Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Wordy Wednesday: (Lots of) Progress Report

There's definitely an inverse proportion of layout progress to blog posts. You wouldn't think that would be so, but it's certainly true in my case. The more progress I'm making, the less time I have (or want to take) to blog about it. Facebook actually makes it easier to put off blogging, since I can post quick updates to my Valley Local group page (and get pretty instant feedback too).

So the lack of posts doesn't necessary mean lack of progress - and in this case, it's been just the opposite. Here's a (hopefully) brief rundown of activity since my last progress report:

Wethersfield Backdrop @Jordan Lane
I mentioned in passing that Deb (aka The Missus) had helped me with some color choice for blending the foreground road with the background road at Jordan Lane. Here's how I went about it...

I should have taken a "before" photo, but here it is in progress... The foreground is what the entire road looked like (and as documented in this post - included a *fail* for using actual concrete). It was WAY too different from the color of the background road. So I got a craft paint color that matched the "overall" color of the background road and applied it with a 1/4" wide brush, not worrying about (and actually embracing) the variation that resulted.

I then blended it all in with a slightly lighter color of Pan Pastel.

Lastly, I used black PanPastel to add "oil marks" down the middle of the lanes, even carrying them up slightly onto the backdrop. I think you'll agree the road looks MUCH better now than how it started out!

Continuing Cromwell
I realize now that I never did a post starting Cromwell, so just by way of a quick overview...

I used foamcore (with the paper peeled off) for Main Street (aka Middlesex Turnpike), and a combo of cardboard strip lattice and plaster cloth for the subterrain. Then I started playing with structure placement, guided by my embryonic Cromwell backdrop.

For the sidewalks, I decided to try these laser-cut MDF ones that I got for Christmas.

I laid the structures out on top of chip board that was the same thickness as the sidewalks (about 1/16"). These cutouts would form the base/foundation for the structures and raise them up even with the walks.

Alternately, I made a sidewalk/structure base combo out of foamcore (again, with the paper removed) for the station. After scribing in the lines, I painted this "concrete" with Apple Barrel Country Grey.

The road "north" of the tracks, as well as the subbase for the town structures, was cut from one large piece of foamcore. Like with all my foamcore, I remove the paper to reveal nice texture for concrete roads - it's also impervious to water (no warping) and is easy to scribe. Here, after scribing in the expansion joints, I've masked off the road for painting.

Main Street and town subbase in place, with structure base outlines marked in.

Mine is a very slow, iterative process - especially when it comes to structure placement and backdrop positioning.

But all this time pays off when you get the result that looks "right" to your eye - like this.

One of my biggest challenges is actually committing - whether it's gluing down structures, or sending a photo-shopped background image to be printed. But at some point, you have to "Just Do It" or be paralyzed by over-analysis. Here's the final Cromwell backdrop. It won't stand the scrutiny of eagle-eyes, but should work fine as a background for the main activity up front.

Once I got the final background print, I realized that the road color was a little off. So I repainted it to better match and I glued down the foam core (brushed on full strength white glue), glued on the structure bases, and weighed everything down. 

Once that was all dry, I masked off where the sidewalks would go, applied some craft paint for color and adhesion, and sifted on fine dirt in the parking areas (per prototype photos).

The paint I used as a base for the dirt was Apple Barrel Pewter Gray, to match the undertone in the shoulders/parking areas of the background photo. I sifted the dirt on using a tea strainer.

While that was all drying, I used Folk Art "Barn Wood" to paint the sidewalks.

Taping them down kept them still while I used a 1/4" brush to paint the top and curbs. I didn't worry too much about brush strokes - you won't see them from the aisle and whatever your eye happens to pick up will perceive them as texture. At least that's true to my eye. YMMV.

And here's where things stand in Cromwell at the moment. I used the rest of my old Ground Goop to fill in behind the structures and fill the "triangle" between the road and tracks, and added fine ground foam (WS Burnt Grass and Green Blend) as a base for future static grass. I even used my new WS Static King for the first time to apply some grass between the buildings and the backdrop. But as you can see, I still haven't committed to gluing the backdrop in place (I really don't know what I'm waiting for). Ditto the sidewalks. BTW - note the track, how uniform it looks (shot with rattle-can Rustoleum Camo Earth Brown).

For a little diversion, I decided to finish off the grade crossing in Dividend. The gray you see is all foam core (without paper). I've filled in with DAP Vinyl Spackle.

Turns out, the spackle is really smooth and has none of the "concrete" looking texture of the foam core. But colored right it doesn't look too obvious (though I'll be looking for an alternative patching material - may try plaster). The spackle was first painted with the same base color as the road, then weathered with PanPastels. Did the same with the large parking/truck area (including oil/grease drips under where the engines of the loading trucks would be).

Remember the uniform-looking ties? Well, I spent a fun evening (truly!) listening to a couple of podcasts and drybrushing ties. Click here & scroll down for details on the process I use. IMO, the results are VERY much worth it!

So there you have it - progress over the course of a few weeknights and a weekend. It's still glacially slow, IMO, but at least I continue to move forward.

But now, I have some "honey-do" items that The Missus has been kind enough to let me postpone while I recover from legislative session. It's getting warmer though, and those projects can't be put off any longer. They're all outdoor projects, so don't be surprised if I pray for a little rain now and then! >:^)

Until next time - hope to see you back in Cromwell soon!

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