Saturday, February 8, 2014

Painting a Model Railroad Stream Bed Part 2 8FEB14

Paint Washes Over a Model Stream Bed for Realism

If you have been following previous blog posts, the next step in creating a realistic stream bed is to put a wash over the stream bottom that matches the source soils and rocks of the sediment. Think of what is about a quarter mile or several miles upstream. What is eroding and falling into the stream? On a very gentle stream in farm country, it might be top soil or cow manure. In an industrialized area it might be colorful oils and chemicals. In steeply falling mountain streams, rocks and gravel are tumbling in or grinding down to sand in a quartz area.

The South Branch of the Arkansas River has a lot of grays. I covered the gray part of the coloring process in the blog posting, Painting a Model Railroad Stream Bed Part 1 7FEB14.

Now, I would like to add some colors that you see in Chaffee County, Colorado. I wanted to mix a custom color that simulates the sunlight hitting some of those rocks.

The Color of Light

Here is where light enters into the model picture. Why is it when you see something in real life that it seems different than the color photographs taken of the area? The human eye perceives things differently than film - or digital. The reflected light coming off an object is subject to interpretation by the biology of the eye. There are filters in the human eye that make the world seem different to us. Even our brains are trained to perceive the world in a predetermined manner. This is what gave birth to Impressionist Painting.

The time of day can make a huge difference, too. You might have heard of the "Black Canyon of the Gunnison" on the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. The rocks were not black. The sun beamed down into the canyon only from certain angles or during particular times of the day. So things seemed like a dark gray. 

Check Your References

When you look at the pictures in a publication by Morning Sun Books, like Rio Grande Narrow Gauge in Color, 1947-1959 Empire Contraction and Railfan Discovery, the original slides - usually Ektachrome or Kodakchrome - are over 50 years old and have a color bias. Bob Yanosey and his staff do a great job of color correction, but the variances of color - particularly in the scenery - are noticeable. The time of day, season and even the storage conditions of the slide collections can affect the final color on the printed page.

Videos can offer a view of scenery, even if you catch this scenery in passing. I have watched the Colorado Narrow Gauge in the 1950s by Pentrex a gazillion times. This color video story of railroading on the Marshall and Monarch Passes has some wonderful detail shots of the scenery I am modeling. There is even a fleeting stream bed shot from the steam locomotive when it goes over a trestle.

 Mixing the Color

After really studying Chaffee County, Colorado, I realized I needed to layer on a color that I mixed by eye using Yellow Ochre and Raw Sienna. For this I used Windsor Newton Acrylics. You can get these colors in the Art Department of Gilbert's Hobbies in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

After mixing the colors, I picked up a glob on my paint brush and stirred it into some distilled water that I put into a recycled tuna fish can. We keep distilled water for a lot of things around the house, but tap water will do, too. The distilled water ensure consistency. You never know what is flowing out of a public water supply.
I squeezed out just a tiny bit of Mars Black tube acrylic onto the table immediately behind the stream bed I had painted so far. Then, I tested the wash over the edge and it seemed to be about right.
Washing the Wash

I painted a layer of wash over the entire stream bed, in the direction of the stream current. Before it dried, I quickly brushed it down stream with a paper towel.
Tinting the Top

I repeated the process several times, adding smidges of Polly Scale Engine Black shadows, and Polly Scale Undercoat LT Gray and Reefer White highlights. I freely mix tube acrylics with Polly Scale paints for scenery purposes. After a while, the painted stream bed started to look like it had a channel and dropped off in layers. 
Really, the stream is not as deep as it looks here. That is an optical illusion. I spread some wash tinted with Mars Black in the center channel.
Paint Out the Brush

I had some extra color left over, so I spread it around and colored the HOn3 Tru-Scale Roadbed from Trout Creek Engineering. Having been in the U.S. Navy, I was trained in the "if it doesn't move - paint it" philosophy. I even brushed the paint out of the brush before cleaning it. Having Irish heritage, I can't waste anything.

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