Dave Morrow Shows His Sheperd Paine Collection

In September 2013, the 14th annual Western Australian Scale Model Expo featured a special exhibit on the work of Shep Paine, including some of his famous box dioramas. It was organized by collector Dave Morrow, who writes about his collection here.


No, that doesn’t sound right; let’s try this:


By David Morrow

Like so many things in life, this has a bit of a long story to it, but it really does get to its point eventually, so please read on.

I actually got into modelling relatively late in life. When I was a kid, one of my brothers built planes, but back then I was very much a get-out-and-about type–not a hope of sitting and concentrating.

Fast-forward many years and I decide I want a hobby–and that’s where it all began.

Needless to say I was immediately hooked, and hooked badly. My interest in WWII is what primarily drew me in, but then I also found out about all the other incredible things you could build. Amazing lifelike figures, and some of them smaller than your thumb. Incredible dioramas that looked so realistic it was like someone actually used Marvin the Martian’s shrink ray on a WWII battle and froze it in time.

I had to learn how to do all I could see; it was all just so cool. So I went mad buying book after book, magazine after magazine, unlocking the secrets and learning all sorts of things about paints, glues, resin, plastic and on and on. I needed more books, and that’s when it happened. I first saw the bible of modelling How to Build Dioramas” by Sheperd Paine. I immediately bought it and it changed my life, literally. By this time I had read many, many books, but inside the pages of this book was a different world again. It was like it led me deeper within the hobby, and showed me all of the amazing things possible within the already amazing things I had just learnt about. It was also scary, as this was art, pure art, and I am no artist. But I read that book over and over, and bought every book written by Shep, as well as tracking down every magazine article I could find that he also wrote.

Shep’s book on figures introduced me to what would later become my main passion, figure painting, but at that time I loved dioramas and building AFVs. I was an unabashed Shep-a-holic; it was clear to me that this man was on a different level. Over time, I discovered the history of modelling and Shep’s lofty place in it. I was keen to find anything else Shep had written that I had not yet seen. I shot off an email to the web administrator of www.sheperdpaine.com to ask if there happened to be anything unpublished that I could perhaps obtain. The web administrator responded with a email from Shep that mentioned I should talk to a man called Darryl Audette, and he gave me his email address.

That was another moment where my life took a new turn. Thus began a very regular series of emails between Darryl and myself talking about modelling and our love of Shep’s work. I found out Darryl was actually a collector, and I was blown away. “You mean you get to look at that incredible talent live?” Darryl offered to send me some of the Monogram tip sheets and I also bought some of Shep’s original plans for some of his box dioramas, and my Shep collection began.

Over time and many more emails, Darryl and I became great friends. Darryl is THE font of all knowledge when it comes to Mr Sheperd Paine, period. He has more articles/books in more languages authored by Shep than anyone in the universe, even the parallel ones. Darryl was so giving of his knowledge, and time, and we continued to email each other regularly. Then during one of our emails Darryl asked me if I might be interested in acquiring some of Shep’s actual original pieces.

I nearly passed out at the thought.  My response of “Yes!” arrived back at Darryl’s computer .234 seconds after he sent me the question. It turned out that Darryl decided to thin out some of his enormous collection and sent me a list of what he would look at selling.

I selected what I wanted, which was two box dioramas, seven figures, and nine AFVs. Darryl agreed and I was on cloud nine. I was about to own several items of Shep’s that were actually on the cover of his books. Others had entire chapters in his books devoted to the building of the actual model I was to own! How cool was that?

Well, it was very cool. Organizing the couriers was fun, and a real nerve-tester. Darryl lives in Canada, and I live just down the road in Australia. It’s too far to walk, so I had to arrange a Canadian courier to collect some very, very precious cargo and place it nice and lightly on a plane, where another courier would pick it up and bring it to me. Hmm, two couriers and an airline crew handling my Shep Paine original items? Knowing full well how gentle couriers aren’t, and having watched many times through plane windows as the airline crews play basketball with luggage as it gets launched into the cargo bay with a sickening thud, I was concerned, to say the least.

The day it all arrived is still clear in my head. I actually had to just stare at the boxes with the knife in my hand ready to cut the sticky tape, because my hand was shaking so badly with anticipation and excitement that I could not make the knife work. So I waited until I had calmed down to about 300 heart beats per second and proceeded to surgically remove my collection.

As each piece came out I marvelled in a revered silence. It really was quite surreal. Lucky for me Darryl had spent a lot of time packing everything up as securely as possible and it all arrived in one piece.

I have had so much enjoyment just pouring over my collection time and time again. Turning off all the lights in my study at night and just flicking on the box diorama’s internal lighting and just gazing in wonder. I still do that regularly today.

I had been attending model shows by this time, entering competitions and so forth. I joined a model club, and started speaking to many modellers. It became clear that there were many Shep fans out there, who loved his work and what he had done for the hobby.

After one show I thought that I should see if the shows organisers want to work with me to display my collection so that other Shep Paine fans out there could come and see his work for themselves.

I had just moved to Western Australia, and had attended the largest show in this state called WASMEx. I talked to some officials and started the ball rolling as to the potential of setting up my Shephibition (I just thought of that name too!).

It would be the first time Sheperd Paine’s models would be on public display in Australia. I just thought that it would give such an amazing opportunity to the modelling community that I would have given my left arm for when I discovered Shep’s work. (Note left arm, as I paint right-handed).

Thanks to the organising talents of Lance Ingram, the shows Chairman, we are set for September 21/22 to run the exhibition between 10-5 both days of the show. The collection will be on display, securely, and I will be right next to it answering questions and talking to lots of people. As well as talking to the old hats of the modelling world it will be great to talk to some of the younger kids, and educate a whole new generation about the Grandfather of this fantastic hobby. Since announcing the show on WASMEx’s website the emails have been pouring in about the exhibition so we are expecting it to be a great turnout, and of course I will send in a report.

None of this would be possible without the graciousness of Darryl Audette, I cannot say enough kind words about this man. He is a true gentlemen, honest to a fault, incredibly helpful and kind, and also a great friend. I must also thank Shep himself as he has very kindly provided me with some artwork for the show, and as always Shep is very thankful and extremely humble about the exhibition.

To Darryl, I thank you so much for allowing me to become the caretaker of such amazing parts of modelling history, and look forward to our many more emails to share!