Friday, February 3, 2017

Safety Dance and other prepping musical numbers

Living in an apartment presents a variety of challenges as an artist. Lack of space in general is the primary one, but lack of appropriate space is also problematic. Regarding lack of space, most of my models live in boxes at the moment because that's the most efficient way to store them. My shelf space is limited, so I have a tendency to rotate models on and off display. Plastic bodies and resins also stay boxed until I'm ready to work on them. And as you can see, my work space is tiny.

Where I prep, airbrush, and hand detail models. Cat for scale, ha ha.
Lack of appropriate space means I have to primer horses in my bath tub rather than in a better setting such as a garage or a deck (like so many turn-of-the-century buildings in Chicago, mine has neither).

I spread newspaper or butcher paper under the models so as not to get
primer all over my tub.
The first step in getting a model ready to paint is selecting appropriate entertainment. No really, prepping is tedious and boring, so having something to listen to while I work helps keep me focused. I occasionally play something from Netflix or Youtube on my tablet while I work, but the vast majority of the time, I listen to my trusty iPod. Audiobooks, especially mysteries or histories, are my usual preference, and my musical tastes  run to to punk, ska, goth, new wave, and '90s alternative, with a very healthy dose of Celtic music thrown into the mix. Sometimes you need a good bagpipe jam to keep you going late at night. :)

The second step is prepping. This means removing all seams, the company logo, filling divots and pinholes, as well as restoring any details compromised by the prepping process, like wrinkles crossed by a seam. When I need to remove company logos and heinous seams, I prefer to us a Dremel. You can buy a practically endless array of sanding, cutting, and drilling bits for Dremels which make them incredibly useful tools.

Dremeling is a messy business---fine plastic or resin dust will coat your clothes, so wear something you don't care about. (Speaking from experience, you may also accidentally catch your Dremel in your shirt and tear a hole in it, so again, wear something expendable.) Dremels will also fire larger chunks of hot plastic or resin right into your face (it stings!), so a respirator and safety goggles are a must. I use these (pictured below) which can be found at any home improvement store, but as I wear glasses, I find that bits of plastic and resin can still nail me pretty close to the eye. I recently saw Adam Savage (of Mythbusters fame) using this face shield with glasses, so I plan to acquire one soon. It looks perfect for what I do.

I then go back over the seams and logo with sandpaper, using coarser grit (100-200) to begin with and progressing to finer grit (500-600) to smooth the surface nicely. I use a carbide scraper from Rio Rondo to get at seams in hard to reach places or in areas with lots of fine details (wrinkles, hairs, etc). The scraper comes with 6 different tips of varying shapes and purposes.

I'm not picky about sandpaper. I'll buy anything that looks useful.
Once all prep work is done, I go back over the whole model with medium-to-fine grit sandpaper to give the surface just a bit of tooth to grab the primer. Resins generally get a quick scrub with soap and water to remove any lingering mold release and then some general sanding.

For primer, I use Rustoleum Clean Metal Primer in white. Because I use acrylics, I build up color from light to dark (otherwise, the colors end up looking muddy and dull), and a white base layer is the best option for me. I know some artists use red or grey primer with acrylics, but I feel white makes my paint jobs more luminous and clear.

As I mentioned above, I primer models in my bathtub. Happily, my bathroom has a window that opens to the outside, so I can just open the window wide, spray the models, and turn on a fan for air circulation. I keep the door closed so the smell won't permeate my apartment. And, of course, I always wear a respirator when spraying primer.

I spray models one side at a time and let each side dry for at least 24 hours before spraying the other side. (In humid or hot weather, I usually let models dry for 48-72 hours before adding more primer.) I then spray the top of the model and then the bottom, sometimes in one go depending on the size of the model. If I'm holding the model while spraying primer, I wear gloves to keep it off my skin. (Potential toxicity aside, it's very hard to scrub off, and going to work with primer on my hands would not be acceptable.) After the first rounds of spraying have dried completely, I sand the model lightly to remove any drips or gunk that may have stuck to the primer in the drying process. Very often, I'll have to give the model a couple of extra quick passes with primer just to make sure everything is adequately covered.

"Two by two. Hands of blue."
So all told, prepping and priming a traditional scale model usually takes me about a week depending on the weather and how bad the seams are. I'm sure I'm slower than other artists at the process, but I want to best possible canvas for my paint. Next time, painting tools!

And the obligatory earworm:

1 comment:

Last Alliance Studios said...

Bonus points for the bagpipe music and Firefly reference! :p