“Surround yourself with acres of paint racks, glues, airbrushes and all manner of kits and accessories by all means, but if you cannot master just one element properly, you will fail across the board”
Earlier today I spent a few minutes whilst drinking tea and eating more toast then I should, watching a few online videos that had popped up in my feed on YouTube. Many of you may not know this, but as well as building models, I play drums, so I tend to watch a ton of videos that are either of live performances from my favourite bands, or from my favourite drummers.
This morning a video appeared that discussed the use of cheap drums. Interest piqued, I watched for ten minutes or so as the frankly, outrageously talented young man discussed how he had decided one day to take his practice kit to a gig (a kit that cost around $200) rather than his studio kit and was amazed to discover that everyone who heard it was astonished by how it sounded and couldn’t believe that it was as cheap as he said it was. As the video progressed he discussed how it wasn’t the drums necessarily that were to blame for this, but his hands, the musician being able to make even cheap instruments sound great with a little application and knowledge. The sound didn’t come from his instrument, the sound was the result of the use of his hands.
But what has this got to do with building models?
Well, as it seems, quite a lot actually as I have discussed in a similar video that I have created today:
Over the last few years or so, the Internet has thrown up all manner of sites that help you to build models. Forums, Facebook pages and obviously as can be seen here, Blogs, have all appeared to help you build better models. And help they have…In the main. They have also proffered the idea that if you spend enough on tools, materials and kits, even the most inexperienced of modellers can reach the heights attained by those that show off their latest, greatest masterpieces. You don’t need skill, patience and practice, you just need money…
Of course this is patent nonsense. No amount of money is going to replace the need to practice the art of building models and unless you are a genius that can master skills in an instant (in which case you don’t need me!) you are going to need to spend a lot of time at your bench before the skills that you want, are the skills that you have.
Crossing over into our drumming video we can see that a modeller with skill can make the most mundane of kits look good. Skilled practitioners can take a cheap plastic kit, a Stanley knife, a tube of glue, a nail file, half a dozen pots of paint and a few brushes and make that kit look like the real thing. Equally, a beginner can grab a £100+ Tamiya kit, a high-end airbrush, a raft full of paints and weathering solutions, a handful of Series 7 brushes and all of the glue they can handle, and create a mess that is far removed from a true-to-life replica, as the Sistine Chapel ceiling is from a child’s finger painting. It’s not what you have to hand that matters, it’s what you do with it. Surround yourself with acres of paint racks, glues, airbrushes and all manner of kits and accessories by all means, but if you cannot master just one element properly, you will fail across the board; master all of the steps and you’ll not need anywhere near as much and still be able to create wonderful models.
“You don’t need skill, patience and practice, you just need money…”
I never really know how to get this idea of practice across to modellers. It is human nature to want nice things and be able to keep up with your friends, I get that and though I have no desire to surround my workbench with endless racks of paint (most of which I would never touch), I understand why others would want to. As a kid, the sight of Francois Verlinden’s workbench was enough to make me want to build something that wasn’t only similar, but the same (actually, I’m thinking of doing it again, just for the sake of it!), so I can certainly see why the sight of benches festooned with goodies, would excite those new to the hobby.
The thing is though, those monuments to the hobby are no substitute for the need to learn the basics; they look great, but they’re no replacement for knuckling down, opening a kit box and learning how to get the best from the contents. Maybe it’s simply the world we live in where instant gratification is the overriding feature of the hobby in the 21st Century. Certainly, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had the “yeah, but it’s easy for you” line levelled at me, as if one day I fell out of bed and suddenly I could build models the way I do today. When I suggest that forty years of practice has got me to this point, it seems to fall on deaf ears. If only I had practised playing drums for 40 years…
At the end of the day, the drummer was right: it’s not what you have in front of you that matters, but what you do with it. But that takes skill, practice and the desire to learn and no amount of money can replace those needs, unless, as mentioned earlier you are a genius and there are precious few of those in this neck of the woods!
See you next time.
My thoughts exactly!
I am tempted to say that, to a certain extent, there are no bad kits, just give one of those to the right modeller…
I knew a fellow that continually asked me about my post-shading/fading work. I’d patiently explain to him how I thinned the paint, what air pressure I had it at, what type of paint, etc., etc.
He finally tried it, literally after years of asking me about it, and complained how it hadn’t worked out as well as he’d hoped.
I said something like “it just takes practice”. To which, the question came back, “how much”.
My reply only frustrated him. “Well, I average 20-25 kits a year, and have maintained that pace for 10 years, and I still find my technique needs improvement. But after 20 or 30 attempts you get the basics of it.”
Of course, I’m a slow learner.
But you’re right. People don’t want to put in the time to practice at the craft. Forget collectings gobs of photoetch and resin and complaining about accuracy and colors and all of that. Just shut up and build something. All that other stuff can be added in.
Spot on, Spencer.
So, what the fuck is your excuse, Lulzllurd?
What erks thee fella? Is there something that is bothering you, something that you would like to get off your chest? Perhaps not being able to create a suitable avatar? The constant need to make up random words that have no grammatical foundation? The need to be potty mouthed on a page that doesn’t indulge in such earthy tones? What can we help you with..? 🙂
Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha….Oh…Stop…Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah…You’re hilarious! No, please…Stop! Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah!!!! Phew, phew… That’s better… Oh no!!! Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!
I think I’ll leave your comment in place. It’s always fun to have comedian’s on here. Anonymous, half-arsed comedians who haven’t the balls to let us to know who they really are, but fun nonetheless. I’m sure everyone else will be as amused as I am…
Mom!? You are a wag! 🙂
Totally Spencer. My problem at the moment is exactly that, I need to practice more. I was out of modelling for nearly 4 years due to circumstances and when I could finally get back to the bench I found that I couldn’t actually remember what I used to do. Building was fine, it was/is the painting. I believe in my own advice, “never blame your airbrush”, so I need to find out what I am doing wrong and why it seems to be more difficult than it used to be! I plan on getting there though, I’m bringing on more models so I plan on doing quite a bit more practice 🙂
I, recently, put a post on the Tamiya FB page asking for advice about airbrushes. The responses I got were very very helpful, and today I took delivery of a Badger Renegade. Now, to my point, I AM NO PRO when it comes to model building, I’m a recent returnee to the hobby. I know very little about weathering, pre and post shading, and the likes, However, I don’t expect a decent airbrush to turn me into a pro, what I expect is that practice will eventually lead to better results.
I do appreciate how frustrating it must be, for you expert modellers, to have the likes of me asking the same questions over and over again, but without your help we / I will never improve, so I just want to say thanks for the videos, the advice, and for putting up with stupid questions.
There’s no such thing as a stupid question! It’s really more about running before you can walk and understanding that you will certainly need plenty of practice to get the results that you need. And never be afraid to make mistakes – and never think that you are beyond making them. I trash plenty of work – it just goes with the territory. Thanks for the comment!
Spencer, as a fellow drummer, could you post the link to that drum video please?
One thing that really helped me improve my modelling was to keep notes when I build a kit. This helps me to reproduce things that went well when I build my next model and avoid making errors I’ve made before. Works a lot better than trying to rely solely on my memory of how I got that great fading on the Russian tank I build last year. Enjoying the blog very much.
It’s great to see you back Spencer, I really enjoy your videos and they have definitely helped me through a recent slump. It’s really refreshing to hear honest comment from someone who’s deeply involved in the modelling community, and the industry as a whole.
The topic of your most recent video really got me thinking over the weekend while I was away from the workbench. In my honest opinion one of the greatest unmentioned skills, and something I’ve always struggled with, is the ability to quickly and cleanly remove parts from their sprues. And, as you’ve already highlighted this is becoming more and more important with the increase in parts count, their complexity and fragility! I am always in awe of modellers that can take the smallest of part and release them from their, sometimes very awkward, attachments while still maintaining their shape and detail without breaking them. In the world of every growing complexity and ever tightening tolerances this really basic act can literally make or break the process.
I would love to see more time and effort spent on this basic skill, but ultimately one of the most important sides of the hobby.
Keep up the good work!
I just wanted to say, good blog!
I find as my biggest problem, is patience. I have these wonderful grand plans, and then in the end I lose patience and then I flub things up. Making my $150 kit look like a 1970 Airfix Gannett glued together with Contact cement…
On the other hand, I am a “Tool Tart”, a term I saw on a modeling forum, in as I have a lot of different and fancy tools, and I know how to put most of them to use, although some I am not as good with.
I’ve just been reading your blog, and watched a few videos…they’re terrific resources, please keep up the great work.
Like many others, I’m returning to the hobby after a very long break and am gradually making a few kits and the biggest problem I seem to have at the moment is with filling and sanding. No matter how careful and diligent I think I am being, I still can’t completely erase a seam along its full length.
They say it needs 10,000 hours to become an expert.. Maths has never been my strong point but if that’s the case, I calculate that by the time I’ve mastered filling and sanding, then airbrushing and weathering, using PE, scratchbuilding and all the rest, I’ll need at least 50,000 hours. Assuming I can spend eight hours solid, every day of the year, at my modelling bench, that equals 17 years!
Hmmm. Maybe I should never have given the hobby up in the first place 🙂