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Premium Member

Posted - 01/13/2018 :  7:27:56 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Fine Art Techniques - Pastels & Inks with Underpainting on Basswood

Where to start… To begin with I have been doing a lot of research and consideration/testing of ideas, materials and techniques found in the Fine Art World over the past 9 months or so. I have been contemplating how to apply some of the ideas and mediums to our hobby. These efforts have been in in lieu of actual modeling bench time due to physical discomfort from some medical issues.

I have not done much formal writing or posting to the forum as, quite frankly, the posting process is just too time consuming and distracting when I’m doing research and testing. I’ve been keeping notes for future reference for a larger ‘thread series’ which will be more comprehensive, better organized and hopefully have improved presentation. That series is what this work is for. Two forum members are aware of the proposed new series, like my ‘sandbox’ threads, and have provided strong positive feedback. This thread is a ‘soft jump-start’ to the developing new series.

I have felt that some of you may want to journey along with me as I go through the process for a specific technique with an individual medium(s) to get a understanding for how I go about the process of developing information to present to you, the modeler, outside of my normal modeling experience.

In this thread I’m going to try to express my thinking and testing methodologies. I’m not going to edit the entries in this thread into a series of steps, each building on the earlier entries as I normally do. Instead, this thread will be composed of my thoughts and self-discussions as I work through the process of trying to use underpainting in the application of inks and pastels to basswood . I’ll try to enhance the discussion with pictures as appropriate. A large goal here is not to allow the writing process to impinge on the research, testing and evaluation progression, but to allow you to ‘look over my shoulder’. As this will be a different style format than usual, please do not expect the thread entries to be as cohesive and sequenced as my normal writing style.

OK… here we go. Hope you enjoy.
-- KP --
Life is to short to build all of the models I want to.

Country: USA | Posts: 7124


Posted - 01/13/2018 :  8:54:00 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Kris, I always look forward to seeing what new methods you will present to us!
Sorry to hear about your difficulties retuning to your workbench.
Have you ever tried to model while standing?
That's the only way I work on my stuff, while standing.
I even see those ads for those "Vera desks" that allow people who sit at desks all day long, to raise the work surface up allowing them to stand at their desk and work.
I've wondered if this product could be used just as easy in our modeling worlds.
And it is apparently much better for us health wise to stand, instead of sitting for long times.
Just a thought.

Greg Shinnie

Edited by - Ensign on 01/13/2018 8:56:18 PM

Country: Canada | Posts: 7690 Go to Top of Page


Posted - 01/13/2018 :  10:12:09 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Kris, while I don't always comment on your threads I do value your technics and writeups as well as pictures.



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Premium Member

Posted - 01/13/2018 :  11:38:20 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Fine artist use many techniques to enhance or maximize the color of their art. Many pastel artists are naturally drawn to strong and vibrant colors. In painting, often one of the preferred mediums is watercolor to achieve the brilliant colors. A second, time honored tradition is the use of soft pastels.

Watercolor and soft pastels each has their own unique advantages and disadvantages to the artist. For the model railroader, some of the properties of the mediums to be exploited are the creation of color fades without fine lines, texture and lightfastness in addition to control of the medium during the application process.

One of the techniques employed by fine artist is the use of underpainting. The process will not only enhance the colors in the finished work, but also expands the palette color choices and development of color within the work.

In an effort to enhance the model’s final appearance and visual appeal, I wanted to explore the possible use of pastels to color basswood.

We are all aware of the work and teachings of Brett Gallant of Sierra West Scale Models. http://sierrawestscalemodels.com Brett has long presented the technique of coloring stripwood with pastels, and almost universally, modelers have embraced the technique. Brett’s excellent technique **may** not fully exploit the coloring possible with pastels. I can fully understand and appreciate the multitude of reasons why more advanced uses of pastels in coloring our models has not been presented. Most modelers achieve/experience a wide value palette of color on their structures using Brett’s techniques, often on the first try. And for many modelers, even contest modelers, the finish is more than acceptable for a model to withstand close-up viewing. And something that looks this good is always more than acceptable on model layouts. So excellent results with minimal time and effort, a major positive technique for modelers.

So why worry about trying to add additional complexity to a technique which works extremely well for almost all modelers? The methods used by most modelers using pastels often results in a moderately ‘monochromatic’ color scheme. The very subtle color hues are somewhat ‘dulled’ by the coloring, removing some of the ‘life’ from the color of the model overall.

The same visual principals come into play for the fine artist as for the modeler. For the painting or drawing artist, the object is the canvass. Just as an object can be made of canvass, glass, tile or sculpture for the artist, so too the modelers canvass can be a structure, rolling stock, tree, military or water tank, figure or background painting. Many artist take their pastel works to a more refined, enhanced color palette with the use of an undercover painting. Can we, as modelers, do the same using basswood as the canvass? Can we introduce more vivid, lifelike colors on our basswood models? And if so, how many extra steps will be introduced? Will we be able to enhance the sense of depth on our canvass as a pastel artist does on a paper canvass? Will the underpainted model coloring enrich the finial coloring of the model to be of value doing? What happens with our fine detailing and texturing?

Please note that this is not the first time that I have gone off the deep end in my quest of experiencing new model coloring techniques. Some may remember the fuchsia pink water tank where it was questioned if Brett would ever speak to me again after painting his casting pink.

Some modelers are gifted with an intrinsic or in-born ability to take their models to a very realistic, artistic level, seemingly without effort. Consider the work of Chuck Doan https://www.pinterest.com/marioscd/chuck-doan-models or Anders Malmberg. http://www.modvid.com.au/html/body_anders_machine_shop.html We often strive to emulate modelers who have formal art training and experience to draw from, such as Arizona Dave and Malcolm Furlough. But most of us do not have training in art theory and techniques, or professional art experience to draw from when creating our modeling art. We need to use our limited time to self-teach and experience the modeling skill(s). That’s what we’ll do here.

Let’s jump in with some general ‘basic’ knowledge and terms so that we can all be on the same page.

Without a long discussion, the color wheel and minimal color theory will allow us to effectively communicate. Thus, some of the terms I’ll use are from my Pocket Color Wheel. https://www.dickblick.com/items/04951-0000

Primary Colors: Red, yellow and blue – cannot be mixed from any other colors.
Secondary Colors: Two primary colors mixed together resulting in orange, green and violet.
Tertiary (Intermediate) Colors: One primary and one secondary mixed together.
Warm (aggressive) Colors: Reds, oranges and yellows.
Cool (receding) Colors: Greens, blues and violets.

Hue: Another name for color.
Tint: Color + white.
Tone: Color + gray.
Shade: Color + black.
Key Color: Dominate color in a color scheme or mixture.
Neutral Gray: Combination of black and white.
Intensity or Chroma: The brightness or dullness of a color.
Value: The lightness or darkness of a color.
Complementary Colors: Combining a shade, tint or tone of one color and the color opposite on the color wheel. Example: blue and orange.

Mono-chromatic: Using any shade, tint or tone of one color.
Analogous: Using any shades, tints or tones of colors that lie adjacent to each other on the color wheel.
Achromatic: A colorless scheme using blacks, whites and grays.
Color and Light: Subdued evening and candlelight create a distortion of color. Under these circumstances light colors need more intensity and dark colors need less.
Color and Distance: Distance causes cool colors to ‘black out’. Consequently lighter values of color should be employed for greater emphasis.

-- KP --
Life is to short to build all of the models I want to.

Edited by - hon3_rr on 01/13/2018 11:43:46 PM

Country: USA | Posts: 7124 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 01/13/2018 :  11:43:17 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Kris glad to see this get underway.

Looking forward to the new methods you've come up with.I'm sure most of us will find something to use in a future thread or build.

Will be following along for sure.


"And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years." A. Lincoln

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Premium Member

Posted - 01/14/2018 :  09:03:39 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Looks interesting. I'll be following.


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Posted - 01/14/2018 :  11:24:21 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
This is going to be good. I look forward to following along.

It's only make-believe

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ed k

Posted - 01/14/2018 :  12:13:26 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Kris, I look forward to applying your techniques to the six new Morgan Hill kits I just got.
Thank you for taking the time.

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Premium Member

Posted - 01/14/2018 :  1:34:37 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I'm always willing to learn something new, your thoroughness will keep my attention. Thanks Kris.


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Premium Member

Posted - 01/14/2018 :  5:18:26 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
To all who have taken the time to visit, Thank you.

Greg; Thanks for following along and the suggesting of standing. I do have a old time wooden drafting table about 5 feet from me, so the idea is utilized.

Jerry; Thanks again for the input on the 'Modeling Considerations' series idea. This thread is just preview of what I was referencing. It covers just the research on a single topic/technique which I wanted to present. And as I stated to you, I wanted to have at least four topics 'in the box' prior to starting the series for real. Look forward to having your input as we move along as some of this thread will be based on some of your work.

Ed; Six new kits... what a lucky man! I hope that you'll be able to apply the presented knowledge to produce a wide range of weathering and usage to the kits. Please feel free to post pictures to this thread. We always like pictures...

Jim; Just hoping that I can present something new to you. I've learned a lot by watching you.

OVERVIEW - Mediums

Again, some more very basic information to make sure everyone is on the same page. The need for the following information will become apparent once we get into some testing discussions and issues.

For our hobbyist discussions, there are three art medium classifications to be aware of.

Artist or Professional mediums are made with high-quality, finely ground pigments, high quality binders and are selected for lightfastness and color intensity as well as superior mixing qualities.

Student grade mediums have working characteristics similar to professional-grade, but with lower quality pigments (possibly decreased lightfastness) and pigment concentrations, lessor quality binders and a smaller range of colors. More expensive pigments are generally replicated by hues, thus poor mixing qualities.

Scholastic grade mediums are often designed to not be permanent, often use dyes instead of pigments and are commonly used to introduce concepts of color and drawing.

Take a moment and watch the entire video linked below. This video shows how the grade of the medium affects the property of color mixing.

Dyes dissolve in liquids. This gives them the ability to stain porous materials such as cloth or wood. Pigments do not dissolve but instead disperse as very fine particles. They have very limited staining power on their own and need an additional binder to make the particles adhere once the liquid medium has evaporated or dried. http://www.earthpigments.com/faq-frequently-asked-questions

Dry pigment powders are used in the creation of almost all types of coloring mediums with the exception of stains which are usually created from dyes. Inks can be made from dye, pigment powders or a combination of the two.

How finely ground and uniform the particle size is will significantly affect the pigments properties. Higher quality pigment powders tend to have finer and more uniform grinds in addition to uniform hues.

Modelers and artist use dry pigments in various forms; weathering powders, pastels, water/oil/acrylic paints are examples. In almost all applications, a binder is used to assist the pigment powder in adhering to the surface being colored. A binder may also be utilized after the pigments are applied. This often termed as a ‘fixative’ when referenced to pigment powders.

Dyes tend to have a lower degree of lightfastness, as do lower quality pigments. Pigments also tend to show a lower degree of lightfastness when highly diluted, such as in water colors or other translucent colors. Opaque (nontransparent) colors tend to have a higher degree of lightfastness.

For modelers who question the property of ‘lightfastness’, please take a moment and review the color value shifts in oil paints after one year. Please review the first three pages of color swatches to obtain a feel for this property. http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=448871

Let’s focus for a bit on pastel properties as the fine art technique being evaluated is about the use of pastels used over inks using basswood as a canvass.

Soft Pastels are not chalks. Chalk is made of limestone or gypsum and compressed into powdered sticks. Soft Pastels are the purest color medium, usually made from pure pigment with only enough binder to allow them to be made into sticks.

There are four main types of pastels: soft, hard, pencil and oil. For our discussions, we will consider Pan Pastels as a soft type.

There are three classifications of pastels:
Soft pastels contain less binder which gives them their butter/creamy texture when used. Soft pastels contain more pigment so the resulting color is rich. Soft pastels can easily be blended. When using soft pastels in modeling be aware that they are delicate and can break easily. Soft pastels will probably not damage grained basswood while providing excellent coverage. Very little pressure is required to apply the soft pastel.

Medium and Hard Pastels have less pigment but more binder. Medium and Hard pastels require more pressure to produce colors which are not as intense as the soft pastels. Medium and Hard pastels are often used for outlining or adding intricate details to work done in other media, such as our hobby. Basswood may be damaged with hard pastels when trying to lay color directly from the stick. Multiple passes with a hard pastel will probably be required to reduce damage to the wood. However, very fine lines can be obtained using a medium or hard pastel.

When scraping a soft pastel with a knife to obtain a powder, soft pastels tend to produce a finer, more uniform powder. Medium pastels, like Rembrandt, tend to produce a bit of chipping/flaking and the powder is not as uniform in grain size. The uneven pastel grain size has an advantage of creating a larger color value palette on the basswood canvass.

Dakota Art Pastels http://www.dakotapastels.com shows the following pastel brands within each classification.

Dick Blick Art shows the following pastel brands broken into the three classifications.

My selection of pastels is somewhat dependent on the subtle coloring and hue values which I may be trying to capture. If I’m trying to achieve a more solid/uniform coloring, then I tend to reach for a softer brand pastel. If I’m trying to create multiple and varied color values across a wide gray scale, then I tend utilize a medium pastel as the chips of color produce a wide distribution of color values when the solvent is applied.

Very often I see a large percentage of modelers lay down a large volume of pastel powder on the canvass prior to applying the solvent. As the modeler is not trying to create a uniform value color in most cases, this heavy application of pastel works against modeler. As the pastel is not fixed on the basswood, most of the excess coloring can be easily removed with the application of a solvent wash and a bit of light scrubbing with a medium hard bristle brush. (Not a watercolor brush.) The modeler will probably find that a greater degree of coloring control can be achieved with the application of two or three layers of very small volumes of pastel being set with a solvent. Allow the solvent to dry between pastel powder applications. Control the opacity and value of the pastels with solvent applied with a brush or rag. Once the basswood is colored, apply a fixative to the dry canvass to hold the pastel powders in place.

Please note that Weathering Powders are not just a pastel, pigment powder or chalk. Weathering powders are pigments or pastels which have a pressure sensitive binder added to the pastel or pigment to assist in holding the coloring in place. You will find that Weathering powders have an advantage over pastels in some mediums such as styrene or if you don’t want to use a fixative. Weathering powders also have an advantage over pastels for use in object which are frequently handled, like rolling stock. For objects which do not have much handling, such as a structure, pastel powders will likely be to the modelers advantage as there is more control in the color application through the use of a solvent wash to reduce, move or remove the pigment.

When working with pastels, I strongly recommend the use of Viva Paper Towels by Kimberly-Clark Brands. Viva paper towels have an advantage over other brands in that the towel acts more like a absorbent rag then paper towels. This results in cleaner brushes as more pigment/solvent is removed from the brush. In addition, the tooth of the Viva Paper Towel makes it easier to clean a dry pastel loaded brush or pastel stick then with a standard paper towel. I didn’t ever really notice this until I picked up in multiple fine art videos and websites that most artist tend to use these paper towels over other brands or cotton rags. After trying two rolls of Viva and a different premium brand of paper towel side-by-side, I confirmed the Viva towel is much more efficient for our artwork. Just a FYI sideline….

-- KP --
Life is to short to build all of the models I want to.

Edited by - hon3_rr on 01/14/2018 5:32:32 PM

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Premium Member

Posted - 01/16/2018 :  2:43:25 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I know how much effort is needed to document a new experiment/ technique , thanks for sharing.

Country: Canada | Posts: 2363 Go to Top of Page

ed k

Posted - 01/16/2018 :  3:34:59 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Brilliant. One hell of an effort. Much appreciated. I will make others aware of your effort. It is always good to find someone who cares.
Thank you.

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New Hire

Posted - 01/19/2018 :  12:49:26 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
You really should write a book!


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Engine Wiper

Posted - 01/20/2018 :  06:20:47 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
interesting read no doubt will be following along.

as I implore you to change your signature:

-- KP -- Life is too short to build all of the models I want to.

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Premium Member

Posted - 01/20/2018 :  10:23:28 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I'm just catching up. This is one large endeavor and we are all going to learn a lot from your efforts.
Thank You!!

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