Saturday, April 27, 2013

What in the world is that?

I've been an aviation enthusiast for 30 years, so it's always a surprise to find an aircraft that I've never seen before. Well, at least an American aircraft; there are plenty of British, French, Soviet, etc. aircraft that I couldn't name if my life depended on it.

That's what happened to me this week when someone posted a photo of a Naval Aircraft Factory TDN-1, a so-called "assault drone," on the Warbird Information Exchange forum. It might be considered a predecessor of the Predator, Reaper, and other UAVs that have become prominent in recent years.

The TDN-1 is an intriguing aircraft. I found this video (no audio) of them testing in 1943, including great footage launching from the USS Sable.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Planes, trains, automobiles, and a map

I remember taking Spanish from Mr. Fuentes in high school. When he introduced the Spanish word for map, mapa, he took great pains to tell us that it takes the masculine indefinite article el rather than la. So when referring to a map in Spanish, it is el mapa, not la mapa. Thus began a long series of exceptions to rules that we'd have to learn.

That's the most interesting story I've had about maps. Until now.

There have been a number of great photos posted to the forums this week showing models from last weekend's model show in Moson, Hungary. I’ll write more about the exceptional models being built by European modelers, but in the meantime I wonder how many contest organizers noticed this great idea from the Moson organizers.

Thanks to Gabor for use of the picture.

They post a map of Europe on a cork board, and as attendees register, they're asked to put a pin on their hometown. The result is a interesting view of just how far attendees travelled to enter the contest. Aside from the simple fun factor for the attendees, it gives the organizers insightful demographic information about the value of their contest, showing the extent to which people will go to attend.

I'd love to see organizers of regional and national contests in the United States follow Moson’s lead.

P.S. You can find photos from the Moson show on and Luftwaffe in Scale.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

So you think you're a good painter?

Bill Horan, a prominent figure painter in that corner of our hobby, is known for using paint to imply or suggest shapes on 54mm figures that aren’t actually there. For example, one of his books shows the bottom of a soldier’s boot and what appears to be a hole in the sole. You would think he used an X-Acto knife to actually scribe a hole, but when you read the nearby text you learn that it’s only paint; a small dark color represents the hole itself and a lighter color suggest the highlight of the edge of the hole. Horan and other figure painters use similar techniques to show, for example, the tiny highlight on the crest of a bronze button or to "paint" a crease on a uniform without actually sculpting it.

These are just a few examples of how scale modelers use trompe-l'œil techniques to imply shape and form no present on the actual model. I’ve always been amazed by an artist’s ability to fool the eye like this. Even when I know better, my eye still sees what it wants to see!

That’s why I was excited to see Keng-Lye’s work via Artist a Day on Facebook. (If you enjoy art, you should Like their Facebook page or visit their web site.) Every day they highlight an interesting new artist and his/her work. Keng-Lye takes trompe-l'œil to a level I’ve never seen, using not just paint, but multiple layers of clear resin, and three-dimensional objects to trick the eye into seeing three-dimensional fish and other sea life.

As a scale modeler, I sometimes think about how I can use trompe-l'œil techniques on models. It’s another way of thinking about a model not just as a replica but as a representation, one that reflects artistic skill as much as engineering skill.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Christmas in August

One of the downsides to growing older is the gradual loss of the spirit and joy of the Christmas season. Remember the feeling of anticipation in the weeks leading up to the day? Remember the list you made and gave to Santa? Remember the raw excitement you felt when you woke up and raced to the Christmas tree not knowing what you’d find? That’s all behind us now. Or is it?

If you’re anything like me, the IPMS National Convention triggers the same feelings we had as children. We anticipate the convention, we makes lists of things to look for among the vendors, and we enter the vendors room not knowing what we’ll find.

But wait. Is that really true? Maybe not.

While the internet is an incredibly rich resource for us, it has the potential of removing the surprises that we would otherwise enjoy at the convention. We go there pretty much knowing all of the manufacturers' new releases, including the cottage industry guys who inevitably announce new releases in the month or two preceding the convention. That’s good for those who cannot attend, but I think it takes away something for those who do.

As of this weekend the IPMS-USA National Convention is less than four months away, so here’s my “ask” of the manufacturers, large and small. In the spirit of 1984 (when I attended my first IPMS Nats), please keep your new releases under wraps until the first day of the Nats. Help bring back that sense of anticipation, excitement, and discovery for those who attend the Nats. Don’t worry, modelers who don’t attend will still buy your stuff!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Micro Mask and a lesson for living

In case you missed it, there was a good discussion on Zone Five last week about Micro Mask. It includes some very helpful tips about how to use it, but the bigger lesson I took away from the discussion is the importance of not dismissing a product too quickly because you struggle with it. User "scapilot" got it right, saying, "I'd hate to see people write things off without having a better working knowledge on how to utilize their tools." Let that be a reminder to all of us to ask questions and not give up too quickly!

Now where's that damn Parafilm I gave up on a few years ago?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The search for a $5 bargain at Mosquitocon

So yesterday I challenged myself to buy the best model I could find for five dollars or less, and this is what I found, a Hasegawa 1/72 F-16N for exactly $5.

Those of you who've built this model know that, despite its first release nearly 30 years ago, it's a gem of a kit. Hasegawa has released the model in too many variations to count and continues to re-release it to this day with new and interesting markings.

But here's the irony of my find. As you can see below, I already have six other Hasegawa F-16s in my stash! (Not shown are the four Revell/Monogram kits.)

Yes, I like the airplane, and thanks to the many squadron, wings, and air forces flying the airplane, there's no shortage of interesting paint schemes available to the modeler.

I almost scored a Hasegawa 1/72 B5N Kate for five bucks. I'd never studied one before, but it's a gorgeous little kit for being as old as the F-16. Oh well, maybe next year. Or on eBay.

Here's wishing you a year of value and bargains!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Mosquiton and the quest for a bargain

Well, tomorrow I'm attending my first contest of the year, Mosquitocon in Wayne, New Jersey. It's one of the best local contests I've attended, and I always look forward to it.

I was talking with a friend last night, and the subject of restoring or repainting old, built models came up. Personally, I don't see the point when most of us have newer or better unbuilt modelers in the stash awaiting our attention. My friend suggested that some guys are reworking their built models because they can't afford new ones.

So that got me wondering if it's possible to find a really good kit for under five dollars. So in that spirit, I'm going to challenge myself tomorrow to look for the best kit I can find in that price range. Assuming there are modelers selling their stashes, it shouldn't be too hard. I'll report back later in the weekend.