Ten Commandments of a successful Diorama

The Dioramas discussion group is hosted by Marijn Van Gils and is dedicated to all aspects of military model dioramas.

Ten Commandments of a successful Diorama

WarrenJones
WarrenJones

April 3rd, 2002, 8:42 am #1


1. "Thou shalt not forsake research".

Try not to fall into the trap of "some where in france". Plan the diorama, then buy or round up your kits. I often fall into the trap of ramming in the subject at any cost and then try to make it work.

2. "Never neglect the proffesional finish on the base (edge)".

Someone once said to me " you don`t judge the base you judge the model". I won "best of show" and he recieved second place. The next show I attended he saw the light and won best diorama. Would you hang a canvas on the wall with no liner or frame?.....hardly not.

3. "Never run a straight line (building edge, road, river,etc. parallel to the base edge".

Since dioramas are technically a 3-D photo, sculpture, painting, try and avoid this and think of the "snap shot" photo. Think of a big square "cookie cutter". You hover it over the scene in your minds eye and ram it down and lift out the section from the topography.
Even if the road is 5 degrees off parallel it will look right.

4. "Consider the value of composition".

Work towards balance, not symmetry. Ever wonder why you love a picture or painting so much? It`s mainly because of composition. If you don`t understand it then find out (Sheperd Pains books) explain this well. eg: 5 figures milling around can have the same weight as one sherman. Composition or weight can also be emphasized with colour.

5. "Take into consideration how the viewer sees your work".

We are all trained to read from left to right. It`s a habit that most of us apply when we look at anything really. It`s just that we never pay attention to it.
As one approaches the diorama the first glance is a quickl overview. Then the closer inspection begins. I call it the "read". We invariably scan it from left to right.eg: You can play aginst the grain by having your figures or vehicle facing to the left. The viewer will tend to stop more often to view details. If you direct them to the right then you should have a "block' or disruption so they don`t pass through so quickly.
Use logs, cables, gun barrels, trails, pointing figures, etc. to guide the viewer through the story and point them back to a point of interest. Any good work of art has an entrance and an exit.

6. "Don`t preach two messages".

Try and keep your plot simple. Any sub-plots should support the main theme. ( Building a diorama is like directing a movie, except you only have one frame to tell your story).

7. "Avoid even numbers of objects".

When it comes to vehicles, figures, trees, large items, etc., avoid even numbers. Trust me it`s part of the "golden rule in the arts". One large tree, three small ones. 11 figures not 12. 1 figure or 3,etc. One tank or three. 39 crates not 40. 1 building, not 4. One building with 3 broken sections.
Laugh all you want but it all ties in. As you gain experience you will expound on this principle.
Avoid centering larger objects. Set them off to the side. Balance them with other features.

8. "Avoid the "pancake" diorama".

Don`t be afraid to build up the side sills of your base in order to emphasize the "cookie cutter" effect. Try and slope your diorama from the front to back. this creates depth and realism. Keep tall trees and structures in the rear. Tilt your armour in a ditch so you can see the top of it. Throw your figures off balance. ( revise them). Switch arms legs, etc. Stay away from the "statue" look. Turn the heads! Even slightly if you have to. The most simple effective way to add atmosphere to your figures is turn their heads. Tilt them down up whatever. Make sure they grip their weapons. Cut the weapon in half and re-re it back on. make sure they show weight when standing, kneeling or sitting.
Avoid the flat diorama.

9. "Thou shalt love your paint as yourself".

Learn colour. Learn what tone and value is. Move the colours through the whole diorama. When I paint canvas, my wife spanks me if I don`t. It`s the key to all the Masters. Whoops my hand slipped with the umber over here. I spilled a little ochre over there. Dump the residual green from my airbrush down there. Whoa....watch that red. Never use black! Never use White! Stay away from silver. Add a little white to every stock colour you have. Have fun, make mistakes alot and they will eventually become deliberations.
"You will never grow if you don`t take risks and turn your mistakes into positives".
Share your discoveries. ( empty the creative vessel so the new can enter in). I know good modellers that hang on to there so-called "trade secrets" and they never find the "zone" as often as they would like, simply because they become selfish in there journey and fail to trust and have faith that creativety is infinite and must be "purged" in order to refresh.
Learn colour and make mistakes.

10. "Though shalt have fun"

If your not having fun then stop for awhile. Walk away and go hunt the grounds for diorama supplies. This is where some of the most unique materials are found...Cheers.


P.S. I have as much to learn as anyone else.

Happy Modelling

Warren Jones

Quote
Share

Brian Tate
Brian Tate

April 4th, 2002, 12:24 am #2

G'day Warren,

As a long-time dio enthusiast I was very interested in what you had to say. I knew a couple of the points you made but the others were new and logical to me. I will keep these in mind in my future dios. Thanks and regards from `down under', Steve `The crocodile hunter' Irwin. (Nah, not really!)
Quote
Share

Warren Jones
Warren Jones

April 4th, 2002, 1:38 am #3

Your welcome Brian.

Sometimes these principles are flexible in my opinion. There are obviously many others that I`m sure you are aware of...Cheers.

Warren Jones
Quote
Share

Steven Brown
Steven Brown

April 4th, 2002, 1:48 pm #4

1. "Thou shalt not forsake research".

Try not to fall into the trap of "some where in france". Plan the diorama, then buy or round up your kits. I often fall into the trap of ramming in the subject at any cost and then try to make it work.

2. "Never neglect the proffesional finish on the base (edge)".

Someone once said to me " you don`t judge the base you judge the model". I won "best of show" and he recieved second place. The next show I attended he saw the light and won best diorama. Would you hang a canvas on the wall with no liner or frame?.....hardly not.

3. "Never run a straight line (building edge, road, river,etc. parallel to the base edge".

Since dioramas are technically a 3-D photo, sculpture, painting, try and avoid this and think of the "snap shot" photo. Think of a big square "cookie cutter". You hover it over the scene in your minds eye and ram it down and lift out the section from the topography.
Even if the road is 5 degrees off parallel it will look right.

4. "Consider the value of composition".

Work towards balance, not symmetry. Ever wonder why you love a picture or painting so much? It`s mainly because of composition. If you don`t understand it then find out (Sheperd Pains books) explain this well. eg: 5 figures milling around can have the same weight as one sherman. Composition or weight can also be emphasized with colour.

5. "Take into consideration how the viewer sees your work".

We are all trained to read from left to right. It`s a habit that most of us apply when we look at anything really. It`s just that we never pay attention to it.
As one approaches the diorama the first glance is a quickl overview. Then the closer inspection begins. I call it the "read". We invariably scan it from left to right.eg: You can play aginst the grain by having your figures or vehicle facing to the left. The viewer will tend to stop more often to view details. If you direct them to the right then you should have a "block' or disruption so they don`t pass through so quickly.
Use logs, cables, gun barrels, trails, pointing figures, etc. to guide the viewer through the story and point them back to a point of interest. Any good work of art has an entrance and an exit.

6. "Don`t preach two messages".

Try and keep your plot simple. Any sub-plots should support the main theme. ( Building a diorama is like directing a movie, except you only have one frame to tell your story).

7. "Avoid even numbers of objects".

When it comes to vehicles, figures, trees, large items, etc., avoid even numbers. Trust me it`s part of the "golden rule in the arts". One large tree, three small ones. 11 figures not 12. 1 figure or 3,etc. One tank or three. 39 crates not 40. 1 building, not 4. One building with 3 broken sections.
Laugh all you want but it all ties in. As you gain experience you will expound on this principle.
Avoid centering larger objects. Set them off to the side. Balance them with other features.

8. "Avoid the "pancake" diorama".

Don`t be afraid to build up the side sills of your base in order to emphasize the "cookie cutter" effect. Try and slope your diorama from the front to back. this creates depth and realism. Keep tall trees and structures in the rear. Tilt your armour in a ditch so you can see the top of it. Throw your figures off balance. ( revise them). Switch arms legs, etc. Stay away from the "statue" look. Turn the heads! Even slightly if you have to. The most simple effective way to add atmosphere to your figures is turn their heads. Tilt them down up whatever. Make sure they grip their weapons. Cut the weapon in half and re-re it back on. make sure they show weight when standing, kneeling or sitting.
Avoid the flat diorama.

9. "Thou shalt love your paint as yourself".

Learn colour. Learn what tone and value is. Move the colours through the whole diorama. When I paint canvas, my wife spanks me if I don`t. It`s the key to all the Masters. Whoops my hand slipped with the umber over here. I spilled a little ochre over there. Dump the residual green from my airbrush down there. Whoa....watch that red. Never use black! Never use White! Stay away from silver. Add a little white to every stock colour you have. Have fun, make mistakes alot and they will eventually become deliberations.
"You will never grow if you don`t take risks and turn your mistakes into positives".
Share your discoveries. ( empty the creative vessel so the new can enter in). I know good modellers that hang on to there so-called "trade secrets" and they never find the "zone" as often as they would like, simply because they become selfish in there journey and fail to trust and have faith that creativety is infinite and must be "purged" in order to refresh.
Learn colour and make mistakes.

10. "Though shalt have fun"

If your not having fun then stop for awhile. Walk away and go hunt the grounds for diorama supplies. This is where some of the most unique materials are found...Cheers.


P.S. I have as much to learn as anyone else.

Happy Modelling

Warren Jones
Nice Warren!

I'd add an eleventh commandment: "Thy diorama shall have no unused space."

Many dioramas are too big; most could've been composed as well or better on bases that are 25-75 percent SMALLER. There should be no wasted space on a diorama. Smaller compositions improve the chances of the viewer's eye finding and studying the plot.
Quote
Share

Janne Nilsson
Janne Nilsson

April 4th, 2002, 5:20 pm #5

1. "Thou shalt not forsake research".

Try not to fall into the trap of "some where in france". Plan the diorama, then buy or round up your kits. I often fall into the trap of ramming in the subject at any cost and then try to make it work.

2. "Never neglect the proffesional finish on the base (edge)".

Someone once said to me " you don`t judge the base you judge the model". I won "best of show" and he recieved second place. The next show I attended he saw the light and won best diorama. Would you hang a canvas on the wall with no liner or frame?.....hardly not.

3. "Never run a straight line (building edge, road, river,etc. parallel to the base edge".

Since dioramas are technically a 3-D photo, sculpture, painting, try and avoid this and think of the "snap shot" photo. Think of a big square "cookie cutter". You hover it over the scene in your minds eye and ram it down and lift out the section from the topography.
Even if the road is 5 degrees off parallel it will look right.

4. "Consider the value of composition".

Work towards balance, not symmetry. Ever wonder why you love a picture or painting so much? It`s mainly because of composition. If you don`t understand it then find out (Sheperd Pains books) explain this well. eg: 5 figures milling around can have the same weight as one sherman. Composition or weight can also be emphasized with colour.

5. "Take into consideration how the viewer sees your work".

We are all trained to read from left to right. It`s a habit that most of us apply when we look at anything really. It`s just that we never pay attention to it.
As one approaches the diorama the first glance is a quickl overview. Then the closer inspection begins. I call it the "read". We invariably scan it from left to right.eg: You can play aginst the grain by having your figures or vehicle facing to the left. The viewer will tend to stop more often to view details. If you direct them to the right then you should have a "block' or disruption so they don`t pass through so quickly.
Use logs, cables, gun barrels, trails, pointing figures, etc. to guide the viewer through the story and point them back to a point of interest. Any good work of art has an entrance and an exit.

6. "Don`t preach two messages".

Try and keep your plot simple. Any sub-plots should support the main theme. ( Building a diorama is like directing a movie, except you only have one frame to tell your story).

7. "Avoid even numbers of objects".

When it comes to vehicles, figures, trees, large items, etc., avoid even numbers. Trust me it`s part of the "golden rule in the arts". One large tree, three small ones. 11 figures not 12. 1 figure or 3,etc. One tank or three. 39 crates not 40. 1 building, not 4. One building with 3 broken sections.
Laugh all you want but it all ties in. As you gain experience you will expound on this principle.
Avoid centering larger objects. Set them off to the side. Balance them with other features.

8. "Avoid the "pancake" diorama".

Don`t be afraid to build up the side sills of your base in order to emphasize the "cookie cutter" effect. Try and slope your diorama from the front to back. this creates depth and realism. Keep tall trees and structures in the rear. Tilt your armour in a ditch so you can see the top of it. Throw your figures off balance. ( revise them). Switch arms legs, etc. Stay away from the "statue" look. Turn the heads! Even slightly if you have to. The most simple effective way to add atmosphere to your figures is turn their heads. Tilt them down up whatever. Make sure they grip their weapons. Cut the weapon in half and re-re it back on. make sure they show weight when standing, kneeling or sitting.
Avoid the flat diorama.

9. "Thou shalt love your paint as yourself".

Learn colour. Learn what tone and value is. Move the colours through the whole diorama. When I paint canvas, my wife spanks me if I don`t. It`s the key to all the Masters. Whoops my hand slipped with the umber over here. I spilled a little ochre over there. Dump the residual green from my airbrush down there. Whoa....watch that red. Never use black! Never use White! Stay away from silver. Add a little white to every stock colour you have. Have fun, make mistakes alot and they will eventually become deliberations.
"You will never grow if you don`t take risks and turn your mistakes into positives".
Share your discoveries. ( empty the creative vessel so the new can enter in). I know good modellers that hang on to there so-called "trade secrets" and they never find the "zone" as often as they would like, simply because they become selfish in there journey and fail to trust and have faith that creativety is infinite and must be "purged" in order to refresh.
Learn colour and make mistakes.

10. "Though shalt have fun"

If your not having fun then stop for awhile. Walk away and go hunt the grounds for diorama supplies. This is where some of the most unique materials are found...Cheers.


P.S. I have as much to learn as anyone else.

Happy Modelling

Warren Jones
Wise words Warren!
I have some to add that Ive discovered during the years.

Always start with the idea.
Then start getting the models and figures that will tell your story. Do not make a model and then start thinking: Hm, maybe I should place this in a diorama.

Keep sure the clothing are apropiate to the climate in the scene. Dont mix figures in a shirt with figures in winter gear if it isnt in the plot.

Keep natural open spaces free. Dont put in details because some spot looks empty. If it is a empty spot of gras, dont put barrels or boxes there. Concetrate on detailing the gras and ground on that spot.

Always make sure your figures are actually grabing the items they hold in their hands.

Always trim down the scene as small as you can without compromising with the story. Dont use anything that isnt necessary for the story unless it acts as background or props.

Never let facts and physics tear a good idea apart. Unless its obvius or ridiculous. Always claim artistic license in the same way as in the old Monte Python sketch with the pope and Michelangelo.

Dont let parts of or the whole background dominate the scene like a big tree or a building five stores high.

Blood should be darkbrown or if its very fresh, dark dark red. A drop of paint is all it takes to drain a 1/35 scale figure.

Make sure that the finnishing levels are the same for ground, figures, models etc. The worst finnish will draw all the others down.

If you start doing a diorama whith a really neat idea, it wont take long to discover that somebody else have done it much better than you ever will. (GO AWAY MURPHY)

Always look at everything twice and think what they would look like in 1/35 scale. Or whatever scale you prefer.

Just my two kronor.

Janne Nilsson
IPMS-Stockholm
Quote
Share

Pekka Kerttula
Pekka Kerttula

April 5th, 2002, 8:02 am #6

Nice Warren!

I'd add an eleventh commandment: "Thy diorama shall have no unused space."

Many dioramas are too big; most could've been composed as well or better on bases that are 25-75 percent SMALLER. There should be no wasted space on a diorama. Smaller compositions improve the chances of the viewer's eye finding and studying the plot.
Very good comments and observations in these threads.

It makes sense to have the dio as small as possible, by which I understand to discard everything superfluous. Small is beautiful. A compact scene is like a compact poem: it tells many things with few phrases.

However, wouldn't it do some good to include a little "empty" space, a tranquil, clean section with no clutter. This advice is given in art painting. In other words, let the painting have some "empty" spaces too, where the eye can rest.

But, I don't know if the dio is different from a painting in this respect. Perhaps the dio should be as compact as possible, but still not crammed with too much stuff.

Balance is the key, isn't it.

What do you think?
Quote
Share

Janne Nilsson
Janne Nilsson

April 5th, 2002, 10:29 am #7

..one can use empty space to bring in an atmosphere or a feeling. But actually there has to be something on that space, at least ground. Therefore detail that spot a little better than other spots that arent that open, even if its just bare ground or grass.

The reason this is more common in paintings is because of their two dimensional world. You can always use perspective and forced perspective in paintings.

The times one can succesfully use forced perspective in a 3D diorama are few. If one make a shadowbox on the other hand, forced perspective can be used very succesfully. This as the maker can controll the viewers view totally.

Janne Nilsson
IPMS-Stockholm
Quote
Share

Gray Creager
Gray Creager

April 5th, 2002, 1:27 pm #8

1. "Thou shalt not forsake research".

Try not to fall into the trap of "some where in france". Plan the diorama, then buy or round up your kits. I often fall into the trap of ramming in the subject at any cost and then try to make it work.

2. "Never neglect the proffesional finish on the base (edge)".

Someone once said to me " you don`t judge the base you judge the model". I won "best of show" and he recieved second place. The next show I attended he saw the light and won best diorama. Would you hang a canvas on the wall with no liner or frame?.....hardly not.

3. "Never run a straight line (building edge, road, river,etc. parallel to the base edge".

Since dioramas are technically a 3-D photo, sculpture, painting, try and avoid this and think of the "snap shot" photo. Think of a big square "cookie cutter". You hover it over the scene in your minds eye and ram it down and lift out the section from the topography.
Even if the road is 5 degrees off parallel it will look right.

4. "Consider the value of composition".

Work towards balance, not symmetry. Ever wonder why you love a picture or painting so much? It`s mainly because of composition. If you don`t understand it then find out (Sheperd Pains books) explain this well. eg: 5 figures milling around can have the same weight as one sherman. Composition or weight can also be emphasized with colour.

5. "Take into consideration how the viewer sees your work".

We are all trained to read from left to right. It`s a habit that most of us apply when we look at anything really. It`s just that we never pay attention to it.
As one approaches the diorama the first glance is a quickl overview. Then the closer inspection begins. I call it the "read". We invariably scan it from left to right.eg: You can play aginst the grain by having your figures or vehicle facing to the left. The viewer will tend to stop more often to view details. If you direct them to the right then you should have a "block' or disruption so they don`t pass through so quickly.
Use logs, cables, gun barrels, trails, pointing figures, etc. to guide the viewer through the story and point them back to a point of interest. Any good work of art has an entrance and an exit.

6. "Don`t preach two messages".

Try and keep your plot simple. Any sub-plots should support the main theme. ( Building a diorama is like directing a movie, except you only have one frame to tell your story).

7. "Avoid even numbers of objects".

When it comes to vehicles, figures, trees, large items, etc., avoid even numbers. Trust me it`s part of the "golden rule in the arts". One large tree, three small ones. 11 figures not 12. 1 figure or 3,etc. One tank or three. 39 crates not 40. 1 building, not 4. One building with 3 broken sections.
Laugh all you want but it all ties in. As you gain experience you will expound on this principle.
Avoid centering larger objects. Set them off to the side. Balance them with other features.

8. "Avoid the "pancake" diorama".

Don`t be afraid to build up the side sills of your base in order to emphasize the "cookie cutter" effect. Try and slope your diorama from the front to back. this creates depth and realism. Keep tall trees and structures in the rear. Tilt your armour in a ditch so you can see the top of it. Throw your figures off balance. ( revise them). Switch arms legs, etc. Stay away from the "statue" look. Turn the heads! Even slightly if you have to. The most simple effective way to add atmosphere to your figures is turn their heads. Tilt them down up whatever. Make sure they grip their weapons. Cut the weapon in half and re-re it back on. make sure they show weight when standing, kneeling or sitting.
Avoid the flat diorama.

9. "Thou shalt love your paint as yourself".

Learn colour. Learn what tone and value is. Move the colours through the whole diorama. When I paint canvas, my wife spanks me if I don`t. It`s the key to all the Masters. Whoops my hand slipped with the umber over here. I spilled a little ochre over there. Dump the residual green from my airbrush down there. Whoa....watch that red. Never use black! Never use White! Stay away from silver. Add a little white to every stock colour you have. Have fun, make mistakes alot and they will eventually become deliberations.
"You will never grow if you don`t take risks and turn your mistakes into positives".
Share your discoveries. ( empty the creative vessel so the new can enter in). I know good modellers that hang on to there so-called "trade secrets" and they never find the "zone" as often as they would like, simply because they become selfish in there journey and fail to trust and have faith that creativety is infinite and must be "purged" in order to refresh.
Learn colour and make mistakes.

10. "Though shalt have fun"

If your not having fun then stop for awhile. Walk away and go hunt the grounds for diorama supplies. This is where some of the most unique materials are found...Cheers.


P.S. I have as much to learn as anyone else.

Happy Modelling

Warren Jones
not disagreeing with your rules... but sometimes, to deliberately violate a rule can lead you "way out of the box", in a good way. here's Barry Gazso's attempt to stretch the rules a bit (from the Archer Transfers website's gallery - http://www.archertransfers.com/Bracketed.html)



Gray Creager
asicsuccess@86yahoo.com - "86" the 86

PS - there's nothing wrong with your monitor! the diorama is painted entirely in Black and White
Quote
Share

Warren Jones
Warren Jones

April 6th, 2002, 2:50 am #9

Nice Warren!

I'd add an eleventh commandment: "Thy diorama shall have no unused space."

Many dioramas are too big; most could've been composed as well or better on bases that are 25-75 percent SMALLER. There should be no wasted space on a diorama. Smaller compositions improve the chances of the viewer's eye finding and studying the plot.
To Steve,

Yes your right. I just sort of shot from the hip on this one. Feel free to add to it. I`m sure everyone could have some input here...Cheers.

I just wanted to get a thread going in order to share and encourage the "Art Medium". The best in the world in my opinion.......next to Oil on Canvas....heheeheehh.

Warren Jones
Quote
Share

Warren Jones
Warren Jones

April 6th, 2002, 2:55 am #10

Very good comments and observations in these threads.

It makes sense to have the dio as small as possible, by which I understand to discard everything superfluous. Small is beautiful. A compact scene is like a compact poem: it tells many things with few phrases.

However, wouldn't it do some good to include a little "empty" space, a tranquil, clean section with no clutter. This advice is given in art painting. In other words, let the painting have some "empty" spaces too, where the eye can rest.

But, I don't know if the dio is different from a painting in this respect. Perhaps the dio should be as compact as possible, but still not crammed with too much stuff.

Balance is the key, isn't it.

What do you think?
The principles of dioramas are the same in many respects to the flat. In fact dio`s are tougher because one must try and maintain composition in the " round".

I can`t remember where I saw the definition of "diorama". It said " a story in the round with a painted backdrop" was one of them...Cheers.

Warren
Quote
Share