Saturday, April 25, 2020

O'Brian's Pot O' Gold Motel - 28mm MDF Building

The Eastmoor Kings check out the action at O'Brian's Pot O' Gold Motel, my newest 28mm MDF building
Schoolwork has definitely been keeping me busy during our "stay-at-home" time. Another thing keeping me from getting a lot of hobby stuff accomplished is my back injury has flared up, again. Years ago, I herniated a disk while working for the airline. I've kept it under control for the most part in the decade since then, but it has really been bothering me for the last two weeks. I know it is my fault. I spent WAY too much time on the computer -- most of it in a semi-slouched posture in my recliner in the living room. When you add the hours on schoolwork to working on painting miniatures -- or in this case -- painting the MDF building, I aggravated my back. The problem was, it seemed even when I was taking a break from schoolwork I was working on the computer -- laying out Mean Streets, for example.
Full view of the motel, with lift off second floor and roof (with scratch-built sign)
All of this has combined to limit my hobby time in a big way. I will work on school stuff for maybe 40 minutes, then I have to go lay down and stretch out my back. I bought a heating pad to help, but it eats up a lot of my "free time," laying down recovering from the soreness that accumulates when I am doing schoolwork. So, enough excuse making -- it is time to present my latest (and finally completed) 28mm MDF building for my urban terrain. O'Brian's Pot O' Gold Motel is a 28mm Sarissa Prescision MDF building. It is meant to simulate those small, kitschy motels of the late 20th century that have mostly been gobbled up by big chains, nowadays. In keeping with my latest trend, I am naming it after one of our Sunday evening gaming group -- Brian.
Part of my modification - the pillars are meant to be one long piece, but I cut them so one half was attached to each floor
The building was easy to assemble, as per usual with Sarissa Precision. I made a major modification right away, though. The arched supporting pillars at the front of the building are supposed to be all one piece. However, I am so glad I measured them ahead of time, quickly realizing they would make the building too big to fit inside my terrain boxes that I use. So, I sawed them in half and modified how they attached to the building. I also modified the roof, which was simply a flat piece of MDF. I added the trim all around it with square bass wood dowels. I created a sign to sit atop the roof using balsa wood, bass wood trim, paper clips, and felt. All in all, I like the modifications I made to the motel.
The motel with the roof off, showing the second floor guest rooms
The motel would be a small one in the real world, with only four guest rooms. However, it is one of my larger buildings in area, and will need to be split over two of my 13"x13" terrain boxes. The rooms also have a subdivided bathroom, but other than that, it is a fairly simple layout and build. When gluing it together wit Tacky glue, I made use of large rubber bands to hold everything tight in place while the glue dried. The surfaces were prepped in my usual way -- Krylon black acrylic spray paint, followed by a 50/50 mix of black paint and water.
I thought the Kelly green and light gray-green gives it that 1970s kitschy vibe
I decided I wanted a colorful & kitschy scheme for the exterior. If you Google "vintage motels" you see all kinds of turquoise, bright Caribbean colors - you name it. They always seemed to have such distinct names, too. Not the "Days Inn" or "Quality Inn" of today. So, in going with the O'Brian's Irish theme, I decided to do a bright Kelly green for trim, and a light, green-gray for the main exterior. On the inside, I wanted to four different colors for the rooms. I ended up going with a Sky Blue, Golden Yellow, Medium Green, and Burnt Orange. For the bathroom areas, I chose a slightly lighter tone of the wall color of the rooms. One side effect of my black priming method of the MDF surfaces, in essence, is it usually takes more than one coat to give a solid cover of the walls. Three coats, in the case of the yellow.
The stairs are attached to the first floor and are a neat feature of the motel
Next up was the floors. I really like using color-printed patterns for the floors. I toyed briefly with the idea of finding a fabric that would mimic shag carpet, but since the craft stores are closed with Coronavirus, I used patterns I'd printed off with a laser printer at the local office supply store (which is open). For the bathrooms, I chose a black and white checkered pattern and used the same for all four. The other four got either a wooden (or faux wooden) flooring, a patterned linoleum that matched the wall colors. For the heck of it, I decided to put a painting on each wall. I Googled "American landscape" and chose four I liked, gave them a thick, brown border for the wooden frame, and added them to what I needed to print off.
As usual, all signs and graffiti for the building are created in Photoshop or found online and printed off
I also printed off the signs for the building. I learned a few buildings back that my hand is not steady enough to paint the signs. I like the way it looks when I create a sign, or find one online and resize it in Photoshop, then print and glue it to the walls. I also glued graffiti to the side and back outside walls. One touch that I just began doing on my buildings is using Fine Blended Gray Ballast from Woodland Scenics as the concrete areas. The three dimensional aspect of the ballast makes the building "pop" more, in my opinion, and makes it more than simply a printed building made of MDF instead of cardstock.
One of the Eastmoor Kings checks out my scratch-built sign (note the paperclip on the sign's edge)
I knew I wanted to scratch-build a motel sign for the rooftop, but I pondered over how to make it stand up. I just couldn't come up with something for a tripod-like design I could easily do myself. I knew I would use a rectangular slab of bass or balsa wood for the sign, but how to create a stand? I then hit upon the idea of using paperclips, I bent two to be identical, having one arm of the paperclip driven through the top of each side of the balsa wood sign, and another army alongside the edge. Then, the rest of the paperclip was bent to the proper angle and voila! A simple sign. I covered the top of the paperclip with cardstock and the bottom with felt (to make it stick in place on the rooftop ballast). Although it is definitely no frills, I'm very happy with my little sign.
The most unflattering view - the almost prison-like look to the rear of the motel
The final step was to wash the exterior to give it more of a weathered look. I don't always do this, but I am glad I did on this one. I use a bottle I premix of the Vallejo Matte Clear paint with drops of black in it, so I don't have to experiment with the darkness every time. It is fairly expensive, as washes go, so I normally use it only for miniatures. However, I had bought a couple bottles right before the Coronavirus lockdown, so I knew I could mix more up if I ran out.
Close up of the interior of the first floor - note the wall paintings and floor patterns printed off
All in all, I really like the look of this building. I especially like the way the balcony and second story look. I can definitely see scenarios in my gang warfare games where somebody has a rendezvous in Room 4 of O'Brian's Pot O' Gold Motel! Whether to pick up a shipment of something, or take out a rival gang member -- a motel definitely gives me more ideas for missions for the players in my games. What's next on my painting table? Well, I was hoping that my 24 unarmored Viking bondi would have arrived from Footsore Miniatures North America, by now. However, they seem to be backed up and having trouble getting orders shipped, unfortunately. So, I have two new 28mm street gangs primed up and ready to go. So, look for those in the next week or so!

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Pack Mules with Handlers in 28mm

My loaded-down mules and their equally loaded-down handlers moving along a path in the forest
So, one of my frequent readers upbraided me for not posting more often during this "social distancing" time. Although I have been spending time regularly on working on hobby stuff, nothing has been finished since my last post -- other than 7 more concrete medians. I didn't want to do another post about that because they look exactly like the first batch of eight. However, Dave and other readers may be happy that I finally did finish something off today!
You can see how many sacks, bags, and other burdens are piled up on these poor pack animals
I honestly have no idea where I obtained these 4 pack mules (donkeys?) from, nor who their manufacturer would be. I did an extensive Google search, but came up blank. I hope one of my readers will recognize them, and I can label them as such. I dug them out of my unpainted lead pile (actually, it's in a very organized wheeled cart, if you're curious...) about three weeks ago, and primed them. However, what with working on the medians, barrels, dumpster, trash bags, etc., I hadn't progressed on them much. Once all of that was finished, though, I began to work on them more wholeheartedly.
The handlers look like French-Canadian voyageurs and Native Americans, to my eye
There are two poses of donkeys (mules?) along with two poses of the handlers. Both are heavily loaded down, which makes me think they are meant to be from the American frontier period -- possibly French & Indian War era voyageurs. One of the handlers looks like a Native American rather than a Frenchman, while the other is your stereotyped, heavily-bearded Frenchie with his cap. So, I painted them up that way, with an eye for them being "generic," and being able to use them for pack animals for just about any period. Luckily, they have no firearms or equipment that would pigeonhole them into a specific period.
The whole line of muleteers make their way through the Eastern Woodlands
One thing they do have is LOTS of bags and loads festooned on them. The handlers are veritable human pack mules (donkeys?), themselves! I certainly wouldn't want to walk around all day carrying what they are carrying. Although this looks very colorful, it does present a challenge to paint. If you paint all of the sacks and such the same color, they will fade together as a blob, and not stick out. If you paint them in distinct and bright colors, they will be overwhelming to they eye, I thought, and look equally bad. So, what I did was to set out all of the faded colors that I have that sacks and bags and such might be colored. The more than a dozen paint bottles were lined up across my desk. I would select one, and then go through the eight miniatures, men and animals, and paint maybe one sack in that color. The effect turned out good, I think. The loads look realistic but not an amorphous blob of the same color.
I used faded colors to show these poor souls have been on the trail for months on end
The handlers I painted in faded colors, figuring they've been on the trail for months and would likely wear the same sweat-faded garb day in and day out. I wanted them to have a very dirty look to them. In fact, when I finished with them, I just had to play a song from Mark Knopfler's latest solo release called, "Trapper Man." It paints a picture of these gentlemen exactly how I imagined them, "...Trapper Man's in from the hinterlands, filth and grease on his clothes and hands..." I decided not to attach a lead from the handlers to the donkeys (mules?) because I wanted the miniatures to be usable without each other, as well. I really like how they came out, and hope they make it to the tabletop one day soon.

What else have I been working on? Well, I have been spending a LOT of time laying out my gang warfare rules, Mean Streets: War in Gang-infested Cities. Sadly, my publishing program, Adobe InDesign finally died. The software no longer works with the latest Mac OS. I got my money's worth out of it, though. I used it while I was editor of the HMGS Great Lakes magazine, The Herald, for years. And I haven't been editor for more than a decade! It somehow made the migration from my first MacBook to the MacBook Pro that I still use for hobby stuff now (my latest MacBook Air is used pretty much just for schoolwork). However, when I went to fire it up, it wouldn't work. So, the long and short of it is I bought a new desktop publishing program -- Affinity Publisher. It has been a slow learning curve using it. Figuring how to do this function or that function isn't as intuitive as I'd hoped, but I am progressing with it. I try to use lots of graphics in my rule book layouts for First Command Wargames, so that makes it slower going.
My proposed cover for my gang warfare rule book for First Command Wargames
Anyway, here's a shot of my proposed cover artwork. I would honestly like feedback on it. Don't be afraid to comment and say you don't like it. Usually, my I fall in love with what I do as cover art, but on this one, I'm still not sure.