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!

 

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! 

 

 

 

 

Forums vs. Facebook Groups and the return of the Mecha Lounge

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 🙂

www.mecha-lounge.com

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 🙂

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 🙂

Mr. Hobby Aqueous: Quick review

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.

Consistency

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.

Coverage and thinning

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.

Colour

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.

Application

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.

Drying and durability

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.

Overall

Pros:

Great colour and colour range.

Pretty cheap, around the same as Tamiya.

No probs smashing it through and airbrush.

Consistent coverage.

Cons:

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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?

 

How do you define yourself in the hobby?

When I first started out in the hobby, what made it interesting for me was the creative aspect. Coming from a largely creative background. When I first picked up a couple of kits while travelling in Japan back in 2012, I really loved how they looked, but the initial experience was more of a short-term novelty than a full-on hobby. It was only when I got home, and did a little research, finding the fantastic MAC forums and getting involved in the ongoing learning process of painting and modifying kits when I realised it could be something I will get great enjoyment out of, and it satisfied a creative gap in my life left behind from my music producing days.

Back then, the very definition of mecha modelling was just that, an art form. A creative outlet. Even though I am by no means any kind of expert in the hobby now, I define myself as mecha modeler and aspire to improve my skills, and that has not changed.

Fast forward to now, the vast majority of people in the hobby are collectors and assemblers – who’s interactions in the community involve showing off their OOB assembled kits, collections, boasts, comical memes with Gunpla and to discuss and speculate over Gundam anime and new model releases. That’s all perfectly fine, it comes with a combination of increasing popularity of anime and the ease of access to social media, and I’ve taken part in it myself. With fairly recent and frequent flare-ups regarding the alleged elitism of the modelling community however it begs the question – is it not about time we simply defined our differences, and stuck to the communities that are most beneficial to us?

It appears that no matter how clearly defined a group, page or community is especially on Facebook, certain folk deem it ok to go ahead and post an image of their collection of boxes expecting that ‘everyone in the community does this..right?’ without paying any heed to the name or guidelines of that group.

Imagine for a moment, if you were new to the hobby, after being inspired by mecha works online and wanted to get into the modelling aspect of the hobby, the first thing you’ll come across community wise on Facebook might be something like “I BUILD GUNDAMS AND I’M PROUD!!!” (Yes, it really is all in capitals, and with an unnecessary amount of exclamation marks). I would be a little put off when looking over the interactions on this page, and think it’s pretty much a superficial nerdgasm rather than a passion to grow an interest in. I would expect that asking some genuine modelling related questions in any of these types of communities on Facebook would either result in some terrible advice, some trolling from an arrogant self-proclaiming mecha pro saying “let me Google that for you newbie..” or no response at all! That new-comer would be thinking, “but this group says it’s about Gunpla..?”. This is one of many reasons why, I think community creators should be more actively definitive in regards to their communities interests to make it a better place to interact – and contributors more honest about what they do in the hobby. There’s this strange stigma it seems, that says if you are just a collector and assembler, that calling yourself so makes you some kind of moron in the eyes of mecha modelers – just be honest to yourself and fuck what any elitists think!

Of course, it goes without saying that each should accept each others differences and there will always be conflict and banter among hobbies of similarity. The definition between military scale modelling, and sci-fi ‘mecha’ modelling for example is pretty well defined, and in online communities too. Although there is shit-slinging now and then it’s largely agreed it’s pretty unhealthy. I think it’s about time the same should happen for modelers, and collectors alike – and especially so in Facebook groups as a lot of us in the modelling world perhaps feel a bit alienated by the bastardization of our ‘hallowed hobby’ (lol). Don’t get me wrong here, I hate the idea of tribalism – but you don’t ask for a Chinese dish in an Italian restaurant, and insult the chef and the diners for not being able to cater for your taste. We’re all hungry, and we have our favorite restaurants for good reason. It’s also fine to now and then, go to a world buffet… I hope that analogy did not confuse my point too much..

I was actually inspired somewhat to write this blog after a thread posted in the old Gunpla Forums group on facebook, a place for what I would consider the old guard (or old farts?) of enthusiasm for the modelling aspect of the hobby, and a place to generally grumble about the nonsense we see in the social sphere. The question I asked was (truncated a little) “why don’t people who collect kits, refer to their kits as a ‘collection’ instead of a ‘backlog’?”. The response was largely in agreement, with some interesting perspectives from others that got me thinking about how various people make these definitions. That does not mean that all definitions are subjective of course. I would at least expect that, if I started a community that says “for mecha modelers” it does not take a genius to understand that posting spoilers for build fighters is probably an inappropriate thing to post. Whereas if I posted a model and asked for some constructive feedback in a group all about the Gundam franchise as a whole, I should not expect a very high level of interaction or useful feedback, nor complain at the lack of it.

Colour Schemes – a few tips

Choosing a colour scheme can be a time consuming experience. For some, it’s easy, “I want to paint it red” is pretty straightforward. For others (myself included) it’s something I give a lot of thought to. I tend to take into account the models design, it’s ‘back-story’ (if there is one), and perhaps on a superficial level if someone else had done the same colour scheme before. With this in mind, for those of us who do arguably over think colour schemes, I thought I would write a few tips to help you out.

Inspiration for colour schemes can come from a wide variety of sources. Everyday life, nature, the internet – sometimes something just catches your eye and you think “That just might work“. Take a picture of it, and save it somehow! I have a whole folder in my computer, rammed full of pictures of interesting colour combinations. It helps a lot. I also keep a Pinterest board, reserved for some of my favourite models and colour schemes to help keep the brain juices flowing. It also helps to having a good understanding of colour theory, so let’s start with a few basic principles. Feel free to skip this bit if you ‘know your shit’, or give it a go if you ‘know you’re shit’.

Colour Types:

colour_types

Primary colours:

Red, Yellow, Blue

Secondary colours:

Orange, Purple, Green. Mixes of primary colours.

Tertiary colours:

Vermillion (red-orange), Amber (Orange-yellow), Chartreuse (Yellow-Green), Teal (Green-Blue), Violet (Blue-Purple), Magenta (Purple-Red). Mixes of Primary and Secondary colours.

Achromatic,  tint, tone  and shade colours:

Mixes of two teriary colours, or any colour mixed with white (tint), black (shade) or grey (tone). White, Black and Grey are ‘pure’ achromatic colours.

So, here are some basic starting categories of colour scheme you can think about:

colour_combos

Analogous colour scheme:

A sequence of colours on a colour wheel.

Complimentary colour scheme:

Opposite primary, secondary or tertiary colours on a colour wheel.

‘Real world’ colour scheme:

Military application camouflage or uniform colour scheme.

‘Bizarre’ colour scheme:

Non-complimentary, expressive or inconsistent. Nature, or fractal inspired.

Let’s refine it a little more in terms of Mecha Modelling.

‘Near-complimentary’

A lot of good colour schemes rely on a simple system of strong vs. weak, with tints and shades for detail. This is a combination of a colour with a high chroma (saturation or ‘intensity’), set against a achromatic colour, in effect almost a ‘near-complimentary’ colour scheme. For example, a strong red works well with a light grey. Using tints and shades of your chosen colours on various symmetrical panels on your model will work wonders adding detail – normally done in the achromatic part of the scheme. Subtle but discernible a good rule to follow. Too strong a difference in tint or shade will make it look like an additional colour, and make it look too busy. Experimentation is the key here.

Analogous ‘inflections’

In situations where the bulk of a scheme is made up from an analogous colour scheme, a complimentary or near-complimentary colour with high chroma is added in very small sections to really ‘set it off’. This is often applied to wing tips, trims, tips of feet or head decorations. Why this is appealing to so many of us I don’t know, but it works!

Camouflage

Camouflage can be tricky to get right. There is a huge amount of information on schemes available on-line, and through military scale modelling communities you can ask advice from, but it takes some practice to get something looking good. Keep in mind, the scale of the model you are working on and perhaps take a look at some real world examples for help. If you are aiming for realism, think of environment and back-story to help you out.

Weathering

That’s a whole new ball game. Although it is quite a big factor in the look of your overall model, it does not entirely apply to the colour scheme. For that reason, I’ll skip writing any more on this. I have quite literally no expertise here – but there is a wealth of resource available on the subject easily accessible from Google!

Metallics

For general impressions, a shiny model with well done metallics or candy-coats always gives you a nice sense of satisfaction and interest from admirers, but is hard to do right. Too many modellers when first experimenting with metallics go on an all-out chrome hard-on and make a model look like some kind of trophy – and while useful as a learning experience it does not create an entirely original looking model. Mixing metallics and non-metallics can also make a model look a little ‘unfinished’. Practice makes perfect here. Most stick to a single metallic colour for an overall scheme, or analogous. A mix of metallics could look too busy, or even too ‘toy’ like – but do experiment!

Finish

Finally, the finish is a very important factor to think about. Matt finishing a model adds consistent light dispersal – giving it a more ‘clean’ and consistent look. It also helps to disguise any decal edging, and is the easiest to produce. It’s also very useful for hiding any painting flaws! Gloss finishes are less common, but no less impressive, and require a lot of hard work to get right. Some modellers use highly toxic polyurethane top coats and buff over them using ceramic compounds for a truly glossy surface. I recommend lots of research before endeavouring to get that ‘sports gloss’ look.

Inner Frames

In general, inner frame or mechanical parts of a mecha model are painted in (obviously) metallics. Bandai promo shots normally show models in a flat grey. Even though an inner frame is most commonly, the least ‘seen’ part of a model it’s still important to think about. Exposed parts showing detail, such as pipes, pistons or joints painted using different colour metallics look great regardless of colour scheme in my opinion, and add that element of realism that really makes a great looking model. As a basic rule, I paint pistons in chrome, and the housing in gold. Some modellers add a red of blue candy coat to the housing too which looks fantastic. ‘Under armour’ such as frames underneath skirting is also worth attention and will give you bonus satisfaction points.

Remember, colour is perceptually subjective, influenced by mood, culture, personality and light. What’s important for you is that you are happy with what you are doing, and experiment as often as you can and find out some awesome combinations. Hopefully, this helps you out a little!

 

 

 

 

We need a real world cup!

I think many would agree, as much as we like the GBWC (Gunpla Builders World Cup), it’s not really a definitive competition of mecha modelling. Although it’s winners and participants are undoubtedly exceptionally talented, I think it fails to highlight the real talent this world has to offer, and (arguably) does not do much for the hobby.

What we need is a real mecha modellers world cup.

First, let’s look at where I think the GBWC fails.

  1. It’s far, far too committed to commercial interests. The contest excludes geographical areas of lesser commercial interest (Where Gunpla is relatively unknown, or where there is no official Bandai distribution of Gunpla). It is therefore on a side note, by definition not a ‘world cup’. All models must be official Gunpla. (Made by Bandai). Understandable this one, but none the less a definitive aspect that makes this a non, all encompassing mecha-modelling contest.
  1. It fails to a degree to inspire people to paint or modify their models by not including a beginner, intermediate or advanced category to the contest. Granted there is a Junior category – but as it stands you have to be an exceptionally good modeller to even have hope of placement. Commercial interest also comes into play here – why bother to motivate people to spend months working on one model, when you can have them buy 10, 20, 30 snap-fit kits a year what look OK instead? There is certainly a bigger interest in Bandai’s eyes towards collectors than modellers.
  1. It allows local organisers to negotiate rule changes, to suit local business interests. This might not sound like a bad thing, but as we have seen in some regions this has lead to some seriously convoluted rules that have affected some modellers ability to even take part.
  1. Judgement is not centralised, or controlled in a fair manner. This point probably needs a little citation since I am making some assumptions here, but let’s look at an example of how judging in a contest works really well, the Kennel Club of Britain. When it comes to judging – judges are selected from previous participants with at least X amount of years within the discipline. They are only allowed to judge once in their entire career within the dog showing world. They are not allowed to judge in any area where a participant has competed against the judge at any point. They are given specific guidelines to follow. This makes a lot of sense to me, and although a little complex it still shows it can be done. I can cite some pretty shocking judgements in past GBWC events, based not at all upon modelling ability but will refrain.

I don’t want to come across as overly critical of Bandai here – after all the GBWC for me and for many is an excellent event to watch and discuss and provides myself and many with great inspiration. They also make fucking awesome models! I just want to illustrate the point that without the commercial gains, the GBWC would not exist.

So how would a mecha modellers world cup even work?

Pretty much the same way the current GBWC runs – but without the restrictions. I would imagine, a central organisation similar to perhaps the IPMS (International Plastic Modellers Society) made up of experts in the hobby would work to produce overall rules and judging guidelines and prizes, and regional representatives would be in charge of putting forward winners for a world contest.

Regional winners can be decided in either venue-based contests, or online, with the world contest being held in different countries each year – depending on the popularity or interest in the hobby in that particular country.

This is of course, overlooking quite substantial cost when looked at in more detail. I would think, the world contest would most likely start out as an online venture. The popularity of the hobby is probably not quite at the same level as scale modelling as it’s less internationally established, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility at this time.

So i’ll ask the question. Is it time we had a proper, international mecha modelling contest, for modellers, for the community, for us, without commercial or regional restriction? A contest based purely on skill, not defined by the models you buy? The Mecha Lounge proved it could work online, to a degree back in 2012.

I propose the formation of the IMMC, the International Mecha Modellers Committee!