While it was frequently delayed (not unlike Gandalf in the books now that I think about it), I was able to wrap up the diorama this week. With creative works, I think you can be too close to what you make and start to lose perspective on it. With this one, I probably have been a bit too close to it as I came up with the idea a couple of years ago and waited a long time to actually make it. The idea is probably my most creative one I’ve had (and actually worked on) and I’m very proud of it. One thing you can’t take away from this diorama is that nothing like it has ever been done. I hope you’ll indulge me in some hobby process discussion and then maybe even some navel gazing interspersed with pictures of the diorama.
The make or break feature of this diorama is the hedge. I’ll talk more about inspiration for the diorama in a bit but the hedge was the biggest gamble I was taking because it had to turn out well to set the mood I wanted. At the same time, I was making a hedge in a way different than most. Generally in the hobby, we make rectangular hedges or really rough ones with clump foliage. These are easy to make. With this one, I wanted a round shape that looked hobbit and Shire-like. I figured with some coconut plant liner, I could cut it up and form it however I wanted and then I’d have the diorama in the bag. It definitely didn’t go that easily unfortunately. First off, cutting a circle shape even with super sharp scissors was tough. I think I tried 4-5 times and what I ended up with is not perfect and is more in the “good enough” category. You just can’t cut a really smooth circle out of this material no matter how you try.
That wasn’t a big time commitment though. What was the most aggravating was trying get the right texture and look. I used some adhesive spray (Gorilla Glue) and I was disappointed with is effectiveness. It took several passes to get good coverage with flock but the flock and foliage fell off really easily. Pretty much every time you touch it. All of the fallen leaves in the photo really help demonstrate that. My first hedge attempt is pictured below and to get great coverage, I ended up overdoing it with the spray and ruining the exposed coconut fiber. Some parts turned white of the flock turned white which made it even worse. That was the whole reason I was reluctant to use PVA glue on it because I have caused that to happen with tree terrain I’ve made.
In my second attempt, I was very cautious with overspray and thankfully got better results. I had to glue a lot of stuff on manually with PVA glue which took a few days but in the end, I think the hedge came out as well as it could. I was expecting it to look a little less wild but surprisingly, the unkept look has grown on me over time. Its not Golden Demon winning but good enough to bring the scene to life anyway.
Here’s a look at the finished diorama.
The idea from this diorama came from a couple of places. The first one is actually Lord of the Rings Online which has some great locations and designs for Tolkien’s world. In their version of The Shire, there are hedges used as protective walls by the hobbits which makes a lot of sense. While the Ringwraiths obviously were strong enough to breach the defenses, you know the hobbits have to have some kind of barrier to keep roaming enemies out. So that was one source of inspiration.
The second is actually a scenario from MESBG that always seemed like it would be fun to play and visually striking, if completely impractical to actually make. If I remember correctly, its called the Wolves of Winter or something like that and its a moment in the Shire’s history where there was a bad winter hit and wolves came to The Shire looking for a meal. As cool as it would be to build a Shire in winter gaming board, I thought what if I have a warg looking for a meal (literally!) and show hobbits defending their home? That could be a good looking and creative diorama.
In my original idea, I had intended to differentiate the two sides of the hedge more to show that one was outside of the Shire and the other inside but that didn’t come together quite like I had hoped. After testing out some barrels which I was going to put to the side of the hobbits to help show they were on the civilized side of the hedge, it ended up looking too cluttered and they didn’t add much to the story of the diorama so I nixed that. The idea of having a basket full of rainbow carrots was a last minute improvisation which worked really well and seems like something hobbits would do. Hopefully the two sides of the diorama don’t look too same-y as a result of these last minute changes. Again, I’m probably too close to judge on this. I do like the kind of diamond shape of subjects that the diorama has. I think it does a good job of drawing your eyes in and showing you where to focus which is good.
The final two takeaways I wanted to mention is I had this idea that if I worked on a diorama where I could pick up a mini paint it and then set the project aside, I would enjoy that a lot more than a display piece that takes a month or more to finish which is pretty much all-consuming. This ended up being a grass is always greener on the other side situation as I didn’t find the breaks all that helpful and I actually would have preferred to keep working on this project continuously. Go figure!
Lastly, I realized while working on this project that I enjoyed the Eomer display piece slightly more than this one. While I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone with the hedge and sculpting flagstone, I think this project does suffer a little from not having a showstopper mini in it. I feel more confident when I’m painting a mini that I’m pretty sure I can do well with and then have the basing work be the icing on the cake so to speak. I certainly would go for that formula in any painting competitions in the future but it is definitely something I’ll be thinking about for future projects too.
Hopefully some of this was interesting to you and I’m going to try and stick to my goal of working on getting some of my gaming backlog stuff done for a bit. Hopefully that means plenty of variety in the coming weeks. We’ll also see how long I can do that before the intoxicating call of display painting bites me again!