Weathering tanks - realistic vs. artistic?

Discussion in 'Weathering.' started by Jens Andrée, Jul 16, 2017 at 1:42 AM.

  1. Jens Andrée

    Jens Andrée Member

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    As one of the modelling learners on the forum, having just reached the point where I'm currently learning the different weathering techniques, a few questions have popped up in my head which I thought I run by you.

    I have no background with tanks in real life, but here in Sweden we used to have compulsory military service (and are just about to start again) and I was part of a Ranger/Special Forces type unit focusing on winter warfare. I was basically the first to be sent out whilst the rest of Sweden mobilised for 48 hours. Not exactly the best survival expectancy when my counterpart uncle Spetsnaz came over the border and it was my job to stop them... ;)
    Anyhow, enough about that but this means that I've got fairly intimate knowledge about weapons, weapon systems and various military tracked vehicles. Especially in winter/cold climate.

    To my conundrum then:
    Whilst looking at finished display scale models there's often heavy weathering, and yes - things got dirty and worn for sure in reality. Certain things though were kept really pristine since they were your life-lines and there's no chance in hell that they would be allowed to get that worn, dirty, or worse rust like you often see on some models.
    If the road wheels got too dirty they could stop rotating properly and that would cause that road wheel to get a flat spot very quickly. A flat spot on a road wheel is a free ticket to disaster. The same goes for ice on the road wheels and their assembly. I've seen road wheels develop severe flat spots after just a one mile when driven in very cold weather and the driver didn't clear the ice and snow properly when parking the carrier/vehicle. Repairing a broken road wheel - or worse, trying to put the track back on - when it's -36°C is not fun! Trust me on that one...

    Things like tow cables on tanks are really important life-lines because if they are allowed to deteriorate and rust they can snap, and then you're in deep shit... There's no way the crew would allow this to happen - not even during war. The tow cables used back in WW2 would certainly be heavily greased to keep their condition and they wouldn't rust imho.

    Ok, I think we're a bit stricter on maintenance today than during WW2 and a lot of the knowledge we have today are due to previous failures, but I don't think tank crews back in the days were complete idiots either and surely they must've tried their best to do the necessary maintenance between combat?!

    Obviously towards the end of WW2 the Germans e.g. grabbed what they had and went with it, regardless of the mechanical state. That's quite understandable, but most tanks serving on the front didn't have that many miles on the clock because they were recovered and sent back for repairs when knocked out, if possible, or destroyed. I doubt most tanks survived for more than a month or two, often a lot less, when in combat? Not a lot of time to develop all that deep rust? (surface rust appears quickly when paint is damaged, but only in those spots)

    Are we focusing (more) on the artistic look rather than realism when weathering our scale models or are my experiences from the end of the cold war inapplicable when building WW2 models?

    Don't get me wrong - I love most of these heavily weathered tanks and they look absolutely stunning, but are they realistic? That's what I wonder.

    Many thanks in advance! I hope I'm not stepping on any toes with this question...

    p.s Dust on the other hand develops within 10 seconds of washing the vehicle. The flat paint in combination with things being cumbersome - and to give the officers something to fail you on - is the reason for that... :p
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2017 at 3:44 AM
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  2. yak face

    yak face Moderator Moderator

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    A great point Jens , and one thats certainly going to draw some widely differing opinions . Personally I think its always useful to see a period photo of the subject your modelling or something similar to get an idea of how they would have looked in service , as you say most military gear wasnt allowed to get too dirty as it could hinder serviceability . For my models (99% aircraft) I like to see a fairly clean finish , with just enough weathering to represent the subject as it would have appeared in service, obviously a dio or similar of a deserted/ abandoned subject can be as rusty ,dusty , muddy or just plain knackered as you like!! cheers tony
     
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  3. beowulf

    beowulf Styrene Bodger

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    i quite agree......i look at some peoples work, especially at shows and think 'too over weathered'.......looks good but not realistic

    i think the old adage of less is more counts here
     
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  4. Airfix Modeller Freak

    Airfix Modeller Freak WWII Luftwaffe Specialist Modeller

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    I think this is true as well. There is a certain limit you can go to, but on the Eastern Front in WW2, I think weathering can be allowed to get quite rough.

    In this photo here, I think the panel line weathering is wayyy overdone. It is applied well, but it is too exaggerated. Interesting, because this won it's category.

    DSC04268.JPG
     
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  5. tanktrack

    tanktrack SMF Poster

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    my thoughts exactly Jens
     
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  6. Thorbrand

    Thorbrand Active Member

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    I think it all depends on whether you are approaching the modeling hobby from a point of accuracy or artistic license, I don't think either is better or worse than the other. The accuracy side is all about research and replicating what the real world factors are for the subject you are modelling, the artistic side is more about placing your own personal vision on a piece, for example a 'what if' build or a diorama for a specific situation that is conjoured up in your imagination. Both can be equally rewarding. Personally I am still in the artisitic stage because I am still developing my skills and techniques. I think if you start painting a Spitfire in neon pink and gold camo then you have taken the artisitic side a bit too far! I agree with you that the military forces focus on cleanliness and maintenance means in most theatres of war regular cleaning and inspection of vehicles and aircraft means they wont be allowed to get caked in filth and grime, however in some situations like a vehicle crossing a desert for 3 days or navigating a swamp covered jungle, wear and tear is innevitable so the onus is on the modeller to decide what approach they want to take and decide the 'theme' behind their kit. If you are building a tank, do you want to showcase the tank for the sake of just showing off it's construction and mechanical beauty or is there a back story or specific theatre of war you have in mind, like the eastern front, jungle warfare, desert warfare, urban warfare etc.
     
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  7. John Rixon

    John Rixon SMF Poster

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    Some good points Jens, but many folks will see their models as a "snapshot moment" - for instance, a tank in the middle of a campaign, at a point in a day where it has just ploughed through a muddy field. This instance would surely justify running gear to be caked with mud? Vignettes and dioramas often portray a similar snapshot, and likewise would be subject to as much visual chaos as would have ensued in real life.
    When I built a Scorpion for a friend, who used to drive one, I aksed him about the mud, his comment was "When we got back to barracks, we'd hose them down, when on parade, they'd shine, and in the field, they were covered in crap!
     
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  8. Robert1968

    Robert1968 SMF Poster

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    I'm in a simular conundrum with my weathering ( too much or too little.
    My thoughts behind this are thus.
    During WW2 and even earlier during WW1 I have seen a lot of ref pics of tanks in battle or just after the affray and this is sometimes the modellers eye to see and reproduce a photo or ref pic of that AFV
    Now correctly the majority of AFV are kept clean and oiled greased nipples etc when at rest ( just like we do on our cars) we keep them clean and hoovered MOT etc.
    It's a variable subject to either display the model as just out of a battle or pristine just from the factory or unit ( however even running from a factory or unit dust and grime will accumulate surely
     
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  9. Gern

    Gern 'Stashitis' victim

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    The guys are right. The amount of weathering you add should represent the exact circumstances that you're trying to show.

    Ron's latest :

    http://www.scale-models.co.uk/threads/boyng-boyngady-boyng-boyng-doink-aircraft-down.28628/

    The abandoned tank is covered in mud and dirt as it would be seen immediately after a battle, but the aircraft has very little (if any) weathering - again as it would be having only just crashed.

    I think stand alone models should be shown with a minimum amount of weathering such as they might get from standing outside for a few days, you wouldn't normally expect to see them filthy and dirty when they are at their depot - but that's just my own opinion. It's your model so build it how you want.
     
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  10. lolstew1938

    lolstew1938 New Member

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    From my point of view at scale no one is going to produce a realistic finish as it is in real life as it just does not realistic at scale.

    It is up to the artistic nature of the model maker to produce a model which is special to the eye. Which imparts at scale a finish
    which looks authentic but is pleasing to the eye. A finish which looks real with out a toy town look. Not very easy
     
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  11. Jens Andrée

    Jens Andrée Member

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    I knew this subject was never going to have one answer - which is also how it should be - because scale modelling can be both a miniature from reality and/or a piece of art!
    I'm nowhere good to even begin thinking down the line of art with all the qualities that are involved so for me it's all about trying to represent the mechanical design of a much larger physical object - but trying to make it look as real as I can.

    I'm probably one of those that won't stray from the path of reality and only try to recreate the real thing, and that's why my question was formed from the beginning - a question to ascertain if you can build scale models trying to be as true to reality as possible and still be seen as "ok"?

    Almost all winning models from competitions I've seen have all been weathered a bit too much compared to reality, unless we're talking about crashed and burned objects.
    I hope one can build something with a bit less weathering and still be accepted? Accepted amongst modellers that is, not necessarily as a competition winner...

    Don't get me wrong because I love those almost over the top models that must've taken months to make, even though they stray from the path of realism sometimes. These pieces I view more as pieces of art. Real art!
    For me scale modelling is all about the mechanical object and its design and usage. That's what I want to re-create one day. This is why my first question on the forum was about figures or not since I didn't think they would add anything to the mechanical marvel I wanted to assemble. I have changed my mind about figures since then and I do think they complement the build, and give it scale.

    Thank you so much for answering my somewhat blunt question! :)
     
  12. grumpa

    grumpa SMF Poster

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    Weathering is a tricky thing indeed, it can range from subtle regular wear and tear and a bit of "dust-o-the trail" as seen in this ww2 Russian artillery tractor to outright
    muddy nastiness as in this ww1 Whippet tank.

    The great thing a bout AFV weathering is that one can go to one extreme or another and usually get away with it.
    I try not to over think my projects and things just seem to find their own flow.

    Artistic license and personal style is certainly allowed while still clinging to realism.
    Over rusting can be out of place for sure if depicting an active AFV in combat for they certainly were short lived for the most part but dirt, mud, dust ,grime, worn paint and
    general untidiness would fit into most battle related displays or dioramas.

    Jim:) 100_8208 (4).JPG
    100_8227 (3).JPG
     
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  13. grumpa

    grumpa SMF Poster

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    I totally agree John, our new member should let his juices flow and not bind himself down with a "reality or bust" mentality.
    Your "snapshot moment" perspective is spot on imo. As a combat veteran myself I can without a doubt say that vehicle maintenance and or cleanliness were the furthest thing from any ones mind until some sort of lull or slow down in operations was encountered, and then only bare bones maintenance was performed to ensure one didn't die because of a stupid oversight.

    If one wants to be exactly authentic, then a detailed account of their piece should be given upon display to describe exactly the perspective the builder wants to portray or just have fun and do your best to wow the members which is my philosophy;)...........Jim:)
     
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  14. Jens Andrée

    Jens Andrée Member

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    Jim - those two models certainly fall into the category of realistic if you ask me, and what masterpieces they are!!! :)
    They are heavily weathered but 100% realistic if you ask me!
    If they are yours then please keep them safe under glass for the rest of your life!

    This thread has made me realise that my problem is the simple fact that I've mainly seen one side of weathering, and it's not the subtle one apparently...
    When I started I bought a couple issues of Weathering Magazine and when I realised how fun the hobby was I bought all I could get my hand on - but in honesty they only left me confused somewhat.
    Those magazines have been pretty much my only reference material, and it's all expertly done, but not easy to understand for a beginner because it's not exactly subtle, and they surely love rust...

    Perhaps they will be useful later in life but right now I need to get the basics right first. Crawling before driving type scenario... ;)

    Thank you all! This has given me a new look on weathering and how I should approach it!
     
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  15. grumpa

    grumpa SMF Poster

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    Thanks Jens, they are my own creations, 40 years of experience may have something to do with it.
    Never used an air brush and never will, many layers of dry brushing and pin washing are my way, "Jim's way" if you will.

    Patience and stepping away from the bench to assess progress is key. NEVER rush or worry about finishing up just to please others and remember no shortcuts really exist in this hobby.
    Dogged dedication is required and discouragement is not an option.

    A couple of more pics, though other members will roll their collective eyes and think "here he goes again":rolleyes::oops:
    100_8077 (2).JPG 100_8084 (2).JPG 100_8085 (4).JPG 100_7988.JPG 100_7997 (4).JPG 100_8147 (5).JPG 100_8154 (4).JPG 100_8502 (3).JPG
     
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  16. Jens Andrée

    Jens Andrée Member

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    WOW!!! Jim - what stunning works of art - and still 100% realistic representation if you ask me, and none of the stuff I somewhat critiqued in my initial question of this post!
    Seeing pictures like this really spurs me on, but at the same time it's also a reality check to really learn the basics first in order to fully understand why, how and when you do apply the various layers of paint and weathering.
    Also genuine experience with various paints/products etc is certainly key to success, but most of it is talent and the ability, as you said, to never rush and take however long time it takes.

    As someone on the other end of those 40 years of experience I do appreciate buying an airbrush simply because it's a fantastic method of applying base paint to large surfaces - both flat and uneven, but I admit to preferring using the brush myself whenever I can. It took some time to find brushes that worked for me, but now I can paint eyes on my 1/35 figures with control so I'm improving skill-wise.
    I'm not too worried about making errors because we learn by doing mistakes, but I've also set out to build my King Tiger to be much better than I can muster today so that's why I'm pestering you with questions all the time - in order to either figure out why something went horribly wrong, or in order to avoid stupid mistakes before they happen; like mixing paint with the wrong thinner e.g.
    Unless I push and force myself to learn something new and complicated I won't improve either, but I've got a desk full of "trainer" models and others "in progress".

    I will always be keen on trying to make my models look real and to show the mechanical construction behind it because that's something I admire, but when done correctly "heavy" weathering should look natural and when done correctly - like you've done - it doesn't stand out like some of the models I was referring to earlier. You've convinced me that weathering isn't bad at all - as long as it's got a purpose.

    I will happily admit not being able to do the steps I can't at the moment and do something else meanwhile, but seeing your models has certainly given me a real goal to achieve!
    I might never reach it but unless you try you never know ;)

    You all are always more than allowed to post as many pictures you want in my threads on the forum because they all help me, and others, a lot by providing inspiration and proof that things can be done!
    My only regret is giving up 30-ish years ago building scale models and scratch built balsa wood air planes... I had zero influences and encouragement back then and the availability of products where I lived wasn't exactly great. (it was terrible)
    Luckily I found it again :)

    THANK YOU for showing your fantastic creations Jim!
     
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  17. grumpa

    grumpa SMF Poster

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    You're more than welcome Jens, I do agree that most "weathering" one sees in magazines and the like are quite exaggerated, my method builds layer upon layer of color and shades
    eventually culminating in a multi depth offering.

    One thing that is lacking in these "text book" processes imo is scale. While close up observation of an AFV in what ever circumstance or condition can reveal certain detail
    one must mentally shrink it down(35 times!) thus subtlety. just think of your project as an oil painting in the "realist" genre using a pallet and mixing on the spot, only your "canvas" is your model.

    I use only the cheapest water based craft paints and never deal with nasty oil based paints or smelly thinners, my brushes of choice are your basic craft brushes (cheap) but
    for dry brushing ladies eye shadow brushes are the best, just ask the Missus and I'm sure she has a few on hand.

    Verlinden was a master at this technique of multi-layered dry brushing, look up his work, though quite dated it is an immortal truth.
    There are no shortcuts in my work, else why bother.


    Jim:)
     
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