This month I get a chance to make a grail kit come to life. As most of you “cool – in the loop” folks know, because you start each and every waking day by checkin’ my site out for new stuff, I managed to get this kit “unretired”. Why? ‘Cause I wanted it dammit! And that was enough of a motivator for me to see to it that this magnificent piece by Dark Carnival got one more crack at life within the figure modeling community.
Now what we’re really gonna focus on in this column is DUNT-DUNT-DUHHHH! (those are dramatic organ hits in case yer wonderin’!) …..realistic hair color. Yep that’s right, although we’ll build the whole kit, we’re really gonna concentrate on getting’ Alicia’s bee-yoo-tee-ful blond locks lookin’ sharp. Since I’ve never really had to do really realistic hair color on a kit, (uh, no, the Ed Roth and Weird Oh kits DON’T count!), this’ll be a challenge for me and hopefully a future time saver for you. So, without too much fanfare. Let’s gitcha up to speed on where I am so far in the progress of the kit.
Obviously, you prime the whole kit and putty where necessary, I won’t belabor those details here. Just do it!
PART ONE: The Base
First off, I did a really neat job on the base. You know my theory about this, do all the peripheral stuff like bases, backgrounds and accessories first while yer buildin’ up yer courage to tackle the real work! Check out the pic’s above. I started by painting the entire thing with Delta Ceramcoat Acrylic Black. Next, I started a layering process using dry brushing and washes to get a realistic granite and bronze type look. I started by dry brushing on a medium coat of Liqutitex Burnt Sienna over the entire area EXCEPT the medallions, the bat symbols and the little banding thingies on the top. Then I followed over the same area with dry brushed coats of Liquitex Raw Sienna, Titanium White (real light on this!). Next, I get to work on the medallions and details. I dry brush these with layered coats starting with Tamiya XF-6 Copper, then Tamiya X-12 Gold Leaf. Now, I’m trying to be very sparse with all this dry brushing ‘cause I want the black base coat to still be visible in the recessed areas. Now, we need to tone down all that dry brush work and so we mix up a little thing I like to call my black wash. Using a tad (that’s less than a smidgen but more than a dollop!) of Delta Ceramcoat Acrylic Black and mix it with some auto window washer fluid, any kind’ll do but I got mine at Performance Auto. The ratio I use is about, oh….let’s say about 10 parts wiper fluid to ½ part paint. Real thin in other words. So I wash over the whole area of the base including the medallions. Now, at this point I just go back over the whole thing with a few more highlights of the dry brush colors trying to achieve a nice balance of all the textures. Then, another coat of the black wash and bada bing! It’s done. Just for details sake, I take another pass at the Bat symbols on the front and top of the base with one more dry brush coat of Tamiya X-12 Gold Leaf, then, you guessed it, seal that thing up with Testor’s Dullcote. Pretty groovy lookin’ if I say so myself! (And I do.) In fact I liked the look so much I decided to use it on Batgirl’s belt. I just couldn’t bring myself to leave the entire suit black, and I sure didn’t want to go with the silly silver highlights like in my George Clooney Batman kit here.
PART TWO: The Suit Pt. 1
For her suit, this is kinda’ a funny story so I’ll bore ya’ with tall the grisly details. I figger I got a air brush, and dammit, I’m gonna’ use it whenever I can, so I decide that I’ll air brush her entire suit area with Badger Air-Opaque Black. I don’t want her hair and face to get all painted up so I cover that area with a coat of Susan Schewee Blue Masking Fluid. As soon as I start doin’ this I’m wonderin’ how hard is it gonna’ be to get that latex stuff out of all the nooks and crannies of her hair? No matter, I’ll double cross that bridge when I come to it. So, I hook up all the gear, put the paint in the ol’ fill cup and start blowin’. It doesn’t cover very well, so I keep blowin’ on the black until she’s good and covered. Now at this point I begin to notice that the paint doesn’t seem to be drying as fast as I’m used to. I break out the hair dryer to speed things up a bit, and this seems to help a little, but again not like I’m used to. Having learned my lesson before on the Robin kit that rushing a project ain’t such a good idea, I resolve to let the thing sit over night and get back to it the next day. Well, 24 hours later, the kit seems better, but the paint surface still seem just a bit tacky to the touch. Oh well, I go about trying to get off the masking latex and my previous concern about the removal process springs forth full blown into a giant pain in the behind! After pickin’, and gougin’, and scrapin’ with all manner of tools I get fed up and head for the sink thinkin’ that a nice hot water bath oughta’ get that stuff off. Well, it sure did, and it took most of the black paint with it!!! At this point I just scrub the whole thing back down to primer and chalk it up to another lesson learned. Although I’m still not quite sure what the lesson was. In order to play catch up and get my kit back to where I was prior to the hot water wash disaster, I decide to play it old school and break out my Liquitex Payne’s Gray and give the entire suit area a nice three coat paint job. As it turns out, the Payne’s Gray is a perfect choice ‘cause her suit is supposed to have a blue tone in the black and Payne’s has a health amount of Ultramarine Blue in it. And now she looks ready for some real detail work, and we can get after that hair, so let’s get to it!
PART THREE: The Suit Pt. 2
Okay, I know, I know, we’re s’posed to be doin’ that “hair” thing, but I just can’t leave that suit lookin’ all dark and unflattering to our girl now, can I? So, let’s just take a moment to spruce her up a bit. If you’ve looked at any pictures (and you know you have, admit it!) of Alicia in her suit, you’ll notice that theres a high degree of blue to the black. In some pictures they make it look almost violet. Well, we’re not going for the violet hue, but we do need to bring out just a bit more of the blue highlights. For this, we’ll go back to the Liquitex Payne’s Gray BUT we’ll mix in just a tad of Liquitex Titanium White. Mix it up till it looks like a medium blue grey tone. Then I add just a drip, literally of Liquitex Basics Ultramarine Blue, and mix it up real good. Now, dab and dry brush the entire kit, concentrating on the high areas of the costume, but make sure you get some coverage on the entire kit. We especially want to hit the areas where light will react the best like the shoulders, tops of the breasts (oooooooooh, he said breasts!), tops of the legs, and that sort of stuff. I’m pretty happy with the way it looks, but I want to tame it down just a tone or so and also want to create an even tone look over the whole kit so I’m gonna’ give it a little wash. But first, of course, we’re gonna’ seal up what we’ve done so far with the ol’ Testor’s Dullcote! Once that dries, I take the Liquitex Payne’s Grey, add about three drops of it to about a tablespoon of window washer fluid and a squirt of liquid hand soap. Mix that up real good and wash the whole kit with it, making sure that it settles in the recesses of the kit. Once I hit it up, oh, about 2 ½ times, I consider this phase of the process ………el done-o!
PART FOUR: The Hair
So we start with the hair. The key to pullin’ off a believable blonde hair look is gonna’ be capturing the multi-toned appearance. Being blonde myself, and gorgeous blonde at that, I know first hand from many hours in front of the mirror, and loving it, that blonde hair is comprised of a minimum of four basic tones. First, at the roots and under hair, it appears almost a charcoal brown or brownish gray. Then there are layers of golden sienna, light butter yellow, and even white. So, there you have it, that’ll be our starting palate of colors.
First step here is gonna’ be a wash. I mix up a thin wash of Liquitex Burnt Sienna, Delta Ceramcoat Black (just a drop!) and ye olde window washer fluid. And me, I always throw in a couple of drops of liquid hand soap. I’m not sure why I do this, I think I heard it somewhere, or read it on line or something, or maybe it’s something that David Fisher does in his videos. Anyway, I always add it, and to be perfectly honest, I have no idea what it’s supposed to do. Perhaps clean your brush at the same time your using it. Whatever. NOW I’VE ALREADY HAD MY FIRST NEAR DISASTER! You see, washes are thin. That means they run. So when I started doin’ the hair I was just flyin’ along like I was using paint, ya’ know. Uh, big mistake! When I lifted up the kit to get at another area of the hair, the brown wash started running down all over my cool blue/black Batsuit paintjob!!! Yikes!!! Quickly, dash to the bathroom and throw up, no wait a minute, that’s not right, that’s later….after I go out drinkin’. Dash to the bathroom and run some warm water all over the kit while gently scrubbing with a soft sponge trying to remove the brown wash from the blue suit. Thankfully, I have caught it in time and the kit looks fine, except I have to start over because I washed the brown off most of the hair too. Sheeeeeeeesh! If there is ever a strong argument for Testor’s Dullcote. This is it. If I had skipped this step earlier when doing the suit, I would have washed the suit color right off the kit while trying to remove the brown. Ya’ dig? Verily I say unto ye….. Dullcote shall set ye free! This time I do the wash one small area at a time, making sure I get the deep color in the recesses of the hair and not on the high points. I use a blow dryer in between each area to make sure that there will be no running wash when I move the kit to get at another area. After about a half an hour and one or two passes at the hair, I think we’ve got a really great start on our blonde Batgirl. Check it out.
PART FIVE: Another Near Disaster!
This part has nothing to do with the building of the kit, but it’s kinda funny AND I did try and succeed at a new modeling process as a result. So, skip this if you want.
Alright, so maybe I should keep the door to my office CLOSED when I have a large Christmas party!!! This is kinda’ funny so I’m gonna’ share it with you, and no, I’m not just trying to avoid painting Batgirl’s hair. Every year my wife and I throw a fairly large Christmas party at our house. It’s really become sort of an annual tradition not only for us but for most of our guests as well. Anyway, it’s a big party and we always encourage parents to bring the kids. We go way overboard decorating our house and it’s really a load of eye candy for the lil’ ones AND we don’t want the parents to have the ol’ “we can’t get a baby sitter” excuse! BUT overtly encouraging the presence of little kids at your house comes with certain risks and we just assume those risks for the sake of the season. So, we have, oh, somewhere around 110 people at our house for the party and, of course, during the festivities there are some minor casualties. Some mud gets tracked in on the carpet when the kids decide to orbit in and out of the house at the speed of sound. Nevermind that it’s 25 degrees outside, they still think it’s a good idea. Oh, yeah, and one of the tuning pegs on my Rickenbacker bass guitar gets broken off, and one kid fall through one of our two trees and breaks a few ornaments. No problem, really. These kinds of things must be expected AND tolerated if you wanna’ have a good party. Well, one group of the lil’ spawns of Satan……ooooops, I meant to say “delightful little children”, finds their way into my sanctum sanctorum and manages, somehow, to knock my Batgirl-in-progress over and, GASP, break off BOTH her arms!!! Not only that, but each glove on the kit has three spiked details on it and on one of the arms, two of three spikes are broken off!!!! CRAP!!! I get news of this, and like a perfect host, I just let it go. Water under the bridge now, gotta’ get on with the party and deal with it later. The next day I go down for a closer look at the carnage. Not so bad, the arms just became unglued, not broken. Whew! But, the spikes on one glove are trashed. Two of them are busted halfway and I can’t find all the little pieces to try and glue them together. So I figger this is a grand time to try and “sculpt” new pieces to repair the kit. I get out my tube of Squadron Green Putty and an X-Acto knife and proceed to carefully build up the broken spikes much like a dentists bonds a chipped tooth. Just adding a little putty at a time and molding it into the spike shape with the knife and my fingers, I get a fairly close reproduction of the missing parts!! This is swell. I let it cure over night and then the next day I carefully sanded and detailed the “sculpts” with a emory board and 3-M Sponge Sanding Sheets, and before you know it, it’s all better!!!! Check out the picture here. Everywhere you see green is where there was NOTHING before. Pretty cool, huh? Just goes to show ya’ what you can do when faced with a minor disaster. Now, let’s get back to that hair, ‘Kay?
PART SIX: The Hair (Pt. II)
Alrighty, then! What I’m gonna’ do for building up the hair is, first, create three “shades” of blonde that I wanna’ layer up. My first color is a mix of Liquitex Raw Sienna and Delta Ceramcoat Antique White with just a dash of Delta Ceramcoat Butter Yellow. I mix this up to achieve a medium beige tone, not unlike some skin tones, only “yellowee-er” That’s a word right? I dry brush on a coat of this evenly, concentrating on hitting the tips and high points of the hair. Then I take some of that base color and add it to a bigger puddle of Delta Ceramcoat Butter Yellow to lighten it up even more, and lightly dry brush that over my base coat. Lookin’ good, so I need to give it one more layer of lighter highlights. For this I mix up the Delta Ceramcoat Antique White with just a dot of Liquitex Raw Sienna. You guessed it, we dry brush that over the other two coats, but this time I skip some areas ‘cause I want this color to look like “highlights” in the hair.
Now, lookin’ at the job, I think that it needs to be softened, or blended in some way. I mix up a quick wash of Raw Sienna, Antique White, Butter Yellow and a drip of Flat Black! This mix gives me a grayish, brown wash that I apply to the hair and it mellows the whole tone and makes it look, well, natural! After that, I take one last shot with a dry brush of Antique White, lightly and sporadically and “Shazaaam! It looks good to me!!” But, just for that last minute added pizzazz, I make a bold move and whip out my Tamiya X-12 Gold Leaf and EVER so slighty dry brush a few shiny highlights to this chic’s gorgeous do!So, I seal it up with some Dullcoat and begin planning my next move.
PART SEVEN: Face Time!
According to the Fish-miester, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna and White make for the perfect skin tone and who am I to argue? I mix up a pale pinkish blend that suits Alicia’s skin tone and apply my base coat. Now I get to the lips and inner eye lids, since they’re basically the same pinkish color. I mix up a “triad” of pink tones. This is to say I create a basic pink tone, then by adding white to a section create a lighter pink and by adding red to a section create a darker pink. This’ll give me a pallet to work with to give depth to the lips. I use Liquitex Red, Titanium White and just a tad of Raw Sienna for my midtone and apply it to the lips and the inner eyelids. Then, I take the darker pink and outline the lips to give them definition. Lastly, I take the lightest shade of pink and lightly touch up the tops of the lips. Wheeewheeee!! They look good enough to kiss, eh? On to the eyes I use my favorite eyeball color, Testors Liquid Grey Primer. Next with some Liqutitex Raw Sienna and a damn thin brush, I painstakingly paint thin outlines around the eyes just outside the pink lids. And for a final touch, I take a thin, and I mean THIN, line of Delta Ceramcoat Black and high line the upper eye lids. There that looks okay, don’t it?
Eyes on these kits are tricky. Key numero uno? Get ‘em even and get ‘em straight! Nothin’ looks hokier then a cross eyed kit, ya’ know? First I need to get some of the almond shape out of the eyes, ‘cause they don’t look round. To do this I make a thin, thin, thin, wash of burgundy and ever so slightly dab it in the corners of the eye. This gives her a natural look, like real eyes, with some pink, veiny stuff in the corners AND it takes the points of the eye balls and makes ‘em look rounder. Pretty cool, huh? Next, I paint in the black cornea base making sure to get it round and centered. From here I can add my color. For Alicia, I’m opting for light blue. Lighter then natural ‘cause the kits so dark I really want the eyes to pop. (See pic1 above). The last step is the pupil. Again, ya’ gotta’ concentrate on getting’ these things in the middle or, sheeeeeesh, your kit’s gonna’ look goofy! (See pic2 above.) Sweet, seal the job with some Liquitex Gloss Varnish and we’re nearly finished.
Finishing touches make the kit, so I break out my pastel set; currently I’m using a Loew Cornell Set of 12 Basic Colors. I need to add some shadow just above her eyes so I do a light dusting of dark blue to give her a less “surprised” appearance. Next I gotta’ rosey up her cheeks. Just a touch of red on the cheekbones, temples and chin gives her that “I’m so alive I could just go shopping” look. There, now that’s lookin’ good and we’re ready to put this kit behind us. I seal the face work with Testor’s Dullcote and it’s on to final assembly!
PART EIGHT: The End Is.......HERE!
One thing I forgot to mention way back at the beginning of this epic involves the lil’ leather cape that came with this Batgirl kit. I knew that getting this precut piece of leather was gonna’ be difficult to get to look right when I put it on the kit, ‘cause it’s kinda’ stiff. So, when I first started working on the kit, the first thing I did was fold this cape up, kinda’ like those kids paper fans you used to make when you were in elementary school, and then pressed in a book and put the book back into my tightly packed bookshelf. Now, weeks later when I take out the cape it has a nice ribbed bat-cape look more like the comic books. Pretty cool huh?
Add the cape, super glue her onto the base and…………….
there you have it, Dark Carnival’s re-released Alicia Silvertone Batgirl kit in all her glory!!! Now, get to buildin’ yours!!
You can check out the finished Alicia Silverstone Batgirl kit HERE
Anybody try this stuff out? Got any better ideas? Email me and let me know!