The thought that a kit that was on sale was beyond me, never once crossed my mind, though looking back on it from this distant hill on which I may die, nor should it have.
Though I would like to say that many of the outrageously entertaining talking points within this Blog are from my own fevered imagination, I feel that I should perhaps come clean and admit that most if not all, are often the result of other modellers’ thoughts and opinions. Yes, my fellow travellers, cuckoo-like, I collect ideas, stash them in my head and then let them fly when the time is right. Today’s talking point is just such an example of this theft of intellectual property and proof, if proof were needed, that I don’t have an original thought in my head…
The other night, during one of those frustrating periods when sleep seemed to be alluding me, I took to my phone to check out kit sales on eBay, watch druming videoes and then read the latest nonsense on the Socials, all of which seemed like a good use of my time at 4am in the morning. Most of the social media discourse, as you might imagine, was there to generate anger, polemic, or both. But amidst the chaff of political in-fighting and conspiratorial BS for the hard of thinking, there was an interesting comment made almost off the cuff by one of my modelling friends on that book of faces, that we all spend way too much time reading. What made it suitable for further thought and then discusison on here, was that the idea was not unique to this particular fellow, being a somewhat universal viewpoint. It goes something like this:
“Yes, I’ve just bought *insert name of kit here* but my skills are nowhere near good enough to build it, so I’ll put away until they are.”
I am of course paraphrasing, but you get the picture. Modeller buys kit; modeller fears contents; modeller convinces themselves that said kit is beyond them; modeller stashes kit, in all likelihood never to return to it; modeller admits defeat before they even begin. It’s the age-old story of unrequited love, made plastic and decal. If Shakespeare had been alive today he’d no-doubt have written a sonnet about it.
So why dear folks has this particular scribe taken to his keyboard this fine Saturday morning and decided to write some pearls o’ wisdom about this topic? Well, because it’s one of the most debilitating ideas within the hobby, that’s why and I thought I would expand on I why I think that is so…
When I was a lot younger than I am today, as those mop-topped denizens of perfect pop may once have sung, I would build anything, everything, and all in-between. I began much like everyone else, with small, pocketmoney kits that could be bought from the local Post Office, Matchbox, Airfix, even the odd excursion into the realms of Revell, being enough to keep me entertained, if not for days, then at least for a few hours on a rainy saturday afternoon. It was these small, simple and cheap kits on which I honed my skills, learned that emulsion paints, though possibly the right colour, were hardly suitable for a plastic surfaces and that if timed right, tube glue could – to a degree – be used to rig a biplane, or complete a radio aerial. They formed the bedrock of my hobby and as my skills slowly grew, these miniature marvels soon pointed me in more complex directions. When schoolboy naivety was replaced by a feeling that yes, I could build models and reasonably well (yeah, I know, let’s see those early attempts and then you can get back to us, Pollard) simplicity was replaced by a desire to tackle kits that were more involved and demanding.
I’m not sure when I first became aware of this need to develop my skills. Hell, back then, I didn’t even know that you had to! You bought a kit, you stuck it together with a tube of Britfix, glue that would create an odd layer of second skin around your fingers and a cloudy haze over anything remotely clear in finish, end rolled up to minimise wastage. You then painted the results with a single coat of Humbrol Emerald Green and Gloss Brown that you’d found in your granddad’s garage (paint mixing along edges that you simply had no time to dry off before applying the second colour) before dropping your one and only paintbrush into a marmalade jar of turps, until the hairs curved into an arc that was almost impossible to straighten with anything less than boiling water. It was a simple life, but at some point, that all changed and those first steps across the living room floor, furniture aiding progress, were replaced by a desire to run the 100m sprint.
The turning point for me I think, were two different, but interconnected events. In the village in which I lived there were two brothers (actually, there were lots of brothers, but let’s not muddy waters with over embellishment). Older than me, they, like many boys during the Seventies, built models. More developed in their skills and frankly, with more disposable income, they had kits that not only could I ill-afford, they built them with skills that I didn’t possess. But, they were generous of spirit, so would show me what they had done, offer advice (stop smearing glue over the canopies, buy some more paint, that sort of thing) and would the lend me catalogues that they had, so that I could dream about projects that were off into the distance. It was these brothers that first showed me the Tamiya range of F1 cars, Wolf, Ligier, Williams, McLaren; it was these brothers that showed me my first Airfix Catalogue and then more importantly, one emblazoned with a two-star logo and a name that I had not at that time heard before: Tamiya.
So I had now seen more complex kits than I was building, both in the flesh so to speak, and then in print. I was hooked. I knew from that point on that I had to build some of these amazing kits and that’s what I set out to do. It’s at this point that I should return to the core premise of this stream of consciousness and reiterate that at this stage in my young life, I simply had no fear of more involved projects – let’s face it, who does, at 10 years old?! The thought that a kit that was on sale might be beyond me, never once crossed my mind, though looking back on it from this distant hill on which I may now die, nor should it have. How else was I going to learn new skills if all I ever did was stay within a zone of comfort that was only ever visited by kits that had 25 parts, and not ones that suddenly featured 100, crammed into their flimsy, cardboard boxes. No, progress had to be made by pushing myself and tackling ever more arduous projects, even if that meant that my success rate was lowered as a result – and boy, did that success rate drop!
I needed the pressure of more difficult offerings to get the juices flowing and then improve what I needed to learn to build better models. As soon as I could – which in all honesty was some years later – I bought a Tamiya F1 car (or may have been gifted it, time has dulled that partiucular memory) so that I too could experrience what the two brothers had enjoyed some years earlier. This, the Williams FW07, was promptly stuffed up in some style when a handpainted, green and white finish and Alan Jones’ distinctively decorated red and white helmet, was found to be way beyond me at the time (I still have kittens over that pinstriped helmet!). Still, I’d had a go, so when the next kit, the Walter Wolf, passed across the gloss blue kitchen table that had become my ‘workbench’ (don’t ask…) things turned out a little more successfully. So much so, that that model actually went on display. And so the desire to build more than just simple plastic kits grew…
Eventually, scratchbuilding followed, super-detailing, conversions, the use of an airbrush (which is an essay of utter failures in itself. Trust me, it’s not a pretty picture!) aftermarket resin and etch, figures, dioramas, planes, trains and the odd automobile, anything that I could tackle that would help me to learn new skills. I tried everything, failed initially at most and then kept going, belligerence replacing common sense. At no point that I can remember, would I avoid a kit because it was deemed too difficult (which is a shame actually, because some were patently too difficult and if I had had my head screwed on and not thought I was God’s gift to the hobby, I might have avoided them and then saved myself money, time and angst along the way). Anyway, lets ignore my failings and focus on your needs for the time being and the basis off this essay: that you never learn anything by taking the easiest path.
When the comment came up at 4am the other morning, my instinctive response was to say “oh for goodness sake, just build it! You’ve bought the kit now, so your money is gone, what possible value is that kit to you, sat in the loft?” And this is the core tenet of my argument: model kits are simply worthless unless you build them. Yeah, yeah, I get the idea that there are collectors out there, for whom there is some intrinsic value in unmade kits, but to me – and I stress that it is to me, before brickbats fly my way – a kit is only of value if it is open and you are working on it, gluing the parts together and painting the results. That kit then serves as tool from which you can learn a skill. Sat in the box, it may look beguiling, but you will get absolutely nothing from it whilst it sits on a shelf gathering dust. You bought it because you presumably wanted to build it, so what on earth is stopping you? I will tell you what: fear of failure. That’s all.
Fear of failing to live up to our own expectations is the most debilitating emotion that I see in this hobby. Modellers and I very much include myself in this, see fantastic work online and then fear that they cannot emulate those models using their own skills. In essence to many, it seems as though the destination has become more important than the journey, where the only thing that matters is the completed model and how impressive it appears to our peers, and in some cases, complete strangers that probably, inevitably, couldn’t care less anyway.
So my advice is this: build those kits! So what if they don’t create models that you imagine seeing once they are finished? I guarantee that you will still have learnt plenty along the way and the next time you build something similar, the results will be better and you will have enjoyed the ride a little more. I cannot tell anyone how to approach this hobby and nor would I wish to do so, but I can proffer the idea that stepping out of your comfort zone will reap benefits and that you will have fun along the way. Trust me, no one improves any skill by repeating what they can already do. Well, what are you waiting for? Grab that kit and get building!
See you next time.
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