Today, I have painted with such a lack of comparative skill, you would think that I was a beginner.
Okay, admission time: at the moment, I don’t really enjoy painting my models anywhere near as much as I should.
There, I said it out loud. Man, that feels good.
Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do. I love building models, I love writing about them, I love displaying the results – both online and in my display cases – but the physical process of painting the damned things, that bit I find less than fun.
I have no real idea why this is so and why, when almost the entire modelling world sees this as the ‘best bit’, I find that the mere thought of it, often sends me into periods of introspection and self-doubt that is very difficult to get past. Today, was a good example of the problems that I often face and why, building more than one model at a time, is very bad for business…
I’m currently working on two models for work, with a third in the wings so to speak that is a much larger, private commission. All three are deadlined and all three are being finished in a time scale that is way too short, even for someone such as I that is used to building models very quickly. The sum total of this workload is that I’m finding myself moving between three different scales, three different genres and three very different kits and that is not only confusing, it is reducing my focus to almost zero.
So this morning, cognisant of the fact that two of these need to not only be built, but also painted and written up by the end of next week, I set about painting the basecoats onto the smaller of the kits, an Airfix 1/72 Beaufort and a brand-new Tamiya 1/48 Nashorn. Nothing difficult there: simple colour schemes, basic paints and though some planning was needed for the vehicle’s interior and plenty of masking on the aircraft’s exterior, they are finishes that I’ve carried out hundreds of times over the years. As I began, you would think that I had never done it. Not once. Zero. Zilch. Nil.
Today, I have painted with such a lack of comparative skill, you would think that I was a beginner. Every single step has had me second-guessing my technique, my materials, the steps I need to take and the tools that I have used to apply the paint. Honestly, you would think that I was painting these two models wearing welder’s gloves and goggles. I airbrushed with more dexterity when I was 15 and that is no exaggeration. They look, awful.
So now I’m sitting here, typing this in the hope that by reflecting on the day and then writing down my feelings on it, I will come to some conclusions as to why a process that should be straightforward, has been anything but. It may be that my work has been disturbed by the lack of broadband in the house over the last few days. Working in silence is never the most pleasant of environments (it reminds me way too much of working in an office); that’s possible. I wasn’t really as prepared as I normally am for the jobs that I needed to do and in the case of the Beaufort, I changed my scheme midway through construction and then only discovered after paint had been applied, that the flaps were the wrong pattern and so needed to be amended. Yes, I know: how about paying attention? It could be that I decided, against my far better judgement, to try some new ideas out on the Nashorn and now I’m not sure whether I like the way it looks, or not. Whatever it was, today I painted like a drain and now I’m wondering how to improve the way these models look, whether they are really okay, or in all honesty, if I should just pack up building models altogether and go and stack shelves in the local supermarket, instead.
Modelmaking is as much about confidence as any other pursuit and my work, both for myself and for jobs that pay, is as much a victim of that fickle mistress as anyone else’s. Much like a sportsman that has convinced themselves that they are going to lose before that enter the field of play, I can talk myself into a bad day in the office before I ever pick up an airbrush. Today may well have been one of those days. I woke up unsure of what I was going to do and the day progressed, that lack of confidence built along with my frustration, and the result was a foggy head and two sub-par paint-jobs.
When I finish typing this, I’ll go and make a hot drink, eat a few chocolate biscuits and then take stock. I may not be fully happy with the resulting models, but I don’t have the time for self indulgence and flagellation, the editors both needing to see something that the readers will enjoy over the coming weeks. And this is where my experience comes in for what it is worth. Being a professional is often not about dealing with situations when things are going well, it is working them out when then start to go south. My job now is to deal with the issues as I see them and then complete the models to the best of my ability – such as it is!
Tomorrow will be another day and no doubt I’ll have a change of heart and the work will be better. Who knows, I may even enjoy painting a little more and not see it just as a hurdle that I need to cross, on the way to completing another model. Yeah, maybe I can do that.
See you next time.
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Its not an easy one to comment on Spencer as you say about the tight timescales. If it was not for that then walking away for a day or so might have been the answer. I am sure being a professional builder you have all the ideas without me trying to comment but would maybe sitting down tonight and drawing up a plan for your day tomorrow help? Something along which kit to pick up first, what to carry out on it and how long you plan to spend on that task?
Hope you do gave a better day tomorrow – i think coming out of lockdown, not having what you could call a proper summer, and now getting back to these darker mornings and nights has affected many if use in terms if enthusiasm.
Best wishes to you – i am sure you will get back on track and pull off 3 more stunning builds.
Spencer, the fortunate thing for you is, you are so good at this that your “off day” is likely someone else’s Best Performance Ever. We’re all our harshest judge, and the further up the scale we are at whatever it is we are doing, the harsher the judgement, since we alone know the measurement scale of What’s Possible. That said, you picked a way to guarantee difficulty: three different models in different scales and different genres. One needs to reduce that by at least one if you’re doing multiple kits: all one scale, all one genre. I just did three Spitfire – no plan to, it just happened – and all three were easy because I was doing the exact same thing only three times for each step – other than different paint schemes.
Personally, I think it’s likely a safe bet that if you hadn’t busted yourself here and just published photos of the work, you’d be getting a lot of “ooooh… ahhhh…. wow” responses.
We always know where we come up short, and if you didn’t hold yourself to high standards and judge closely, you wouldn’t have gotten where you are. The good news is, we only learn from failure (the only thing I ever learned from success is that I really like it) – now that you know better in this area of the work, you can do better next time.
Remember, even the great Ted Williams, the best better ever in baseball, was considered great by striking out 60% of the times he was at bat.
“best batter ever” – WordPress needs an edit function!
I think we all have tough days or tough times like that but we’re not working with deadlines too so I hope the miasma soon lifts, hang in there!
As a rank amateur I understand that the situation must be difficult but really appreciate you sharing it. Whilst social media and the modelling community in general are great they are also offering a very curated view of people’s work. It’s always reassuring to know that even the best modellers have their off days, knocks to confidence and so on.
Thanks for posting this, depressing though it may have been – we all have had days like this: some of us have had YEARS like this, but as Tom says, we learn far more from our failures – and our fears. You have very high self-standards and that puts yet more pressure on you, but many of us out here have had the same thing happen. I am still resisting the switch to acrylics with my lifetime supply of Floquil enamels and enough old Humbrol to sink a Brooklyn class cruiser…..but I still can brush paint with them…..press on!
You know this of course, sometimes confidence leaves us, on those days forget about yesterday, put your head down and get on with today. What comes of the work today is never as bad as you think, nor sometimes as good, so just put your head down and get it finished….
Not to mention take a day off once your done….
I don’t like painting either. Just saying.
Brother, I share your pain! A crisis of confidence is all too common. I seem to suffer it increasingly these days. However, your loss of confidence is more critical than mine, as a mere hobbyist, because you have deadlines and high standards to meet. I have not found an answer, although, I have the luxury of being able to down tools and get my mind on other things and then, hopefully, can re-enter my model making with a refreshed attitude and belief that my confidence at some point will return.
I do keep a hip-flask of port on the shelf near my modelling table. I quick slug every now and then helps dull the anxiety.
My only advice is to paraphrase that sporting axiom that form is temporary, but class is permanent. You fall into the latter category.
Mate, I fell your pain. I am also one of the rare few who much prefer the construction stages to the paint stages. On occasions it takes more psychological determination than it really should just to load the airbrush cup, because I’ve put so much effort into getting the damn thing build and I’m genuinely afraid that I will stuff it up. It doesn’t help that my current interest lies in old muscle cars which require superhuman effort to get things to fit, and then a nice glossy paint job.
I really need to reassess my build preferences.