Finishing up any model that I’m really enjoying is a bit of a weird experience for me. While I do enjoy seeing the results of my labor, there is a touch of bittersweet to it. The fun is always in the building process – the painting, the weathering, the little adjustments here and there to try and get things just right. So the completion of a kit represents many things.
Still, there is a certain pride taken in examining the finished work. Certainly the builder can spot the areas that could have been done better. There’s always the new technique tried that didn’t quite work out, or the tried and true technique that somehow didn’t yield the results it had in the past. And occasionally there is the thing tried that worked, just as planned.
Yet there it sits, on the shelf. I take a big breath, smile at it, and think “That’ll do. Not a bad day’s work, I suppose.”
The Struggle With Pride
The internet is a wonderful place for modelers. (Well, most of the time…) The level of sharing that can go on – techniques, advice, previews, reviews, photos, videos, recounting successes and failures – is simply unprecedented in human history. I can sit at my work desk, and have discussions with modelers from every corner of the globe, at every point along the spectrum of experience and talent, from any genre imaginable.
It’s a helpful thing. Yet, it can also be frustrating. And for someone who struggles with confidence in results as I do, I have to be careful not to let it get the best of me.
I’d just finished this Bandai 1/72 X-Wing Fighter a few hours prior when I saw another modeler’s photos of his build of the same kit. The weathering was gorgeous, and the model had a depth of finish that I loved. The more closely I examined it, however, the more I felt a bit of a sick feeling in the bottom of my stomach.
My own X-Wing was not looking quite so spanky to me. In fact, his met the vision of what I’d been striving for. Mine… not so much, in comparison.
I confessed my thoughts to a dear friend. He gave me some good words of advice, but what really resonated with me was a simple statement.
“You worry too much. I mean that.“
He was quite right, of course. So what if another modeler did an outstanding job on his work? He did his best, and probably enjoyed it along the way. I did my best, and certainly enjoyed it.
It struck me how often I let my own pride mess up the fun that is modeling.
Of course, I’m not talking about proper pride, the kind that stems from the joy of building, of being willing to say “yes, that is my model, and I had fun building it.” That’s the side of pride that can probably better be labeled “satisfied contentment”.
No, the pride I realized I was struggling with was thinking more of myself than I ought to. It was not the stuff that drives you to do better, to never be satisfied with your work completely, to always reach for new levels all the time. No, the pride I was facing was the stuff that sneaks in and makes you begin to think you’re something more than you’re not. And when you come face to face with the reality that there will always be someone who can pull off a model better than you, it stings one’s pride.
Yet that sting is often a blessing in disguise, because it reveals the problem.
As I pondered it more, I begin to reassess my little X-Wing Fighter. All in all, it was not bad at all. I knew that many would look at it and say “hey, that looks great!” Others would look, say nice things, but experience would show them the faults. Some may see it as an example to shoot for, others would remember the days when that was the best they could attain, having moved beyond that stage long ago. Many people would see it many ways.
Simply put, the problem was me, thinking too much of me. I say it again and again – the hobby is about having fun. And I’d let my pride get in the way of that.
The takeaway lesson for me was simple: Enjoy the hobby. There will always be a higher goal to attain. Always. So have fun where you’re at.
Enough Philosophy Already, How About The Kit?
This is the kind of kit that defines fun modeling. A classic subject, well done, without any fuss, and it looks good when you’re finished.
After I’d gotten the basic paint on, I had to decide how to weather it. I’d read in a few places that the studio models tended to show paint chipping on the colored areas only, and at first I thought that was the route I wanted to take. I used some Vallejo Mecha Color Off White to apply sponge chipping here and there, knowing that any that got on to the white paint would either not show, or simply appear as minor tonal variation. (At least I hoped so!) I wanted to show a somewhat medium level of chipping – not so minimal it would barely show, but not so much it appeared someone took to it with a metal rake.
After I added the chipping, I liked it. Still, the more I stared at those wide expanses of pristine white, the more I found myself drawn to chipping those too. I finally succumbed to the Chip Monster, and out came another sponge, this time using Ammo of Mig’s Chipping Color. While I was happy with the placement and density of the chips, I did think it might have looked better to use a darker gray. The brown sort of makes it look like rust or dirt. What I’d wanted was to hint at either a primer coat underneath, or some sort of super space alloy composite thingy from a long time ago. In a galaxy far, far, away, of course.
But it was there. Move on.
I then began a rather haphazard process of staining with some artist oils, graphite, weathering powders, and I think there may even be a gravy smudge on there from working after dinner one evening. I didn’t approach it with too much thought in mind, rather adding bits here and there randomly, going back later and adding more, and simply looking for a point that I thought met TLAR standard: “That Looks About Right”. The final steps were to add a bit of overall fading with Tamiya Deck Tan, and some shading with a 2:1 mix of NATO Black and Hull Red. Both of those steps were applied by airbrush, with the paint heavily thinned using alcohol.
Most of the colored areas are painted on, either via airbrush or hand. I did use the decals for the red striping on the wings, and the blue spirals around the laser cannon dealie thingy barrels. While I could have masked them off, my laziness took over and I went for the Easy button. Bandai’s decals do work very nicely, so I was happy with the result.
The base was a bit of a rush job. Bandai supplies two small bases – one to mount the X-Wing on, and another to represent whatever those pink, glowy, slightly rude looking things are. 😉 I was tempted to apply a sign across the opening that represents the Death Star’s exhaust port that said “Authorized Personnel Only”, but decided against it. (I do plan to sell this… so the money grubbing side of me nixed that idea…)
I primed them in gray, drybrushed them in light gray, applied a heavy coat of Nuln Oil as a shade, and drybrushed them with more light gray. My official story is “I did not want the attractiveness of the base to detract from the model”. But just between you and I, doing bases bores me to tears… 😉
The Point Of Contentment
With all the work done and everything set in place, and my somewhat silly struggle with my own pride behind me, I could enjoy looking at the work. This kit, in many ways, is the model I always wanted to build. A beloved childhood movie, with a heroic pilot, flying in an iconic spaceship, all for the purpose of blowing the bad guy to absolute, glorious smithereens. It doesn’t get any better than this.
I can’t say enough about this kit. I can recommend it to any level of builder, at any age. You can snap it up, add the stickers and play with it. You can add the waterslide decals. You can paint it and weather it and go to town with it. Any modeler can enjoy it, and it’s not even an expensive kit.
But I suppose the thing I will remember this model most for is the lesson learned. While always trying to improve and do better is a great thing, I needed the reminder that unwarranted pride can cripple the simple enjoyment that comes from creating. I just need to do my best, have fun, and let the rest sort itself out.
Or as my friend Tom Myers used to say to me, “Just shut up and go build something.” 🙂