Continuing work on the Plum model 1/35 scale Assault Stui Leynos, putting down some decals and starting on the weathering!
See the whole series (so far) here:
Continuing work on the Plum model 1/35 scale Assault Stui Leynos, putting down some decals and starting on the weathering!
See the whole series (so far) here:
Here’s the start-to-end build and showcase vid for the recently completed MG Sword Impulse. What a wonderful kit 🙂
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:
Hello, I would like to tell you a little about something I am doing called the Mecha Lounge, it’s history, and a bit more detail as to why I think it’s better for modellers than Facebook groups.
The Mecha Lounge is an old-school style forum, originally started back in 2012 as an offshoot from the MAC forums by the modellers Sneeper, Harry, Mr. Zinc and Kamm (perhaps more, my memory is a little foggy and I was just a member back then so forgive me if anyone reading was instrumental in this) with the support of many prominent and very skilled modellers. The idea was to build up a strong membership sharing tips, works in progress and showcases as well as engaging in quality banter – without restriction. After several hugely successful competitions with entries from all over the globe, popularity of the Mecha Lounge was at it’s peak. Sadly though, the administrators of the Mecha Lounge started to drop out to take breaks from the scene and to pursue other interests, leaving only myself and a handful of others in charge to keep it going, and to keep up the level of interaction required to maintain people’s interest.
With the huge popularity of Facebook groups and the ability to quickly and easily share or discuss anything, the Mecha Lounge seemed to be obsolete, so the decision was made to shut it down.
Now, after a couple of years working with Facebook groups I started to get pretty disenfranchised with the format. Facebook groups are very much here-and-now, and as such anyone new to the hobby is going to ask basic questions – and people already in the hobby are going to react either with nonchalance or sarcasm having seen that same question being asked for the 50th time in one of the numerous groups. I’ve also witnessed some of these questions being publicly screen-shot for the amusement and pretty unfair mockery of others.
It occurred to me too that it was very rare to see any actual, valuable feedback. As memberships are so large in number, posts would either get lost in the noise or only ever be seen by people who don’t have as strong an interest in modelling, or just don’t know how to feedback in a way that’s helpful. I even found myself just commenting now and then with “that’s great” for brevity. It’s this state of instant interaction that I think, is not helping modellers much at all.
The consistent repetition of the same arguments too was getting boring. The mixing of collectors and modellers too would also at times create toxicity, flaring up regularly with accusations of elitism and snobbery, pointless defamation and labelling. The sheer number of groups too is a little ridiculous, each administered with varying levels, some with complex rules and others allowing asian porn links and rayban adverts to propagate. There have been a couple of great success’ run by competent, tolerant, quality people interested in working to build a community like IT’S A GUNDAAAAAAM!!!!!!, but most are just a waste of time. It’s worth noting too that Facebook groups are designed with another thing in mind – to post in your news feed, snippets of what is going on in these groups. It’s likely you are missing an awful lot of very cool work or seeing a lot of the same stuff being shared over and over again.
There is of course a positive side to these groups that do make it worth interacting – meeting new people with common interests and creating new relationships. Sales posts, sharing links to bargains and group purchasing is helpful to the community. I’m not writing them off entirely, but I argue it’s not the best platform for modelling alone.
As an admin in these groups, I found that trying to get people to read basic guidelines with regards to posting frustrating, and people challenging those rules tiresome. The fact was, there are rules for many reasons when you are administrating a group, some put in place to ensure relationships with others are kept on good terms for the overall benefit of that community, and others to keep the content interesting and on-topic. Most people understand this, but a small, vocal minority have an ego to service, a mouth to shoot off, and have a narcissistic need to stir the shit. Banning people from groups for breaching rules to me seemed like a pointless exercise, and removing posts contrary to rules was only met with protest. It also created group divides and misunderstandings, and with your personal information on show it occasionally lead to some unsavoury abuse crossing over into my personal life. I am not one to shy away from conflict – but engaging in the nonsense will not yield a positive for anyone. I won’t let my emotions over-run my logic.
With all this going on I decided to give up administrating any Facebook groups and stick to just interacting as a member instead, and using it as intended, to share my work and things of interest as GundamUK on my page and to promote activities I am involved in. It was time to revive the Mecha Lounge and give it another shot. The absence of a permanent knowledge base and Q&A, the poor feedback, the lack of decent competition, the removal of anonymity, the lack of ‘community spirit’ and the dilution of modellers with collectors spurred me on to bring it back. Of course, some of the issues in social media will also be experienced on a forum so it’s not a complete nor perfect solution. Going back to an obsolete format does too have it’s own technical issues, but so far it’s working.
The Mecha Lounge allows for categorised discussion, breaking down the noise into what members want to interact with. It provides a higher level of anonymity, allowing people to express themselves with more confidence. It provides better access (with time) to genuine advice from verified experts, and provides a better platform for experienced feedback on showcasing work. It will remove too, many of those posts that are entirely pointless, humourless and self-serving. Attention whores will be duly mocked. Dicks will be called out as dicks, and a karma system will show just how nasty or nice a member is. I hope too, it will lead to more meaningful interaction between members, more co-operation and awesome, competitive competition. To the cynic it’ll all seem perhaps a bit idealistic, but it’s always better to start with good intention and clear goals, than to not start at all. All this of course depends entirely on one thing. You.
If you are a modeller who is interested in joining a genuinely dedicated community, then sign up! I would love to see again 250+ entries into a competition between modellers all over the world, un-tethered by commercial interest – run by modellers, for modellers – but for that it needs membership. Tell your friends, share some links, and let’s get this going again 🙂
As ever, would value any feedback you have. Am I being too harsh or too subjective of my viewpoints on Facebook groups for Mecha Modellers? Is my enthusiasm and bias for the Mecha Lounge unfounded? Set me straight in the comments 🙂
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:
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.
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!
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:
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:
As 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) and 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’.
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!
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 🙂
I bought a whole bunch of gloss colours from this range some time ago to give them a try-out, and thought I should do a very quick overview of how these perform!
The paint was tested on alclad lacquer primer, twice applied with a round of high-grit sanding between. Was also applied using an airbrush.
Much thinner than Tamiya or Vallejo, and some pigment / binder had congealed at the bottom of the pot. Be careful when stirring, if you find a sticky blob at the bottom, carefully ease it out into the mix and try not to ‘slip’ inside the pot or you’ll find it spluttering out of the pot.
As with many acrylics, coverage can (especially in the case of Vallejo model air) be a little a little inconsistent. In MHA’s (Mr. Hobby Aqueous) case I found that no matter now thin, or thick the thinning ratio was, the coverage was always consistent. Definitely a pro. I thinned using UMP (ultimate modelling products) thinner, and again using Tamiya thinner. UMP performed way, way better mixing very nicely after a little mixing. Tamiya took a little more work and produced a couple of blobs. Definitely avoid. I found for good, strong coverage using roughly a 3:1 ratio worked for me for a single coat, spraying at around 20psi. This does mean however, a pot of MHA will not last as long as a pot of Tamiya. Around 2/3 of a single pot Tamiya on an MG kit with large areas of colour would be enough for me, in MHA’s case I found myself using 1 and a half.
Lovely, lovely lovely. The white is very vibrant (on a white primer!), orange is closer to red to me but equally solid. The range of colours I tested were all consistently gorgeous. Off-white leans towards beige, black is well..an acceptable black.
No problems here. A full cup in the airbrush caused very little ‘dry-tipping’ and did not start to congeal. Cleaning out was a doddle, just a cup of acetone did the trick without any funky blobby mess. Sprayed fine from 15psi to 30, above/below behaved as you would expect.
I gave it 2-3 hours to fully cure but it was touch dry in around 20 mins. As with most acrylics, MHA is pretty fragile even after a good amount of curing, a little pressured toothpick scraped it off quite easily. Applying masking directly on too, was a little disappointing, pulling up a few flakes here and there. However, a thin coat of Alclad gloss lacquer gave it suitable toughness without dulling out the colour, and allowed me to mask with much more confidence.
Great colour and colour range.
Pretty cheap, around the same as Tamiya.
No probs smashing it through and airbrush.
A little fragile after curing.
Does not last as long as other paints.
Needs protective layer if masking.
You’ll need to test which thinner works best. UMP thinner worked great for me, but depending on where you are it may take a little experimenting.
Will I continue to use it?
Yes, I think so, probably not for large areas of colour though, i’ll probably stick to Tamiya in that case. I’ve also ordered in some metallics from the range. Will write on this too.
I have a little time at the moment so I thought I would write a little about my trip so far here in Japan. I have been here for a little over a week now, and have visited Nikko, had a nice meal in Tokyo (staying in a place called Shobu in Saitama, just a 40 min or so train ride out from Tokyo) and eaten so much Japanese food I fear I will be carrying more body weight on my return. Setting aside the family visits, dressing up as a Samurai and watching my son graduate Ninja School (so much awesome there), and local shopping trips, the highlight for me so far has been a day trip to Akihabara to peruse some kits and pick up a whole load of modelling supplies. I have been doing some filming on this, so the proceeds from the visit along with some hastily filmed and badly planned snippets will be presented on the youtube channel in a couple of weeks time.
I have made a few personal observations since being here. Firstly, the Gundam franchise from what I have seen is definitely less popular than it was when I visited in 2012. It has certainly declined since the last time I was here was at the peak of Build Fighters, when more or less every convenience store had some build-fighter branded/sponsored product in stock, and adverts featuring the franchise frequented the tellybox. I have witnessed only a sporadic presence in Gatchapon dispensers and toy stores I been to. It is also much harder to get hold of HIQ metal parts, much to my frustration. I also wanted to get some BMC chisels, only to discover that all of the stores I visited were limiting sales to 1 per customer! The local hobby store has also, quite disappointingly closed, meaning I can no longer have a wonder around while the wife spends hours clothes shopping. Sad times. The shop has (sob) been replaced by a girly girly girl girl accessory shop. Its not all bad news though, the local toys r us store still stocks gunpla, and surprisingly, some modelling tools and fluids! There is also a Yodobashi store within driving distance, so I am hopefully going to persuade my Father-in-law with the help of a Sake bribery to take me there. I also hopefully want to find a local “book-off” second hand book store as last time I was here I managed to pick up some really excellent mech modelling instruction and reference books at great prices. Sadly, second hand stores, normally a goldmine for rare and cheap kits are coming up dry (bar Mandarake, which I did not have time to get this time, and “hobby off” opposite Yodobashi Akiba which was dumb expensive for second-hand stuff).
So, on with the holiday, loving it here, don’t want to leave… Thanks for reading 😉
I am constantly surprised when discussing mech designs among friends, that we have such a diverse range of tastes when it comes to design. From a modelling technical point of view, I think we are similar (the more experienced among us often citing some interesting missed points), but as for aesthetics the differences often break out into some lively discussion.
So, I’m going to write a little here about what I like in a mecha design, and a few designs I love. This does not include custom designs or scratch builds. Special thanks to one of my Facebook page followers Solomon for suggesting this topic.
Kit wise, I’m not too fussed on scale, but if I had to choose it would as I am sure many other would choose a Master Grade. I do enjoy HG and RG kits, but in terms of ease to paint and level of detail, MG’s are my favourites. Can’t say much about PG’s since I have no actually built one yet, even with 2 in my possession.
People seem to quite often associate their preferences in terms of timelines. Although there is a small influence and preference having watched all of the Gundam Anime, I don’t tend to favour my buying choices by timeline or series, I just like… what I like. Saying that, a majority of my favourite designs to hail from the UC timeline.
I mostly enjoy a mech, that looks like a mech. A strange thing to write perhaps, but here’s my reasoning. A lot of mobile suits from the CE (seed) era look very slim, athletic, and have more human-like proportion – I would categorise these as less ‘mechanical’. Zakus, Doms, Jestas, Geara Dogas and Marasais have a lot more bulk to them signifying they have an awful lot of electronic gubbins, thrusters, weaponry, power generators and pistons internally – I define them as being more ‘mechanical’ in nature. So to summarise, I prefer the more terrifying, ‘almost obsolete’, angular and less advanced look. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a few more organic looking suits such as the Astray however. Let’s list up a few of my current all-time favourites.
Probably my most favourite non-Gundam designs ever pretty much typifies my preference for bulk and outright fear – and that’s the wonderfully outlandish Kagustuchi-Kou frame arms model. It’s stark angles, inexplicably elongated fin head, huge weapon-bearing forearms and a pure ‘tank on legs’ look is right up my street. It’s interesting that, despite that comparison to tanks, I have no interest in tanks at all.
Slightly deviating from the paradigm is the F91 Gundam. A smaller suit from the latter UC timeline with a more ‘organic look’ that has just a few extra features that appeal to me on other levels. It’s broad shoulder pads with the F and 91 symbols, human-like faceplate (when it goes into overdrive mode, correct me on the terminology if you feel it’s appropriate) and the maneuvering ‘flaps’ within the calves are some of my favourite features. It also happens to be one of my favourite animes, might be an influence in there somewhere.
The Geara Doga is the SS shock trooper of the UC timeline. It’s Wehrmacht-esque aesthetic just screams ‘military dictatorship’. The distinct bowl-shaped head with menacing visor covered mono-eye, armour-clad musculature, external tubing and insane leg length just look as terrifying as a zeon mobile suit should. Gloriously brutish. Love it.
A popular choice is the Astray frame series of suits from the latter CE timeline, I think for the main reason that it looks like it would perform as efficiently as a ninja. It’s drawn-back armour revealing it’s inner frame, combined with it’s piercing gaze and long, shogun-style v-fin – and of course that insane katana blade on the red frame model is striking – and not surprisingly the most popular mech design that is yet to feature in any full-length anime series. I hate to admit to being a part of the masses of people who love the design of this kit, but I am.
Finally, the Gundam GP-01fb. The Full Vernian/burnien version in particular because of those peculiar shapes. The bulbous shins, oddly large cone-shaped rear thrusters and sheer experimental ‘bulk’ really appeals to me. The 0083 stardust memories OVA is my favourite of all time, not just for the anime but for all of those wonderfully military-style designs, bridging the gap wonderfully into the Zeta era style kits. The GP-02 on the other hand, just (for me) takes it just that little too far.
These are pretty much my favourite designs right now, but the list goes on much further, and at times changes. Right now for instance, I have the feelies for the Tsugomori (knights od Sidonia) style designs, that comprise of some strange proportions, mixing spindly feel and arms with elongated heads, chubby little bodies and utterly nuts-long guns (yes, this kit does come with that rail gun). My taste tends to change depending on a huge range of factors, but I am yet to lose interest.
So how about you? I love to hear what people like, and I find it even more interesting when people tell me why. There have been times when someone has pointed out an aspect they like on a design I hated, that I gradually changed my opinion on. What floats your boat?