Let’s talk about the GBWC and how to fix it, unless you’re bored of it already

First off, a little housekeeping. It’s been a while since I posted. I’ve been busy, and have not found something good or juicy to write about. Secondly, some caveats. This is likely going to largely resemble Tim of Child of Mecha’s recent facebook stream, so If you don’t have the time or are averse to reading things above a certain length, by all means listen to that. In fact, it might be worth listening to that first before reading this. Another caveat, and I really should not have to write this but I feel in this age of major misunderstanding I should, everything here is just my opinion, and I am happy to have my mind changed.

Every model that won something this year, very well done to you all. You are brilliant, amazing and highly skilled builders I have a tremendous amount of respect for. There are some models however, I just don’t like. Not because they’re not well done, but because I have my own tastes. I actually cringe slightly reading back this sentence, it seems you can’t say anything without it being seemed as a statement of objective fact. What a bizarre culture social media is generating. What I want to address as many already have is the massively inconsistent judging, and if the GBWC can even be taken seriously as a contest for modellers any more?

As Tim put it, there seems to be a confusion as to whether the GBWC is a contest of artistic expression, or of technical design. I would rephrase it as, is the GBWC an art, or design show? Should it be constrained within the world of Gundam, or be allowed to go beyond? It’s already constrained within Gunpla, so it fits it’s namesake at the very least, but is that enough to allow a contest such as we have just experienced?

The GBWC every year has some kind of controversy or social media hype, but I think this is the first time the scrutiny of judging has spread into the ‘mainstream’ of the community. The issue is the consistency across the regional events – in particular cases such as the USA by comparison to the Japanese winners, the distance in style between the two is very obvious. The USA’s winner, as stunningly created as it is, is a neon-techno anime dream of gunpla, with virtually no connection to the Gundam universe other than it’s base parts. The Japanese entry looks like a technical drawing from a Dendrobium Haynes manual, complete with cutaway revealing some stunningly meticulous inner detailing. These two are a great example of the obvious contrast in judging style. So what’s the problem with this? Everyone builds a model they like right? on an open playing field. There’s complete, artistic freedom to go either the design route, or the art route. Great right? I disagree. I disagree becuase it is stright up, unfair.

There are builders who have varying tastes, but I also think when you get to a certain level of mastery you’ve concentrated and practiced on so many particular skills that you’re not capable of expressing skills in a completely different style, at least not to a level that could compete. I could not for example, see Seth Tuna put together a piece as artistically expressive as Win Eiam Ong, and perhaps vice-versa. Not to judge these two modellers of course, but I could imagine forcing these chaps to do one style they’re not comfortable with will almost certainly impact their motivation to compete. This to me rules out the GBWC in it’s current form, or the idea of ‘theming’ the contest annually which would make it pretty boring.

And here we arrive at a possible solution, and one I think all Gunpla modellers, worldwide should be advocating for. Categorisation. Tim suggested this in his address and I think this is a perfect solution we should all get behind. At the very least, make 2 categories, one for ‘design’ based builds, that could (perhaps) exist within the Gundam universe or approximation of, and one ‘expressive’ or ‘artistic’ category in which anyone is free to do anything, as long as it uses Gunpla. It’s so simple, and surely would not be all that tricky to implement? It would of course mean 2 winners, or multiple winners, but as much as I hate to speculate on the marketing strategy of a multi-million dollar company, it would in my opinion be a smart and very inclusive marketing strategy for Bandai. How each piece however would be deemed to go into each category would be down to the entrants, and the judges to decide. Contentious perhaps, but fairer than ‘enter it and see what happens’.

The ‘design’ category would be judged by seasoned, actual scale mech modellers, and the ‘art’ category, by seasoned art-based and more expressive modellers. The details of who and how I don’t know, but I know it would be a more gratifying solution. There could of course, still be an ‘overall’ winner from either category, deemed as ‘the best’ and judged by an entirely different mix of judges. At least this way, people can be more confident that their skillset will be judged fairly, and in the spirit of real competition. Put it this way, javalin throwers in the olympics don’t compete with the hammer throwers, even though they’re essentially still trying their best to throw an object the furthest.

 Put it this way, javalin throwers in the olympics don’t compete against the hammer throwers, even though they’re trying their best to throw an object the furthest.

As much as we all discuss and advocate for reforming ideas as a community, there is of course one thing we should all understand. Bandai, does not care about modellers, it cares about sales. Sounds cold, but it’s true, and if you think otherwise you are kidding yourself. Understanding this however should not make you ‘hate the capitalist machine’. This company is responsible for a franchise you love, and without it there would be no Gunpla. Sure there’s other companies doing it, but without the success of Gunpla they wouldn’t exist either. Bandai is either going to take notice, or not – the fact is we don’t know, but we can at least write, make videos about and rant about the GBWC across the internet and at least attempt to be heard. For now, let’s congratulate the winners, even if you don’t like the models. One day perhaps you’ll win, and see how you feel when everyone tells you, you don’t deserve it after spending months and months on a build. You can hate the model, but there’s no point in hating the modeller.

 

 

 

Too many runners, not enough walkers

When you first start out in the hobby, you are likely consistently impressed by the work you discover, and quickly realise that many of artworks you see are customised. It makes sense that in order to get to that level, you need to start customising your models. But if you ask any experienced modeller where you should start as a beginner, the most common advice you are likely to receive is ‘learn the basics first’. Why is this? and what are ‘the basics?’

The ‘basics’ for me anyway are being able to remove nub marks, make seam lines that are not a part of a models original design invisible, and have a basic understanding of paint types and priming. It’s not much at all when you think about it. Especially when there is a whole plethora of online tutorials to cover all of these aspects from a lot of scale modelling perspectives. Whatever is available to you material wise, in whichever country you reside in, you can find a way. No excuses! It does not even take all that long too to master these skills. I would estimate anyone getting it down within 20-ish hours of activity. It’s also worth mentioning too that, if you want to be good at this hobby, spend some money on tools, paints and materials. The model kit that has just come out and you must have, can damn well wait if you are serious about this.

From a combination of social media, forums, websites competitions I see an awful lot of model artworks. Whereas my modelling experience pales in comparison to many outstanding and not so outstanding modelers out there, I still like to think I have a good eye for a well executed model. I can say when something is objectively good, based on more than my own tastes, and continue to be blown away by groundbreaking ideas. What becomes tiresome for me though is seeing attempted customization of models that have not been thought through and more so demonstrate the modelers laziness to learn the basics. Not only are these kinds of models disturbing and sometimes comical, it also frustrates me because I feel as though it’s a tremendous waste of time for the modeler, and it tends not encourage any useful feedback. It can also attract a lot of trolling and nastiness, such is the nature of social media. You can tell in some instances, that hundreds of hours have been ploughed into a project but the end result is a mess of clutter, clashing colour and sloppy workmanship. The time could have been better spent simply making a nice paint job, and ensuring seams are dealt with. I would rather look at a basic, but clean paint job than a mess of jutting plastic. Right out of the box, no mods, no additions, just the basics. Some of the most incredible works I have seen have had no modification, or subtle well thought out and complimentary modification that works with the models original design, along with a knockout paint job. Rarely do I rate one which has 6 out of scale weapons strapped to ugly arms protruding out from a nubby spray can painted HG freedom. Creating an original concept that’s interesting and exciting, can never be fully realised or appreciated without the skill to create it.

To conclude, and I think I have probably written about this very same subject before but it’s worth a revision, don’t run before you can walk. People will not be impressed with your first few models, regardless of how complex a customisation you have in mind. Just knock out some nicely painted, tidy kits. Once you can do that without struggle, get some advice, start a little scribing here and there. Further down the line, try chopping up some plaplate. Become adept at all the skills first, before combining them all. It takes, on average, 10,000 hours to master a skill. If you work on your hobby for example, 10 hours a week – you’ve got 20-ish years to go until you’ve mastered it. Just to put it into perspective!

 

MG Sword Impulse Complete

It’s been a while eh?

I have completed an MG Sword Impulse, this time with a little wear and tear weathering. I wanted it to be in a state of looking as if it had seen good use, but had not sustained any real damage. A bit dirty, a bit skuffed and a little bit of paint peel-age.

I tried out a new method of dirtying up / gunking on the thighs, taken from the mecha modelling book from Mig Jimminez, and it worked great. A little too much perhaps, but I think I got the method down on the first attempt.

I have also created a kind of start-to-end video on the whole Sword Impulse, which will be uploaded next week. For now, here’s the gallery:

MG Sword Impulse

 

 

 

A quick look back at 2016

Well that’s 2016 nearly done, and it’s been an interesting year although not as productive as I would have liked (I feel I say this every year?). First off, congrats to Win AKA the Paint Pusher for his second place entry in this years GBWC, and to Tim AKA Child of Mecha for placing 7th. Seeing these works in progress and following they’re time at the GBWC event was a fantastic rollercoaster. Congrats too, to everyone who entered and to Kasuke Yokota for that stunning winning piece that was an incredible testament to the hobby

Looking back over the past year, I think modelling wise I have made some improvements, I feel my detailing skill and air brushing is improving having tried a few more differing styles of light modulation, and new types of paint. I now understand why so many people love using Mr.Color lacquers. It seemed like the UK was never going to be able to get a supply of this stuff and the moment it was available, I stocked up without regret. The coverage, durability and boldness of colour is fantastic.

My favourite kit worked on this year is most certainly the RE/100 GP-04 Gerbera. I find the proportion and design very pleasing, as well as the solid construction and engineering. Painting and detail was a pleasure, and I would even consider getting another for an alternative colour scheme. My experience with the RE/100 line is limited to only 2 so far and both have been fantastic kits. I think I’ve been won over, but would still prefer MG’s, as all good fanboys probably should.

Painting wise, I really enjoyed the Typhoon Cerberus. Although it was a tad laborious, the final result was satisfyingly spiky and battle-ready, and it’s a model I still get much enjoyment from in the display cabinet. The Efreet too was great fun, whereas it’s not in my top 5 kit’s aesthetically, it holds a memory of a nice challenge among fellow YouTubers that I hope we can repeat in future.

I sometimes forget too that I went to Japan this year – it all seemed to go by so quick and it was such a pleasure to take one last look at the 1:1 Gundam in Odaiba. It’s sad it’s coming down next March, but it does get me kind of excited as to what is going to happen next with the 40th anniversary looming. A walking, moving Gundam perhaps? The mind boggles at the thought.

The relaunch of the Mecha Lounge was a nice addition this year, and where the membership is (as expected) slowing a little there remains the beginnings of a community all about the modelling. Hopefully 2017 will bring some new contests and build offs to really get those creatives in gear. I honestly did not expect it to do well at all, and quickly dry up in interaction but members are still logging in and posting, despite it’s seemingly archaic interface. Thank you to everyone who has joined up so far, you’re all the ones making it work.

GunplaTalk, now on it’s 20th episode has been a real pleasure to be a part of. I have met and chatted with some great chaps throughout the year and made some new friends. I look forward to doing more of these in 2017.

YouTubing has been admittedly slow. I think it’s down to the fact I feel like I am delivering more and more of the same content in the form of WIPs, where I am repeating the same processes over and over. I don’t want it to get too dull, but at the same time I want to start posting vids weekly again. If not, the facebook page will be hosting the odd live video feed now and then. We shall see how goes.

I’ll round this short ramble up with a thank you, to everyone in the community and all mecha modelling nerds out there. You’re a genuinely super community, with a gratifyingly low amount of dickery. Much love and respect to you all, have yourself a bloody Merry Christmas and a blooming marvellous New Year.

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! 

 

 

 

 

Dear Bandai, the UK wants a GBWC! (I think?)

As the 2017 GBWC event reaches it’s final heat in Japan, I have been salivating over the incredible work on show from all over the world, and I am left thinking as I annually do, I wish I had the opportunity to join this fantastic competition.

Being from the UK where the hobby is still very niche, and where kit sales are limited by a handful of highly competitive small, local and Japanese retailers without any UK wholesale agreements all vying to take business from the Goliath of international model kit retailers HLJ.com, it’s hard to gauge just how ‘big’ the UK scene really is in terms that Bandai will take notice of – actual sales. I wonder if HLJ.com report their sales by country? Would there be any benefit for them to do this even? I do however know one thing for sure. We have some exceptional talent that deserves a slot in the GBWC, and we would be a fantastic addition to a growing international event.

I find that here in the UK we are at a kind of impasse, where our talent meets the requirements but we’re simply held back by a technicality – for want of a better word. Is there a way to show Bandai how well their kits are selling in the UK? It would require, I would think a direct link to the event organisers and a concerted effort from all retailers selling to, and from within the UK reporting back sales figures, or a large wholesaler to take up the ‘risk’ of stocking Gunpla. I just can’t see this happening. Local UK retailers are working with crazy small margins to aviod been smashed by import charges and to not pass these costs onto customers – meaning smaller Japan-based retailers and individual sellers are able to undercut them on price. This is all business, and completely understandable – the demand is that people want the best prices for kits, and have little to no interest in paying that little bit more for the short term, for long term gains in terms of better deals for UK-based retailers – which would not even be guaranteed at this stage. It’s pretty obvious to state that if more UK retailers where selling Gunpla, competition would increase and prices will drop, but without affordable access to wholesale for small retailers, this is distant goal.

Don’t get me wrong here. This is no hit-piece for any retailers out there, I am just writing this as I see it with the experience of talking to retailers worldwide and wholesalers like Blue Fin over in the US, but this highly competitive nature of Gunpla sales here in the UK is definitely a stumbling block in the way of getting a GBWC event here in the UK. There are some questionable techniques in my opinion too employed by some retailers in social media that create these strange, factional echo-chambers with brand advocates exchanging pointless defamation for causes unknown. If your service, advertising and prices are good, and you have a good and expandable business model – there should be no need for such activity, surely one of the rules of business is to not limit your potential customer base? I will avoid these sellers, but would not begrudge anyone else wanting to get good prices, nor bear any ill feeling towards retailers having to work with no advertising budget and social/organic reach alone. Just like everyone else of course, I will look for the kits I want at the best prices and put ethics in last place (as bad as that sounds, it’s true for most of us on a budget) – and instead advocate for the hobby here in the UK as and where I can, recommending retailers on the basis of who is best for the hobby. In light of this, I am hoping that I can attend next years IPMS show in Telford along with a few other Gunpla fans (thanks to David for working to pull this together), to see if we can gain more interest in the hobby – because this is where it really matters for hobbyists and retailers alike. If you feel the UK needs representation in the GBWC, I urge you to do the very same. Talk about it, especially with your more nerdier mates, get them involved and show them just how incredible this hobby is. If you need a shout-out for anything social you are doing for the hobby here in the UK, have a facebook page, YouTube channel or blog to share, drop me a message. Always happy to help, and of course, get yourself a membership on the Mecha Lounge!

October Updates

Hello, just a few updates.

Firstly, the Mecha Lounge is now back up and running and getting a healthy membership, with some good interaction and sharing of work in progress. I realised how much I miss this kind of interaction, a place where completed and works in progress are discussed by mutual appreciation and genuine query and criticism.

Secondly, I’m still working in the wonderful magic toys 1/100 hazel. Lovely lovely lovely kit. The WIP so far can be seen here and they’ll likely be another this weekend. I would love to post more WIP vids more frequently, but it’ll end up being virtually the same video over and over as I repeat process’ for other parts!

I’m giving some thought to my next project too, I am considering starting work on the PG Unicorn in tandem with Justinius Builds. Also considering working on the Bandai Macross kit I have, or the awesomely overkill-looking Kagutsuchi sniper frame arms.

My fucking LED strip light inside the spray booth died.. means I need to dust off the soldering iron and look forward to burning my fingers again 🙂 For now, I moved it next to the window to use some natural light, which is in increasingly short supply as we descend into winter.

gbwcnycc

Lastly, some congratulations in order. Tim, AKA Child Of Mecha picked up the best in show at New York Comicon and two of my Team Helios brothers Jordan AKA Ed of 00gundamreviewsV2 and Henry AKA Vegeta8259 picked up best small-scale and Bandai Judge’s choice respectively. Very well done chaps, and fingers crossed we get to see one of you in Japan come December!

G-Con 2016 – The UK’s First Gundam Convention!

When I started out in the hobby back in 2012, I genuinely thought it was so niche that an event of this kind will likely never see fruition. I am very happy to say, it’s here. The UK’s First, Gundam convention will be held at York Racecourse on September the 24th, 2016!

Hosted by the good folks at Japan:cool the event will feature a GBWC style model compo, live music, a Gunpla Museum, a mech modelling panel (with top blokes Black Crab Studio and Stuart Lathe) live Gunpla Club podcast and a whole heap more.

If you are interested in going / participating than head on over to the G-Con website to purchase your tickets. 

A bitter pill to swallow for me, work and life commitments mean I am unable to attend, but I am totes attending the next one! I have had the pleasure of making up a few graphics and things for this event though so happy to have contributed in some way!