Sometime around the middle of 2005, I realized I had a serious problem. My hobby at the time – computer gaming – had gotten way out of hand. Not so much because of the time I spent playing the games, but rather due to the intensity at which I played them. To put it bluntly – I hated to lose. Playing online seemed to draw out the ultra-competitive side of me, and not in a good way.
My stress level was high, my anger level was high, my blood pressure was high… and I realized I needed a change.
While it often takes me a long time to come to such realizations, when I finally do, I usually take immediate action. In that case, I stopped gaming. Period. Full stop. I just cut it out.
Of course, that left me without a hobby. Bored out of my mind.
I picked up a scale modeling magazine.
A New Direction
I hadn’t built a model in decades. The last time, in fact, had been during the Reagan administration. The first one. So a few years had gone by. I was quite astounded with the models people were building. The slapped together work of my youth paled in comparison to this stuff. Each Friday I’d pick up a new magazine to read. This went on for several months. Yet for some reason it never clicked in my mind that this might be a new hobby for me to take up.
Early in 2006, my wife suggested I build a model. “Nah… I’ve been out of it too long.” I had none of the tools – no paint, no brushes, no glue, and certainly no kits. She kept nudging though. “You need a hobby,” she said.
When my birthday rolled around in February, she gave me an excuse – my gift was a kit, a few paints, some glue, and brushes. I figured I’d humor her, so I built it. And enjoyed it. Really enjoyed it. So much so that I went to the local hobby shop and bought another model. And another…
I begin to join online scale modeling forums. The questions I asked were many, and if I went back and read them now, I’d probably laugh a bit. I was working out of a tackle box, on our kitchen table. Before long, I had an airbrush, a compressor, and a growing stash of kits. Though I attacked this hobby with the same focus I did gaming, it was different. I was relaxed. I could focus. It was quiet. I loved the detail work.
In just a little more than a year, I had started a website (www.agapemodels.com), and began publishing my builds online. I was hooked. And I was building a lot of models.
That’s No Spartan Number
Fast forward to today. I just hit the 300 mark on completed models with the finish of this Brutishdog. Pulling out my handy-dandy calculator, it tells me that’s a rate of almost 2 models finished per month, for the last (nearly) 13 years.
For most of that time, I was building single engined World War II fighters. I’ve built over 80 Spitfires, a couple of dozen P-40s, nearly as many P-39s, and just about every other Allied fighter plane from that era. In late 2016 I started building a few jets. Late 2017 saw an expansion into various scifi genres.
Of course, if you’d have told me two years ago that when I hit the 300 mark, it would be with a stompy robot thingy… I’d have likely laughed. “I’m an airplane guy.”
Turns out… not so much anymore. (Though I do still build them.)
So I’m quite happy that this milestone reflects my new love for things scifi and bipedal.
Fine, Good… Now About You Talk About The Model?
Right… the model! 🙂
This kit is fairly old. Though I did not get the box with it, a bit of online research shows it may date back to the mid-1980s… the last time I built kits, in fact. 🙂 It came to me partially assembled as a gift from a friend. When I’d first started building it, I knew nothing about the canon behind it. It just looked cool. I decided to build it, paint it like a Russian tank, and see how it turned out.
The first thing I had to do was build the basic components. The previous owner had assembled a few parts, added some putty to others, and then disassembled a few others, so I had to sort all that out. While it did come with an interior that could have been displayed, I decided to simplify things and show it closed up. The fit of the kit was not great, yet not so egregious to make it unbuildable by any stretch.
Once I had the major components together, I primed everything with Badger’s Stynylrez Black primer. For the painting, I thought I’d try something a bit different. I’d watched some videos about modulation, and thought the surfaces of this design would work well with that kind of treatment.
If you’re not familiar with it, modulation is a style of painting models designed to make the “modeling is not art” folks very angry. 🙂 OK, not really. Well… yes, it makes the “non-art” folks angry. (Or at least induces eye-twitches.) But no, that’s not the intended purpose.
The intended purpose is to add in additional light and shadow effects, so that as later weathering steps are layered up, the various features of a scale model aren’t lost. Just as a scale model is an attempt to convey a real thing, modulation is an attempt to convey the natural shadows and highlights seen on a real thing. It’s certainly a stylized way of doing things, so some like it, others don’t.
I thought it would fit the goal I have of “just make it look cool” quite well.
Starting with a base coat of Tamiya XF-26 Deep Green. I then began adding XF-4 Yellow Green to the color cup, progressively lightening things up. Not really think much about the direction of the light source, I rather just focused on making sure the “tops” of the various components were lighter. The videos I’d watched suggested that it was OK to be a bit stark at this stage, as later weathering effects would tone and blend the modulation. Having not done it much before, I went with this advice. (And I’m glad I did so! It worked…)
After the modulation was finished, I gave the model a coat of Future, and added the kit decals. Despite their age, they behaved surprisingly well. A little Solvaset on each one settle them down nicely.
I wanted to give this model a rather beat up look, but not so much that it appeared to be a rusted hulk. Fades and streaks would be the order of the day, with the chipping being “second fiddle”.
More Chips, Sir?
For the chipping, I started with some smaller painted on chips using a pale green color. I tried to confine this to multi-faceted edges, and also various scratches on open areas to simulate wear there. Because I have a tendency to go “chip happy”, I really tried to restrain myself during the process. When I finished, my first thought was “that is waaaay to understated.” However, I stuck to my plan, as difficult as that was.
Next up for the chipping was the sponge method. As before, I really tried to restrain how much I added. As odd as it may seem, my goal was to not like it. I went with the “George Costanza” method… do the opposite of what I normally do. I added bits here and there, randomly rotating around the suit. As much as I thought it would kill me, I even left some areas unchipped. When I got to a point that I could declare finished… sure enough, I thought it was way, way, way too understated.
Yet despite everything in me shouting “chip it! chip it more!“, I ignored it. I left it as it was. Looking back at it now that the model is finished, I am very happy I did not follow my instinct. I really like how the chipping turned out. I feel it’s much more organic to the overall weathering, and not standing head and shoulders above all the rest of the “tricks”.
Oh Yes They Call Him The Streak
With that stage of the weatherings behind me, I moved on to the other abuses – streaks and grimes. As I’ve noted on several recent blog entries, I’ve been shifting more and more to acrylic weathering products. It’s not only a fun way to expand my “toolbox”, but it also brings the advantage of speed – very critical for my building!
I’d purchased several Vallejo weathering products, and I wanted to make maximum use of them. I started by using the Vallejo Mecha Color Petrol Spills Gloss as a shade. It has a similar color and consistency as Citadel’s Nuln Oil, so it worked nicely for panel lines and recesses. I also used it as a streaking medium, though I heavily thinned it with water. The key to using acrylics for weathering is to build them up, almost as you would a glaze or translucent layering. I added streaking where I thought fluids might leak, and in a few areas simply because I wanted to introduce some tonal variety.
Getting a bit “artsy”, I added some of the VMeC Oil Stains Gloss, which is a bit like Citadels’ Agrax Earthshade. I freely began switching back and forth between the two colors, and even mixed the two to get a third shade. Some I thinned heavily, some very little. The key was to layer it up, which I thought gave it great depth. And the benefit of using acrylics was immediately apparent – I could work around the model in a single session, and by the time I got back around to where I’d started, the previously applied layer was dry enough to add more over it. No waiting hours or days for anything to dry.
Pleased with the results so far, I started adding in some of the Vallejo Model Wash Brown. Again, this was applied both neat and thinned, and I even mixed it with some of the other weathering products. I found the Model Wash, if thinned with water, worked really great as a filter and for streaking. It was very translucent, so layering was easily accomplished. When wet, it appeared quite stark in places, but upon drying, it toned down more than a bit. This was a property of using acrylics I really liked!
Continuing along, I introduced rust colors into the mix. While I didn’t want it to appear as a rusted hulk, I did want some splashes of it here and there, such as around bolts, etc. Again, the intensity of the color was easily controlled simply by thinning the media, and using judicious placement.
Finishing Up #300
In any build, I think there is a point where the model gets to the “that looks about right” stage. (TLAR) While further weathering layers can always be added – and still remain “tasteful” – I try to look for a point that the model simply needs to be matt coated. As I found myself looking around the armored suit, and adding fewer and fewer touches, I felt I hit the point of TLAR. Again – I used a bit of restraint. If “TLAR” is a range, and not a precise point, I stopped just as I entered the range in my mind – not halfway through or near the outer edge of it.
Though my instinct was saying “add more”, I let the inner Costanza once again push me to doing the opposite. As I added on the matt varnish, I was immediately happy I’d done so.
I’m always hesitant to hold my work up as anything exemplary… I’m just a guy building models. I don’t do anything special. Any modeler can replicate my work, and certainly go beyond it. Yet this one hit a point that I rarely allow myself to go. I really liked it. It’s not the best model ever built. Not at all. But for me, it’s one of the rare occasions that I accomplished two goals – have fun, and make it look cool. While I have fun in every build, those occasions where I smile at the end result, and think “that turned out OK” is something I try to treat as a luxury.
But I really like how this one turned out.
I can’t say when I started down this road that I looked much beyond the next model. Speed was never something I set as a goal. The joy I found in the hobby, really, has always been my focus. Rarely do I look at a model after I finish it. The fun, the good part, is in the building. How does the old saying go? “It’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey.” Something like that. 🙂 It certainly applies to the last (almost) 13 years.
Given the fact that I’ve hit this milestone, I suppose #400 and even #500 are down the line, Lord willing. As long as I am having fun, I will keep doing it.
And the wonderful surprise part of all of this process has been the amazing friendships I’ve made that I otherwise would not have. Modelers that I’ve met over the years through various ways – both in in person and online – have become great friends. Some are like brothers to me now. (One is even an acquaintance. You know who you are. Goofball. 😉 ) I think those wonderful connections, with people all over the world, has really been the hidden gem in all of this.
Best of all, 10-year-old Jon would be very happy that stompy robots are part of the process. As long as he’s cheering me on, I gladly head out to #301. Which should be finished in about a week. 😉
As a final note – thank you to everyone who reads the stuff I write, looks at the models I build, and so graciously extends friendship and goodwill to me. I can’t tell you how much it means to me. Thank you.