September 3, 2009

Brickology Part 4

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2009
Would you look at those miniature bricks in the photo above! WOW I am so thrilled, I actually managed to achieve the look I was after. No way would anyone think these started out as a package of terra cotta, colored paper mache clay, the Plus brand from Activa, from the local hobby shop. They might even think they are real bricks. A few hundred more bricks and I will get to be an expert at making the chipped edges. Right now the chips are too similar looking. Picky, picky I am so particular I will drive myself nuts. You can't see the difference without a 10 megapixel camera aimed in as a magnifier.

So today it is time to describe how to take the bricks you made in the previous tutorial segment, using the food processor, and cut out on the board and get them to look even more realistic.

The first step is to take your scalpel and clean off any rough edges from the cutting process. Then take the scalpel and make some chips in the edges of the brick. You can chip off a corner by putting the knife against the side edge and pushing it in a bit while pulling up towards the top of the brick. A lot of the bricks are not truly straight edge so you can create a little curve by carving away some of the edge of the brick. If you want to round over the edge to soften a few here and there use some fine sandpaper. Also you might want to add a few more voids and chips into the top surface of the brick. The scalpel is also the tool for that as are fingernails.

So that is it, sandpaper, scalpel and fingernails to refine the shapes and the most important thing is to have good reference photos of real bricks. Don't go looking at my miniature bricks when you make yours or you will be making a copy of a copy and they won't look nearly as realistic as they could.

You have started out with a batch of miniature bricks that was a fairly uniform color. The color change is done with good quality water colors. You will need black, raw siena, burnt siena, yellow ochre, and white. If I had some blue on hand I would have used it to modify the black here and there, some of the burnt areas on the real bricks had a blue and purple cast to them. Next time I head to the art supply store I will pick up a tube of blue.

Looking at photos of real bricks try to copy as best you can the color variations. Water colors will blend into each other and soften the edges of color bands and that is fine. Don't forget to carry the watercolor down onto the side edges of the brick. You don't know if the grout will completely cover that edge or not. Hopefully some of your bricks are of slightly different thickness or even warped a little. On a real wall bricks are not perfectly laid with absolutely flush surfaces or even in perfectly level rows and spacing. Slight variations in your project are essential, cartoon like giant, variations will make the project look clumsy.

Next you will need to seal the bricks to keep the colors from running when you grout the wall. I have used a stone sealer on mine, it adds no gloss to my miniature bricks. The sealer I used is by Aqua Mix, Sealer's Choice 15 gold. I purchased it at either Home Depot or Lowes, sorry I don't remember which store it was. This is a water thin liquid in a bottle, you can brush it on or even air brush it on.

I have detail carved, painted and sealed my bricks as individual pieces held in hand so I had something to show you on the blog. Normally though I would first glue the bricks to the dollhouse surface and then do those tasks. It is also much faster to do these tasks when the bricks are installed than trying to hold, pick up and put down individual pieces. This method is slow enough without that!