To recreate the expansive space that we experience outside, we resort to tricks ranging from a plain blue color on the walls to large custom made photomurals.
As I’ve progressed through the craft, I’ve reached the conclusion the backdrop is not as necessary as I used to think.
Scale Truly Makes A Difference
I’ve said before that each scale has a natural viewpoint. N and HO favor more panoramic scenes whereas moving up in size to S, quarter-inch, and the many variants of 1:22.5, the focus shifts from a broad vista to an emphasis on the individual objects.
Where Is Your Focus?
If the trains are the sole focus for many, then why not push that focus all the way? This quarter-inch scale scene below is truly shallow in depth, which, combined with the eye level viewpoint, creates the immersive sense that you are standing next to the boxcar instead of looking down on it from above. The warehouse flat is a natural backdrop that stops the eye and generates a sense of enclosure typical of tightly packed urban environments.
This image works because the relationships are what we expect to see at full scale. Your eye level forces you to look up at the car because it towers over you. At this close range, the building dominates your field of vision and blocks long distance sight lines. Is there a design lesson to learn here?
Going forward, I now question the need for an artificial backdrop even for a rural subject. I’ve experimented with dark backgrounds before and like what they do visually. With nothing to look at, the eye is drawn to the modeling because of the contrasts in color and textures. The photo below is an example of this principle at work.
With nothing else to attract the eye, your attention naturally goes to the bright colors in the foliage. Here, the lack of a blue sky or sense of distance is of little concern.
Different Backgrounds For Different Scenes
For whatever comes next, I won’t bother with traditional background sky or scenery. Like the warehouse scene and landscape above, my focus will be on the foreground. I can see a dark colored surface to frame the modeling along with different screening devices such as a dense layer of trees and scrubby undergrowth, tall retaining walls, or cuts and other natural elements instead of trying to mimic sweeping views.
As with the warehouse, these elements will be closer to full scale rather than being compressed from a lack of space. There will be plenty of visual interest to hold the eye, as a dark featureless background provides no contrast to draw your gaze away.
It’s my belief that if we’re not growing as modelers, then we’re only treading water. It’s a time of experimentation for me. A time to challenge my own perceptions and bias around what makes for a personally meaningful path in the craft. The ideas in this series aren’t for every taste, nor do I intend them to be. They are the result of much soul searching and uniquely fit where I’m at artistically. They are here for the taking if you’re interested, otherwise feel free to ignore them.
Next time I start putting these notions to work.