28 August 2015

Enterprising Casual Fridays #1

I've been a Star Trek fan since I was a wee lad in the mid-1970s, watching the original series in repeats (aside from a so-so cartoon, that's all there was!). Then came the movies, then The Next Generation, then Deep Space Nine, then Voyager, and so on. I like much of it, ignore some of it (hello, Enterprise; hello, Mr. Abrams), and more or less tolerate the rest. Star Trek and Star Wars have been of great interest to me for most of my life, and yet they rarely appear in my main body of artwork (only one Star Trek painting!), but sometimes, like my C-3PO and spaceship models, my fandom/appreciation still finds –often unexpected– ways of manifesting itself.

This weird, silly little project began when I was searching for something online and, unrelated to my search, saw a photo of Jim Kirk in a Hawaiian shirt in the format of a motivational poster with the caption "Casual Fridays" underneath. I thought it was a funny idea, but I found the Photoshop of the shirt unconvincing since it didn't match the source image of Kirk. I'm no PS wiz but I felt I could do better, so I mocked up an image of Kirk on the bridge with McCoy. Then I added Spock, just for kicks. Then I thought about Picard and gave him the same treatment. The image above was meant to be a fun one-off to amuse myself; no more, no less. I added a title and numbers after I developed the idea further.

Then I thought more about the whole concept of Casual Fridays and how I feel about it, all the while having in mind John Byrne's current and awesome Star Trek: New Visions project in which he's creating brand new Trek stories (featuring Kirk and his crew) using a combination of Photoshop and CGI. I love these new stories and he's got such a keen understanding of the show and its characters that the only thing missing is motion and music (I can practically "hear" the actors' voices in my head when I read the dialogue). There's a treasure trove of high-res screencaps over at Trekcore that provides most of his (and my) source material.

The "storyline" I came up with (beginning with ECF #2) concerns the TNG crew with one tiny peek at how DS9 deals with Casual Fridays. This isn't an ongoing project, and I feel I've said all I need to say in the five strips (not including this one) that I've already done. Oh, and just in case JB reads this, please know that I did fix the problem of using a capital I in the middle of  words in the subsequent strips.

I think I first became aware of Casual Fridays in the mid-1990s when I was working at The Shopping Channel. I worked in Production (the TV part of it) and, within reason, we could wear whatever we wanted, but the folks over in Merchandising/Sales/Offices wore more business-y outfits –not suits and ties, exactly, but not jeans and t-shirts, either. On the occasions when my crew was working on a Friday (all 3 crews worked shifts) we'd notice that the guy we called Add-on Man came into the control room (with script changes containing additions to the stuff we'd sell on-air) wearing jeans.

A minor detail, but we noticed it and made jokes about it, seeing as the only thing that changed was his clothing; a detail that made me ponder the following: if Merchandising and Management could be more relaxed in their wardrobe on Fridays, were they also more relaxed in their work? Turns out the answer was NO, only the clothes changed. So, if they could continue to do their regular jobs on Fridays while wearing jeans, why couldn't they just wear jeans all week? And if the no-jeans dress code was so important, why rescind it on Fridays? I found this concept not only strange, but more than a little condescending and hypocritical (maybe hypocritical isn't the right word...perhaps "illogical" is more accurate).

In response (not that one was needed or asked for) I started dressing UP on my crew's "Fridays" (the end of our week rarely coincided with actual Fridays) by wearing nice pants and shoes, a white shirt, and a tie. It was for my own amusement; I didn't care if my small-scale pseudo-socio-political statement was noticed by anyone other than my fellow crew members (who would sometimes dress up along with me). A couple of times I was mistaken for an on-air guest or some other "important" person by the other departments (we didn't interact very much) simply because of my outfit. When I experienced firsthand that clothing does play a role in people's perceptions, my cynicism about Casual Fridays became more entrenched.

Ever since, and circumstances permitting, I've worn a shirt and tie to various jobs and events that didn't necessarily require it –especially on Fridays. I consider it one of my costumes.

This all came together serendipitously; I wasn't planning on making Star Trek photo comics, nor was I looking for an outlet to vent my distaste for Casual Fridays, but the juxtaposition of that concept with Starfleet uniforms (and my affinity for Trek, as well as a curiosity to see if I could even do it convincingly) made this project irresistible to me.

It's a small-scale pseudo-socio-political statement done mostly for my own amusement; I won't be making prints or t-shirts or any merch (just these silly posts), and I'm not trying to compete with Byrne's New Visions, so Paramount, CBS, and JB have nothing to worry about.

Below are links to the rest of the comic story:

21 August 2015

C-3PO (1/12 scale model)

I was born in 1971 yet I somehow didn't get to see Star Wars during its first release in 1977, but I collected the trading cards, comic books, and a handful of action figures; having only cursory knowledge of the story didn't matter to me: I was entranced by that universe and I still am to this day. 

The first two action figures I got were R2-D2 and C-3PO. I absolutely love their designs and when I saw an in-box review of the new Bandai 1/12 scale Threepio snap kit a few months ago (and saw how super shiny the gold was!) I knew I had to build one myself as one of the many scale model projects assigned to the Small Pond Shipyard.

At first I thought I should keep him shiny to show off the amazing reflectivity, but thinking back to some of the first images I saw of him (and the first time we meet him in the movie), he was already kind of tarnished...and by the time he meets Luke on Tattooine, he's dusty, banged up, and he's been fitted with a restraining bolt. That's the Threepio that made such an impact on me as a kid, so that's the Threepio I wanted to recreate with this kit.

Around the time of the movie's release, when my friends were collecting toys and cards, one of my friends built the MPC model of C-3PO and I was at his house as he was putting the finishing touches on his back panel –the first time I ever noticed it. Much like my fascination with a certain hospital model and seeing my cousin build car models (recounted here), my friend's Threepio model apparently left a lasting impression on me and has now taken physical form.

This kit comes with options for non-movable arms (with shiny gold pistons) and movable ones (with dull, gold-ish, not-very-shiny pistons). I knew I'd probably want to pose him for various photo shoots in the future, so I went with the movable arms. There was also an alternate chest piece (allowing for the restraining bolt to be snapped on) and an alternate face plate (with a dent). You can also use an alternate eye that replicates the dangling one pulled out by Salacious Crumb in Return of the Jedi (too undignified for my taste).

I put him together in a few hours about a month ago and put his completion on hold until I could devote the proper amount of time the weathering would take (just a few more hours' work, as it turned out).

I began the weathering with a generous covering of Burnt Umber water mixable oil paint (the kind I use for my paintings) applied with a brush, and then wiped it off with a tissue and my fingertips. I did this twice (not bothering to let the first pass dry) to make sure all the nice grooves were filled in for better definition.

I felt he needed some desert dust so I looked for some chalk pastels but decided to try an experiment: corn starch. I don't know where the notion came from, but it worked okay, considering. I applied that with a brush, too, and blew and brushed the excess away several times until I got the desired effect (mostly a slight dulling of the shine in certain places).

The oil leaks on his chest fascinated me as a kid (I kind of felt sad for him because it looked like he was "bleeding" oil...and it added to the realism of a broken robot). This feature also left a lasting impression on me, so I pulled out some reference images from my copious collection of Star Wars books and tried to recreate the leaks as best I could using black acrylic. While I was at it, I smeared some of that paint into various grooves for more grime effects (whereas most people *scrape away* the carbon scoring off their droids).

One last dusting of corn starch and I felt satisfied with him.

14 August 2015

Return to Modelling

Decades ago, when I was somewhere between 3 and 6 years old, I saw a scale model of a hospital that held my fascination for a very long time...

It sorta looked like this;

...was roughly the size of this;

...and had minimal details like this.

My family was either visiting someone in the hospital (in Toronto?) or it could have even been in 1976 when my sister was born –I have no way of knowing the circumstances– but I remember quite vividly seeing in the lobby a model of the hospital that we were in. Now, I wasn't unfamiliar with miniatures by any means –I had toys, after all– but this was the largest one I'd seen in real life. I remember the blocks of white buildings, the chunky primary-coloured cars, the tiny green trees, I think there might have been some mini people, too (so, I guess it's not that vivid a memory after all –but not bad considering it's about 40 years later).

Although the memory of that model has lasted all these years, it didn't, for a very long time, inspire anything in me but wonder...and a lifelong fascination with miniatures.

Years later (late 1970s), my older cousin, Bob, was keen on building model cars and I would see the results when I visited. I don't think I remember watching him build one, but I do have a very strong and happy memory of the two of us walking 2.5 km each way to the Bargain Harold's near his house so he could buy a model car. His interest in modelling cars eventually translated into an interest in actual cars and he's run a successful auto body shop for decades now.

This is the very store on Island Rd. at East Ave. in Scarborough.
(You can still read the ghost sign.)

Some examples of models from that era (I love the box art!)
that Bob would have been interested in building.

(I know he built a Mustang like this
–possibly from one of these kits)

Although the memory of that walk has lasted all these years, it didn't, for a very long time, inspire anything in me but admiration...but it did trigger something in me...something that has since made me excited whenever I see a wall of boxes full of styrene model parts. Something about the excitement of creation...the fun of building something with your hands.

Thrill to the potential!
(this is not my stash, BTW)

I plan to do a bunch of kit-bashed and scratch-built models and, rather than have Small Pond's Special Projects Division take on extra work, I'm delegating all my builds to the newly-created Small Pond Shipyard, which will have individual posts for the various projects, but they'll also be grouped by theme, just follow the link below to get to the main projects hub:

07 August 2015

Silver Angel

When she came upon us, I heard them say,
"From a silver angel, a cloud of grey"
The sky was falling, the future calling
Lady Armageddon's here today

These words are from from Canadian singer-songwriter Gary O's 1984 song Shades of 45, and they've haunted me for decades, as has the whole threat of all-out nuclear war.

I've recently been examining my own relationship with The Bomb and Cold War paranoia/propaganda in the pages of Picton's local comics anthology, Marmalade, entitled Trinity.

While researching and brainstorming ideas for my little photo comic adventure, I made this quick and slightly horrific illustration in Photoshop of a giant skeleton riding the Enola Gay, on her way to drop the Little Boy atomic bomb on Hiroshima:

This is only a test.

Getting back into modeling after a 15-year hiatus, I wondered if I could build a little version of this illustration...then I looked for suitable raw materials...


I found a tiny 1/144 scale B-29 bomber (with Enola Gay markings) by Minicraft and a perfectly-scaled skeleton by Anatomical Chart Company (disarmingly named "Petite Pete") and set to work...

Bomber assembly.

This model was pretty low on detail, but that's okay, since I just needed the impression of the plane rather than absolute historical/mechanical accuracy. But still, I didn't like the utter emptiness of the cockpit, since all was provided was a platform (painted black, above) where the pilots would be.

Scratch-built "pilots."

Since the eventual model will be displayed "in flight," mounted on clear plexi rods, I didn't need the landing gear, so I cut 'em up and scratch-built some pilots, which, again, just needed to give the impression of pilots through the not-crystal-clear cockpit window.

Test fit.

The Atomic Death from Above skeleton was positioned astride the plane, but I realized I'd have to chop him up to make him conform to the fuselage the way I wanted him to.


While I had him taken apart, I figured I'd give him a new paint job (hand-painted with brushes), too, for a little added realism, so he went into the priming area with the plane...


My primer of choice was Rustoleum's Sandable Primer; I was working to a deadline and didn't have time to go shopping for something a little better, but it worked well enough for this last-minute project.

Still improvising.

Toothpicks, cardboard, a broom, and a box make painting easy...until my paint stand arrives.

Looks like I'm doing archaeology.

Note the twisted head now facing the desired direction (as per my illustration); luckily, I didn't have to cut it off, the plastic was strong enough that I was able to twist it perfectly into position. BUT also not the heinous seam line across the top of the skull. I tried to get most of the seam lines off the rest of the body, but completely neglected the head. My bad. I filed it a bit before painting and got most of it. Lesson learned: take it slow and pay attention.


I used the same rattle can for the chrome that I used on my jetpack earlier this season. I didn't want to get too finicky with accurate painting for such a quick (and tiny!) project, so chrome all over was just fine. My paint job isn't too great, but it meets my needs.


I decided against having the left hand dropping the bomb and opted for an eerie embrace instead. I used wires to keep the figure together and in place (yes, they (unintentionally) look like shackles, so feel free to interpret that however you wish).

Decal or self draw?

I thought I should get some shots of the finished model before biting the bullet and hand drawing the atomic symbol of the skeleton's forehead. I thought I could find a suitable decal, but didn't look hard enough and, like I said, I was pressed for time. So I used a Sharpie...and kind of made a mess of it (see top most image), but it'll do; my next projects aren't time sensitive, so I can take my time to find or make the right parts/details I feel are necessary. 

I did some shots of the Silver Angel against a bright blue sky (desaturated here for fun) for the great lighting the sun provides, cropping my hand out of the photos. The next stage is to mount the thing on clear rods on a little plaque (but there's no rush for that).

That's now two projects completed by the Small Pond Shipyard.
I wonder what's next...

I also did this comic to commemorate the 70th anniversary.