Though my approach is most certainly driven by my professional responsibilities, I’m not entirely convinced that I’ve ever been really keen to build and paint what can’t be seen. For instance, I have never, not once, painted the underside of a tracked military vehicle model.
As this is being written, I’m building a Hasegawa 1/48 F-15C for Brett Green and Model Airplane international. Despite being easily – in my opinion – the best looking military jet of all-time and depending on the direction of the wind and my mood on any given day, by favourite aircraft (yes, I know the Harrier is also up there..!). Despite that, I’ve only ever built a handful of models of the Eagle and none of those has been a single-seater, so I’m enjoying the chance to finally build what is starting to look like an entire collection of F-15s in miniature.
Given that I’m working on this machine for the first time, I’ve used the opportunity to add detail to the model, replacing the cockpit with one from Aires, added jet-pipes from a Revell F-15E (which I will then re-engine with F110 jet pipes to create a Boeing F-15EX) and then detail here and there to improve the model’s overall look – it will also be finished in the markings of my favourite F-15 unit, the 48th FIS. Along the way, I’ve also taken the time to paint areas that would not normally be seen all in order to produce a more rounded feature for publication. And that dear reader has lead me into this rambling diatribe and some thoughts on my personal approach to the building of models…
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As I was painting the inside of the jet-pipes and then adding some fake shadows that I figured would look good in the images if not inside the model, I was reminded how much my approach tends to fly in the face of those modellers to whom the inclusion of as much detail as possible is not so much an aspiration, as a fundamental part of any build, which is of course, exactly how it should be. If you have spent your hard-earned on a kit, you certainly want to wring the most from it, taking up as much time during construction and painting as possible. When building models is a way of passing time, you have zero need to run headlong through a build, every aspect being a step to savour rather than one to complete in the shortest possible time.
My approach is certainly different from that. As a builder who almost only ever builds to a deadline, I have to find ways of cutting corners, leaving out parts of the model that I know will never be seen when the completed model is completed and then offered for display.
Last year, I was commissioned to build the HKM 1/32 Lancaster for Zero West Watches. They wanted a large and very specific model of one of the aircraft that took part in Operation Chastise. The model was to be as accurate as possible, painted and weathered to look well-used and then completed, wheels-up, ready for display in their HQ. Working to their deadline, my first step was to look at the instructions and then work out not how much I could do to the model, but how little. Everything that wasn’t needed was marked out and then removed from the kit, redundant interior parts, engines and undercarriage, all ending up in the bin. I then worked out how much of the interior would be seen and how much I would have to paint, both in base colours and then, detailed. By doing all of this I could not only focus on what was important, I could cut the time down to build and paint the model by around 50% – just what was needed when the finish was so involved and the schedule so tight.
Whilst building the Lancaster I was reminded of the Airfix Wellington that I had completed a few years before. Anyone that has tackled that particular kit will know that it is superbly-detailed, with a stunning recreation of the aircraft’s interior. What sets this kit apart as well, is that Airfix specifically set out in their instructions areas that you can happily ignore because they won’t be seen within the completed model! Just like my Lancaster, the designers offer the modeller the opportunity to focus on what is perhaps important to each individual and then ignore what is not. Though it’s not the first time that Airfix have offered the modeller such choices (their large-scale 1/24 kits allowing engines to be fitted, or not) it’s the first time I’ve seen it in a 1/72 offering. Maybe there are others, who knows?
Though my approach is most certainly driven by my professional responsibilities, I’m not entirely convinced that I’ve ever been really keen to build and paint what can’t be seen. For instance, I have never, not once, painted the underside of a tracked military vehicle model and I’ve completed hundreds over the years. Why would I? Other than a cursory blast over with the base colour, I tend to leave it at that. No-one is going to pick up one of my models and look underneath so why waste time weathering an area that is entirely invisible? But I think that there is more to it that that and that’s my reasons for building models in the first place.
Building models to me is a means to an end: the owning of a completed replica that I’ve built, painted and decalled. I think it’s alway been that way. Though I love building models, it’s the owning of the completed model that drives me more than the time spent getting it to that point. It’s why as a kid I used to rush the building of dioramas and why they often didn’t really feature too much in the way of accessories and figures, each of those keeping me from my completed set-piece. Of course that meant that they were often pretty halfhearted, unfinished and lacklustre, but hey-ho, at least they were done! Time, that most important of modelling healers, put paid to that approach as experience and patience grew along with my understanding that though I could still cut corners, that could only be done if they did not impact on the final look of the completed model. In essence: if I can cut down the time it takes to complete a model, I will!
These days, I most certainly have an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach to building models and definite don’t espouse the idea of doing anything because “I know it’s there..”, even if as I suspect that raises more than a few eyebrows amongst the intelligence to whom such wanton compromises are anathema at best, an a flogging offence at worst. If I don’t have to build and paint something, I wont, but that’s never around an area that can be seen clearly by any onlooker and never if it impacts on my published builds and the images that accompany each one.
But of course what the model gives with one hand, it takes away with the other, especially in the day and age of complex finishing products and techniques (see my previous update that discuss my thoughts on this particular matter entitled “Is model-making becoming too easy..?‘.
Though I avoid the unseen, I spend way more time obsessing over my need, nay, compulsion, to paint models with as close to perfect a surface finishes as possible. Nothing is going to slow me down more than a rough finish, poorly sprayed camouflage, or decalling that’s silvered through my lack of attention. All of these facets of my individual builds now combine to replace time that could be taken completing hidden areas, with other needless obsessions. That fleck of dust I can see under the paint – how likely is that to be seen in an image on a magazine page? That odd bit of silvering under that ‘NO STEP’ stencil – it’s hardly visible in 3D, so why worry about it in 2? And yet I now do. Now, ‘out of sight, out of mind’ has been replaced with ‘if in sight, keep in mind’…
So I’ll go back to my F-15 safe in the knowledge that it’s on schedule and everything that needs to be done, will be. After that, I have a Tamiya 1/12 Tyrrell P34 planned that with be fully painted inside and out. Having looked at the instructions it would appear that nothing on the model can be hidden and much like the 1/12 motorcycles that I love so much, it will all be on show. I might need a different approach to this one, but I know that it will still be fun project to complete, even if as I suspect my desire to get it over the finish line so that I can admire my completed model, will be as strong as ever.
See you next time.
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If you like my work, you will be interested to know that I have a new book out. Dedicated to the construction of the Airfix Hunter, this new modelling guide will show yo how to build, paint and convert the kit for you collection. For further information, please visit the follow update where til will find more information about the book and how to order a copy for your library.
- 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
- WE VISIT THE NEWARK AIR MUSEUM!
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