Sunday, February 25, 2007

1971 Aurora Neanderthal Man

Okay, this is the 2nd in a series of Classic Aurora Prehistoric Scenes kits that I am building. 2nd and most likely last, since this type of kit has never been my strong suit. But, as with the Sabertooth kit, I'll soldier on and do the best job I can and hopefully learn some new modeling tricks along the way. As you can see by the pic's, this kit was sent to me in a semi-built up stage.
Since these kits were originally issued as snap together kits, at least I don't have to undo any sloppy glue jobs. It is, however, partially painted up. Judging from the paint job, the type of paint, and the lack of any real concern about any other parts other than the main character, I'm gonna' guess that this is the original paint up done by some kid back when the kit was first issued. Sort of cool, really. It brings back the memories of when I first started in this hobby and how you really didn't care about the quality of your build up, you were just so darn excited about getting the kit built so you could SEE it. Ah, youth. Such luxuries of carelessness are gone from todays serious, grown up model builder and thus, we will commence on our journey to make this blast from the past a millinium aged museum quality display item!!! (too over the top?? Am I reaching??)

Gettin' It Started

As usual, we're gonna' head out of the gate by collecting and sorting main parts (those parts we will assemble and/or paint together), priming the kit, puttying and sanding the seams and making our color pallete decisions. As you can see from some of theses pics, there was alot of work to be done smoothing out the seams. Early kits didn't really piece together that well, but when you were a kid, who cared? These early Aurora Prehistoric Kits often came with multiple sets of arms and legs so the user could change the pose, or opt for a different look to the kit at times. But, with me, I'm building for forever.And Super Glue IS forever! So I have to choose my arm and leg combo ahead of time and commit to gluing it up. Since this kit was sent to me missing one half of one of the sets of arms, that choice was easy. With the legs, I
opt for the pair that fit into the base the best and will make for the best looking finished pose. It looks like I've got a good start on this kit, I'm feeling pretty confident that I can make it match up with the Saber Tooth Tiger kit, creating a sort of diorama setup. Since both these kits are for the same client and are from the same set of Aurora kits, it's important to me that they are built up in a similar and complimetary fashion. That's me, always lookin' out for the client!

Pickin' the Pallette

We already established that this kit has got to match up with the Saber Tooth Tiger,
so our pallette is gonna' be your standard browns, greys, blacks and greens. Startin' out, that's easy, we just grap everything except the Neanderthal man himself and coat it with a dark brown base. From here we'll be building up different hues and tones based on what details of the base we are trying to bring out. Because the base has elements of dirt, stone, grass, leaves and wood, it's gonna take quite a bit of doin' to paint up the parts without creating a mess outta' the whole thing.
Now we're gonna' head on back to our tutorial on building up the base for the Sabertooth Tiger kit, for a quick reminder on how we built up the dirt, plants and rocks. I knew those tutorials would come in handy for something, even if its only to support my failing memory!! But really, this package I know pretty well. Liquitex Burnt Sienna, and Raw Sienna, dry brushed up from the brown in layers to create a 3D like dirt appearance.You can see that the other little wood parts are in there too. The club, the log, and the tree. Later we're gonna' have to figger out a way to make each one of those have its own character, so it isn't so obvious that we painted them at the same time with the same colors! Oh the things we artists go through. Next we want to hit those rocks to separate them from the rest of the ground. In our last prehistoric kit we used increasingly lighter layers of grey, drybrushed onto the rocks only, and then highlighted the crevices even more with some dark washes of brown and black. So, let's stick with a winner and use that same plan. Plants? Ditto, we're gonna' use the same time tested layering approach only using varying shades of green. I start with a base coat of Liquitex Hooker's Green (eh, heh....he said "hooker"....) and from there I'll add dollops of Liquitex Butter Yellow, then
Cadmium Yellow, then finally White. This'll bring out those bad boys from the less than detailed base that was supplied with the kit. And as you can see here, the results are, if I must say so myself, stunning! It looks like you could just walk right into that base, huh? I had to do some lil' touch up actions with my trusty Le Plume Brown Marker. With this I detailed in the
graining on the tree trunk, patched up some green over brush areas, colored in some knot holes in the tree, log and club, and basically just brought out alot of detail that were NOT carved into the plastic. That's me, always goin' the extra mile for realism AND my clients.

Makin' It Real......

Well, you just can't put off dealin' with the main part of kit forever. I've spent a good deal of time putzin' around with the base, and the trees, and the logs, and the clubs, and now it's time to start diggin' into the ol' Neanderthal Man hisself!! Okay, so there's a lil' detour to do the sign first. It's simple and it'll buy me just a tad more time before I launch into the part of the kit that will make or break my entire build up. I wanna' match the sign for the Sabertooth so I just copy my earlier method. In short, Liquitex Black as the base coat. Then dry brush layers of Liquitex Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, and a finish brush of Tamiya Gold and it looks just good enough to be in a museum! Before I attack the body, I'm gonna' do this fella's underpants.......uh, well I guess technically that's a loin cloth, but really, by most standards accepted today, they're underpants. I'll stick with the pallette we've already established, but layer in some lighter shades to approximate the "skin & fur" look of some poor gutted and dressed animal that this dude picked out to make up his fine wardrobe. So I base it in Liquitex Black, follow with dry brush of Burnt Sienna and Raw Sienna, but to change up the look of the "inner" skin that folds back over the "outer" fur area, I add a touch of Liquitex White to my mix, and dry brush that area a few more times. Ahhhhh, now that's lookin' good. To finish, I wash the whole thing with a light wash of black, to bring out the detail and add some realism, then seal that bugger with some Testor's Dullcote. Now onto that body, and what a body! SinceI've got all my standard skin mix tones out, I just mix up a small batch of semi-dark caucasion skin tone. Give the fella a once, or twice, over coat and let it set. Before I get on with detailing out the skin to achieve that Neanderthal era rough and tumble look, I'm gonna' seal the base coat with Dullcote. No tellin' how many "trial and error" effect attempts are in my future at this point and I wanna' play it safe.

Gimme Some Skin, My Friend!!

I've done alot of kits in my time, but I can NOT remember one as doggone tricky and stubborn as this darn Neanderthal dude!! Lemme tell ya though, I sure as shootin' am glad that I hit that base coat up with Dullcote.................otherwise I'd be in an asylum by now. I have spent no fewer than 5 nights tryin' to get this fella's skin to look, well, authentic. I've tried watercolor washes, dry brushes with acrylics, even drawin' the damn hair on with a gel pen!!! All failures. I've washed 7 or 8 different attempts off this guy, and still was no further along than the last chapter. No one said it was gonna' be easy, but again, DULLCOTE IS KING!! In the meantime I've managed to get some pretty decent effects goin' on by using a
combination approach. I've settled for the fact that the kit is just not detailed enough to have a wash bring out all the chest, back, arm and leg hair. And I know that a guy in this time period is not gonna' be that clean, so I've decided to try and achieve a dirty, prehistoric skin tone that will create the illusion of hair and at the same time look authentic for the era. All this by accident really. My base tone I realized was too light, too clean and too Caucasion to be real. First thing I did was do a light dry brush over the entire flesh area of Liquitex Burnt Sienna. And when I say light, I mean LIGHT! I had recently read over at the Clubhouse that some guy had pretty good success using water colors for a wash technique. The advantage of water colors is.......THEY WASH OFF COMPLETELY IF YOU MESS UP!! And believe me, seeker, I messed up plenty. But now that I had made my peace with how I was gonna' approach the kit, I went back to the wash idea using an Art Studio Liquid Burnt Umber water color that one of my kids had in an old art kit that they got (and never really used) for Christmas one year. I thinned it with Windex. Yeah, that's right, Windex. I gave the whole body and leg area a medium heavy wash, one small section at a time, using my trusty blow dryer to speed up the drying time. With the water colors, it's easy to go back and smooth out the edges and imperfections of the wash. As I told you, these old Aurora kits really didn't have that great a casting, so although there are
indentations for the hair in the plastic, they're not defined enough to hold a good wash. So I settle for what I can get, knowing that I'm gonna do several more coats in phases. Next, I lighten the look of the wash with a dry brush of Liquitex Raw Sienna. Now, finally, things are startin' to look like the Ol' Cal magic is back in full swing!!

The Devil is in the Details

Okay, we're gonna' hit high gear now and polish off some of the effects that will really make the kit pop! I've achieved a great base skin effect, and even have taken it a step further now by adding a few more washes of my brown tone. After researching some archival pic's of Neanderthal Dudes online, I decided that MY initial approach was a tad too Caucasian looking so I opted to dark it down some, adding to the period realism of the kit look. (Is anyone buying that load?). To really bring out some of the essentials I hit the eyes and teeth with a simple coat of Liquitex Antique White and dry with my hair dryer.; Next, and ever so thin wash of
Liquitex Butter Yellow, to make the eyes look tired, old, and basically unkept. In the mouth area, I almost forgot, prior to the white I hit the inside of the mouth and lips with a light wash of Liquitex Burgandy, just to get a base coat on the soft mouth areas. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEWWW, that looks NICE! Next, on to those pesky gashes, scratches and scrapes that are on the kit. I hit those with the Liquitex Burgandy, BUT to make it look more like human blood and meat, I wash the areas with a black wash. This provides the realistic clotting and drying look of blood. I'm not totally satisfied with my "hairy" areas of the chest, face and arms, so I break out my Loew Cornell Soft Pastels and carefully define the pectorals, the abdomibles, and the shoulders and triceps of the kit with a nice dark brown and then black pastel. Yessireee, Bob! That's the look. Dull cote this and then onto a light red pastel brush over the lips and mouth. That got 'er done. Just to really rub in how anal I am about these things, I grab my Le Plume Brown 2 tipped gel pen and detail around the eyes with the fine point, and color in the eyebrows with the marker point. Now thats a face that only a mother could, and should, love. OOOOOOOOPS! In all the excitement about finishing the Neanderthal Dude portion, I nearly forgot his "catches". This kit came with kind of a lame attachment of a rabbit and pheasant that the guy supposedly has tackled with his giant club. So they have to be given some attention at this point.

To The Finish Line, At Last!!

So, as usual with most kits, you're buildin' 'em for what seems like forever (at least to my clients!) and then with a flurry of paint, blow dryers, glue and
dullcote, your're finished. With this kit the last details boiled down to the bone knife, the wierd bone pipe (which I glued to the base for lack of a better idea?) the rabbit and the pheasant "catch", and the final assembly of all the pieces. A little scare near the end when I found out that the giant bone spiked club didn'tfit into the guys hand!!! A little careful routing with an X-Acto knife and presto, fits. Ditto with the bone knife, apparently designed to go into his hand PRIOR to gluing his arm halves together......duh. So to get around this little problem, I painted the bone knife, then cut in in half to fit into his hand, then glued it back together. There, nobody is the wiser, huh? So after a long, hard struggle to finish a kit that I had no previous experience with, I think I have accomplished one of my best build outs ever. Pretty amazing, given the time it took to get me to this place. Well, another lesson or 10 learned, and this one is in the record books and me? I'm on to that pile of kits underneath my workbench that are beggin' to be released. Until next time, Seeker, this is yer ol' Uncle Cal, signin' off!!!