Dude... Build Me Diorama!!!
a cautionary tale...
So a couple months ago I was commissioned by a guy in California to do a Michael Keaton Batman figure. He had come across my work through FigureRealm.com and was quickly quoting back to different entries throughout my collection of customs over time. I had done several Keaton Batman figures in the past but every time I did one they only got JUST a little better I was only doing one a year basically as opposed to my Christopher Reeve Superman figures that were seeing 5 attempts a year. I took him up on it since I did want to refine my process a bit and no better reason that to be working for someone else. He was taken by my V•III from last year and begged me and begged me to hand over the original but that wasn't possible. Of course once I got into the figure work and was shooting photos back to him as it was in progress he started adding things to what he wanted to see done. The new figure is featured in the background of my last entry Invasion of the Keaton Batmans .
After a minute he was attempting to buy anything he could see was in my home from photos. so I had to reign him in a little bit to keep us on track. Once the figure was completed he added that he had seen my GhostBusters Firehouse and OH boy did that take us back to the drawing board. At first it was a "I Trust Your Vision" situation, which at first sounds like a compliment but really... its a red flag and I'll be more careful in the future.
I flew into the diorama project pretty quickly turning around a pretty interesting piece but apparently it was too quick and too interesting. I figured it should be a gothic-esque type building with large angular forms and definitely a rooftop to stand on. So in keeping things simple I made my wall and columns and rooftop moulding. I sprayed the entire works with primer and then came back with an overspray of black to deepen the shadows.
In trying to keep everything shippable within a large flat rate box I ran across a funny idea. The diorama itself though it had its detail looked a little plain and I started to think that maybe the guy doesn't have the space for something this big. Maybe like everyone else he's putting these on his Target bought standard issue bookshelves which don't exactly offer a grand display space... but their cheap. SO... I proceeded to chop the diorama in half.
Once I had halfed it I realized that now all these elements that were built onto this wall now were interchangable simply but turning and rearranging the halves. They offered more variety for display and in essence became TWO dioramas. A F'-ing Mazing!!!! They created some pretty interesting angles and I was definitely pleased with it.
Well... he hated it... or atleast it was not what he was expecting... I tried to explain that the gothic look was definitely inline with the Batman Movie aesthetic, but maybe that was too much of a reach?
So I started over but this time I set some ground rules and tried to build on specs instead of wingingin it as I had done before. This is how I started with the GhostBusters Firehouse out of necessity but this was more of a system of proofing to the "client" before any work was done. I drew up the planned diorama detailing size/scale and components. Once things were agreed on... (the easy part) it was back to work. I started first with just building the walls which were two thicknesses of Stryrofoam detailed with brick texture and then rooftop ledges were added to give them JUST a little more space so set the figure on.
Things came together pretty quickly. The walls were easy to fabricate. I used a couple different thicknesses of styrofoam to build the different levels of the diorama so it would have some forced depth plus give more functional space for figure display. I added the drain pipes to give the scale a little push and then built the billboard panel. The printed billboard actually slips into the frame so it could be replaced if for any reason we disagreed that THIS was exemplary of the Batman Movie theme. I had planned to use the images of the deceased models from the news flash in the movie but had no luck tracking down decent images. The joker made for a much easier image search so I went with his image to feature on the billboard.
At first I covered the entire piece in black paint and then painted on top of it. Unfortunately this styrofoam soaks up paint pretty quickly so I started back over with gray primer and then layed my brick colors in. That did MUCH better. here is the actual model next to the spec sheet for client review and final approval.
Once I had everything repainted I finished up with window panes and glass. The glass was made from figure packaging blisters and the panes were just hand cut 1/16" cardboard. I came back with a little black overspray to deepen the shadow areas and did a little drybrush with some silver spraypaint from a solo cup to give it just a little wear and tear. I reprinted the billboard with a spanking new black cartridge and WHAMMO!!! my mini masterpiece was complete!!!
I don't have any shots with the figure included as of yet but this is definitely a nice piece for any figure display shelf. All in all it was a nice project to undertake and it definitely got me working on a couple other things that should be ready for showing soon...
Stay Tuned for
DAILY PLANET MEGA DIORAMA!!!!!