So, my first ever 1/35 diorama; I used it as a trial for the T-62 dio I’m planning. (The first statement is not entirely true; I did do a snowed-in Mobelwagen long time back, but a small snowy vista is hardly a complex diorama.) It started without a concept; I had two figures and a bunch of equipment to use, so I made use of them… The scene -in retrospect- depicts a Zrinyi II in a prepared position somewhere on the Eastern Front in late Fall/early Spring (probably in 1943, as they are not fleeing). Two German soldiers are discussing the tactics, while one of the tankers is sitting on the tank, uninvolved, having a smoke. Not very dramatic, but there you go. I finally got to use the German figures which -as you might have guessed by now- were sitting in my collection since 2007 gathering dust. The Hungarian tanker came from Bodi.
Disclaimer: I had no idea what I was doing when I started. (I’m not sure I do now.)
One thing is for sure: I’ve learned a lot about how to “populate” a diorama.
The first steps were adding the textured base from Tamiya. It’s supposed to be mud colored, but it’s not very convincing; the color and texture looks something entirely else. Something better would be needed.
I went out to the garden, gathered up some dried-out soil, and mixed it with plaster; using this mixture I added some terrain irregularities. (The German figures came with a small base which needed to be blended in the rest of the scene.) I used a couple of boxes and fuel barrels as well to make the scene look busier. Because the plaster made the color of the earth I used, I went over the whole scene with my airbrush several times using different earth tones. The tank was in place by then, but the little overspray actually helps in this case; it blends in the mud on the lower chassis with the soil. I made some more mixture of soil (and much less plaster), which was “flicked” onto the lower part of the screens on the side. I loaded up a stiff brush, and created the splatters using a toothpick (it is not difficult, but first try which direction you need to move the toothpick to make sure the mud ends up on the tank…) As with everything: the layers are the key. Several slightly different colors were added in several light layers – it adds to the realism of the weathering.
The other issue with the soil was that it cracked as it dried. It was a fortunate thing for me- it does look like real McCoy. In this case I can claim that it was totally intentional. Absolutely. However if I want to produce a groundwork that is not cracked, I might be in trouble. Experimentation is in order I feel; this is where shortcuts, like pre-made mixtures can help.
I have bought a bunch of different diorama products to prepare the vegetation. The self-adhesive grass patches looked much better once I used the airbrush to spray some brown color on them. The laser-cut shrub has an unfortunate, unnatural color; green and brown oil colors helped to make them resemble actual living plants.
The figures were painted over several years, really; I’m not much of a figure painter. For the face (the most problematic area) I used Citadel’s different flesh colors in layers. I had to get a replacement head for the sitting figure, as the original was lost.
As a last step I put some fallen leaves and other plant detritus into the scene. There’s a tree which has a long, caterpillar-like seed-pod. (Despite of being a biologist I have absolutely no clue what the tree is called… As soon as I figure out I’ll amend this post.) When you crumb it up, it falls apart, and some parts do look like fallen leaves. I mixed these in with some strongly diluted white spirit, and placed it all over the base. Small details like that actually made this scene a lot more realistic.