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!

 

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.

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!

Modding Guns

I have found on a vast majority of kits, especially HG kits that weapons are often understated, usually made by slapping together just two bits and a barrel with very little colour separation. There are a few exceptions to the rule of course, but if you do find your death cannon is more like a pea shooter, here’s a couple of ways to beef it up without having to invest in additional weapon sets.

Get masking! Yes, it’s pain staking, and especially fiddly on weapons but masking off and creating colour separation, picking out details and adding tiny variations of colour will really make it pop, especially on any exposed ‘inner mechanisms’. If you are finding some areas are just too tricky to mask, I highly recommend experimenting with liquid mask, which allows you to ‘flood’ recessed areas with a rubberising fluid. Here’s what I did with a little bit of common masking, liquid masking and hand painting details on my Duel Gundam Assault shroud rifle:

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MG Duel – Colour-separated gun

Modify it! Combining the weapon with scratch building and kit bashing is great fun and can make your weapon more unique – it does however take a little thought. Be sure the model can hold your newly modified weapon. When I saw how pitifully under-powered the MG Nemo’s pistol looked, I had to overcompensate and turn it into a total overkill blaster. I chopped the barrel off, made a box-section in pla-plate and added on some after-market detailing to.  Yes, it looks a little insane.. but I liked it.  I also modified the standard weapon on the Sinanju Stein, adding a huge scope to the front section to add to it’s ‘medium range’ theme. A little more subtle, but adds a lot.

moddesSinStein
Modified Sinanju Stein Weapon
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MG Nemo – Modified weapon

Modifying weapons – some tips!

  • If you want to entirely rebuild the gun, and want to make sure the kit can hold it – separate the handle from the gun, and start working from the handle.
  • Use parts from other guns you have in spare stock.
  • When gluing, always ensure surfaces are flat. Uneven surfaces may need putty work, and sanding surfaces that will be bonded by putty will help keep it together.
  • Take a look at other people’s work – think of form and functionality, and how it will look in context with the model.
  • If there is going to be additional weight and you are unsure the model will grip it ok, consider adding a peg to the handle to slot into the hand.

Do you have any tips or tricks to help with modifying weapons? Anything I missed, or you would like more detail on? Let me know in the comments!

Creating a model theme or backstory

When it comes to branching out into the world of mecha modelling, they’ll perhaps come a time when you want to start developing your own ideas outside of the kit’s ‘out of box’, or associated series. Everyone’s path and learning pace is of course different, but if you have not done any customisation before I urge you to get the basics down first. I have witnessed too many times, beginners creating customs right off the bat that are publicly (and unfairly) shot down in flames due to a lack of experience in the basics of modelling, and sometimes without even applying a little self-critique, and it’s not a pretty sight.  This article however is not about modelling per se, but is to advise on how you can develop your own concepts, themes and ‘back stories’ for your kits to start off your process of realising your ideas, if you want to try this route at all.

What is a back story?

Remember this, it really does not matter about canon. The kit is your’s, and you are not bound by any rules on how it should look. If you are fond of canon, and want to make it fit in say, the Gundam Universal Century timeline, then by all means do, just perhaps be more mindful of the type of critique you will receive, if you choose to showcase. You could even do a ton of research to really get it believable. Up to you! I’ve placed a few of my works in canon so far, such as this Geara Doga MG neo-zeon Daikun tribute.

A back story is of course a story surrounding your model. You can think about several aspects, such as who is the pilot? Which side is he / she on? What kind of character does the pilot have that would affect how the model looks? What weapons would he / she favour? Would he / she choose high-mobility? Light-weight armour? Environment is also a factor. Does your story take place on earth? Will your model be subject to weather conditions? Perhaps think about time too – how old is the model? Signs of rust? Fresh off the assembly line? The sky really is the limit here and what’s important is, can you convey it in your model?

Getting as much detail as possible can really help you focus on what you need to do, and can also really push your skills to help you improve. Having made your own story too, is surprisingly motivational since it invests your personality into your subject. Here’s a rudimentary ordered check-list, to help you dig down into a rich back-story:

  1. Universe: Chaotic / Warring Factions / Feudal / Peaceful / Pirates! / Terrorist / Post-war / Pre-war / Totalitarian / Religious conflict / Alternative reality / Canon / Our reality!
  2. Pilot’s character: Good / Bad / Neutral / Psychotic / Stoic / Virtuous / Mysterious / Funny / Egotistical / Complex / Dumb / Naive or no pilot at all!
  3. Mech: Completely customised (to fit pilot, or not!) / modified / standard, but with custom paint work / Grunt / Super-boss! / unconventional (maybe it’s got 4 legs?) / inappropriate / Non-combatant or civilian use / Covert / Support / Heavy / Light / Alien / Holy / Factory fresh / Space-weathered / Land-weathered / Battled / Destroyed / Long-distance range / Short range / A model, of a model? Getting all meta now!
  4. Load-out: Standard / Make-shift / Heavy / Light / Overkill / Unconventional / Cumbersome / Ranged / Melee / None?

This is of course, not just tied to a single character or mech. You could include all of this if you are intending to do a diorama with multiple models. You can be as in-depth, or as vague as you like. You could even provide a back story when you are showcasing, if you feel it’ll help. Just bear in mind, most people will not take the time to read it!

For some examples, I asked a couple of well known modellers about their projects. Special thanks to them for taking the time to answer my questions 🙂

Child of Mecha has a great example of back-story in canon work within the Gundam Universal Century timeline, more specifically in the wake of the Advance of Zeta series of picture novels, with the hugely impressive MSZ-006C1 (Bst) Zeta+ C1 Hummingbird, and included elements of the back-story on a plaque located in the display base:

CoM-hummingbird1

CoM-hummingbird6

CoM-hummingbird3

CoM-hummingbird4As you can see, Tim (AKA Child of Mecha) has created a back story from the Universe (Alternate canon, Universal Century), the Pilot (Lt. Thomas ‘red’ O’Malley, special forces pilot), the Mech (Customised, heavy weaponry, space-faring, long-range travelling off the factory line) andCoM-hummingbird5 the Load-out (Heavy, long range, powerful and customised, even has the pilot’s name as a decal!). Some additional factors Tim has included are what ship it was deployed from, what military detachment and faction it belongs with, and the time period in the UC line in which it is set. Just goes to show, you are not limited to just is it zeon or feddy? I asked Tim what his process was to come up with the back-story for this almighty project:

“Tough one. I think it originated from looking at the history of the Hummingbird online, how it was originally designed as an escort unit for the Plan303E Deepstriker, but since that was cancelled, so was the Hummingbird. Then I wondered what would it look like if the Hummingbird wasn’t cancelled, but yet further refined. I had the idea of a special unit that piloted Hummingbirds and Zeta+’s and the Grim Reapers were born. I wanted to keep the unit name and miscellaneous information somewhat grounded in reality. Since Annapolis is the state capital of Maryland (where I live), and it’s also home to the US Naval Academy, it made sense to think that a ship would be named after the city, so to pay homage, I assigned the Grim Reapers to the Annapolis. To further pay homage to my home I named the pilot, Thomas O’Malley, after, then, state govenor Martin O’Malley. I wanted to tie real world names and places into the background without going full on fanfic, but just enough for people to sink their teeth into when looking at the finished piece.”

You could even go right out of the box with your idea or back-story. Let’s look at the 2015 Gunpla Builders World Cup winner from Thailand, Win Eiam Ong’s (AKA the Paint Pusher) ‘another late night’.

another-late paint-pusher

He takes ordinary MG Epyon and MG Wing kit (with a few bits from others), and turns it into a diorama of a battle, carved out of wood by an artist, set in the ‘build fighters’ universe. It’s a theme, within a theme with minimal canon, no pilot, no focus on the mechs even, but the entire back-story is expressed in the work itself without any need for explanation. Conceptually, it’s right out-there, even meta-physical in a way and it’s a great example of taking a completely different approach to creating a back-story. Win’s idea came right out of the idea of no constraint to the expectation, which landed him the top prize in the mecha modelling world – do don’t feel like you ever have to be restrained by the model’s inherent purpose. Win explains this really well here, I urge you to have a read!

As always, I want to ask you, do you find having a back-story helps in your creative process, or do you not bother at all and just paint what you feel like painting? Ever become dangerously obsessed with your back-story and extended it into a full fan-fiction? Got any helpful hints or tips as to how to come up with a theme or back-story? I love to hear from you folks, so please, spill your brains and share your thoughts!

Thankings!

 

 

 

 

 

Are you a modelling realist, or a stylist?

Are you a rivet-counter, or a boy-racer? A very interesting suggestion for something for me to thump my keyboard keys about from Zach, I thought I would tackle the question and ask the community at large – which is more pleasing to do, and to look at?

Let’s start with a couple of definitions if I may,

A stylised model is one of conformity to a paradigm, or commonly showcased style. They’re generally ‘clean’and free to weathering, pretty realistically impractical, with oversized elements to give it that element of action or expression. Details are multi-coloured, tiny and metallic. Paint works come in a blinding array and combination of palettes, hues and finishes, but are commonly pre-shaded from the outside in to provide depth, and visual interest.

A realistic model involves more aspects of weathering, damage and physics. It has a more logical approach, with more theoretical elements. Creativity is found in method and execution. The kit looks more real, and requires arguably a great deal more practical skill to fool the eye into believing that what you are looking at is much closer to it’s proposed existence, and/or situation. It also invites more defined criticism, would it really look like that if it was hit with a .50 calibre rifle at 300m? Are their enough rivets, to hold that panel in place as it’s being smashed to the floor on a planet at 6g’s? I have seen some spectacular disagreements in this style descend into brass infantile insult I might add. Grab some popcorn when you see it!

So which is more popular? A quick gander around the social sphere and on blogging platforms reveals high contrast, bold colour palettes and fine detail win popularity contests. Realistic models however appear to garner a lot more interest from practising modellers, and model fans as opposed to anime fans and kit collectors. Either way, popularity does not indicate which is objectively the best.

Which method, is more enjoyable? Making a realistic kit from concept to execution is like riding a unicycle on a telephone wire. It’s either going to be very impressive, or people will think you are very stupid for attempting it in the first place. You could also topple off, making an awful mess on the pavement.  Both methods have their painful moments, but realism will at the most basic level for each method, have more steps and take longer to produce. Stylistic models are perhaps a little more expressive in execution, so perhaps modelling without being tied to Earth’s gravity is more liberating? (had to get a Gundam reference in somewhere, I hope you get the point). Perhaps too, realistic models have a very high degree of satisfaction in completion due to the sheer amount of work and research invested in it. I see equal merits and pitfalls to both.

If you are new to mecha modelling, which path should you take? Of course, start at your own tastes, with one caveat – get the basics down first. If you are considering adding battle damage, make sure you can first for example remove a seam line. If you want to make an intricately masked motif in an absurdly erotic pink on a shield or piece of armour – make sure you know how to paint first. Whichever method you choose in the long run, try out both, or even mix it up. Either way, develop your own style!

So what’s your preferred style? Where you one, then switched to the other? mix it up now and again? A complete purist? Did I get something wrong? Let me know, I love to get the conversation going as always, and thank you for your contribution 🙂

Has Bandai made us lazy modellers?

In a recent discussion with my fellow countryman Bearded Builds, I was given the proposition that, Bandai kits make people lazy modellers. It’s always been an elephant in the room, in that we were talking about working on resin kits, and having just received an adorable GMGouf resin kit from e2046 I was complaining about the masking aspect of the project is somewhat daunting. Then, looking behind me on the shelf I realised I had been building up a collection of resin kits and conversion kits that had not been worked on, at all.

Most resin kits, in case you don’t know are not snap-fit. They’re not colour separated (most of the time) and they require a degree of cleaning up, sanding, gluing and pinning into a fixed position, all before you actually start painting and masking. They have an advantage though – they’re crisp in detail, and you’ll find much more unusual, obscure and cool designs outside the realm of conventional licensing.

So, that reeling feeling that I get when thinking about the work involved in constructing a resin kit – I blame entirely on the ingenious and ease-of-assembly you get with standard Bandai gunpla, where I started my modelling journey. Has this standard, now become the baseline expectation for the majority of mecha modellers? Is the majority of the mech modelling hobby, entitled, even spoiled? or is this just how the hobby has evolved with new technology and innovation, and it’s exposure to newer generations of aspiring modellers?

I thought I was one of the ‘old farts’ of the mech modelling world, shaking my stick at newbies saying ‘you don’t know what real modelling is!’ but I’ve come to the realisation that in comparison to those who have been doing it for decades, I’m a spring lamb naively pouncing in a field of flowers without a care in the world.

Take a look at a 1980’s re-issued 1/144 kit and you’ll soon realise how quirky, unarticulated and lacking in detail these kits are, that required a certain level of skill to actually make look good, and compare it to the most recently released Real Grade kit. You can assemble an RG now and do virtually nothing to it but assemble, and it’ll look as good as a skilled modellers kit from the 1980’s – or better. This is how far we have come, and seeing modellers complain about how a modern kit looks, or problems during assembly put into this perspective will perhaps make you realise just how entitled some modellers are. You can also understand a little better perhaps, why some more experienced modellers are somewhat critical of ‘snap fitters’ and their apparently fickle complaints.

Don’t get the wrong idea, I mean entitled not in a negative, naive sense. It’s acceptable to be critical of innovation, as it’s a vital part of progression, but I also think it’s useful for your own enjoyment of the hobby to recognise just now advanced, and how actually amazing Bandai Gunpla really is. Perhaps you’ll think about this, next time you complain about the ‘proportions not being right’. Get your skill game on, and fix it! Push yourself to try out something more challenging, like a fully resin kit and perhaps knowing this you’ll appreciate just how easy Bandai have made it for you, and you’ll no longer be a lazy modeller.

What do you think? Are we spoiled? Lucky? Or are our attitudes and intentions not so clear cut?

 

Just a plain old update

Just because it has been a while.

It’s been a little busy since I returned form the land of the rising sun (boy do I miss being there…), so I’ve not found the time to post any updates here for a while.

Excuses aside, modelling wise I am around 50% done with the Typhoon, just need to get on and paint the torso, head, arms, shoulders and weather the legs and waist. Progress on the kit can be seen over on the facebook.

TOY-GDM-0795I finally purchased one of my all-time dream kits, the PG GP01/fb, and lordy it’s a big box of plastic I am very much looking forward to getting stuck into. Chances are high this will be my next large project.

I’m currently reading over a few of my older articles at the moment to see if any of my viewpoints have changed. I have always been of the mindset that, in light of new information and / or evidence, your viewpoint should always change to remain with the truth. Attaching an emotion to information can only ever result in a fallacy, so allowing yourself to be proven wrong is liberating. If I find I am still agreeing with everything  have ever written, I am either on the right side of truth, or frightfully stubborn 🙂

We’re currently in discussions about running a new compo over on the UK Gunpla Modellers Group. As we’re still talking about it, I can’t really write much.. other than it’ll certainly be accessible to many modellers from all skill levels, and hopefully a lot of fun.

I have launched, albeit with only 2 designs so far my own T-shirt shop! Not neccesserilly all GundamUK stuff but mostly mech / geek culture stuff that I hope you’ll enjoy. If you want to check it out, visit http://www.gundamuk.threadless.com. New designs will be announced on my facebook page.

That’s it for now, later.