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This is a diorama I'm planning to submit to the Spaceship Superstar contest. It's nearly complete, but I thought I'd get you lot's opinion before I glued everything down. Hopefully the story is clear from the piece, but basically it's just a good old-fashioned showdown between a pair of outlaw-with-a-heart-of-gold types and the lawmen on some red alien planet. So without further ado:












  • The NOVA guns and the square bit of their backpacks are just basecoated Brown Liner or black, but will stay pretty dark. Their little chest insignia need to be picked out. Rex's gloves are basecoated Intense Brown, and need some highlighting/shading. Other than that, all painting could be done as of now.
  • I'm somewhat concerned the NOVA troops are too bright, and draw the attention away from the heroes, so I'm considering a Bloodstain Red wash to bring them down a bit. Is this a good idea or are they fine and I shouldn't risk ruining them?
  • They'll all be cut off their integral base and glued down.
  • Minis used are 80009: Rex, Dark Future Hero, 80010: Nova Corp:Sgt, 80011: Nova Corp:Guard, 80015: Nova Corp:Rifleman, and the discontinued Bones Ellen Stone, Cowgirl. (Metal version is 500003: Ellen Stone, Cowgirl.)
So, what do you guys think?


ETA: As I mentioned, I'm entering this into a contest, so real critique would be helpful.

Edited by Slendertroll
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I like your notes/ideas there ST.

  • The brighter red does pull the attention away from the heroes and onto the NOVA guys, so toning it down a bit will go a long ways here with a couple of very thin glazes so you can monitor how much you want it toned down. 
  • I wouldn't touch the heroes at all, they are awesome.
  • The base... it seems to be lacking for me... it needs some more interest some more texture or color to it, not much more, but something to make it a bit less bland to the eye as everything just kind of melds together at first glance and I had to search around and look a few times to spot the barrel and the skull. It's very well done and gets the point across as very barren, maybe just a few more jutting rocks or bones.
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I looked at the Nova guys second, so I guess I'll leave opinions as to their distraction level to others.  I do agree with Ub3r about the base.  I find the skull to be too close in color to the earth tones.  Maybe do an image search for the classic bleached cow skull and substitute something alien?  The barrel didn't stand out to me either.  I didn't even notice it until the third pic, where it's pretty obvious.  I get wooden barrel = western, but a metal sci-fi barrel might stand out more.  You could also add some flora or small fauna to add interest to the base.  Obviously, most "deserts" aren't completely barren, so maybe barrel cactus, sagebrush, snake, scorpion (or alien equivalents) could be strategically placed.  Another option is placing an old western bag with loot spilling out between the two groups.

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I would go with auberon and add something like a tumble weed and maybe a small "intelligent" lizard stuck in the middle looking confused as he tries to find a direction to run in.  (a touch of humor never hurts)  Even a varmit (alien slime green) diving into his hole close to the action.

Edited by robinh
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Excellent diorama.

For me Ellen Stone steals the show and my eye is drawn to her more than any other, I love the blue skin and the overall color scheme for her, even the details like the wood grain is awesome on her rifle. Since you want some constructive critique I will note her pants and gun holsters do not appear in the photos to have as much depth to them as the rest of the figure.

I don't know why but I don't like the nova leader in his current placement, I would picture the guy giving orders not to be in the front especially with his gun not drawn. The paint work on the novas look good and I like the reds maybe a little freehand on their chest plates or shoulder pads would really make them pop.


Overall great entry can't wait to see it finished.

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Part of what's drawing the eye to the NOVA guys instead of the outlaws is the bases. Once you cut those off, that will help a lot.


I do think you could stand to add something else to the base, I would suggest some sort of loot.


Excellent piece, BTW.

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To my eye, the Nova Sgt. kinda detracts from this a bit. I might suggest that all of the nova guys be pointing their guns at the outlaws. Maybe doubleing up on the middle Nova guy would look better and give more of a "Mexican Standoff" vibe. But that's my $2. Otherwise, I agree with the others about the base needing more.

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So it sounds like the consensus was that the base needs more. I actually initially had the barrel and skull brighter, but hit them with the same washes that I had on the base, since I didn't want them to draw the attention away from the characters. I punched the highlights back up on those, and then dug around in my bitz bag and ended up with a couple of funky bits of alien flora and a cable that came partially unburied. I would have liked a little lizard or something, but I didn't have one and I'm not an accomplished enough sculptor to make one. (I did find a salmon, but it looked a little out of place.) Also put down a few more wash/drybrush layers, but I'm not sure it made much of a difference.


I decided not to risk toning down the NOVA, and kristof was right that they're way less eye-catching without their bases. The whole diorama is so brown/red/orange that the blues end up being the focal points, and the reds aren't too obnoxious. I'm also still toying with placement, but I think the Sergeant will be a bit further back than in the original photos, which will hopefully solve the issues some of you had with him.


So here's a nearly-complete diorama. Figures aren't glued down, so moving them around is possible, and a few are leaning weirdly as a result of having to be precariously balanced. There are also still a couple of details that need touching-up, but they're not really noticeable in these pics. Lighting's a little wonky on a few of these; I didn't run them through GIMP or anything.






Edited by Slendertroll
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I think all that I can add is that if feels very "static". The story is there but it lacks a feeling of action. While all dioramas are by necessity a snapshot, that doesn't mean that there can't be a hint of movement. I'm not sure what I would add but I guess I would say, as Jeremy does, it lacks soul. Actually as I think about it part of what is missing is direction. You need to make sure, first, that everyone is at least looking in the same general direction and its missing an obvious reason of why they are all out there. An objective for both groups to have stumbled into each is needed. 

Edited by Heisler
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Here's an example of what I mean by direction



All three minis are looking in the same basic direction and are oriented towards a single object all of which helps direct the viewer and tell the story. While this one tells a good story, its to big, I could have achieved the same thing in half the space.  I think your's is about the right size it just lacks a focus.

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Thanks, Heisler, that's very helpful critique. I do see what you mean about focus--I can understand that there's not enough story in the diorama as it stands, and an objective beyond "two opposing groups square off" would be good. I think it's too late for this project in that regard, but I'll keep that in mind going forward. This is my first diorama, and it basically developed from lining up minis on the shelf above my desk so it looked like they were fighting each other. In the future, I'll think harder about the story I'm telling.


As for direction, I was trying to lead the eye back and forth between the two groups: the heroes are both pointing and looking at the soldiers, who are all pointing at the heroes, and there's also the crack running between them. Is there a way I could have done this sort of face-off diorama without losing focus? An objective of some sort (perhaps the outlaws have a pile of loot near them) would explain why they're all there, but it wouldn't solve the direction problem.


Anyway, I really appreciate your taking the time to give me this critique; I'll be sure to think about these things in my next projects.


EDIT: Maybe they're all fighting over the elusive alien desert salmon?




Edited by Slendertroll
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