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WIP: Toying with the idea for a Diorama

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Last night was the first night in a while that I haven't HAD to go back to work. Not the first night I've not bothered to go back to work. There's a difference. I'm salaried, so when work needs to get done ... you go and do it ... unless you are physically exhausted, then you take a nap and then you go and do it.

So, last night I delved back into my dungeon workshop and set to cleaning the clutter that occurs over time and setting the work space back to "cleared" and workable. The dungeon, or basement, suffered some flooding a while back so I had to move stuff off the floor and move stuff from soaked cardboard boxes to plastic tubs, etc. Clutter ensued and it's been a while since I had the time to make it right.

In the midst of all this I see a mini I made a while ago ... sitting atop my brush stand ... he's an Illithid or Mindflayer from D&D (11-406 Mindflayer from Ral Partha). I painted the figure some time ago as a mindflayer lich. I gave him a bone white head with sickly tentacles (I know, they are already sickly looking but these are purply and dead looking though animated).

As a more elaborate base I placed him on top of a "bowl of blood" which overflows to the ground below it and dubbed him a Blood Lich, whatever that means.

Anyway, after looking at him for a few and then returning to working on clearing things I decided his "bowl" still looks to much like a bottle cap and needs more to make it look like an altar of blood. So I sit down and and consider the possibility of adding some clay/green stuff to the front of the "bowl" and making it more of an altar.

After a moment, I clear a notch of the cap so that I can place a toothpick piece flat against the metal underneath and then dig out a notch in the sand/glue/paint below it and glue the first support in place. Then after a little fussing with matching angles, etc. I get a second strut in place on the opposite side.

I have a conversation at this point, an internal monologue if you will, "What do I want to do with this as a miniature? Am I going to leave it a 'monster' for the players to chase and kill? Or do I want to do something more with it?' And after a period of internal debate I decided to make a full diorama for the figure ... perhaps with the Blood Lich still removable and playable as a game piece.

Initial Layout

I pull out a faux marble block, five inches square and nearly half an inch tall and start arranging slate pieces and the lich until I have him on a stone stair leading to an outcropping over the rest of the base. Looks cool. Play with the pieces until I have them just right and then mark the pieces against each other and number them from the ground up for reassembly later.

Rearranged Selection on Black Faux Marble

I think it has a lot of potential now. Just have to do some sculpting. I think I will mix a variety of sculpting materials to achieve the finished effect.

So the next perplexing thing ... what is the Blood Lich doing on his altar of blood out over oblivion ... or a sea of fire or a lake of blood. Do I put a sacrificed corpse out on a rock below him? Do I use one of the Haunts from the Kickstarter Bones I got? Oh, I could do both and have the haunt coming from the chest of the victim. I have a few old demons the Lich could be summoning from below.

Layout with the Bones Haunt in place

Post thoughts on what I should do next. We'll see where this diorama leads.

Follow along on my blog as well: WIP: Toying with the idea for a Diorama

Edited by Thrym
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Those all came from samples at an architect firm in Ithaca that was cleaning house before moving their offices.


My poor car was loaded down when my fiancee's sister's boyfriend and employee of the firm told us to come grab stuff.


In addition to all of the sample products, I also nabbed a server, a fiber switch and some other tech. Some of it was garbage. Some handy.


Best trip to a "Dump and Run" at Cornell ever.

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Another very good stone texture you can find outside your house that is carvable/sandable/drillable is tree bark. Pine works best because it can be pretty thick, but other types work too. It also keeps the model light and wont scratch surfaces as stones might (not that you are putting it on the bottom). I typically prime them black and then dry brush the edges. You can stack them in various ways to make them look like cliffs, steps, etc. It's very versatile. you can also do it with cork, but you have to get that at the hobby store. Cork breaks off in very jagged/squarish sections that look like boulders and so forth.

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WIP Toying 2: Blood Lich Diorama Mockup

So I took a bit and edited the photo of the Blood Lich from my previous post.

I added larger altar pylons that will have small bead globes at the top that I will do an OSL for them.

Then I add a rim to the blood altar's bowl with a spout off the front.

In addition to all of that as mentioned earlier, I will raise the platform up ... three to four inches ... with some dowels and casting or similar. That will get a rock face treatment but more smooth bore than the outcropping itself.

Finally I'll paint the bottom with some form of weighty paint/liquid that I can give a riled blood look to. Finally, we'll import a demon or some other largish otherworldly critter to be the results of the summons.

I will attempt to leave the two minis and their bases as removable so I can use them. The Blood Lich is a boss in one of my adventures.

And here's essentially the final scene of the adventure:

Now I just have to make the dream a reality and not f' it up.
Edited by Thrym
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WIP Toying 3: Molding a Pit Wall

Let us start right out with ... I am a total newb when it comes to casting with plaster, etc. There. That said, the following is a look at how I made the core of my pit wall for my diorama.


Building the form. I made a rough outline of the slate pieces from the previous work on the black faux marble piece I am using for the base. Then using that I roughed out what the real pit wall was going be shaped.


Like the picture in my previous post indicates I wanted a concave corner of the wall. Which should have turned out like this:



The form layout in red with two half inch dowels for vertical support of the platform.


With the above structure in mind and plenty of materials to build the form with, here's a look at the form pre-use.



See that gap at the bottom of the foam? Yeah.



An attempt to fill that gap and added support at the top.



Added the minis to give a sense of scale.



The bottom of the whole thing is super glued to the acetate sheet. With luck I filled the gaps enough between clay and glue to prevent seeping.


So, for the first time ever, I mixed some dental stone. This dental stone is supplied by a dental appliance lab nearby thanks to my stepfather who is a dental technician and builds dentures daily.


The bulk package I got from him was simply a zip-locked bag of dental stone placed inside a second zip-locked bag to prevent moisture I would assume. No instructions aside from verbal. Sift the mix into some water until the stuff doesn't instantly drop into the water. That seemed kind of archaic and cryptic like a master instructing an apprentice back in the day. I was expecting ... add X grams of mix to X grams of water or some similar scientific ratio.


So I grabbed 2/3 cup of water added it to a soup take out container my girlfriend picked up at a supply store. She uses them for holding her piping bags open while she fills them with frosting she mixed in a bowl.. Then I slowly added the mix sifting it from a paper plate I bent to form a "V." And mixing every so often with a popsicle stick, sure enough the water stopped absorbing the mix. A final careful stir to keep bubbles down and I was ready.


Now, considering I hadn't bothered to calculate the volume of mix/water I would need for this specific application ... okay I was totally eyeballing the whole process. The amount I made filled the form to the top almost exactly.


And then the spot I missed in the foam/acetate barricade started seeping out. Which looked like this:



I lost about 3/4s of an inch from the top. :(



Luckily with some quick clay mashing and the setting of the mix it stopped. So I mixed a second batch and topped it off. Unfortunately, my estimating skills for this batch were off and I ended up with an old ice cube tray of blocks. Figured I could use them for something.


And of course, I had to check it out before I went to bed. My second mix was a little "wet" apparently as I still lost some height to settling. The first pour really was close to spot on. There was less than an 1/8 inch of water on top after curing.


As you can see, I still ended up with some lost height:



Say hello to my Lego cheese wedge.



I put the block on the base for comparison. The gold line just in front of the wedge is the stairs platform that will be above it. The one closer is the stone where the summons will be.


To that, I talked it out with my son and to maintain use of the minis in the display, I am going to shoot for keeping them modular. That said, the stone I had in place will be out. I am going to make MetalChaos' clay golem/carnage demon conversion at this point. Include the summons circle in the base of the demon and then sculpt the base into the display piece and leave it removable.


I am also looking at making the Blood Lich and his altar removable. We'll see what I can work out when I get to that stage of this build.


Next for the Pit Wall:

  • Cut off the excess dowel on the pit wall.
  • Sand the top smooth
  • Sand and carve out some of the pit wall face to get it back towards concave. If I can leave in some details that look good, great.
  • Add sculpting material back to the pit wall to get rock details. (see rock face stamps below).

I will also continue working on the various pieces concurrently so don't be surprised to see me jump around on my posts.


Rock Face Stamps:





Just as a reminder ... any input into what I am doing here is greatly appreciated. Feel free to PM me if you'd rather not tear me down in public. LOL Seriously, I am always looking for feedback peeps.

Edited by Thrym
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Whoaaa! That looks intense. Looking forward to the end result. Would the blood waterfall be that much blood? How many bodies is this flayer sacrificing?? O_O

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Whoaaa! That looks intense. Looking forward to the end result. Would the blood waterfall be that much blood? How many bodies is this flayer sacrificing?? O_O




And honestly, is there a limit on how much power a Lich wants, especially from the Illithid race?


Within the scenario I wrote way back when I had visualized the altar as more of an Altar of Holding and Preservation that the Blood Lich might have stored years and years of sacrifices within as opposed to a fountain that simply circulates the blood until he needs it. There are a few vampire/occult movies that occurred since I wrote this section of my module that convey the concept behind how I built the Blood Lich mini.


Here in Hellboy, Rasputin returns via a blood pool initiated by the blood of a single victim but the pool has much more blood than that within it.




As you can see in the earlier depiction of the Blood Lich mini, the blood is part way up his robes and is intended to depict him pulling it to himself.


I am at work so I can't spend a lot of time tracking down some more references, but the one above shows some of the intent. If you look at it in reverse ... the lich in the middle has caused the blood to begin flowing outward from his pool you can see where I was coming from.


That said, why the carving in the ground zig-zags is beyond me. Perhaps the lengthier trail filters the blood somehow as it passes to Rasputin's crypt. Note there are 7 other zig-zagging trails leading to the pool. Perhaps the director shied away from 8 sacrifices to restore Rasputin. That debate is for other websites or at least another section of this site.

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WIP Toying 4: Watching Stone Dry & a Wild Goose Chase


Watching a Pot of Water Boil, Watching Grass Grow, Watching Stone Dry ... you decide which is more painful to do.


Okay, I know I posted the pictures a while ago of the mold form, the pour and the removal from the form and even a "dry-fit" of the various parts, so what's been done since on the Blood Lich Diorama ... not much.



It really looks wet here because it shortly after pulling it out of the form. But it still looked a lot like this a couple of days later.


The fiancee called it "Lego Cake."



The process by which I achieved the "pit wall," given my newb status to casting dental stone, came off fairly well all things considered ... or so I thought when I pulled it from the mold and took the "dry-fit" pictures.


I attempted to clean the pit wall block and start sanding it after giving it a couple of days to dry. I literally ignored the thing in that time. So imagine my surprise when it still felt "wet." I sanded the face of the pit wall anyway with the intention of making it more concave than convex. It literally gummed up the sanding sheet. So, I changed tactics and pulled out my carving tools. Made some headway but then ... snap, came off a corner. Top left as you face it. Basically the second pour from the corner to the support.


I grumbled and set it all back on the shelf. Complained about basements and such. Then made sure my dehumidifier was running and pointed a fan at the pit wall. And left ... discouraged by the whole thing.


So I came down the next day and checked it ... no change. Grumbled about it some more and set to cleaning up the work bench. Found the mushroom and set it aside. Went back upstairs to watch TV.


The New Stone Golem came and WOOT was feeling like working on something ... went in the basement. That lasted only a short, fleeting moment. Still wet. Set the Golem down on the bench and went to Family Game Night.


Did some work on the Mushroom and Rubberized the new golem over the weekend and stared at the block of wet dental stone. Ugh.


Guess what ... it is finally dry. I am sure there's something somewhere that tells me I have to mix it less wet, in proper humidity controlled environment, etc. but damn that was discouraging. But it's dry. So I've given it two additional days of drying; maybe, technically three. So tonight I revisit it but first the hunt for sandbags...


The Hunt for Sandbags


You might be asking yourself, "WYTAW?" or not if you didn't grow up watching "Diff'rent Strokes," but yes, the Hunt for Sandbags occurred because I wanted to find something I could set a wedge of dental stone in so I can work on the face of it with both hands and not damage it.


I headed off to Wally-world in search of just that. I recalled having seen two oblong bags which could be used to hold up something and prevent it from shifting. And I might have seen it in Lowest or Home Despot but they aren't open late at night. So, I checked around ... nope, what I thought I had seen wasn't there so I checked sporting goods for any options thinking handing for camping or shooting or any of a number of items. Found a two-pack gun support for $25. Two v-notched weighted bags. Not really what I was looking for.


Then I figured, WTH, I can have my fiancee make a pair of oblong bags or a pillow with a couple of stitches in the middle and fill it myself with some sand from the Garden section. Apparently kids don't need refill bags of play sand after July. So I meandered back over to the craft section figuring I could at least get the bottle of play sand they sell there. WTF? Alright, that option is exhausted so I head over to the fake flower section and look for even decorative sand, I have a ton at home but that's for projects. Nada. Glass beads and that's it. Seriously?


So I leave Wally-world and head home and not long after I head to bed. Yes, it was late, I like to have a nice quiet store even if I get the one lane situation with 10 deep of people who also like the quiet of shopping at night.


Next day, I gripe about the whole thing to the fiancee. She says, "I got that bag of play sand we used for the vertical planter back from school. I think it's in the shed." Grumble. So when I got home from work I went to the shed. No play sand there. WTF? Okay, I check all her landscaping/garden work spots. Nada again.


Feeling frustrated and just a bit tired of it all I head back to the basement and I AM GOING TO PAINT SOMETHING. I dive into painting the Myconid Cephalopod. I turn on Stargate the movie on my Kindle and patently ignore the dental stone pit wall behind me on a shelf. Uh-uh. Not turning around.


I get up the next morning and grab up the mushroom to show off at work and head for the front of the house. I open the door to the porch. Then attempt to open the door to the front having forgotten that someone down the street had a break-in so we had locked the door. I reach to unlock the door but had looked down and to the left first. There, behind the door when it's open is the bag of play sand.


I go to work.

Edited by Thrym
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WIP Toying 5: Layered Cake Progress Report


I know it's been a while since I last updated my Work In Progress titled "Altar of Blood." First, the poured rock wall pedestal for the altar was my first time working with Dental Stone and it took forever for it to set completely. I stashed it next to my dehumidifier and left it there for some time. And even then the top 1/16th of an inch never really set and I ended up scraping it off the piece.

So here it is, UPDATE:

Earlier this week I actually disassembled the pit wall portion or as it's become known, "the pink piece of cake." The second pour was never truly attached to the bottom pour. So the top half inch was separate. And amusingly after finally curing through the piece, the two support poles I put in came loose.

I refer you to my old picture shortly after the pour and mold removal:


And during curing cracks appeared on the back of each side running from top-to-bottom right along the poles. Sadly I don't have pictures of them prior to another phase of work so you'll have to wait a moment to see what I mean.

I then proceeded with cleaning up the piece. Well, after agonizing for a bit about the condition of the piece and whether I should re-cast it. However, I decided that it was worth saving at this point. So out came the super glue. First, I removed the detached top pieces of the pit wall. They came away in three pieces, the two corners and the main interior.

Before moving on, I wanted to ensure that the lower portion didn't lose the same corners and ran glue into the cracks along the poles and let that set. During this process I noticed that the poles were loose in their holes, so I removed them, ran super glue along the same cracks on the inside and then reinserted the poles.

After letting the poles set for some time, I glued the top layer back in. The other reason for the delay in production of this diorama was evident. The two nubs of the poles were intimidating me. I knew that if I attempted to saw them flat I'd probably crush the whole structure. But then after talking about it with a buddy of mine for a bit, I decided to use polymer clay and epoxy putty to bridge that gap.

But first, I needed to clean up the piece and sculpted the face of the pit to be more rock wall like. So using some scraping tools and a chisel, I scored and roughed up the smooth pot-bellied surface and then to avoid everything coming apart and to ensure that face wouldn't take paint better, I glazed the entire piece with some brush on matte varnish.

Then after that was long dry, I applied some polymer clay to the top, essentially frosting the cake piece. Like so...


The face of the pit wall got some character. You'll be better able to see it once I get some paint on it. The larger cracks and even the spackle of the clay will create a great rock face look.

The green stuff on the right was applied to complete the attachment of the pin there and to bolster the point where the shale rock will connect on that side. You'll see in a moment what I mean.

Below you'll see the outside faces of the piece and can see where I welded the cracks shut with super glue and how I measured my pin mark for the opposite corner where the shale actually completely overlaps the support. You can see that I roughed up the clay so the green stuff would have greater surface area to adhere to.


A close up of the pin/green stuff corner:


I pinned the lowest section of shale by using a masonry bit to bore a hole into the shale and used a heavy finishing nail for the pin.


Then after applying some epoxy putty to finish the gaps between my white layer and the shale and to help bond the two together, I applied super glue to the support poles and set in the shale. The non-pinned side rested against the support pole and pin/green stuff I set earlier.


Then I proceeded fill the gap around the outside of the shale/layered cake with green stuff and finish connecting the two pieces together completely.


Apparently, I only took a picture of the front. I used another rock to get a more natural finish to the putty. I'll be adding smaller pieces to the right side to bring the shale up to the top a bit but I plan to offset the new pieces so they look like a small crevice.

So moving forward, I will finish the attachment of the shale, then I'll most likely prime it with some Krylon black and I think then I will attach it to the first base plate for stability standing and something to hold on to that isn't getting painted.

Keep up on my blog as well.

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Decided to use Fireworks to create an OSL Concept for the pit front.


Coloring subject to change but I think I got the "lighting" set nicely:






Comments, Suggestions, Criticisms, and Braised Tenderloin welcome.

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WIP Toying 6: Painting the Pit


Once again I've left the diorama to sit while another project came up for the Halloween Contest at ReaperMini.com. However, I did manage to prime the whole thing. I did add some sand to the pit wall and smooth it out to do some texturing and fill.

So here's some pictures using my new fiery backdrop:


After finishing the priming layer I added some more sand to the steps for loose gravel and and pebbles.

Then after having sat for a while I ran some details with some mixes of Reaper MSP Walnut Brown and Sapphire Blue as well as Vallejo Stencil and Delta Ceramcoat Granite (the primer coat).

Here I am just playing with the plains and cuts I made in the base when carved the face down a bit. I don't mind what I got from it but I will go and look at some reference scenes and go back to it.


I used the muted Sapphire Blue to highlight every other section ans see how things look. When I got through the whole face I went back with a wash of Granite to mute the excessive highlights I had made. Not that they won't come back but so far, I like what I got. Just gotta keep plugging away at it.

The glow from the lid to my wet palette is interesting. Doesn't help the picture but it does give me ideas for the future.


As always, C&C welcome and of course, leftover Halloween Candy.

Edited by Thrym
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Now that I've considered a couple of techniques for creating grains ... particularly the wood grain from Vallejo ... I might try it over what I have so far to get something cool going.


I might just use silver as one of the passes to get veins of metal in there.


We'll see.

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