A few years ago, my family and I visited San Antonio, Texas. As typical tourists, we were armed with rental car and a big road map. (This was before GPS was common…) My wife navigated, and I steered. She was always pretty good at that too, being very specific with commands that would make any modern phone mapping system envious.
“Get in the right of the two left turn lanes. No, the right one, you idiot.“
“Turn right into the parking lot. Right there. Turn right. RIGHT THERE. OK, back there. You should have turned right BACK THERE.“
It was a very efficient system, to say the least.
Unfortunately, not all of the paper maps gave you the full picture.
One area we were navigating was what my son dubbed “scribble-scrabble” bridges. It looked as if the engineer had simply tossed down overpasses in random fashion, and only later tried to figure a way to connect them. With their concrete tentacles soaring overhead, making sense of a way through could be very difficult.
As we worked our way through the maze, my wife was having a bit of uncertainty. “I think you need to turn right up there.” Of course, if she wasn’t certain, then I was downright befuddled. However, I’d not maintained a blissful marital state for almost two decades (at that time… now thankfully almost three! 🙂 ) by arguing with the navigator. I made my right turn.
Within a few seconds, we realized our error.
The map had made it look OK to turn. The signage did not give any warning. But coming at is in ALL FOUR LANES was traffic. Accelerating fast after getting the green light.
Turns out we’d turned the wrong way on a one way street.
Now I may not be the sharpest knife on the tree (or is it brightest bulb in the drawer?), but I do now when I am going the wrong way on a one way street, all other matters take a back seat to one thing – changing directions.
Pass The Chips
In the previous spine tingling episode of my first Maschinen Krieger build, I’d outlined how the genre had intimidated me a bit. However, with the initial build and priming behind me, I was quite confident going forward. I had a vision in mind of how I wanted the final model to look, and I set off in pursuit of that.
My thought process was pretty simple. (Kinda by necessity, really. 😉 ) Paint it a light color, add a camo color, maybe some colorful stripes and decals, and then weather it. Simple enough.
But I go to thinking… and sometimes that can be a dangerous thing for me.
I’d been wanting to try hairspray chipping. The method is simple. Paint you model, coat it in plain old hairspray, and add another layer of paint. Moisten the surface with water, and begin to rub away at it with a brush. The water will soak through the second layer, causing some of it to come off, leaving the first layer exposed. How much water you use, and how vigorous you work the paint (as well as a few other factors I’ll cover in a more in-depth blog later), will determine how much is chipped off.
I started with a coat of dark gray, to represent the underlying super-sophisticated space composite armor. I then sprayed on a good coat of Aquanet (like any good 80’s hair band fan would do!) and after it dried, painted over it with an off white color.
Grabbing a large chisel brush and some water, I began to chip away at it. I absolutely loved the effect, too! It looked like chipped paint, because it WAS chipped paint. When that was completed, I sprayed on another coat of hairspray, and then a few camo stripes of dark green. I chipped way those too, and was even happier with the result.
Adding yet a third layer of hairspray, I gave a few areas some blue stripes, and chipped those away too. Sitting back to view my handiwork, I was quite pleased. The technique had worked exactly as advertised – loads of gorgeous paint chips all over the suit. I set the model aside to dry for a few days.
A week later, I picked it up to look at it… and suddenly didn’t feel quite so happy.
While the model was chipped just as I’d hoped it would be, visually it was such a mess that I realized it would be very difficult to take it further. I’d done exactly what I have warned others not to do.
Technique For The Sake Of Technique
Regardless of what genre you work in, the techniques employed in building a model should be tools that serve the artist. They should never become the driver of the project.
In my youth, when I’d first learned to drybrush silver as a method for weathering, I let it run the show. Every single edge on the model was drybrushed silver. At first, I thought it looked cool. But as I built a few more models, I realized it was a bit overdone. I learned to dial it back, to rein it in, and to make sure I controlled the drybrushing – not the other way around.
Certainly there can be some benefit in testing a new method to the max, simply to understand how it works. Even then, the focus is on experimenting with the technique… not application for live use.
The poor New Rally Pawn had borne the brunt of my error. I’d essentially experimented when I’d not meant to, but had gotten so caught up in the technique itself that I ended up with a mess. Though I’ve built more than a few models as an adult, and know that technique should be the tool, not the project manager, I’d gotten off the rails a bit.
And though I probably could have pulled off some sort of result with it, I decided the best thing to do was simply start over.
A Newer New Rally Pawn
One of the beauties of the scale modeling hobby is that in most cases, hitting the reset button is not difficult. Things can be sanded, wiped off, or simply painted over. I decided to do the latter. Grabbing the model, now dubbed Sir Chips Ahoy, I sprayed on a coat of Badger Stynylrez Black primer. I covered everything up.
This time, I approached things a bit more conservatively. I sprayed the model with a light gray color, and then some darker gray/green splotches. Simple, basic, and easy. I decided to forego the hairspray chipping entirely for this version of the suit.
A gloss coat of Future was later applied, and then the kit supplied decals. (Which are very good.)
There are still many steps to go on the kit, with weathering to be applied, chipping (via sponge and brush this time!), and several other bits and doo-dads to make it look battered.
But I fee like I’m back in the position or running the show.
Back To The SA
As we headed down the street into oncoming traffic, with no side roads or parking lots to turn into, I did the only thing I could – yanked the wheel hard around, jumped the curb, got headed in the recommended direction, and gunned the engine. We had lost all track of where we were, and what our original destination had been. But we’d not ended up in a tangle of metal either, which when driving anywhere is a good thing. Speeding ahead of the traffic – I wanted to just get out of there – we started laughing. While we’d thought we were going the right way, an outside observer must have surely been shaking their head, muttering “idiots”.
Scale modeling is always a process of growing, and learning. Sometimes it is a process of being reminded. Technique for the sake of technique rarely ends well. It may look cool briefly, but as this experience confirmed for me, it often gets in the way of allowing the model’s story to be told.
Yet just like our too-close-to-wrecking incident driving around San Antonio, the hobby is forgiving enough to allow a U-Turn.
Just make sure that after the U-Turn, you speed away from the scene.
No need to document your goof up.