The topic: Charles Dickens' Our Mutual Friend. The assignment had to be relevant to the current point in the novel and demonstrate both an understanding of the work and a sense of craftsmanship.
I chose to build a vignette based on a scene in which Bradley Headstone, the schoolmaster, confronts Lizzie Hexam in a graveyard. For those of you who have not read Our Mutual Friend, I may not be able to convince you to take on the impressive 800-page novel, but rest easy; most of this post will be about the visual design of the vignette.
And if you have read it (and in particular if you're a stickler for details), I'm well aware that the churchyard in the novel is paved, not overgrown. This is what's called "artistic license." Because in my book, all cemeteries should be overgrown. They're more awesome that way.
But enough talk--how about some pictures?
There we go, first picture out of the way. As you can likely tell, the vignette is built on a standard green 16x16 baseplate, but I went to great lengths to make sure the overbearing green color didn't show through. In fact, basically the entire ground is coated in at least two plates' thickness of dirt and foliage.
If any of you are serious nerds, you might look at the center gravestone and say "hey, you didn't build that!" And you'd be right. That one was taken from the Halloween Accessory Set (850487) because I needed a lot of gravestones and I wasn't going to turn down a perfectly good design. But I did have to change it to get it to mount properly, so it's not totally cheating.
Basically every single one of the headstones is mounted at a really strange angle to give it a lopsided, neglected feel. In fact, all of them are hinged on two separate axes to grant the angles I wanted. The problem is, this means they don't attach directly to the baseplate, and hinges take up space, so I hid them on the backs of the stones, where they remain unseen from the intended viewing angle. The most difficult one was the cross, which is exposed rather than leaning against the tree. If you look closely in the previous picture you'll see how I had to attach it to the bright green sprig, which sticks into the larger undergrowth pieces.
This project was a great opportunity to experiment with vignette style and more natural, organic and unorthodox structures, which are things I don't normally work with. All the fun was in the details, like the mushrooms, the bat hanging from the tree and the extreme quantities of plant and vine pieces. The best part is that without the minifigures it has no firm connection to Our Mutual Friend, and yet I was still able to justify this as homework. Everyone wins!
Challenge: build yourself a self-contained scene (vignette). Packing as much detail as possible into a small space can really help hone your building skills, and it's a lot of fun.