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Book Review
Building Dioramas
Building Dioramas
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:

Building Dioramas is a new book from Fine Scale Modeler Books by well-known modeler and model sculptor Chris Mrosko, co-founder of Warriors Scale Models . While there is a host of books available about building models, building dioramas, painting and air brushing, casting, and other modeling aspects, Mr. Mrosko’s resume includes all of those disciplines. Plus, he has the ability to clearly present those skills in an easily read and enjoyable text, supported by high-quality photographs of the topics.
    Acclaimed modeler Chris Mrosko explains how to build dioramas that showcase models and create dramatic scenes, as well as offering expert modeling tips. Focusing on a step-by-step, how-to approach, modelers will learn the fundamentals of construction and design, airbrushing and finishing tips, how to cast pieces out of resin, and more.

    • The ideal reference for modelers who want to expand their skills and do more with their models
    • A variety of step-by-step projects that range from Saving Private Ryan to modern global conflicts
    • Modelers will learn how to create “wedgie” dioramas to showcase figures
    - Kalmback

Books like this are both fun and frustrating to me – I read through the pages and realize ’I’ve been doing that for decades’ as well as ’ I never knew that - great idea!’

The author presents Building Dioramas through 119 pages in 17 chapters and sections. The book measures 8 ¼” x 10 ¾” and contains over 310 color photos.
    1. Concepts and composition
    2. Groundwork
    3. Wonderful wedgies
    4. Figure painting
    5. Airbrushing skills
    6. Resin casting
    7. The Way of the Rabbit
    8. Defenders of the Reich
    9. Iranian Pasdaran patrol
    10. Somali technical
    11. Congolese Type 69 hybrid
    Appendix: Tools
    About the author

I will state right now that I very much enjoyed this book. That is because the author offers to us that even masters of the hobby can be frustrated by mistakes and faux pas. Many “ah-ha” moments as well as self-congratulations for the reader.

Those first six chapters clearly explain the basic and advanced concepts to making a miniature. Mr. Mrosko was strongly influenced by the legendary Shepard Paine and makes known his appreciation, admiration and respect of the man. He then further refines and explains Mr. Paine’s ideas and theories. Throughout the book the author adds sidebars and panels with tips and condensed ideas. Mr. Paine is not the only famous modeler the author knows, and several others receive acknowledgement. The general text is full of drops of wisdom and anecdotes, many amusingly written in a manner that most of us can empathize with;
    Ron Volstad, who has drawn a lot of box art for major model manufacturers, told me that every time he finishes a piece, he thinks he’s done every bit of research in the world. But, he says, “Just wait. Wait until I get this done. There’s going to be somebody that comes up with a photograph to prove me wrong. It happens every time.”

That’s another thing I like about this book – relearning that even the erudite and esteemed have to suffer correction! Another feature of this book I like are the sidebars of reference material and inspiration, i.e., Learning From Others.

In Groundwork we are guided through the steps and techniques to create a WWII street scene; WWII urban scene; modern Beirut street. Desert Storm armor defilade and Iranian desert pipeline patrol opens the subject of rural groundwork - in this case, “shifting sands”. He also demonstrates how to use acrylic rod, styrene, and commercial bolts to scratch a pipeline.

Wonderful wedgies is a chapter not of reminiscing about school pranks, rather about the micodiorama vignette concept Mr. Mrosko created. The main function is to spotlight a figure without it becoming lost in a conventional diorama. It also allows for some creative use of partial vehicles. The idea is to display the figure in a 3-D version of a cropped photograph.

Next, Figure painting takes us step by 34-steps (plus two additional 6-step sidebars about painting eyes and faces) along the process of painting a figure. The subject is a Special Forces officer of the Vietnam War, painted to honor Medal of Honor recipient Lt. George “Kenny” Sisler, a friend of the author’s father-in-law. The process of highlighting and shadowing a complex camouflage pattern may well justify the purchase of this book for certain modelers!

Airbrushing skills is a subject near and dear to many modelers. I greatly appreciated this chapter not only for some new ideas (I can’t wait to try them!) as well as self-edifying aspects (I’m not the only one with several unused airbrushes!) plus descriptions of several types: Iwata; Badger; Grex; Tamiya; Harder & Steenbeck; Sata. Compressors are also examined as well as types of paint (A couple might surprise you.) , pressures, and proximity. As may some warnings, one of which I shall heed.

Mr. Mrosko discusses and illustrates airbrush control practice exercises. He also presents a custom-made paint stand. Airbrushes can flummox even experienced users and he discusses how to clean your airbrush on a page with a large inset panel , Troubleshooting Your Airbrush.

Chapter six is Resin casting. I read this part as closely as the airbrush chapter. I believe it will increase my knowledge of the skill although I do not plan to acquire the machines that he uses.

Following those skill-building chapters, the book focuses on several dioramas the author created. This is a very interesting section as it demonstrates his techniques and practices. The dioramas are;

    1. The Way of the rabbit. Based upon the final battle of the movie Saving Private Ryan, interesting procedures include the painting and detailing of three masonry subjects: cobblestone street; paving stone sidewalk; stone bridge. It further demonstrates building up a multi-level base and simulating patina. On this base are four Army Rangers on a captured Kettenkrad. I found his explanation of creating wood grain particularly fascinating.
    2. Defenders of the Reich. A small compact diorama demonstrates creation of devastated urban scenery with three figures “in” the rubble instead of “on” it. Again, creating and painting brickwork is shown. A sidebar includes an anecdote concerning a very important part of our hobby: Finding Motivation.
    3. Iranian Pasdaran patrol is the next subject. It demonstrates distressing kit parts, fabricating detail pieces, and the multilayered painting of a small vehicle.
    4. Somali technical demonstrates extreme weathering, battle damage, rubble, stencils, and painting real wood.
    5. Congolese Type 69 hybrid is a Chinese tank in the Congo. Kit conversions and applying detail components figure heavily.

Next to last, Mr. Mrosko walks us through his favorite and recommended tools in the 7-page appendix Tools. He showcases two particularly interesting tools – his custom painting stand and a Filbert paint brush. Ever heard of a Filbert? Me neither and I now plan to acquire one.

Finally, feast your eyes on several models built by several modelers in Gallery.

photographs, illustrations, graphics
This book is full of images, 310 photographs. All are color except for a few period shots used as source material for a model. From step-by-step images to portraits of extraordinary dioramas, the text is supported by images. Additionally, there are illustrations illuminating the how-to explained in the text: bases and figure painting. The text is also supplemented with sidebars and text boxes highlighting concepts and experiences relative to a particular text.

I found this book to be entirely useful. It inspires me as well. The procedures for painting masonry and airbrushing alone are worth the price of this title. The book is well written, organized and layout out. I appreciate the sidebars and inserts. Techniques used for different projects are fascinating. The appendix presenting the tools is very interesting.

I have nothing meaningful to complain about with this book. I certainly recommend it.

Thanks to Kalmbach Books which kindly provided this book for review here on KitMaker Network!
Highs: A comprehensive guide and how-to for a wide range of modeling skills.
Lows: Causes envy.
Verdict: A comprehensive guide and how-to for a wide range of modeling skills.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 12476
  Suggested Retail: $21.99
  Related Link: Kalmbach Store
  PUBLISHED: Apr 24, 2014

Our Thanks to Kalmbach Publishing Co.!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. All rights reserved.


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