June 1, 2010

Painting the Flag on Memorial Day

I made a big push to finish the backdrop at Aquia Landing this Memorial Day. It was appropriate that I was painting and adding Old Glory to the ships that are docked in my version of Aquia Landing. In the Civil War the flag was a powerful emblem. Many a soldier lost his life to preserve his unit's colors, whether the National or Regimental Flag. For ships, the flag (or ensign for you squids) was an even more important device as it was the only way they could identify themselves as friend or foe at a distance. Many Confederate blockade runners and raiders escaped Union attention by flying deviously a color other than the stars and bars when leaving foreign ports.

The pink plank is a mock up of the future pier at Aquia Landing. It will be about 6.5 feet long with a car float at the left end. Since the car float is a transverse loading type, moving it during an operation session will not be simple. So the far end of the pier will act as the car float staging tracks. We won't actually drive the cars onto the ferry during an op session.

The car float on the backdrop is a piece of Brian's artwork that I modified. Most of the rest of the ships are cut-outs using Brian's art, scans of ships from books, colorized versions of photos from the actual Aquia Landing, or photos of current ships like the Pride of Baltimore and Armistad replicas. The last few I painted in place as they were quite small. I ended up with 23 ships, but need to add some barges.

The bench work is a set of Ikea Ivar shelves. I understand they no longer carry these shelves in stock. The make good workshop shelves, and pretty good model railroad bench work too.

This is the south end of Aquia Landing. The tracks will go through the wall at the far right of the photo.

Recall that landing is at the end of a swampy, low lying promontory that juts into the Potomac River. The river is about 3 miles wide at this point. Where the spit of land reaches the mainland is a sharp ridge. In my layout the viewer is standing on the north side of the spit looking to the southeast. I tried to capture this topography in the backdrop painting.

At the far south end I used Brian Kammerer's camp artwork to provide some detail. I enlarged it and placed it in front of a wooded ridge. I painted some foreground trees to hide the seams, but the overall effect is much different than in the other locations on the layout where I used Brian's art.

I also painted a small camp scene in the distance using a LoC ACW photo as guidance.

The last thing I did was give the scenery a base coat of paint. The paint is still wet in these photos. Once the paint is dry, all is ready to start laying some track!

Here are some close ups of the ships on the backdrop.

We also had the pleasure of two visitors today, Norman and Daylene Wolf. Daylene is a first time visitor, while Norm is getting to be a regular.


  1. Bernie,
    Looks fantastic! What's your painting rate per linear foot, and do you do late 20th century work?

    Seriously, that harbor scene looks like it would be great as a print in a fram in my office.

  2. I am getting a lot of requests for backdrop painting. Maybe I should hire out. :) Too bad there are only 24 hours in a day.

  3. AnonymousJune 01, 2010

    The backdrops look great! I was really surprised that you didn't round out your corners and was wondering what's your thinking on this is. Do you plan to hid the corners with foreground scenery?

    Bob Harris

  4. I coved the corners in the main room. I didn't here to save the work. We also had a concern that it might take some area for the ships I had planned. Not sure how big a deal that would have been, but we did think about it. When you stand in the room, they are not that noticeable. When it comes time to do "final" photography they can be removed with photo editing software.

  5. Very very nice work!

  6. Bernie the backdrops are great. I really like the boats!!!
    Tom Wilson