Woodland Scenics' Scenery Manual & 'Clinic' Video
Many of us are guilty of not 'exploring' other parts of the hobby shop. If some product was meant for scale modelers, it would be amongst the kits and related supplies, right? Not necessarily.
Once we've graduated beyond basic (straight from the box) and intermediate (add simple resin and photo-etched details), we begin to look at developing a vignette or diorama to pose our new project in its 'natural' environment. While some folks are content with placing their models on a simple base, or a base with a pre-printed cardstock surface (concrete, cobblestone, carrier deck, etc.), virtually all armor and many aircraft types were parked out in the grass, dirt, mud or snow.
Modeling natural scenes has been intimidating to me, as much as working with natural metal finishes. We've all seen great models that were seriously overwhelmed by a poorly done nature scene base. We've also seen so-so models that have placed very well in contests because of great scenery. So what's the secret?
Woodland Scenics to the Rescue
If you've ever tried to put simulated grass or dirt on a diorama base, chances are that you were using one of Woodland Scenics' products. They do produce a wide variety of scenery materials, some of which are reviewed elsewhere in this issue. But if you haven't explored around the hobby shop lately, especially in the model railroading section, you've missed out on some very useful information.
The Scenery Manual, ISBN 1-887436-00-6, 158 pages
Woodland Scenics has published a 158 page instructional guide that teaches the basics of terrain, landscaping and structures & detailing. It is a comprehensive guide on how to create the scene that you have in mind, how to get everything into a natural context, and how to apply their various products to achieve that 'looks right' appearance. While the book is oriented toward the model railroader, the principals are identical for creating a hillside road for your Jeep or a clearing for your P-40.
The book is full of color photos and black & white illustrations to accompany the instructional text. I found some rather useful information on blending different colors of their turf and soil lines to create a more natural appearance. The tendency to use a single color of turf for grass, for instance, is one of the things that detracts from our model because of the unnatural appearance of the background.
The Clinic - VHS
If you want to get a jump start on doing scenery, then this is the ticket for you. 'The Clinic' is filmed from a series of live demonstrations at a few railroad trade shows to show the audience how to use the Woodland Scenics product line easily and effectively. My first reaction to this video was how their scenery is put together completely opposite of how I am accustomed to working. They use lots of moisture! In fact, they walk through a number of demonstrations on how to lay out scenery, adding rock surfaces, painting and weathering the rocks, laying out grassy areas, adding brush and trees, blending them together, adding gravel roads, and even addressing erosion in the scenery.
You'll want to watch this 75 minute video several times, as the first time will be spent watching in total disbelief on how easy scenery really can be. After viewing the video, the Scenery Manual will become even more useful as they've captured a variety of variations and options that the video didn't have time to cover.
I'd highly recommend these to titles to your references, especially if you are at the point where you want to create stunning, yet simple diorama or vignette bases for your models. If you are a model railroader, these titles are a must if you are ready to graduate from the pre-fabricated grass matt for a layout base and put your railroad into the 'real world'.
My sincere thanks to Woodland Scenics for these review copies!