Friday, February 27, 2015

Vital signs

February's Sprue Cutter's Union topic is Vital signs: Is scale modeling on the way out? I'm just getting my response in under the wire, but it echoes the sentiments of many of the other bloggers who wrote about the topic.

Hobby shops

Jon at The Combat Workshop got it right when he wrote about the closing of hobby shops. "This is not our hobby's problem," he said, and went on to talk about the demise of many brick and mortar stores. What he didn't say is that it seems like for every LHS that closes, an online shop opens! Look at the home page for the Perth Military Modelling Site; there are roughly 20 online vendors advertising there. Steel Navy and Model Warships both show a plethora of vendors on their respective home pages. Although it's sad to see your LHS shut down, we have more choices than ever to acquire new products. That so many men (and yes, they're usually men) have made the substantial investment in these online business and that so many are still around is a testament to the viability of the hobby.

Old men

Jon also wrote about the old men that we often claim make up the majority of the hobby, pointing out that his informal poll on Facebook found the average age of his modeller-readers to be just 40. That jives with my informal observations at the IPMS National Convention last year. I made a point to casually look around the rooms throughout the weekend, and I saw many, many more men in their 40s than in their 50s or 60s. If the hobby is going to die, we have at least 20-30 years to go...presuming men in their 20s and 30s don't come into the hobby.

Kits and more kits

If the hobby were on its way out, I'd expect to see fewer companies entering the industry. And yet, every year one or two seem to join! There are a number of new players in the hobby with unfamiliar names: Must Have, Tanmodel, Fly, and Pilot Replicas. Seriously guys, those of us who've been at this for 25-30 years know exactly how god we have it. Hell, my concern is that at the current rate of new kit releases we may run out of subject matter in 10 years!

My advice

If you believe in a doomsday for the hobby, buy up as much as you can now so that when all the online shops and the manufacturers close up, you'll have enough to keep you busy for the next 50 years. That's what I'm doing...albeit unintentionally.

Is this subject interesting? Read other Union members' thoughts:

Kermit's Bench
Mattblackgod's World
Scale Model Workbench
The Eternal Wargamer
Yet Another Plastic Modeller
David Knights' Weblog
Motorsport Modeller
Doogs' Models

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Fighting sameness

There was this short but interesting thread on Missing Links recently that addressed the question of copying someone else’s work. The OP saw a number of dioramas on eBay that closely resembled dioramas that have been created by scale modelers, and pointed them out to the readers of ML.

I often come across photos and WIPs online of subject matter that I’d like to do, and sometimes those models are built and painted almost exactly as I would like to. Same scale, same markings, same weathering, etc. I usually feel a bit deflated on seeing someone else build “my” model, and then I struggle a bit with the decision to proceed with my vision of the model as I had originally planned. I don’t mind building the same model as someone else, but I really don’t want to copy one per se.

A couple of the people who responded to the Missing Links discussion rightly pointed out that many of the old masters in the art world copied each others’ work. Cliff Resinsaw said that copying others’ work — and I would suggest, copying their techniques — is  part of the learning process, but I fear that too many scale modelers are building models using the same products and techniques over and over again, and this has led to the pervasiveness of what is often referred to as the “Spanish style” of painting and weathering models.

Frank Michaels summarized my thoughts perfectly in his response on the ML tread. “A truly individual style is a thing of the past. I collect magazines and modeling books. If you removed the builders name, you could never tell who built it.” He’s right. With all of the out-of-the-box paint sets and weathering sets there’s a sameness that has set into the hobby. It started in the armor world, and now it’s making its way into aircraft and ships.

That sameness has existed in the car modeling world for many, many years. Car modelers have rarely weathered their models, and so it often seems that all of the models at any given NLL contest could have all been built by the same person.

I remember attending the IPMS Nats and other contests 15 or 20 years ago and seeing models that varied greatly in their styles. I could look at a T-34 and know it was build by Ken Guntin. Or a Sherman and immediately realize that Dave Lockhart was in attendance. That’s not the case anymore. Most of the armor on contest tables look the same. We've lost something along the way.

I’ll be the first to admit that these new products and techniques require a good deal of skill to use effectively. I used pigments, washes, and modulation on a JS-II and a T-34/76 recently and the results were, shall we say, lackluster at best, so I won’t criticize the adept use of those items. But when all of us are doing exactly the same thing, the hobby becomes less interesting. I’d like to see each of us follow our own path without feeling the need to rely on out-of-the-box solutions and to create models that fit a certain style or trend.

Is that possible? I think it is. David Parker’s Leopard is a good example of weathering restraint that allows his model to shine through the dust and dirt. I like Hakan Mamaoglu’s Tiran 5 because of his restraint. Ditto for David Coyne’s Tiger I.

Look for new media and explore new techniques, but don't forget to discover your own style. That is much more engaging than the alternative.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Are we running out of subject matter?

Do you know about the 2015 Kit Release page over on Cybermodeler? It lists all of the models that are planned for release this year by the major manufacturers. It's updated regularly, especially after industry events such as last month's Nuremberg Toy Fair.

As in prior years, there are a lot of releases in the pipeline. I count more than 160 aircraft and 110 armor releases. (Cybermodeler lists naval and automotive releases as well, but I'll let you tally those up.) That's a lot of stuff by any measure, and it doesn't even include the surprises that will inevitably be announced throughout the year. With so many new kits, I have to wonder, (queue my best Carrie Bradshaw voice here)...

Will we reach a point in the near future where the manufacturers have released a kit of practically every major type?

I know it sounds far-fetched, but let's look at the numbers.

Cybermodeler lists roughly 60 1/48 aircraft releases, 60 1/72 aircraft releases, and 90 1/35 armor releases. Some of those are re-pops and new boxings of existing kits, so just for fun let's round down to some easy numbers:

50 1/48 aircraft
50 1/72 aircraft
75 1/35 tanks and softskin vehicles

If the manufacturers stick with this release cadence, in 10 years we'll have:

500 new 1/48 aircraft
500 new 1/72 aircraft
750 new 1/35 tanks and softskin vehicles

My friends, that's a huge number of new models that few of us have begun to think about. Even if the manufacturers continue to release new-tool kits that make older kits "obsolete," (such as the Trumpeter 1/48 F-106, the Meng 1/72 F-102, or the Bronco 1/35 M24 Chaffee), that's still an enormous influx of new subject matter that is sure to fulfill your wish list.

Last week I listed five kits you shouldn't build, partly with this idea running around in my mind. If you're not in a rush to build a 1/48 SR-71, I bet if you wait a few years Trumpeter or Hobby Boss will step up and deliver one to your doorstep. I'm not the only armor modeler who'd like to see a 1/35 T-44, so rather than struggle with the resin kit that's currently available, I'm going to wait for the inevitable injected molded kit from Trumpeter, building all of those groovy T-64 and T-80 variants to pass the time while I wait. And I bet I'll eventually get that 1/72 L-17 Navion in injected molded form that I occasionally joke about on the forums. MPM, are you listening?

Am I completely off base here? I don't think so, but I'd love to hear your thoughts. Clearly, there will always be weird types that the manufacturers will take a chance on -- such as the three (3) 1/35 kits of the Soviet Type 279 and the MPM 1/72 Gloster Meteor F.8 Prone -- but I'd bet you a banana split that in 2025 the 10 aircraft, armor, cars, or ships that are on your wish list today will be on your workbench then.

And by the way, those numbers I mentioned above? They don't include new releases from the cottage industry folks such as Azur, Mirror Models, or new manufacturers that are likely to spring up over the next 10 years. You should be very excited!

Monday, February 2, 2015

4 things I don't get

My friends will tell you that I'm pragmatic, at home, at work, and even in our hobby. I sometimes fear that may get in my way of enjoying things, but it's who I am. It's in that spirit that I offer four things about our hobby that I don't "get."

Egg planes

I guess they're cute, but I don't get it. The idea of spending even a few hours on an egg plane when that time could be spent building something more engaging.


A WIF is a What-If, usually a real-world airplane finished in hypothetical markings, such as an F4D Skyray in Blue Angels markings. I don't get it. There are so many cool and interesting paint schemes and markings out there that I don't understand the desire to turn to something fictional.

Photoetch leaves

A lot of modelers like to use photoetch leaves for their vehicles, vignettes, and dioramas. I don't get it. Representing vegetation in scale has always been a challenge, but photoetch leaves always (and I think I can say: without exception) look fake. If not fake, quite unnatural. Better to save your money and use oregano or one of the other aftermarket products that are now on the market to create leaves, tree limbs, and trees.

Epic dioramas

I appreciate the work that goes into creating a huge diorama, but I don't get it. When a diorama gets beyond a certain size, it becomes more a canvas to showcase the modeler's talent rather than a composition that tells a compelling story. I almost always walk past them at contests.

 A big Thank You to my friend Mark Maroscher for kindly allowing me to use his 1/72 F4D Skyray in this article.