Arctic Rescue (1:72)

The Royal Canadian Air Force’s CH-149 Cormorant can operate in the most severe weather conditions, making it ideal as a search and rescue helicopter. The Cormorant’s striking yellow and red paint scheme cuts a sharp contrast against the wintery white background of this scene—a welcome sight for this pilot who had to bail out a long way from home.

The Italeri kit was outfitted with a scratchbuilt winch, extra interior/exterior detailing, and aftermarket decals. To give the illusion of spinning rotor blades, I replaced the kit-supplied blades with clear acrylic disks cut to shape.

Dioramas which show aircraft in flight usually prop up the model with an all too visible rod, which detracts from the realism of the scene. Here, the support rod is concealed in the cargo ramp.

The cliff was sculpted from a single piece of blue insulation foam using a hot knife. The parachute is an acrylic half sphere which was melted to a natural wind-blown shape in the kitchen oven.


What to do when you lose interest halfway through your project

Don’t worry about it. That’s the short version. Now for the long version:

The creative impulse is capricious. It enters the psyche on a whim, stays as long as it wishes, and exits without warning. We never know how long it will stay, and if or when it will return.

This is rarely an issue for the artist who can complete a work in one or two sittings. But if you’re a diorama artist who spends weeks or months on a single project, chances are quite high that you’ll have days when you want to devote all your energy to your project, and others when you have no interest in working on it at all. You may even lose interest in your project altogether before it’s finished.

If you’ve lost interest, trying to force yourself to finish a project like a good Boy Scout can actually have a negative impact on the quality of your work. Your creative spirit will not be operating at full capacity, you’ll tend to rush things, and your diorama will end up suffering as a result. I don’t consider it an exaggeration to say that every great work of art had the undivided focus of its creator whenever he was working on it (but that doesn’t mean he worked on it non-stop until completion).

I began my Arctic Rescue diorama by building the Italeri 1:72 Cormorant kit which would be the main subject of the work. Due to the many modifications that were needed, the build took far longer than originally anticipated. After the model was assembled and painted, I started another project which took over all my creative energies. Several months later, I took the Cormorant out of storage and put the decals on it. Then I put it away again. At the time, I wasn’t motivated to build the base and create the scenery for the diorama which would eventually host the Cormorant.

Part of me worried that my interest in the diorama wouldn’t return at all. But one thing I’ve noticed is that my interest in diorama subjects tends to follow a cyclical pattern. For a while, I’ll be interested in helicopters. Then science fiction. Then WWII aircraft. Then the same subjects will repeat. In the case of Arctic Rescue, I had a hunch that eventually, my interest in helicopters would return. So I waited it out.

Several months later, I was ready to take up Arctic Rescue again. The cycle had come full circle. I carved a piece of blue insulation foam  into a cliffside and ordered an acrylic half sphere which would become the parachute of a downed aviator. Soon the diorama was complete.

Although I would have been kicked out of the Boys Scouts for taking so long to finish my project, the end result was much better than if I had forced myself to finish the project sooner. In fact, I consider Arctic Rescue to be one of my top dioramas (I’ll be featuring it in my next post).

So don’t worry if you want to take a break from your project. Chances are your creative buzz will return. And we’re not talking about paying off credit card debt, so what’s the rush?


Kitbash case study – Eagle Gunship

While completing my Eagle Crash diorama, I decided to show the passenger pod door of the crashed Eagle ajar, suggesting that the door had been forced open due to electrical failure. This required buying a second MPC Eagle kit to obtain a “spare” door, after carving away the original door (the door is molded into the side of the passenger pod). The timing was right, since MPC had just re-released their Eagle kit with a much improved decal sheet which I was also able to put to use.

Having updated the crashed Eagle to show the door ajar, I was left with a box full of spare parts (almost enough to build another Eagle). I decided to try my hand at a new design. And so began the design and construction of the Eagle Gunship. But first, a bit of background on the Eagle.

The Eagle is the all-purpose workhorse of Moonbase Alpha, carrying passengers as well as freight. The producers of Space: 1999 never made its military capabilities very clear. In Season 1 of the series, Eagles were occasionally shown firing lasers from a point on the underside of the Command Module. And in Season 2, at least one Eagle was fitted with a retractable laser turret housed in the forward Service Module. These enhancements were obviously added as afterthoughts to facilitate specific storylines writers had come up with. Space: 1999 suffered from a notorious lack of consistency in terms of the technical features and capabilities of Moonbase Alpha and its associated hardware. The series would have benefitted from a technical guidebook similar to the one shared by Star Trek writers to ensure consistency.

Nevertheless, the Brian Johnson-designed Eagle remains a classic in the annals of science fiction, and the real star of Space: 1999. Fictional spacecraft often forego realism for visual appeal, but the Eagle succeeds on both counts. The design is practical as well as aesthetically pleasing, with a modular approach which invites customization. So, leveraging the strong DNA of this classic design, I decided to create an Eagle variant designed specifically for warfare.

The Eagle Gunship is armed with two forward mounted laser guns and two guided missiles. It features main and auxiliary forward propulsion engines, vertical jets for liftoff, and fixed landing skids set wide apart for stability. Access is via a door at the rear of the Command Module. The Gunship’s compact size optimizes the thrust to weight ratio and makes the ship difficult for the enemy to locate and track.

In addition to parts and decals from the MPC kit and landing skids taken from MPC’s Darth Vader’s Tie Fighter kit, the Eagle Gunship build utilized sheet styrene, sheet acrylic, Apoxie Sculpt, aftermarket resin missiles, and various odds and ends from the parts bin. The decals didn’t behave like regular decals. The film was thicker than normal and didn’t respond well to Solvaset. However they came out okay and were quicker than painting.

Nose Subassembly

Engine Subassembly

I had to make some changes to the design during construction. The two spars behind the Command Module were originally conceived as being much slimmer, but more surface area was needed to support the engines, fuel tanks, vertical jets, and maneuvering thrusters. So the spars ended up being wider than originally planned.

When the model was initially completed, it was front-heavy and leaned forward on the landing skids. Adding two auxiliary engines at the back of the ship (made of lead) made the model balance nicely.

After finishing the Eagle Gunship, I realized that it would make a great addition to the Eagle Crash diorama. It’s close enough visually to the other two Eagles to blend into the scene, and different enough to make viewers take a second look.