Defeat of France, 1940

I need to start this article by introducing myself as the owner of a small company that creates diorama pieces for 1/35 scale modelers. For this project, I used three of the products I sell on my website but this was not undertaken as a means to push my products on anyone. The technique and composition can be used with any scenario the modeler wants to dream up. It makes practical sense that I would utilize items I believe are appropriate to telling the story.

I wanted to write this article with the idea of sharing some techniques for simulating fire and smoke and as encouragement to those who are curious about adding some “special effects” to their projects.

As I read the online discussion boards, the topic of replicating fire and smoke seems to come up regularly. This got me thinking about what kind of effect would look good in a photograph and so I thought I would try to come up with something I haven’t seen.

The Inspiration
The idea for the vignette came from a PK photograph I purchased from an antique store about 10 years ago. It’s framed in my studio and I look at it from time to time and wonder how it could be reproduced in model form. The image shows a street corner with a couple of dozen French helmets and other debris in the foreground. In the background, a double column of German infantry march by and the whole story of France’s defeat are told in that image. I had often thought about using a street corner and French helmets but with only a few Germans marching by as the focal point. The idea was never so great that I wanted to undertake the project until I purchased the Heller kit of the French Hotchkiss H35/39. In trying to do some research as to colors and markings of this tank, the overwhelming majority of source photos showed these tanks abandoned or destroyed. (pic1)

The little tank fits nicely within the confines of the street corner base and it seemed natural to construct it as an abandoned vehicle as so many photos showed. 

  • pic1
    Pic 1

About the Author

About Michael Bishop (MonroePerdu)

I work as a full time model maker and painter while trying to develop my own business providing diorama products to other modelers. I am happily married and live in Ventura County, California.


Great article Mike. The layout looks terrific with or without the smoke. I like the "drop everything and run" look of the scene. Well done. I must say you don't often see a tank with a semi-gloss finish, but here, on the Hotchkiss, it looks very realistic as opposed to being dead flat. It captures the steel of the tank. Thanks for sharing that with us.
MAY 16, 2004 - 01:31 PM
It was indeed an interesting article. It was a good idea to use the smoke generator and LED's to simulate fire and smoke.
MAY 16, 2004 - 06:26 PM
Great article indeed! The effects are something to cheer up the scene! Congratulations!
MAY 17, 2004 - 02:36 AM
Mike, thanks for this excellent article. I think you did another great job. I'm very much impressed with the tree, it looks so darn real. again, great article ! Thanks.
MAY 20, 2004 - 04:48 AM
A terrific job on both the diorama and the article. The smoke generator was a great effect and very creative.
MAY 20, 2004 - 06:50 AM