Saturday, October 12, 2013

Coloring a Laser-Art Structure Using Eye Makeup by Margaret Ullrich

If you've been thinking of starting a hobby, but don't want to go to much expense 
(who knows, you may end up hating the hobby), this might give you some ideas.

The following article was recently published both in the United States in The Thousand Lakes Region of the National Model Railroad Association's publication, 'The Fusee', and in Canada in The Winnipeg Model Railroad Club's publication, 'The Lantern'.

As you can see, I started doing a hobby on the cheap - and you can, too.


My husband is a model railroader.  He is a member of the TLR and the Winnipeg Model Railroad Club.  They both have banquets.  Wives are invited.  There are door prizes.  After the WMRC's banquet I found myself with a kit for a #889 N Grain Elevator Laser-Art Structure.

It was too small for my husband's layout.  My first thought was to return it for the next banquet.  But then they announced the theme for the next Spring's contest: a Laser-Art model.  There would be prizes.  Oh…

As we drove home I wondered if I could actually make the model.

A few months later I watched Suzanne, the WMRC's president, paint a laser-art kit.  Watching Suzanne reminded me of Art History where our teacher explained Pointillism.  Georges-Pierre Seurat, a Pointillism biggie, had spent over two years painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.  Suzanne barely touched the paint with her brush.  Then she wiped the paint off before she tapped the brush's tip on the model.  Suzanne explained that the thin wood warps when it is wet, but the walls should straighten as they dried, so that they could be glued together.

It was slow, painstaking work. 

Nobody could ever, ever accuse me of having that kind of patience.  I was having my doubts about making the elevator for the contest.      

I'm not patient, but I am cheap.  There's cheap and then there's stupid.  I know eye makeup shouldn't be used after six months.  But I couldn't just toss the germ infested containers.  I keep things, just in case.  A couple of days after watching Suzanne I was sorting through some makeup.  It hit me.  Eye shadow and blusher are powders in a variety of colors.

Since I had nothing to lose, I decided to use my old makeup to color the kit.


As I was new to the hobby, I thought it was important to read the instructions.
Yeah, well, that shows how clueless I was.
If you're about to make your first laser-art model, just glance at the instructions.
Trust me.  Especially if you're planning to use some old makeup.

The instruction writer had first made the grain elevator, then the shed and finally the office building.  Suzanne had worked on one building at a time, carefully dry painting each structure, like a jeweller polishing a diamond.  

Applying eye shadow with a cotton Q-tip to a model is not as exact.  The makeup smears over and some of the powder falls onto the table.  A few swipes with the Q-tip and the wall is covered.  We're not talking eye liner here.  It's easier to color all of the walls at the same time.  What's the sense of creating one mess, cleaning up, and then trying to remember what was used to create the same effect on a second building? 

I created a faded look for the walls with various shades of grey, white, blue and purple makeup.  On the outer beams, doors and trims I used the blusher, with a few touches of grey and white for a bit of interest.  The powders held to the wood and didn't rub off.  On the interiors and on the under side of the roof panels I used a #2 pencil to give the appearance of warped wood planks.  I separated the pieces and kept the leftover wood, just in case.

The instructions had said to attach all of the grain elevator walls together before inserting the assembled windows, and that the peel-and-stick frames would hold the windows without any glue.  Forget that.  It's easier to work while the wall is flat on the table.  The peel-and-stick frames don't stick well or hold anything.  I put a dab of white glue on the edges of the walls, installed the windows and then put the walls together.       

A few of the beams and a thin front wall had broken when I was separating and trimming them.  At first I panicked.  Then I realized I was making old buildings.  The broken bits would just add to the effect.

Because of all the glue, the thin fronts by the doors of the shed and the office building had warped. I re-enforced them with tooth picks.  That saved a bit of time cutting the scrap wood to fit.

The instructions were useless when it came to attaching the unloading shed.  The elevator is not flat, the foundation is recessed and the elevator doesn't extend to meet the front of the shed.  The leftover scraps of wood were perfect for making a frame on the elevator to provide a flat surface for attaching the shed.  The kit didn't have trim to cover where the structures joined.  So I made a beam, notched it to fit around the elevator's two outer beams, and angled the top to fit the shed's roof. 

Don't even bother reading the instructions for the roofing. They said the wooden roofs for the elevator and the office would easily bend and fit, and all you had to do was attach and color the shingles.  Right.  First I measured (allowing for overlapping) and marked guides on each roof for placing the shingles.  Then I gently scored the roof panels with an exacto knife before bending to attach them to the buildings.  I colored and cut the shingles to fit before overlapping and gluing them.  Then I used a bit of red where the shingles meet the beams, and also under the outer beams and the windows, to look like rust stains.

I used a marker to darken the white plastic tube supplied for the elevator's loading chute.  As the pre-cut hole was larger than needed, I taped the tube to the inside.  I had used the picture on the box as a model.  It had a light blue foundation, which just didn't look right for an old building.  So I darkened my foundation with brown shadow and used a #2 pencil to add details.  


The buildings were basically done.  By then I was getting more confident.  I decided to add a few more touches.  To create the effect of a water stain under the roof of the office building, I smeared a drop of white glue, then rubbed some dark grey eye shadow over that.  I also added a few patches on the roofs and colored the exposed edges with a black marker.  I also scratched the shingles, shaved their edges with an exacto knife, and flipped a few of their edges.  


I didn't have much confidence when I entered my grain elevator in The WMRC's Spring Show's laser-art contest.  But, I figured, it's done, why not enter?  I was awarded first place and received the Goodall Trophy. 

I also entered my grain elevator in the National Model Railroad Association Thousand Lakes Region's 2013 Regional 'Twin Rails to the Twin Cities' Convention's model contest.  There it was awarded third place, Structure On-line.

What can I say?
Use what you have and keep things, just in case!

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