Sunday, 15 February 2015

Chickpea Cottage

Hi there,

After a long, long break from the hobby (mostly due to personal reasons that kept my interest and creative energy away from anything related to miniatures and model-making), I finally found my motivation to get back and do something with my passion for crafts.

The motivation: the birthday of a very dear friend who happens to love miniatures. I thought that this could be a good opportunity to give her something special and unique and also to get my creative drive back on track.

So, I started thinking of what I could make for her. Various rough sketches were drawn and ideas jotted down. Even if done quickly and without much care for specific detail, I found them to be useful to gather the main elements in order to forge the piece I wanted to produce for my friend.

I decided to go for a cottage with a rustic look - I'm particularly fond of a dilapidated style and a spooky feel (although in this case, I went for a sweeter, less sombre approach than my previous terrain pieces).
I also thought of including an owner of the cottage, so the GW model Tom Bombadil (now sadly out of production) came to mind as he has a picturesque look without being too fantasy-like.
So, I gathered tools and materials and started forging.

This post will include a lengthy step-by-step description of how to make the cottage from start to finish. The techniques used are inspired in the works of Jeff Clapham (Theomar Pius) and Tony Harwood.
Tools and materials used:
Hobby knife
Cutting mat
Blue foam
Balsa wood
Transparent plastic sheet
Teddy bear fur
Brass rings
White Glue
Super Glue
Nails and pins
Paint brushes
Sculpting tools
Wilko's tester pots
Games Workshop acrylic paints
Woodland Scenics vegetation
Model flowers by Tajima1 Miniatures
Portrait oval frame

First, I cut and glued the four walls of the cottage out of blue foam. The foundation would have a rectangular shape. I then stuck some pins to strengthen the joints.


Next up, the top floor. The two pieces were made of foamboard. Because I wanted to make the house look a bit uneven, I made the front side slightly taller than the back, to give the cottage a more fantasy feel.

Then I carved holes for the windows and doors out of the blue foam and foamboard. I kept the pieces that I carved out to make doors.

To counterbalance the straight angles I made some round-shaped windows. A 5p coin was used to come up with the shape for one of the windows in the front.

I also cut four strips of blue foam for the buttresses. Not only they add more depth to the cottage, but they also serve the purpose of hiding the glued joints (thanks Jeff!).

I started making the stonework effect on the blue foam by scoring lines with a sculpting tool (this can also be done with a hobby knife) and used a pencil to widen the gaps.

I then used my fingers to press down some sections of the wall, to give it an uneven shape. I did the same with the top walls for the same uneven effect.

I cut some cardboard (from a Dr Oetker Pizza Pollo - guilty as charged!) for the roof. Glued it on to the structure and used pins to secure the roof.

I added balsa wood for the wooden frames. For the round shaped frames, I used cardboard.

For texturizing the walls, I put some filler. This is a quick, effective and cheap process.

To make windows, I placed some mesh on a rigid plastic sheet (which can be from a vegetables container, or a miniature blister pack), I cut the frame shapes out of cardboard and then glued it to the mesh on the plastic sheet. I then cut around the window frame.

To finish it off, I carved some lines on the frame with a sharp modelling tool to simulate wood lines.

The doors were made of the carved bits of foam. I added bits of cardboard for the hinges and rings for the door handles.

Painting the stonework was a straightforward process. First with a layer of Wilko's Java Bean (dark brown) and then a highlight of Softest Blue. Next up, a wash of watered down Java Bean. Once dried, I added some patches of filler in the gaps to give it more realism. In the end, I painted some individual stones with various GW washes.

Painting the wood was also quick and easy: Wilko's Java Bean for the base and then highlight with GW's Zandri Dust and Screaming Skull.

I stuck some pins and clipped them off just leaving a bit sticking out to simulate nails on the wood.

The top walls were basecoated with GW's Tausept Ochre and then highlighted with a watered mix of the same colour with GW's Screaming Skull.

The roof was covered with layers of teddy bear fur which were glued to the cardboard surface with white glue. Once dry, I mixed white glue with water and stroked the roof with a large paint brush downwards. After the whole roof was dry, I gave it a wash of Java Bean to make is slightly darker.

Tragically, it was only after the roof was finished that I realised that I had forgotten to add a chimney! So, I cut a narrow block of blue foam and went through the steps of reproducing the stone effects similarly to the ones used for the walls earlier on.

Once it was finished, I cut a gap within the roof and then glued the chimney on to it.
Interestingly, the biggest challenge I found in the whole project was to obtain an oval frame for the base of the diorama. I visited dozens of local charity and crafts shops only to be greeted by the complete absence of such oval frames. As time was running out (I only had about 4 days to complete the whole piece and deliver it to birthday girl), I started losing hope and maybe settling for a square base instead. But fortunately, the last shop I visited (ArtCetera, in Boscombe) had plenty of these! I got my hands on two of them just to be on the safe side.

This was a lesson for me, as ideally I should've gotten the base before even starting to make the cottage in order to give me a better idea of how much terrain could fit in there.

So, with the frame finally here, I cut two sections of blue foam for the base. I then drew the lines where the cottage would go, added layers of filler to give it texture and different levels and then glued sand and gravel on to the base.

After this, I glued the house on the base and opened some holes to insert blocks of balsa wood for the fence. The fence was then completed with thin strips of wood across which were stuck with needles and super glue.

Before painting the base, I made a little path going from the front door to the gate on the blue foam.

I then started painting the base with the ubiquitous Java Bean and then drybrushed it with Pearl Grey (which is roughly the same as GW Bleached Bone). After this, I added patches of browns, creams and greens to the ground.

The paint took a while to dry, so I used that time to finish Tom Bombadil. He was given some earthy colours (brown and green) with a light blue to make him stand out without being too flashy. Overall, he was not as difficult to paint as I had originally imagined.

Terrain bits were then included - a tree from Woodland Scenics, bags, barrels and pots from Antenocitis Workshop, a stack of wood made out of chopped bits of barbecue skewers.

Towards the end, I spread white glue around the cottage and sprinkled it with Woodland Scenics medium green coarse turf and then bits of underbrush and olive green bushes.

Green coarse turf was also placed on the stone walls

The last vegetation touch was done through adding some flowers from Tajima1 Miniatures. This would definitely create a warmer and nice feel to the diorama.

I glued Tom Bombadil near the entrance and used a pig from Lead Adventure Miniatures as his pet guarding the front garden.

With the diorama finished, I took a few pictures of it before packing and wrapping it up for the birthday girl.

This was definitely a fun project to be involved in and it helped me realising that I can actually work fast if I have a set deadline, as opposed to leaving a terrain piece half done sitting on the workshop for indefinite time.

Thanks for reading. Happy modelling!