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The Family Bore

Maybe some of you saw that very funny-yet-moody totally great 2006 American movie called Bubbah Ho-Tep. At one point the old man had just died and the daughter is going through his stuff. She finds his Purple Heart, has a glance at it and promptly throws it in the wastebasket.

Now guys, what will happen to our beloved dioramas when we will all be resting in peace? I am living in such a world that I fear it could be totally alien to other people, that what I am doing and the possible beauty that I can find in my dioramas just could appeal to nobody else than me and the dozen of people that cheer me up every time I post some stuff in a forum. I have no illusion about what will happen to my dioramas when I pass out, and stupidly, I happen to care about that.

Now I remind my great-grandfather, a Parisian seller who fancied himself being an artist – and indeed he was quite the gifted porcelain painter. He painted hundreds of them. So, for a few years now, every Christmas my mum tries to slip me one or 2 plates alongside more useful stuff in my yearly loot.

Why is his stuff passed from generation to another, while the Purple Heart ends up in the dustbin? That’s because great-grandpa painted birds, nature, women with red faces and big buttocks running through fields. Timeless stuff… stuff that is pleasing to women.

So maybe I found a goal with my dioramas, if I were about to disarm them, maybe they will turn me into this century’s family bore? Maybe I would still be somewhat reminded in 2100?

A walk in the park with Aivazovski

At the time of starting this diorama, I had just finished a very big one of the “A bridge too far” kind. Even if it ended being quite satisfactory, the amount of time and energy I spent building it was certainly much more than I could afford. So I decided that the next one would be a walk in the park, something very simple, yet a bit new and daring. From the start, I wanted to do everything by myself in this one – which included sculpting the figures - and to use all my abilities to create outstanding water.

One evening while checking at my reference books – which consist more of painters’ monographs than the Osprey-type reference books - I dug out one of my favourites. It’s about Ivan Aivazovski, a Russian painter that devoted his life to painting the sea and the boats on it. Admittedly, in my opinion, this particular XIXth century Russian painter is a bit of a hit and miss.

His best paintings (“The Seventh Wave” and “The Black Sea”) certainly reach Turner’s kneecap, but a lot of his work is just a bit too much affected for my own tastes. But then there’s a big something about his work. This guy knows the sea. He paints them with colour and movement. Man, he’s been there… But then a lot of his colours are the powerful ones that you get at dawn or sunset and there is supposed to be no way that you can reproduce that in a diorama as you can’t display any background unless you build a shadow box around.

And it’s by thinking about this problem with the help of very good music that I decided that I would simply bypass it. I would make a sea shore – probably complete with a boat - but still I would use the warm colours that you get on summer’s evenings (See Photo 1).

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About the Author

About Jean-Bernard André (jba)

Here are my 10 rules for better dioramas! 1 -The diorama is everything modelling is about, it's the meeting point of the manufactured object that is the model and the human input, you can –and have to- tell stories with dioramas. 2 -When doing your diorama you should not be influenced by any tr...


I've said it before and I say it again, you don't make normal dioramas Jean-Bernard, to me this is art. There is something else than what I see with my eyes, they make me start thinking and give me a feeling rather than a visual expression, exactly as good art!
JUN 30, 2007 - 10:04 AM
Thanks Andreas, I am still not sure about art but thanks for the "feeling" thing, it's one of my goals to achieve with this stuff
JUL 01, 2007 - 01:43 AM
You've just made this beachbum's day Jean-Bernard. I can almost smell the sea, hear the waves and feel the sand beneath my toes. Amazing amount of planning and excellent execution from the lighting to the foam near the beach. All this needs now is a couple of seagulls. Kidding of course.
JUL 01, 2007 - 06:22 PM
Hi CK -hey you know why no seagulls? that's because everybody looking at it would have say "hey, look at those seagulls, they're so tiny" etc etc, and the poor kid would have get no notice Actually some particular details like those "cute" ones I feel like you have to be careful when you use them, because they really distract the viewer's eye. if you look at the diorama, the more your eye gets farer from the kid, the less there is to see I have a good diorama idea with some seaguls, but they would be part of the action so that would be okay. thanks for your comments JB
JUL 01, 2007 - 07:55 PM
Another masterpiece JB ! Original, attrackting ! The water, wow, unbelievable ! Greetz Guy
JUL 10, 2007 - 09:08 AM
Thank you Guy! no seagulls for me this time too
JUL 10, 2007 - 07:41 PM
Hi Jean-Bernard! If this is not Art, it is very close to it! I'm really impressed by your artistic sensitivity and your technical address. Fantastic work! * Jean-Luc * Sorry, there are no Champagne or French Vine emoticon.
JUL 14, 2007 - 06:21 AM
hey Jean-Luc, knowing your views about our hobby vs art, I really thank you for a great compliment We should ask for a wine emoticon
JUL 14, 2007 - 09:17 PM
Jean-Bernard, mon ami, Finally I had some time to concentrate and read this feature. I examined the very well prepared pictures. You are a great diorama modeller mon ami! Thanks for sharing this great piece with us. I loved the "rolling the shrub between putty" method and will be very useful to me. A little tip from me: you can isolate the plaster from other materials using a special isolant for this purpose. You can find it at the dental materials stores. It is used by dental prothesis technichans and it is not expensive. Very easy to apply just using a paint brush, dries in minutes. Or you can make an isolant by yourself at home. Just separate the white of an egg from the yellow of it., beat it well and apply with a paint brush. But be carreful you will have some very bad smelling stuff there Regards bro, Algu
JUL 24, 2007 - 07:44 AM
dear Alguhan, now that's really pleasing to fall on your comments while just back from well earned holidays:) Thanks a lot for your tip about plaster, it will no doubt be useful next time I deal with this material-the egg trick is weird -really worth a try! As for dentists, i should really check their materials because i am pretty sure that their special scalpels could well be more tiny and precise than the blunt instruments we buy in hobby shops good bye for now my friend, thanks again for your comments! JB
AUG 14, 2007 - 11:59 PM