Anyone who visited HobbyCo on George Street in Sydney in the mid-1980s will have seen the amazing fantasy dioramas of H. Grant. H's dioramas were action-packed Battle Royales of good versus evil in a no-holds barred struggle to the death. We're talking dozens of minis arrayed on battlements, swarming through dungeons, perched on rocky bluffs... H's dioramas always told a big story, real sagas, epic in their scope and drama. The poses of the minis made sense too; weapons were striking or parrying, Dwarves were dying, thieves were sneaking, stuff was actually happening. The figures related logically to one another and their environment which also helped to draw you deeper into their miniature world.
Crunchy H. Grant goodness
Celebrating too soon?
H was master of the box diorama, a technique that has largely fallen out of favour. The dioramas transported the viewer without the need for fancy optical illusions or lighting, just an exquisitely hand-painted skyline. As a pimply 13 year old I stood there transfixed, drinking in the spectacle, the quality of the painting, the sheer magnificence of the work and thought "H. Grant, you are a GOD". H inspired me to paint minis and remains a benchmark for me to this day. Years later I learned H stood for Helen (not sure who told me, probably my mate Dave). It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know H was female when I was 13; I’m not sure my adolescent brain could have handled it. Then HobbyCo moved up the road to the Strand Arcade and H's dioramas disappeared from its shiny new shelves. It was gut-wrenching, really. As of today the thread about Helen on the Ozpainters forum has over 1250 views, probably 40-somethings like me searching for their childhood hero.
Considering her influence on a generation of Australian mini painters and war gamers Helen remains something of an enigma. In researching this post I learned that she won the Australian Golden Demon award in 1999, the one year she entered, with a massively converted Dwarf galleon (above). Like a grandmaster she came down from the mountain, laid waste to the opposition and then returned back above the clouds. Check out the detail on that thing, the sheer IMAGINATIVE POWER of it. Helen Grant was one of the first major fantasy miniature painters in Australia, she developed her own distinctive style, and judging by the miniature (ahem) size of her virtual footprint, she's clearly a modest, unassuming person.
Here’s the (pitifully short) list of the dioramas I remember:
There were others, but years pass, synapses die... If anyone remembers them (or their real titles) please leave a comment. And if anyone has photos of her dioramas post them online immediately! (please...) They're the heritage of the Australian fantasy scene.
With Trollwood I hope to recreate for people some of the magic Helen created for me all those years ago.
Honour the gods they say. Well then,
All hail the Mighty H!
Update: Read my interview with Helen here.
(Australian Gods, Part 1)
* Many thanks to numbat at Ozpainters for the use of his photos.