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.