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As folks who have been paying attention probably know, I’ve been actively working on my next Dio-Story for several months at this p0int.  I even documented some of the set building process in my “Behind the Curtain” series for this Dio-Story.  I was feeling really good about how things were coming along and anticipated having much of the filming done at this point and ready to hopefully launch the dio-story by the end of the year.

Then the house move came about…  and I haven’t mentioned this to too many folks yet, but in the process of moving, the load in the U Haul truck shifted, and almost all of my constructed dio sets were destroyed.  My Cobra Temple awesomely constructed by Eric “Capolan” Vaughn?  Crushed.  The Cobra Commander throne room so crucial to the climax of the story?  Done.

It was pretty depressing.

But I’m determined to continue moving forward on this, and as part of that, I’m reconstructing the interior to the Cobra Temple, going in a slightly different direction.  Capolan’s Temple set was fantastic.  I absolutely loved it, and it served me great, but as the story of Darkness Falls has evolved in my head, I needed a little bit more size and scope, so I started from scratch to rebuild the internal lobby of the temple.  Yes, this means there will likely be some design differences and inconsistencies throughout the scope of the story, but I’m hoping some suspension of disbelief will allow folks to overlook that and just appreciate the story.

To give folks a bit of a taste of this new Cobra Interior, I documented the process, which will hopefully give people something to hold them over until Darkness Falls launches.  Though that launch probably won’t happen until next year at this point.  Click the “Read the Rest of the Story” link below to check out the process of constructing this new Cobra Temple interior.

So, part of me loves the process of set building, and part of me hates it.  I’ve commissioned many diorama sets in days past, just to save time, but in many cases, to tell the story I want to tell, I sometimes need to get my hands dirty myself.  And after seeing the fantastic work of guys like Colors Oner from and Jhomar Soriano, who I’ve been watching on Facebook I was feeling a bit inspired to take a different approach to my diorama making.  Typically using just foamcore and glued on backgrounds, I elected to get a bit more detailed this time around, I hope the results are positive.

My first step, as usual, was busting out the exacto and the foamcore to build the framework for the diorama.  I’ve heard pluses and minuses for foamcore or other material, but because I know the way foamcore works and how used I am to working with it, I chose to stick with that medium.  Using some hot glue and the aforementioned exacto I created a multi-level interior set, considering what I wanted to do with the G.I. Joe infiltration (spoiler alert!)

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Now, normally, I depend on scrapbook paper for backdrops, floor textures, etc… because a lot of it looks in scale with G.I. Joe figures, and it’s a cheap and quick way to add realism to the backgrounds of these diorama sets.  Well, this time around, inspired by folks who go crazy with their textures, I decided to work with plaster to see if I could add some real depth to this set.  I felt like I needed some bigger impact for this crucial part in my dio-story universe.

The first step working with plaster, according to some online tutorials I’ve read, was to use newspaper for the foundation.  Rolled up newspaper adds some texture and potential detail to apply the plaster over, so I looked at the appropriate join points and added newspaper with masking tape.

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After adding the newspaper, I decided to add some more details to the large empty space on top, and threw together a stone-built gateway that can be used for cover during a gunfight.  I also added a small computer room for the back corner of the large entryway.

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Then the fun began…  this was my first experiment with plaster, and it started a little rough.  I used cheap Plaster of Paris bought from Wal-Mart for like $4.  It comes with 4 one pound bags that mix with water, but only gives you about 20 minutes to apply the plaster before it starts hardening.  After a rough start, which wasted the bulk of a one pound bag, I continued in a more manageable way.  I would mix a quarter of a pound bag in a paper bowl with some water, mix it, and then painted it on with a paint brush.  I bought about 6 super cheap paint brushes, because after the 20 – 30 minute limit lapses, the brush is pretty much caked with hardening plaster and becomes useless.

I’m sure there are better ways to apply the plaster, but that was my solution.  Just be sure you are aware of all the safety requirements when working with plaster, and make sure you have a clear, clean space to work with.  You don’t want to be spraying liquid plaster on anything important, that’s for sure.  So, I applied the plaster on top of where I taped the newspaper, and at this point…well, I had no idea how this thing was going to turn out.  I also added a makeshift catwalk using wooden craft sticks and a knitting grid template.

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After waiting 24 hours for the plaster to dry and I went over it with some acrylic paint to make the interior more uniform.  I chose a light gray color to add a good primer base to the temple so that would give me more flexibility down the road with color experimentation.

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Yeah…still not sure how this is going to look.

My next job was to add some texture to the rock surface of the set.  I used a product from Rust-O-Leum to add some stone texture using spray paint.  Regular spray paint rules apply…do this outside, or in a well ventilated area and give it plenty of time to dry.  So I applied the spray paint, and things are finally starting to come together.

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The added texture is doing a fairly good job bringing up the background textures and making things blend more effectively.  As you can see in the images above I also picked up some more potential background items to build up certain parts, like the computer screens from Star Wars General Rieekan action figure.  The last step was to get a bit more detailed with the paint work.

I applied some tan acrylic paint as a second base, and then took some dark brown and dry brushed a lot of it on top of the tan base.  Tried to accentuate some of the rough surfaces and add more depth to the overall look and feel of the set.  I’m actually pretty happy with the final results.  I took some of the left over knitting template and made grids for the computer room, touched up the catwalk a bit, and added some depth to the fountain area and the temple gateway.

I also bought some “G Scale” steps from Plastruct, designed for railroad construction, but G Scale actually works fairly well in conjunction with G.I. Joe scale figures.  It’s not perfect, but for this purpose, it works well.

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So the main interior of the Cobra temple feels like it’s pretty “done” at this point.  Now I’ve moved on to the top of the outside of the temple, where another pretty critical moment in the story happens.  Here’s hoping it works as well as I feel this one did.

I welcome any input from folks!  How does it look?  Any improvements?  Working with plaster is very new to me, so I would embrace any possible advice or recommendations anyone can offer.