27 July 2020

Margaret Meehan

Margaret Meehan
17" x 14", oil on Bristol board, 2020

Continuing my portrait series of my favourite SCTV characters, here's my rendition of the brilliant Catherine O'Hara as high/night school quiz show contestant Margaret Meehan, who has a frustrating tendency ro answer the questions (always incorrectly) before host Alex Trebel (played by the equally brilliant Eugene Levy) is finished asking them.

Here's the time lapse video of me painting this precocious contestant:

25 July 2020

Adept at Adaptation

Adept at Adaptation
28" x 18", oil on canvas, 2020
private collection.

Like a number of recent paintings, this one's also based on decades-old photo reference, but one I hadn't looked at in years and never attempted to paint until now. I think it turned out better than I imagined when we shot it back in the '90s. Plus I feel the tiger companion really helps underscore the sense of strength and resilience.

Here's the time lapse video of me painting these buddies:

09 July 2020


24" x 18", oil on canvas, 2020

After more than 20 years and three paintings based on this model miming bull horns with her fingers (below), I've finally paired her with a bull. Who's mad now?

17" x 14", oil on Bristol board, 2020

22" x 15", watercolour, 1998

40" x 30", oil on canvas, 2007
private collection

The painting above is (obviously) an abstracted version of Mad.

Here's a time lapse video of me painting Toro:

05 June 2020

Hot Rod Chevette Part 2: Elements

For the build log of the Hot Rod Chevette itself, CLICK HERE.

This post will cover the development of that car's engine and the old neon radio station sign.

That folded blue paper thing is the "blueprint" of a subdivision that appears on the back of Rush's Signals record.


I explained the reasons for making a Chevette with a big, noisy engine in my Hot Rod post, so we'll just cut to the chase, here...

Twin-engine power house.

My first idea was to have two engines in the Chevette, so for inspiration I started looking around at actual hot rods to see how things are done at 1:1 scale. We have a couple of books on Big Daddy Roth and his amazing custom vehicles (he's a great pinstriper, too!), and I eventually came across his Mysterion which had two engines. Rather than scrapping my idea ('cause it's been done!) I studied the Mysterion to see how I could make my 1/25 scale model look plausible.

Big Daddy Roth's Mysterion.

The problem with the twin-engine idea was that I would have to open up too much of the engine bay to accommodate them, removing too much of what I felt gave the Chevette its characteristic look. I suppose I could have chopped the front nose off the Chevette (and opened up the engine bay like most hot rods, including the Mysterion) and just attached it on an extended chassis beyond the engines. But I felt there still might be another option...

I subscribe to a lot of great model builders on YouTube and when I saw Dirk Pitt's crazy installation of a huge diesel engine on his Vicky D Rat Rod, I thought that might be the way to go for my build, too. I already had Revell's Kenworth W900 that I was going to use as a donor kit for various future builds and once I did a very early test fit of that engine in the Chevette I knew that was the way to go. Thanks, Dirk!

I bought this just for the engine.

Early test fit.

This shot was taken after I decided to install the Kenworth engine, but you get the basic idea that this is how I came to that decision; the outrageous contrast was irresistible (both of these kits are the same scale: 1/25!).

Revell's Kenworth engine instructions.


I used just about all the engine parts from the kit. I cut off that part on the right to make the engine fit the Chevette's tiny engine bay (let's pretend that part's still there, but underneath the dashboard, somewhere). Of course, I had to make it a little more complicated and a little weirder than this...

Base yellow.

According to my research, these huge engines are painted entirely in yellow, so that's where I started, then I added my own touches as I progressed.

Other side.

Those hoses sticking out on the right side would later be repositioned since there would not be a radiator (or anything else beyond the fan belt and propeller) installed.


I gotta be honest: I don't have a good understanding of how engines work or how they should look, realistically, so all my tweaks and additions are less practical elements and more in the realm of greeblies (details added to models to make them look more complex and believable, if not truly realistic). This works for me, and all kinds of justifications can be made for them. I'm happy with the strange complexity of it all and I think it adds to the bombastic nature of this project.

Details and weathering.

Having said all that above, I still like to have some kind of justification (at least in my own head) for the things I add, like all the weathering –the rest of the car was planned to be clean and shiny, as though recently restored, so why is the engine so gnarly and not equally clean and shiny like the Mysterion pictured earlier? Maybe this engine runs dirty no matter how often you clean it...maybe the body was recently restored, but this engine was installed before clean-up. It just doesn't matter to me; it's a fantasy car! I've built this for a dear friend (and for my own fun) and that's that.

I keep all the decals that I don't use on models for potential future use (I also buy decal sheets from time to time), so I had some interesting ones for this engine. Like the greeblies, they don't necessarily make sense, but they add to the overall verisimilitude.

Proper propeller.

When it came time to add the fan and radiator I decided to go even further into the realm of fantasy and just add a spare propeller from a Messerschmitt kit I was using as donor parts. The visual of this specific airplane part seemed to add even more noise, figuratively, to the whole assembly. Maybe it helps it go faster, too...

Hidden details.

I made this special post about the engine because some of the details would be obscured or very hard to see once it gets installed in the Chevette. Get a good look, right here, right now!


I wanted some kind of context for the car and decided that since the "radio show" my friend, Chris, and I did (call letters: WBUL) was "merged" with the "radio show" Tony and his friends did (call letters: JUNK) a old JUNK Radio sign would look cool and be fun to build.

First sketch.

I like the design of this frame better than the one I eventually built, but I was limited in my materials and abilities. This also contains the first sketch of the Hamster Beer case that I built and placed in the hatchback.

More details.

This is mostly just notes for myself for when I actually got to building this. I wanted to get down all my construction ideas so that the while vignette had some kind of design cohesion. From the get-go I wanted to include the sign inside a standard display case, so built it to fit (this drawing is even 1:1 with the final construct, while the pretend scale for it is 1:25 to match the car).

The best I could do.

Using square rod and I-beam styrene I made this frame as though the radio call letters would have been on the roof of the station.

Raw plastic before painting.

I designed the letters in my computer and printed them out to scale then glued the printout to some styrene sheets I doubled-up to get a good thickness. Then I carved out the letters and filed down the edges to smooth everything out. The extra square and I-beam plastic at the bottom is for bracing the sign onto the base of the display case.

I drilled tiny holes in the letters with my pin vise to simulate where the neon tubes would go into the letters. If my (non-functional, i.e. "broken") fibre optic idea didn't work out, at least there would be holes.

Bracing painted.

To match the intended aging and weathering of the est of the sign, these braces also got the hairspray technique chipping treatment.

First colours.

I wanted the letters to be heavily weathered, so my first layer of colours was a dark grey over grey primer, then chipped.

Second colour.

A coat of white was sprayed over hairspray, allowing me to chip it and get this:

Almost there...

Then I masked off the letters to apply my red layer, which also got chipped...


I painted and weathered the frame and the letters separately for ease of work then attached the letters. The only think missing here are the bits of tiny fibre optic filaments I used to simulate broken neon tubes (seen below).

Outside shots.

Nothing beats outside shots for realistic lighting, especially when it's bright and sunny.

Rust close-up.

One aspect of scale modelling I didn't expect when I got back into it in 2015 was the faux finishing, i.e. painting one material to look like another. Here we have simple styrene plastic and, to me, it looks like rusty metal. It's been a few years (I should have written this as I built it), but I don't think I chipped the girders...I think I just painted the frame black then gave it a wash of rust-coloured acrylic paint, then added some rust-coloured chalk pastel dust for texture.

03 June 2020

Hot Rod Chevette (1/25 scale), Part 1

Hot Rod Chevette with Sign
1/25 scale model, mixed media, 2019

I talk about building the engine and the old JUNK neon sign in PART TWO.

My dear friend, Tony, is turning 50 this year and I wanted to commemorate the event with a personal gift, something that he (and maybe two or three other people in our lives) would understand and appreciate to its fullest. I know him well enough and have known him long enough that I knew I'd think of something from our shared past that I could build as a scale model.

Long story short: as teenagers, from the mid-to-late-'80s, a handful of my friends and I pretended to have a "radio show" and we would record ourselves playing a multitude of characters in ridiculous scenarios (and we improvised 98% of everything). One of those characters (Ed Jones, not played by Tony) had a Chevette that sounded like it had a jet engine...for some reason. The reason it was a Chevette, however, was because Tony had one in real life.

That's why this model had to be a Chevette. And, since it was my spontaneous improvisation to "voice" the car's super engine sound effect, I felt it was my responsibility to bring that beast to life.

Box art.

Finding this particular model kit wasn't easy –or cheap– but it absolutely had to be a Chevette or the project would be meaningless.

I approached this build as though I owned a car customizing speed shop and Ed Jones called me up one day, asking if I would be able to install a Kenworth engine in a stock Chevette. And make it road worthy. And make it look cool. Well, here goes...

Sprue tour.

This model is 1/25 scale, which means it's minutely smaller than a 1/24 scale car (even within the same company there isn't a standard scale, but it's usually one or the other, go figure), and this, in conjunction with the Chevette being a compact car to begin with, made installing the gigantic engine a tricky feat.

Just look at that tiny Chevette engine! So small. So cute. So easy to dispose of into my spare parts box. I'd also be dispensing with the wheels as I would use white walls from another kit for the front, and dragster mag wheels for the back.


None of these instructions indicate how to install a Kenworth engine in the tiny Chevette engine bay.

Very early test-fit.

Just placing the raw-plastic Kenworth engine in the raw-plastic Chevette engine bay was satisfying and exciting; I was on the right track, comedically, if not logically, engineering-wise.

Interior tub.

The dashboard was super narrow once the window got installed that I had to dispense with my usual positioning of the 1986 Perly's Map Book of Toronto and place it on the back seat, instead.

Another element that had to be sacrificed because of the shortness of the dash was a computer that swung out on an arm over the passenger seat (the place where I had glued it on is still visible as a smudge in the pic above). There's a picture of it in place at the end of this post.

Reverse angle.

Other than it being a Chevette, I didn't try to replicate Tony's actual car, but rather what the one in our "radio show" might have looked like...or what Ed Jones might have ordered from my speed shop in the mid-'80s.

Tub from above.

This is before the addition of the "Can-Tel cellular phone" behind the gear shifter.


Like my other car models, I detailed the underside for my own completist's sake. And for fun, because modelling is fun.


With an engine that powerful (and a propeller up front!) you'll need a spoiler to make sure you stay on the ground.


The part I used as a spoiler is #2 above, listed as "optional" and was supposed to go under the front bumper...

Looks better back here.


To make room for the massive engine, I had to dispense with some of what I felt gives cars their personality: their "face," that is, the front grille and headlight arrangement. Luckily, I was able to keep the headlights, but I needed to add supports to attach them to the now-chopped-up hood. I wanted to keep as much of the original car as possible.


Those things on the roof are from a Messerschmitt kit that I bought for parts years ago. I don't remember what they do on that plane, and I'm not sure what they do here, but they look aerodynamic (at least that's what might appear on the speed shop's invoice!).

Test-fit (left).

The engine was completed first because I was sorta dragging my feet on the paint scheme for the car. I wanted a brand new, shiny metallic red paint job, and since clean and fresh isn't my usual modelling preference, I needed to practice clean and fresh on some other kits before getting back to this one.

Test-fit (right).

I know a true hot rodder would keep the engine as spotless as the rest of the car, but I couldn't resist grunging it up. Maybe it's the nature of that retrofit engine that it gets grungy really fast and it's harder to keep clean than the rest of the car. Sure, why not?


I know flourescent colours are the stereotypical colours people think of regarding the '80s, but my recollection is there was still a lot of beige in that decade. Why Ed Jones would want a largely beige interior to a car he's customizing to be very flashy (no pun intended)

Ride-height confusion.

For some reason I did this test-fit without installing the interior tub and it made the rear wheels sit way too high. Just a few shots above this you can see a test-fit with the tub installed and the rear wheels look fine. Since the time between work sessions on this kit can be days (or weeks! or months!) at a time, my memory can be slack, it can play tricks, and this new low-riding situation had me concerned...


So I decided I had to beef up the rear axle and raise the back end. Above I've added two strips of square styrene rod, a piece of sheet styrene, and a strip of C-channel for the new axle made from tube styrene, a piece of firm wire (inside the rod to mount the wheels) and those grey dragster bits.


I then added kitbashed bits of engine parts to make it look like a plausible rear differential (this model isn't meant to be picked up, but you can still see a bit of the underside from the side).

Conceptually appropriate.

The main conceit of this car is that the engine sounds like a monster truck or even a jet so I added some tail pipes from another kit. I briefly considered beefing these up with some aluminum rods on the ends, but this was enough pipe.

Metallic red.

To avoid any airbrush mishaps, I decided it might be best if I used rattle cans to paint this car. I first used a red metallic then sprayed a few coats of a pearlescent clear coat to give it some extra flare.


Every good hot rod needs flames, and the yellow engine will look great nested among this conflagration. With no real estate on the hood, I had to make every available space count –no matter how short or narrow– so I found a decal sheet with various sizes of flames that suited my needs.

Rat-rod style!

Now, paint the outside of the interior tub that metallic red and even this would look pretty cool, racing down the drag!

This is the last test-fit before the outer body goes on for the last time.

Tiny Spider-man...

...does whatever a tiny spider can. Tony's a big Spider-Man fan so I created these miniature comics to be placed in the back seat. I consulted him on some of his favourite issues.

Completed tub.

Well, everything looks good here: computer riding up on the dashboard (I had high hopes for this, but when the glass was added, nothing would fit on the dash, including that Perly's), the cellular phone is installed and now has a cord, three classic Spider-Man comics carelessly tossed on the rear seat, the Perly's map book alongside them, and a couple of cases of beer in the hatchback (Hamster Beer and Hamster Light are further inside jokes...and that company's conveniently also celebrating a 50th Anniversary).

I was planning on handing this to Tony personally on or very near his birthday at the end of June 2020, but the global pandemic has changed these plans so this blog post will have to suffice until I can personally deliver it (there's no way I'm shipping this in the mail!).