In Progress Ma. K Scifi

Wave’s 1/20 Ma. K New Rally Pawn: Struggling With Doubt

Just south of Tallahassee, Florida, there is a wonderful spring called Wakulla Springs. Cold water comes up from underground, and forms a large pond. (Or a small lake, or lagoon… depending on your view.) On one side is a nice swimming area. There’s even a dock to dive off of – including a three level diving platform.

I made many trips there in my youth. Sometimes it would be with my family, other times a church group. As I got older and was able to drive, I went a few times myself. It was a great place.

The first time I went, I was probably in 7th or 8th grade. My church’s youth group had gone down for a day of swimming and picnicking. Though I’d never been, I was quite excited about the trip, as my friends who had been there talked about what a cool place it was. The water was crystal clear, and you could see the bottom of the spring even at its deepest point. And it was ice cold, they said, in the gleeful way that pre-teen boys speak of anything remotely dangerous or painful or daring.

Of course, they talked about the diving tower. It was a three level structure, rising from the surface of the water, its highest level topping out at what I’d imagine was about 20-25 feet. They spoke of it as if it was legend, recounting the times that one boy had done a belly flop, or another a perfect dive. As we rode along in the old, repainted school bus in the Florida heat, it became obvious to me that I would have to reckon with the top level. It wasn’t just a minor matter, either. Everyone had to do it at least once, they said. Everyone.

On arrival, the bus doors opened, and we streamed out. The youth group leaders had to briefly restrain us for a moment for the safety rules – no swimming beyond the rope, no horseplay, pick a buddy and stick with him. With that formality done, we all raced for the swimming area. 

A few of the older boys ran for the diving platform, climbed right up to the top, and sailed off… dropping down, down, down before making a splash into the icy cold water below. The newer kids, like me, waded into the swimming area to “test the waters.” My buddy for the day came close by me, and in a half whisper asked “are you gonna jump off the third level?” While my common sense was thinking “Are you out of your mind?!”, my pride stepped up and answered “Ff course I am! Aren’t you? I’m just getting used to the water.” He got a bit wide eyed, and stammered “Yeah, yeah, of course. I was just making sure you were going to do it.”

About that time, one of the older boys called down to us. “Hey, aren’t you gonna come jump off?” Everyone in our group looked at us… at me. Right at me. Including… {gasp}… the girls.

I didn’t hesitate… “Yeah, I just wanted to see how cold the water was. On my way up!” 

My heart was pounding as I waded out of the swimming area and on to the dock that led to the jumping tower. I walked across the first level, and up the stairs. As I walked up, I thought surely this would be my last few moments on the earth. It had been a good life, I reckoned. I had a nice bicycle, a good dog, and could burp the entire alphabet in one long belch. I’d achieved quite a bit. 

Passing the second level, I looked up to the third level. All those faces peered down at me. As I emerged on the very top, I looked around. I was quite sure this had to be several hundred feet in the air, if not a full thousand. Everyone stepped aside to give me full access to the ledge. I walked up, and looked down.

The drop was probably 25-30 feet to the water below. The trouble was that the water was crystal clear. The depth of the water where I was looking down had to have been 15 feet, maybe more. So the perceived drop was way further down that it actually was to the water’s surface. I gulped. What had I gotten myself into?

Then it happened.

“Are you chicken?”

One of the older boys laughed as he asked the question. The gauntlet had been laid down. The challenge issued. The most serious charge a thirteen-year-old boy could face was that of “chicken”. I looked back at him. He sneered. A cute little blue-eyed girl I had a crush on stood looking at me… growing disappointment in her eyes. 

Failure was no longer an option.

I held my hands out, motioning to clear a path to the back of the platform. Walking back to the rear edge, I turned and crouched, much like a sprinter at the starting line. Looking across the lagoon for a moment, then again at ol’ blue eyes, I took a deep breath, said goodbye to the world, and sprang forward.

Overcoming Doubt

It seems that no matter how many models I build, I continually struggle with doubt about my ability to end up with a reasonable result. It’s not that I look at the work I do and think “that’s awful”. I know I can do a decent job of building and painting a model. This is a hobby that is very easy for anyone to get into and do well at. (I’m living proof! If I can do this – anyone can. 😉 )

But quite often subjects will intimidate me. I want to do them. I see others doing them, and enjoying them. Yet I’ll delay and and make excuses, all too worried that I’ll end up looking a bit foolish trying to pull off a certain finish, or genre, or technique. All the while thinking that it’s quite silly to even feel this way – it’s only a hobby. In reality it is nothing more than a plastic toy.

Yet it is a struggle I deal with.

For some reason, building Maschinen Krieger kits has been a genre that has intimidated me a bit. I’m not exactly sure why, really. It does have a smaller, very loyal following. And while the genre has certain styles and “customs” that are generally adhered to, it’s not as strict as other model forms, such as aircraft. So I can’t say it’s entirely that.

It is a different type of model, in my mind, which may also be a factor. The scale – 1/20th – is quite large. Details are enlarged. Weathering takes on a whole new dynamic. While it is certainly a small model physically, the scale is such that things which might disappear on a 1/48 scale aircraft, or a 1/100 scale Gunpla, are very much front and center in the Ma.K world.

Whatever the case may be, I’ve hesitated to build one.

I finally decided to take the plunge with a Ma. K kit, the SAFS. I”d also ordered another kit – this New Rally Pawn – more on impulse. Like many modelers, I have a bad habit of seeing something new, and suddenly I want ALL the new things. Thankfully, I limited myself to these two. (OK, three. A preorder that hasn’t arrived yet. but no more so far.)

I opened this kit, and found that it was cast in pink plastic. That gave me a bit of a chuckle. I have no idea why – perhaps it was simply the color that was on hand at the factory that day. As I do from time to time, I decided to build a few parts, just to see what it was all about.

Within an hour, I had most of the kit assembled. The process is much like eating a bag of potato chips. You reach in and grab one. Then another. And you go on doing other stuff, absentmindedly eating chips. Suddenly, you hit the bottom of the bag, and it dawns on you that you just ate them all.

The New Rally Pawn may as well have been a bag of kettle cooked extra crispy chips with barbecue flavoring… it was done before I realized what was happening. The whole kit is snap fit, so it went together easily. I glued a few of the seams together, gave them a good squeeze, and let the weld bead dry so it could be sanded. I made sure to leave the “helmet” off so I could paint the pilot figure. The fit was not quite Bandai good, but it was certainly no problem. I was quite happy with the process.

The pilot of my Ma. K model, apparently being played by Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock… 🙂

The assembly brought me face to face with another doubt I have – painting faces. This particular armor suit has a clear face plate, so the pilot’s head can be seen, And painting faces is not a strong point for me, not at all. In fact, I hate how the faces I paint look. To my eye, it always looks like a horribly overdone actor in a play, so that even from halfway back in the audience, you can see that whoever did the makeup went way, way, way overboard. But I know the only way to get better at painting faces is to… paint faces. So I grabbed my paints and brushes, and went to work.

I did the basic Games Workshop process -base, shade, layer, and highlight. It ended up looking rather bland. Lifeless, really. So I watched a few Miniac videos, and started again, this time working with a much lighter touch, thinner paints, and trying to build up color. I wish I could give a coherent outline of the process, but it was really a seemingly never ending series of adding touches here and there to shade, highlight, and (mostly) cover up mistakes.

The eyes almost drove me to insanity. I tried to get the pupils even, but after multiple attempts, I decided he’d just have to live with a mildly surprised look. Like an emoticon… o_O

Finally I reached a point that I realized that any further work was simply going to frustrate me, so I set him down, and walked away. I came back a bit later…

And he looked OK. I picked him up, popped on my optivisor, and looked close. No, he sucked. Taking the optivisor off, I set him down… back to OK. I then decided that perhaps my figures face’s are simply best viewed from a distance.

I also realized that I’d eerily re-created Mr. Spock in a Ma. K suit. Weird.

To Texture Or Not To Texture

The next step that I found a bit intimidating about Ma. K is the texturing. I’d seen that most builders add texture to the model’s surface. Some add quite a lot, others not so much. I’m not sure what the reasoning is entirely… I guess at the scale it just makes it look less like smooth plastic. 

I grabbed my Mr. Surfacer 500, and a wide, flat brush, and began stippling it on. I wasn’t really sure what I was doing… just that it seemed to be adding texture. I stippled and stippled. It ended up looking quite a bit lumpy and bumpy. I seemed to have moved towards the “that may be a bit much” end of the spectrum. Still, live and learn, right?

I also added a few bits of my own. Initially I’d planned to go crazy, and start adding little greeblies all over. My doubts took over, and I decided to keep it basic. The hatch looking thing on the back seemed like it needed a hinge, so I added some styrene there, figuring that might be a good point for weathering.

I also decided to make a minor modification to the top of the helmet. There was a plastic grill looking piece, inside a circular opening. The instructions called for a rounded, clear part to go over the top. It just looked weird to my eye. I read that this version of the suit was designed for moon use, so I supposed the grill had to be an outlet vent of some sort. To work, it could not be covered up. But if it ceased working –  all the air in the armor suit would get sucked out, I reasoned. So I cut a small piece of plastic to suggest a door, slid mostly out of the way. I decided it was spring loaded, and if the exhaust stopped flowing, it would slam shut to prevent a loss of pressure.

It works in my mind. 😉

I also added a few bits of wire that I noted were on the box art. An old piece of Cat5 network cable contributed those bits. A few nicks and scrapes were also scattered about the suit, just to give it a well used appearance. With all that in place, it was on to the primer. This, of course, was my trusty Badger Stynylrez Primer, of the gray variety. I did a quick loose assembly of the various parts, to see how it looked.

Overall, it wasn’t too bad. There’s still a ways to go – paint and weathering, of course. But I liked the direction the model is headed. The doubts about my ability to end up with a reasonable result seemed a bit unfounded. Yet… 

The Epic Dive

I took several quick strides, intending to leap as far off the platform as I could, mainly to cover up the fact that I could not dive. As I rushed forward, the thrill of it all overtook me – I felt as if I was going to fly!

The trouble was, I had not accounted for the slick surface of the platform.. and the lack of grip my feet had  on it.  As I got to the edge, I lost all grip. One foot slid out from under me, just as I was about to jump off into space.

The next few seconds can only be described as “awkward”. I fell forward, but with nothing out in front of me but air, my hands reaching out instinctively to catch myself meant nothing. Gravity took over, and I’m sure some principles of physics were involved. My giant head leapt to the forefront in a race to the water’s surface. Not to be outdone, however, were my feet, which tumbled around over the top, eventually rotating me around. I thought that perhaps I could make one more rotation and do something resembling a dive, but my pasty white stomach would have none of it. In the end, it was a tie.

I landed dead flat on my belly, accomplishing probably one of the most epic belly flops man has ever known. The slap my body made as I slammed into the surface even made the gators on the other side of the lagoon scurry for cover. Everyone on the tower cringed and groaned I was later told, all being quite sure that I was mostly dead, if not really most sincerely dead.

I was not dead, in fact. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel a thing. I can only guess that the exhilaration of actually surviving had taken over. I bobbed up, held one fist up, and let out a loud “whoooooo-hoooo!” A cheer went up from the tower!

And by cheer, I mean complete laughter as everyone pointed at me in unending guffaws, crowing about my inept diving move. A few shouted “goofball” or “doofus”. Ol’ blue eyes smiled and shook her head, and turned away.

{sigh}

But I had done it. I had faced the self doubts, and taken a leap into the unknown. Yes, it was an awkward, gangly, tumbling dive that ended in a complete failure to actually go beneath the surface of the water… but I did it.

I try to remember that incident when I encounter moments of self doubt, especially in my modeling. There’s no reason to be intimidated, essentially. Just as with that crazy day diving off the platform, the result of the dive really didn’t amount to a hill of beans. In the end, I’d had fun.

I need to keep reminding myself of that.

And avoiding belly flops.

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