Monday, July 27, 2020


After a COVID caused postponement of the hockey season back in mid-March, hockey is finally coming back!  This warms my cold Canadian heart.

On my Shelf Of Awesomeness I have a figure of famed goalie  Ed Belfour wearing the white and blue of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  I decided I'd try to make an image to celebrate the return of hockey with this figure.

Goaltenders need a net to tend (hence the name) otherwise their just super awkward defensemen. I don't have a net, so I decided to make one (project!  insert manly squee sound here).

Looking at official NHL goal measurements I decided I needed the opening to be 7" wide by 4.5 inches tall (a regulation net is 6'x'4').  

Straws make good pipes, but plastic straws don't glue well, so I went with paper straws.  A few minutes, and several super-glued fingers later, I had the basics:

Next step is to prime it for painting.  So I grab a can of spray primer and head outside... to find a thunderstorm about to descend.  Nerts!

So I quickly get to work and spray the ever living heck out of the frame - rush job, but finished just a few seconds before the first drops fell.
I brought it inside to dry... which is fume-y, but not as fume-y as the spraying itself, so it wasn't too bad.

Once the primer dried, I hit it with some classic red.
The next step is to find something to use as the netting.  I looked high.  I looked low.  I even put a call out to fellow makers on the Internets.  I first settled on the net from the kids insect grabbing thinger.  IT was perfect.  It was white... It was... 2 inches too small.

Unfortunately that didn't become obvious until I already destroyed the grabber thinger... Oh well.

I eventually found the net I needed in a bag of onions.  Well, specifically it *is* the bag of onions.  Not the right colour, but the right size.  This is the "Do I have enough?" test fit.
With a clever application of an x-acto knife, the scissors from my Leatherman, and super glue, I managed to get the net formed over the frame.  
It does look dang good, doesn't it?   

NHL nets have padding along the bottom, and the back crossbar.  I think part of this is safety, and part is to hide some electronics, like the back-of-net camera. I used some paper to mimic this. 

I then covered the whole thing in a coat of Mod Podge to give the net some strength, then I dry brused on white to the net.  Some final touch-ups to the red and I had my finished net.

I made a rink out of a big piece of foam, painted white, with a cut out to accomodate the base of the goalie figure.

I then made some simple boards out of more foam. Then placed it all in my light box:
The rest is Photoshop magic, which led to the final image:

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Winging It: The Adventures Of Indiana Frog: Hollywood Magic?

This post is the finale of a series of posts that feature me winging the creation of a "round rock chasing Indy through the ancient temple access tunnel"diorama with which to make an image with my Kermit The Frog/Indiana Jones hybrid action figure. If you missed the action, you can start back on the first post.

I have no idea what I am doing, and no plan (just a finished shot in my head), but that didn't slow me down.

Whence last we spoke, I had put the finishing touches on the diorama. It looks like this:
To do the photography part of this I tossed it into my lightbox.  I do 90% of my toy photos in that lightbox, so I just assumed I'd be using it for the final image.  However as I was placing the diorama into the lightbox I had a panic moment.  I never actually measured the full length of the dioraama, and I wasn't sure it would fit.

Turns out it did - with several inches to spare. Tighter than I like, but its all I need - almost like I planned it that way (which at this point you should realize I absolutely didn't).  The rest is all basic toy photography - pose the figure, frame up the shot, and press the shutter.

After a few test shots I decided to add a light shining down on Kermit to get some highlights, and separation from the background.  I used a Lume Cube with barn doors attached, mounted on a pair of adjustable arms secured by a Platypod to provide this extra light.

To get a basic shot took maybe 10 minutes.  However I decided to add some motion to the shot by tossing in some dirt at Kermits feet at the last minute, giving (hopefully) the effect of him kicking up dirt as he ran from the Big Ball of Death.  

So I put my camera on high shutter mode, grabbed a remote shutter release, and tried to get my left hand (on the shutter release) and my right hand (throwing dirt), to coordinate enough to get the right about of flying dirt to be believable.  This took an extra 30 minutes and a couple hundred frames. (My left hand really doesn't know what my right hand is doing. I have proof).

These are a couple of the frames I grabbed.  Together they made the basis of the final shot:

Now to Photoshop! This is where the  Hollywood Magic really comes into play.  I didn't really do much I don't normally do when I process photos - crop in, remove the joints from the figure, colour correct etc. so I'll keep the remaining commentary to what I needed to adjust to make the diorama work in the shot.

Fortunately it wasn't a lot.  Aside from cropping and a slight straighten, I filled in some places near the top where the light leaked in (you can see one obvious one to the left of the ball at the very top of the frame).  I also removed a vine near his right knee, and one of the hanging vines on the right of the frame.  This is mainly due to them being a bit distracting in the final image.  

The final shot in all its glory, looks like this:

Personally I think the shot is a massive success.  I am super pleased with how it turned out.

Thinking back on the process, I am not entirely sure I would have done much differently.  I mean, there are a dozen and a half things I would change if this was going to be a display piece.  I would have adjusted the vines I removed in Photoshop on the actual diorama, to give one obvious example.  However this isn't meant to be a display piece (which is good, as I don't have a place to display it anyway).  It was intended for the sole purpose of giving me the tools to create an image - to scratch a creative itch, as they say.  In that it worked out well.

Now, what should I make next?

Winging It: The Adventures of Indiana Frog: The Final Touches

I am in the process of winging the creation of a "round rock chasing Indy through the ancient temple access tunnel"diorama with which to make an image with my Kermit The Frog/Indiana Jones hybrid action figure.

I have no idea what I am doing, and no plan (just a finished shot in my head), but that isn't slowing me down.

Last post I got the dirt roughed in.
I wasn't super thrilled with the colour of the dirt, but I decided to just go with it. Either its gonna work out in camera, or I can futz with the colours in Photoshop (yay movie magic!)  The dirt, which is real dirt from my back yard, is only held with glue from below.  It needs to be held in more firmly. I sprayed the entire diorama with a mix of water and white glue (approx 3 parts water, 1 part glue), and left it to dry. 

While waiting I decided to tackle the big ball of death.  I had left it with a black undercoat as I wasn't sure what colours I wanted to paint it at the time.   I now had a much better idea - the same basic rock look, but a lighter grey than the rest of the tunnel.  I started with the same dark undercoat I gave the rest of the rocks.
I then used the same drybrushing technique I used on the rest of the stone, except this time I finished it off with a vanilla colour to give brighter highlights to the ball.
It looks pretty good.  I like the stone texture that came out of it.  To add a bit more realism, and tie it in to the rest of the diorama, I lightly rubbed some of the dirt I used everywhere else onto the ball.

That sorted it is back to finishing off the tunnel. The glue spray mixture has dried.  I have never used that technique before so I was nervous the glue residue would ruin the look, but seemed to do exactly what I hoped it would do:  lock in the dirt, but otherwise dry transparent. It worked like a treat.

Now all that is left is to add some vines and other vegetation.  I have a small collection of moss and other vegetations I picked up along the way from visits to various model stores and dollar stores.  I rarely use them, but I have it, so might as well take advantage of it.  My other option is to go spelunking outside for bits, but I am doing this at night, and its humid as hell outside. (seriously, I let the dog out and my glasses immediately fogged up)

I attached some fake spanish moss to the ceilings to act as vines using hot glue. I also added some other bits to the base of the rock.  I sealed that in with another good spritz of the water/glue mixture.

I think this is done. The ceiling still looks like crap, but as mentioned in a previous post the ceiling isn't going to be in the final shot.  Its sole purpose is to give the vegetation something to be glued to.  In that mission it serves its purpose perfectly.

I am considering this finished, and ready for the camera. However that glue spray still needs to dry, so I am going to let this sit for now.

Stay tuned for the results of

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Winging It: The Adventures Of Indiana Frog: Rockin' the Temple Access Tunnel

I am in the process of winging the creation of a "round rock chasing Indy through the ancient temple access tunnel"diorama with which to make an image with my Kermit The Frog/Indiana Jones hybrid action figure.

I have no idea what I am doing, and no plan (just a finished shot in my head), but that hasn't been a problem in the past. 

Last post I roughed in the tunnel with foam and sculptamold. It was starting to look good, if I do say so myself (and who else would be saying that on my blog?).  I started this build session by adding in a back wall.
The wall is angled, to give the effect of the tunnel heading off to the right in the distance. I left it roofless to allow in light.  My example image shows there is a beam of light illuminating that back area, so I wanted to make that possible.  The effect works amazingly well.

During my off time from this build I had given some thought to the vegetation I will be adding near the end of this build. 

It was going to be a problem.

I had originally skipped making a ceiling for the tunnel as the ceiling would not be in the final shot.  However I suddenly realized that I needed something to hang the roots and vines from (or invent magical roots and vines, but I am trying Hollywood magic here, not Hogwarts magic, so my confidence was low on the magic front - damn owl never delivered my letter!).  So I quickly added a couple angled bits of foam to act as a roof.

I then added a whole mess more sulptamold to fill in the walls, ceiling, floor, and other bits.
Once that was dry (turns out sculptamold dries in a half hour, unlike drywall putty, which would take days for this amount to dry), it was time to attempt a paint job.

I start as I normally do by adding a mix of Mod Podge and black paint. This is a mix I got from Black Magic Craft, and it both gives a nice black base coat, as well as a sealant for the foam, tying everything together, and making it a bit stiffer. Once mixed its basically paint with benefits, which I applied with a brush to everything.

I then decided to add a base coat of burnt umber. There is a lot of dirt in the scene, and a nice dark brown would be a good start.  I used my air brush for this, since I got a bit annoyed with a bristle brush on the Mod Podge layer.

Once the brown layer was applied, I figured I'd add a dark grey to the places where rocks would be.  I also used an air brush for this.  However I basically ended up making everything grey. Oops.

I then added a couple layers of increasingly lighter grey.  I used a technique called dry brushing, which adds paint only to the raise areas.  This adds some texture to the piece and makes it more rock like.
The photo doesn't really do it justice, but the rock actually looks pretty dang good, if I do say so myself (and who else... oh, wait, I already did this bit...sorry).

So the stone bits are sorted.  It is time to add some dirt.  I decided to skip the paint bits and just jump to adding actual dirt.   Coincidentally we are getting a bunch of landscaping work done in my back yard, and there is a massive pile of dirt just sitting there - and its mine! All mine! (well, once I pay the final bill it will be mine... but I'm good for it... cheque is in the mail. Trust me!). I grabbed some dirt, cackled maniacally to myself (as one does), and headed back to the craft table.

I then strategically added white glue to places where I wanted dirt to be added, then sprinkled on my new found dirt.   The result is this:

Again the photo doesn't do it justice, and it looks better in person, but not a great deal better.   I am not sure if I will need a different strategy or not.  However I need to let this glue dry, so I will decide what my next move is tomorrow.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Winging It: The Adventures Of Indiana Frog: Starting the Temple Access Tunnel

Now that I have a big rolling rock the next thing I wanted to do in creating a "round rock chasing Indy through the ancient temple access tunnel"diorama in which to make an image with my Kermit The Frog/Indiana Jones hybrid action figure, was to start roughing out the tunnel. (say that sentence 5 times fast!)

Keep in mind I have no plan. I'm winging the heck out of this thing, and seeing what happens.

I carefully measured (read: eyeballed) the figure and determined that it was about 5 inches tall, and the tunnel should be about 4.5 inches wide.  This seems adequate for my needs.  The image I have in mind is going to be more tightly framed than the screen shot from the movie I am basing it on, so I don't need as much space.  I want to ensure I leave enough to give the impression Indy-Frog can run down the tunnel unimpeded, but still include some of the details on the side of the tunnel.

For reference, the screen shot I am using is here:

I figure the best course of action is to build the rough shape of the tunnel out of foam, then cover it in some sort of drywall putty, or other sculpting material to get a more authentic rock experience.  I likely only need the floor and sides tho, as the shot doesn't show the ceiling.

Looking at the photo it looks like the foreground has a sloping sides, and the tunnel widens a bit.  The background is a longer darker tunnel.  So I figured I'd tackle this in two parts.  

I started by cutting out a base, and drawing in where the tunnel should go. The total width is 10 inches, with 4.5 inches in the middle.

To build up the sides I cut out strips of extruded polystyrene foam, tapered in the right places, and built up the sloping ground in the foreground.  Glueing them in place with a hot glue gun.    I then filled out the back with scraps of foam from my "pile of leftover bits" from previous builds.

So far so good. I then added some crap foam to make a ceiling, with a space for the ball to have come from.  In the final shot I expect the ball to already be down the ramp a bit, but for realism I wanted a space for the ball to have come from.  I glued the ceiling pieces together, then clamped it to ensure everything stayed tight while it all dried up.

I also took some scraps of foam and glued them to the foreground bits. They should make the basis of a rougher ground.  I also carved the edges of each foam later a bit to give it a more smooth organic feel.  Its not perfect, but the next stage should cover all that up.

Now its time to slap on some putty stuff over everything to make the rocks of the tunnel.  While looking around my studio I found a bag of Sculptamold that I thought would be good for this.  Sculptamold is a cellulose fibre based compound that slaps on like clay, and sets up like plaster.  Seems perfect for this.  So I mixed up a batch and slathered it on.  It looks like this unholy mess:
So I learned a few things.  Sculptamold sticks very well to itself, but not so awesome to smooth foam.  It also looks like a good texture that should sell as rock and dirt once painted.  I am going to need another coat of sculptamold to finish off the floor, but for now it will do.

You may also notice I added some walls to the foreground.  I did this as when I framed up the scene in my camera I noticed some spill-over on the sides, and the wall should fill in the edges quite nicely.

Time to let it dry and take a break.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Winging It: The Adventures Of Indiana Frog: The Big Ball Edition

The first thing I wanted to do in creating a "round rock chasing Indy through the ancient temple access tunnel"diorama in which to make an image with my Kermit The Frog/Indiana Jones hybrid action figure, was to create the big rolling rock.

Keep in mind I have no plan. I'm winging the heck out of this thing, and seeing what happens.

I started with a pair of  5" hemispheres of foam I bought an Michaels before the pandemic pandemic'd.  They have been sitting in a drawer ever since.  Not any more!

I started by glueing the two hemispheres together using white glue:

I used masking tape for two reasons.  The first was to hold the sides together while the glue set.  The second was to act as a barrier. The glue I used, Eileens Tacky glue, tends to drip a bit, especially when a lot is applied.  The spheres are not perfectly formed, so there are some gaps, so I added extra glue to fill in those gaps as well as to get more strength.  The masking tape keeps this glue from dripping out of the bottom.

Once the glue set, I had a full foam ball. But I don't want a foam ball. I want a bad-ass stone ball of death.  OK, fine, I want a reasonable facsimile of a bad-ass stone ball of death.  The thing that is going to sell this, aside from a clever stone-like paint job, is applying the right texture to the outside of the box.  In short, I need a texture that rocks.

For most dioramas I've made in the past (which isn't a lot, to be fair), I used extruded polystyrene - the stuff they use for insulation foam board.  That stuff can be carved, and textures applied by scrunching up some tin foil and pressing it into the foam.  I have made many a stoney looking object this way.

The spheres I have here are made out of the much less useful expanded polystyrene foam - its the stuff you get as packaging for electronics - the stuff that becomes little balls of hate when its cut, and gets stuck on you by static electricity, getting everywhere, and making you hate all things.  It is like the demon spawn big brother of glitter.  In short, it's shit, and a pain in the ass to work with.  Its biggest sin is that it won't take a texture.  

I am going to have to come up with another way to get looking like a stone.

I pulled another trick I've learned - drywall putty.  I slathered it on to make a stone texture on the outside of the ball.

One benefit of the putty is that it filled in the seam along the equator of the ball, making it look like a solid chunk of stone, instead of two solid chunk of stones. I was (mostly) successful at this.  There is some seam left, but I should be able to keep that out of frame  (movie magic is very forgiving for things not directly framed in camera)

Once the pall was puttied up, and dried completely (I left it overnight), I covered it in a coating of black paint and Mod Podge.  This should seal everything in, and leave me with a nice base coat to start my paint job.

Since I am winging this whole thing, I really don't know what colours I want to use to paint this stone.  I imagine I'll have a better idea once the rest of the diorama is complete.  So for now I am putting the ball aside. and will move on to building the temple access tunnel.

But that is an adventure for another day.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Winging It: The Adventures Of Indiana Frog, Day 1

I am sometimes asked where I get some of my action figures from. This post isn't about that - its about diorama making,  but the answer may surprise you just the same.

I have recently come into possession of an Indiana Jones/Kermit The Frog hybrid figure by a sneaky technique I like to call "giving my credit card number to Amazon and selecting 2-day shipping" (shhh, no one tell anyone my secret!)

(image shamelessly stolen from

Now that I have the figure I decided I should do something with it (this is where the diorama part comes in).  I looked around my crafting area and saw that I had cleverly purchased two half-spheres of foam.   The classic "round rock chasing Indy through the ancient temple access tunnel" scene immediately came to mind.

I found a screen grab online, and printed it off for reference:

Now I have no idea how to create such a thing as an ancient temple access tunnel.  I have done some minor diorama-ing lately, but that was all clean brick work.  This is gonna be messy, jungly, and old.  Foam and craft paint are not going to cut it here. I'm going to have to create non-square shapes. I'm going to have to create vines, vegetation, and even maybe a cob web or three. However nothing ventured nothing gained, so I am going to throw caution to the wind and see if I can free-wheel a diorama I can use as a set to recreate that scene.

I am not going for movie-realism here.  I mean, it's a kermit the frog dressed as Indiana Jones so how realistic can we reasonably expect to get here?  I am going for a riff off that scene that is both hopefully instantly recognizable, but also my own style and personality. 

I am also not afraid to use Photoshop to polish it off, but this is an exercise in crafting a diorama, so I want to get as much in camera as I can.

I can't stress this enough:  I have no earthly idea what I am doing.  None.  This is me winging it, live on this blog.

Strap in.  It's gonna be a wild ride.