Thursday 19 September 2019

Project: Steampunk Jabberwock

Today on the blog, the Steampunk Jabberwock...  As with the last post, it's featured in a mag so I won't go into as much nauseating detail on the blog as I'd originally planned.  A longer bit of comic though to make up for it, and to explain an issue which is affecting my current workload...

Garden Rail chose to feature an article on the first of my planned series of models of trains inspired by the Alice in Wonderland/Through The Looking Glass books, the concept itself directly inspired by one of the abandoned ideas for the Jabberwock sculpture I built for the show at Rydal Hall a few years back.

The idea was a rail-borne crane which looked suitably monster-like from various angles, but whilst I liked the railway design, it was more practical for the full sculpture to do something on caterpillar tracks.  But I had built a few models to test the different ideas, and I thought I'd rework the garden railway-scale model I built...

...but a few years in store had left it a bit knackered (to use the technical term).

I used the opportunity to knock up a slightly better design, which paid a bit more attention towards practicality than the original design did.

Because it was going to be primarily designed for the great outdoors, I chose to make it a bit more heavy-duty than I might normally, so out came the plywood...

...and then, on this solid base, a mad collection of bits and pieces.  Model kit and toy parts, plumbing fittings, pens, garden wire, you name it.

A heavy spray with black, then dusting with browns and greys, bought it all together.

Trying to go for the spooky atmosphere, but the bad weather delayed shooting the model and when I finally managed to get a free day outdoors to shoot the pictures, the greenery was much in evidence.  No spooky skeletal dead trees here, annoyingly.

Then a little later, when Garden Rail showed an interest, I knew I'd have to shoot some more pics, and thought I could fit in a shoot whilst in Wales.

A bad drive there though meant that the model suffered a bit from the Welsh country roads, so it needed some fixing.

Nice bright weather, and lots of greenery.  In hindsight I think if anything the more bright and colourful backdrop (as opposed to the planned dead and spooky option) is a better contrast.

I also planned a night shoot using the smoke generators from the Engine Shed project, which would need working eyes/lamps.  Whilst I had built the miniature with working lamps (using Christmas Tree lights), an annoyingly inaccessible wiring fault meant a last minute replacement was needed, in the shape of these micro torches.

Seemed to do the trick.

Yep, genuinely; I'd planned, and part-built, three more models for the Alice build, and then back in May, a roost of bats moved in to the attic where all the models are kept.

So there's the problem, and the reason why I'm not putting work-in-progress builds, but just putting older builds on this blog... supposedly the 43+ bats (yep, stood outside one night with a glass of wine counting them emerge from the end of the roof) should be moving on to winter quarters soon, so say The Bat People from the Bat Conservation Trust, so I'll get access back to the models.

In theory.  They're still up there as I write this.

Oh and I struggled to sort out scaling the bats, so just borrowed a toy off Elder Child.  The real bats are pretty large, mind, particularly when you've not realised they're up there one June morning, and they start to crawl down the wall to glare and hiss at you.

Next time; depends on if the bats leave or not.  Might be another older project...

Thursday 12 September 2019

Project: Engine Shed

Today on the blog, the first of the previewed big projects, the Engine Shed;

See?  Told you last time the art style would improve.  Still experimenting with it.  Anyway, onto the actual subject for this post, the; 

Engine Shed Project.

This is a rather large photography and miniature sculpture project which I've had on my to-do list for many years, but which was prompted by an Industry-themed open call for an exhibition.

I'm not going to go madly into detail mindyou, because it's in the mag.  But a glimpse into the project anyway, with some of the stuff which didn't end up in print, will follow.

The Origin.

I've always been a massive fan of the late David Shepherd, the noted wildlife artist, railway artist, locomotive-owning eccentric, and wildlife conservation spokesman.  The man was amazing, look him up.  Anyway, when I was doing my GCSE's in the heady days of the late 90's, I did some work inspired by his railway paintings for my Final Major.  The above pic was done the following summer, largely because I didn't manage to get any of my final pieces back off the school.

So with late 2018 providing the opportunity to do some more work on the theme for the open call, I knew my skills with paint extend to doing walls in a living room rather than a canvas, but I could have some fun doing some pics with miniatures.

The traditional quick sketching of ideas...

And research.  I decided to work in 0 gauge, using the leftovers from the Britannia Model Village and Intercity projects, as it would give the best compromise between building something within the time frame, but being able to get enough detail in. 

I also needed to work to a verrrrrrrrry tight budget; an old Ikea tabletop provided a base, as the cheap cardboard interior would be easy to fit the Lazy Susan into, which would itself form the basis of a turntable as a centrepiece of the shed.

I wanted to pipe steam up into the set, so knew I'd have to do some elaborate carpentry to raise the set up and provide a working space underneath.  More upcycled wood...

...and for the interior architecture, some upcycled laser-cut components.  These were originally going to be for a Steampunk Monorail, incidentally.

Mission-Creep during the build; as I was going along I'd find more photographs which would provide inspiration, and modify the set so I could replicate some viewpoints.

Surface detail was real ash (which also helped to hide the fact the inlaid card surface warped a bit one cold, damp night in the workshop).  Wish I'd sieved it a bit, but then the reference pics did show that steam sheds were pretty messy places by the mid 60's.

Another bit of mission-creep; adding working lights.  This didn't work terribly well, as I couldn't swap the white LED lights for more appropriate yellow.  Christmas tree lights, felt pen tubes, and a frame of stripwood.

The Trains

British-outline trains in 0 are a bit thin on the ground, so I ended up modifying a selection of toys.  I was more bothered about impressions and shapes in the gloom than strict accuracy, so mainly it was about changing the outlines a bit.

"Percy" and "Thomas" are simply too recognisable, so needed some chopping and changing...

Irrigation pipes from a garden watering system, used so I could pipe steam up through the locomotives...

Before and after; these cheapy continental-outline locomotives are pretty easy to get hold of, I used several on earlier projects, and they convert nicely.

The Shoot.

The original plan had been to use steam from a kettle, or a disco smoke machine, but I managed to get hold of three very good USB-powered humidifiers, which actually fit inside the set.

The Photographs

I'm only going to put a few shots up on here; more will be on the Ribbon blog, and the redone folio site in due course.

The bad news was that, after all that, I didn't get picked for the Industry Open Call.  Slightly miffed by this, inspiration struck and on an off-chance I sent some pics to Model Rail (having been a reader of the mag since it launched), and to my delight they decided to feature the project.  

A round of huzzahs was in order!
(no.265, September 2019 issue, if you're interested)

Please don't sue us BBC, or Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.  I'm a really big fan of both the show, and that track...

Oh and I'm aware of the dreadful business of having the "tall handsome man" line with the picture of me, as in reality I'm neither, but hey-ho, a chap can dream.

For copyright purposes, Peaky Blinders is copyright BBC and Caryn Mandabach Productions Ltd. 
"Red Right Hand" is copyright Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.

Breaking the fourth wall inside a comic/blog which already breaks the fourth wall?
This is hitting Deadpool-levels of Meta.  

Steam generators from the project, tea lights, and (after some unsuccessful messing about with a flint and steel to create the Gratuitous Sparks effect) whizzing some red and orange LED lights around whilst taking long-exposure shots.

Next Time; Bats.