DINOMANIA 2011 - PART 3

TAMIYA 1:35 DINOSAUR DIORAMA KITS 2


 

08/28/11- Tamiya has some other 1:35 scale prehistoric critter kits in addition to the Brachiosaurus and Triceratops dioramas. I was particularly interested in their Parasaurolophus diorama since it included some flying reptiles. Unfortunately, this appears to be a discontinued kit that's hard to find; I found it at Hobbylink Japan and paid almost as much for the shipping as the kit!

The Flying Reptiles These look an awful lot like small Pteranodons, but are labeled on the box as Nyctosaurus. Doing the Google thing, it's clear that these aren't the textbook Nyctosaurus that have a peculiar single antler-like projection from their skull (which, in my opinion, looks very funky). So I don't know what these guys are, but it does cast doubt upon the "Thorough research for a highly accurate model..." that Tamiya uses in its sale literature, or at least points to the futility and audacity of assuming that we know what "accurate" is when it comes to prehistoric creatures. For my purposes though, they're cool-looking as a generic Pterosaur and a good size fit for my 1:35 collection.

Tamiya 1:35 diorama kit Parasaurolophus Pterosaur

The kit includes 3 Pterosaurs: 1 squatting and 2 flying that are intended to be mounted on metal spring wires projecting from the base. Since I wasn't going to build the diorama, I adapted them for hanging suspension via a hole drilled through the top. Although I filled the slot on the bottom, the hole could be drilled all the way through for piano wire support from the bottom; the tiny hole fits nylon fishing line and very thin piano wire.

For the painting scheme, I used ideas from several pics of Pterosaurs. I most liked the realistic, "lived-in" look of the Jurassic Park Pteranodon, which had blended, random-looking dark coloration on the head. I also studied some screen captures from Walking With Dinosaurs, which gave me ideas about how to paint the underside with random splotches.

Tamiya 1:35 diorama kit Parasaurolophus Pterosaur

The Parasaurolophus I wasn't too keen on building this; I'd bought the kit mainly for the flying reptiles. Like the Iguanodon, I considered it a second-tier Happy Meal dinosaur that didn't interest me very much. However, the look has grown on me, and getting Tamiya's Mesozoic Creatures kit, which includes an infant Parasaurolophus, motivated me to search for a suitable paint scheme.

I had a lot of pics to assess and each pic showed an interesting and radically different coloration scheme. The obvious color base was green since the plastic was cast in a bright, ugly green plastic. However, I didn't find many pics that showed an overwhelmingly interesting green paint scheme that looked realistic, my main criterion. That ruled out a lot of illustrations/paintings and pics of toy dinosaurs. The best candidates were screen caps and some photos of models that had been painted by outstanding model artists.

The list narrowed down to a few very good candidates but a model of Iguanodons (?) painted by Steve Riojas caught my attention due to the interesting contrasting coloration and the artist's stellar execution. I thought that trying to replicate this scheme would give me some insight on how to paint dinosaurs-- hey, I'm trying to learn how to do this stuff, so why not try to learn from the best?

Tamiya's sculpture was pretty good and the kit assembled easily. However, the textural detail on this kit is very shallow, unlike the Dinostoreus sculptures (which have prominent scales and bumps). That makes it a bit harder to do dry-brushing, but it also makes it harder to match and transition texture across parts. It's very difficult to engrave texture across parts because the scales are so shallow and soft-edged, and it's also difficult to do it with putty since it doesn't take much stray putty to obliterate detail. The leg-body seams were especially difficult. My first attempt bridged the seam with a generous application of texture-stamped putty, but when primer was applied, the patch was glaringly obvious, despite the texture stamping. I removed the primer and putty and applied a much smaller patch, not much bigger than the seam. The result was better, but not perfect. Fortunately, the paint scheme I'd selected helps minimize this since a large, dark splotch is strategically painted over the most visible part of the patched seams. The shadows cast by real light help to reveal texture (and mismatches), and black shadows don't show up as well on black paint.

Tamiya 1:35 diorama kit Parasaurolophus dinosaur

My rendition of the Riojas paint scheme turned out okay, but not surprisingly, lacks the finesse and magic of the original. I used a light gray primer and airbrushed off-white acrylic over most of it, concentrating on the bottom side. The topside was airbrushed a variety of progressively darker shades of yellow/tan, khaki, and reddish brown (mainly Vallejo WWII German tank colors, with some mixed shades), progressing to the top. The dark areas were brush-painted in black and tweaked with thinned washes and full-strength dappling; some dark green was mixed in. The crest was painted with a red/brown mix, thinned at the edges to blend. A thin brown wash was applied to most areas to bring out texture and unify/mute the colors.Some darker black and green washes were applied, mainly around the legs and feet. Dullcote was sprayed on to provide some durability for the finish. The eyeballs were dotted with full-strength gloss medium; a watered down mix was brush painted over the rest of the body to smooth out the reflectivity differences between paints and to give it a slight sheen. Another spraying of Dullcote was applied to fine-tune the sheen.

The junior Parasaurolophus received almost the same treatment. I scaled back the black patches/striping and crest coloration because I didn't want them to look like different scale versions of the same thing; the implication is that these features would come with age. Heck, what do I know? I sure don't know how to make junior dinosaurs look cuter than the adults!

Tamiya 1:35 diorama kit Parasaurolophus Pterosaur

08/30/11- I didn't like the way the models looked in the first set of pics (above), so I "dirtied them up". The adult got a more exaggerated wash, which brought out detail, but also made the non-recessed areas darker: The white was no longer white. I thought about drybrushing, but didn't think it would work since the detail was so shallow; it then dawned on me to lightly go over the surface with fine steel wool. This brought back some of the original color but left the recessed areas alone, which produced a starker contrast with the recessed area. I did a quickie pastel dust version with the little guy, mainly to match the degree of dirtiness. The dust does get into the recessed areas like a wash, but it's very easy to undo and fine-tune with a micro fiber cloth. The pastel dust was also used to reduce the shine on certain parts of the adult. (The pics convinced me that I didn't like the slightly shiny effect.)

The interesting thing about this is that the camera's close-up view gives a very different look to the model that's not apparent (or important) at normal viewing distance. At normal viewing distance, the models just look dirtier and darker.

Tamiya 1:35 diorama kit Parasaurolophus dinosaur
Tamiya 1:35 diorama kit Parasaurolophus dinosaur

 

Oviraptor 09/03/11- Tamiya's Mesozoic Creatures kit contains six smaller models: An infant Parasaurolophus, an infant Tyrannosaurus, an Oviraptor, a Hypsilophodon, a Crocodylia, and an Archaeopteryx (like the one included in the Brachiosaurus diorama). I was particularly interested in the Oviraptor after seeing them in a short segment in Dinosaur Planet's second episode. Yep, they look like mutant chickens on steroids, but that look has grown on me-- I find it intriguing, and it's a modeling challenge too. The "kit" could have been assembled and painted within an hour, or slightly longer with some putty seam blending, but giving it the feathered look is good for many more hours of modeling fun.

The hardest part of working on these guys is that they're so tiny. It's not just that they're hard to see if you've got aging eyesight, but just about everything you do to transform them takes a very light touch.

The first thing I did after assembly was repose the arms and hands. I started with the hands, heating the wrists with a Bic lighter. This was a little dicey because the flame tip has to be close to the wrist, but not scorching or melting other parts: The working room can be tight and the flame's field is rather large and invisible. I was careful not to heat too far into the forearms since I didn't want them to deform as well when I reposed the hands.

I wanted the arms to splay outwards for that ferocious attack chicken pose, but heat wasn't going to do the trick since the upper arms were joined to the body in the casting; the arms needed to be cut off at the shoulders and all the way through the body to where the arms separated from the body. This wasn't a job for the Exacto blade since it's a fairly thick cut, styrene isn't as soft as PVC, and the body would have to be grasped tightly and a high amount of force used-- a bad idea for such a small & fragile figure. Instead, I used a Dremel rotary tool fitted with a thin metal serrated wheel that looks like a tiny circular saw blade. This has a thin profile that doesn't remove as much material as an emery cutting wheel and doesn't generate as much plastic-melting heat. The challenge is finding the right speed that doesn't melt too much plastic and doesn't stall, and cutting at the right angle so that you don't inadvertently cut into something else (especially your fingers).

With the arms positioned and puttied, I thought about how I would give the model's body a hair-like texture. (For what it's worth, the model's cast texture is finely detailed, but suffers detail loss from the injection casting process. This was true of the Parasaurolophus infant as well: One side had much more defined detail texture than the other.) In a larger model, a putty layer would have probably worked well, but for this tiny thing, I felt that a layer of putty would have added too much bulk. Instead, I set my soldering pencil at a low heat and scribed a bunch of shallow short lines directly in the plastic. For something this small, the hair sculpting doesn't have to be very artistic, IMO-- it's a moot point anyway, because you really can't do more than what the edge of the heated tip and your eye-hand coordination allows.

Sculpting the feathers was especially challenging because in order to stick to plastic, putty has to be fresh, soft, and sticky; however, in order to sculpt a thin patch of putty, the putty should be supported on the backside (or the sculpting tool will push the putty instead of scribing it). If you support putty from the backside with a finger, the putty will stick to your finger; it has to be carefully separated from your finger or you'll risk pulling off the patch when you remove your finger. As the putty cures, it does get stiffer and less sticky, however, stiffer putty requires more force to sculpt. At any rate, it's hard to sculpt with any precision under these conditions and at this size.

It was probably a waste of time, but I added tiny thin claws to the hands since the fingers were blunt nubs. Putty is far too weak for this and they'll break if you sneeze on them. I think that a heated & stretched plastic sprue might work better, but the putty was quick and easy to do. It's the last thing you should add to the model since handling it for painting will invariably lead to brushing against them and breaking them. (Ooops. I forgot to paint them for the pics.)

I didn't find any compelling paint schemes to copy, so I "winged it", sticking to conservative colors. There are some toys with wild color schemes out there, but much of what I saw didn't look very natural or realistic. Again, coloration is largely speculative so you could do neon polka dots and no one could say it was wrong. I just wanted it to fit the look of my collection.

Tamiya 1:35 Oviraptor Mesozoic Creatures
Tamiya 1:35 Oviraptor Mesozoic Creatures
Tamiya 1:35 Oviraptor Mesozoic Creatures

 

Hypsilophodon 09/04/11- This was a quickie, with the paint scheme copied from an image that I believe came from a 2001 adaptation of The Lost World. I liked the shade of green and the relatively tranquil pattern-- I think it fits this peaceful herbivore. The gray splotches are another camera/lighting wierdness; in person, it looks like a darker shade of green that's not too different from the main shade, so after doing the eyes, I glopped the excess on the body, thinking that it would just give a random, barely noticeable shade difference.

Tamiya 1:35 Hypsilophodon Mesozoic Creatures
Tamiya 1:35 Hypsilophodon Mesozoic Creatures
Tamiya 1:35 Hypsilophodon Mesozoic Creatures

 

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 4