Monday, September 14, 2020

Commission Project: Small Scale Islands

Hello again. After a long hiatus, I've finally been able to settle in and start some hobby work. This year has been filled with two house moves, changing states, a "pandemic", riots, lifestyle changes for my family, and just getting everything squared away with the new house. I will say, given everything that's happened, my family and I are in a good space and I hope yours is too. 

Thankfully, Fightin' Kentuckian was able to rouse me and refocus my skills with a commission, this time for two groups of islands - one representing tropical, and the other temperate (or subarctic) waters - for playing Warlord Games' Cruel Seas and Black Seas. The trick was to represent two very different climates without giving away scale differences between the two sets. For examples, I chose islands and features in the Caribbean and Baltic Seas. The Baltic is characterized by large weathered rocks, rocky "sandbars", and occasionally small clumps of woods where some tough seeds found a foothold. In contrast, the Caribbean is characterized by long low cays, mangroves, and high verdant hilly islands.

I started by cutting the bases using my scrollsaw set to 30 degrees - this bevels the edges toward the top (you just have to remember which side you're cutting!) making it easier to cut the insulation foam. Next, I mounted 1/2" thick foamboard on the cut pieces using Loctite General Purpose Adhesive (this comes in a tube and provides better grip and less warping than Liquid Nails) applied weight and let them cure for a full 48 hours. This helps prevent warping and gaps between the pieces. It's not foolproof, but it helps. Next I cut the terrain with a skinny utility knife, using the beveled edges as a guide. The hardest part was the sandy beaches, since they require a lower slope, that needed sanding with a dremel and more work to get the slope right. 

Once everything was cut, I sanded it down with 150 grit sandpaper and then applied spackling to remove any remaining gaps. After sanding once more, I began painting - the Baltic islands in cool colors (greys, etc.) and the Caribbean islands in warm colors (tans, browns, etc.). A lot of the key to getting terrain looking more "natural" is using a lot of different tones and colors and applying them via blending techniques (stippling, washes, etc.). I could do this with an airbrush, but I think the brush gives me more control and the finally look doesn't appear "airbrushed on" - a hard concept to convey, but you know that "look" when you see it. It also helps to add highlighting as elevation increases or terrain "dries out". You can see this in the Caribbean island sands especially - just like in nature, dry sand appears brighter than wet. 

Once painting was done, I applied multiple layers of flock, then static grass, then "flowers", then underbrush and sealed everything by spraying with scenery cement. As that dry, I cut the stands of woods. If you would like the technique,  I highly recommend checking out Grand Tactical Battle's scenery page - as I copied it from them. This was then inserted, glued, more underbrush was applied, and then sealed again with scenery cement. 

Since I don't have anything in this scale (especially not anything naval), I borrowed my son's Hot Wheels boat, which is nominally 5-6mm, to give you a better sense of scale.

That's it for now. What a way to get back into the swing of things. I should have more posts this month, as I have a bunch of half completed projects from last year to finish.

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