25 May 2017

Small Pond Shipyard Architectural Projects List

This is the main hub for all my architectural Shipyard projects.

I've also created hubs for my science fiction model projects as well as my automotive model projects.

In this post I talk about my first known exposure to models as a very young boy, and, as that one was architectural in nature, it's fitting that I'm now making architectural models of my own, beginning with these study models:

23 May 2017

A-Frame Burger Joint (1/72 scale study model)

In this post detailing my return to modelling, I talk about being fascinated by a model of a hospital I saw as a wee lad, and recently, I've expanded my modelling interests to include architectural models, starting with my test model of the former Bata Head Office in Don Mills, Ontario. I definitely have a preference for mid-20th Century modern architecture and its (now) retro futuristic look, so looking around the internet for suitable candidates for future projects, I immediately fell in love with the design of these small a-frame diners.

This a-frame design dates a little earlier in the 20th Century, the first instance I can find being the late '20s or early '30s and the burger chain, Hardee's, used this for many stores in their chain across the USA. I'll be taking the design and incorporate many details from real a-frames to make my own unique burger joint as part of an action-packed diorama.

1/72 or 1/87 scale?

Based on a particular element involved in the diorama (sorry for the vagueness, but I'd like to keep the reveal a surprise) I initially designed this to be 1/72 scale, but I found some elements for the project that were in HO scale (1/87) so I've decided to reduce the scale of the diner to match.

Lots of visual interest.

If you look at this structure directly from the front, directly from the back, or directly from overhead, it looks like an ordinary rectangle...but from all other views it's got lots of dynamic visual interest and almost appears as though there aren't any 90° angles at all.

Necessary mechanicals.

This is a great little set and with some proper painting and additional wire detailing, these will look nice and realistic on my diner. For some reason I have a fascination for mechanicals like these and kind of can't wait to be able to use more of these parts on other buildings.

HVAC sprue tour.

Two parts trees are all you get, but the parts are well-molded and nicely detailed. It says HO scale on the box and instructions but, once I put them on my model, they look a little large –and I'll be making the building smaller!

HVAC test fitting.

These HVAC units look pretty good on this 1/72 scale building but look like they might actually be 1/48 scale...which means they'll be way out of scale when I reduce the whole building to 1/87. There are a couple of smaller box units on the sprue tree, but no smaller vents. I'll do another test fit when the new, smaller building is done (or another test model is built) and see if I need new, smaller roof parts.

New numbers.

I really can't remember now why I decided to make the whole project HO scale down from 1/72, other than the whole diorama will take up a smaller footprint. I found and used an excellent scale converter online which helped my math-addled brain immensely. I've scrawled all the new measurements on the test model, alternating from centimetres to millimetres (wherever the closest round numbers were), and these will be my guides for the new, smaller diner.

22 May 2017

Small Pond Shipyard Sci-Fi Projects List, PART 2

So many of my modelling projects fall into this this category that I've decided to split them up in groups of ten to avoid an overly long scroll down the list. I'll do the same for my Automotive and Architectural projects when necessary. My first ten sci-fi projects (which include my novice attempts in the 1990s) can be found RIGHT HERE.

The following are more or less in chronological order (some projects are being built concurrently; some are temporarily on hold for various reasons; some are simply very fast builds and get done before the more complex ones, etc.).

21 May 2017

Bata HQ (1/144 scale study model)

This is another modelling project whose inspiration goes way back to my childhood in the late '70s and early '80s. Growing up in Canada with a Macedonian cultural heritage, the main meeting place for us was St. Clement's Orthodox Church in Toronto for various functions: weddings, Christenings, and many, many dances (outside of Christmas and Easter, we didn't attend regular church services, nor did my parents insist that my sister and I go to Macedonian school). I bring that up only because more than 90% of the time we would pass this building on our way to and from church (and the dozen or so times I'd visited the Ontario Science Centre just around the corner from Bata HQ) –otherwise, I might never have known about this relatively short-lived gem.

Heading west along Eglinton Avenue (just east of the Don Valley) I'd see the this strange and beautiful building before we turned left onto Don Mills Road. Waiting for the light to change I'd often have ample time to admire this lovely, unique, futuristic, bright white thing (the view below is how I'd see it from the road). I would wonder what "Bata" meant and, early on, mistook it for a certain building from a couple of favourite current TV shows (I wasn't able to compare them side-to-side, so, to my seven--or-eight-year-old eyes, the one blocky building on a grassy hill easily resembled the other).

Misguided youth.

Designed by architect John B. Parkin and completed in 1965, it graced that hill for decades, but barely got to see the 21st Century; it was demolished in the late 2000s to make way for the Aga Khan Museum (which was completed in 2014). Toronto Star architecture critic Christopher Hume said around the time of its demolition: "Surely there's an element of irony when an architecturally worthy building must be destroyed in the name of culture."

The Bata design had its critics from the get-go (what doesn't?) but I agree with Hume when he gave it this praise: "Situated on a height of land in Toronto's north end, the simple, modular edifice exemplifies the ideal of the building in a park. Simple and seemingly weightless, it rests on rows of columns, reminiscent of an ancient Greek temple. Unadorned yet poetic, the architecture pays homage to the past while extolling the virtues of the future."

No blueprints.

Around 2010 or 2011 I was looking around on Google maps and wanted to have a look at this building from the aerial view that application afforded –and that's when I discovered it was gone! I hadn't been in that area for years, so I never had an idea that it was demolished and replaced by something else. When I returned to model-making in 2015 and eventually started thinking of branching out beyond spaceships and cars to include scratch-built architectural projects, this building was the first on my list.

My plan is to build this in styrene as part of a diorama including the grassy hill and accurate landscaping...and maybe even lighting the offices if I can find suitable reference images. But first I'd have to build it with simple and cheap materials (cereal box cardboard and masking tape) to get a handle on the measurements and scale (which, to make the project manageable, would be 1/144).

New details!

Since the building doesn't exist anymore, I had to scour the internet for reference images, and managed to collect quite a few, but nothing showing the roof, so that'll have to be creatively extrapolated. I never saw the back of the building in real life (even when I worked at the Radisson Hotel in the summer of 1989 –which was nearby on the same road!– so the six tower blocks on the "backside" (actually the front entrance) were a revelation to me. If only I'd been interested enough to take photos that summer (or any time before its demolition).

My measurements were approximations based on a more-or-less flat view from the side and an estimation of the height of the doors there. I think I need to make the top block a little taller to look more like it consists of two floors and, more obviously, I need to have two rows of nine windows on the front side, not eight.

For the surface treatments I painted the base and tower blocks with acrylic and the windows are simply drawings on paper, taped to the sides. Plus, this is a very basic study model and leaves out a lot of nice details like the column tops and the porte-cochere above the back entrance.

Fresh and clean and new.

This is what it looked like in the mid-to-late 1960s after its completion. It's so clean and modern, with some great details like the corner cuts and slight lower taper to the office windows, and those nifty umbrella-like radiating supports atop the columns. I've got my work cut out for me to accurately portray this wonderful structure in miniature. My modelling skills are growing with each build, so I know when I'll be suitably ready for this project.

She married into the Bata family and left behind her dreams of becoming a great architect to successfully help develop the Bata company. But look at her: she's so stylish and elegant here that if you told me that she completed her architecture studies and single-handedly designed this building, I'd believe it. I haven't found anything in my research to suggest this, so it's pure speculation on my part, but I like to think she had a big influence on the decision to go with the design (if not having an influence on the design itself) for Bata's head office in Don Mills.

15 May 2017

Reed Underwater

36" x 48", oil on wood panel, 2017, private collection

This commissioned piece features one of the boys in the canoe in Life Jackets (his brother, Gus, got his own commissioned painting featuring him diving off a dock).

The challenge here beyond capturing the likeness and pose was making the underwater effects look convincing. His hair (actually a deep dark mass) looks like it's sparkly or something, but that's just the shiny paint catching reflections -a side-effect of the way I paint and the crisscross textures my surfaces have.


First thing's first (obviously). Here I'm playing with the hair to look like it's undulating underwater and not being blown by the wind by making the groupings (or locks) flow in different directions.

Skin and reflections.

At this early stage, weird shadows look weird, but I had to trust that, after much more work, it'll work out and look like he's in a pool and not suffering from some kind of skin condition or tanning accident.

Early highlights.

No point in working on the background water effects if I get the skin wrong here, so, putting that off a bit, I continued rendering the shadows and reflections from the pool's surface onto Reed. I decided not to tint him a cool blue shade so he would contrast more warmly with the cold blue water.

The reflections on the pool's floor were done freehand, trying to look as natural and irregular as possible, trying to avoid a grid- or web-like pattern. Super white highlights at some of the intersections help to sell the effect.

14 May 2017

Gus Diving

40" x 30", oil on wood panel, 2017, private collection

This commissioned piece features one of the boys in the canoe in Life Jackets (his brother, Reed, got his own commissioned painting featuring him underwater). Like in Life Jackets, I had to paint a lot of surface water, but unlike that painting, the surface was more wavy, so I had to get a grip on lots of shadows and reflections and highlights. It was slow going, keeping track of things, but fun.

Many hours into it...

Most of Gus is done here, but that's a lot of water! It's gonna take a lot of work to get this looking anywhere near good. So far, only the basic surface with a gradient getting lighter toward the horizon and wave shadows are done. The sky is blocked-in dark to give some depth to the lighter colours that will go in afterward.

Nearly done.

The sky is now properly lighter and the trees have some highlights of their own. Now, just dozens upon dozens of highlights to do in the water, plus some darkening of the vertical part of the dock. The highlights were quite simple but took a long time due to the size of this piece...wave by wave by wave.

30 April 2017

Kelsey Shade

40" x 60", oil on wood panel, 2017

This is one of two large paintings I did of Toronto-based musician, Kelsey McNulty, with the plan of submitting the one I liked better to the Kingston Prize for portraiture. I did this last time in 2015 (the competition is only every two years) with my portraits of George Meanwell (also a Toronto-based musician) where I painted him playing banjo and concertina and submitted the latter. I think this painting came out very well and I like it a lot, but I felt since Kelsey's a musician submitting the painting featuring her and one of her instruments works better as a portrait, rather than just a painting, of her.

The big picture(s).

Both portraits in their pencil stage (on the right is Kelsey with Accordion) in my "winter studio" upstairs at Small Pond. It was like doing a residency in my own home, with me napping sporadically between painting sessions and coming downstairs only when absolutely necessary.

Pencil stage.

Here's a better look at the pencil stage; just graphite on gesso (over wood panel). A coat of transparent, but bright, orange acrylic will go down next to serve as my ground and show through wherever my applied oils are thin. I've tried several different colours for my ground, preferring orange for its warmth regardless of the image going over top (this includes winter scenes).

After Vincent.

I was originally going to paint this is realistic colours, but a chance glimpse of a magazine cover that featured Vincent van Gogh's "Almond Blossom" changed my mind and I tried to apply the colour scheme he used in that painting, using greens and yellows for the skin and hair, and blues for everything else.

Super highlights.

Having a bright orange ground, applying colours can be tricky, especially if they're blues, as they tend to vibrate and create weird afterimages in the eye. Still, I trusted my instincts and the colours mixed on my palette and kept going.

More modelling.

Working in such a huge scale was very fun and it allowed me to really get in there and make some tiny and subtle details so that, when looked at from a few metres away, the realism of the forms looks pretty good (despite the unrealistic colours).

Still more modelling.

Highlights...and more modelling.

The shirt.

The face and hair are done for now, waiting for them to cure and add super highlights and shadows later. For now, the shirt needed to be blocked in. Kelsey's shirt was orange and black (which you can see in my other painting of her) but I didn't want to go too dark since I wanted to concentrate the greatest contrasts in the face and hair.

I debated whether to do any gradient rendering on the shirt or just leave it like this, looking flat like a screen print. I debated this all the way until the end and decided I liked this look a lot, leaving the complex rendering isolated to the face and hair.

Dark background.

I'd photographed Kelsey in front of one of our sheds and the blue here is almost exactly accurate, but it wasn't as light as I'd hoped (to follow van Gogh's painting)...

Lightened up...but not enough.

...so I went over the background after it had mostly cured (while working on the other painting) with a light blue which still wasn't light enough. While my first attempt at lightening was still wet I applied lots of pure white and blended that in to get my final, desired, preferred result.


28 April 2017

Kelsey with Accordion

60" x 40", oil on panel, 2017

This is my portrait of Toronto-based musician, Kelsey McNulty, that I've submitted for the 2017 Kingston Prize for portraiture. She did a short residency at Small Pond last year and we did a little photoshoot around the grounds. When I saw the results, I asked if I could paint a couple and submit one of them for the KP exhibition.

The other painting (Kelsey Shade) I did was equally large, but was a tight close-up of her face and, while it also turned out well, I chose to submit this one because the musical element made for a better formal portrait.

Here are my previous submissions* for that exhibition:
George Emlaw (2011)
Self Portrait (Shoulders) (2013)
George Meanwell (Concertina) (2015)

*The Kingston Prize happens only every other year.

The big picture(s).

Both portraits in their pencil stage (on the left is Kelsey Shade) in my "winter studio" upstairs at Small Pond. It was like doing a residency in my own home, with me napping sporadically between painting sessions and coming downstairs only when absolutely necessary.

Get up, stand up.

Here's another sizing shot with me standing to do the upper half of the painting. This wasn't a problem, but I like to sit and work at eye level, since I tend to paint in stretches of one-to-two hours at a time with short breaks in between.

My modelling gear is set up on that table behind me, but the paintings took precedence (as I worked like crazy to make the April 28 deadline) and I didn't get much building done.

Note the new 5-bulb "medusa" lamp behind me; two cool LEDs and three warm LEDs make for nice bright and colour-balanced light.

On the wall are a couple of paintings which were among my very first attempts at oils in the early 2000s: Two Doorways (left), and Stairway (right). On the floor to the right are two large commissions I was working on concurrently with the two larger portraits.

Blocking in shadows.

My usual first step, done with olive green.

Blocking in mid-tones.

Getting a feel for the planes of the face.

Highlights, etc.

Looking really weird and rough at this point. It's hard to accurately judge the colours because they're adjacent to that intense orange ground.

Further rendering.

It's really starting to look like a chalk drawing on coloured paper.
It also looks a little heavy-handed, but my instincts told me the colours and modelling are actually okay.

Hair mid-tones.

Inadvertent chalk drawing resemblance complete!
Also, blocking in the hair softened the harshness of the facial colours and reassured me that I was pretty much on the right track; I just needed to knock back some of that adjacent orange.

Reiterated shadows in hair.

Because these portraits are larger than life (the other one much more so!) I could get in and play around with little brush strokes all over the place, not worrying too much about wrecking any precise marks (except for key areas in the face). Still –even in the bigger portrait– I wasn't about to render every strand of hair...that way lies madness.

More facial modelling and hair highlights.

Things are starting to come along nicely and I like the orange showing through here and there, giving some warmth and holding things together.

Background blocking.

The background of the reference photo was just a wall of trees and green leaves so I decided to break it up, bring in some sky, and do a simplified abstract treatment to contrast the yet-to-be-painted but highly-detailed accordion.

Sky complete.

I edged the treeline with olive green oil, but, the way I work (i.e. almost never any thinners), this was taking longer than necessary (and the deadline was relentlessly approaching)...


...so I decided to use some thinned-out black acrylic to block in the rest of the background. That way, it would be dry sooner and allow some good, dark ground for my foliage.

A few more adjustments.

One last look at the face as I leave it alone to cure while I work on the rest of the painting in sections, after which I'd come back to it later with a few more final adjustments.

Background and shirt.

The trees are blocked in with a few highlights added and the shirt (minus the cuff) is now complete.

Early accordion.

We didn't plan Kelsey's wardrobe for the shoot, but that black and orange striped shirt really works for this portrait: the black horizontal stripes echo the horizontal lines of the accordion and the orange stripes tie in to her hair and skin colour. The alternating lines make a nice transitional element from warm organic to cool mechanical.

On second thought, yeah, I totally planned it.

Face and hair refinements.

Final adjustments to the face and hair include super white highlights and further reiteration of dark shadows. And a few sculptural adjustments here and there.

Accordion refinements.

This. Was. A. Beast.
I'm thinking of doing a whole series of musical instruments to make up for whatever shortcomings there are here...

I wasn't intimidated by the complexity of this instrument until I actually started working on it. But I wasn't worried about anything other than time. With only a few days left, could I adequately render this thing to look anywhere near satisfying? Well, "satisfied" will have to do...Am I happy with the accordion? About 85%. Happy enough to put down the brushes and hit the "submit" button.