A cold, wet winter on Arch-to

After too many weeks of cold, wet northern British Columbia west coast weather I was looking at modelling shelf and had the idea that if Luke Skywalker was living on an island in the middle of the ocean on the Jedi planet Arch-to, he had to deal with the same oceanic winter weather as does Skellig Michael in Ireland in the Atlantic Ocean. ( where two Star Wars movies were shot and where September weather actually delayed shooting The Last Jedi). So here is the Hasbro Star Wars Luke dealing with the Arch-to equivalent of December rain, cold and wind.

The Hasbro Skywalker figure actually works quite well in close up.

Shot with Sony Alpha 55 and a Tamron 70-300 macro lens.

Dollar Store Dinosaurs

A summer stay-at-home project. Repainting cheap dollar store dinosaurs into actual miniature creatures, in this case, some sort of theropod family, with a mother, a yearling and two juveniles now old enough to leave the nest and follow the family into the world.

The theropod mother leads the yearling on a hunt in the rain. (Robin Rowland)
The original dollar store dinosaurs, two different generic brands. (Robin Rowland)
The mother theropod leads the juvenile. (Robin Rowland)
The theropod family, the mother leads the yearling and the two juveniles on a hunt at sunset (Robin Rowland)
The mother theropod. (Robin Rowland)
The dinosaur family on the hunt. (Robin Rowland)
The hunt continues as the sun sets. (Robin Rowland).

Star Wars #ourgreatindoors

The #ourgreatindoors concept came about during the Covid-19 pandemic when outdoor photographers were stuck in their homes and recreated images of the outdoors by using anything they could find around the house. I decided to use the same concept using my Star Wars Micromachines figures.

The idea was featured on CBS News Sunday Morning. (video autoplays) based mainly on the work of photographer Erin Sullivan. As CBS’s Conor Knighton, reported: “When COVID-19 hit, all of travel photographer Erin Sullivan’s far-flung gigs dried up. So, the woman known as “Erin Outdoors” began recreating the great outdoors indoors, turning her Los Angeles apartment into imaginative landscapes made out of spaghetti, vegetables, sugar or tinfoil. Her Instagram photo series, #OurGreatIndoors, has inspired other homebound travel buffs to imagine vistas of their own in miniature.”

Sullivan’s website Erin Outdoors.

Here are my inspired photographs.

Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker battle in the Death Star in the Empire Strikes Back. In this case, the Death Star is actually the interior of my dishwasher. (Robin Rowland)
Darth Vader takes on his son, Luke Skywalker, in the Death Star. (Robin Rowland)
A closer image of the two Hasbro Star Wars Micromachines figures of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. (Robin Rowland)
Finn, Rey and BB8 cross the desert of Jakku. Actually the arm of my sofa. (Robin Rowland)
BB8, Rey and Finn on the desert of Jakku as the Force Awakens. (Robin Rowland)

The Rusty Romulan

An unfortunate Romulan Bird of Prey crashed on an alien world many years ago and nature is taking over. (Robin Rowland)

My latest project, The Rusty Romulan, was begun to solve a very old problem. When I was a teenager (yes that long ago, when Star Trek the Original Series was still on the air on NBC) I built all the available Star Trek models from AMT, including the Romulan Bird of Prey.

My original build of the Romulan Bird of Prey from the late 1960s.

There was one problem with that model. There was something wrong with the spray paint I bought (memory fades) either at my neighborhood hobby shop or perhaps a hardware store was faulty and the metallic paint was rough and potmarked.

Somehow, unlike all the other models I built in those days, the Romulan Bird of Prey was the only one that survived. Like some other models, it ended up in a box of books that I unpacked when I retired. (Yes it was that long ago).

So the Bird of Prey was hanging around on a shelf until one day I had an idea. Living in northern British Columbia you often come upon crashed cars in the bush, completely rusty and overgrown. Or illegally abandoned vessels rusting on a shoreline and also becoming overgrown.

So why not make lemonade from the Bird of Prey and turn it into a rusty Romulan.

So that’s what I did.

The repainted and now rusty Romulan Bird of Prey.

The Romulan Transportation Safety Board has not yet investigated the crash. The Bird of Prey is listed as missing. So the reasons for the crash (and if the crew survived) is unknown. The space craft managed to reenter the atmosphere intact. There was no significant battle damage and the crew did not trigger the self destruct. However there was clearly some exterior damage, either in space perhaps causing the emergency landing or during reentry.

The Bird of Prey livery was damaged during re-entry. (Robin Rowland)

I scored the old model with my Dremel sander on a very slow rotation. Then painted some areas black for the re-entry burn and then added the initial rust in light washes.

The Rusty Romulan on the workbench. (Robin Rowland)

I wanted the Bird of Prey to be somewhat upright, so it came to rest against a ridge so that the livery can be seen. With that design in mind, the decades on the surface of this planet alien to both Human and Romulan will take its toll on the unlucky Bird of Prey.

Top view of the diorama. (Robin Rowland)
A side view (Robin Rowland)
A view of the wreck as if someone, Human, Romulan, indigenous to the planet or other alien is walking up to it. (Robin Rowland)
The Bird of Prey came to rest against a ridge face. (Robin Rowland)
A closer view of the Bird of Prey on top of the ridge. (Robin Rowland)

I wanted an alien look while maintaining the scale. The Bird of Prey has four decks and is 21.9 metres (71.8 feet) high by 90.6 metres (297.2 feet) wide. So the trees and other vegetation (allowing that this is an alien world) had to be proportional.

A visitor approaches the rusty wreck of the Romulan Bird of Prey (Robin Rowland)

One of the species of vines on this part of the world are made from ornamental moss from a dollar store, the kind usually put in planters.

Our visitor is walking around looking at the Bird of Prey, with the winged livery still visible among the rust. (Robin Rowland)

The “conifers” are the standard, cheapest, model railway trees, with purple foam added.

Our curious visitor continues to walk around the wreck. (Robin Rowland)

The trees are Woodland Scenics Light Green Forest Canopy using just the very tops of the plant material. (Chaos theory is at work here, the tiny tops are just like the bigger trees designed for a model railway.)

The visitor looks up at the rusty hull. (Robin Rowland)

The original AMT model did not have the portholes in the Bird of Prey so I drilled the holes. The fibrous material is a model railway grass and the orange fungi is a chalk.

Now the visitor ventures to walk on the hull of the wreck. (Robin Rowland)

The built up leaves on the hull are just that. Autumn leaves collected, dried and then pulverized in a blender. (It is another model railway technique. However if you are using a blender make sure to use one that comes with both glass and metal containers–and use the metal one).

The visitor looks over to what was once the bridge of the Bird of Prey. (Robin Rowland)
Our curious visitor continues to explore the hull of the Bird of Prey. (Robin Rowland)

The final touch, the second species of vines, are “silk” from corn-on-the-cob.

Hot chicken Jedha

There’s another citadel temple city on the moon Jedah. And the Empire is occupying this city as well as can be seen from the Imperial Star Destroyer overhead. (Robin Rowland)

According to Wookieepdia, there is more to the moon Jedah than just the NiJedah Holy City destroyed in the movie Rogue One A Star Wars story:

澳门太阳城注册|官方网址
太阳城

《攻占总统府》ipic4.jpg

红星奖章ipic3.jpg

Many settlements on the moon, such as the ancient Holy City, sat atop the world’s natural mesas…

So the model above is my latest semi-canon creation. The mesa temple city is scratch built. The Star Destroyer is the Hot Wheels model.

This all started one evening when I had a speaking engagement and so, with no time to cook, I picked up a whole hot roast chicken at the local supermarket. Delicious. Then I noticed something. Hey, I thought, in my sometimes off the wall way, that container resembles that city from Rogue One.

A hot chicken container that resembles that ancient desert city from Rogue One –or that’s what I thought over dinner. (Robin Rowland)

After I got the black plastic “mesa” out of the dishwasher, I went to my stash and pulled out the Star Destroyer I bought a year or so ago cheap at a dollar store, just to see if would work.

Hot Wheels Star Destroyer on top of a one-time chicken container. (Robin Rowland)

Given the huge size of a Star Destroyer and its size in relation to the Holy City, it was clear that this model city would be a larger mesa and settlement that one in Rogue One.

Screengrab from Rogue One showing the huge Star Destroyer over the Holy City of Nijedha.
The Star Destroyer leaves NiJedah as the Empire evacuates its forces prior to the destructive attack from the Death Star.
The same scene using with the model. The stand has been erased in Photoshop. (Robin Rowland)

The next step was to turn the chicken container into a city on Jedah.

Top view. Buildings were added using scrap plastic, tops of tubes, the top of a dental floss dispenser and chopped up Evergreen plastic strips. (Robin Rowland)
The iconic domed buildings found on Jedah and Tatooine are bits of sprue. (Robin Rowland)

The Star Destroyer was repainted and weathered.

Then I built up the city, painted it, weathered it. Then it was glued onto a foamboard base and the desert landscape was added.

The Jedha model city. (Robin Rowland)

The Star Destroyer on its Hot Wheels stand. (Robin Rowland)
The city and the Star Destroyer. Stand removed using Photoshop. (Robin Rowland)
Front view of the mesa, the city and the Star Destroyer. (Robin Rowland)
Jedha model opposite view. (Robin Rowland)
Jedha model with the Star Destroyer on its stand. (Robin Rowland)
Jedha model and Star Destroyer (stand removed by Photoshop. (Robin Rowland)
Top view of the mesa city. (Robin Rowland)

Tracking a vintage toy Dimetrodon

A Permian scene. Three Dimetrodons explore a shoreline in what will one day become Prince Edward Island. (Robin Rowland)


On February 21, Parks Canada announced the discovery of fossilized tracks of the Permian sail-backed mammal like reptile Dimetrodon (Bathygnathus borealis) in the red rocks of Prince Edward Island. A Dimetrodon walked through mud about 290 million years ago.

That inspired my next project to recreate the classic paintings by artist Charles R. Knight of the primeval world. In this case, his work on the Permian of Texas for the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.

My model compared to Charles R. Knight’s painting.

As with previous projects, I used Louis Marx “dinosaur” toys that I had as a kid and found in an old box.

Recreating the Charles R Knight paintings with old Marx dino toys

A vintage toy wooly mammoth

The three toys were painted to match, as much as possible, the Knight painting. There are more colourful Dimetrdons in the current imagination of artists which can be found on Google Images.

I had two specific aims. The first was the model had to have Dimetrodon tracks. Second the mud had to be red, the same as the famous red rocks of Prince Edward Island. The fossil tracks were found on reddish rock.

Top view of the diorama. You can see tracks in the bottom left corner while the Dimetrodon on the right is walking through the mud. (Robin Rowland)


The “outcrop” is from a contemporary toy dinosaur collection from China sold by Walmart. My guess is that it’s supposed to be a volcano. But for this diorama and to be more true to the scale and the time, I turned it into a rotten tree stump. The fern is an HO scale model railway accessory.

I followed the usual diorama practice of working within a cheap dollar store frame. In this case I kept the glass to simulate the water. I painted the base brown and added some model railway scenic green foam (which is barely visible as I intended). Then I added a thin wash of brown paint on the top of the glass. I mixed plaster so that it is was thick and heavy cream like, with red and raw umber paint mixed in. I let it set for about an hour and then used the toy Dimetrodon to create the footprints.

A close shot of one of the Dimetrodon.

A vintage toy wooly mammoth

A wooly mammoth in the snow (Robin Rowland)

My latest vintage toy repaint, a 1950s Louis Marx Toys wooly mammoth, photographed in the first day of snow in Kitimat, BC, December 8, 2918. (Normally we get snow in the first week of November not the second week of December)

The wooly mammoth (Robin Rowland)
The wooly mammoth (Robin Rowland)

Recreating the Charles R Knight paintings with old Marx dino toys

Two Tyrannosaurus Rex hunt a triceratops in a recreation of the famous Charles R. Knight painting

The original.

A sabre tooth tiger (Smilodon), watches for prey in a recreation of the Charles R. Knight painting.

How the idea started and how I recreated the scene.

A few months ago as I finally unpacked a box of old palaeontology books that I collected from the 1970s to the 1990s, I unexpectedly found a box of my dinosaur toys from when I was a kid in the 1950s. Most them were made by the toy company Louis Marx and Company,聽while others were cheaper knockoffs.聽 聽Whether from Louis Marx or knockoffs, the toys are all based on聽 paintings by either the Charles R. Knight or by Rudolph Zallinger.

Now there’s a problem with these toys. They are no longer scientifically valid, our knowledge of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures has grown immensely over the past fifty-odd years. The body plan of the dinosaurs is completely different from the slow lumbering reptiles that was the conventional wisdom in the 1950s. The toys are obsolete–or are they?

So I decided to use the toys to recreate those original paintings that I loved as a kid. I started with Charles R. Knight because in that box of dinosaur books was one of Charles R. Knight paintings that I bought in Chicago years ago.

Planning the T-Rex scene using the toys before I repainted them.

Planning the sabre-tooth scene.

There’s more to come.聽 I am going to post a repainted Woolly Mammoth as soon as the snow flies.聽 I have the sea creature that didn’t fit and had to be renamed and some other photos from a toy photography class I taught in the summer.

More toy dinosaur photos

Some images of dinosaurs from a toy photo class I taught in July.

Triceratops (vintage Louis Marx toy) (Robin Rowland)

A brontosaurus (as it was still called in the 1950s). Another vintage Louis Marx toy from the1950s. (Robin Rowland)

A pachycephalorsaurus on a rock. Not sure who manufactured this one, a student brought to the class (Robin Rowland)

The GT-1350 Smuggler Interceptor

(Star Wars non-canon; non-Legends)

A Star Guard “smuggler interceptor” using the military version of the Corellian Engineering YT 1300 light freighter which I call the GT-1350 chasing a smuggler in an original YT-1300. (is it the Millennium Falcon or another smuggler using the YT-1300? Who knows.) Have you ever noticed that the Millennium Falcon always out聽 flies聽 and out maneuvers a Tie-fighter?

PREMIS

About thirty odd years ago I co-wrote two books, King of the Mob and Undercover, about Prohibition in Canada and how Canada smuggled illicit alcohol into the United States from 1919 to 1933.

One of the things I found out during my research was that in the early days of聽 Prohibition the United States Coast Guard was ill prepared to intercept many of the faster boats that聽 opportunists and later gangsters used to smuggle alcohol either from Canada or the French islands of St. Pierre et Miquelon (off the coast of Newfoundland). But if the US聽 Coast Guard was able to seize one of the smugglers and the specifications were acceptable the seized vessel was turned into a Coast Guard smuggler catcher. The Coast Guard also purchased fast boats that were the same as or similar to those that were used by the smugglers. The Royal Navy used a similar policy in converting fast sloops to pirate catchers during the pirates of the Caribbean era.

So one day I had the idea of turning my Star Wars Command Millennium Falcon into a “smuggler catcher.”

The Star Guard聽GT-1350 at a landing pad on a planetary base (Robin Rowland)

Since the Star Wars Command Millennium Falcon is marketed as a child’s toy, it runs on wheels and there are three gaps on the underbelly. Also while detailed, the Star Wars Command Falcon is crude compared to the higher quality models on the market.

So it sat on the shelf for a couple of years until I had the idea of making it a “coast guard” interceptor.

Scenario

Time:聽 The late “Old”Republic at the time Lando Calrissian and Han Solo were flying the Millennium Falcon.聽 The time was becoming more lawless after the Sith Wars.聽 聽Smugglers were found working all sections of the galaxy.

Remember in all the now forty years of Star Wars, according to both Star Wars canon and Star Wars Legends, the Corellian Y-1300 light freighter was a standard production model, so there must have been lots of them around, even though Star Wars, so far,聽 has had only one Millennium Falcon (and I am pretty sure the fans would want only one Falcon)

Place:聽An alliance of several star systems under the banner of the Republic.聽 Since all these systems are quasi-independent, while they are overall affiliated with the Republic military, like 21st Century nations on Old Earth, they have their own police forces and system patrols commonly known as “Star Guards.” With the rise of the Empire all local forces were Imperialized.

That system is cracking down on smuggling of all kinds, from arms to drugs to luxury goods.聽 They find that their regular patrol ships are too slow to intercept the Corellian Engineering Corporation’s classic, respected and souped up YT-1300 light freighter.

The local government then decides it needs to “set a thief to catch a thief” and it obtains (and here the reader can choose one of two options)

1)the government buys a YT-1300 light freighter聽 (or managers to capture a YT-1300, probably on the planetary surface)聽and modifies it to Star Guard requirements and specifications.

OR

2)the government orders a military version of the YT-1300 the GT-1350 from Corellian Engineering, modified to Guard requirements and specifications, including, of course,聽 fast and powerful sublight and lightspeed engines.

The Star Guard interceptor at its landing field at night.

The Mission

The Star Guard interceptor has three missions

  1. Smuggler chaser
  2. 聽Routine policing and system star guard duties including maintenance of聽 navigation beacons and other vital sensor systems.
  3. Search and Rescue

(just like 21st century coast guards on Old Earth)

The GT-1350 Smuggler Interceptor

A modified version of the popular YT1300fp version popular in the late Republic.

Normal complement is a crew of five to seven.聽 That would include a pilot and co-pilot,聽 who doubles as a shuttle pilot. The third regular crew member is a sensor and navigation specialist and when necessary, gunner.聽 Depending on the mission the GT-1350 can carry Search and Rescue Technicians,聽 Navigation aids engineers and technicians or Special Weapons and Tactics聽 Teams who are trained in boarding and capturing intercepted space ships. The GT-1350 can also normally carry up to seven or eight passengers or if required up to fifteen passengers/intelligent beings on a rescue mission (although that would mean the vessel would be crowded until it could rendezvous with relief vessels.)

Special bays

The GT-1350 has replaced the cargo bays with

1)a shuttle bay for a one person/intelligent being shuttle craft

2)drone bays that can carry a number of sensor drones with different missions such as sensor probes and search and rescue probes.聽 Or it can carry navigation and other in-system beacons,聽 just like coast guards today act as buoy tenders and maintain other aids to navigation.

3)The third bay聽 carries a high powered sensor dome that can be extended from the underbelly and used to focus on target areas of the mission

(These bays cover the wheel wells on the Star Wars Command toy Falcon)

Colour scheme and livery

Until the Empire “Imperialized”聽 the galactic police and military,聽 Star Guards continued the tradition from Coast Guards on Old Earth where each nation often聽 had their own colour scheme based on a mixture of mostly white and red ( usually not including some specialist vessels)聽 US Coast Guard,聽 largely white with some red except for icebreakers which are mostly red, Canadian Coast Guard with red hulls and white superstructure, Russian Coast Guard all red, China Coast Guard mostly white, UK Coast Guards white hulls and buff superstructure etc.

For painting this GT-1350, I used a slightly modified Canadian Coast Guard colour scheme, making most of the hull red with major parts white and equipment areas in buff or black.

For the livery I wanted something that would seem both futuristic and familiar. As with earlier projects I created the planet in the Solar Cell Photoshop plugin as a symbol for the star system where the ship is based. The stars and other symbols came from various dingbats to create a more alien look.聽 聽I decided to use the English “Star Guard” since I found the terms System Guard, System Patrol and other variations awkward and I wanted something that suggest a galactic version of a coast guard. (But it’s also a tribute to Andre Norton’s Star Guard which, of course has nothing to do with the Star Wars universe and is a completely different story).

The underbelly of the Star Wars Command ship showing the colour schemes, livery and shuttle/sensor bays.聽 The majority of the hull is painted red while the “superstructure” is painted white with some areas, including the landing gear in buff or black.

The toy becomes a sort of model

 

The Star Wars Command toy Millennium Falcon disassembled with the wheels removed.

The disassembled model was primed. I then inserted the shuttle (forward bay) and the drones (upper bay in this picture) port side on the model. The shuttle and the drones are 1/2500 Star Trek 3D printed shuttles I bought from Shapeways for another project but decided they would be of better use for this project.

The underbelly of the GT-1350 before decals were added. You can see the sensor dome on the bottom left.

A view of the front. Note the star decal.

The port or left side after decals were added. One question I thought about was whether to weather? In the end I decided to weather the ship. As a military vessel under most circumstances, it would be better maintained than the Millennium Falcon’s often jury rigged repairs. On the other hand the George Lucas vision of the Star Wars universe calls for a certain dirty, aged, weathered look.

The aft/rear view of the GT-1350. The toy blue of the engines was washed in a couple of shades of blue. The other ship is the Star Wars MicroMachines Millennium Falcon. (normally used on my earlier project based loosely on The Empire Strikes Back and borrowed for the photo shoot.)

The landing gear are from N Scale model railway telephone poles, which were just the right size to fit into the screw holes on the toy Millennium Falcon.

The photo

 

The completed GT-1350 Smuggler Interceptor chasing a YT-1300 smuggler. Taken on the black stands you’ve seen above and a black sheet of poster board.

LED light to the right to produce star light.

Taken with a Sony Alpha 6000 at various focal lengths on aperture priority to produce greater depth of field mounted on a heavy duty tripod.

Starfield photoshopped Hubble image from NASA.