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fifthconspiracy 02-16-2008 05:38 PM

Creating a Diorama with Trees and Rocks, step-by-step
Hello again!

My son and I have started another father-son project... this time a diorama with a rock face/cliff and maybe a tree or two.

As before, I'll be posting our progress with this thread.

Note: For our previous diorama how-to, which was the ranger station, please see this thread: Thanks again for all your comments on that past project. Was fun!

Now keep in mind that what you see in the rest of this thread - I have never done anything remotely crafty/hobbish like this before, so feel free to critique, cause I'm gonna make some mistakes... but that's all part of learning right?

Let's Start with a Tree Experiment

Firstly, we took a used paper towel roll and added some bits of bended cereal-box cardboard to the end, to make the tree seem like it gets wider at the bottom. The main thing I'm after here is to make sure that the tree does NOT look uniform in shape at all... Nature isn't after all ;-)

Using some air-dry modeling clay (this particular clay isn't clay at all, it's actually made from volcanic ash and apparently it's non-toxic) we apply the clay to the paper towel roll, starting at the bottom and working our way up... smoothing and blending as we go.

I taped over the top of the roll and then covered it all in clay as well. Here's a picture of the clay application process finished. Took about 10 minutes.

So we let it sit for 10 more minutes and then I took a sharp paring knife and gently curved lines in the clay, to make the bark look natural. I made some sweeping lines, vertical lines... and I stopped and started in different areas... basically just being totally random. I would like to note, that you should use a very sharp knife for this part, a dull knife we tried left miniscule clumps of clay along the lines, which looked bad.

So there you have it! We have started project number 2! Stay tuned for more updates and photos as we progress.

Cheers! ~ Paul.

fifthconspiracy 02-16-2008 06:23 PM

Onto the Rock Face!
So, we'll let the clay on the tree air-dry for awhile... now onto the rock face!

Our Rock Face Experiment

Now, we looked and looked for a casting plaster called "Hydrocal Light" but could not find it anywhere locally. So we fell back onto Plaster of Paris. Be careful with this stuff, it's quite toxic and can burn skin when it reacts with water. Hydrocal is supposed to be superior in every way... Plaster of Paris is mainly for pouring into molds, but as you'll see below, I tried using it a different way with mixed results ;-)

To start, we setup our rock face backing and used masking tape to hold in the crumpled up newspaper in place. The side closest to the camera will be a ledge for joes to hide on, thus jumping off wildly onto unsuspecting cobras below.

Mixing 2 parts plaster of paris, to 1.5 parts water, I dipped 3" strips of paper towel into the mixture, and then laid it onto the surface as shown below.

At this point, we're about 5 minutes in and it starts to harden faster that I was expecting. The paper towel edges are quite apparent, so I stick my hand in the bucket and pull some out to slap on the surface. This was working well until about another 4 minutes past... then it became clumpy and quite difficult to work with.

Ok, whew! We're finished for now. I'm not too happy with the clumpy look of the rock face. I think adding some plaster of paris mixture by hand at the end kinda ruined the smooth look it had. We'll let it set over night and maybe add some more mixture to it tomorrow to smooth it out. We'll see...

Cobra Commander standing on the rock face ledge... "With my authority, I claim this rock face Cobra Island!"

So there's some rock. Who knows what it will look like when we're done... a few misteps we think - but we'll attempt to clean it up later! Flying by the seat of our pants here! Woot!

Cheers! ~ Paul.

fifthconspiracy 02-16-2008 06:41 PM

Back to the Tree
Ok, so we go back to our tree trunk... and start to paint!

Using acrylic paints, we followed through with the plan to use a light color first, then dry-brush on a darker brown. It worked out ok we think!

Laying down the first application!

Here's a shot of Cobra Commander, slithering around the tree!

Now we dry-brush on a darker brown color as shown below:

And again, using Cobra Commander as a subject - we find that the dry-brushing looks somewhat ok... but we need a third pass to make it not-so-splotchy. This pic is after the first dark brown pass:

Here's a couple of shots after the second pass of darker brown. Looks fantastic upclose and even better 4 feet away! I'd say we have a sucess on our hands here! My son was thrilled with it. Who knew a hobby-tree could make an 8 year old Joe fanatic so happy! Woot!

And there you have it for now! Comments, suggestions are most welcome and infact encouraged! Thanks!

Cheers! ~ Paul.

frk525 02-16-2008 06:55 PM

Looking great, Paul, i'm definitely going to try some of your projects sometime. Will there be more to your Trees and Rocks how-to is this all for this project? Fantastic job

fifthconspiracy 02-16-2008 06:57 PM

Originally Posted by frk525
Looking great, Paul, i'm definitely going to try some of your projects sometime. Will there be more to your Trees and Rocks how-to is this all for this project? Fantastic job

We've only just begun!

We just started this diorama project this morning!



Sephron13 02-17-2008 06:59 AM

I've been waiting for you to start on this. We both were on the same track, it seems, as I've been saving our paper-towel rolls (and even TP rolls) to do this very same thing. Anyway, fantastic job you're doing. I'm anxious to see how this progresses! As always, keep the great pics coming!

fifthconspiracy 02-17-2008 06:11 PM

Painting the Rock!
Before we get to painting - last night we mixed up some more plaster of paris, turned the whole rock wall on its side and poured it all over to smooth the whole thing out. Looks much better we think, you decide!

So we let the plaster dry for just over 14 hours... then my son was itchin' to paint it... so we whipped out the paint and got busy!

We first applied dark grey (using acrylic paint here again) to all surfaces, making sure we had a good thick coat on there...

And here we're almost done!

My son posed Beachhead next to the rock to see how it would look. He is not satisified with the tree paint application - he wants to make it darker... maybe tomorrow ;-)

Next, we took some white acrylic paint, and mixed it with water... quite a bit of water... and then used a huge paint brush to smooth it onto the higher points of the rock. It's hard to see it in the pic, but in person it looks way different than before.

And here is a final test shot of Beachhead with the rock in the background.

We went out looking for something to make good grass with today, but came up empty handed because the hobby shop we've had luck with in the past is closed on Sundays :mad:

So far our rock wall is looking more like a volcano errupted and then cooled ;-) with the sweeping lines. Not sure how one would go about making more pointed square rock... probably not with our plaster of paris method. But regardless, my boy is happy with the results and we had fun doing it.

Cheers! ~ Paul.

Sephron13 02-17-2008 06:16 PM

I like the rock wall, so nice job! :D Keep going!

fifthconspiracy 02-17-2008 06:20 PM

Originally Posted by Sephron13
I like the rock wall, so nice job! :D Keep going!

Thanks Sephron!

This little dio is our test case for making that bigger 2-storey stone building with rockwall I sent you last week as a hand-drawn sketch. If this works out ok in the end, we'll start that next!

Cheers! ~ Paul.

lehsreh 02-17-2008 06:37 PM

keep these coming. uh, its a good way for you and your kid to bond... yeah, thats it. its a good way for you and your kid to bond, so keep them coming.
seriously though thanx for these how to's.

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