Small Scale Skirmishes: Battles from Imagination and Reality



Small Scale Skirmishes: Battles from Imagination and Reality presents examples of toy soldiers (both antique and contemporary), wargaming figures and dioramas and military machines (both scratch-built and created from model kits) by war game enthusiasts, model builders and miniature artisans.


The human spirit loves to see the downtrodden rise against an oppressor and triumph, so much so that battles have been a popular subject of art for thousands of years. Miniatures too, are no stranger to the subject of warfare. In fact, miniature soldiers, tanks, aircraft and battleships have long been created for artistic displays as well as practical and playful endeavors.

The notion of a “small scale skirmish” may conjure up an image of Napoleon scheming as he moves small soldiers across a tabletop, or bring to mind fond memories of battling a playmate with toy soldiers. Indeed multitudes of tiny soldiers have been created for use in tabletop or sandpit battles to simulate serious warfare, and for serious imaginary play. Ignited by the publishing of H.G. Wells’ book Little Wars in 1913, the field of wargaming has grown into a serious hobby for people of all ages. Since the mid-twentieth century many gamers not only play wargames, but also create the components that make their tabletop game possible. They painstakingly paint figures, vehicles and buildings and design and build detailed terrain where their battles will take place. Wargames were traditionally based on historic battles, until the 1970’s when hypothetical, fantasy and science fiction themes infiltrated the war gaming world and opened it up to wider interpretation.

left to right: Dandy First WWI Lead Toy Soldiers Cast from a Toy-Mold Set made by Home Foundry of Chicago, IL  Cast in 1939 by Gene Rosten, Forward Landing Ground in Egypt, 1942, kitbashed diorama, Simon Herbert, Tree Fort, Nathan Morsbach, 2009-2012

Warfare is also a popular genre for model builders and miniature artisans. Favorite subjects include tanks, aircraft, and battleships based in reality and science fiction. Model builders have a variety of plastic model kits available to them which they may complete as provided, or kitbash* in order to recreate a particular vehicle from a specific time and place. The machines they create are often incorporated into dioramas depicting battles scenes of such diverse wars as WWII or Star Wars. Often, what a miniature artisan envisions doesn’t come in a kit and so they take on the task of scratch-building a military vehicle or the combat scene that is in their mind’s eye. Their work is limited only by their imagination, patience and skill.

*Kitbashing is a practice whereby a new scale model  is created by taking pieces out of commercial kits. These pieces may be added to a custom project or to another kit. For the hobbyist, kitbashing saves time that would be spent scratch building an entire model. Hobbyists may kitbash to create a model of a subject (real or imaginary) for which there is not a commercial kit.

Meet the Artists

Eric Brindza
Eric Brindza paints historic and fantasy themed metal miniatures for wargaming and collectors. After starting a collection of fantasy miniatures in 1987, Eric saw someone painting pewter miniatures at a comic book store. He was intrigued by the results and wanted to do the same with his own pieces. Without any formal training, he began painting the metal miniatures. Eric became a skilled miniature figure painter through practice and exploration of the medium. In 1998 he discovered wargaming and joined a group who played Warhammer Fantasy Battles. When he brought his miniatures to the games, his fellow gamers were impressed with his painting skills. They began to commission him to paint their miniatures launching a career in painting miniature wargame figures. By 2001 Eric established an on-line store, Pigmented Miniatures, and has been painting and selling wargame miniature figures for a number of companies.

David Fischer
Miniature artisan David Fischer started building plastic models the summer before kindergarten, and models have been a fixture in his life ever since. In fact, it was his childhood fascination with the work of airbrush artist Ray Gaedeke, who illustrated the box covers of Lindberg models in the 1950s, that pointed him toward a career in graphic design and illustration.

As a teenager David began researching authentic paint and marking schemes for his models, altering and augmenting the details of plastic kits to recreate a specific airplane or vehicle at a certain time and place. Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in graphic design in the pre-computer era helped him to develop important hand-rendered skills which adapted well to model building. Eventually, he determined that altering and augmenting plastic kits to suit his needs was becoming ludicrous, so he decided to eliminate the kit altogether. Building a model from scratch opened a broad new range of possibilities, and the search for materials and methods became as much a part of every project as the creation of the model itself.

In addition to model building David now collects kits from the 1950s. Opening a well-preserved old kit, with its dramatic cover art and simple, often brightly colored parts, stirs the same excitement for him that it did when he was six.

Nathan Morsbach
Working with cardboard, hot glue, and his imagination, Nathan Morsbach began making battle scenes around the age of seven. As he grew his work became more sophisticated yet he remains true to cardboard, his original material. Nathan draws the subjects for his work from his passion for Star Wars. As a small child he was captivated by the Star Wars films which opened the door to the world of science fiction for him. Central to his work is a desire to capture the action of the battle in order to captivate the audience and bring them into the scene. Nathan recently returned to school to pursue a career in art.

Sonoran Desert Model Builders
Founded in January 2010, Sonoran Desert Model Builders is a chartered IPMS model club in Tucson, Arizona dedicated to advancing member’s skills through tip sharing, encouragement and hands-on building. The club builds both plastic and non-plastic kits including: cars, airplanes, armor, ships, figures and sci-fi subjects.

David Brown
Dave Brown has been building models as long as he can remember. As a child he was engrossed and mesmerized by model kits and continues to find them deeply engaging. Dave produces models that have character. They are dirty, dented and disheveled. His goal is to create a semblance of reality so that viewers can imagine what the subject has been through. His subjects range from historic military scenes to science fiction themed dioramas. Brown is a practicing artist who earned a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Arizona in 1992. He has worked in the field of art for 30 years and also exhibits his drawings and paintings.

Derek Campbell
Derek Campbell has been building models since he was seven years old. He served in the US Army as an Airborne Trooper from 1974-1976 and in the US Air Force from 1976 to 1980. He is retired from the Tucson Police Department.

Simon Herbert
Simon Herbert enjoys the technical and artistic challenges of designing and building dioramas, especially combining historical research to achieve greater accuracy. Simon's models have been featured in several international modeling magazines, and he has written several articles. Simon lives in Tucson, AZ, and works for local government as a historic building specialist. He is also a writer and an architectural photographer. When he finds spare time, he enjoys kayaking, cycling, and scuba-diving.

Dongwook Lee
Dongwook Lee has been making models since he was fifteen years old. He has had a lifelong interest in WWII the primary subject of his dioramas and models. Originally from S. Korea, Dongwook came to US at the age of sixteen. He moved from California to Tucson in 2007 and currently works at El Rio Community Health Service Center as an associated dentist.

William O’Malley
William O’Malley is a retired architect who began building models at the age of ten and continues to build them to this day. He primarily builds WWII trucks and other soft-skin vehicles and occasionally automobiles. He enhances his models with  scratch-building, extra detailing, and realistic weathering.

Clara Triem
Clara Triem built her first model, a Sherman tank from Tamiya Models, when she was about 10 years old. As she grew her interest in models evolved through many genres, particularly miniature figurines, wooden sailing ships and, currently, aircraft of the First World War.  Clara images where the vehicle might be found and creates a natural environment for each piece. Clara says what intrigues her about model building is “replicating textures, materials and wear-and-tear in miniature by using various painting techniques. It's an ongoing learning process with me, and I draw a lot of inspiration from other modelers.”

Associated Programs

TMTM Museum Outreach Coordinator, Ben Collinsworth, will come out to your organization and present an overview of the exhibit. Presentations are available after January 14, 2013. To book a free presentation, call Ben at 520-881-0606 ext. 114 or email him here.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Demonstration by Sonoran Desert Model Builders 10am-4pm.
Join us for a model building demonstration by the Sonoran Desert Model Builders. Included with museum admission. Free for members.

Sonoran Desert Model Builders Make-and-Take 2pm-4pm
You're the model builder! Sonoran Desert Model Builders will teach you how to build a model airplane that you can take home with you! Included with museum admission. Free for members. Quantities are limited. Only available while supplies last.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Demonstration: Historian Jeff Albiniak paints miniature soldiers 12:30pm-2:30pm
Historian Jeff Albiniak demonstrates the art of painting miniature soldiers and shares his diorama of a Zulu battle along with a display of antiques from the actual skirmish. Included with museum admission. Free for members.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Demonstration: Wargaming with Greg Hundt 1:30pm
Wargaming enthusiast Greg Hundt will set up a wargame with over 500 miniature soldiers and explain and demonstrate how historic wargames are played. Included with regular admission. Free for members.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Demonstration: Painting wargame figures with Eric Brindza 12:3opm-2:30pm
Exhibiting artist Eric Brindza demonstrates the art of painting wargame figures. Figures will also be available for sale. Included with museum admission. Free for members.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Demonstration: What is modern wargaming? 2pm
What is modern wargaming? Heroes and Villains will demonstrate the art of modern wargaming. Learn how to play Warhammer 40k and watch a demonstration of how to paint gaming pieces. Receive a free figurine while supplies last. Included with museum admission. Free for members.