Sunday, March 30, 2014

Of All the Questions they Ask Me!

Hi everyone,

I was asked about how to take good quality pictures of my models for my blog.  This surprised me to no end as I am not a very good photographer and I struggle and experiment a lot to get decent pictures at best.

Nonetheless it is not like me to turn my back on anyone who takes the time to read my blog and ask a question - so I will answer in the best way I can.

The best answer I can give is to refer you to one of the best miniature painting sites out there on the internets that have excellent articles on the subject.  This is where I learned to improve my photography, and I am sure that anyone who reads them will improve as well!  The site belongs to the ultra-talented blokes of MASSIVE VOODOO.  If you have never visited this site then I strongly recommend that you do - now!

The links to the articles are below:-

Tutorial - How to build a photo setup

Miniature Photography Part 2: How do I take good photos of my miniatures with a DSLR?

In the meantime I would just like to show you my version of a light box I made on the cheap and within 2 hours of messing around. The picture below shows what you can make with a few Euros.  I made this simple light box from some balsa wood, baking paper, black card and polystyrene.

The polystyrene I already had from some pre-made, flat-pack furniture I bought in the past.  The rest I bought.  I just put it together with PVA glue and pins and let it dry.  It has served me quite well.

Well that is the last post for this month.  I am still producing four posts a month and nearly on a regular schedule - so I am happy.  Believe it or not, working to a deadline keeps me very focused.  So all is well.

So until next time, farewell and good healt,



Monday, March 24, 2014

Laputa Diorama - Part 6

Hi everyone,

Today is the last installment of this series, and I will be talking about the figures mostly and one or two other things.  Overall this will not be a very long post - I promise!

First off I would like to thank everyone who followed this series with me.  I have to admit it was a journey of discovery so to speak.  Changing my normal modeling medium forced me to learn new techniques and try out new methods of painting and building.  I had to move out of my comfort zone and it did me a world of good.  I plan to do this again when I finish the 3 dioramas I have pending and start doing some Gunpla modeling!

Well back to the subject at hand.  The figures in the diorama are in 1/20 scale and that is roughly 90mm for a six foot adult male.  Naturally the little princess is smaller than 90mm and the robot taller as well, but both fit the scale.

I will start off with the princess.  She is easy to put together and is easy to paint - there! In a nutshell.  Really, she comes in four parts- body, back skirt, legs and back of head.  All pieces fit together fairly well and only a little filling is necessary. 

As for painting, I painted the face by hand, but the skirt by airbrush.  The face gave me a lot of trouble at first as I have hardly any experience at painting females - let alone little girls.  I found out the hard way that less shading is much better.  But in the end learn I did.  For anyone a bit adventurous or with more time than I had - you can really put in a lot of detail into the dress.  Personally, I wanted to keep it as accurate and close to the animated film as possible.

As for the robot gardener, this took up more work.  First off I had to reposition his fingers on the left hand and the right foot.  Unlike most Gunpla, this kit is not very articulated, and it does not come with different hand poses like most High Grade kits from Bandai for example.

Once again, cutting up takes planning and calculation it you want everything to fall into place.  For example, great tip I learned from a colleague is to number the fingers before cutting them.  This way you know which finger goes where when it comes to refitting them.  Otherwise the repositioning did not take much time or brain power to accomplish.

Painting the robot at first gave me a lot of problems.  Because of its size and wide spaces I could not paint it up with a brush without the striations becoming visible.  So I had to resort to an airbrush.  Once again, due to my lack of experience, I ended up spraying the robot several times until I was more or less happy with the results.  Even then only grudgingly so!

I was also asked from where I bought the base for the bonsai in the diorama.  The answer is from no where.  I actually made it from Styrofoam.  I cut out the basic shape, then cut out any excess and simply sandpapered until I got the shape I desired.  Yep, that simple.
Well that is all for now.  I just wanted to add that in the coming weeks I will be adding a gallery page where you can see pictures of the finished dioramas, vignettes and figures.  I hope this does not take too long.

Until next time - farewell and good health!


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Laputa Diorama - Part 5

Hi everyone,

Today I would like to talk about the flora in the diorama.  This was by far the most interesting aspect of the project for me, for the simple fact that I never attempted anything like this before.  At least not on this scale.

Before I could start though, I had to do a lot of research into the subject - on the Internet and in several books.  The techniques and approaches were many, but in the end I settled for three types of techniques that I will describe here.

The first approach was buying artificial plants.  These are mostly from aquarium ranges.  They come in various sizes, types and qualities and the choice depends on the modeler and his intentions.

The second approach is with clump materials of various types.  The train hobbyist peoples have been using this stuff for ages with top notch results.  Below is a picture of the selection I used
For the base of the garden I used the simplest yet most effective and realistic approach for a garden I could find - grass mats.  These can be cut and fitted just like a carpet.  I was going to use static grass and an electrostatic applicator, but I found this system more 'filling' so to speak.  This is not enough though.  You have to embellish the grass mat with tufts, plants and rocks if you really want to bring the thing to life.

The ivy on the aqueduct is also an artificial product anyone can buy from train or hobby shops.  This consists of a mesh that one has to pull apart, cut and tie/glue up to the wall.  I found this product to be time consuming, but with a bit of patience the end result is great in my opinion.  There are several scales to chose from as well.

The last, but certainly not least approach is with natural products that have been preserved.  This is probably also the cheapest option, but also the one that takes up the most time.  The easiest way is to collect dry plants that look like smaller plants, or from which you can construct other plants from.  For example I made flowers from dried pods of a type of thorn that grows locally.  all I did was paint them up - see the pics below.

In some cases, I left the plants to dry and used them as they were.  I just gave them a coat or two of watered down PVA glue and let them dry out again.
If you decide to use plants that are not dry, you need to preserve them with glycerine.  This is a viscous and gelatinous substance used to make soap with.  Just mix one part glycerine and two parts warm water together and immerse the plants in the solution for about two to three nights.  Then lay them out to dry for a month or two in a dry place.  After which you can paint them up.

Many of the pot plants I built up were made in this way.  As I said, it is not the easiest way, but it is certainly worth the effort.

Once again, that is all for today.  Next week I close this string of articles with some insights on the figures and then I will move on to other projects that I need to complete.

Farewell and good health,


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Laputa Diorama : Part 4

Hi everyone,

Welcome to a new installment of my Laputa project.  Today I want to talk about the base construction of the diorama that I made out of polystyrene.

The first thing that I had to do was to judge the size of the diorama.  This is done by first putting the models together temporarily and then placing them on a piece of paper cut out to the size desired.  Naturally you will be very lucky indeed if you manage to get the size right the first time.  When the positioning of the models is done and the size of the base is to your liking it is time to cut out the base parts from polystyrene. 

This can be done in two ways;  with a heating wire or a sharp knife.  I used the later, since I don't have a polystyrene heat cutter.  It worked just fine.

Once again you have to position the model vis-à-vis the polystyrene parts until you are satisfied with the layout.  The next step is to detail the base.  Since this was a representation of a stone castle; the detailing had to look like stone and bricks.

The aqueduct was made first, and I gave it a stone effect with air-drying clay.  Unfortunately I had very limited time when I was doing this so I did not take any progress photos.  But I have done the next best thing.  I have produced a small demo on a piece of polystyrene I had laying about.

The air-drying clay I used was Das.  This is relatively cheap and one 500g block was more than enough for my needs. It is very versatile stuff and produces very little shrinkage, but it does not hold very sharp lines well.  Fortunately I did not need sharp lines.  Other products needed are PVA glue, a roller or round tubular object, and some sculpting implements.

The first thing to do is to roll out a piece of Das to the required size.  Then cover the surface of the polystyrene with PVA glue and place the Das on it.  While the DAs is still wet, carve the shapes of stone to the desired effect.  In this example I kept it simple.  I used wax sculpting tools and a clay pusher that you can buy from any art store.

At this stage, I like to let the whole thing dry properly.  Fill in any cracks with more Das clay and let it dry again.  When it has dried completely the next step is to add texture to the stone.

This is done by adding tissue paper.  Several layers can be added depending on the type of textured effect you are trying to achieve.  To add the tissue paper place some slightly watered down PVA glue (or wallpaper glue) on to the stone and place a layer or two of toilet paper on top of it. Work the toilet paper into the groves with an old brush and let it dry before adding a second layer.  It is as simple as that.
The results can be seen in the several pictures below of the finished base that I took before painting it.

The path way was built up from hobby mosaics that you can buy very cheaply from a crafts store or online.  The advantage with using these, is that they give you nice even blocks all of the same size.  The drawback is that they are made from very hard ceramic that is nearly impossible to scratch or break.
The stone blocks around the pool were made from high density Styrofoam and coated with  several layers of acrylic past.  I have found no better way to build blocks that look authentic and feel real.  The Styrofoam is also very easy to use and cut, and hardly leaves any mess.  It can also be sanded lightly - but I advise a mask as the particulate can harm your lungs.
When everything was put together and left to dry thoroughly I painted the whole thing up using acrylics.
Well that is all for this week. Once again I hope you have found it interesting and informative.  If there is something you don't understand, or is not very clear, or if you need more information, then please to not hesitate to leave a comment with your question or request and I promise to get back to you as soon as I can.

Next week I have another interesting installment for this diorama - I will be talking about how I built up the vegetation. 

Until then farewell and good health.



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