1. There are no “tricks”
Is there a trick to scribing around external fuel tanks? Are there any tricks to painting instrument panels? Is there an easy way to paint ejection seat handles? These questions have recently been asked in one form or another on the forums. All too often I see modelers looking for easy solutions or “tricks” to the challenges of building, painting, and weathering models, and with few exceptions I find myself wanting to be brutally honest and tell them that nothing is easy.
My favorite example is modelers looking for a trick to paint the eyes of a figure. There are none. It's fucking hard. No, decals don't work. You need a high-quality brush, a steady hand, and practice to apply the white of the eyes, the iris, the pupil. If you’re looking for an easy solution, you’re going to be disappointed.
2. There’s always someone else better than you
A few months ago someone wrote on ARC that the last time he’d entered a contest he saw that other models were much better than his. Welcome to the real world. No matter what you do in this life, someone is going to be better than you, make more money, own nicer things. For example, I exercise regularly. Many of the guys in the gym are stronger than me or can run farther than me. So what? I have my own path to follow based on my body type, my genes, and my fitness goals. Comparing myself with other people only sets me up for frustration.
Same thing applies to scale modeling. I’m a good modeler, but there are others much better than me. That doesn’t diminish my enjoyment of the hobby. Changing your mindset from intimidation to inspiration will make you a happier and potentially better modeler.
3. Airbrushing is difficult
One of the most difficult skills to master in our hobby is airbrushing. It’s easy to ask questions about paint preferences and thinning ratios, but ultimately you have to spend a lot of time with your particular airbrush/compressor setup, different types of paint, and dozens of experiments with thinners and thinning ratios to discover what works for you. And once you find that perfect formula, you’ll still need to spend a great deal of time learning how to apply the paint to the model so that it’s not too thick, too rich, or out-of-scale. If you’re new to the hobby, expect this process to take several years, at least.
4. Models are expensive
I remember balking at the $21 price tag of the first Hasegawa 1/48 F-4 Phantom that I purchased in the mid-1980s. Today that would be a bargain, even for a 1/72 scale kit. We need to face the harsh reality of our hobby today: kits are expensive. We can debate price relative to accuracy, but it is what it is. If models are too expensive for you, find a new hobby or do what most of us do, which is to wait until they go on sale or you can find one up at a contest. The incessant complaining about prices is pointless and annoying. And frankly, I believe the hobby is still a good value relative to other ways you could spend your money.
5. Figure painting is a completely different hobby
Have you ever tried to paint a pilot for your aircraft or paint figures for an armor diorama? It’s hard, right? I built plastic models – aircraft and armor – for years before I first attempted a figure. When I did, when I started using artist oils that most figure painters use, I realized that figures have practically nothing in common with plastic models.
If you’re looking to incorporate figures into your models, be ready for a steep learning curve or be willing to accept figures that detract a little from your otherwise excellent craftsmanship.