New 2013 - Winter Diorama project

Latenight Follies presents ... a "quickie" Winter Diorama

Thought y'all might enjoy this ... and/or provide some inspiration for someone looking to build a small display diorama.  This one measures 10x20" ... fits on a shelf ... and displays a few pieces of rolling stock rather nicely (if I do say so myself!)

It started with a piece of black foamcore misted with gray and white spray paints (do both sides to avoid warping) ... then some acrylic gel paint mixed with touches of blue, pink and orange to put some color in the hazy sky ...

Some dried raspberry stalks to get a sense of scale for the background trees ... done with grays and browns mixed into the pale sky tones ... and some bolder tones for the underbrush ...

Painting 2-D images/backdrops is not my forté, so I downloaded a bunch of painting tutorials and lessons, burned 'em to a DVD and watched those for a couple nights before starting ... now that the foreground is done, I realize that I need to go back and put more grays into the predominantly brownish trees ... fortunately the backdrop isn't permanantly mounted yet!

Contours roughed in with foam. Bought an electric hot-wire foam cutter at a train show years ago, and that was a good decision! Since it actually is winter here, cutting the stuff with a knife would make a "styrofoam snow storm" with the little bits going & sticking everywhere ... but the hot wire tool cuts off chunks very neatly.

The bridge is a simple affair ... some dried raspberry stalks taped to the underside and a couple more placed underneath. Track was sprayed flat black and "glued" in place with Liquitex modeling paste (acrylic medium) tinted with paint ... same stuff was used to paste the supporting timbers under the bridge. Went back later and drybrushed/colored the ties and rails ...

Some tinted Sculptamold, resin tree trunks and sagebrush armatures from a Scenic Express "Super Sage" kit long stashed away ... one day, when I "find" some extra time I'll go back and add some more delicate branches to those armatures.

All of the foreground contours slope down toward the viewer to allow low-angle shots ... did a lot of test shots along the way to make sure that basic elements, textures, etc were working (or not!) ... digital camera is a very handy modeling tool.

Playing with ground textures ... dirt from Smith & Sons, some lovely ground textures from Driftwood Scenery Company (now defunct, very unfortunately) ...

And then some experiments to see what would add some "dead leaf" texture to the ground ... tried some actual dead leaves from the yard, but couldn't get those ground fine enough. Ended up using coarse ground black pepper, tea leaves (from fresh tea bags) and some other dried spices ... trying to avoid the ones that have a lot of green in them. Warning: Using ground pepper on a diorama makes your nose feel funny! ☺ 

Added Woodland Scenics field grass using the "cigar" method shown by Rick Reimer here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2rOO1hN8_U

That's way too yellow ... could be fixed with an airbrush, but used dry textures as shown below.   At this point, it could easily be turned into an "autumn" diorama without snow ...

Some black tea leaves added to the field grass in the back, which is starting to help. BTW ... was trying to move swiftly thru all of this, so used a lot of spray glue and hairspray to fix things in place and avoid waiting a lot for diluted white glue or matte medium to set up ...

Dusted over the background grasses with Woodland Scenics fine turf in the "earth" (light brown) color ... found that ANY of the faint/faded green colors were just way too green for use here. More Aqua Net hairspray to hold that in place. (Between the Aqua Net and the black pepper it was sneeze city for a while there!)

Some spray glue was used to put bits of Woodland Scenics "earth" coarse turf to make a base for bushy undergrowth ... even though that appears a brown color, it goes a bit olive in photos, which works here. Over that, the ONLY green used was Heki foliage (the medium green, IIRC) ... that stuff has a really nice springy texture and spreads out beautifully. Much nicer than the WS stuff, IMO. Fixed that with more Aqua Net hairspray ... the little whitish dots here are glistening droplets of wet hairspray!

Then it's time to play with the Noch "Pulverschnee" (snow!) ... it just so happened that there was a train show nearby the day after I painted the backdrop ... so I got the snow from the Scenic Express booth there and learned that the snow was fixed in place with just a light mist of plain water. This photo shows that the armatures could use more branches (which I hope to do one day) ... but it does the job for now once trains are placed as focal points!

The base of the dio measures 10x20" ... backdrop is the same dimension, but rises only about 8" above the track. Allows for a variety of angles on two or three pieces of rolling stock ...

I stripped all the "stuff" from some caspia branches (from the craft store), misted those with gray and tan paints and put a few in the background and foreground ... could use a few more on the ground, and of course some added to those trees, but once the trains become the focal point, the dio does it's job as a "background" thing that doesn't really have any major focal point on it's own ...

Whole thing was done in three rather long late night sessions ... still have to go back and do some work on the edges and the stream. Then, eventually, add some grays to the brownish backdrop tees and some branches to the sagebrush trees.   I'll look forward to spending several more evenings (at a more relaxed pace!) adding branches to trees and doing a few more finishing touches.  While I wouldn't recommend putting something together quite SO quickly, it does show that you can put together a little bookshelf display in a fairly short time if you're determined!

Doing a winter scene was completely new to me ... and a lot of fun!  Looking forward to the next diorama now ... a different season and a different setting.  Thanks for having a look at this project ... I hope you'll find some useful ideas and/or inspiration!   -- Dallas

(c) 2013 Dallas Mallerich III.  You may print/save this article for personal reference.  Any other use requires written permission.

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