Recently, a certain modeler shared his latest build on a certain forum. A very nice build, with some really excellent touches that I think a lot of modelers often miss.
The thread predictably filled up with comments like “WOW that looks superb – great finish” and “that’s a beautiful build! I love everything about it…” and “that is a superb model! thank you for sharing”.
While I don’t disagree, I saw one area that I thought could be improved upon. Feedback on completed builds is a bit touchy because the damn things are done, and it’s not like we can go back and address. But there’s always the next build, right?
So I posted the following:
Really like it – nice touches especially with the heat shield shading and the scuffed cockpit sills! Really hoping to tackle on of these big F-4s myself, just have too much on the go at the moment.
Only thing I might suggest for the future is a slightly more subtle shade for the panel line wash, but I can say that about way too many of my own builds!
Mine was (and remains) the only actual feedback in the entire thread. The rest is a string of “attaboys”.
In another thread…a sprawling reaction to my recent post on panel shading…my feedback on the F-4 was specifically called out. There was some “why I never!” about modelers denigrating other modelers based solely on their biases, and the frustratingly common refrain that feedback or opinions equal some kind of tyrannical modeling new world order.
Attaboy Culture and the Fear of Feedback
Painting in broad strokes, the modeling community is bizarrely averse to feedback of any kind. Touch that wire and you immediately get hit with accusations of trashing other modelers.
Why? Because “modeling is supposed to be fun”? Because “modeling is just a silly hobby”? It’s both of those things, but you know what? Fuck that. It can be both of those things and welcome feedback and constructive criticism.
The Value of Putting Yourself Out There
As a kid building models in my parents’ garage, I had no source of feedback. Hell, I didn’t even have any kind of connection to a broader modeling community. And it hobbled my development as a modeler.
As I got older, I found my way into different hobbies, and of course into the professional world. And I encountered the hell out of feedback. Maybe it was in offroading, and tips on a driving line through a certain obstacle. Or in photography, and how to better balance an exposure. Or writing, exchanging sample chapters with other writers and critiquing each other’s work.
Some of it is shitty feedback. Some of it might hurt. But some of it is good, and you take it, and you apply it, and you improve. And over time you come to realize that the benefits of feedback far outweigh making yourself vulnerable by putting your work out there for judgement. And you come to crave it.
Don’t believe me? Here’s what two obscure tech nerds have to say about feedback:
“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” – Bill Gates
“I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.” – Elon Musk
Do It For Yourself. Do It For the Hobby.
Even if we build models for fun, even if we acknowledge that it’s a silly hobby, I think most of us want to improve as modelers. For some of us (and maybe many?), the desire to improve might be held back by a fear of messing up. To which I say, get out of your comfort zone.
If you don’t want to improve, if you just want to keep slapping plastic together the same way you always have, and painting it the same way you always have, well then I honestly don’t understand your motivation at a fundamental level. Hobbies are by their very nature intrinsically motivated. We pursue them because we want to. To do that and to not want to get better at it just…doesn’t make a lick of sense to me. Even if it’s just to relax – which I totally get – modeling is my decompression mechanism – there’s pride in accomplishment. In a job well done. In a build being slightly better than the one that came before it.
And here’s the thing. When you decide you want to welcome feedback, when you decide you want to push yourself and, as Elon Musk says, think about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better, you’re doing a service not only to yourself, but to the modeling community as a whole.
Instead of just doing things by rote, there’s experimentation. Instead of stagnation, there’s innovation.
Now, I know somebody will be reading this and around this point be getting all huffy about how it’s “not a competition!”
Nobody said it was. Feedback does not equal competition. It does not equal modelers dumping on other modelers or denigrating them. It’s not about putting other modelers down. It’s about helping each other. Looking out for each other. Sharing what works well and trying new things.
So here’s my challenge to every single one of you who reads this. Reject the “attaboy” culture. Since we’re mired in this whole “oooh can’t offend anybody’s delicate sensibilities” thing, ask for feedback on your builds. Real feedback. Stuff you can chew on.
And if you see someone else asking for feedback, give it to them. Don’t be an asshole about it or anything…focus on improvement. What could they do better next time, and how can they do it?
I’m already on board with this. And I’ll continue to ask with every build…what did I overlook? What can I be doing better? How else could I tackle this aspect? If you have feedback for me, give it. On any kit. Any time. On any site. If you want to start right now, there’s a pulldown menu up top that leads to all of my completed builds. I would rather have one person point out an overlooked seam or something than have ten people pat me on the back.
I hope you all will consider doing the same. Let’s get past the “attaboy” stuff.