The shirts
Now the main idea of the diorama is still that there are actually some shirts drying on a piece of string set between a mast and a funnel. I think the genesis of the idea may come from a totally surrealistic picture I saw of the Cesarevicth battleship after one battle against the Japanese fleet, with her funnels holed by shellfire, and yet the sailors let their clothes dry near the shell holes.

The problem was – what material should I create those shirts? I wiped out from my head the idea of doing them out of magic Sculp as those would appear too thick, and then, very naturally, I ended up doing them out of cigarette paper.

I was indeed a smoker during most of my youth. Throughout the years I got to be an expert at rolling fags with 2 or 3 different sheets at a time, or rolling them with one hand etc. I was naturally using the material a lot at the time because of its unexpected qualities for the modeller.

First it’s very thin and it doesn’t break so easily which are the 2 qualities you need if you want to create some books or newspapers in scale. Of course you have to seal the whole thing which is very easy using superglue. All my early dioramas are littered with objects done out of cigarette paper.

But I’ve never tried cloths. So here I was, turning into a tailor.

The first step is to create a kind of jerkin without the sleeves. I cut one piece which should be long enough to do both sides of the shirt. I glued it together (the joint being of course the tiniest possible and inside the shirt) both on the side and on the top with some kind of kids paper glue that I apply with some sort of pencil. I let dry overnight while inserting some matches between the 2 sides to be sure that the 2 sides don’t glue together. I then proceeded to cut out openings for the collar and the sleeves. I prepared the sleeves using more or less the same technique before gluing them through the hole of the shirt again using matches so that neither of the 2 sides of the shirt glue together. The thing is always to remember using very little glue, but applying it evenly on the whole contact surface. Then I cut out the front opening of the shirt and added various lapels on the sleeves, collars and on the place where you close the shirt.

If you worked with a minimum of care and followed the right proportions you should have a perfect flat shirt, straight from the dry cleaner but then nothing too dynamic.
This is where the smoker’s experience pops through as the trick for success is to carefully roll the shirt between the fingers so that you basically break the paper’s structure and especially the folds you have been creating either on the jerkin or the lapels of the sleeves. When the job is done you should have a paper shirt which has got the feeling of a very thin cloth.

Now just shape it the way you want and on with the last part of the method.
Just put some superglue on a surface and proceed to paint the shirt with a small modelling knife dipped into it.

You have to be really very careful when doing this because if you touch anything while the superglue isn’t set, you will have just ripped of the shirt and destroy the job.

The best way to avoid permanent damage is to hold the paper with one hand, “paint” what you can without gluing your fingers, then stay with the shirt in hand for the glue to set, and when it does dry, just paint the rest while holding the shirt. When the shirt is done and the glue set, you can drop the shirt on the working surface and it will do a ''ting'' king of sound, just like it’s a bit of plastic. (pic 25-26-27-28-29-30)

What’s pretty cool with this method is that I doubt any aftermarket leech will ever propose this kind of stuff.
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About the Author

About Jean-Bernard André (jba)

Here are my 10 rules for better dioramas! 1 -The diorama is everything modelling is about, it's the meeting point of the manufactured object that is the model and the human input, you can –and have to- tell stories with dioramas. 2 -When doing your diorama you should not be influenced by any tr...


Hi Claude -well this expo was at half an hour *walking* from my home so.. I arrived at the opening at 9am on saturday, left 10 mn later and took the dio back 10 mn before the closing on Sunday so you see, I am not very good at public relations It was a fig show called Lugdunum, and no i didn't win anything -not that it was important indeed plenty of pics of the show thanks for asking anyway here
FEB 29, 2008 - 02:44 AM
Simply superb, and forget taking your work to model shows, JBA, you need a studio of your own! Peter F
MAR 26, 2008 - 08:06 PM
Thanks Peter, but honestly i 've always been knowing my own diorama promised land was certainly not paved with gold medals from shows But i would still go for the friends. maybe see you at Telford in one year or 10!
MAR 28, 2008 - 12:54 AM
Jean-Bernard, Your work as always is just spectacular. I hope to someday do a diorama so fully realized. I do follow my interests now and let them inspire me. I am growing very tired of the same old types of subjects. I am starting a figure company with my best friend and our subject matter is inspired by history, but civilian history rather then military history. Every one who has seen our first three figures has really liked them. I only hope that our figures add to the hobby the way your work does. Best Jeff
APR 17, 2008 - 03:24 PM
I just saw this, and JBA, my friend, all I can say is, you are a genius. While most dioramists try to faithfully replicate reality, you go much further, and try to replicate a moment of your self. Fantastic work.
APR 18, 2008 - 08:03 AM
So well, I just caught your comments while in a cybercafe in the "worse" kind of French wild west i could be stucked in and you can imagine those really cheers me up Jeff I can only pray for your new company to be successful! And thanks David as always (very long time, very no see!!) may your inspiration still be there wherever in the world you are right now bye for now my friends JB
APR 22, 2008 - 01:53 AM
JBA I really admire your creative skills,such as using cigarette paper for clothes and such. Taking the time to explain your techniques and the reasons behind them is truly a learning experience for me. It would be a joy to see your projects in person. Keep it up! rR
APR 22, 2008 - 02:56 AM
Wow! Just amazing.
MAR 07, 2010 - 02:20 AM
HI JBA For some reason I never replied/posted first time around ... so I´ll do so this time. Have always loved your models, and its always great to see them brought back again. Even the still water looks great!!
MAR 07, 2010 - 02:39 AM
Thanks Michael for unearthing such an old thing, it still looks okay after 3 years.. Than you Franck, the "reverse water" method is completely crazy to be honest and I wouldn't do this again. but i still like the way i treated the green colours. Someday i might change the guy which is the weak point of the scene
MAR 07, 2010 - 11:30 PM