I haven’t posted anything since April so I thought perhaps I should report about what’s going on. Unfortunately I’ve made very little progress since my last post. If you recall, I was going to paint some scrap Masonite panels Sky Blue, then use that to practice some techniques for painting clouds. Not long after my last post, I procured the paint and rolled it on the Masonite practice panels. Now I was ready to start painting clouds. Well, not quite. I discovered that my old airbrush hose had dry rotted and was leaking, so I ordered a new hose. I went ahead and ordered a 10 footer so I would be able to move around better.
In the interim, I had to get into truck buying mode as my old 1998 F-150 was definitely showing its age and I decided it was time for some new wheels. I spent the next three weekends checking out the local car dealerships offerings. I couldn’t find a single vehicle that even came close to being what I wanted, but fortunately my local Ford dealer was able to locate a new F-150 at an out-of-town dealership that was almost the perfect match for what I wanted. A week later, I had my new ride.
I had arranged to be off work for four days during Memorial Day weekend, and I had planned to do my practice clouds that weekend. Right before my vacation time, the next roadblock occurred . . . my back went out! And it went out without any warning or provocation on my part. I had a similar back “outage” back in late December through early January. I had scheduled two weeks of vacation for the Christmas and New Year’s holiday and that happened on the second day I was home. I was unable to do anything in the train room the entire time I was off . . . a real bummer. To have this problem again during this, my very next vacation was extremely disappointing and aggravating to say the least.
But there is a little positive news to report. I wanted to establish a baseline elevation around the train room to aid construction of the layout, so I built a water level to accomplish the task. I picked up a 20’ coil of 3/8” clear vinyl tubing and found an old small plastic trash can out in the garage. I drilled a hole in the side of the can near the bottom, then stuck the end of the tubing in the hole. A liberal coating of GE silicone caulk around the joint on both sides produced a water-tight seal. I set the can on a stool in the middle of the room, filled it with water, poured a bit of food coloring and a few drops of dishwashing detergent into the water, and I was in business. The coloring made the water easy to see, both to verify there weren’t any bubbles in the line, and to see where the water level was when the tube was held up against the wall. The detergent helped break the surface tension of the water so it stayed level in the tube (didn’t creep up the sides). It worked great! I made marks on the walls about every 8 feet. Then at one mark, I measured 47” up from the floor (that was to be my benchmark elevation). I measured the distance between the water level mark and the 47” mark. Finally, I went around the room measuring this same distance above all the other water level marks to get my 47” benchmark all around the room. The whole project went quickly and smoothly. Yes!
And there’s more…
I had ordered some cloud stencils back in early May and after examining them, I determined that the cardstock from which they were made was just too flimsy to hold at the wall while spraying. So I ripped some ¼”x1-½” strips from a 2×4 scrap, then stapled a strip to the top of each stencil. That added the needed rigidity so the stencil could easily be held up near, but not touching the wall.
This past weekend I got a little cloud practice in. I didn’t feel up to making-up the spray gun, hose, regulator and big, ole’ air compressor. But I did have an old rattle can of white paint sitting in the garage, so I thought “I’ll just shoot some of that for the heck of it”. And I did. The first panel I shot came out so-so. I studied it for awhile and decided on a few corrections I should make. I shot the second panel with much better results. A few things I learned from this:
- Keep the spray moving. Don’t hesitate even for a second, or you’ll get a “blob” of paint that will destroy the translucent look you’ll get from the moving can.
- Don’t use the same stencil a second time anywhere close to where you first use it. Don’t even use a little piece of it close by. It’s amazing how quickly your eye will pick up on the repeating pattern, even if ever so slight. Keep rotating through the stencils for each and every shot.
- Don’t let the stencil touch the backdrop even in one place. The resultant cloud will have a very sharply defined border at that point.
- Don’t paint long rows of clouds, then move higher and paint another row, etc. When you step back, you’ll see that you now have long parallel rows of clouds . . . not at all realistic. This is something I’ll really have to work on when I do my next set of panels. Even my second panel shows distinct “layering” of the clouds. Much more randomness of cloud elevation will be needed.
- If the spray can “spits” or sputters, even for a second, that section of backdrop is doomed. Trying to spray paint over the specs just doesn’t work. Maybe you could use blue and white paints with a small artist brush and disguise them, but I didn’t try that (not much point since it was just a practice panel anyway). I hope that my spray gun won’t have that problem.
Overall though, I’m relatively pleased at what I’ve done. But I want to get in significantly more practice before I tackle the real backdrop.
As I write this, my back problem is still significant, but I hope I can at least take short and easy steps to keep things moving. I have simply GOT to see benchwork and track this summer!