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All Washed-Up

This Pacific-themed diorama includes both kit- and scratch-built items.

The aircraft is Tamiya’s 1/32 Zero. It’s made two appearances here in previous incarnations; from its present state, this is likely the last. The Marine figures are 1/35 resin offerings from Evolution Miniatures. The jungle plants are a large mixed set from Fields of Glory.

The landscape has a framed base, through which holes have been drilled and screws of various lengths pushed from beneath and glued in place. String has been wound randomly around between the posts to create a ‘cat’s cradle’ effect. I used insulation foam to build-up the contours. The product comes out of the pressurised can in a semi-viscous state and expands as it dries. It was applied into the strung-post area, which effectively fixed it to the base. I used a narrow saw blade to shape the scene. Over this surface, small pieces of tissue were dabbed into place with a white glue-and-water mix. I moved these a little while wet to create an uneven look to replicate the dried lava effects seen on many atolls. The base colours were applied from the Vallejo range, mainly browns, greens, and blues, lightened or darkened as required to create a tonal variation. A variety of sands was added and coloured-in with weak washes of green and brown.

The water effects began with the tissue application, which also worked to create an underlying ripple effect on the surface. To create the breaking waves along the shore, I used a ‘deep gap’ filler as found in hardware stores. It’s very thick, but porous, and with a small brush or thin stick can be manipulated into rounded, curled wavelike shapes. In the flat areas I glued tufts of cotton from cotton-wool balls here and there to add surface texture.

The water was painted with a base coat of artists’ Heavy Gel Acrylic (Thalo Green). I then added the Thalo Green to artists’ Heavy Structure Gel – a thick, milky-looking paste. This mixture allows the colour to appear in different intensities within the Gel as it’s applied. It was also worked along the cotton tufts where the combination of cotton and paint raised these areas from a flat profile. Other greens, blues, and whites were added randomly to affect swirling Pacific waters in shallow areas.

When dry, the water areas were over-coated with gloss Mod Podge, a craft medium that’s also of a thick consistency and is simply applied with a brush to dry brilliantly clear and shiny. I decided that the water should spill over the leading edge of the frame to give a more immediate effect and hopefully to draw-in the viewer.

The palm trees are handmade. For the trunks, I used old pine stems of various lengths and diameters. The fronds are bird feathers, mainly dove and rook feathers I collected from behind my house. I used a sharp scalpel blade to distress the edges to make them more uneven and plant-like in appearance. Only the feather tips were used. They were super-glued to the stem tips, and each complete unit was sprayed with Tamiya primer and hand-painted with Vallejo acrylics. This was a useful exercise, as a pair of uniform-looking, scale palm trees costs about £20 from suppliers. Here, I have a variety of tree ages and a mix of conditions and wear, effectively at no cost.

With the aircraft, the engine and starboard wing were removed and various effects added to indicate combat damage. A few engine bay cables/wires were added, and also a human skull as a ‘momento mori’.

I mentioned the Marine figures earlier. These were painted with Vallejo acrylics. Excepting the water, everything was dusted over with Testors Dullcote to finish.

21 additional images. Click to enlarge.

20 responses to All Washed-Up

  1. It’s obvious a lot of thought and delicate work went into this diorama, Rob. It turned out quite nicely I might add. Seems a shame to trash a rather expensive Tamiya 32nd Zero, though. The figures came out VERY well (as did the various foliage). All in all, an eye-catching scene. Well done, sir.

  2. Rob, great idea and execution!
    There’s a photo in a 60s book called “Golden Wings”. It’s a Marine standing on a Zero wing (which is detached from the plane) with the caption “The U. S. Marine, he made it the hard way!”

    • Thanks, Bernard. Wasn’t aware of the book image mentioned. Maybe if I had been this scene might have looked a little different!

      • Rob, the other common scene I see usually is a bunch of folks from the same unit, pictured posed in front of a derelict aircraft/tank/artillery piece. I call it the “One for the home folks” pose.Sometimes the guy in the front center has a Japanese or Nazi flag he’s holding open. Be a nice one to do, provided you could slice and dice the figures for a variety of poses. Standing guys in back, sitting or crouching guys up front. “Cheese”, or “Discharge”. Maybe a handlettered sign- “Under new management”. Lotsa possibilities.
        Love the skull, by the way. Memento mori, indeed! Enough of this sweetness and light stuff!

  3. Nice work, and a well-thought-out diorama that is completely achieved.

  4. Beautifully done Rob! It looks like a lot of hard work, and skill, paid off. Great diorama there!

  5. Wow – only thing missing is salt-spray in the air, and I can almost just make that out…!

    Very nice – great creativity and ingenuity, and a stunning result.

  6. Well thought out and executed diorama.

  7. Having made its appearance in three diaromas I think you got your money’s worth out of that Zero kit, Rob. Thanks for your detailed description of how you made the palm trees, certainly better than those expensive etched versions. I’ve been planning a small “tropical” scene, and I’ll try out your ideas, not sure what a pine stem is though……anyway, like the others have said, it’s a well planned scene, great use of different materials to create the various textures and very enjoyable to look at.

    • Thanks, George. By ‘pine stem’ I just mean I’ve broken off smaller secondary branches from a larger branch I found on the ground, choosing them for a mix of diameters and lengths. I probably collected a couple of dozen, and ended up using just those seen here, so it’s a selective process.

  8. Cool diorama, Rob. Guess its the first time, i have seen the Tamiya Zero as a wreck, nice work with the water 🙂

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