Saturday 1 March 2014

Never Too Old to Fly


This sculpt started life as a model purchase rather than a sculpt idea. I was in my local hobby shop when I noticed a Revell Microwings model of a P47D Thunderbolt for the rather expensive cost of £2 ! Now for any of you who have read through my blog, you will know that I don't usually build aircraft models as teach aerospace engineering and have never felt the urge to build the bloody things in model form as well!

Anyway for some reason I felt the urge to buy this kit and I have spent a little time in trying to figure out what to do with a 1.144 kit. It was only when I returned to work after the Christmas break that I finally had the idea of incorporating this kit into a figure sculpt. One of my colleagues flies a remote control multi-rotor helicopter and I realised that a model this size would look exactly like a large scale remote control aircraft next to a 120 mm figure. Unfortunately after a quick web search I realised that like so many of my ideas, this has been done before, however I decided that I would still have a go and try and put a unique spin on the figure that I chose to sculpt alongside this little aircraft.

The model build before the sculpt

The model itself  is minute in comparison to what I have made in the past and it does not contain a great amount of detail or parts. however when you consider the very small price that I paid for this model it is excellent value for money. the construction was very simple being as it doe snot have many parts so I am just going to put some photos of the build along with a shot of the aircraft next to my zippo lighter to give you an idea of the size

For the paint finish on the model I opted to hand paint the entire thing to further emphasise the kit as being depicted as a remote control toy rather than a real aircraft. I also decided to paint the canopy in gloss black to add to the effect. This proved to be a very good idea being as no cockpit is included with this kit. Again I will just include some shots of the painted aircraft:

The Sculpting Phase

To continue on my sculpting journey I decided upon sculpting an elderly gentleman as my remote control pilot, hence the title" never too old to fly" I decided to pick an old man as the body has many subtle differences to what I have sculpted to date. Things like the slight bow in the legs when observed from the front and the typical inability to straighten the legs when standing upright. The back will be slightly curved and the face should provide lots of character when sculpted. How successful this sculpt will be is at the moment up in the air for me as this is another new sculpting skill which I intend on trying so wish me luck!

The first stage as always is the armature which is made from household electrical cable which has been stripped of its insulation and soldered to give the correct shape and stability to the sculpt. :

I've decided to approach this sculpt a little differently to my usual methods. Normally I would construct the entire armature including the arms and head as one complete assembly, however after conducting some more research on the internet I have found that a lot of sculptors who are infinitely more experienced than I am tend to have an armature consisting of the torso and legs only. Once this is complete the arms and head are added later. I can see some advantages to this and who am I to question experience!

You will see from the photos above and left, that the legs have been bowed outwards with the knee joints forming the outermost part of the bend. This is to simulate the age of the gent who will be controlling the aircraft. He will be depicted as wearing some very comfortable trousers that will be customarily pulled way too far above his waist line (I love stereotypes). The first step once adding the fresh sculpey to the pre-baked frame is to strike some fold lines into the clay. Once this has been done, I will add additional smaller "sausages" of sculpey to the fold lines and blend with a colour-shaper brush which can be bought at most good art suppliers.

The left leg is the first part of this figure that I will hopefully finish. This will be baked once I am happy with the result. I intend on completing the right leg, crotch and waistband then the shirt front and collar. I have decided to leave the shoes until everything else on the sculpt is complete this time. I have noticed that every other sculpt I have made in the past, cracks at the shoes. This is because I tend to prefer sculpting figures in an upright position on a wooden block. The problem with this is that this causes the figure to flex on the mount causing the cracks to appear. 

The legs complete, I decided to move onto the torso. the first stages were to complete the shirt that I intend this figure will be wearing. following the completion of the shirt I will then bake the figure and proceed with the jacket and arms/sleeves. The jacket will probably be a cotton "bomber" style that seems to be very popular with the "older gentlemen" who I frequently see flying their remote control aircraft. (not that I am stereotyping of course!)

The main body complete, I will turn my attention to the hands. This I have to admit is my current weakness. Every time I try and sculpt the hands I always end up with mis-shapen stubby lumps or stick thin claws. I have thought about ways around this and think that this time I will sculpt the fingers individually and bake them before I assemble the complete hand. This method will also require me to construct the remote control that the figure will be holding, or at least a correct size mock up of the control so that the hand and fingers can be shaped around it.

As with any idea, sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. In this case my idea of sculpting the fingers separately did not work. In fact I would go as far as to say it was a complete failure!! I have decided to return to my original method of sculpting the hands in their entirety over the remote control. The up side to this exercise is that this time around, the fingers on the hand actually look like fingers for a change so maybe practice does make perfect?

The head and face.

I decided to sculpt an older gentleman as my pilot so the first order of business following the formation of the main sections of the face was to add wrinkles, thicker eyebrows and of course he had to have a handlebar moustache. I was also torn on the hair situation. He was going to be grey of course, however was I going to depict  him as having a large bald spot, or maybe hair like doc brown from the film back to the future, maybe extremely well styled hair like George Clooney? In the end I just couldn't make up my mind so I took the easy option, I gave him a hat!! A flat cap to be more exact.

Finishing and alterations.

For the finishing I opted to give him some comfortable trainers rather than shoes. The trousers were extended over the trainers, however I never happy with the jacket and the shirt collar. It somehow seemed out of proportion to the rest of the figure. Rather than scraping the entire jacket off I decided to alter it slightly to look like an Irvin flying jacket that is still popular with the aerospace community and is the gold standard in aviation wear. The alterations were simplistic in that a sheep's wool collar and hem were added, stitching was added to the back of the jacket and the elasticated cuffs were removed. At this point I have decided to call a halt to the sculpting phase and the figure was given a final bake to ensure that all the parts of the sculpey figure had cured fully. Once cooled he was washed and put into the model oven to fully dry him for a few hours before the first coats of primer were applied. Once primed he will be scrutinised for any minor defects, filled, sanded and then re-primed ready for the painting phase. The following photos basically provide a photographic stage by stage of the figure up to and including the primer being applied to the figure.

The Painting Stages

For the paints I have opted to solely use acrylics this time. I've had some curing problems using enamel paints despite the sculpey figures being coated in a good quality acrylic primer. The base colours this time will be Vallejo acrylics followed by water reducible oil paints for high and low lights on the figure. Once the oils are fully cured I will then coat the whole figure in a matt acrylic varnish. I am hoping that by using much less "hot" paints I will avoid the curing issues that I have experienced in the past. Again rather than trying to describe the process I have opted to show the painting phase in images. As the old saying goes, "a picture paints a thousand words".

The Base

The base will be a simplistic one. The majority of the base will be field grass that the figure will be standing on, while a small section of it will be tarmac for the aircraft to be depicted as waiting for start up and flight. This is the first time I have used Javis scenic's tar and will be performing some experimentation in its use. I'm hoping all goes well with the finish. Its also been pointed out to me that the grass doesn't quite suit the scale of the figure. I do agree with this comment in such a way that the grass should be a little deeper and at the very least it shouldn't be lying on its side. This is something that I will accept for this particular model, however after a little searching I have found two relatively cheap options for a home made static grass applicator. One of them costs around 5 UK pounds while the other costs around the 40 pounds mark. Although 40 pounds is still cheap in comparison to the marketed grass applicators, I have opted to try making the 4 pounds one for future projects. The build log and trial of this home made applicator will be available on this hyperlink HERE once I've done it.

Finishing Touches

Finishing touches for this figure are really quite minimal. The aircraft model does not need any weathering as its depicted as being a plastic remote control aircraft. The runway it sits on is a modern, clean piece of tarmac and the grass is depicted as a healthy section of grass in mid summer when these aircraft are mostly flown. My pilot and his clothing do not require any weathering as he has not been living rough in a war zone!

The only real finishing touches that have been carried out on this piece are the application of matt varnish to the figure now the oils have fully dried and the mounting of the figure onto the base. Below are the finished shots and as always I would love to hear you comments and thoughts.

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