Category Archives: Finished Works

Yavin Flypast (1:72, 1:144, 1:270)

In this scene from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Rebel X-Wings and Y-Wings fly past the planet Yavin on their way to intercept the approaching Death Star. Here we see the Rebel attack force assembled together for the first time, and anticipate the thrills of the coming battle. So important was this shot to George Lucas that he revised it for the 1997 re-release of the original Star Wars trilogy to take advantage of the latest advances in computer generated special effects. 

This is a forced perspective diorama using vehicles scaled from 1:72 to 1:270. I decided to show the X-Wings with their S-foils in attack position—the definitive look for the X-Wing.  

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

Contemplating Gotham (1:35, 1:700)

The Batmobile is back. This is the same 1:35 Bandai kit which I used in Batmobile Winterscape, a large tabletop diorama featured in Diorama Design. Now repurposed for a more compact wall-mounted display. 

A white metal Batman figure joins the Batmobile against a forced perspective backdrop. LEDs were used for lighting. The case is acrylic and birch wood. 

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


Arctic Rescue finds new home at Greenwood Museum

Greenwood Military Aviation Museum (GMAM) in Nova Scotia, Canada, has curated my diorama Arctic Rescue for its Search and Rescue themed display area. GMAM is celebrating its 25th anniversary and features an air park of finely restored aircraft dating back to WWII, as well as numerous interior displays and artifacts. 

GMAM is a stone’s throw from Canadian Forces Base Greenwood which began as an RAF station in 1942 and was home to iconic warbirds like the Lancaster and Mosquito. CFB Greenwood has grown to become the largest operational airbase in Atlantic Canada. 

Art is meant to be shared. The satisfaction of completing a creative project is certainly a reward in itself, but most artists appreciate the opportunity to be able to display their work publicly. I’m delighted that the CH-149 Cormorant miniature in Arctic Rescue can now be seen in the company of its full-size rotary-wing cousins like the museum’s Labrador and H44. And if you visit, you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the full-size Cormorant at nearby CFB Greenwood, where it’s currently operational. 

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


Buzzing the Castle (1:72, 1:500)

Low level flying has a visceral thrill for both pilot and observer, since the speed of the aircraft is emphasized by the proximity of the ground. Here, a Spitfire Mk.IXc buzzes a castle in the English countryside. Buzzing is what pilots call a low level pass, especially when it’s directed at a specific person or place. 

I used forced perspective to fit everything into a compact box diorama format. The Spitfire is a 1:72 Eduard ProfiPACK kit, and the 3D-printed castle is around 1:500 scale. 

This diorama is the second half of a matched pair which I built concurrently (Evening Kill being the other half). Buzzing the Castle was originally going to be a daytime scene with no lighting, but when I put it next to Evening Kill, it didn’t quite match. So now it’s a moonlit scene.  

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 new book, Diorama Design. It’s available in both ebook and print formats at Amazon.

-Ivar

Evening Kill (1:72, 1:144)

The logbook for Erich Hartmann, greatest fighter ace of all time, shows that a few of his kills took place very late in the day, after 19:00. This diorama depicts what it might have looked like.

The box diorama format gives plenty of control over lighting, which was important in achieving the right ambience for this scene. The sunset effect was created with tinted acrylic strips back-lit by an orange LED. 

Forced perspective was used to increase the apparent distance between the aircraft. The Messerschmitt Bf109G is 1:72 scale and the Yak-9 is 1:144. 

The Black Tulip is a masterstroke of aviation graphics and is especially effective when paired with the winter camouflage scheme on this late model 109. I wonder who designed the Black Tulip . . . was it Hartmann himself, one of his trusty mechanics, or someone else? 

This diorama is the first of a pair which I’ve been working on concurrently. The second will feature another legendary fighter aircraft of WWII: the Spitfire. 

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 new book, Diorama Design. It’s available in both ebook and print formats at Amazon.

-Ivar

Revisiting SHADO Yards

This is a follow-up to my original post on SHADO Yards from May 24, 2016. This diorama features moving parts, so I’ve decided to show what it looks like in motion. It was inspired by the 1970s TV series UFO.

SHADO Yards is half diorama, half model railroad. I had long thought about building a model railroad. But I realized I wouldn’t be satisfied with a conventional layout using off-the-shelf rolling stock, and decided I wanted to go with a science fiction theme instead. So the “train” in this diorama became a launch pad, which carries a factory fresh Interceptor from the assembly building to its launch position. I realized it would be less expensive to use an electric motor with a chain and sprocket drive, rather than a DC or DCC equipped locomotive, which would require an expensive controller. As you can see from the video, the transport mechanism moves at a constant speed.

The video also shows off the lighting to good effect. The sound effects were added in post production.

SHADO Yards

-Ivar

Scratchbuild case study: Phoenix

The Phoenix is an original design I came up with for a teaser promoting a feature length screenplay I had written called Test Pilot. Although the screenplay was never made into a film, it won a Toronto International Film Festival screenwriters’ competition.

The Phoenix is a lifting body design inspired by experimental NASA craft such as Northrop’s HL-10 and M2-F2. If you remember the TV series The Six Million Dollar Man, one of these craft was featured in a spectacular crash landing in the show’s title sequence.

Lifting body spaceplanes were developed to demonstrate the feasibility of unpowered re-entry from space using a piloted craft which could land like a conventional aircraft. These craft were never put into operational use, but they paved the way for NASA’s Space Shuttle, which utilized unpowered re-entry. The Space Shuttle had a career spanning 30 years, from 1981 to 2011. It was originally to have been replaced by the Lockheed Martin X-33, but that program was cancelled due to technical problems. The latest potential replacement for the Space Shuttle is Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser, a diminutive lifting body vehicle which could fit into the Space Shuttle’s cargo bay if the wings were folded. Time will tell if the Dream Chaser program will prove successful.

Using sheet styrene to build the Phoenix resulted in an origami style design with lots of sharp corners. If I were to do it all over again, I’d add some sculpting clay to smooth out the shape. The canopy glazing was frosted to eliminate the need to detail the cockpit interior. You can just make out the pilot’s white helmet if you look closely.

The rear landing gear feature solid rubber wheels (radio control aircraft parts) and the front landing gear wheels are from a 1:32 MIG-21 plastic kit. The engine is also made up of pieces from the spares box. The Phoenix is quite heavy due to a solid block of wood in the interior which was the attachment point for the support rod used to position it during filming. The model appeared in three shots in the video teaser: a static hangar shot, an in-flight shot showing the ship in a flat spin, and a lift-off shot which used a dry chemical fire extinguisher to simulate the exhaust blast.

Since the ship is designed to operate in the Earth’s atmosphere, it has to be streamlined to minimize friction. This means no Star Wars-style detailing like you’d see on a Y-Wing or Millennium Falcon. I applied a two-tone orange paint scheme to add some visual interest to the wide expanse of flat surface, and weathered the nose and underside of the ship to suggest scarring from the intense heat generated during re-entry.

Like many designs, the Phoenix looks better from some angles than others. The rear three-quarter view is probably the best, as it shows the massive engine bell with surrounding detail and the rear landing gear.

-Ivar

Scratchbuild case study: Mantis

The Mantis is a 1:12 scale VTOL aircraft I designed and built for a short film called Last Flight. The film was the final project for a filmmaking course I took several years ago.

mantis-front

Utilizing a sheet aluminum skin over a framework of copper tubing, the Mantis features spring-loaded landing struts and a vertically mounted fan to generate dust on touchdown. To stay within budget, found objects were used wherever possible. The engine bells are lighting shrouds from a camera supply store, and the main engines are hairspray cans. The one area where I spent a bit more money was the landing skids, which are solid milled steel.
mantis-rear-three-quarter

Film models are vastly different from typical display models. They’re designed to fit the requirements of a specific scene, so the emphasis is on function. The main requirements for the Mantis were going with a large enough scale so that the camera would hold depth of field during filming, and making the fuselage big enough to accommodate an electric fan. Filmed with an overcranked 16mm Bolex camera, the fan did a good job of blowing dust (cinnamon from the kitchen cupboard) all over as it touched down on the landing pad, and the scene came out looking fairly realistic.

Given the tight project deadline, I didn’t have time to detail the model. But as special effects guru Brian Johnson once said, “with all that smoke swirling about, you can get away with murder!” I used cinnamon instead of smoke, but close enough.

mantis-top

There was of course a pilot figure seated in the cockpit for the filming of the scene. I upgraded the cockpit later using an Italeri kit so the Mantis would make a respectable display model. As for the design of the ship, I saw it in a dream. I don’t remember what the rest of the dream was about, but I sketched out the basic shape as soon as I woke up, and worked out the details later. The sharply angled nose looks a bit like a Praying Mantis, hence the name.

-Ivar

Kitbash case study: Troop Transport

This is one of my first kitbashes. I was satisfied enough with the end result that I kept it in my collection and still have it after all these years. The front is the main hull section of the Rio Grande Runabout from Deep Space Nine, and the back consists of the service module and engines from Mattel’s Space: 1999 Eagle Transporter.
front-view
Mattel’s Eagle was impressive in size but hopelessly inaccurate. Despite my attempts to upgrade it from toy to scale replica, I was never able to get it to look like an actual Eagle. So I eventually ended up cannibalizing it for parts to create an original design.
rear-view
The Runabout kit which was available at the time had the right shape to complement the parts I was going to use from the Eagle. (I was never a fan of Deep Space Nine; in fact, it was probably the least memorable of all the incarnations of Star Trek. It lacked the magic Star Trek ingredient, which is having a starship capable of zooming around the galaxy to a different destination each week.)

So by combining parts from two unremarkable products, I came up with something which I was much happier with. I didn’t prepare so much as a sketch before beginning the build, and wasn’t really sure how it would turn out. But everything blended together fairly well, helped by judicious detailing and a uniform coat of spray paint.
The most challenging part of the build was the rear landing gear. A fair amount of strength was needed to support the weight of the model. My solution was to form both the left and right gear from a single steel rod. I ran it width-wise through the aft section and bent it into shape on each side. The landing pads were taken from a Lunar Models Jupiter II kit (the old vacuform kit which preceded the injection molded Moebius kit by many years).
side-view
The hull section of the Runabout was given a new cockpit canopy: a single piece of clear plastic bent to shape and silvered on the inside, suggesting an optical shield to guard the crew from radiation (not to mention it saved me from having to scratch build a canopy interior!). I also carved out a front landing gear bay on the underside of the Runabout’s hull and added the gear along with a vertical thruster.

The Troop Transport’s lack of windows reflects its utilitarian function. It’s designed to carry a large complement of troops and is devoid of any of the luxuries you’d find on a passenger craft. Entry and exit is through a door at the rear of the ship. Essentially it’s a space-going V-22 Osprey.
top-view
Having assembled and painted the Troop Transport, I put it aside and called it a day. But after displaying it on the shelf for a while, I realized the overall white paint scheme was a bit bland. Some bright red decals and a touch of weathering would give it more visual punch. Having just picked up a bottle of Solvaset decal setting solution, I was eager to see what it could do. So I applied some spare decals over various nooks and crannies. To my amazement the decals conformed perfectly regardless of how irregular the surface was. Solvaset is one of the stronger decal setting solutions and not all decals perform equally well with it. But in this case everything turned out nicely.

-Ivar

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.

-Ivar