by: Rick Cooper [ ]
The publishers at Accion Press, who bring us the excellent Panzer Aces magazine, have released the third instalment of their Landscapes of War: Greatest Guide-Diorama series. This third volume focuses on what the publisher, Rodrigo Hernandez Cabos, has named ‘Rural Environments’ but the volume actually deals with more than that.
The soft cover book is 160 pages with a nice glossy feel to everything, the front and back cover have the fold in piece to provide a bit more definition as well as provide space on the inside flap for a short editorial from Cabos. Oddly, the main photo of the diorama on the cover is not from one of the main builds but instead an additional small add-on to one of the chapters. Inside you will find six full chapters that have been contributed by four different modelers as well as a section that provides short biographies of each of the featured artists and a thematic index that makes finding different areas of construction a bit easier. After each of the main chapters you also get a two to four-page section of real life reference photos that match up with the chapter in question.
The first chapter by Frederik Astier portrays a 1/35th scale late war diorama of an American unit under attack from a German sniper. The diorama features a traditional German home in a small-town setting. Astier walks the reader through every aspect of scratch building the various structures in the work; house, outhouse, well, brick column, and cobblestone sections. He outlines exactly what materials he uses for each part of the construction, two-part A B type putty, plastic strip, hobby wood, as well as a black foam core board material. The focus is on the buildings rather than the figures or vehicle, which is very well done, but it does mean that if you are looking for a primer on that aspect you may be a bit disappointed, however, if you are after the hyper realistic scenery and how to construct it this fills the bill.
The second chapter is from Robert Dopp and features a large scale, 1/9th vignette of a German Zundapp KS 750 and driver. This vignette features extensive brick work on a destroyed bridge crossing. This vignette features lots and lots of stone and brick work, all individually crafted or cast. The cobbles and large stones are all from Magic Sculpt while the bricks are all individually cast from air drying clay in a purpose-built form. I particularly appreciated the work on varying the shades of gray on the cobblestones, something I struggle with. As with the first chapter and all the subsequent features, the focus is not on the figures or vehicles and very little attention is paid to that aspect of modelling.
The next chapter is not attributed to any artist but instead is concerned with how to construct a solid brick wall from individually cast bricks from DAS air drying clay using a Dejuguete silicon type mold. The chapter details not just the construction but the subsequent painting and weathering as well.
The next featured artist Volker Bembennek offers up a chapter on working with Styrodur, which I believe is an XPS product which in the USA is generally referred to as Blue Foam. Volker provides some information on the best tools to use in working with this material and then delves into a step by step look at how he created a well-worn shop building and the pavement using many different carving methods and tools. He also leads you through the painting process and the use of styrene to create a convincing roof and doors for the structure.
The next section is another without attribute that outlines three different methods for construction stone walls; with putty, balsa foam, and building up a master with actual small pebbles and casting one. The section also includes details on the painting process to achieve a life like appearance.
The final featured artist is Javier Redondo who goes old school for the most part with his masterpiece. Javier employs plasticard of various types, plain, and pre-textured patterns. He also uses spare parts from MiniArt kits, leftover PE pieces, Evergreen strip, and copious amounts of Squadron Green Putty for his Italian style building. For the groundwork, he employs some DAS Pronto putty with some sand and a few pebbles. Javier also provides a well detailed painting guide with call outs for the Vallejo and Tamiya paints he uses. Also included is a small section on the creation of swallow nests, something which I have never seen detailed in any how-to modelling or diorama book I am acquainted with. You do get a tiny bit more with the figures in this diorama, not actual construction or anything, just a call out of the Vallejo colors used in the painting of different pieces of the trooper’s uniform and some of the kit.
After that the volume closes with the biographies and the reference section. The biographies of each of the featured artists run two pages each with a few paragraphs of text about each and photographs of a few of their impressive works. The reference will help when you have question like, “where did I see the information on making a stone wall with putty?” A quick check of the index will tell you pages 10, 14, 94, and 95.
I really liked this volume, the photography is clear and bright with easy to understand captions. It could have been titled ‘European Rural Architecture’ just as easily as ‘Rural Environments’, but then some readers would have been disappointed with the lack of a barn! I appreciated that the volume never ran into how other publications sometimes seems like a large commercial for one certain product line or another, in fact much of what they worked with could be sourced from an art supply store perhaps easier than a dedicated hobby store.
The four featured modelers are all at the top of their game and have created some top-notch work. I can’t promise that if you go out and purchase the same products and follow their SBS approach you will end up with something quite as good as what they have created but with a little practice who knows? This is another great addition from Accion Press that I can easily recommend if you are interested in moving beyond basic ground work with figures and vehicles in your next diorama.