“Just” a Hobby?


“Whatever. It’s just a hobby.”

“It’s your model. Do whatever you want.”

What if – bear with me here – but what if we all agreed to put aside these dodges when discussing various aspects of modeling?

Why? Because they add absolutely nothing to any discussion of any kind. And because, in my opinion*, they cheapen the hobby and our shared passion for it.

*NOTE: When I say opinion, I mean exactly that. I’m not making pronouncements or holding up commandments of modeling. This is not a manifesto. This is my soapbox and I can stand on it and say what I want, and you’re free to agree, disagree, or flat out ignore me. Isn’t that great!?!

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

Here’s the thing. Of course modeling is, in the grand scheme of things, a hobby. And of course nobody is standing by your bench, holding a gun to your head and telling you to build a certain way. To me, these two things are self-evident. There is no need to restate them, and they in no way constitute a counterargument.

It’s like wading into a political discussion with “all politicians are corrupt” or a heated debate about football/basketball/curling and saying “it’s just a game”.  Congratulations! You just contributed absolutely nothing!

These things, they’re un-arguments.

No. Not that un-argument.
No. Not that un-argument.

In my experience, they’re trotted out when someone disagrees with something but can’t be bothered to put together a coherent counterpoint. It’s almost like an attempt to shame someone for having the gall to have a take on a specific topic.

Have Some Pride!

The first aspect of these dodges is banal. The second – again, in my opinion – is more insidious.

Modeling is a hobby. And a pretty ridiculous and frivolous one. We take pieces of plastic, stick them together, and slather chemicals on them.

But you know what? Most hobbies are ridiculous and frivolous. Some people cut out pieces of paper and glue them to other pieces of paper, or weave yarn together in patterns. Other people pluck metal strings strung over a box with a hole in it and enjoy the sounds the box makes. Still others find pleasure in getting in a hollowed out piece of wood and floating on a body of water. Or sleeping outside. Hobbies by their very nature are ridiculous and frivolous. We pursue them for no end other than to relax and get away from the pressing responsibilities of life, if only for a little while.

But to say modeling is just a hobby, or only a hobby or whatever, cheapens it.

Hobbies are valuable things.

They help us relax. They give us pleasure. They give us diversion. And in the case of our hobby, well, we choose to spend time on it. Obviously, to us, it’s more than just some meaningless thing.

We care about it enough that we hole up in basements and garages and craft rooms for hours on end. We care about it enough that we get antsy when we hit that part of a build when the real fun begins. We care enough to go online and geek out with the like-minded, to go to contests, to lose sleep over the next stage of our builds. We care about it enough to get into impassioned debates about the shape of a cowling or what was different between this variant and that, or the best way to achieve a certain effect.

Modeling isn’t just a hobby. Modeling is a hobby. It’s my hobby. And I love the hell out of it. If you’re reading this, odds are, it’s your hobby, too.

Fucking own it. Take some pride in it.

The same goes for “it’s your model…”.

No crap it’s your model! You can do whatever you want…but come on. If you’re online reading up on the hobby, talking with other modelers, and choosing to spend your time this way, I’m going to guess that whatever you want generally follows an upward trajectory of improvement. Nobody says “I can build whatever I want, and I want to build a shittier model than I built last time!”

For my next build I'm hoping to fall back to the quality of the kits I built when I was 10!
For my next build I’m hoping to fall back to the quality of the kits I built when I was 10!

You can joke about buying a King Tiger and painting it hot pink, but you’re not going to. Because you give a shit.

Contribute…or Don’t

Bottom line? Contribute to discussions…or don’t. But can we please stop it with the un-arguments and the casual dismissiveness? Our hobby is ridiculous and it’s (to us, at least) awesome! We can take it seriously and laugh at it at the same time! But give it its due. You owe it (and yourself) that much.

The background for this post’s title card is Brandon Bird’s excellent “Lazy Sunday Afternoon”. I highly recommend you do yourself a favor and check it and the rest of his wonderful and offbeat work out at http://brandonbird.com/ 

25 Comments Add yours

  1. Michael JN says:

    You’re bloody dead right Doog. This hobby of ours is a worthwhile and valuable diversion to me. I’m of the – let’s say – White Haired Generation, who still works full-time in a stressful environment requiring 12 hour per day using the grey matter. I keep the grey matter active at the end of the working day by researching and building scale plastic models till all hours of the night. I probably spend 60 % of a model project time on the fascinating task of research. If you don’t keep the brain turning over in later life then I suggest you’re probably heading to an early view of watching the daisies grow from the underside. Oh- and it keeps us old buggers off the streets!

  2. For me I can say that it’s not an hobby at all. No, it’s The Hobby for me, close to a lifestyle. I build slow but most of my time I’m all in with modelling in some way even if it’s just interacting with others that share my love for the plastic. Modelling for me is a form of meditation and I’ve found my Zen in my modelling.

  3. Ty says:

    Ironically I just had this happen to me today. I posted a picture up on a Facebook thread asking if people thought I had put to much chipping on the wing of my 1:48 corsair. I got a couple people saying it looked good, and a couple saying it was too much and why. But right below some of that constructive criticism I got from the people who said it was too much, I saw the “it’s your model, do what you want” and I just felt it defeated the whole purpose of me putting that picture up there in the first place. I even felt that it was a way to end a conversation when one of the people who had given me constructive criticism said it to me after I just showed some references I was using. All I was doing was simply taking what they had to say and putting it into thought, and just letting them know why I did what I did in the first place.

    1. Doogs says:

      If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend that you sign on over at the Scale Modelers Critique Group on Facebook. Lots of substantive discussion and actual critiques, not just attaboys and “it’s your model”s… https://www.facebook.com/groups/170988246577684/

  4. Chris from Auckland, New Zealand says:

    My wife is developing herself as a glass casting artist, and I have rediscovered modelling.

    I see model making as a form of art. I would love to be able to build to your standards, but I can’t. What I aim is to make each build better, and to reduce the mistakes I make. Sometimes I fail, and I have occasionally thrown a 90% build in the bin, as the errors I made have disgusted me.

    Each to their own. I would never build a hot pink Tiger, but if someone builds rusty tank tracks, or presages panel lines, that is their art.

    1. Doogs says:

      I’m a bit iffy on the whole “art” thing – mainly because to me, art is such an overapplied term that it’s almost meaningless. There’s are like glass casting…but there’s also art like my kids gluing pieces of macaroni to construction paper. It’s such a wide swath of humans doing things that, I dunno.

      Other than that, I agree 100%! I get the sense that a lot of times these phrases are actually used in lieu of something like “do what makes you happy”.

    2. nicelyb says:

      “I would love to be able to build to your standards, but I can’t.” Don’t sell yourself short. At some point, Doogs couldn’t build like he does now. Hell, just looking at models I built 3 kits ago compared to what I’m making today, there is a world of difference. If you correct one mistake per build, you’re better. Just don’t build something to build it.

      1. Doogs says:

        Exactly. None of us are perfect and all of us are (hopefully) constantly learning and evolving. I look back at some of the models I build 2, 3, 4 years ago and I don’t shudder, but I can definitely see the progress I’ve made since then. If I were tackling that Fiat G.55 again, for instance, there are many things I would do differently.

      2. Chris from Auckland, New Zealand says:

        No. Not leaving myself short.

        Each time I build, I aim at being better. I succeed probably 33% of the time, and fail miserably 10%.

        Dare I say, my latest failure is Tamiya’s Mozzie. I was worried about the undercarriage while manipulating, masking and painting, and ended up braking three legs. Have put it away for a couple months and will see if I can repair it. Have ordered the cast metal legs from HLJ and once available, may try a second one from scratch.

        A bloody expensive failure!

        The successes are what we work for in business and life. Take the failures on the chin and don’t lose sleep.

        At least with the Mozzie, few panel lines to preshade!

  5. conholster says:

    Good boy, well written. I know it’s your blog and all, but could you please go back to writing about modeling? It’s getting quite boring to read long rants. I would be so awesome to read “Filtering with Oils (COMING SOON)”. The Three-Layer Blend Technique was a great post, you explain things really well. Easy to follow and easy to understand. Almost feels like cheating 😉 Same with Black Basing and Tonal Crush. Maybe you should put these into a book and sell it like a pdf or something. I’ll gladly pay.

    But as I said it’s your blog so you can do what you want with it. Have a nice day!

    1. Doogs says:

      Big part of the issue with technique posts (of which I do have several planned) is having the accompanying visuals. Right now I’m in the early stages of two pretty involved builds (1/32 F-104S, 1/35 SCUD) and neither’s really at a point that’s very tutorial-worthy, I guess we could say.

      I’m also hoping to bring in video as an element of the blog, to be able to show these techniques in action. Stay tuned!

      1. conholster says:

        I’ll stay glued right here 🙂

  6. BorgR3mc0 says:

    Relax man, it’s just a hobby.

    Sorry for that , I just wanted to be the first to post that.
    On a more serious note. Yes it is a hobby. And as such should bring both relaxation and a sense of pride or passion about what you are doing.
    How ever, like there being different leagues in sports there are also different leagues in modelling. And not everyone can/wil/wants to become a pro. I think that is why people choose the “just a hobby” sentence to relativate difference in skills, passions and results.

  7. Michael Satin says:

    Jeeze Doogs, you really are pushing the buttons these days!

    I fully agree that as OUR hobby it’s meaningful to us. I have to admit that I’ve actually backed off some in the last few years, I was getting serious AMS and having to constantly buy new, more up to date kits and detail sets as well as more and more research in a constant attempt to one-up myself. I’ve finally decided that I do this for my enjoyment and tried to scale (get it?) back a bit. But I still prefer an accurate kit to an inaccurate one and I still try to get things close to “right” as far as markings, paint, and so forth. That’s part of the fun for me!


  8. Bob Bush says:

    I see this all the time. I hear it from my wife, in clubs, and on the internet. We have the rivet counters, we have the family members that can’t understand that some of us might enjoy buying kits on top of building them, and then there are the people who can’t understand why grown men and women want to play with toys.

    This is my hobby. I love buying the kits, doing the research, and building the kits. The only reason I think my dentist is worthy of my time is that he’s a model builder too (I forgive his inability for not being able to dress in strange clothing, or that he’s not a real doctor but just a dentist. Hey, I’m allowed, we’ve been friends for almost 40 years, and have stayed friends even though I kicked him in his testicles with a hockey skate when we were in college together. He still had a kid!) I love seeing that box in the mail with a new kit. I might not build it for several years, or I might build it in stages, and take several years to build it. This is MY hobby, and it makes me happy. It gets me through rough patches in my life, and there are times that there is nothing more exciting than cleaning the sprues after buying the kit.

    Its not just a hobby, its my life, and if people don’t like it they can kiss my hairy pink ass! I LIKE IT!

  9. Bill W says:

    For most of us,, this (our) “hobby” lends all sorts of release.
    Relaxation along with the occasional frustration, we all enjoy what we do.
    Even the most mundane tasks offer down-time from our daily stresses.
    [For me] the hobby is my gateway to PQ (Peace and Quiet).

  10. In posting this are you backing down from your early April post, “Lighten Up, Francis”? (Funny as hell, by the way.) Or does this fit hand-in-glove with April?

    You made an allusion to professional sports with this discussion. I do wonder if the emotional value we derive from our silly man-toys isn’t very similar to the joy many experience at watching a favorite team succeed or fail.

    We thrill as our team advances down the field to achieve a scoring position; there is joy or anguish at the outcome. Similarly we expend so much effort in getting the surface just perfect, that stupid PE box mounted juuuuussst so; Then it’s up to the modeling gods to determine if our primer coat will be smooth or rough. It’s a winning score or an infuriating, lost opportunity. Or maybe, “It’s just a model.”

    If we heighten our game, build a better replica, will we derive greater emotional satisfaction from our work? Perhaps we will. Perhaps this is why, “It’s more than just a model.”

    Thanks for posting these up, Doogs. Your “Techniques” section is informative. Your “Unicorn Punching” section is interesting.

    All the best,

  11. Gary says:

    Hmmmm… I tend to look at comments like “It’s just a hobby” as directed towards those that might be taking either their projects or themselves just a little too seriously! LOL! On the other hand, comments like “It’s your model” might be dismissive, but more often than not it can also be a passive-aggressive way of saying “I don’t approve with the way you are doing things, but I can’t say so without coming across as a patronizing *******””.

    I’m returning to the hobby after being away for several years. Reason I walked away was due to to the rivet nazis and later on due to immature behavior in my R/C club (I’m talking about someone who would buzz the Coast Guard tower with his plane, crash into cars, and when we collectively lost the field would whine about how his rights were being trampled on sort of immature), so I can see both sides of the argument. For a beginner or intermediate builder, it CAN be really frustrating at times. First, there is the “I want to do that” aspect, and second I think sometimes as we advance in our own skills sometimes we tend to forget that we were beginners as well.

    One thing I have come to realize over the years is that in the end we are ultimately building for our own satisfaction. Sure, it’s great to be able to share and get kudos from fellow hobbyists, but like with so many other things in life if we start building models to meet other people’s expectations (professional builders notwithstanding), it is a recipe for disaster.

    On the flip side, it is also important to have an idea as to what it is that we want to accomplish and where we want to go. I for one DO look at modelling as an art, and I don’t necessarily want to be constrained to a certain end-result. For that reason I tend towards automotive and sci-fi models where I can do what I want and not worry about authenticity. King Tiger in Hot Pink? Why not?!? Not sure I would go there, but I could see painting one up like a Hippy Van as an amusing project that would hopefully get friends and family talking! LOL!

  12. Chip Painter says:

    Doogs Once again you have collapsed one of the sacred cannons of Modeling In Luminous Togetherness (MINT). Please try to remember there are adults out here, many of whom are card carrying MINT members. Rants such as this are too close to a truth, my rants my vary.
    You ability to increase the Blood Pressure (BP) of MINT Members (MINTEES) has caused much angst and clearing of dusty, long held staples of the modelers activities.
    A sad day indeed, as the sounds of moaning and screeching is heard through out the land; though it is Halloween 😉

  13. just a hobby??????? i started building models as a child, but in teh last 20 yrs, i started building them again and have gotten really good in teh last 8 years at making them look real, i also bought a colorized book on different paint schemes of the different aircraft…..i am retired and needed something to do in my free time as i am a dialysis patient 3 days aweek, i work on the models of aircraft to keep me from thinking about health issues and its time consuming and takes a lot of patience to be able to sit and work on them..im building a lot of aircraft i have started with the right brothers flyer and have gotten into WWII now and am building mainly fighter aircraft from the allies, but i do have some luftwaffe aircraft all of which is in 1:72 scale (i do like a challenge). another reason im doing it is that its a part of HIstORY, one day ill be able to show my grandkids some true craftmanship and a lot about history, i am also into building a fleet of US battleships…my first one was the USS Arizona, i have been to the actual battleship in Oahu Hawaii in Pearl Harbor

  14. Stonelynn says:

    Thanks. Always good commentary. Peace and joy. That’s what we achieve.

  15. mustang1989 says:

    This “hobby” is one of the things that is helping to save my neck. I focused on negative/ self destructive habits for over a decade that would have ended up killing me and needed something positive to re-direct my thoughts and energy to. I built models of all kinds when I was a kid and loved it so I turned back to it full force almost 4 years ago and haven’t turned back since. It pisses me off to no end to hear somebody down play something constructive that I absolutely love doing and that “works” for me. As long as I’ve got breath in me and decent vision I’ll have an X-acto knife and airbrush in my hands striving to do better than ever before.

  16. mich says:

    You define hobbies as relaxing, escapes to escape the bullshit then justify arguing, losing sleep and generally stressing over a model build. It’s a contradiction because a hobby should remove stress, not increase it. Ask people who do commission builds for money on a dead line.. Now it’s a job. Yeah I want to improve and achieve better results. Why? Because when you become proficient you enjoy it more. It’s more fun jamming metallica on an electric fender then plucking three blind mice on your starter guitar. That’s my incentive… You can’t enjoy shit if you suck… so try not to suck. It is a hobby and it is MY plane and I don’t give a fuck what people think. It’s also MY time, MY money and MY idea of what looks good or not.

    1. Doogs says:

      Hobbies don’t necessarily remove stress – ask anybody who golfs or writes or sculpts or gardens or whatever. Thing is, it’s a completely different stress from the stresses of day to day life, of work, family, traffic, bills and so on.

  17. johnny1000 says:

    I think about this sometimes.

    The act of model making is a craft. “Hobby” is the role it plays in your life. Art is a different thing altogether, and is not synonymous with elevated craftsmanship.

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