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World Building and other Loves.
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World Building, and other Loves.

Whenever I listen to a great fantasy, mystery, or horror novel, the imagery that is generated in my mind also gives me a want to make them in a tangible form.  Were space and resources not such an issue, I'd imagine that our home would be 1 part museum, 1 part Jim Henson's Workshop, 1 part studio, and 1 part kitchen (hey, we have to eat too..(laughing)).

I remember, on a small get away with my mother in Pennsylvania, we visited an attraction called  "Roadside America".  This I could only imagine was a RailRoader's or other diorama enthusiasts dream.  It was the size of a gymnasium, and was filled from door to door with an entire valley, mountains, city, and all peoples of a representation of Americana.  The entire thing was detailed and animated.  The people moved, the trains ran and there was moving water in the streams.  There were moving planes on tethers.  For a kid such as I at the time, well, Christmas came early that day.  I wish I had  a camera that day for the reliving of that day daily.

It was a memory such as that, and unbelievably a large sugar Easter Egg, that made me take the first serious steps into World Building as a hobby.  That Easter Egg, with its sugar window and the little rabbit inside with a cottage, stream, terrain, all in sugar, had a lasting effect on my creativity.


I was once asked in an interview, how I was able to think of ways to use household discard to flesh out my dioramas and other works.  It is really just a matter of changing the way you look at things you normally throw away.  Much like the person who makes a work of art from bottle caps or bubble gum, it's a bit like that, in practice.

Just today, before sitting down to write this for the site, I was shaving with a new disposable blade and noticed that the blade cap was a clear plastic piece with approxiamtely 1mm holes in the top bend.  Remembering that I had a need for my diorama of a Resident Evil facility used in an action figure challenge, the "No Joe Challenge" at JoeCustoms.com, I started to look the piece over.  There were test tubes in blue and green that I made via the trimmed ends of some comparable scale Star Wars light saber accessories, and well, I hadn't found a way yet to have them standing upright where they could still be seen and not shadowed by the assembly.

As I turned the cap from the razor over and over, "BOOM!" epiphany.  This small piece of plastic that I would have normally discarded is actually perfect for my needs to symbolize a plexiglass style test tube rack. 

That's all it took.  Just a few seconds to look at the things we normally discard, and find imaginative uses for them.


My entry for the "No Joe Challenge", Lisa Trevor.
Escaping from one of the rooms in the Umbrella facility.

The Issues of Suspending Disbelief in Miniature.


I remember watching a special on the nature and techniques of Special Effects, and one of the gentlemen stated that the most difficult to impossible things to successfully convey in miniature were Fire and Water.

Any look back at older films will show how true this was.  Even in my own dioramas, fire was never an issue but water was.  Especially since I am not using actual water, I needed some decent alternative.  Thankfully, there were a few commerically available products that simulate water such as EZ-water, and the like.  These products are usually a "heat on the stove" pellet that melts quickly and pours like syrup, only to dry fairly clear.  They can be tinted, or done in layers to portray murky or stagnant water.

One of the things I also found, watching how others apply their terrain is that wood, or more specifically wood products, are very difficult also to portray in miniature. 

Not furniture, as miniature furniture has been successfully made for centuries.  But I did notice that those that use the usual deadfall, or snap twigs from the local flora to simulate trees, often run a 50:50 chance of it really suspending disbelief.  Great terrain makers such as Woodland Scenics, Department 56, and LeMax, have gotten around this by manufacturing both synthetic and composite (synthetic and natural) products that quite wonderfully give the illusion of everything from the wooded glen, to the dense coniferous forest, but they are not applicable to all scales of figures.

In the picture below, I needed a few natural looking stumps and logs made for my 1:24 scale figures.  What was available both locally (natural) and commercially (online) was sadly either too small, or far too large.  Stuck in this dilemma, I wondered how to achieve the look I needed, but using what I had at hand.  It was then I noticed that I had some Dyalite(tm) rods.  Having some expertise in shaping and texturing foam from having made a replica of an adult sized fireplace with simulated burnt logs for my local Public Library Children's Theatre program, I applied the same technique to the Dyalite rods.  So, turning on the fans, opening the door, and plugging in my woodburner with the chisel tip, I started to score and texture each rod until I created the exact scale and look of a log for a 2 1/2 inch figure.


Foam logs from Dyalite(TM) rods.
Textured with a woodburner.

As you can see, texturing the foam allows the paint to really settle in, and when drybrushed with several layers, the bark soon possesses an almost natural look.


A Happy Accident.

Leon is having one Hell-of-a day.

In the picture here, I wanted to debut my 1:18 custom of the character from Resident Evil 4.  This scene which almost looks straight from the game, is a composition of so many different scales.  Leon, is 3 3/4 inches, or 1:18.  The adversaries are actually Japanese gashapon, which ranged from just under 3 inches, to barely 2 inches.  The stairs he is backing up, are actually the stairs to the rooms of the medieval tavern/inn, that I am planning to use in my own fantasy related diostory, made for 1:24 scale figures.

"Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.