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Sculpting a WWII Luftwaffe Pilot Figure

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Old 10-08-2012, 06:41 PM
  #1
Fly4Real
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Default Sculpting a WWII Luftwaffe Pilot Figure

My name is Lyle Vasser and I am the owner of Best Pilots. I’ve created several pilots over the past few years and have enjoyed sharing the process with my fellow RC modelers. There is a threefold reason that I do this...one, I honestly enjoy sharing the process and it seems that you guys do as well. Two, putting one’s “art” on display for everyone to see it is at times harrowing – sometimes the sculpture doesn’t look as great as I thought it did after viewing it online! – but it ultimately creates a better product, because what I don’t catch, you guys do! Three, putting the process online means I HAVE to keep the process going so you guys have something new to look at every so often! It keeps my “nose to the grindstone” and helps get the pilot completed more quickly. So in advance, thanks for your input and following along!


I decided that I needed to finish out the WWII combatants in the 1/5 scale line of Best Pilots pilot figures and had been getting quite a few request for WWII Luftwaffe pilots. Jose of Fliteskin Models kindly sent me plans for their 1/5 ME 109 so that this pilot will fit perfectly in that model. Then through pure happenstance, Top Flite is realeasing their 1/5 FW 109 pretty soon. So hopefully, this guy will have LOTS of airplanes flying him around in the sky.


The subject matter: Wow! So many aces to choose from... where to start. I know my selection won’t please everyone, but mostly for me, I just liked Gunther Rall. Seemed like he got along with his former enemies okay and wasn’t a Nazi war criminal or anything like that. Anyone I talked to that met him thought he was a good guy and he certainly wasn’t a slouch in the air. He flew a total of 621 missions, and was shot down no less than 8 times, being wounded 3 times during which he shot down a total of 275 enemy aircraft, including 3 on the Western Front to become the third highest scoring fighter pilot in history! Gunther it is. Now this doesn’t mean that you can only use this pilot if you are doing Gunther’s personal aircraft. I just like to do portraits and this is one way to make sure that the pilot looks real, doesn’t come out looking like a Ken doll and the gear is authentic. If everything works out through this process, he will ultimately look fantastic in any German WWII model.

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Old 10-08-2012, 06:46 PM
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Default RE: Sculpting a WWII Luftwaffe Pilot Figure

I started roughly sculpting in the head on July 4th weekend. Then work, more work, and a few fly-ins got in the way so I’m getting some time here with the end of flying season to get with it.

The Germans had some interesting gear, which is always intriguing on the similarities and differences between the combatants of WWII. I always try to stay true to history, just like making a scale aircraft, if you have photographic evidence, go with the photograph! In Gunther’s case, I’ve got a photo of him wearing the “knit” style flying helmet. Now this is really something different to sculpt and took me about 3 months to find a technique that worked. I always try to be true to the material being sculpted so that it has the visual quality of the real thing, even when not painted. This makes it look more realistic of course, but also makes the figure tremendously more easy to paint! I pay very close attention to that since I will hopefully be painting LOT$ of them in the coming years.Suffice to say, the texture that worked the best was right in front of me all the time with the knurled handle on a dental tool I use for sculpting! I love discoveries!The correct texture will do a lot of stuff automatically for you when painting a Best Pilots figure.


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Old 10-08-2012, 06:51 PM
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Default RE: Sculpting a WWII Luftwaffe Pilot Figure

Another masterpiece is born!

Casey
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Old 10-08-2012, 06:51 PM
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Default RE: Sculpting a WWII Luftwaffe Pilot Figure

I pretty much just scale photographs of the subject to the correct scale and use those as “plans” and start mashing clay around until it starts to look like something and always referring to the plans for proper measurements. It always amazes me how this process is so close to drawing in pencil... its just in 3-D!


Here's looking at you!

I decided to try a pilot with the goggles over the eyes for the first time. I think this might be really cool. The Luftwaffe goggles were very distinctive - almost like the famous sunglasses Bono of U2 was wearing during the 90’s, LOL! Also, since he is will be piloting a plane the Allies will call a bandit, the goggles help him look the part! Eyes are a real bugaboo and can make or break the quality of a portrait. I went back and forth on how to do this and I think I discovered a way to still represent the eyes and give a realistic effect by using decals. See what you think... kind of freaks me out when I put those eye decals in!

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Old 10-08-2012, 06:53 PM
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Default RE: Sculpting a WWII Luftwaffe Pilot Figure

Wow those eyes do look wild, it's like some guys looking out that hunk of clay at me!
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Old 10-08-2012, 06:54 PM
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Default RE: Sculpting a WWII Luftwaffe Pilot Figure

After getting the face and main elements knocked in and 85% done, I made the MESH on the helmet which was a real #@#$%!!!

Next are pics of what I did tonight of just refining things around the helmet, stitching, leather texture, straps & attachment points. The frames of the goggles are pretty tough to keep true with the clay, but so far so good. I even sclupted in the hinge lines which made the ol’ carpal tunnel act up! So far I’m really liking the personality this guy is giving off. I wouldn’t want him on my six!

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Old 10-08-2012, 06:56 PM
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Default RE: Sculpting a WWII Luftwaffe Pilot Figure

Hey Casey, I can't keep the eye decals in while working on him! Its like he is saying to me "Would you hurry up! I gotta shoot down something!" Thanks for following along!
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Old 10-08-2012, 07:00 PM
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Default RE: Sculpting a WWII Luftwaffe Pilot Figure

Well I do have a bunch of German planes in this scale,(including Jose's 109)so finally your doing one that will work for me!

Casey

I'll shut up and gawk now lol
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Old 10-08-2012, 07:01 PM
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Default RE: Sculpting a WWII Luftwaffe Pilot Figure

Lyle, Great work. Put me down for one. I need a new pilot for DO335 no. 2
Evan Q.
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Old 10-08-2012, 07:11 PM
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Default RE: Sculpting a WWII Luftwaffe Pilot Figure

Evan & Casey, I'll be proud to have one of my pilots in your planes. Evan, the DO335 #2 is gonna be awesome!!!
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Old 10-09-2012, 07:26 AM
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Default RE: Sculpting a WWII Luftwaffe Pilot Figure

Lye,

I meet you at the Indiana Warbird Campaign. I have one of your Sailor Malan Pilots in my new Ziroli Spitfire.

As always, nice work and keep them coming.

Big fan.

Chuck
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Old 10-09-2012, 07:30 AM
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Default RE: Sculpting a WWII Luftwaffe Pilot Figure

Chuck,
Missed you at WOD buddy. See you in Toledo I guess.

Hope to see you there too Lyle.
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Old 10-09-2012, 02:23 PM
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Default RE: Sculpting a WWII Luftwaffe Pilot Figure

Lyle,
This is great news!! I will need one too.

Thanks,
Tony Gagliardi Jr.
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Old 10-09-2012, 02:42 PM
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Default RE: Sculpting a WWII Luftwaffe Pilot Figure

Lyle, you're doing it again! ... I have the 1/4 scale WWI Lothar von Richthofen and the detail is simply amazing.

Looking forward to get G├╝nter in the cockpit of my 109!

Jose@fliteskin
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Old 10-14-2012, 12:10 PM
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Default RE: Sculpting a WWII Luftwaffe Pilot Figure

I am declaring the head sculpt of Gunther complete and am going to “fire” it in the oven. I’ve gone over it several times to find any issues, and he seems complete. At the last minute I decided to add the throat microphone that seemed to be an integral part of the flight helmet. I’m not sure how much will show on the completed piece, but, Hey! At least I know it will be there and be correct.
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Old 10-16-2012, 10:29 AM
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Default RE: Sculpting a WWII Luftwaffe Pilot Figure

Man! The Luftwaffe had a HUGE variety of gear that the pilots wore. I've been going through all the different kinds of jackets and I am liking the light colored fabric jacket with the big fur collar. I like this because I think it will make a nice contrast in the generally dark Luftwaffe cockpits, and there is a photo of Gunther wearing one. It is also something a bit different to the regular leather. I am tentatively roughing in a life preserver, but it doesn't seem like they wore them as much as the Allies, makes sense I guess since they weren't flying over huge bodies of water like most of the Allies.
What do you guys think about the jacket and life preserver?
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Old 10-16-2012, 10:49 AM
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Default RE: Sculpting a WWII Luftwaffe Pilot Figure

Stunning!
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Old 10-16-2012, 07:13 PM
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Default RE: Sculpting a WWII Luftwaffe Pilot Figure

Thats awesome, great work, nice subject, I have a 1/5 109G from Fliteskin waiting for your pilot!

From what I read the leather jackets were not issued they were bought by pilots usually at stores that sold motorcycle jackets and similar riding coats. US and British pilots did the same in England. This was more prevelant during WWI but did carry over into WWII. This is why there was such a variety of coats and individual style in the air forces especially among top pilots.

Cant wait to see Gunther done!
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Old 10-16-2012, 07:32 PM
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Default RE: Sculpting a WWII Luftwaffe Pilot Figure

The pilots individual theater of operation also comes into play. I believe Gunther was in Russia, which was locked in a bitter winter in that picture. As stated by Lyle, there would be no life jacket needed for the pilots in Russia, but a need for the heavy overcoat. Now the Channel front guys earlier in the war, all had life vests and a different coat. From what I've seen, it's seems to be a combo of the officers coat and or a flight suit(either long or short). The Luft in Africa had their own as well. All different in some ways.
I think yours is amazing, please don't think this post was a dig at all. Just my tidbits to offer to the discussion.

Casey
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Old 10-17-2012, 03:05 AM
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Default RE: Sculpting a WWII Luftwaffe Pilot Figure

Lyle, I have Pappy still unpainted. I plan to build a Macchi C200 down the road so I guess Gunther will have to fly Italian!

GREAT WORK

I saw your work putting my buddies face on one of your 1/4 scale WWI pilots. Scary REAL.

Thanks for your efforts.
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Old 10-17-2012, 11:51 AM
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Default RE: Sculpting a WWII Luftwaffe Pilot Figure

Thanks guys for the input! You know, there is such a variety of ways the gear could be done. Col. Bud Anderson said at last year at Warbirds over the Rockies, that you had to be careful about claiming definitively how a certain aircraft was painted and the markings it carried. He said the photos were usually representative of what the aircraft looked like THAT DAY. The next it could have something painted over. I think the same holds true for what pilots wore. For some reason, this ensemble off-white coat is appealing to me. I think the all dark leather get up, would just disappear in the cockpits, and the off-white coat and fur collar seems to "pop" visually. One could even paint the offwhite coat a denim or OD and be historically correct it seems. I like that flexibility! Now to sculpt in the parachute belts and see how things are lookin'. Not to get too "artsy-fartsy" but at this stage I am trying to bring in visual interest in terms of interesting shapes in the folds and wrinkles. It would be a terribly boring piece if it was just a perfectly flat ironed coat!
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Old 10-17-2012, 07:42 PM
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Default RE: Sculpting a WWII Luftwaffe Pilot Figure

I did a figure one time that had to have detailed cloths. I used real fabric set into the basic shapes and folds then I used CA to commit the fabric to the shape. The end result was a real fabric finish with folds and detail. The main difference here is your sculpting with clay and I was hard modelling.
Id love to have the time to sculpt a pilot in fact I was just talking with a friend about doing one.

Are you planning on having his hands on the stick and throttle or some other pose?
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Old 10-29-2012, 06:02 AM
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Default RE: Sculpting a WWII Luftwaffe Pilot Figure

Been working on the somewhat mundane/tedious part of the sculpture which is the parachute pack and underlying structure. This area won't be seen very much at all when the pilot is in the cockpits, but still needs to be defined just to complete the figure. The hardest part is keeping the straps equal sizes. Right now, I'm just knocking it in and then will come back later with stitching and cloth texture. Also have been working out the folds in the coat on the arms. This is like framing up a model - the structure underneath has to be correct, because the best paint job in world won't make it look right.

As for the hands positions, I haven't decided yet. Stay tuned!
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Old 10-29-2012, 07:14 AM
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Default RE: Sculpting a WWII Luftwaffe Pilot Figure

Lyle, its so cool to watch you work and your guys develop

FYI Folks!!!! You can BE THE PILOT!!!!!!

You can have YOUR face on the pilot. Lyle did this for my friend on Lothar. The result is amazing. The likeness remarkable.
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Old 10-29-2012, 04:08 PM
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Default RE: Sculpting a WWII Luftwaffe Pilot Figure

dunno I'd want my mug staring back at me LOL
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