When I have tried to explain what I do on a model building forum, I usually end up describing exactly what’s often called the “Be a Kid Again” group build. “Go for it kids! Relive your childhood before you discovered how to do real modeling! Build a model with just a paintbrush! No masking! It’ll be hilarious! Wear a silly costume, like a little kid and eat your favorite kid food and watch cartoons while you build. The whole thing should only take an hour or two. It’s a great way to avoid AMS!”
This whole idea conveys so many wrong ideas, culminating in something that an evil sorority at some ghastly party school in Alabama might think up. Lets consider the facts. Nobody (on the forum) is saying that model building is childish. Nobody said that the only way to make it an adult activity is to buy an airbrush, and yet somebody certainly has jumped to that conclusion. The fact that these “no airbrush blitz builds” show up on forums (or used to, anyway) says something. It indicates just how tightly the notion that “adult model building” involves spray painting is holding us in its grip.
I don’t blame anyone who falls into this trap. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve explained to an outlander what it is I do for fun, and been met with the kind of stare that I would assume would arise if you answered the question “Do you have any hobbies?” with the answer “Embalming.” But then the word “airbrush” gets mentioned and it’s “OH! YOU HAVE AN AIRBRUSH?!?” Like that’s some kind of a big deal. The message is being sent loud and strong. You may be a nerd who glues toy airplanes together, but you might just be an airbrush artist, if you just move this way a bit and hold the airbrush out in front of you, like that.
I don’t know if I have had anything to do with the departure of this type of group build, but I can always dream, can’t I? I like to think that maybe the fact that I can get a good result (and so can a lot of other people) with a brush has tended to take the moxie out of these kinds of things. Something about model building as an on-line activity has really, really gone in a bad direction when something goes on that is just so obviously negative. The whole idea of doing something to make fun of something is just, well, wrong. The idea that a model will always be a silly mess unless it’s spray painted is just not true. So, hopefully, we can skip that kind of thing in the future. How would it look if I joined one of these things and built something respectable in the time allotted, sticking to the rules? It would look like someone hadn’t thought this through.
My model building is almost exactly as it was when I was eight, in terms of methods. I do paint invasion stripes with a brush, just as I tried to do when I was eight, and failed. I do paint “feathered” edges on camouflage schemes, just as I tried to do when I was eight, and failed. I do paint the canopy frames on the models with a brush, just as I tried to do when I was eight, and failed. But I don’t fail now. An adult has more potential skill than a child. An adult can learn to do things that a child cannot learn to do. In our “youth obsessed” culture we often lose track of the reality that children (usually) aren’t adult-like in their abilities. We glorify fifteen-year-old athletes at the Olympic Games, when those athletes are children and are not, and should not, be “hitting their peak.” Their life should not be cresting at that age.
The great danger we all face is buying into the cultural insanity that tells us that we “peak” in our teens and it’s all down-hill from there. We may accept this idea so completely that we just give up, and quit trying to do better, instead allowing ourselves to be distracted by “adulthood”–i.e., raising children, pursuing careers, paying mortgages, and all the other stuff that has nothing to do with actually growing in any direction. I’m amazed when I encounter someone who seems very interested in “personal growth” but they don’t do anything to demonstrate “growth.” They forget that in order to get better you have to get better at something. Maybe if we Americans quit trying to sell “art” to each other and started making art for its own sake, then this idea of “growth” would fall away and replaced by something real.
(Of course, there’d always be those guys hanging out under the bleachers, smoking cigarettes and snickering at the idea that model building might be “art.” Well they can Go to Hell(TM).)
I’ve done several things in my life that I did not get better at as I aged. Rollerblading. Rollerblading is not something that I got better at as I aged. But painting is on another level. I intend to get better at it until the day I die, and on the day that I’m no longer getting better, I’ll figure that it’s time to be moving on.
That’s how I’ll know.