Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Master of War - Part I : Composition

Composition is arguably the most important element in any diorama, or any work of art for that matter. It is the way all the elements are combined to form the whole. It is how ideas, and words are combined to form a well written essay. It is how ingredients compliment each other in a delicious culinary master piece. Without proper composition, the work suffers.

A diorama can be used to depict a three-dimensional, full sized or smaller scale scene or model. The word originated in France in the 1820's and means "through that which is seen". Most people should be familiar with the large scale dioramas on display in natural history museums which often exhibit stuffed exotic animals posed in their natural habitats. In a diorama or a vignette, one simply takes a model and displays it in its own environment, using elements like ground work, vehicles, or other figures to create a scene.
In scale modeling communities, it is accepted that a diorama is "a story-based display of figures or figures and vehicles on a landscaped base". Vignettes, on the other hand, do not have to tell a particular story. They can simply be a brief window of time, capturing a single image. For instance, my Micro AT-AT would be considered a vignette, as it includes ground work but no additional features to give it a story. One could argue that my more recent Yoda in the Hood is also more of a vignette than a diorama. It all depends on how you define a story
Either way, if a diorama is to be story based, then you can see how composition is imperative. The characters, whether it is a vehicle, or a figure, must be displayed in such a manner that the story line is clear and visible. Random placement of objects on a base would be like incoherent rambling on a college paper that is due the next day. Everything must blend together, to leave no questions in the viewers mind. What is he looking at? Where are they going? What is that vehicle doing? Query's like that should not have to be voiced, the answer being immediately clear.

I have done several dioramas in my day. Not with action figures, but with 1/35 scale military figures. I was not skilled enough back then (or perhaps it was a question of will) to modify the figures to fit my needs. Instead, I based the composition of my dioramas on the poses the kit figures already had. If a guy was firing a rifle, I had to find room in my story for a guy firing a rifle, and so on. Action figures can be posed in many ways, depending on the quality of the figure. This has enabled me to change the position of the characters in my scene, very easily, without compromising the story I want to tell. 

When I get a hold of an action figure, I already start to think about what I can do with him. What story can I tell? The composition starts to form, and the action figure can bend fluidly with every change I make. Then I decide on the other ingredients, like the ground work, and other figures, and it all starts to take shape. When I have decided on the final story line, I will configure the characters in the positions that I like, glue the joints and fill the seams, making them appear more life-like. Then the process of building the diorama can begin until the full tale is revealed.

Last night I spent around thirty minutes fiddling with the Master Chief and Elite Zealot, ensuring that their poses were just right, and the way they would play off each other made sense. The Master Chief, looking larger than life, standing tall over a fallen Zealot. The Zealot, reaching up in defiance. I hope you will enjoy how this one turns out!

Now, I can begin sealing and repainting these two combatants. Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Coming Attraction...

So, now that I have completed the scene for Master Yoda, it is time to move on. After doing two relatively small vignettes featuring very little compelling action, it is time for a change of pace...and subject matter.

Enter, Master Chief.

Master Chief Petty Officer John 117 is the protagonist from the fictional Halo universe. He is probably one of the most recognizable characters in the video game industry over the last couple of years. He is an icon, and I will admit, he is probably one of the coolest looking characters I have seen...second only to Boba Fett. He looks as if he will win every fight, every time. By himself.
To be clear, I can not stand the video game...can you fault a guy for hating a game he sucks at? No. Don't judge me. But I find the look and mystery of his character intriguing and a good subject for my first in-depth build.
Every good protagonist needs an antagonist.

Enter, the Elite Zealot.

 The Elite Zealot is a high ranker member of the Covenant, whose size, armor, and weaponry makes for a formidable opponent. In this case, he will be pitted against the Master Chief himself. 
Both of these figures are readily available, and fairly inexpensive for the quality that they are. The whole Halo 4 series set is also available online, like HERE.
This will be a challenge to fill in all the seams and joints, repaint them, and present them in a fashion that I will be happy with. I hope you will follow along, and enjoy!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Yoda in the Hood

What I've done here is clearly tongue-in-cheek and I'm sure there are many a Star Wars loyalist that would be up in arms about it. However, I'm hoping you have at least a small sense of humor, or at least an appreciation for the unique.
I wanted to re-imagine the experience of Yoda as he escapes the fall of the Republic and retreats into exile. The movies do not cover Yoda's life between Episode III and when we are reunited with the Jedi Master in Empire Strikes Back. In fact, I did not even know what was written about that time period in Yoda's experience until reading about him on Wookiepedia the other day.
In the version depicted here, after being forced to leave Coruscant, Yoda attempts to hide out on a remote planet in the Outer Rim territories known as Earth - a backward planet no one would ever think to look. There he took up residence in the back streets of a bustling urban center, volunteering at a soup kitchen while schooling disadvantaged youth in the evils of the Empire and galactic gentrification or some such. When the bounty on his head grew larger, it wasn't long before the Empire realized his whereabouts. Prior to fleeing to the comparably unbearable mud hole that is Dagobah, Yoda would leave his mark. Here I have caught him in the act...

For as simple as it is, I quite enjoyed this. Much of what you see here, with the exception of the little Jedi, is made of material you can find in your house - cardboard, foam core, a jar lid, wire, to name a few. I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Master Yoda

This guy shouldn't be a stranger to any one. Master Yoda is probably one of the more popular characters of the Star Wars universe, and certainly one of the most quoted. This particular likeness of the diminutive Jedi Master is the Attack of the Clones action figure from Hasbro seen HERE. You can see that I've filled in the seams around his waist and shoulders. I've also given him a new paint job, defining details with a dark wash and highlighted with some dry brushing. He is holding something in his hand that will be revealed in time once the scene is completed. In the mean time, I'll leave you guessing...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

An Empire State...Imperial Walker Vignette

If you're anything like me than you've often spent some quality thinking time wondering what it would look like if the Empire unleashed its might upon the city of New York, or any other modern day urban center. The movie Empire Strikes Back gave us only a small taste of the devastation several Imperial Walkers can dish out, even on a barren waste land such as Hoth. As that battle is my favorite sequence of Episode V, it left me wanting more. Perhaps being such a fan of the venerable AT-AT had a little something to do with this being my first post (and perhaps second *spoiler alert*)
The main character in this little vignette stands barely an inch tall. Its a Micro Machine that was mine as a kid that I have now repurposed. I had a vast collection of Star Wars and military Micro Machines that at one point I may have ranked in the top five largest army in the world, right behind This Guy... All kidding aside, this was a fun project, no matter how tiny. The ruined buildings came from an old Godzilla kit from Aurora. The ground work is all scratch built from a useful item called Celluclay - basically paper mache - and cat litter. Yes, cat litter...makes for good rubble.