Sunday, 19 February 2012

The Painting!

Ah, the painting!  If I was Michaelangelo than this would be my Sistine Chapel.  Sadly I don't eat enough pizza, so I'm definitely not that guy.  But it must be said that I was more than a little nervous about the painting side of thing.  I'm not massively good with my hands (except like that, laydeez - oh yes), and I don't have a lot of co-ordination, so I was pretty sure I'd muck this part up.  Luckily I had my lovely girlfriend on hand to assist with this slightly more artistic side of things, so I knew I had a slightly better-than-normal chance of not cocking it up.

Kosh's encounter suit has a very intricate patterning behind it, and I frankly have no idea how they did it on the show.  Witchcraft, I think.  That or many, many intricate layers of airbrushed paint.  One of the two.  Whatever the case though, I once again had neither the skill nor the money to replicate that effect perfectly.  And since we were painting onto papier mache we weren't going to be getting a fibreglass-smooth finish anyway.

We ultimately decided that acrylic paints were the way forwards and set off to the local Hobbycraft to see what they had in stock.  And, it would turn out, to browse all of their creative wares.  After about an hour or so I was able to prise the Empress away from the aisles of shiny stuff, and took a look at the paint aisles.  After some time looking at the colours and prices we ultimately settled on:

  • 500ml Yellow Ochre from System 3
  • 250ml Hooker's Green from System 3
  • 200ml Raw Umber from Reeves
  • 75ml Mars Black from Hobbycraft's own brand
  • 75ml Titanium White from Hobbycraft's own brand
From these colours we were able to create most of the colours needed to create a passing resemblance to Kosh's encounter suit.  However, if you're going to attempt to replicate what we did, please, whatever you do, read to the end first.  Because naturally it didn't go smoothly.

He's got a hooker on each shoulder.  That's how the Vorlon
rolls.  Oh yeah.

Kosh's colour is fairly complex.  For our purposes we mixed a small amount of the green into a much larger amount of the ochre, just to give it a slightly off-yellow quality.  This was applied to the majority of the surface area of the collar.  The tube things on the shoulder were simply the green, un-mixed.

Newborn diarrhoea's the "in" colour for this season

The off-yellow was applied to nearly everything, to give us a good, base colour.

Like a big, mustardy pretzel

For the detailing on the front we simply used the umber - it came out a nice shade.  Again, not in keeping with the actual colours used in the show, but it got the idea across.  Which was the point.  Then came the difficult part - getting that weird shell-like effect.

Like a pretzel with some sort of pox

I wasn't entirely convinced by this effect at first, but it seemed to do the job in the end.  Using a sponge we lightly dabbed on patches of green and umber, making splotches all over the encounter suit.  We did the same thing for the helmet, although naturally those splotches (I'm technical, me, amn't I?) were smaller than those on the collar.

That's, like, toadally ossum, dood

Finally, I needed to add the "crackles" into the shell pattern.  I did this by mixing a little of the umber with some of the ochre and, again, using the edge of a sponge drew some patterns over all the existing paintwork.  I'll admit that when doing this I did actually use the photo of Kosh for reference - I roughly tried to get the sections in the same places - although this was a very loose interpretation.

I'll admit to not being as happy with the crackles on the collar as I was with what I managed on the helmet.  When doing the helmet I took a lot more care, since I was working with a much smaller surface area.  I should really have done the helmet first, but such is life.

An abstract masterpiece

I did much the same on the helmet as I had on the collar, but with a much lighter touch.  For the helmet I really did attempt to replicate the patterns on the real Kosh's helmet, and I'm quite pleased with what I managed.  Yes, it was all me, the helmet, not the Empress!  I was rather happy.

So that was all painted, and we took the encounter suit upstairs and left it to dry.  Now, we did of course expect the colour to change slightly as it dried, we'd planned for that.  What we didn't plan was for this to happen:

Full horror not actually pictured

I'm not sure if you can make out from this picture, but basically the damn thing turned pea green.  Pea.  Sodding.  Green.  We were expecting a slight colour change, and we only used the tiniest amount of green when we mixed the off-yellow.  But we didn't expect the green to win through so strongly and make it look like the ambassador had lost an argument with a bowl of pea soup.  I was unhappy.

After a bit of fretting on my part and thinking on hers, the Empress came up with a plan.  Basically, using the sponges again, we padded on a very small amount of un-mixed ochre onto the pea-green areas, attempting to paint over the worst of it.  By using such a small amount though, and doing it lightly, we still allowed a little of the green to show through.  And that's what we did.

Less of the soup on the collar

I think my Nan had a sofa with this exact
same pattern on it...

This seemed to solve the pea green problem.  And, in fact, I think it ended up looking even better than it had before the disaster struck.  After fixing the colours like this I was very happy - we'd taken disaster and turned it into something that was better than the original.  I like that kind of result.

The moral of this story, then, is that if you want to reproduce our efforts you should either not mix the ochre with the green in the first place, or you should be prepared to fix the disaster later.  Knowing what I now know...  I'd still do it the same.  I really do like the final effect.

All we needed to do now was wait for the paint to dry, and prepare for the final assembly...

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