Friday, March 27, 2015

Don't ask me what you should build next

I occasionally see guys post to the forums asking what model they should build next, sometimes accompanied with a poll listing four or five models. Just the other day my best friend (let's call him...David) asked for that guidance on Facebook!

I'm always amused by these posts. Who am I to say what someone else should build? I wouldn't ask David that question much less a few hundred strangers. The choice seems quite personal to me, as difficult as it can be, particularly when you have dozens or hundreds of models in your stash.

My response to this question is always the same -- build what excites you the most right now. And I usually remind folks that most of us have too many half-built models on the shelf, which for me represents something of a failure. A failure of commitment. A failure to follow-through. A failure to maintain enthusiasm.

A couple of weeks ago someone on Hyperscale asked for advice on getting motivated to start a large project. I wanted to respond honestly but was afraid I'd come off as a jerk, which we know is all too easy on the internet; I wanted to say that if you have to "summon the motivation" to build a model, especially one that's going to require a great deal of effort, you're probably biting off more than you can chew. Or maybe it's not the right project for right now. It seems to me that this fellow should be kicking off a new model with great excitement. He should be telling friends, "I can't wait to get started on this!" with a big smile on his face.

I speak from experience. I could point to numerous models in my stash that are just too big an investment for me at this time, in terms of the time I can invest or the skill I have to apply. Like that Trumpeter 1/32 F-105D. Or my Monogram 1/72 B-1B. And it's the reason I decided not to buy the new Wingnut Wings Felixstowe; I admit, it's just too much model for me.

Making these choices isn't easy and I need to remind myself on a regular basis to select the most engaging model. After periodic, brief absences from the workbench I have a tendency to get back into the swing of things by selecting a model from the stash to "warm up" rather than one that truly excites me. And more often than not those models don't live up to my expectations. If a model doesn't have my complete commitment and enthusiasm, if my heart isn't in it, it's probably going to suck.

The advice I'm offering is simple. Build only those models that truly excite you. Anything else is a waste of your time.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Don't let facts slow you down

Someone recently asked this question (paraphrased) on one of the armor forums:

I think M1 Abrams and M2 Bradleys arriving for service in Desert Shield in three-tone NATO camouflage. Some or most were repainted in desert tan after arriving. My Desert Storm M1A1 I'm building will not have much weathering but I'm wondering about the underside of the tank. What color would it be? Were the backside of the wheels and road arms repainted tan or left in the original colors.

A while back I wrote about painting what you see. This is a perfect example of how you can apply that principle to your models. Look at this photograph of an M1A1. What color is the underside, assuming you were low enough to see it at this distance?

The underside looks black to me, because it's in heavy shadow. It might be sand, black, or pink. I don't know, and for my purposes in building a model, I wouldn't care. Painting the underside black, dark grey, or dark green would offer the viewer a reasonable representation of the tank in scale.

That, my friends, is painting what you see. It's a simple approach to scale modeling that diminishes the sometimes overwhelming burden of research and documentation and lets us build models the way our minds see aircraft, vehicles, and ships in the real world. I enjoy research as much as the next guy, but sometimes I just want to move a project forward without a quest for the facts slowing me down.

Take Two

I would be remiss in adding a note about this person's specific question. I don't know the answer, but absent any definitive proof we have to rely on logic and intuition to surmise what probably happened back in 2006. If I were responsible for tasking my soldiers to paint the tanks in my battallion, I wouldn't expect them to crawl under every vehicle to paint their underside and back of the wheels. That effort would seem to me to be a waste of time and paint and ultimately add little or no value to our efforts to camouflage the vehicles.

Does research -- even if you enjoy it -- slow you down?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The magazine that started it all

The year was 1981. John Hinckley shot President Ronald Reagan, MTV was launched, and the Space Shuttle flew for the first time.

It’s also the year I learned that there was a lot more to scale modeling than just haphazardly gluing parts together and relying on the colors that the plastic was molded in.

This is the magazine that started it all for me.

It’s the June 1981 issue of the now-defunct Scale Modeler. Maybe the old-timers among my readers remember the magazine. It wasn’t very good in hindsight — if we have had the Internet back then most modelers would’ve poo-poohed it as many of you do FineScale Modeler today (unwarranted, in my opinion) — but it was all we had in the United States back then, and we were happy.

My tiny, Florida hometown didn’t have much, so I always looked forward to going into nearby Crystal River to pursue the extensive magazine collection of the only bookstore within 50 miles. That’s where I found this issue of Scale Modeler and quickly realized that I had no idea guys were taking the hobby to the depth that I found within those 74 pages!

Ken Belisle, in an article about his F-14 diorama, used paint from a company I'd never heard of, Floquil (where can I get this stuff, I wondered), and added brake lines to the landing gear and used a tube for the pitot tube! Wow!

In his build of the Matchbox 1/72 PB4Y Privateer Bill Grant used putty and sand paper to hide seams. (People do that?) And what is this Micro Gloss and Micro Flat he mentioned?

But it was Jed Bates’ Otaki 1/48 P-40E Kittyhawk that really make an impression on me. It was beautiful, as well executed, painted, and weathered as any model I’ve seen in the last few years. No Alclad, pigments, or canopy masks, just basic supplies and above average skill. I read the article several times over and studied the color photos to fully appreciate his work. It should be no surprise that I bought the Otaki kit as soon as I found one. That is, after I located good hobby shops and attended my first IPMS convention years later. As you an see, the model is still in my stash!

The models featured in one issue of one magazine sparked a passion in me that’s still present today. It’s been fun for me to look back at the issue (a replacement, sourced via eBay) and see the little things that inspired me, and it’s a reminder that the models I see today, whether online or at contests, continue to fuel this passion and inspire me to continue. Twenty years ago I thought I’d be a better modeler than I am today; I'm not significantly better, but I still love this hobby and can’t imagine spending my spare time engaged in anything else.

What sparked your interest in the hobby? What keeps you going today?


I feel compelled to point out that Ken Belisle is still active in the hobby today. Here are a couple of his 1/72 builds from the IPMS National Convention a few years ago. He's one of the best 1/72 scale modelers in the world.