Tunneling for the Munich Underground

This diorama, built over 30 years ago for the Transport 86 trade fair, is on display at Deutsches Museum Verkehrszentrum in Munich, Germany. The museum contains three large halls of historical and present day transportation exhibits, focusing mainly on cars, trains and other ground vehicles. 

The diorama depicts the construction of the U4 and U5 Munich subway lines in 1979. Rendered in 1:50 scale, it portrays both the surface and below-ground levels of the construction site. The depiction of multiple levels not only increases the exhibit’s educational value, but sets it apart from the vast majority of dioramas, which show just a single level. 

The caption explains that an innovative construction technique was employed in the building of the metro lines. A compression chamber was created underground to prevent groundwater from entering the work site. Compared with the conventional approach of lowering the water table to keep the work site dry, the compression method simplified construction and ultimately reduced the total cost of the project.

If you want to learn more about how to optimize the visual impact of your work, you might like Diorama Design. It’s available on Amazon and Apple Books.

-Ivar

Flugwerft Schleissheim in Munich

Part of the complex of buildings which make up Munich’s Deutsches Museum, Flugwerft Schleissheim boasts an impressive collection of full size and miniature aircraft displays spanning the history of German aviation.

A diorama of a WWI airfield features Fokker D VII fighter planes of Royal Prussian Fighter Squadron 18 lined up in front of the hangar at Montoy-Flanville, a former commune in northeast France. The squadron was stationed there from June 14, 1918 until the end of the war on November 11, 1918.

The plaque accompanying the exhibit tells us that Lieutenant August Raben was Squadron Leader, and that the planes were painted red and white to make it easier to distinguish them in aerial combat. Individual aircraft bear the personalized markings of their pilots. 

The diorama artist canted the aircraft lineup at a pronounced angle to the perimeter of the base, making the scene much more visually dynamic and avoiding the dull grid-style layout often seen on museum displays. The wingtip-to-wingtip arrangement of the aircraft makes them come across as a single visual element: a dramatic red swoosh which immediately draws the eye into the scene. 

If you want to learn more about how to optimize the visual impact of your work, you might like Diorama Design. It’s available on Amazon and Apple Books.

-Ivar

Paper Dioramas from Terada Mokei

The vast majority of diorama artists, myself included, come from the world of kit modelling, so it’s natural for us to populate our dioramas with plastic and resin kits. But there are many other materials to choose from. 

A case in point is Terada Mokei, the brainchild of architect and designer Naoki Terada. Using innovative die-cutting techniques, Terada has created a series of paper diorama kits in 1:100 and 1:50 scales. They depict scenes ranging from a tranquil day at the park to a Gemini astronaut spacewalk. 

Although paper kits have been around for a while, they’re usually designed as scale miniatures. A paper kit of a building, for example, typically comprises pre-cut sheets printed with photorealistic images of its exterior walls. These kits are suited to replicating subjects which have large planar surfaces and fairly simple geometry, but their limitations become apparent when more complex shapes are involved. These types of paper kits are the poor cousins of injection molded kits, offering slightly less realism at a lower cost. 

What’s refreshing about Terada Mokei’s dioramas is that they’re not designed to be scale replicas of their full-size counterparts, but interpretations of them. Mokei’s approach might be labelled reductivist, after the art movement of the 1950s which was dedicated to simplifying form and colour in painting and sculpture. What’s more important, however, is that the kits don’t try to hide the fact that they’re made of paper. Instead, they leverage the unique qualities of this material: its texture, the precision with which it can be cut, and its fragility.   

Mokei dioramas are very much akin to origami sculptures. Both are based on a minimalist aesthetic and celebrate the delicate beauty and sculptural possibilities of paper. Although we tend to think of paper as something simply to write on, Mokei demonstrates that it can be much more. 

If you like to build dioramas and want to learn more about how to optimize the visual impact of your work, you might like Diorama Design. It’s available in both ebook and print formats at Amazon.

-Ivar

Dounreay Nuclear Reactor

Dounreay Nuclear Reactor is an exhibit in the National Museum of Scotland which combines elements from the creative disciplines of architectural modelling and sculpture. It was completed by artists Kate Williams and John Lloyd in 2007.  

The tag tells us that the piece is “kiln cast using uranium glass lit with ultraviolet light.” Uranium glass, as its name implies, contains a small percentage of uranium which causes it to glow under ultraviolet light. This is an extreme example of using a material which is apropos to the subject. It’s a bit like making a model of the moon out of a moon rock. 

The otherworldly green glow of this eye-catching piece is a reminder of the controversy which surrounds nuclear energy. Promoters of the technology champion its ability to dramatically reduce air pollution when compared with traditional energy sources like coal and petroleum. On the other hand, detractors point to the environmental calamities which resulted from accidents at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima.

Depending on your views regarding nuclear energy, Dounreay Nuclear Reactor can be seen as either a celebration of scientific progress, or a warning against the hazards of technology. Either way, it’s a compelling hybrid of artistic techniques. The work is not only a thought-provoking representation of its namesake, but a symbol of nuclear technology and all the questions it raises. 

If you like to build dioramas and want to learn more about how to optimize the visual impact of your work, you might like Diorama Design. It’s available in both ebook and print formats at Amazon.

-Ivar

An early box diorama

This box diorama of a sailing ship, entitled Skonnertbark, is part of the current ‘Sex & the Sea’ exhibition at the Seaplane Harbour museum in Tallinn, Estonia. It translates from Norwegian as ‘schooner barque,’ a type of ship often used in the lumber trade across the Baltic and North Seas in the 1800s and early 1900s. The diorama is of modest dimensions, measuring about 40x20x10cm.

The ship model features wooden sails, an unusual choice which prioritizes artistic impact over realism. However, what’s most interesting about this diorama is the background. The outer cabinet is a simple rectangular box, but there’s a second inner box on which the background is painted. The sides of the inner box angle in towards the ship. This has the effect of muting the harsh ‘crease’ between the sides and back of the background. Rather than a full 90° angle, the artist has smoothed out the transition from side panes to back with a gentler angle. There’s still a visible join but it’s much less jarring. 

‘Sex & the Sea’ runs from August 3, 2019 to January 19, 2020. The exhibition features several box dioramas, a multimedia presentation, and other works, painting an intimate picture of life at sea.

If you like to build dioramas and want to learn more about how to optimize the visual impact of your work, you might like Diorama Design. It’s available in both ebook and print formats at Amazon.

-Ivar


Art imitating art: photographers turn to dioramas for inspiration

Issue 217 of Digital Photographer magazine features an article called ’10 Pro Ways to Use Aperture.’ One of these ways is experimenting with diorama effects, also called miniature faking. Using this technique, photographers purposely reduce the depth of field (the area of the picture which is in focus) to make photos of full-size scenes look like miniatures. 

This is a great example of synergy between two art forms, and a little surprising given that photographers long sought to maximize depth of field in their photos, not minimize it. In the early 20th Century, photographers Ansel Adams and Willard Van Dyke sought to create a movement which promoted a photographic aesthetic of clean, highly detailed images with everything in the frame in perfect focus. Thus began Group f/64, which soon attracted several more renowned photographers, including Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham. The group’s name came from the aperture setting of f/64 which provides the maximum possible depth of field on a large format camera.    

Most art forms go through many phases with the passage of time, and photography is no exception. Although it’s a more modern art form with a shorter history than painting or sculpture, photography seems to have reached a point where everything that can be done, has been. Photographers have tirelessly explored variations in focus, colour, and light and shade to create images that reflect every corner of the creative psyche. 

The application of diorama effects in photography is a sign that photography has entered its post-modernist phase. Just as post-modern architects take inspiration from past eras and give them a fresh twist, photographers are discovering the benefits of a post-modern approach. Miniature faking recalls the soft, fuzzy images of the early days of photography, when photographers sought to imitate Impressionist painters. In those days, a crisp, well-lit photograph with good detail and contrast was considered unartistic. It was jarring to a public that had grown accustomed to the atmospheric, stylized pastel images of artists like Monet and Degas. 

Photography eventually broke away from its original identity as the poor cousin of painting and grew into a distinct art form with its own aesthetic. Over the span of a century, it’s gone through many phases and has reached a certain level of maturity. 

And now, dioramas are providing shutterbugs with a new source of inspiration. So in addition to art imitating life and life imitating art, we have art imitating art. 

If you like to build dioramas and want to learn more about how to optimize the visual impact of your work, you might like Diorama Design. It’s available in both ebook and print formats at Amazon.

-Ivar


Fourth Anniversary

Today marks the fourth anniversary of this blog. Over the past year, I’ve shifted my focus entirely to forced perspective dioramas. Portraying vast distances in a modest sized diorama requires a lot of careful planning to make the end result convincing. I find that I’m spending more time in the design stage to ensure that things turn out the way I expect them to. 

I was pleasantly surprised to find a new audience for my book, Diorama Design. It turns out that some of the more aesthetically minded model railroaders out there have taken an interest in the Seven Principles of Design and other concepts in the book. Last month I gave a talk at the British Region NMRA Convention in Aberdeen, Scotland, to promote Diorama Design to this newfound market. The talk was well received.

Over the next year, this blog will continue to feature my own projects, new product announcements, notable diorama exhibitions, and general observations about art and design. Whether you build dioramas, railroads, or just like to read about three-dimensional art, I invite you to stay tuned for another year of Creative Dioramas. 

If you like to build dioramas and want to learn more about how to optimize the visual impact of your work, you might like Diorama Design. It’s available in both ebook and print formats at Amazon.

-Ivar


Diorama Design at 2019 NMRA British Region Convention

I spoke to a small but enthusiastic audience of model railroaders at the NMRA (National Model Railroad Association) British Region Convention in Aberdeen, Scotland on September 28. The talk was titled ‘How to Maximize the Visual Impact of your Layout’ and was based on concepts discussed in my book, Diorama Design

I began the clinic by pointing out that dioramas and model railroads have a lot in common, as discussed previously on this blog. Making this point was a prerequisite for the success of the talk, and everyone seemed to acknowledge the similarities. It was interesting to see that most of the attendees described themselves as ‘artists’ rather than ‘engineers’ when it comes to model railroading. I went over the Design Process and the Seven Principles of Design, showing how these concepts can be applied to the world of model railroads. 

A good barometer of how well you connect with your audience is the number of questions you get at the end of the presentation. I fielded over twenty minutes of questions, which took us well past the end of the allotted timeslot. 

It’s always great to connect to an audience that’s sincerely interested in the subject matter, and with dioramas and train layouts being such close cousins, a connection was definitely made!

If you like to build dioramas and want to learn more about how to optimize the visual impact of your work, you might like my book, Diorama Design. It’s available in both ebook and print formats at Amazon.

-Ivar

Small Worlds Tokyo to open in 2020

The world’s largest indoor diorama theme park is slated to open next year in Tokyo, Japan. This massive display will include a combination of real and fictional dioramas. Real world locations will include Towns of the World, Kansai International Airport, a Space Centre, and Tokyo. Fictional locations will be based on popular manga and anime series such as Sailor Moon and Neon Genesis Evangelion.

The dioramas are reported to be in 1:80 scale and the facility is to cover a total of 8,000 square meters. Some of the miniatures will be operational, including aircraft that fly and spacecraft that lift off. 

The facility will be located in the Ariake District on Tokyo Bay and is scheduled to open in Spring 2020.  

If you like to build dioramas and want to learn more about how to optimize the visual impact of your work, you might like my book, Diorama Design. It’s available in both ebook and print formats at Amazon.

-Ivar

Diorama accessories for 1:12 figures from TW Toys

Large scale figures are popular with fans of sci-fi and fantasy cinema, games, and world history. Many are sold as finished pieces already assembled and painted, while others can be found in kit form. More often than not, these figures are displayed as discrete items on a bookshelf. But for those who want to go a step further, Twelve World Toys has just announced several new products of interest. 

The company is releasing two items in September: a Stone Lanterns Diorama (stone lanterns are uniquely Japanese and would suit a samurai diorama); and an Abandoned Diorama, which consists of a damaged concrete pillar and rusted steel fence section. 

Scheduled for release in December is an Abandoned Steel Scaffolding display. It comprises an A and a B section which can be arranged in various ways to suit your preference. A display like this would be perfect for a Batman or Spiderman figure. Also coming in December is a Watertight Door with bold yellow stripes, which would provide a good background for a nautical or sci-fi subject. 

So if you want to take your 1:12 figures to the next level, check out these upcoming releases from TW Toys. Available at Hobby Search

If you like to build dioramas and want to learn more about how to optimize the visual impact of your work, you might like my book, Diorama Design. It’s available in both ebook and print formats at Amazon.

-Ivar