Tag Archives: 2.5D

Draken Duo

Famous for its distinctive delta wing, the Saab J 35 Draken was the first supersonic European fighter aircraft. It entered service in 1960 and continued to serve as late as 2005. Inspired by a beautiful example (J 35J s/n 35541) at the Estonian Aviation Museum last summer, I decided to make the Draken the subject of my next project. 

Saab J 35J Draken at the Estonian Aviation Museum, 2021

The goal was to create a scene that not only showcases the sleek delta shape of the Draken but also conveys a sense of speed and perspective. I opted for the same 2.5D approach previously used on Zero and Gripen. 

Two Drakens were carved out of 3mm styrene. Panel lines were drawn with a fine marker and a base coat of yellow was sprayed on. Details such as shadows and canopy reflections were added with brush paints and markers. I previously used shadows on The Real Winner and found that they not only lend depth to the subject but also help ‘sell’ the scene. 

I decided not to associate these aircraft with any particular air force. The events of the past two years have made it clear that most countries are no longer sovereign democracies. When governments all march in lockstep towards a globalist dystopia, the colours of their flags no longer have any meaning. 

For the background, an aerial landscape photo was modified in Photoshop to create a blur effect. The perspective was adjusted to match that of the two aircraft. The photo was mounted on a yellow acrylic plate which was fastened to a frame of translucent gloss brown acrylic. As a final step, the Drakens were attached to the photo. 

This is the smallest 2.5D piece I’ve made so far, at 30cm (12”) in width not including the frame. 


The Real Winner

The Real Winner is my third 2.5D work. It measures about 33cm (13”) in width. After finishing Gripen, I wanted to create something that would really emphasize the natural beauty of acrylic. The grey pavement strip has a high gloss finish, the blue background is semi-gloss, and the blur effect of the crowds in the background was obtained by scribing textures onto the back of a translucent acrylic strip. The motion trail, or ‘whoosh’ behind the car is translucent matt blue acrylic. Both the blurred crowds and the whoosh create implied movement, a technique discussed in my book Diorama Design

Preserving the natural lustre of the various acrylic strips lends visual vibrancy to the finished piece. As you walk past it, the light plays on the surfaces and gives the impression that everything is in motion.

To create a sense of perspective, the layers in the composition are stacked, so each layer is a different distance from the viewer. The grey pavement strip is at the front, followed by the flag, the car, and the background. 

Racing aficionados will recognize the Ford GT40 driven by Ken Miles in the 1966 Le Mans race. With a name like that, he was destined to be a race car driver! The 2019 James Mangold film of the race, which is called Ford v Ferrari in North America and Le Mans ’66 in Europe, inspired this work. If you’ve seen the film, you probably know why I call this piece The Real Winner. It’s a ‘what if’ depiction of Ken Miles crossing the finish line in a clear first place victory, which is what should have happened at the end of the race. The moment in the film when Miles is cheated out of his win by a combination of corporate machinations and arcane racebook technicalities will strike a chord for anyone who has had a major professional accomplishment unfairly dismissed.

The GT40 sports a striking colour scheme featuring Gulf Oil’s light blue and orange shades. These colours remind me of the art deco pastels of South Beach architecture in Miami, USA. They’re a signature component of the GT40 and its racing legacy. 



This diptych is my second 2.5D work. It portrays the Gripen multirole combat aircraft from two vantage points. It’s often difficult to choose the perfect angle to frame a subject. The beauty of the diptych is that you get to choose two angles. The classic front three-quarter view creates a strong sense of perspective and captures the thrill of an aircraft flying towards you. The overhead view showcases the Gripen’s graceful delta wing shape and signature canards. 

Like Zero, Gripen is made of styrene and acrylic. I sourced opaque green and brown acrylic sheets for the background plates with the intention of preserving the natural sheen of the material. However, I ended up repainting them because the colours weren’t the right shades.

The exhaust effects were created with translucent acrylic. The sand coloured plate which ties the two halves together is a clear acrylic sheet with a coloured paper backing. This preserves the natural gloss of the acrylic.

You may have noticed that the aircraft have no markings. Like most modern combat aircraft, the Gripen usually wears low visibility markings which are not only lacking in colour but also rather undersized. I decided to omit the markings since they have little graphic value. I leave it to you to decide which air force these Gripens belong to.

Gripen is Swedish for griffin, a mythical creature that is part lion and part eagle. The JAS-39 Gripen entered service with the Swedish air force in 1993 and features the familiar Saab delta wing design previously used on the Draken (dragon) and Viggen (thunderbolt). The Gripen has enjoyed commercial success and is in use with half a dozen air forces around the world. Like its predecessors, the aircraft has a short takeoff roll that enables it to operate from highways and other improvised airfields. Its modular design lowers maintenance costs and should ensure a long service life. 

What sets the Gripen apart from other modern jet fighters is the canard control surfaces at the front of the aircraft. Saab is one of the pioneers of this technology, and they previously employed it on the Viggen. Apart from providing aeronautical benefits like increased control and maneuverability, these small aft mounted wings give the Gripen a style all its own. 



This is the first of a series of two-and-a-half-dimensional (2.5D) works which I’ll be covering on this blog. I call these pieces 2.5D because they have more depth than a two-dimensional painting but less than a three-dimensional diorama.

The Mitsubishi Zero represented leading edge fighter aircraft technology when it entered service at the beginning of WWII. Its lightweight construction and flush riveting  were innovative features that gave it excellent speed and maneuverability. Combined with its long range and low speed landing characteristics, it was the ideal aircraft for Japan’s aircraft carrier based operations.

Zero was inspired by a technical illustration in an aircraft book. I’ve always been drawn to the aircraft’s bold red, white and black colour scheme. I worked within this palette when adding the rising sun, the horizon lines, and the lettering. The aircraft is cut out of thick styrene sheet and the sun is acrylic, coated with two-part resin for a high gloss finish. The horizon lines are steel.

This is a fairly large piece, measuring 88cm (about 35”) wide.


And now for something completely different

Until now, this blog has focused on dioramas populated with model kit miniatures. In addition, the completed works that have been showcased are all three-dimensional.

Somewhere between the two-dimensional world of paintings and the three-dimensional world of dioramas lies a hybrid known as the relief sculpture. The above photo of an ancient Egyptian relief shows how a sense of depth can be achieved by carving the subject so it protrudes slightly from the background. Relief sculptures are usually sculpted from a single piece of stone.

A variant of the relief sculpture, which I call 2.5D, achieves the same effect but uses separate materials for the subject and background. I chose the name 2.5D because this type of work has more depth than a 2D painting but less than a 3D diorama. Rather than incorporating model kits, everything must be made from scratch. The benefit of 2.5D is that a sense of depth is achieved with a minimum of space, so the finished piece can be hung on the wall like a painting.

In my book Forced Perspective Dioramas, I talk about how forcing perspective allows the artist to represent greater distances in miniature without making the diorama impractically large. 2.5D represents another approach to tackling this challenge.

If you’re wondering what a 2.5D work looks like, stay tuned. The next post will feature one. It’s called Zero.