Review: Dioramas F.A.Q. 1.3: Storytellying, Composition and Planning.

by David

Disclaimer: I bought the book myself, but received a small discount from the publisher. This will not predetermine my review, which will be a fair summary and assessment of the book's strengths and weaknesses as I perceive them.

Hey all,

this is David, back again with another review of a recent book.

This time I'll be looking at Volume 1.3 of AK Interactive's F.A.Q. Dioramas Series, which is titled Storytelling, Composition and Planning. It is written by the incredible Belgian modeller Marijn van Gils, and since I am not only a huge fan of Marijn's works, but also found that a dedicated book on how to plan dioramas and vignettes guided by storytelling and the principles of compostions was the biggest blind spot in the existing modeling literature, I was super-excited to get my hands on this volume. And, let me get this out of the way right away: this book is the bomb! Whoever you are and however much experience you've got under your belt, if you're interested in telling stories with miniatures or scale models, you will find some information, insight or inspiration in this book!

In the book, Marijn takes us on a 240 page-long, richly illustrated journey through the process of planning dioramas and vignettes. Underlying the whole book is a very simple yet powerful premise: that the goal of dioramas is to tell a story. And from this follows a coherent, systematic and well thought-out line of chapters in which Marijn tells the reader how to ensure that the diorama does just that - and does it as good as possible. Chapter 1 provides a brief introduction to the book's goals, a few core concepts, and few bits of practical advice on how to make most of the book.

In Chapter 2, Marijn develops the premise of dioramas as story-telling, and details the elements of "story" that one should consider in including into the diorama. He talks about emotions, interactions, plot, symbolism and the subject matter and how they interact, relate to each other and how to balance them in story-telling. He then discusses the development of ideas and where we, as modellers, can come up with, develop and evaluate them in the process. Here, as throughout the whole book, Marijn hammers home the idea of taking your time, thinking things through, repeatedly testing and reframing your ideas and modeling steps, and discussing ideas with friends, all to make sure that your diorama will be the best it can be.

Chapter 3 delves deep into the principles of composing a diorama to make it a tight and visually pleasing representation of your story. Marijn introduces a number of crucial concepts and ideas related to these goals, namely atmosphere, the way a viewer looks at and comprehends a diorama and how you can use this to your advantage in telling your story. We learn about the importance of multiple focal points and the various principles that make a diorama look coherent, dynamic and realistic. The chapter ends with a collection of a number of very practical tips on sketching, both on paper as well as using 3D mock-ups, which is a core element of Marijn's approach to diorama-building - if you do it his way, the actual diorama-building "merely" means to execute the plan that you have designed, sketched and revised during the planning stage.


Following the general principles and overall considerations of diorama-composition outlined in the two previous chapters, Chapter 4 addresses the core individual aspects of composition. Here, Marijn talks in detail about how to use color, figures, scenery, accessories and the design of the plinth to tell the story in the most convincing and impactful way. Chapter 5 is a brief excursus on how to use existing images as sources of inspiration without being limited in your artistic license by them.


While Chapters 2 to 4 constitute the main parts of the book, both in substance as well as in page numbers - with a total of almost 200 pages between them - the remaining chapters deal with a number of more specific topics. Chapter 6 discusses the general principles and more practical considerations to create a specific type of diorama: shadow-boxes, in which the modeller has full control over the view and lighting of the scene. Chapters 7 and 8 cursorily talk about telling stories with vignettes that include only single figures and single vehicles. The single page of Chapter 9 concludes the book with two brief paragraphs summarizing the core idea of diorama-building as story-telling, and a brief biography together with three pictures of the author.

As noted above, I think this is probably the most important book on diorama building published in the recent past. I have long missed a modern and more substantial version of Sheperd Paine's seminal volume or Ray Anderson's treatise on building box dioramas, that dives into the more conceptual aspects of diorama building: the principles of planning, design and composition, and how to use them to tell stories. Marijn's book deals with all aspects of these issues in a comprehensive and systematic way. Moreover, it is very well written, in a personal, engaging style and very well edited - which is not a given for many modeling books.

The book is lavishly illustrated with a total of over 500 pictures that Marijn uses to great effect to illustrate and drive home his messages. In this, he not only limits the presentation to pictures of his own work, but includes a great many examples by over 80 fellow giants of the modelling world, including Jean-Bernard André, Mike Blank, Bill Horan, Won-hui Lee, and Dirk Menningke, to name but a few of my personal favorite modellers. Each picture is dutifully credited with the diorama's artist, title, scale, and year of finalization. What I particularly liked is that the pictures are not only referenced in the main text as examples for the ideas and concepts developed there. Rather, Marijn makes sure to annotate each image, reiterating the points made in the main text and diving deeper into the idea he wants to transmit with each specific image.

In terms of specific highlights, I really struggle to settle on only one or a few. There are just so many lessons to be learned and pieces of insight and inspiration to be found throughout the book that it's hard to pick one out. The book is just an overall convincing, systematic and useful analysis of Marijn's approach. Moreover, for those who do not yet know Marijn's work in detail, this book is a great introduction into his work and creative mind. But even those who know his work well or even know him personally will find something new and useful, I am sure. For me it was the that literally everything that happens on Marijn's diorama scenes is meticulously planned, thought through and is there for a specific, story-related reason. I consider myself a great fan of his work, but learning about some of the thoughts and reasonings behind some of the smaller design decisions opened my eyes just how much thought, love and eye for detail is in each of these scenes.

With so much praise is there anything I was missing in the book? Not really. Reading through the first couple of pages, I was a bit irritated that the pictures that are referenced in the book's main text as examples for general points do not really depict the exact examples in the text, but are just that: additional examples for the same principle. Also, I think the three brief "chapters" on building dioramas based on pictures (Chapter 5) and vignettes including single figues (Chapter 7) and vehicles (Chapter 8) could have easily been integrated into the substantive chapters 2 to 4. But this is nitpicking, really.

In sum, I would say that, in my eyes,
this is the most important book on modeling I have read so far

While readers looking for concrete advice on techniques for realistic replications of some parts of the world (e.g., weathering or how to build a pine tree in scale) will have to look elsewhere (the existing literature on this is vast), this book fills a huge gap in the modeling literature by focussing on the thinking, planning and designing that goes on before and during diorama-building. I am convinced that virtually everyone building dioramas or vignettes will benefit from reading this book. This book is, hands down, most highly recommended. If you want to take your diorama/vignette-building to the next level and don't own the book already, you should think about getting it. The book is listed for 45,95 Euros and is available through all known retailers.
Let me know if you have questions or comments. All the best,


MV Challenge 2020: Full gallery and Fan Award

by Roman aka jar

Aloa everyone!
You all are crazy and left us speechless!
So many cool entries with the tiny astronauts. They travelled way far beyond our imagination and you all did wonderful! Thank you for making this challenge such a huge success and beautiful!

You can count yourselve as winners
already as you are a part of this gallery and made it what it is: an excellent and fabolous collection of how far creativity can take everyone of us and the imagination behind every entry is just adorable! We want to thank you from our hearts for the joy you all brought to the MV Challenge 2020.

Before you enter the full gallery:

It happens in the gallery. These are the rules:

1. You need a Google Account and be signed in

2. The first picture of an entry matters

3. Place a comment

4. A comment on the first picture of an entry is counted as a vote for the Fan Award

5. You can comment on several of your favourites

6. No limitation, but you can only comment once to a single entry

7. On December 5th we will pick the winner of the Fan Award by picking the one with the most   comments on the first entry picture


Without further ado:
This is the link to the enourmous gallery of the MV Challenge 2020

You can be very proud of you being part of this!
Spread the word, share the link with friends, family and in social media! This is just unbelievable!


While you can enjoy the full gallery now, the MV-Team: Josua, Johannes, Sebastian, Hansrainer, David, Daniele, Philip and myself start to vote for first cut. It means we are picking the ones who will go the next step in judging. Please know that this does not mean we dislike any of your work. It is just horrible to judge so many beautiful entries fairly to arrive at a destination to call three of them medal winners. Already, everyone is a winner who got an entry in.

We are judging your entries in terms of

  • creativity
  • execution
  • idea

Unfortanetely in an online contest, photo quality is also a judging criteria. We can only judge what we see. From our view no photos are really bad, but some are better than others and show the entry and work in more detail. Be sure to know that this is not our main judging criteria.
They are listed above.

The results of the first cut, Random Prize Pool Winners and Fan Award will be available
on December 7th. It will be visible in the change of the gallery as we sort it again.

Then starts the next round: Second Cut.
The second cut brings everyone together who are running for a medal before we make a final decision. We will keep you posted on all steps via this channel.

Stay tuned!

If you want to support us with coffee, tea, tissues for tears, chocolate or boxing gloves please know that all donations to the jungle will not change our judging decisions.

You want to support Massive Voodoo? 
If you like to support or say thanks the monkeys of Massive Voodoo in what they do, please feel invited to drop a jungle donation in their direction via paypal or check their miniatures they got on sale here.

News: MV Challenge 2020 is over!

by Roman aka jar

Hey Space Travellers,

it is about time! 

The Massive Voodoo Challenge 2020
ended yesterday midnight and hell yeah you all went way far beyond your imagination! Thank you all for your beautiful creations, the stories you told and the joy you had.

The final entry counter from yesterday midnight is:

Out of competition:

This is so amazing, unbelievable and wild!

Thank you all for sending out so many tiny astronauts to encounter vast spaces, great stories, unbelievable action and some even found love out there! YOU ALL HAVE DONE GREAT! Thank you for making this challenge so exciting! Again, it shows that Massive Voodoo is the people, you! Thank you for being such a great community!

did sent out all confirmation of your entries by now. If you are missing yours, please check back in your Spam folder or contact Roman via jarhead(at)massivevoodoo(dot)com

 How we proceed from now on:

  • All entries will be uploaded to a full gallery in the next couple of days.
  • We are setting up an excel sheet for all entries that the MV Team will use for judging.
  • We will do a first cut, a second cut and then pick final winners.
  • This will all be visible in the gallery.
  • We keep you all informed on each step.

  • as soon as the gallery is open it is time for you all to vote the "Fan Award", we will inform you how you can do it as soon as we got the right idea :D

  • in the next couple of weeks we will also announce the winners of the random prize pool

... we only ask for a little patience as you can not imagine the workload of organisation that is going on in the back to keep this all organised. And well, no, we are not a team of astronauts sitting in a space office in front of our computers. It is mainly one big, bald astronaut, organising this behind the curtains. Getting everything ready for the MV Team to do proper judging work!

You want to support Massive Voodoo? 
If you like to support or say thanks the monkeys of Massive Voodoo in what they do, please feel invited to drop a jungle donation in their direction via paypal or check their miniatures they got on sale here.

In the meantime we have another addition to the random prize pool (the last one). Thanks to Oliver who offered this 1/6 Manga kit:

A donation from Oliver, a 1/6 Manga kit:


Also other Prize news:

At the moment Roman and Momo are working on creating some metal pins with small astronauts to make everyone who takes part in the challenge recieve a pin for his bravery! Stay tuned! Work in Progress!

We were not able to manage that! Too many things happened recently (for example: Roman has to move unplanned as his landlord needs the flat) and funds and time for this idea were not available. We are really sorry!

A special prize will be added for the one with the most entries:
Mr Lee's Minis is dropping in a double book special: One of Roman's original Miniatureart Artbooks and one special book, a testprint that was used to find our way in the journey of book printing. It is different than the original and shows a lot of process.

If you want to get your own copy of this book, check back with Mr Lee's Minis:


So far from Organisation Mothership!
Keep on happy painting and stay tuned!
Roman & MV-Team

Review: Private Coaching with Sebastian

by Roman aka jar

 Hey Jungle,

time for another review on a recently held private coaching session.
Man, I do miss teaching and I am happy that I can at least teach in individual session, like these Private Coachings ...

This time Sebastian visited me for a two day private coaching we planned for a longer time ahead, but then Covid-19 stopped us earlier this year. Recently we were able to sit down together in one on one.

Sebastian's impressive result of two days private coaching with me

me & Sebastian

Let's hear what Sebastian has to say about his coaching experience:

"Before I asked for the private coaching with Roman, I already attended several of his workshops. Each time Roman sent me on a journey and each time I found something beautiful on the way. This time was no different, and yet the hours with Roman were different from the workshops before.

I turned to Roman in October 2019 for private coaching to show me how to handle a 72 mm miniature. We agreed on a date in March 2020, shortly after a beginners workshop in Augsburg. The idea was that we would use the workshop to prepare the miniature and the basis for private coaching. Then Corona happened and the world was upside down. The beginners' workshop was the last workshop Roman could teach shortly before the lockdown, and we agreed to postpone the private coaching. A few months later the situation was better and Roman announced that he would finally offer private coaching again. I did not hesitate and asked for a new date.

In the meantime I had a lot of time to paint and that changed me. As the date for the private coaching approached, I knew that I wanted to learn something different after all. The big scale no longer appealed to me. On the other hand, I still wanted to learn how to approach large flat surfaces and bring them to life. So we set a new goal and studied texture and overall contrast instead.

I really enjoyed painting with Roman, his approach to the subject and the calm and clear way he teaches. I knew his style of teaching before, so I knew to listen to the important parts. During my stay, we chatted a lot and had many off-topic discussions. I'm not sure if Roman didn't find it strange that I asked so little about miniature painting, but for me it was more important to soak up the moment.

AAs I said before, I've had several workshops, and this is a constant for me. The MASSIVE VOODOOO starts a few days or even weeks later. It was no different here. While we focused on how to paint texture and how to build contrast on large areas, something else filled me up. Nothing less than confidence in my abilities. Roman said that in our toolbox there are many tools and many approaches to reach our goal, it is up to us to decide. The coaching gave me the self-confidence to do this."

- Sebastian

Sebastian's result is impressive

"Hi Roman,

ich denke ich muss noch eine E-Mail nachschießen, da ich mir nicht sicher bin, ob der englische Text richtig rüberkommt.

Was ich damit ausdrücken wollte ist ganz einfach. Wie auch nach jeden Workshop mit dir braucht es bei mir eine gewisse Zeit, bis ich verstehe, was genau ich mitgenommen habe. Bei den Sachthemen ist das ja einfach, bei meinem Coaching war das etwas schwieriger und hat daher auch länger gedauert. Gestern Abend war es dann soweit.

Ich habe in den letzten Wochen nur Dinge bemalt, die ich teilweise schon seit über einem Jahr rumstehen hatte und mich nicht getraut habe die anzufassen. Das lag daran, dass ich kein Vertrauen in mich hatte, dass das Ergebnis ansehnlich wird. Das hat sich durch unser Coaching geändert. Ich glaube der Schlüssel dabei war zu verstehen, dass es viele Wege ans Ziel gibt und wir uns aus allen Möglichkeiten eine auswählen dürfen, um ans Ziel zu kommen.

Im Frühjahr habe ich oft darüber nachgedacht WIE ich etwas machen möchte und teilweise beschlossen, dass das zu komplex ist. Dann war die Miniatur wieder auf dem Regal und durfte weiter Staub ansetzen. Jetzt denke ich eher darüber nach WAS ich machen möchte und habe dann das Selbstvertrauen meine Toolbox zu nehmen und anzufangen. Und wenn es nicht dahin geht, wo ich es haben möchte, dann suche ich mir einen anderen Weg. Das WIE ist dadurch in den Hintergrund gerückt und blockiert mich nicht mehr.

Und das war das eigentliche MASSIVE VOODOO unserer gemeinsamen Zeit.

In diesem Sinne viele Grüße und Happy Painting!"

- Sebastian

happy student, happy teacher

Thank you, Sebastian for again trusting my teaching skills and knowledge. It was my pleasure to welcome you to the Studio and spent these two nice days with you! Arrigato!

Keep on happy painting!

If you want to learn from me
in your very own private coaching session, do not hesitate to contact me for further details via

Feel invited to check back with this PDF document to see if your personal coaching date is in reach. Write me an email and we can make it work!

If you are interested in a private coaching session or the actual news on workshops, please read:

You want to support Massive Voodoo? 
If you like to support or say thanks the monkeys of Massive Voodoo in what they do, please feel invited to drop a jungle donation in their direction via paypal or check their miniatures they got on sale here.

Review: Private Coaching with Christoph

by Roman aka jar

 Hey Jungle,

time for another review on a recently held private coaching session.
Man, I do miss teaching and I am happy that I can at least teach in individual session, like these Private Coachings ...

This time Christoph visited me for a two day coaching in
the MV Studio

Christoph says:

"This was going to be my second private coaching with Roman.
I had a great private coaching last year in May with Roman
Link so I decided that it was again time to learn some more 😊

I wanted to learn more about painting TMM and skin. So I sent a picture of a “tru metal” album with a lot of Skin to Roman to guess the topic. Since the album was “fighting the world” Roman guessed I might want to learn more about Space Marines. After we had that cleared up, I decided to be more straight forward.

After I arrived, we chatted a bit about which of the minis I brought I’d paint. Both of us being Ilyad Miniature fans, we settled on a blister of their barbarians. We started out with the contrast ranges of reflective metals versus matt surfaces. My painting memory was a little rusty after a summer where I hardly touched a brush but spent my free time gardening and such.


The first day went fast as I was painting contrast ranges of shiny metal on various training items. I spent so much time painting those NMMs and TMMs I felt a bit like karate kid, learning through repetition. It worked 😊. At some point I noticed that I had forgotten to take pictures at all. I decided to take a few pics right away. When I couldn’t get any nice photos of my TMM pieces, I asked Roman if he could take some. He told me yes, but why would I want these photos? I didn’t know at first and noticed after a short moment I’d only need them to show off. My Sensei had taught me an important wisdom 😊.

 On the morning of the second day we finally started painting the minis. Half the axe blade took me forever, but then I really got rolling and the rest of the metal on my barbarian was painted in no time. This was my next “Zen” moment, I got so much faster by painting neat from the start, training and understanding of what I wanted to accomplish. We spent the rest of the day with skin tones which were a lot of fun to paint.

I was again extremely happy with my private coaching.
Thank you Roman."

It does not make sense to just paint something.
Important is to understand it first ...


Training that knowledge ...

Christoph painted the more warmer skintoned Barbarian here
during his coaching and he learned a lot. I painted the other one for explanation purpose.

Not only in terms of metallics or non metallics or skintone, but for me as a teacher who knows his student since some years, the most imporant part was: Calm down! Paint with patience and joy, for you, not for social media or anything. For you! When this hit home and Christoph painted with patience I really was proud of him on the results he could achieve!

I want to thank you Christoph!
Not only for being a long time student of mine, but also for being a friend I can rely on in strange or difficult moments. Thank you!


If you want to learn from me
in your very own private coaching session, do not hesitate to contact me for further details via

Feel invited to check back with this PDF document to see if your personal coaching date is in reach. Write me an email and we can make it work!

If you are interested in a private coaching session or the actual news on workshops, please read:

You want to support Massive Voodoo? 
If you like to support or say thanks the monkeys of Massive Voodoo in what they do, please feel invited to drop a jungle donation in their direction via paypal or check their miniatures they got on sale here.