A few years ago I was at an IPMS-US model show. The specifics of where have slipped my mind… if you’ve been to a few shows, you know how they start merging together in the memory. Especially as I am getting older.
The scenario was quite typical. A large meeting hall with rows and rows of folding tables. Each table had a few placards designating what category should be placed on it. Dozens of modelers were bringing in their work, carefully unpacking them and setting them in place. A few hovered over the models, dusting them off, and carefully examining them for any imperfection.
A few were discovering that their packing and transporting task did not go well, finding a part broken here and there. Out came super glue or modeling cement, in a last-ditch effort to get the parts back in place, and presentable.
The focus of everyone there: the judging.
Now, I’ll state right from the start this is NOT a blog entry against model contests. While I’ve never been one to enter my models in contests, I understand that many people like it. I get that competition is fun. (Or is supposed to be…) Doing your best and working hard and competing in some endeavor is just part of the human spirit. As long as there have been people, there have been competitions about something.
When your hobby is glueing and painting plastic toys, that is the focus of any competitive itch you may need to scratch.
So I’m all for competition.
As I perused the tables, admiring the work, I walked by one fellow who looked a bit familiar. If you go to enough model shows in a particular region, after a while you start recognizing the regulars. I was happy to just move on by, and leave him at his work. However, he looked up, noticed me, and gave me a warm greeting.
We shook hands, did a bit of catching up, and engaged in the sort of general modelers’ talk any hobbyist would be familiar with. What are you working on? Did you see that kit over there? Have you tried such-and-such product? All very standard.
As we talked though, he began to tell me about building the particular model he’d just placed on the table. I had already examined it – a 1/48 modern US jet – and thought it looked quite good. Having been a judge in contests before, I’d spotted a few things that I knew from a contest standpoint would be noticed. But from the view of “how does the model look”, I knew straight away it was better than any of my efforts to date. He’d built a nice model.
Yet he was mightily unhappy with it.
He’d had issues getting the resin cockpit in, and adding photoetch detail. The seats he’d wanted to use, which were more accurate, were not designed for that particular resin cockpit, so he had to modify them, and was now worried they weren’t correct. Other issues were mentioned – resin wheel problems, photoetch exhausts, tailplane alignment, decal headaches… the usual. If you’ve built models for any length of time, you understand the process. Some go very well, some do not.
What surprised me was why he was unhappy. It wasn’t because of the problems he’d faced. While those had been a pain, he’d obviously overcome them. And he didn’t seem to upset about the general outcome. There was a recognition that the final model was one any modeler would like to have on their shelf.
What was eating at him was his fear that it was not “contest worthy”. I pushed him on it, asking him what he meant exactly by that.
“Basically”, he said “if this doesn’t win any awards, building it was pointless.”
The Little Blue Tumble Bug
As I’d noted in previous blog entries, building Citadel’s Warhammer 40K Stormhawk Interceptor had been quite fun. Assembly had been straightforward and simple – I’d actually done it by a window during a hurricane as our power was out. Aside from the normal nub cleanup and mold seam removal, it all just fit.
Painting was simple enough, with the airframe receiving a coat of Citadel’s Macragge Blue, and some white stripes. A few decals were added from the kit supplied set.
Weathering is my favorite part of a build. It’s the chance the modeler has to try to convert the plastic looking toy into something that looks real, or at least real enough to get the viewer to suspend their disbelief, if only for a moment.
I started by adding a wash to the panel lines, and around all the raised detail. As the model had already been gloss coated, I decided to use Citadel’s Gloss Nuln Oil. Because it is a gloss-on-gloss application, there are far fewer tide marks as you might see using matte Nuln Oil, especially if applied over a matt coat. There were a few areas that some tide marks remained, but I knew that after further weathering and chipping, those would blend in nicely.
Of course, the key reason I have been using acrylic washes/shades more often is they simply dry faster. If speed is critical to you, waiting several days for oils or enamels to fully dry in simply a non-starter.
With the panel lines and corners wearing a nice Nuln Oil coat, I started on the chipping. I’d fully outlined that process in another blog, so if you want the full details, check that one out.
He’s Writing About Chipping… Again…
In summary, I used a bit of sponge to add chips, along with a variety of colors. Sponges are great because they allow for very petite chips to be added to the model, but yet still be built up into heavier areas of wear. It’s also a fast process, and quite simple. Grab a small piece of sponge with your tweezers, dab it in a spot of paint, tap it on a piece of paper towel to “unload” most of it, and begin touching the sponge lightly to the model. You can apply it quickly, slowly, heavy, or light. It’s very Bob Ross-ish in its appeal. I can almost hear him say “We’re just going to add a happy little chip right here. You can add it where you like.”
The white stripes were given some chipping using Macragge Blue, to make it appear as if they had chipped back to the base paint layer. The same procedure was followed on the decals. Calgar Blue, another Citadel color, was used for the next layer of chips. It’s a medium blue, and I thought that would replicate surface chips on the base blue. That was applied with a sponge in fairly heavy manner.
Another blue color was used, Citadel’s Fenrisian Gray. This is a very light blue-gray color. I applied it in a bit tighter fashion, generally trying to confine it to areas that had been heavily chipped with Calgar Blue. As with the previous steps, the sponge was used. Finally, a few areas were treated to chipping with Ammo of Mig Chipping color. This would (hopefully) show chips that went right down the to underlying armor, which we all know is made of super-space-composite that is grim and dark. 😀 (And it doesn’t rust, as I found out this past weekend, from a very serious 40K player…)
Because the chipping process can be rather haphazard, when that was complete, I went back and did some touch ups to any areas that needed it, especially the metallic painted areas. With those “reset”, I began adding various fuel stains, grimy streaks, and oily discolorations.
Stains And Streaks
For most of this, I used traditional oils and enamels. While I’m quite comfortable working with them, more and more I find the drying time a bit of a problem. Towards the end of the process, I started working in some new (new to me, at least) acrylic weathering products. I hope to be able to write a future blog entry about that process… assuming I can figure out how to make them work! 😀
For the paint fading coat, I used my favorite Tamiya XF-55 Deck Tan. This color is quite good for adding airbrush fading, which helps tone down bright areas, blends things together, yet seems to work well over almost any color. I wasn’t sure how it would work over this blue color, but in the end, I was quite happy with it. Thinned roughly 1 part paint to 10 parts alcohol, it sprays on quite nicely, especially through my Badger Patriot Extreme, which I’ve come to favor for this type of work. Its small nozzle makes it quite effective.
Next came some post-shading, using a 2-to-1 mix of Tamiya XF-69 Nato Black and XF-9 Hull Red. Thinned in the same ratio as the deck tan with alcohol, it was applied along all panel lines, into recesses, on the jet exhausts, and randomly in a few areas just for general purpose griminess.
All of the various sensors and lights and things that go “ping” were given a three-step process to try to simulate light effects. For both red and green lights, a darker base was applied, then a middle tone was added halfway up, reaching to the top, and then finished with a brighter, light tone right at the top. I could have spent time blending each color, I suppose, but I was quite happy to just do them quickly. A later touch of gloss coat (after matt varnish was applied to the whole model) made them pop. From close up, you clearly see the demarcation. But I’m a strong believer that models are best viewed from a few feet away… and thus paint them as such. Not that I am drawing comparisons… but even the Mona Lisa viewed from 2 inches will probably look a bit spotty. (I’m guessing… never seen it for real… 😉 )
A final flat coat of Vallejo Mecha Color Matt Varnish was applied, and the model set on its flying base.
I must admit, I am quite happy with the result.
Which was quite different from my friend, whom I mentioned at the beginning of the story…
Are You Having Fun?
His statement stunned me a bit. He seemed so forlorn as he said it. I could see this wasn’t just a simple shrug and “Well, hope it does well” moment. He was seriously down.
And I had to ask him – “are you actually enjoying building models?” He looked up at me, and with a slow shake of his head, said “no, not at all.”
I asked him when was the last time he’d built a model just for fun. Simply to enjoy it. His look was almost quizzical, as if I’d asked “when was the last time you went to the Moon”, or something equally improbable.
“I can’t say I even recall. I just build for contests now.”
We talked some more, and I suggested that perhaps he just build a model to simply enjoy the process. Yes, do his best on it… but with the resolve to not enter it in a show. Just build it. He agreed that maybe such a tactic might be beneficial.
I know I harp on this theme a lot, but I believe it is critical to really getting the most from the hobby.
If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.
So if building for contests is fun for you – do it. Yet if it’s not – stop it. Perhaps you never enter contests, but you’re stuck in a certain genre, or style, or whatever. If it’s not fun, do something different. Even if it means walking away from it for a bit.
This little blue Tumblebug has been fun. Pure and simple. It’s not perfect. Putting on my “judge hat”, I know there are several things that would likely relegate it to 3rd place, assuming there were only three entries in the category. But that is OK with me.
Many of you read the recently published article, about the problem with pursuing perfection in our hobbies, that has been floating around modeling groups.. That has weighed on my mind since reading it. Ultimately, such a pursuit, if carried to far, is toxic to the hobby.
As my friend at the model show that day discovered.
Happily, he contacted me a few months later. He’d built an older prop plane from his childhood. One with raised panel lines, and the cockpit with nothing more than a seat and a pilot. He reported at first it had been hard… not buying corrections, not rescribing. Yet the further he went, the more he enjoyed the process. When the model was completed, he set it on the shelf, and reported that rarely a day had gone by that he’d not picked it up, admired it, and remembered the fun he’d had.
Have fun in your hobby, friends.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am off to play with the little blue Tumblebug. I’m sure some toy soldiers somewhere need close air support!