“What I do have strong feelings about, is the idea that a model cannot be interesting if it is not weathered – frankly, that’s just rubbish”
In between making cups of tea, watching overwhelmingly bleak news reports about yet another crisis generated by our political overlords, grabbing a bowl of cereal and trying to find the Shed keys that I seem to lose with alarming regularity, the first hour or so post waking up in the morning, is taken up with Facebook and the various Online modelling forums that I visit on a regular basis. Amongst the cat pictures, those “please share this post or you will die and so will all of your family, honest” chain updates and memes telling the world that you really miss your great untie Mabel, there’s some really interesting modelling material to enjoy, material that is sometimes discussed further, on sites such as Hyperscale, so the time is often, well-spent.
As I rubbed the sleep from my eyes this morning, I came across a discussion on the merits or otherwise of cleanly painted aircraft models and why they don’t always need to be covered in dirt and detritus, to be interesting. What made this exchange more than a little fascinating, was that it occurred as I was finishing a picture-perfect Tamiya Mustang ‘Warbird’ to go with the weathered MENG kit that I revealed last week. So, in essence, I’d indulged in both sides of the argument and as usual, was enduring splinters from sitting on a particularly familiar fence.
In all honesty, I have no strong feelings one way or another when it comes to the way models are finished: if you want to paint it ‘clean’ then do so, if you want to weather the bejeezus out of it, then that’s fine too. What I do have strong feelings about, is the idea that a model cannot be interesting if it is not weathered – frankly, that’s just rubbish. There are thousands of models on this planet that are stunning to look at, but have zero weathering: engineering studies, museum models, ships, cars, bikes etc., all miniatures that capture the look and feel of real machines with no attempt to replicate their environment. Don’t believe me? Pop down to the RAF Museum Cosford and take a look at David Glen’s 1:5 P-51D Mustang (http://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/cosford/whats-going-on/news/unique-mustang-model-now-on-display/) and tell me that that’s no less interesting for being painted ‘clean’.
As mentioned, I sit very much on the fence when it comes to actual builds, being just as happy to tackle a weathered model as one that’s pristine, my decision often being dictated by the subject. For instance, I tend to go for lightly weathered with aircraft, picture perfect with motorcycles, reasonably grubby with military vehicles and then as close to reality as I can if I’m building dioramas. It all depends on the subject and in many cases, my mood. Sometimes the idea of spending longer to weather a model than I would take to construct and paint it in its base colours, is simply be too much to bear, so I’ll opt for something simpler and less time-consuming. I also tend to concentrate more on the initial construction and painting stages because my choice of subject is often based on my love of the prototype, its shape, paint scheme and markings – and not how grubby it gets. To me, the worst thing anyone could say to me upon first seeing one of my models is “great weathering!” – yeah, but what about the way the model is built and finished?! Oh never mind, you’ve ruined it now…
So let’s get back to the Mustangs that I’ve just finished. I have to say that the challenges that arose during the painting of their respective schemes were very similar, but for quite different reasons. The Canadian aircraft was challenging because not only was it painted in over Aluminium Lacquer, it needed to be lightly weathered in keeping with the original – no mean feat when it was in such a light colour and then decorated with such bright markings and everything needed to be sympathetically treated. The Tamiya kit on the other hand that formed the basis of the second build, needed to be kept immaculate and thus not only exhibited similarly painted wings to the Canadian aircraft, but also has a highly-polished fuselage and then large, gloss-painted panels of blue and red. Add to that heady mix of finishes, the need to define the panel lines and not make it look weathered and the challenge is there for all to see!
With the models in front of me, I’m hard-pressed to decide which one I prefer. The MENG kit is no doubt more detailed and thus more accurately depicts this aircraft in miniature, but there is something about the simpler Tamiya build with its bright plumage, that is inherently pleasing to the eye. I like the weathering on the MENG kit, but love the different surface finish on Tamiya’s. I just can’t decide and that really illustrates why deciding between cleanly finished and weathered models, can be so difficult – there are so many other things to take into account!
Building these two kits has been a fun exercise and has resulted in two models that I really like. Later in the year I’ll be building another P-51 in this scale with the release of the Airfix kit, a model that I just might really go to town on and create a truly filthy airframe befitting its use during WWII – just don’t hold me to the promise…