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Thread: Painting Backdrops

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    Default Painting Backdrops

    I spent the long weekend, with some early mornings, learning how to paint backdrops for my Arizona & California layout. I'm an engineer by day and have strong technical drawing abilities, but I've never had an artistic touch. I searched for a local artist to help teach me how to paint landscapes and finally found one willing to help after about two months. Seeing her put paint on the backdrop was all I needed to follow suit, I tend to pick things up pretty quickly with actual demonstration, books and videos do me no good.

    Anyway, here is the result of the distant mountains behind Rice, CA on my layout. Being I model the desert, there isn't a lot of foliage, and most of the taller ground appears far off with little obstruction. I wanted to get these right from the get go. I've always loved Rob Spangler's WP 8th Subdivision backdrops and his layout was the inspiration for tackling this technique. His layout has much more vegetation than mine, but the soft look of the painting was what really drew me in.

    Layout Photos
    Layout Photos
    Layout Photos

    As always, there are more photos on both my Flickr account and my Facebook page.
    Doug M.
    Modeling the Arizona & California Railroad in N Scale


    Visit my blog at parkerlocoworks.blogspot.com to see more of my models
    Visit my Facebook page www.facebook.com/nscalearzc to see more of my layout build

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    Those hills are excellent. I see you are in the Parker, CO area. I have a friend in town who is an artist who did mine. Reach out if you happen to need another name.

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    Just testing a new photo posting method...


    Doug M.
    Modeling the Arizona & California Railroad in N Scale


    Visit my blog at parkerlocoworks.blogspot.com to see more of my models
    Visit my Facebook page www.facebook.com/nscalearzc to see more of my layout build

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    Really well done! Kudos!

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    Quote Originally Posted by parkerlocoworks View Post
    Seeing her put paint on the backdrop was all I needed to follow suit,
    So, you saw her put paint on the back drop, then you put paint on the back drop, then all proud of yourself, watched while she did all the painting? That's what really happened, isn't it?

    Seriously though, looks fantastic! The color choice and texture is outstanding. It really draws you in.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bronman View Post
    So, you saw her put paint on the back drop, then you put paint on the back drop, then all proud of yourself, watched while she did all the painting? That's what really happened, isn't it?

    Seriously though, looks fantastic! The color choice and texture is outstanding. It really draws you in.
    Haha! I knew someone would figure out my secret.

    She did the two on the far left, both the tan one and grey one. You can certainly tell when up close that those two were done by a different hand.
    Doug M.
    Modeling the Arizona & California Railroad in N Scale


    Visit my blog at parkerlocoworks.blogspot.com to see more of my models
    Visit my Facebook page www.facebook.com/nscalearzc to see more of my layout build

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    That does indeed look good. My one constructive critique would be to use slopes that are not quite as steep. Let each mountain spread out a good bit more. The reason for this is that you get a fair amount of foreshortening (squishing) when you take photos at an angle to the backdrop, which will be done frequently as you compose shots looking down the length of the track. This foreshortening makes steep hills look even more steep, and in some of the shots you posted I would say that it approaches being too steep; it looks like a 2-D panel we are viewing at a tilt. But if you make the hills fatter and with less slope, then when they get foreshortened they can still look natural. And from straight on they'll still look fine as low-slope versions.

    I don't necessarily think you need to redo anything, but this is actually something that skilled artists can miss, when we rely on them for our backdrops. They tend to be good as capturing the actual proportions and shapes of hills, but that's not really what we want, because of the role our backdrops will play. The artist will give you a landscape that looks good and consistent from one primary vantage point, but we need something that works from all sorts of oblique angles (including vertically, from up high or down at trackside).

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    Quote Originally Posted by WP&P View Post
    That does indeed look good. My one constructive critique would be to use slopes that are not quite as steep. Let each mountain spread out a good bit more. The reason for this is that you get a fair amount of foreshortening (squishing) when you take photos at an angle to the backdrop, which will be done frequently as you compose shots looking down the length of the track. This foreshortening makes steep hills look even more steep, and in some of the shots you posted I would say that it approaches being too steep; it looks like a 2-D panel we are viewing at a tilt. But if you make the hills fatter and with less slope, then when they get foreshortened they can still look natural. And from straight on they'll still look fine as low-slope versions.

    I don't necessarily think you need to redo anything, but this is actually something that skilled artists can miss, when we rely on them for our backdrops. They tend to be good as capturing the actual proportions and shapes of hills, but that's not really what we want, because of the role our backdrops will play. The artist will give you a landscape that looks good and consistent from one primary vantage point, but we need something that works from all sorts of oblique angles (including vertically, from up high or down at trackside).
    Absolutely agree with you on the steepness. I can kind of get away with it because southwest Arizona is dotted with small, steep mountain likes this, not full ranges. I compared the to pimples on the landscape when talking with another modeler. Future paintings will have lower, longer reaches.
    Doug M.
    Modeling the Arizona & California Railroad in N Scale


    Visit my blog at parkerlocoworks.blogspot.com to see more of my models
    Visit my Facebook page www.facebook.com/nscalearzc to see more of my layout build

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    Drop in a few cactus and bushes along the edge of the hills and you should be able to blend it all together nicely.

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