Francis Gabreski

Francis Gabreski & his buddy by Pat Camp

This pair of European Theater of Operations (ETO) WWII pilots from Ultracast of Canada are to 1/32nd scale and beautifully cast in resin [#2]. The masters were sculpted by the exceptionally talented Mike Good and are packed with fine detail that is crisply cast to make painting the figures a pleasure.

#1 Ultracast's Francis Gabreski & collegue in 1/32 (54mm) scale

Each figure comes with the head and arms as separate pieces. The second figure also has a parachute pack and two small straps as separate parts, which is useful as it allows you to paint the trousers first and then add the pack once these are done.

The parts cleaned up with little fuss. The fine leads from the earphones can be a bit tricky at the rear of the head. Trial fitting showed Gabby’s head to fit too tightly to the body and his right hand did not want to go into the trouser pocket – this latter problem was corrected using a small rotary burr in a pin vice to open up the pocket further. The head was not quite so easy and I ham-fistedly broke part of the shirt collar.

#2 Ultarcast 1/32 kits of Francis Gabreski & another USAAF ETO fighter pilot

Painting preparation and method.

Holes sized for my parts holders were drilled into the underside of the legs. The parts were given a wash in detergent and then airbrush primered with Mr Resin Primer diluted with cellulose thinners.

An undercoat was airbrushed with Humbrol matt enamels with Silly Putty used for masking. Top coat was oils applied by paint brush (I use Kolinsky sable from either Kalish or Rosemary & Co) with Linseed oil or Winsor & Newton Liquin added should the mix need to be made more fluid or for “glazing” (as used for the leather flying jackets). I do not use turpentine as it makes the oil paint dry too fast.

I use the artist’s colour wheel as a guide when mixing colours. Tones may be made darker by adding the colour on the opposite side of the colour wheel (the so-called complementary colour) and this is why you will see blue added to brown to make it darker, or green added to red. The method applies to all paints, including camouflage colours, so it is worth a search on Google to find out more.

Painting the head and hands.

I normally paint flesh areas first as these are usually the most difficult to get right. If you are unhappy with your work and decide to remove the paint then at least you will not ruin the painting done in other areas.

The flesh areas were undercoated with Flesh 61 + white. Top coat base tone was mixed from chrome orange deep + Rembrandt gold ochre + ultramarine blue. Burnt sienna and then burnt umber were added to the base tone for deeper shade. Highlighting was white and a touch of red added to the base tone mix.

The eyes were blocked in pale grey 28, but the pupils were not painted in until the heads had been glued into place. I think doing it at this later stage makes positioning of the pupils easier.

Lips were mixed from Rembrandt permanent red light + ultramarine + Naples yellow + zinc white: a deep shade for the mouth, medium for the top lip and lighter for the bottom lip.

Painting the flight clothing.

#3 A2 type flight jacket in leather (so there is a natural range of tones) with knitted wool waist and cuff
#4 USAAF 'Pinks & Greens' uniform, used as a reference for painting the trousers, tie and shirt.

The USAAF, being a branch of the army, wore army issue clothing. I found some excellent photos of these (and the leather A2 jacket [#3], flying helmets, etc) on The uniform shown in [#4] was standard issue “Pinks and Greens” winter uniform and I chose to paint the trousers, shirt and tie in the “pink” colour. These items were also issued in olive drab wool (to match the jacket) or – for summer uniform – in a lighter weight khaki material.

I also found on various other internet sites many photos of Francis Gabreski to work from, including a photo of his flying boots.

The “Pinks” were painted first – for the reason with the parachute I mentioned above – by undercoating a mix of white, yellow 225 and brown 119. Some more white was added to this and directed “from above” to bring out highlighted areas [#5]. Detail painting was with shades mixed from gold ochre, Naples yellow, violet, alizarin crimson, brown ochre and white.
When this had dried, the arms were glued into place with cyanoacrylate and the trousers and hands masked off [#6]. The jackets, boots and gloves were undercoated Desert Yellow 93. The gloves & inside of the jacket colours were quickly masked off and the jacket shaded with a mix of Track Colour and Brown Bess directed by airbrush from beneath to create a general shade.

#5 Flesh areas and 'Pinks' undercoated and ready for details to be brush painted

The leather jackets were brush painted with an oil mix of brown ochre, burnt sienna and Van Dyke brown. When dry, they were given a glaze of burnt sienna and burnt umber in Linseed oil & Liquin to impart a slight sheen. This was not applied to shaded areas (since shade does not shine!). The glaze is like a tinted varnish – you don’t want it too opaque otherwise you will obliterate your highlighting and shading. When dry, the edges of the jackets were carefully picked out in a pale brown oil mix. Zip fastenings were blocked in dark grey and fine points of silver printers’ ink used to pick out the zipper teeth that were moulded into the detail.

#6 Trousers and life vests masked off with silly putty for the jackets and boots to be undercoated

The woolen edging of the jacket were blocked in with White Ensign Models (WEM) antifouling red enamel paint and highlighted with Rembrandt flesh + white oil paints.

The life vest was undercoated with a mixture of Lifecolor zinc chromate + Citadel Bad Moon Yellow + Lifecolor white. Top coat was yellow + brown ochre + ultramarine violet + white.

The webbing was undercoated with Lifecolor acrylic white and given an oil top coat of various grey shades mixed from raw sienna + ultramarine violet + Paynes grey + zinc white.

The parachute pack was undercoated ochre 83 and finished with yellow ochre + cobalt blue, with Sap green + Rembrandt red for deeper shade.

The pilots canvas gaiters were undercoated Lifecolor Faded Olive Drab and finished with cobalt blue + yellow ochre + Naples yellow + Sap green + light red.

#7 Paint substantially completed - some detail such as buckles, boots and helmets details remain to be done

Helmets were undercoated leather 62 to which burnt umber and burnt sienna oils were added to the airbrush for shading. Finishing was light red + burnt sienna + cobalt blue. A curved area of shadow was painted along the top of the goggle lenses to represent shadow. Photos [#7, #8] show progress so far.

Earpieces were undercoated dark grey and finished with ivory black + Paynes grey + titanium white. A very thin white line was painted as a reflection along the top of the earpieces – it looked super!

Goggle surrounds and straps were blocked in USN5 grey and shaded with white plus a splash of the mix used for the earpieces. Metal details were picked out with dark and bright shades of silver printers’ ink.

#8 A similar state of progress for Francis Gabreski

The shoes were undercoated WEM Corticene, shaded dark brown and given a glaze coat mixed from raw sienna + brown ochre + burnt sienna. Boots were undercoated with Brown Bess, shaded with Van Dyke brown + Paynes grey and glazed after this had dried.

The completed figures came out quite well [#9,#10]and were most enjoyable to assemble and paint. They would look best mounted on a display base with some small accessory in the background. A 1/32 Thunderbolt for example?

There is a small – and expanding – range of figures from Ultracast and I recommend them all. The latest is an RAF fighter pilot – especially now that we have a decent 1/32 Spitfire to accompany him!!!

#9 Completed figure of Francis Gabreski
#10 the other figure completed

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