theory: the Rogue One versions are newer hence less exposed to space debris and atmospheric reentry heat. Not unlike what happens to a new white car after a year or so. Secondly, the new walker is supposedly called the Imperial AT-ACT Cargo Walker so it's essentially a different model of a same class. And thirdly, the TIE Fighter is allegedly a TIE Striker namely a variant designed for atmospheric controls. There you have it - trivia galore and an unboxing to boot. With that I'm signing off until I get that destroyer assembled. So see you then!

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