Every once in a while you see a picture that just grabs you. That was the case with a 1939 photo of a small shack in Texas. I became aware of this particular image by way of the Fine Scale Miniatures Yahoo Group, where Darryl Huffman posted a link to the photo on Shorpy. Darryl is a font of information, he sells all manner of DVD's and information related to fine model building (His site is here). Fortunately for me, he is also great about sharing good Shorpy finds. If you have not been to the Shorpy website, it is a great place to find inspiration and loose track of an hour, two. . . or three. . . . or four. The image from Shorpy is below, my basic body build is above (sans metal details, painting, etc. . .just the facts of printing, paper and glue).
The essential feature of the shack in my mind is the fact that it is made out of Wright Aeronautical Corporation Aviation Engine Crates! Given how interesting the crate printing is, I decided to make a printed model, much in the vein of the paper boxcars, except for the fact that the artwork is entirely derived from the single photo. I used similar techniques to those that I used to do the signage for Uncle Paul's (a project I am still working on). The major difference here is that in the Uncle Paul's project, I simply re-worked and extracted the signage. In this project, I am really trying to work entirely from the photo.
I began by flattening each of the two sides of the shack in photoshop. This was done with the "transform" command under the "edit" menu in photoshop. If you are not used to working in photoshop, the key thing you need to keep in mind is that to apply a command to the photo, you first need to select it using either the lasso or one of the other selection tools. In this case, I just transformed the entire photo twice, and then combined them. Under the "transform" command, you will find several useful options, including distort, skew, perspective, rotate. I use all of these commands and more to coax the image into something that looks like an unfolded elevation.
From there, I did some basic color work. I tweaked the contrast and saturation to bring up the detail, and push the black and white image towards brown. Using duplicate layers, I created a light layer and a dark layer, white and brown respectively, that I applied as transparent overlays in order to enhance the detail of the wood. After that, I carefully edited out the mop, and other three dimensional details.
Once I had some credible material, I created a set of back walls and also began to copy extra parts that I would need when building the model. The image below shows my basic art work sheet. After some last tweeks I adjusted the DPI to suit the scale and print size, and I was off to the races.
Once I had my basic artwork sheet done I loaded it as a "raster reference" in Autocad. I simply traced the various layers that I would need to cut with the laser and created a layout for a simple bass wood core. While this could have been done manually, I decided to go ahead and make a set of cut files in the event that I wanted to remake and refine the model further.