Written by Sarah-Anne
Now that I had completed the buildings for my ruined Victorian city I wanted to create a focal point for the table, and thought that that having a ruined, secret walled garden would be perfect. And at the centre of that garden would be a fountain that like the rest of the city, was slowly being overtaken by nature.
· foamcore (with the paper backing removed)
· PVA glue
· Mod Podge (tinted with black acrylic paint)
· Assorted acrylic paints
· Dark brown and green ink wash
· Assorted sheets of green flocking
· matte/satin spray sealant
· Mod Podge/PVA glue
· Acrylic resin (such as Woodland Scenics’ Realistic Water)
· hobby knife
· Carving tools/cocktail toothpicks
· Ball of aluminium foil
· Assorted paint brushes
· Kitchen sponge
I had watched several tutorials online for similar fountains and they are all constructed much the same: several layers of XPS foam (in this case I used foamcore with the outer paper layers removed) glued together, with the top few layers hollowed out to allow for the resin or other water effects to sit. Most had some sort of statue at the centre, though because I wanted this to be suitable for a wide variety of games I did not want to limit myself by adding a stature of a knight or angel, so I chose to sculpt an geometric stone monument at it's centre instead.
I started with four layers; the bottom and top the same width, with two smaller accent layers. I decided to only hollow out the top two most layers to conserve resin, and planned on painting the bottom to give the illusion of greater water depth. Once I stacked them however, I quickly realized that would result in fountain walls higher than I wanted for 28mm figures, so I changed to just being three layers high.
As I've done for the other buildings in this series, I used the ball of aluminum foil to texture all the exposed surfaces and then carved mould lines to create stone 'blocks' along the top and sides. Had I kept the fountain at four layers high I would have added brick texture to the middle two layers but now that I only had the one middle layer I decided it would be too difficult (and not as noticeable) to paint them a separate colour scheme, and opted instead to make the entire fountain out of stone. (I really did want to still add some sort of brick element, so I decided to carve the bottom of the fountain in a herringbone brick pattern - even though it would later become impossible to see!)
I then used blue foam insulation to carve out the centre monument. I carved it in two pieces, and attached them using PVA clue and a toothpick, and connected the three layers of the fountain pool together with the monument at the centre using more PVA.
As with any other projects using XPS foam (foam core or other) I gave the whole fountain a thin, even, coat of Mod Podge, tinted with black acrylic paint. I first came across this technique from Jeremy of Black Magic Craft and I now would not complete my builds any other way.
A brief word on why this is important: I used to coat my foam projects with diluted PVA glue for the added protection, and was annoyed when it didn't hold up they way I had hoped. While Mod Podge is based on PVA glue, it is the addition of resin and flow aid that make it unique and especially equipped for this type of project. The resin gives strength and flexibility not found in PVA glue alone and more importantly, means it's not water soluable. Whereas painting on a layerof just PVA could actually re-hydrate and remove PVA glue, once Mod Podge has properly cured adding paints (no matter how watered-down) will not remove it or cause it to bubble. The flow aid allows it to spread evenly into all your tiny nooks and crannies; adding strength without loosing your finer details in the process. By mixing in a little black acrylic paint, this coat can actually act as your primer/base coat, further reducing the need to have additional layers that could affect the quality of your sculpts.
Once the Mod Podge had dried overnight I painted the stone using a combination of brushes and sponges, details on how to do that can be found here.
I wanted to add a murky algae-look to the bottom of the pool and deicded to kit the base with another layer of green ink. While this looked great initially, it prooved later to be a mistake....
Having worked with Woodland Scenic's Realistic Water before, I knew I had to apply it in several very thin layers in order to cure properly. As I had done before with another pond project, I had planned on painting between the layers in acrylic paint small frogs and water plants, but unfortunately the extra green ink at the bottom reacted with the resin and created many bubbles and unpleasant textures, so much so that the herringbone pattern became almost invisible. I ended up spending the time between layer trying to pup bubbles and level the surface, and gave up trying to paint the extra details instead. Another thing I forgot was to give the whole thing a couple good coats of mate sealant, as I wasn't able to do this after I applied the acrylic resin. This may have also helped prevent then off-gassing issues I had later on, or perhaps using a 2-part resin instead.
When I was finally happy that I had popped and re-filled all the bubbles (spoiler alert - I had not, and am still dealing with them even now!) I wanted to add some painted textures, and opted to cover the surface in lily pads, hoping to hide the ugliness below.
Feeling slightly beaten by the water effects I wanted to add the rest of the overgrowth in an easy a way as I could, and decided to go back to my proven method of working with sheets of green flocking (the types used for tree foliage) and watered-down PVA glue. I tore off small pieces of the flocking and submerged it in the watered-down glue, and after ensuring I squeezed out the excess draped it across the fountain, using my sewing pins to hold it in place until it dried completely. The pins are easily removed by twisting slightly as I pulled them out.
Once the glue had fully dried all that was left was to remove the pins and add it to the gaming table!