Tag Archives: diorama

The most ubiquitous diorama in the world

The Nativity is a scene which is commemorated in many ways each Christmas. Since the birth of Christ two millennia ago, it has been the subject of live performances, films, paintings, and of course dioramas. Without a doubt, The Nativity is the most popular diorama subject in history. 

This particular rendition of The Nativity was photographed at the base of the Marienplatz tower in Munich, Germany. It depicts the three kings bearing gifts in front of the manger where Mary and Joseph can be seen at the side of the newborn Christ. These figures gain visual emphasis from their placement against the dark background of the manger interior. Most of the figures in the scene are looking towards Christ, reinforcing Him as the focal point of the scene. 

The colour palette is based on soothing earth tones and the scene has been given realistic details, like the debris scattered over the roof of the manger. The finely detailed figures appear to be made from scratch. Painted hills in the background give the scene depth.

Best wishes for the holidays and Merry Christmas!

-Ivar

A diorama in porcelain

Dating from the late 19th Century, this rural scene is made entirely of porcelain. The piece is titled Desk Set in Shape of a Farmhouse and was fabricated by the Gardner Porcelain and Faience Factory. It is part of the permanent collection on display at the Kadriorg Art Museum in Tallinn, Estonia. 

Porcelain might very well be one of the last materials that diorama artists would think of using for their next project, especially when coming from the world of scale modelling. Porcelain sculptures are hand sculpted in clay and then fired in a kiln. The firing process places limitations on the proportions of objects which can be modelled—anything too thin will crack when heated. This explains the slightly puffy look of the lady and her dog. Like most porcelain sculptures, this one is uniformly glazed in a high gloss finish. 

The farmhouse represents a log cabin, but its perfect symmetry and soft pastel shades give it a look more akin to a gingerbread house. The small tree off to the side has one shiny red apple on it, adding a dash of cheer. 

The diorama perfectly captures the peaceful feeling of a day in the country. For those of us who live in the city, separated from nature, this unassuming little diorama makes an excellent argument for a simpler way of life.   

-Ivar

Gladiatorial combat diorama from Italeri

Italeri are set to release a 1:72 diorama of a Roman era gladiatoral arena, complete with figures. The product is scheduled for a September 2020 release and is the latest in a long line of 1:72 battle sets from various historical periods offered by Italeri. 

For anyone who enjoys Roman epics like Ben-Hur, Quo Vadis, Spartacus and Gladiator, this diorama is sure to please. Components include a circular stadium made with laser cut MDF, an arena fence, spectator seats, animal cages, two chariots, and dozens of injection plastic figures. The arena is approximately 43cm in diameter when assembled.  

More ambitious modellers could use the arena as a starting point for a broader scene with additional elements. The possibilities are endless. 

-Ivar

Harrier Ascendant (1:144)

Introduced in the late 1960s, the Harrier ‘jump jet’ was a major breakthrough in military aviation. It was the first jet fighter capable of taking off and landing vertically. This unique ability made it ideally suited to carrier operations as well as land based close support roles. Whereas a conventional fighter squadron could be grounded by knocking out a runway, the Harrier was immune. It could operate from a field clearing and land anywhere a helicopter could. 

To this day, no other aircraft has been able to duplicate the Harrier’s success. The new F-35B, which weighs twice as much as the Harrier, rarely exercises its vertical take-off capability due to the massive fuel expenditure required. Due to this limitation, the F-35B is referred to as a STOVL (Short Take-Off Vertical Landing) aircraft. Close, but no cigar. 

I was able to see a Harrier do a vertical take-off one autumn many years ago at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Canada. It was an unforgettable sight. 

-Ivar

A Life-Size Tintin Diorama

The Museum of Original Figurines (MOOF) in Brussels, Belgium boasts a wide variety of figures and displays ranging from Batman to Tintin. 

The Adventures of Tintin was a series of 24 comic albums created by the Belgian cartoonist Hergé. Tintin is one the most famous comic strip characters in Europe.

One of the highlights of MOOF is a life-size forced perspective diorama of Tintin and his dog Snowy being chased by an airplane. Tintin and Snowy are three-dimensional sculptures and the plane is a two-dimensional cutout. All are rendered in pastels to mimic the look of the original comic strip. Tintin is in a very dynamic pose which heightens the tension of the scene. The flapping of his jacket as he runs is especially well done. Snowy seems more interested in Tintin than the plane, but he’s still cute. 

This diorama shows what you can do with just three simple elements. There’s no background scenery at all, which puts the focus entirely on the characters.   

-Ivar

Bond in Motion Dioramas

Eaglemoss has released a series of 1:43 diecast vehicle dioramas based on the long-running James Bond film franchise. These ready-made dioramas recreate scenes from the movies using a partial box diorama format, consisting of a base and two background walls. 

Usually a diorama of this type would have three walls, but with just two, it encourages diagonal placement, giving the scene a fresh look. The rectangular base simplifies shipping, but the trade-off is that there’s a crease in the background where the two walls meet. Most of these dioramas are done in forced perspective, with the backgrounds showing distant scenery which lends a sense of depth. 

The Bond movies have showcased many fine automobiles, including Aston Martins, Lotuses,  BMWs, and more. Until now, any car manufacturer getting a call from the Bond producers considered themselves blessed. But with the impending departure of actor Daniel Craig and his replacement by a female 007—an oxymoron—those days are over. 

No Time To Die is the most ironic title ever given to a Bond film, since this upcoming installment will indeed mark the death of the franchise. Bond fans will boycott the movies and box office receipts will plummet. Cars associated with future installments of the franchise will become symbols of political correctness, more likely to be shunned than coveted. 

But the Bond legacy remains, and the definitive series of films that started with Dr. No and ended with Spectre will always have a place in the hearts of true 007 fans.    

For tips on how to optimize the visual impact of your work, see my book Diorama Design. It’s available on Amazon and Apple Books.

-Ivar

Fifth Gen (1:144, non scale)

The Sukhoi SU-57 is a Fifth Generation aircraft which represents state-of-the-art fighter design. Although it has yet to be sold to any foreign buyers, this scene shows what it would look like in Estonian livery. 

Most dioramas are constructed on a horizontal base. This makes sense for a military or automotive scene because the vehicles interact with the terrain. But when we see an aircraft in flight, it’s usually framed by the horizon. The ground isn’t important, so I left it out.     

For tips on how to optimize the visual impact of your work, see my book Diorama Design. It’s available on Amazon and Apple Books.

-Ivar

Thunderbird 2 (1:2500, non scale)

Gerry Anderson’s classic series Thunderbirds captured the imagination of many a young boy, and we watched mesmerized as the Tracy brothers piloted their wondrous vehicles to the scene of a disaster to save the day. The most distinctive of these was Virgil Tracy’s Thunderbird 2. This green behemoth was International Rescue’s heavy duty transporter, able to carry specialized equipment in an interchangeable pod. With its forward-swept wings and beetle-shaped fuselage, nothing in the skies (real or imagined) looked quite like TB2. 

The beloved program was rebooted in 2015, featuring state of the art special effects and updated vehicle designs. One of the biggest successes of the new Thunderbirds Are Go is the reimagined Thunderbird 2. It’s still big and green, but the new design is less bug and more machine. Christian Pearce, Senior Concept Artist at Weta Workshop, gave TB2 some well thought out nips and tucks to bring it into the new millennium. He beefed up the engine nacelles for a more muscular, broad shouldered look, and flattened the roofline for a sleeker overall profile. These tweaks give Thunderbird 2 a fresh look while still staying true to the spirit of the original design.  

This forced perspective scene shows Thunderbird 2 on its way home after another successful mission, trailing exhaust plumes as it passes over a city. 

For tips on how to optimize the visual impact of your work, see my book Diorama Design. It’s available on Amazon and Apple Books.

-Ivar


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