It’s odd when you can look back over the course of any set of events, and realize that you’d been on a journey all along, even if it wasn’t intended.
Growing up, I had a ten speed bicycle, the kind with the “ram’s horn” handlebars. It was not a name brand bike, and was rather cheap. The frame was a horrid orange sherbert color. Still, it was my bike. It gave me a perceived level of freedom. We lived in a very large neighborhood, as large as some small towns. I’d ride all over the neighborhood, sometimes going to see friends, sometimes just to ride.
Over the course of a summer, I realized I had developed pretty good endurance. I could ride for hours and never feel tired at all. In fact, the duration of the ride was more determined by the discomfort of the bike’s seat than anything else.
One day, I decided to leave the confines of the neighborhood, and just go wandering. Packing a few dollars in my wallet, a peanut butter sandwich, and a bottle of Coke (it’s the real thing, y’all…), I headed out. Turning out of my neighborhood on to one of the main thoroughfares into town was a thrill. Off I rode, fast as I could.
Now, I knew my town well, so it wasn’t blind exploration. But I loved how the places I’d driven past in a car now had new life. New details emerged that I’d never noticed. I headed down back streets and main streets, up and down hills. After what seemed like quite a long time riding, I found myself near a local mall. Deciding that such a journey deserved more than peanut butter, I went into the mall, and had lunch.
After wandering around the mall for a while, the realization hit me. I’d started on an unplanned journey, and ended up in an unintended destination.
Finishing The Viper Mk. VII
With the paint, decals, and panel lines filled in, all that was left to do on the Mk. VII was the weathering.
My typical approach to this would be to pick some good, high contrast colors for the chipping, and then another color in contrast to that for some “second level” chips. It’s a fairly formulaic approach, I suppose, but it works well to convey the idea that an object has had damage to the finish.
However, for this model, I was seeking to emulate the “real thing”. The box art and various CGI stills from the rebooted Battlestar Galactica had a very particular look.
The chipping was all in a light gray, though some stills looked metallic. It was very low contrast. Almost as if to make up for the lack of contrast, the chipping seemed to be in almost ridiculous quantities. It reminded me of my modeling as a youth, when I first “discovered” drybrushing. Suddenly every model had vast amounts of areas chipped with the Testors silver paint from the square bottle. (Which never actually seemed to dry…)
I eventually decided to simply use the box art for inspiration, and settled on Vallejo Sky Gray as the chipping color. I felt this would seem grayish enough to work, yet reflective enough to sorta-kinda-maybe suggest if you squint perhaps a metallic gray. (It’s stunning how precise and well thought out my plans are… 😉 )
Getting Down To It
I applied the sky gray with a sponge, working first right along panel lines, and then gradually expanding out from that. Each time I’d put some on, I’d look at the box art, and realize I needed more. This process as repeated a few times, until I finally decided to stop looking at the bo art for chipping inspiration. I wanted some of the blue paint to remain.
After getting it to what I thought was an acceptable (yet somewhat ridiculous) level, I made the decision to hand paint on a few areas of silver chips.
My thought process was simple… the gray was the primer, the silver was the underlying metal. Picking a few areas that had heavier chipping than the rest, I hand painted in a few silver chips. Working my way round the model, I felt I had enough, and sat back to admire my work.
It looked awful. Just awful. The basic result was pretty much what you’d expect from a balding, overweight, middle-aged man with a bottle of silver paint and a not quite pointy enough brush would do. Blotches of metallic snot, essentially.
Going back to my sponge and light gray paint, I went back over those areas, strategically banning
all most of them to the status of “hidden”. A bit frustrated with the result, I set it aside to dry overnight, while I went off to pout, and console myself with coffee and M & Ms. (Peanut, not plain.)
A Happy Accident
If you’ve ever watched Bob Ross’ “The Joy Of Painting” series on Youtube, you are very familiar with the many sayings he used. “Happy little tree” is probably the most famous of them. But he also said things like “making big decisions” about where a mountain or lake went, “beating the devil out of it” when cleaning his brush, or “it will take over your world” when describing the caution needed when using one color over another.
The one that has always stuck with m though, is “happy accident”. He espoused the notion that there are no mistakes, just happy accidents. Get some paint where you didn’t want it? Turn it into something else. Is that bush a bit too big? Add a trunk and call it a tree. it’s a very good concept to keep in mind with modeling.
I decided the Viper needed a wash. Why I decided this I have no idea. I rarely use washes. But I had some Vallejo Blue Gray Model Wash I’d been itching to use. I thought perhaps stippling that on might help vary the surface color. So away I went, with a big, fat, wide brush.
Damn The Torpedoes
As I began to work, something looked odd. At first I thought it was just the wet appearance of the wash on the model. But as I worked more, I realized that wasn’t it. Of course, instead of stopping and assessing the situation, I pursued the “keep going straight ahead and don’t look left or right” strategy. Finally, it dawned on me what was happening.
The wash, it seems, was lifting the sky gray chipping up. Acrylic paints that had been drying for a day were being reactivated. The oh-so-heavy chipping was rubbing off, replaced by a weird, tinted mix of the paint and wash. Some of the chips stayed, of course… but not all of it.
At first, I was quite unhappy. After blaming the model, the wash, the paint, a guy named Niki, and the brush, I finally realized it was actually my fault. I should have tested an area first. At the very least, when I saw the result, I should have stopped. (I could then decide if it was in the name of love, hammertime, or to collaborate and listen.)
Yet, as I looked at it, I had a realization.
Better To Be Lucky Than Good
I actually liked the way it looked. The sky gray that was left behind actually had a more realistic chipped look to it. The mixing of the wash and paint left a very subtle but pleasing surface appearance. As it began to dry, I actually liked what I saw. The chipping, which I felt had initially been too much, was now “knocked back” to a point that I liked it.
The mistake turned into a technique. 🙂
I continued around the model, applying this newly discovered “wash as paint removal” technique until I was satisfied with what I saw. Happy accident indeed.
I wanted to add some stains to simulate fluid leaks. Now, I have no idea if this spacecraft, in concept, has any fluids internally or not. It may be powered by a big glowy orb that makes it go fast. But in my mind, I wanted some oil stains.
I chose a vertically oriented panel line just aft of the intakes, deciding that line would represent a point where whatever was inside would have leaks. Using some Abteilung 502 Starship Filth, I lightly applied some along the various panel lines. Then using a second brush damped with odorless thinners, I began blending and smudging these around. The process was simply… just keep doing it until it is “right”. (Or you get bored and it’s time for dinner… those pork chops were mighty tasty. 😉 )
Allowing that to dry, I added more stains and some post-shading with my airbrush, using a 2-1 mix of Tamiya’s NATO Black and Hull Red, heavily thinned with alcohol. I especially concentrated in areas that appeared to be jet nozzles, which I assume are for directional control. I figured these should look appropriately smokey. Mimicking the box art, I also airbrushed on some “laser scorches”. Though not entirely happy with them, I do think they suggest that something was “pew-pewed” from another place, and somehow glanced off. Or got absorbed. Or deflected. Whatever…
Wrapping It All Up
A final matt coat of Vallejo Mecha Color Matt Varnish was applied, and the Mk. VII declared “done and done”.
I’m pretty happy with the result. It’s certainly a fun kit to build. I’ve never really completely warmed up to the shape though. In my mind, a Colonial Viper will always be the original one. It’s just too ingrained from my youth. If you told me this was a Falcon Mk. 53 from “Outer Space Adventure Wars” (I just made that up), I’d have said “oh, cool… a star fighter.” But trying to see it as “Battlestar Galactica” just hasn’t registered with me. Still… that’s me, and my own weird mind.
The kit is great. It’s not Tamiya or Bandai, but nothing about it is difficult. And it does look cool, franchise bias aside.
The End Of The Journey
That day on my bike ride, when I returned home. I traced over my route using a roadmap. (Think “paper GPS.” ; ) ) It turns out I’d ridden nearly 40 miles in total. If you’re a bike enthusiast, that’s no big deal. But I was an 8th grade kid out for a summer ride. The whole journey was unintended.
When I first built the Moebius Viper Mk. I, my intent at the time was to just build it simply for nostalgia’s sake. I had fun with it, and was happy with the result, but at the outset, I saw it as a one-off prospect. Yet I enjoyed the build so much I eventually moved on to the Mk. II.
Now that I have finished the Mk. VII, it has occurred to me – just as my bike ride did that day long ago – that I have been on an unintended journey. It’s been a fun ride, too. Each stop along the way has had good parts, and a few challenges, but looking back, I’m quite happy with the it all.
And just like that ride of m youth, I realize I’m a bit sad it’s over. Sure, I could build them all again. I eventually made that bike trip, and others like it, many more times. But just as that first ride held a certain mystique for me personally, so do these three builds. I may be able to replicate them, but I cannot duplicate the journey.
Of course, the fun part of modeling is that there are always new journeys ahead.
Just hand me a peanut butter sandwich and a Coke. I’m ready to go. 😉
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