Cult-like, the modelling Flagellants will never be short of opinions on the subject, talking down those kits that are deemed too easy in the face of something more worthy, more challenging, more in keeping with the needs of the true believers to whom the paintbrush is sacrosanct, and the airbrush, sacrilegious.
Often my thoughts on this hobby of ours are driven by snippets that I catch on forums, web posts, or the various social medial accounts that I spend far too much time navigating each day. This particular train of thought departed from Drewe Manton’s modelling station several days ago, and though I didn’t place too much attention on it at the time, a day or so of subconscious musings and an early rise this morning, have conspired to drive me to write this Friday morning update.
So, is the hobby of model-making becoming too easy..?
Now, before I begin, I should perhaps set out my modelling stall so that you can see that I’m being evenhanded here before I depart on my rambling journey that’s likely to offer little in the way of sensible thought, and even fewer concrete conclusions. I build everything, no matter what age, what quality of kit and how easy or not that kit is. I’m as likely to work on a brand-new Tamiya kit, as I am a 50-year-old Monogram offering that pitches cutting edge technology against past glories. That, I guess, gives me something of a wider view of the hobby and the kits that we build, so I hope you will at least recognise that experience for what it’s worth and take this essay in all of its well-meaning, glory!
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There is no doubt that kits in the 21st Century are easier to put together…In the main. Most products that you buy from your local modelling emporium or online superstore are likely to be well-moulded, accurate, simply broken down, well-fitting and detailed to a level that will suit most needs. That’s not offered as an opinion, that’s simply a fact. Yes, there are kits that fall well below those standards (sometimes within ranges that offer well-established excellence – no names, no pack drill…) but they tend to be exceptions rather than rules. Modellers in 2023, even beginners, know that they can grab a kit, some glue and a small collection of paints and after a few hours of enjoyable time in the evenings, end up with something that is more than a passing facsimile of their chosen subject.
So yes, model-making, has in the main become easier. But that’s not the whole picture, is it?
Though I choose to build older kits and enjoy the challenge that they offer to me amongst the über kits of 2023, I understand fully why others don’t want to do that. Why spend time dealing with fit issues, when you can enjoy the pleasure of parts that ‘click’ into place? Why struggle with raised panel lines, when incised detail allows you weather a model with ease? Modelling is a hobby and hobbies really shouldn’t be a battle of wills that you endure rather than enjoy. But that’s not what we are discussing here. That’s not what is wanted from those that espouse difficulty over relaxing ease. Cult-like, the modelling Flagellants will never be short of opinions on the subject, talking down those kits that are deemed too easy in the face of something more worthy, more challenging, more in keeping with the needs of the true believers to whom the paintbrush is sacrosanct, and the airbrush, sacrilegious.
But it’s not the whole picture, is it?
Of course it’s not. Let me lay out my feelings on this: building models in 2023 is easier than it was for instance in 1980; painting them though, that’s a whole different ball game. And that, in a nutshell is what makes modelling today every bit as challenging as it was in the past – we just now have different hurdles to overcome.
Along with the uptick in the quality of the world’s kits, we have had an exponential rise in the levels of detail seen in each one. Gone are the days when the most basic Spitfire kits contained little more interior detail than a peg and pilot to sit on it. Now, the best kits include microscopic details that all need to be carefully assembled and then painted, painting that requires high levels of skill and dexterity to match finished paintwork with underlying plastic detail.
Surface detail too will need to be carefully drawn out and what about those decal sheets? Unit markings and national insignia are now dwarfed in number by the incredible collection of stencils that tire the eyes and drain the energy of even the most dedicated enthusiast. They’re not easier, are they? The kits might be effortless to build (in part) but they are often far from straightforward to paint. Model-making might be easier, model-painting most certainly is not…
And then of course we have the aftermarket to look at, myriad products being offered to add incredible levels of additional detail to your ‘simple’ plastic model kit. That Airfix Meteor that you are struggling to engage with thanks to its simplicity? How about adding an etched cockpit, resin details and a new set of decals for a more complex colour scheme? What about a conversion? All of a sudden, that simple kit is not so simple any more, is it?
As mentioned earlier, I have a foot in both camps, liking the new and old in equal measure (actually, that’s not entirely true, I like the older kits far more, but that’s down to emotional need rather than anything to do with pitching one against the other). Despite that, I cannot help but prickle when this type of conversation arises within the hobby. Much like the debate around handpainting and airbrushing, I always conclude that those on the belligerent side of the fence are simply grandstanding, announcing to an ever-dwindling audience that they are in some way a more competent modeller because they chose to take the difficult path to completion of their choice subject. It’s nonsense. And demeaning. And frankly annoying, that this still goes on after the ‘50s debate over plastic kits replacing hand-carved wooden models, was consigned to the bin of history.
Just because you decide that older, often more challenging kits are for you, doesn’t make your hobby any more impressive than that enjoyed by those that don’t. It really doesn’t, any more than only building complex kits released today, over simpler offerings aimed at the beginner, places you in a higher skills bracket that’s somehow worthy of highlight. It should never be a battle over the soul of a pastime, where difficulty is somehow the arbiter of a success or enjoyment. Build what you want, when you want and the rest of it should be kept to oneself.
See you next time.
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- WHY NEW KITS ARE NO LONGER IMPORTANT…
- LET’S BUILD TAMIYA’S 1/48 TOMCAT!
- COSFORD’S WELLINGTON: ON DISPLAY AT LAST!
- ‘HUNTER’ AND ‘A YEAR IN MINIATURES’: MY NEWEST BOOKS ARE NOW AVAILABLE VIA POCKETMAGS
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