Most of us have been modeling a long time. I’ve been at this, off and on, for over sixty years. Some of the “off” times have been lengthy, but the latter period has lasted for about twenty of those years. And shows no signs of stopping. But that is not to say that all is constantly well in modeling-land for me.
I read posts and articles from other modelers bemoaning their loss of modeling “mojo”, frustrations with certain builds or techniques, sometimes a general malaise about the hobbby in general. Kits get started with high levels of enthusiasm then as the build goes on, things happen to dampen and occasionally extinguish that enthusiasm completely. I suppose this is just part of human nature. Things, and people, change.
I remember when I went to my first model show and competition after rediscovering modeling after many years of absence. I had already built a few models. I had bought a new airbrush and discovered sources on the internet about building, painting, kit reviews, photos and opinions. I went to the show with a new modeling friend and was frankly astounded at the quality and realism of many of the models on the competition tables. The few models I had built sitting at home seemed to pale a great deal in comparison. The competition bug had taken a bite of my ego and I felt that I had to get better and bring my modeling up to standard. Not my standards, but the small modeling community standards in which I was becoming involved. Those were not objective standards such as those applied in judging IPMS competitions. Those “standards” were different, unwritten and socially enforced. They were expressions of what that modeling community considered to be the requirements of a “good” model, and thereby a “good” modeler.
Basics, such as alignment, neat paint work, clear parts, etc. were seemingly taken for granted, but I began to notice that the basics were not always what defined an acceptable build. If a model was considered to not be done in quite the correct colors, or had equipment or decals attached that were not thought by some to be appropriate, it didn’t much matter about the basics. This was not a “good” model. The “wrong” weapons load on, say, an F-18A would quickly bring into question the worth of the model and the abilities of the modeler. These notions were obnoxious enough at shows and club meetings but I found that similar conflicts often consume online modeling forums with discussion of these attributes often degenerating into invective and personal insults.
I’ve seen endless and angry diatribes over the proper shape of the underside of a fuselage on a WWII aircraft model and people coming to virtual blows over the “exact” shade of PC10, a WWI aircraft color that varied from batch to batch and which no longer exists in any of its original colors anyway.
These kinds of blowups are not a surprise to anyone who models and spends time on the internet. What is not so obvious that I want to explore is the effect of all of those modeling masterpieces one sees on the internet, whether it be in forums, modeling sites like Hyperscale or FaceBook groups devoted to the art.
One of the favorite models I built is a 1:32 Hasegawa FW-190 A5. It was my first 1:32 scale airplane model. I spent much longer on it than on any of my other builds up to that time, often getting in five or ten minutes on a part, or a decal before having to stop and do something else. Completing that FW took a long time. I managed to destroy the wing insignia decals so I laboriously masked and painted them instead. To my surprise they came out very nicely. Overall, it is a fine model, one to be proud of. But, then I began to see “issues”. Looking at meticulously painted and weathered FW-190s expertly photographed on various modeling sites, mine appears amateurish and a bit sloppy. My proud hand-painted insignia are not as neat and perfect as I thought. Are my colors right? What is right? How can I know? Is that a small blemish on the canopy? My mottling pattern may not be, well, professional.
That Wingnut Wings Fokker E-III I built and reviewed for IPMS-USA long ago, is it good enough? No. I did research a few arcane features, like the turnbuckles on Fokker E-series being painted red and blue and green to indicate to the ground crew which ones were to be attached where, but I made them from Larva Lace, a fly tying material that proved too flexible. If you look closely enough you can see that all of them are not straight. And that slight wing droop? I could attribute it to too many flight hours and the ground crew not having yet tightened things up. What about the castor oil staining on the fuselage and wings? Does it really look like castor oil seeping through the painted CDL? And, how about the temperature induced colors on the cooling fins on the rotary engine cylinders? How much? How little? What colors?
As Gandalf said, “This way leads to madness.”
But, Gandalf wasn’t a scale modeler. He was, however, a wizard, and a wise one too. I’m working on letting all of that go. I am beginning to accept the fact that I am not one of those modelers who spends countless hours working to ensure that everything is just so. That the cockpit on that 1:32 scale Albatrol D.Va is as close to perfectly accurate as possible. I don’t scratch build teeny bell cranks for control wires that can only be seen with a flashlight. I’m getting to the place where I can appreciate the skill and perseverance of those who do, but not feel like my modeling is somehow substandard if I do not follow suit.
One of the modelers in my virtual club finished and posted photos, very good photos mind you, of his newly completed ZM F-4 Phantom build. Awe-inspiring and a real piece of three dimensional art. I was able to enjoy those photos and consider someday building one of my own. Not like his, but like mine with all the warts and screw ups that I know will result. That’s ok. It will be more enjoyable for me and help me recall exciting days, long ago, when I watched those very airplanes operate on the USS Coral Sea, a huge gray floating airport we tin can sailors often called “building 43”.
I spent too many years flirting with what I felt was the need to pursue perfection and feeling somewhat diminished as a modeler when that unobtainable goal remained beyond my grasp.
I think I am finally maturing as a modeler and I’m back to having more fun, which as a wise man said, is what this is supposed to be about.