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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The “conifers” are the standard, cheapest, model railway trees, with purple foam added.
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 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.
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 final touch, the second species of vines, are “silk” from corn-on-the-cob.
So here are the results of my latest project, scratch building a couple of alien starships and then applying my photographic and Photoshop skills to put them in some star systems not too far away.
Scratch building the Golden Starliner
You start by going to the dentist for a teeth cleaning and scaling. 🙂 And then take the clear plastic packaging for the tooth brushes that the dentist gives you at the end of the ordeal.
Add modellers’ masking tape to mark windows for the bridge and viewing ports. The exterior tape is the exact size of the windows I want, the interior is much wider.
Spray paint inside and out. I use a heavy duty plastic compatible automobile primer.
Detail the starship with appropriate scrap that will add to the appearance of the starship. Remove the inner masking tape and replace it with images (in my case I reduced stock photos to a few millimetres in Photoshop).
Then decide what the basic “look” of the starship should be. After the two halves were glued together, it came to be that although this is designed to be a starship, it had a sort of steampunk look. (The projection in the stern is not a smoke stack. The bit of scrap plastic was there to fill a gap in the original toothbrush package). So I used a gold spray paint and decided it was a luxury liner for that alien species The Golden Starliner. Remove the outer masking tape to reveal the windows.
Later I added detailing paints, varying the gold in areas with brass and copper paints and adding colours including reds, greens and blues where appropriate.
The pirate ship
Once the Golden Starliner was complete, I decided the neat thing to do would be to have it pursued by a pirate ship. For that I already had one look in mind, that the ship would be black. Although sensors in that star system not too far away might detect the ship, it would be black to make visual spotting and identification difficult. The vessels are not the same scale.
The main body is a shampoo bottle. The upper deck is another bit of clear plastic packaging, enhanced with one of my favourite candies, Cadbury Cream Egg packaging.
The upper deck was glued to the shampoo bottle and secured with push pins for drying. I originally had planned to remove the pins after the glue was set but decided to keep them. I used the same grey auto primer. The nacelles, as you can see, are from used highlighters.
The bow is the top of a bottle of mouthwash, another cream egg package plus a bit of scrap from a juice container as the sensor unit. (Thinking that the forward sensor unit could mean the pirate ship could be part of the Star Trek universe)
The pirate ship was spray painted flat black, with the engine end of the nacelles (the highlighters) masked by tape. Some parts were painted in a metallic blue, which was also used to dry brush “space rust” with some other parts also painted in different metallic colours to enhance the model. Here it is seen as I am setting up to take the photographs.
Here I am setting up the chase scene for the camera, showing the completed scratch built models.
The photographs have three elements. The models are photographed in low light with a black background on black cardboard. The planets are created in the Photoshop filter plugin LunarCell by Flaming Pear Software. The sun was created in Flaming Pear’s Solarcell filter.
Backgrounds were public domain downloads from NASA’s Hubble website.
Lighting with a LED TV news lamp was adjusted to fit with the illumination of the planet or the star.
The Golden Starliner
The pirate ship
The pirate ship orbits its base, a marginal planet where normally no one would live.
The pirate ship is an ambush predator, orbiting as close as possible to a red dwarf star so it won’t be seen.
The Golden Starliner follows its usual course from planet to planet, oblivious to what awaits it at the next star.
And the ambush predator begins the chase.
Camera Sony Alpha 77, Minolta 28-75 lens, Iso Auto, F32 apperture priority.
Once again the Millennium Falcon is on the run. Once again in this non-canon, non-legend Star Wars Micromachines diorama, the Falcon is trying to hide out in a crater on an unnamed, uncharted minor planet at the edge of that galaxy far far away, perhaps in the mysterious “Unknown Regions.”
Unfortunately for the Millennium Falcon crew and passengers, a bounty hunter comes up over the planetary horizon.
So what happens next? I’ll leave that to your imagination.
Creating the dioramas and photographs
All the models are Hasbro Star Wars Micromachines that were part of a Hasbro Star Wars Micromachines Epic Battles 48 piece set that fortunately was on sale at half price in my local supermarket.
Rebelscale.com lists the MicroMachines Millennium Falcon at 1/682 scale, the Slave 1 at 1/551 scale and what Rebelscale calls the Imperial Star Destroyer (if it is the same as the Super Star Destroyer) at 1/23529 scale.
The problem with the Millenium Falcon MicoMachine is that the detailing is way out of scale, especially compared to some of the other models. Also the shiny “vinyl plastic” (according to Rebelscale) didn’t really work for the much loved but by now old and beat up Millennium Falcon. The model was first painted with Krylon white primer, then lightly sprayed with Krylon Ivory Satin. I added detailing using sharpie style art ink pens. I then sprayed with Krylon Matt finish. Some of colours of those inks run when sprayed with the matt finish (especially reds). After the matt finish had dried, details were touched up with the pens.
I left both the Slave 1 and the Super Star Destroyer as is.
The sheet of plastic was first covered with Krylon white primer. Then I brush painted a thin grey wash with ordinary (not modeling) arcylic artists’ paint. I then sprayed the surface with Krylon Fusion for Plastic white paint and Krylon Make it Stone textured grey paint, two handed, at the same time. Finally I finished off with a quick pass of the Krylon Ivory Satin to give the surface some variety. Serendipitously by that time the Ivory Satin can was almost empty and the spluttering spray left lumps of paint which became the surface rocks.
My work table is grey and some what dirty as you can see. I pinned a black cloth on the wall in preparation for photography. The light for this image was daylight through a window to the left.
To take the photograph of the Millenium Falcon and the Super Star Destroyer the Star Destroyer model was on a platform (actually a pile of books) also covered in black cloth. The main lighting for the shoot was an LED video light high on an extended light stand at the door to my workroom. For this shot the overhead light was also on.
All closeup images were taken with a Sony Alpha 77 and a Sony 100mm prime macro lens.
I wanted imaginative backgrounds, like the covers of 50s-70s science fiction paperbacks, so I choose public domain shots from NASA.
The barred spiral galaxy NGC 6217 was photographed on June 13 and July 8, 2009, as part of the initial testing and calibration of Hubble’s ACS. The galaxy lies 60 million light-years away in the north circumpolar constellation Ursa Major.
The NGC 4536 galaxy, captured here in beautiful detail by the Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). Located roughly 50 million light-years away in the constellation of Virgo (The Virgin), it is a hub of extreme star formation. Released April 14, 2017 ESA/Hubble & NASA
HH 901 and HH 902 in the Carina Nebula Star-forming Pillars and Herbig-Haro Objects with Jets Taken in 2010 by the Hubble the region is two light years across and 7,500 light-years away from Earth. ESA/NASA
For both the Slave 1 and the Super Star Destroyer, the NASA image was added in a new layer, then the eraser tool was used to reveal the spacecraft which were lighted the same way as the Millennium Falcon on the surface.
The “line” between the Lunarscape craters and the work table was blended using a combination the blur tool, the clone tool and the healing brush tool.
For my second diorama (the first was the Emperor Palpatine and his guards) I tackled two scenes, from different perspectives from The Empire Strikes Back.
Photographed from one side, young Luke has arrived at the swamp world of Dagobah and has met Yoda.
Shot from the reverse angle and using forced perspective, the frustrated Luke Skywalker has just watched Yoda use The Force to raise his sunken X-wing fighter from the waters of the Dagobah swamp.
Both Luke and Yoda are Star Wars Command figures, painted in the appropriate colours. The Luke figure, unfortunately, is one of the poorest in the Star Wars Command line, compared to other personalities and even ordinary stormtroopers.
The snake (the creature that ate and threw up R2 D2) is from a $2 packet I bought at a dollar store. The flying creature was a lucky addition to the background shot I chose.
How I did created the diorama
I started with the X-Wing which I painted in the standard colour scheme. The tiny R2 unit on the model was removed since on Dagobah, R2-D2 was with Luke. Military modellers often dip figures in Miniwax wood stain to bring out details. Usually I use a light stain, Minimax Fruitwood. This time I used the darker Walnut stain and rather than cleaning most of the stain, I let it drip into the a small aluminum pan.
Yoda also was dipped but he was wiped clean.
For the X-Wing I then added deadfall Witch’s Hair lichen (Alectoria sarmentosa) which is common in northern British Columbia where I live.
I then built the diorama using standard materials, with one exception. The styrofoam base was small so instead of commercial model water, I used several layers of standard food cling wrap (which actually comes with a slight blue tint in a private brand version) to make the snake/monster emerge from the water. I painted the layers of cling wrap with a light brown wash.
Here’s how the diorama looks.
To photograph from different angles I then chose photos that would work as backgrounds.
Did I visit Dagobah? I wish.
The background images were photographed during a canoe trip in Okefenokee National Wildlife Refugee in south Georgia, ten years ago in April 2006. The photographs were printed on Epson matt paper so there would be no extraneous reflections
Finally here is the X wing on the diorama showing the aft end of the star fighter.
Close up images shot with a Sony A77 and Sony 100 mm macro lens. Others shot with a Sony 6000.