Moonrise Over Mountains (7/19/18)

The following represent diorama blogs posted on the Midnight Oil Studios site.

Listed in chronoloigcal order.



The Art & Psychology of Staged Scenes John Fraim   Not to in define the meaning of a scene in the present but rather to start an internal process in the audience/observer/reader that will lead eventually to an obsession with defining the meaning of a scene in the future. One of the most famous screenwriters […]


Iconic Image Studios Concept draft by Jim Arter / John Fraim Winter 2018 Iconic Image Studios


Jack Fraim (circa 1952) at Jack Fraim Ford in Culver City SCENE: A model representing not must a place but a time in life. A young boy looks at the walls that surround the MGM Studios on Washington Boulevard in 1952. The young boy stands at the edge of the huge car sales lot […]


My writings (and relationship) to creating dioramas since I was possessed by this strange hobby … Not published in any form so far. Think it’s pretty interesting stuff. A philosophy (Phenomenology? Psychology?) of model building or creating miniature representations of reality. Who is this group of passionate hobbyists like model railroaders, car builders, plan and […]?


(Note: Before reading notes below, scroll to bottom and press play to hear The Chico Hamilton Quintet’s “Stella By Starlight” from 1955) Chico Hamilton is one of the most famous of Los Angeles’ jazz musicians. He was born in 1921 in LA and it is now the mid-50s and he has formed his famous Chico […]


Backlot of MGM Studios (Getty Images Copyright) Beacon Studios diorama, the studio serves as the plower character symbol in Bruegel’s “Landscape With The Fall of Icarus” (circa 1560). It occupies the important forefront landscape in the painting. Perhaps a reference to the Bruegel painting via a billboard on the street saying it is now at […]


One of the Many Versions of the KRE Radio Building in Berkeley, California West Berkeley in the 1970s and 80s. The great avant-garde jazz station KRE is located at the south end of Berkeley’s Aquatic Park. We can see a small sign with a flickering light inside of it (as if the electric company is […]


Concept and original model completed over one night (2/26/18). Created for the monthly model challenge for the IPMS (International Plastic Modeler’s Society). I just joined the organization made up of the greatest model makers around the world. I was blown away by the IPMS convention in Columbus a few weeks ago and decided it would […]


What if the little engine had to compete in extreme ski jumping? (3/3/18) The Little Engine That Could is an illustrated children’s book that became widely known in the United States after publication in 1930 by Platt & Munk. The story is used to teach children the value of optimism and hard work. Based on a […]


We arrive at the diorama somewhat like we arrive at other places in life that offer more enigma than answers. An empty classroom without a professor at the front. Everyone is gone from the scene. An empty classroom … We look into an empty college classroom. A wall on the left of the diorama and […]


Here, more of an intellectual exercise that requires participation of the viewer. In effect, the viewer becomes the absent students in the diorama. The viewer/student is given four pieces of a question/puzzle being exposed. The first piece of the puzzle is the large blackboard on the right full of math calculations and formulas. This blackboard […]


The Starlight Jazz Club (part of the LA Ford 1950s dealership diorama project) NOTE: Before reading below, press play on the music at end of this post … then scroll back up to here to start reading it while Chico’s Stella By Starlight is playing in the background.


“They were thrown under the bus.” A new area for me. Mini dioramas based on popular idiomatic phrases such as “thrown under the bus” or “drain the swamp.” I’ve downloaded a number of lists of idioms from Google search. But, might it go further than just idioms to encompass other areas of so-called comments or […]

NEW IDEAS(3/19/18)

Killer Raccoons 2! (Premiere night at Graumans Chinese Theater in Hollywood) Summing the past few weeks up. After creating the “I Think I Can Team” at the Olympics and “Professor Galaxy,” I did a series of six small idiomatic dioramas based around popular phrases such as “thrown under the bus,” and “that train has left […]


Spring in Ohio has been elusive this year. One day you think it’s here and the next day it snows. What if Spring could simply come out of a box. Of course, this would be the objective if I was a creative director at the ad firm that has the account for Irish Spring. Reporting […]


Product metaphors, like Irish Spring, is a ripe area for symbolism and dioramas. Here is another product metaphor-based diorama. In the old office is an empty can of sweet peas from the Green Giant brand. A picture of the “jolly” Green Giant in the logo top of the can. A reference to the mythology […]


The Last Dinosaur “Latest blog below on dioramas. About one I’m doing now. Political stuff lurking in it. But mainly cultural criticism of American branding and marketing everything. Politics is little more than ‘messages’ in the great ‘medium’ of the culture at a particular point in history. Here, this is experienced through the perspective of a […]


Last scene of The Great Gatsby. Jay Gatsby stands on his dock reaching out for the green light on Daisy’s dock across the bay. Behind the screen in front of Gatsby green light simulated by using a Litra cube with green filter and diffuser on it. The Litra cube sits on top of a Nano Cube […]


Old Route 66 and the Parking Lot for The Last Dinosaur Tourist Trap (See The Last Dinosaur in the June 2018 issue of Fine Scale Modeler) Our diorama The Last Dinosaur is finally complete. It’s a piece of nostalgia (on a 2′ x 1′ plywood board) for desert trips my family took in the 50s. […]


Devil’s Tower in the Bear Lodge Mountains of Wyoming – Background for the Movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. After completing The Last Dinosaur, we took a break for a few days, but our mind started working again on a new diorama. A monthly contest for the IPMS was to create something from TV […]


The Close Encounters Diorama A man on a mountain road in the desert has pulled off the road and leans up against his car observing a huge alien disk in the desert five miles away. The craft is at the intersection of two roads. One road disappears into the distant mountains that surround the desert. Our […]


McQueen’s Mustang Going 90 MPH Takes Flight in the 1968 Movie Bullitt (Don’t Try This at Home) Some Trivia About A Famous Chase Scene Fifty years ago, a San Francisco detective named Frank Bullitt was given the task of protecting a witness in a mob trial. When a pair of mob hitmen enter the scene, […]


Dedicated to my Greyhound Genna.


The Attraction of Craft (In Our Age of Distraction) “Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours. There is no need for wardens or gates or Ministries of Truth. When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious […]


Deep State Swamp in March of this year, I created the first Drain the Swamp diorama for the monthly theme contest of the IPMS (International Plastic Modeler’s Society) chapter in Columbus. The challenge was to model something on a 4″ x 4″ square. I created a little FBI Building and a number of layers of […]


Witness Mock-Up After completing the Deep State Swamp diorama, I returned to a project called Witness that had been incubating for some time. The basic idea was to suppose there was a witness in the mountain hills above what is happening in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The witness has pulled his car off the […]


The 1/12 Scale Man With the Binoculars in Witness. We first ask you to scroll to the bottom of this page and click on the YouTube containing the music from the movie Close Encounters of a Third Kind. Then, scroll back up and press our Vimeo above. We are not allowed to upload the […]


Do you ever worry that the highway you’re on might be shut down because a giant Green Giant can has spilled peas across the road? And now, up ahead, you can see a couple of police cars have stopped traffic where the peas spilled over the highway. Someone has opened a can of Green Giant Peas […]


The completed Chasing Bullitt diorama. Having fun with a poster for Bullitt on the side of the flat. Of course, the poster is not on the side of the flat and could not announce a movie that is still being made in the diorama scene. (It can be attached or detached via a magnet behind […]


To Eric McLuhan, A Wonderful Friend, Collaborator & Fellow Traveler (1942 – 2018) I’m beginning to stop using paper, cardboard and foam core to create my dioramas and starting to use wood. For the most part, all the latter materials are by-products of wood. But, it is good to simply go to the source and use wood […]


The Chinese Sage After the meticulous assembly involved in the Chasing Bullitt diorama, I had a sudden inclination towards simply searching out objects for my dioramas rather than creating them. The Buckeye Burl wood bin at WoodWerks offered a number of great contexts for dioramas. Then, I discovered the huge Heritage Square Antique Mall. For years, I had […]


The Coast of North Korea – 2020. People Magazine: “‘North Korea has great beaches’,” Trump told reporters. ‘You see that whenever they’re exploding cannons into the ocean. I said, “Boy, look at that view. Wouldn’t that make a great condo?” ‘Trump said he advised Kim that instead of pursuing his nuclear ambitions, he should […]

TILDEN PARK(6/18/18)

View of San Francisco from Grizzly Peak in Tilden Park, Berkeley – A Photo of a Photo There is nothing quite like Tilden Park above Berkeley in the East Bay. In a matter of minutes, one can go from Berkeley up into the wilderness of Tilden Park. I’ve been hiking in Tilden for years so […]


Casanova’s in Carmel, California – Carmel’s “Most Romantic” Restaurant – Photo by John Fraim (2007) I’ve been absent lately as I’ve taken time off from my hectic pace of creating dioramas to writing about them. Have started writing a book titled Making Scenes: New Directions in Dioramas (I thought of calling it Making A Scene but with the “A” […]


Desert Patriot – Diorama & Photo by John Fraim Anyone who has lived in the desert for a period of time have probably seen the lone trailers with some junk or cars surrounding them. Often, there is an American flag somewhere. With the gathered cars around the trailer, we can suspect some type of meeting […]


Explosion Scene of the Dodge Charger in movie Bullitt (McQueen’s Mustang speeds by on the road) (Note to Readers: First scroll down to the bottom YouTube image on this post and click on it and then come back up to the text right below what you’re reading now … with music.) The spectacular fate of […]


What do you do with a tea light, a piece of Purple Heart wood (6″ x 6″ x 2″ thick from the scrap bin at Woodwerks) and a green glass Hemingway telegraph insulator from the Antique Mall? The tea light was attached to the wood by a magnet and the telegraph insulator placed over it. Background […]


My friend Travis has just completed his second raccoon horror film, Killer Raccoons II. The first film was shot almost ten years ago and developed a small cult following. The second film had a much better equipment with a more professional cast. It was filmed in Ohio but completed in Los Angeles. This diorama envisions the […]


The above is part of a new diorama in process.


He sold everything he owned, bought a used RV and moved to the desert. He bought a little spot on top of a hill in the middle of nowhere. He lived off-the-grid for years. Every month he went into the small town fifty miles away and bought his food and supplies. He built a fence […]


“Like finding another room in the great pyramids.” Sonny Rollins Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album (March 6, 1963) John Coltrane   I just listened to the deluxe version of these recordings. All of them and this music is some of John Coltrane’s most accessible music. A powerful find of hidden American art so […]


A quick little diorama from things just “hanging around” the old shop. In Z scale or 1/220. A dab of glue on everything and we’re good to go. (But the two people don’t look too “good to go” to me.) Sometimes, a spur of the moment idea captures things as well as long, planned out […]


It was a simple download from the Internet from Wurlington Press – paper cut-out of the Cliff House in San Francisco in 1/750 scale and proceeded. The Cliff House was one of the greatest conglomerations of gingerbread ever seen in San Francisco. This is saying a lot. I labored cutting the little pieces out but […]


“Moonrise Over Mountains” – John Fraim (7/19/18) Box Dioramists: Masters of Illusion “The same objects look bent and straight when seen in and out of water … and every kind of deception like this is clearly present in our soul.” Plato, The Republic (380 BC) There is a small group of modelers out there today […]


On July 23 in Casting Call, I offered up the idea of the dioramist as collector of stuff … a type of hoarder in his/her own way. In my case, I finally decided to sort all the diorama materials I had collected over the months from places like Michaels and model shops and antique stores and […]

I CAN TALK(8/13/18)

“I Can Talk!?” What relationship do words have to diorama images or scenes? Or, to any work of art for that matter? Traditionally, words are attached to particular works of art. Sometimes, words have played a great part in making a work of art. Many times, words are attached to types of third person “museum tour […]

NEW NATION(8/19/18)

An Action Figure Photographed Against Frederic Church’s Twilight in the Wilderness (1860) Unifying a Divided Nation John Fraim “There is a sense … that partisan affiliation reflects more than just a voting preference. Rather, it says something about your character.” (NYT 8/17/18) American culture in 2018. All our days increasingly filled with heated back-and-forth battles between media […]


KRE 1950s Radio Battles of the Early 80s Smooth Jazz Comes to Berkeley John Fraim Below are notes based on some of thoughts and memories of Berkeley in the early 80s. One of the big things I remember from this time is the battle between two jazz radio stations: the new KBLX and the old […]

A MAGIC LIGHT(8/24/18)

THE REVOUTIONARY LUXLI CELLO LED LIGHT A revolution in LED lighting is occurring now. One of the big topics at the major photography show this year was RGB LED lights. For the first time, photographers and filmmakers have the ability to precisely control the lighting of their scenes. They are no longer limited to […]


Hollywood & Independent Artists John Fraim   Modern American society has access to most of the magic technologies the nation produces at its faster and faster pace.  For example, in the film industry, independent filmmakers have access to cameras used by the major studios. The focus has been on how to capture the scene with […]


A red man … In his green office … No, make that his blue office … Ponders a new use of light in the new era of full spectrum LEDs. Mr. Red Man ponders this under the green light of a Luxli Cello light that sits on its light stand in his office. It is now Mr. Green […]


The Wise Old Man is Always a Symbol (Found on a Dusty Shelf in Columbus Antique Mall) A Generational Family Drama John Fraim Premise: Most modern stories use same age characters in stories for the same age audiences. This is certainly true for targeted political stories today. True change might come not from new messages […]


Pink Room / The Luxli Cello (The Rose Purple 49 Filter at 30%) No this is not the opening of a horror or Sci Fi film. Rather this is all about the revolutionary nature of the Luxli Cello light will take a little time to find the right market in today’s consumer world. Sure it […]

NEW ALBANY 2025 (9/13/18)

Route 63 Into New Albany (2025)  We moved back to New Albany from California in 2015. New Albany was created by Les Wexner, founder of the Limited. The town was built around a tiny little farming town founded in 1837. There is still the famous original house in town along the walking trail in town. […]


Modern marketing has moved from the paradigm of advertising to story-telling. In large part, the shift away from advertising is led by post-modern consumers and especially the millennial generation who are no longer persuaded by advertising’s old bag of tricks. The shift has created a new cottage industry of books that show businesses how to […]

COMRADERY AT 25,000 FEET (9/18/18)

“Comradery at 25,000 Feet” (Normandy 1944) – Darryl Audette Review by John Fraim Hollywood has always presented the military aviation heroics of the two World Wars from the outside rather than the inside. By this I mean we have always seen great Technicolor battles in the sky in Panoramic Cinema: fighters chasing bombers and pure […]


The power of stories discussed in our recent review of Robert McKee’s Storynomics and Dennis Miller’s Building the StoryBrand, has a strong relationship to American politics where story narratives find their grandest application. The grand story narrative is on grand display as I write this now – September 20, 2018 – as the Republicans and Democrats […]