Hell freezes over

I got asked to finish up a backdrop recently and so I dragged out the dollar store paints to see if I might be up to the task. Given how little I paint and how bad I am I decided to use one of those rough and cheap 24″ panels that Opus sells. That way, if I am too awful, I won’t waste any time prepping.

dry test blocked out crop

More or less blocked out.

As it turns out, I am pretty awful but likely/hopefully still up to the task. I  think with continued practice my draftsmanship will return somewhat and then I’ll just be fighting the acrylic. I draw very infrequently and almost never paint anymore but even at that I can tell that I should be using better materials for the finished job. Dollar store stuff is very inconsistent and in general a bad move when you don’t know what the next move should be. With decent materials you don’t get the haywire colour-shifting as the paint dries and there is some semblance of opacity.*  The way it looked wet versus dry meant I spent a lot of time repainting things and still ending up in no man’s land. It is kind of like drawing with an HB pencil. Someone with skill can do it – someone without can’t. I’m no Helnwein.

The image I worked from was taken near Wenatchee, WA, around the east end of Appleyard, so not too far from where the second sub ends. I chose the scene because it is similar in form and colour to the area I’d be working on at the other layout but I also wanted see what it would be like with a little omaha orange mixed in. Even with just a shell I think the colour combo is quite nice. Makes me think of the Wenatchee-Oroville or Mansfield branches.

*Even good acrylics colour-shift and are somewhat translucent – just not anywhere near to the degree being discussed here.









Some Felt

some felt grass

A bit of felt enhanced with yarn, paint, sawdust, jute and ground foam. Wet matte medium also features prominently.


I had a sprawling bit on using felt as a grassy material but I’m not sure I agree with all of what I wrote when I was putting the piece together. It’s been a while. The main take away is that felt is cheap. The material can also be teased up to represent leafy plants layered and nested along the fast growing right of way.


Crappy Little Tree

EDIT: This is an old, unpublished post that has sat around for a number of years.

So our local train show came and went. I didn’t participate much, just fun Friday ops at Coquihalla man’s KVR http://kettlevalleymodelrailway.blogspot.ca/ where I held down the Brookmere operator’s position and then two hours at the Craftsman’s Corner to close out the weekend. I’ve always loved the idea of live modelling on the floor of a general hobby show and petitioned the committee I was on to take up the idea but since we we’re pretty bare bones at the end and I was already tied up with BC RPM the task was left to the late Jim Peters to formally  set up an informal schedule of modellers for a table on the main floor of the Cameron Rec Centre.

This year, with Jim’s passing, Doug Hicks organized us into formation. For my part I went with an old standby and showed folks how to make leaves and forest floor from sifted sawdust and paint. In the hours before the show while I was going through my boxes of supplies I came across some conifers sunk in Styrofoam at the bottom of a box. This is one of the more  garish ones that I left home:

Crappy little tree. Too green, needs some trimming but about the right shape for a 20-35 footer with lots of exposure.

Crappy little tree. Too green, needs some trimming but about the right shape for a 20 footer with lots of exposure.

By itself the colour isn’t too distracting. The shape is decent for a young tree with plenty of exposure but there is still some trimming to go. I was aiming for something small and hemlockish  that had grown along the cut line beside the tracks. Dunno how successfully- but it satisfied some other criteria – hence the post. Much of the Great Northern mailine through the Cascades  was realigned during  1927-29 and again in the early 1960’s so the trees tended to be quite small in the era I’ve chosen and these 1 – 2.5 inchers are necessary in great quantities with plausible anatomy.

Fortunately they are quite easy to make. All you need is wire, yarn, spray adhesive, something to flock with and (spray) paint.

RIMG1595 EDIT (2)


The yarn I used is some synthetic stuff sold by Phentex at Michael’s. I believe it is intended for slippers. It happened to be brown and stays fairly straight when you unwind it. I have a tree winder but these armatures were twisted between a vise and a pair of pliers. For more substantial specimens a layer  of tape can be added to hold the lower fibers in place during winding but that adds too much bulk to small trunks. Loose fibers are applied to the top of the trunk with super glue and left to dry. Once dry you can thin things out with a small pair of scissors and start the branch forming process. Once painted the desired shade they stiffen up a bit and further refining can be done right through the flocking process. The little paper thimble is used to shield the tree top from excess spray adhesive or hairspray. Without some care the tops can become matted and lose the delicate features that make the tree airy. I tend to mange my scenery colour by airbrushing with fluid acrylics, shooting down from the top in most cases.

The armature stage goes pretty quickly, especially with a winder or lockwire pliers. Total finished time depends on what you want and how skilled you are at getting it. Nothing new there. In the finished state they’re suitable along a cut line and don’t distract too much from larger, more prominent trees with twisted loop branches.




Blog Update

The past few years haven’t generated a lot of posts. To clear up my wordpress ledger I’ve decided to dump some of the unpublished posts onto the blog. Most of it is boring but someone somewhere might find a particular item to be of interest.