Those competitions have moved from the blue-sheeted trestle tables of dusty village halls and sodium-lit sports centres, into the workshops and living rooms of modellers who can now see everything in microscopic detail, on 4K backlit screens…
Yesterday, I posted a few thoughts onto my usual Social Media portals, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, thoughts that kinda hit me whilst having a piece of toast and a mug of coffee. They were nothing spectacular, an open window into my soul at this time of year, but such was the reaction to them, I thought it might be worth fleshing-out this inner dialogue in a longer essay. But first, here is what I wrote, cleaned-up slightly for the family audience that I hope this page attracts…
“Note to self. Repeat as necessary.
Go grab a kit and stick it together. Paint it. Stop giving two hoots what others think about it. Stop worrying that what you do next has to be the best thing ever to impress those that chances are, couldn’t care less anyway. Stop falling into the trap of thinking that this hobby and your place in it, is some giant competition, a piddling contest where you have to be seen as great for clicks and likes. Get back to doing what you used to do: build models because you love it, not for a misguided sense of BS fame, acceptance or success. No. One. Cares. And you know what? Every time you fall into this trap, you become worse, not better. Stop competing – it’s the most debilitating thing you consider. Stop caring about reactions. Start once again doing what you love – trust me, you’ll feel better about yourself. Stop. Competing.
See you again next year.”
I think that that is pretty much self-explanatory. A few points though are worth expanding upon. Including that word: competition.
In the replies to my posts, a number of modellers discussed competitions, gatherings where modellers come together to compete against each other. Over recent years, Damascene-like, I’ve become rather antagonistic to such things, feeling that – for me – they are a negative intrusion into my world that has caused me not only recently, but over many years, a great deal of personal angst. Though I will expand on that at some point in the future, that really was not what I was talking about in this particular stream of consciousness. My point of discussion here was about how we as individuals subconsciously compete not only with ourselves, but with our peers online. In so doing, we are looking for constant affirmation, those clicks, likes and shares, where the response to our work becomes more important than the work itself. In my case that manifestly means that I am no longer building for me, I am performing for others, that distant audience who may like what I do in an instant, but soon move on as the refresh button is pressed. Work that should stand the test of time, becomes nothing more than than a popularity contest where ephemera is the order of the day.
My job is to build models, write about them and hope that that inspires others to tackle similar projects. In the main, that means that almost all of my models are chosen for me, kits that hit Editor’s desks, vying for attention, ready to be shared out to those most suited to the task in paint-stained hand. Such is this Pavlovian routine, where the bell of expectation begins the route-march once more, I am now seemingly incapable of making my own decisions. My work, my kits, my desires, are secondary to the needs of work, so when I do get a moment to grab a personal project I simply cannot decide what to do. The ringing of the bell starts the ball rolling, but when that sound fades into the distance, I am seemingly incapable of doing anything for myself, because I am now placed in a position where my need to impress, overwhelms my need to be creative for the sake of it. If I’m not being paid, what’s the point..?
When models are built for commissions, there is an unspoken assumption that you will do a good job for those that desire your work, be it for personal collections, or in my case, the pages of the magazines that I work to fill. Decisions are taken out of your hands, so that you almost know before opening the box how the model will look once finished; how you will take the photographs; what finish you will apply, how you will display the completed model. It’s a dance that I have done hundreds of times over the years, so now it’s second nature. Don’t get me wrong, my Editors are more than happy to allow me a degree of artistic freedom, but that is almost always reined in by the constraints of the kit, the manufacturer and what the magazine needs. When it comes to my own work though, that’s a different kettle of fish altogether.
When I build something for myself, I instinctively take a different path, one that allows wings to be stretched, thoughts and dreams to take flight, where ideas that may not be suitable for a review, can suddenly come to fruition in the hope of creating something altogether more memorable. And this is when the problems start. As this journey begins, I start to have conversations with myself, asking questions that start off with “which kit shall I build?”. I then spend time looking at the kit Online, seeing what is available for it, perhaps checking out other builds, the work of the aftermarket, odd features here and there, the real thing (always my jump-off point) before then starting to ask: what would my friends think of this? Will this catch the world’s eye? Will this be more impressive than what I’ve done before, and if so, will it generate more interest than last time? Can I do better than what I’ve seen elsewhere? And so the room reverberates to the sound of the starting gun as the competition begins..
So I stop as voices in my head that verbalise the need to compete ensure that I hit the first hurdle…
The kit goes back in its box.
I do nothing.
As I’ve got older, I’ve found this happening more and more, where I struggle to find projects to complete, because I’m terrified that I’m wasting time on something that will not generate the levels of interest that I seemingly crave to make it worthwhile. Modelling has become secondary within this age of global connectivity to the reactions that Social Media platforms can generate – but then, it’s not just Social Media that causes my self-imposed problems. The other trap that I’ve fallen into is one that’s harder to deal with, because somehow it feels more personal, closer to home, more real. Here, choices are made because I’m wary of other modellers not liking the the kits I’ve elected to build, so in order to pacify them, I build things that though more impressive, are on the whole, ones I don’t really care about one way or another. Going back to the competitions for a second, that’s one of the reasons why I am so antagonistic towards them, because I found myself building models to catch the eye of a judge, building a kit that was current, in a finish du jour so that I could grab one of those shiny medals that would all-but be forgotten before I’d even left the building. My work was being guided by my desire to follow the pack…To be part of something…To fit in. Now, I consider the reaction of others before even starting a build! Where in any other walk of life would you do this? Where would you ask friends what clothes to wear; what food to eat; what beer to drink? And yet, here we are.
In both of these cases, I was/am no longer doing what I want to because I want to, I’m doing it to ensure that I stay in the public eye. And you know what: that’s no reason to do anything artistic and it’s going to stop. Hell, it’s no reason to do anything at all. The rabbit hole in which I have found myself over the last few months is sufficiently deep that I can no longer see what is needed for my work to be what it should be, an enjoyable career, but away from that, a relaxing diversion from the stresses and strains of daily life.
Modelling, post 21K has become more competitive, of that there is no doubt. The Internet has given voice to millions that would not normally speak, showing off work that would otherwise be hidden. That being so, it is now incredibly difficult to be heard and be seen. You just have to look at the thousands of daily Facebook posts on modelling sites to see how many modellers want their chance to step into the glare of the spotlight. Those competitions have now moved from the blue-sheeted trestle tables of dusty village halls and sodium-lit sports centres, into the workshops and living rooms of modellers who can now see everything in microscopic detail, on 4K backlit screens. Now though, you have to be really good to keep the cursor from moving on. Reality gives time to pause for thought; screens simply offer a taste before refreshment, fleeting views of something that generates a like, without the need for further inspection. Catch the eye: job done. Miss the target: better luck next time.
I still want to carry on with what I do and indeed, will be expanding on this year’s ideas a little more in 2022. What I won’t be doing though I trying to please everyone all of the time and I’m going to stop competing both with myself and others. Fact of the matter is that there are 1000s of modellers out there that are head and shoulders better than me and that’s fine – it’s a big wide world. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t do my best, perhaps inspire others and enjoy the ride. But this need for affirmation and the pats on the back that follow a build has to become something that’s simply part of the journey rather than the destination. It’s either that, or I make the decision that modelmaking to me, for however long I can do it, is nothing more than a way of generating income, rather than something to love and appreciate in its purest sense.
Until next time take care, have a wonderful Christmas and I’ll see you again, soon.
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