F1 kits rarely (it seems) work their way into a diorama, so there is little material available for those looking to learn how to create realistic looking grass or gravel traps. However, the world of railway modelling (where the moving locomotives really are the cherry on the cake, set amongst often staggeringly realistic backdrops), offered a rich seam of knowledge and technique, which I was able to tap into.
I began by very crudely painting in the gravel area using Tamiya acrylic. Referring back to the reference photos, I noticed that there were a number of areas to the inside of the kerb where the turf appeared to have worn through and the bare soil was visible. In order to try and recreate this, I used some Tamiya Diorama Texture paint to simulate the texture of the soil beneath.
I decided to apply this quite liberally to the area, applying the paint with a palette knife. Having waited for the paint to dry, I then applied some scenic scatter material (from Javis Scenics), to the remaining area.
The effect of the above was to have very crudely marked-out the area to the side of the track. To this I would add the gravel trap, and improve the appearance of the grassed area with some static grass.
Having allowed all of the above to fully dry, my next task was to recreate the gravel trap. I bought some model railway ballast, and employed the same technique that railway modellers use when applying loose ballast around railway lines. I applied a layer of ballast across the area, and then brushed a series of lines through it using a paintbrush (to simulate the effect of the gravel having been raked-over).
When I was satisfied with the appearance, I then applied a 40/60 mixture of PVA glue and water onto the gravel with a small syringe. I also added a small drop of washing up liquid to reduce the viscosity of the liquid, and help it absorb between the individual grains.
I then had to leave this area to dry, which took at least 2 days. When the area had eventually dried, the effect was pleasing.
Whilst the ballast was looking good, the application of the PVA/water mix had caused the fluid to seep-out across the scatter material, bleaching much of the colour, and leaving a very obvious tide Mark. I wasn’t too concerned about this, as the scatter was only ever intended as a “1st coat”, which would be built upon with the static grass.
With the gravel trap done, I highlighted some of the raised areas of soil using some Humbrol acrylic “Flat Earth”. I also painted the tyres I had sourced from eBay with a very light coat of Halfords white primer. I applied the paint from above to use the texture of the tyres themselves to accentuate the effect of shadows.
With the basics now in place, it was time to start applying the static grass to the model. Static grass is a fantastic way of creating a very realistic grass effect, because it allows the application of individual grass strands. Each strand is charged with static electricity, meaning that when the strand meets the base, it stands perpendicular, allowing the glue to set, holding it in position.
I use a static grass applicator made by Finescale Model Railways, which I bought from New Modellers Shop. The grass I used was made by the German manufacturer, Noch. I chose a shade called “Spring Meadow”, with individual strands 1.5mm long.
I applied a thicker PVA/water mix over the scatter base, and applied the static grass. After leaving the glue to dry, I used a handheld vacuum cleaner to remove the excess with the below result:
I was pleased with these results, but when viewed from low-down, the regularity of the height of the grass gave the terrain too much of a “bowling green” feel…. the grass just seemed too perfect.
The solution to this was to add some longer strands of grass, but in a different shade. Before I did this, I added some more ballast around the base of tyres, and inside them too.
The longer grass I chose was again from Noch, in 8mm Summer meadow.
All that now remained to be done was to “blur” the join between grass and gravel slightly. This I did by brushing a few grains of ballast onto the grass area, which replicated the odd pieces of ballast that get scattered around when a car inevitably visits the gravel. This was held in place with some artists fixative (I considered using strong hairspray, but read that it can yellow over time).
The final fishing touch was to add tyre skid marks around the apex of the corner itself using artists pastels. Again, these were prevented from smudging by using artists fixative.