The value of work – Commissions & Models for sale

Whenever I have talked with others or had enquiries about commission work, or selling already completed works, it always seems that people massively undervalue the work required to build, modify and paint a kit. Whereas I can understand that if you are new to the hobby, or have never done any modelling then you are going to assume that the cost for a commission, or making an offer on an already completed and painted kit is going to be the cost of the kit + paint + a little time. This is in most instances however, the offer is nowhere near enough. The value is not in the kit and paint, it’s in the work itself.

I can understand too that, if you are into Gunpla or Mecha kits and enjoy building them, that you perhaps just don’t have the time to paint them, and want to ask someone else to do it to a standard level without all the bells and whistles to display in your collection. This is where you need to think – you will be seeing it as just a paint job – most modellers will be seeing it as exercising their art form.

What many people do not realise is that by buying a completed work or by asking for a commission, you are not only putting a value on someones time and material, you are also putting a value on the level of skill – which can take years to perfect.

Anyone can paint a kit. Yes. Anyone. You snap off the pieces, grab a brush, spray can or air brush and cover the plastic in paint. Not anyone however can do it do a degree that has fantastic visual impact. This takes experience, skill and dedication to an art form. This is why when some experienced modellers are offered virtually the cost of a kit in return for work, they’re quite rightly sometimes insulted.

So how much should you pay to commission a modeller for their work? This is of course down to each modeller so there is no way I could give you a right answer, but here’s a few tips to bear in mind when asking.

  1. How good is the modellers work? This one has a little subjectivity to it, and can vary depending on a modellers style, but it’s worth doing your research first. Look at previous works. Compare it to others. Do you want this modeller to work on your kit? Think about how much money you have set aside for this project. It’s unlikely a multi-award winning and internationally recognised modeller is going to work for very little money, but it’s worth asking.
  2. Does the modeller do commission work? This should be your very first question. Save time and ask this first.
  3. Where are they based? Remember that exchange rates and costs of living are very different around the world. You are best off looking for a modeller from the same region as you to not only save on shipping, but also not to end up paying far more than you should.
  4. Have a set budget? Make this clear right away. If you’re noticing no one is interested, it’s likely not enough.
  5. Be clear on what you want. If you want to rely on the modellers creativity, this is fine, just make it clear as to what elements you want. Have a kit in mind. Most of the time the person wanting a model kit painted has the kit, and will send it to the modeller to be worked on. If not, make sure you can get hold of one. Some kits can be tricky to find at a good price. Find examples of other work you liked. Communicate as much as possible.
  6. Make an agreement. Once you are happy with what the modeller is offering, summarise what you want and make an agreement with the modeller. Once work starts, major changes can jeopardise a whole project. Every modeller is different of course so perhaps ask (if you feel you might) if it’s ok to request small changes during progress. Remember too, paying any money up front will require a higher degree of trust. Don’t get scammed. Exchange emails, don’t do everything over messaging apps or Facebook. Get acquainted enough to ensure this modeller is the real deal.
  7. Don’t treat modellers like a company. Modellers are people, not companies. Be polite please, this is not a boardroom deal. You might expect that in any exchange of money for a service, this entitles you to being a customer with consumer rights. It does in a way, but does not entitle you do be an asshole to someone you’ve not given any money to. Most modellers are hobbyists, meaning they will be working on your model in their spare time. As most of the time there is no legal agreement for services rendered, keeping a good relationship will result in a win-win every time. You’ll get a great model, the modeller will get paid for their time, and hey, you might make a new friend.
  8. Let the modeller give you a timescale. You can always ask for a work to be completed in a certain amount of time and if so it should be made clear very early on, however every modellers life is different with varying levels of spare time available. Ask them how long they expect a project to be finished. They will of course know better.

Remember, a multi-million dollar Dali oil painting is not worth the 100 pesetas he paid for the canvas and oil paints.

How much should you offer to a modeller, for a kit already produced? Sometimes the modeller already has a price in mind and will communicate this, and other times they’ll ask for offers. What’s important to remember here is how good the work is, the history of the modeller, perhaps how well known or respected they are among other modellers and most of all, how much you like the work. Remember, a multi-million dollar Dali oil painting is not worth the 100 pesetas he paid for the canvas and oil paints. Give them an offer worthy of their art. I’m not saying offer a million dollars, just be realistic by factoring in craftmanship.

Of course, don’t let any of this put you off ever asking a modeller about commission work or to enquire about a kit on sale. Most of us are approachable, decent folks who enjoy the interaction. Just understand that sometimes it’s frustrating to have your time wasted, or your work devalued unintentionally, and hopefully this will make things a little clearer. As I’ve mentioned a few times, every modeller is different and may not even agree with what I’ve written, and it’s all based off experiences I’ve had and others who I have talked too. Receiving a request for a commission is a real honour and gives us good vibes, and getting a good price for our work is equally gratifying. I will always recommend however, if you don’t have the money for a commission or completed work, get yourself into painting and detailing. It’s not as expensive as you realise, and all it takes is time, dedication, education and interaction.

Anything to add? Did I miss something or got something wrong? Got some experiences of commissioning, or being commissioned to do work? Good stories? Bad? Do share! 





Foundations, before custom?

One thing I have noticed, especially so over the past year or so in the hobby is that more and more custom model kits are appearing, but the standard of work is dropping. It may be the case of course that there are more beginners in the hobby than ever (which is great news), and we’re just better connected through the medley of social channels, but the question stands – should you have a better understanding of the fundamentals of mecha modelling, before you attempt to make a custom model? Most modellers would of course agree, but is anyone listening?

To clarify, the ‘standard’ of work I refer to in this article is not necessarily how well it’s painted or customised but how well detailed, and now much attention has been paid to removing seam lines and nubs of a kit, that make it look like a kit. The overall point of a model kit of course to make it look as ‘real’ and as pretty as you can. I have commonly seen kits with a medley of additional weapons, metallic paint jobs and wings and fins jutting out in all directions, but have very visible seam lines, dirty oil marks from panel lining and ugly, amateurish posing. Much like mine on occasion.. but we’re not talking about me…:)

I understand there is a little debate too over the very definition of the word ‘custom’ so for the sake of this article, let’s define it as any model kit that has extra parts that are not original to the kit. 

With the encouragement of Bandai through the build fighter series of improved engineering on HG kits having a more compatible interchangeability, and it’s range of weapon sets and accessories it’s now easier than ever to make customised kits. How good is that! I have a few sets myself and they most certainly save a lot of time. Making a customised kit now is much easier than toiling through cutting pla-plate, waiting hours for putty to dry and having the patience of a saint, but can you really define it as a unique creation?

A while back, there was an err of muted criticism surrounding people who only snap-fitted their kits, sharing their creation with glee meeting with mumbling grumbles from the disapproving mecha modelling community (including me, I can be a dick sometimes but I stay true), and praise from their follow collectors. While the old snapfitters v modellers argument is null, creating a snap-fitted ‘custom’ from other snap-fitting parts is still, a snap-fitted kit, and as such should not really demand praise from actual mecha modellers. Is is however a step in the right direction, if mecha modelling is going to be your thing.

I have increasingly seen, in blog features especially, a ‘custom’ kit of this style where it has all the bells and whistles but is severely lacking in the very basics of modelling – as if the modeller has wilfully ‘skipped a step’ in the whole learning process.

Now, I’m not teacher nor any kind of expert, but my philosophy has been since I started out in the hobby to get all the basics of seam line removal, masking, painting, aesthetics and assembly before I attempt any kind of customisation. It seems nowadays that kids are picking up a knife and styrene before they have even tackled removing nubs, and are discouraged from taking it any further by that handful of arrogant mecha modellers blurting out unhelpful insults on their first public showcase. It’s a tired metaphor, but you really do need to learn to walk, before you can run. You should also consider where you are posting your work, if you are of that ilk.

It could of course just be a generational thing. I grew up with the understanding that, it takes time and effort to accomplish. Millennials to me are an on-demand generation. Here and now. TL;DR. I want that skill now. I can’t get it. Oh, I can if I just buy these kits.. Genius marketing from Bandai when you think about it. Perhaps, if the interest is retained we can be sure the art form of mecha modelling will continue. Right now, I think the models being showcased are simply not inspirational enough.

Now I’m making an awful lot of assumptions here for sure, and I am merely talking from my own experience with the modelling aspect at heart. So what do you think? Do you think the ‘basics’ as I term it are getting communicated out enough? Is there enough support from the mecha modellers to help out beginners, or should they just be left alone to just do what they want? Are these new types of HG kit a good thing for mecha modelling as an art form, or are they just another way to make your toys have bigger guns? Would love to hear your thoughts!