America. Not that Great (at Modeling).

AmericaNotBest

***NOTE: I’ve seen a few comments around the interwebs accusing me of being a European troll or something. LOL. Talk about a failure of reading comprehension. But, to set the record straight, I’m an American. And I’m a Texan, which makes me, like, a Super American.***

Recently, Jon over at The Combat Workshop tossed up a post about his experience at the MosquitoCon IPMS convention in New Jersey. It’s an excellent post about the lack of risk-taking, and I highly recommend giving it a look.

But something in the post spurred some additional thinking. While discussing the “sea of uniformity” at what has to be one of the larger IPMS events in the United States, Jon drew a comparison to the ingenuity and creativity often seen in shows across Europe.

This touched off some discussion among myself and my fellow Scale Modelers Critique Group admins, Will Pattison and Jim DiCesare. Jim asked if we felt that, taken as a whole, European modelers were better than American modelers.

We both answered yes.

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of fantastic US-based modelers. Nobody is saying that. Rather that, when you pan out and look at the forest instead of the individual trees, when you look at what shows up on contest tables, when you look at what gets passed around like celebrity sex tapes on various modeling sites and groups, American modeling lags in ingenuity and risk-taking.

If you want to get even more geographically specific, Central and Eastern Europe (and parts of Asia) in particular seem to be taking things to another more frequently.

Of course this is also true for kit and aftermarket production. When’s the last time and awesome and innovative new kit came out of the US? I can only think of two or maybe three resin players in North America that I’d put on a level with the rest of the world. Most of the others seem stuck at a quality level dating to the 80s. But there are economic factors at play there that (I hope) most of us can at least understand at a surface level.

In terms of modeling, though, it’s also evident. I mean…how many still worship at the altar of Shep Paine? Or seem to live in the past, when Monogram kits were the greatest things ever?

When’s the last time an American had a significant impact on the hobby? I would say after Shep Paine, the next big step forward came from Francois Verlinden, whose weathering techniques and development of resin as a viable material through the 80s and early 90s laid a lot of the groundwork for modern modeling. Oh, wait, he was from Belgium.

Now, yes, Verlinden Productions did move the US in the mid-90s. And stagnated. I mean, when’s the last time Verlinden made a splash?

Anyway, it seems to me that the US – again taken as a whole – lags other parts of the world when it comes to contributing to the hobby – whether in the form of kits and aftermarket, or in terms of what we do with those things.

What gives?

I have a few half-assed theories.

It’s Cultural, Stupid. Here in the US, we have a bad habit of just assuming whatever we’re doing is the best thing ever. We call our baseball championship the World Series when its anything but. Most of our citizens don’t even have a surface-level understanding of how the governments and economies of other countries are organized. So it stands to reason that, in terms of modeling, that same kind of navel-gazing holds (again at that broad level). I mean, in terms of modeling publications we have, what, FSM? Pfft.

That’s the US side. As for what’s maybe spurring more ingenuity in, say, Eastern Europe? Being an ignorant American, I’m hesitant to even guess what, say, the lingering effects of being under the Iron Curtain might have had. Perhaps modeling is one of those things that is innocuous enough that passionate discussion can be poured into it without stirring larger pots? Perhaps there is a greater threshold for critique? Again – I can only guess.

Late-Adopter Advantage. During the last half of the 20th century, America was first in a ton of things. Phone networks and credit card adoption and cell phone adoption and going to the moon and embracing TVs and PCs. But in a lot of these things, once we got there, we stagnated.

Meanwhile, other parts of the world didn’t embrace a lot of these technologies until a bit later. And when they did, the technologies themselves had advanced. Look at credit cards. The US is still firmly entrenched in magnetic stripe readers, even with the mandate last year to move to chip readers and more secure, encrypted transactions. Europe, meanwhile, adopted credit cards later, and almost uniformly uses chip-and-pin POS systems. The US is left flailing, unable to get past the baggage of its legacy systems.

The same holds for telecommunications. Particularly in Europe and Asia, much of the infrastructure doesn’t support laying lines willy nilly, so wireless was embraced to a far greater degree, and the US is still lagging. Or air conditioners – again the US pioneered central HVAC, but it’s extremely hard to retrofit ducted AC systems into buildings that aren’t built with them, and so in much of the rest of the world more space and energy-efficient ductless AC systems have been adopted.

Could the same hold true for modeling? Has modeling come later to some of these places? Without the legacy baggage of stale manufacturers and stale distribution systems that plague the US? Does not being beholden so much to “the way things was” open up room for that ingenuity and risk-taking?

I’m curious. I genuinely am.

What do you think? Does the US lag much of the rest of the world in terms of the overall quality of modeling? Why?

 

50 thoughts on “America. Not that Great (at Modeling).

  1. I think a big thing is that hobby stores are rare and most areas are stuck with large general hobby stores like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby that have a very poor selection of kits and products. When someone goes to make a model and they pick one of the garbage ancient kits stocked at those stores they probably don’t want to build another. Until online shopping became a reliable thing the only source you had for kits and supplies were the hobby stores.

    • I dunno, though – I mean there are a few well-known mecca stores in Europe and Asia, but I’m going to imagine that random small town in Hungary is probably just as hard-up for a good LHS.

  2. It’s not our skills which are lacking, just our imagination. I’ve been particularly impressed with the work I’ve seen done in Eastern Europe and the old Soviet republics. They do this work often without the benefit of the best kits. But what I see there is a certain dedication to that taboo phrase, “art modelling”. Other places in the world have become better at making their model “art” also look realistic, a skillful melding of two ideas which we tend to segregate here in the US.

    • I think there’s something to that – a willingness to leverage multiple different styles (or elements of those styles) instead of what seems to be more dogmatic, rinse-and-repeat approaches here in the US. We try to templatize everything.

  3. I’m a model railroader so it’s difficult to make a direct comparison here since as far as scale fidelity and accuracy goes most model railroading just doesn’t hold up to anything being done in the scale modeling field.

    That said, this difference between the US and Europe exists in my hobby as well. As far as I can tell, there are a couple of reasons for this:

    1) Space: Here in the US we have huge houses so model railroads tend to by very large. When it takes years just to build benchwork and lay track, there’s not a lot of time left to spend actually modeling. In Europe where indoor space is at a premium layouts tend to be tiny, many are just large shadow-boxes and the level of detail and accuracy that goes into them is phenomenal. I think much of what is being done in the UK and German model railway communities is on par as much as it can be with whats being done in the scale modeling communities in those countries.

    2) The “Collector” v. “Builder” mentality: I know a number of people who instead of having a working model railroad in their basements instead have dozens of shelves of locomotives, rolling stock, structure kits, scenery material, etc. Much of it has never been opened, yet they continue to buy more. American manufacturers (of which we are fortunate to have many) feed into this by selling fully assembled and painted models. Some even come with a poor approximation of weathering pre-applied in the factory.
    In Europe, especially the UK, kits are far more common. You can buy entire locomotive kits that require pretty extensive soldering skills. I can’t think of any successful manufacturer in the US that sells a locomotive “kit”.

    I think that over the last century, because we’ve had the money and space, Americans have developed a tendency to acquire as opposed to build. Until more recently, Europeans and Asians were not as wealthy and if they wanted something, they had to figure it out themselves. I’m guessing this is how many of the small aftermarket companies in Europe started: because their founders figured out how to build models whereas in America, we just buy stuff.

    – Chris

  4. This is true, and I think a lot has to do with he US’ obsession with sport. Kids raised to give everything they have for sport. Just a quick take on this.

  5. Modeling? I got news, we aren’t the best at a lot of shit anymore. Other parts of the world build better resin, photo etch and model kits? They built better fucking everything! How about cars, electronics, shoes… But the biggest bit is ignorant Americans want everything now! Building a model is an exercise in patience and we have none. I think in other parts of the world, “quiet time” is still cherished. Painting, bird watching, reading poetry or just smoking a cigar after dinner are respected not ridiculed. We want football, loud tv and beer. Anyone who doesn’t do that and chase worthless chicks around on the internet is nothing more then a basement dwelling dork… Merica.

    • We’ve always sucked at patience, though!

      But…if you strip away entertainment that’s confused as hobbies (reading, watching movies etc) the most popular hobbies in the country are fishing and gardening. Both of which are pretty patience-intensive.

  6. Unfortunately our nation is plagued with a short attention span. Modeling is losing because it takes concentration. If parents keep putting iPads and electronics in front of their kids to keep them quiet, modeling will be an extinct hobby here sooner rather than later.

  7. I whole-heartedly age with John G on this one. When I was growing up, it was much more common to see kids outside playing when the water was good or bad and you cod find model kits everywhere. Now, kids would rather have the electronic games than actually have to get creative. I see this with my own kids, but when I send my son outside to play and all the other kids want to stay inside and play video games. There used to be a couple mom and pop type hobby stores in my area and they closed because there were only a few of us going there, not like in the 70’s, 80’s and even into the late 90’s. My goal in my house is to get my son building more. He has a couple of kits now, hopefully he takes the bait.

    • Agreed – when I was a kid I could buy models at Woolworths or even the stationery store on the corner by my house. Now you can find a crap selection at Hobby Lobby. That’s it.

  8. I’ve noticed that the quality of european periodicals for this hobby are MUCH more exciting to look at, so i’m not sure this is driving the trend in better modeling or a result of it.

    I’ve also noticed at IPMS shows 99% of the kits being judged look the same. I get the impression that people are building to satisfy the rivet counting judges (whom they probably all know from monthly meetings) in hopes of a win, rather than building to satisfy their own imagination.

    Also I’ve noticed a lot of people (back to the rivet counters) that are just OBSESSED with accuracy in every way. They turn their noses up at the “paper panzers” and the “what if” crowd. Just yesterday on another website many people were disparaging the new trends in rusted out vehicles, tanks in red oxide primer (or parts therof) and just generally bashing any work that wasn’t someone trying to replicate an exact subject at an exact and well documented moment in history.

    In short, these “fuddy-duddys” are taking the fun out of the hobby for anyone that wants to share their non-conventional work and (hopefully) have a shot at winning a prize at a show.

    Perhaps it’s time for the chapters to clean house and get some fresh blood in there that appreciates something besides just historically accurate builds.

    • I wonder if the IPMS style of judging is part of the reason things all try to be the same. I mean if you only give out 1st, 2nd and 3rd and the kits that win those places look like “x” everyone will look like “X”. I am interested to see how the open judging goes this weekend in Dayton where the IPMS group will use more AMPS and for that matter more European style where they will give Gold, Silver and Bronze to those that deserve it and not just the kits that fit an expected type.

  9. Last month I visited a toy store and a book store in a very large outlet mall in Miami, Florida. The toy store carried no model kits and the book store had only two aviation/hobby related publications for sale.
    There is no imagination in US modelling because there is no kits to choose from, and no magazines or books to inspire. Unfortunatly the same situation exists in Israel. Fortunatlly there is hope, our local IPMS/Israel group monthly meetings is the only place where we can meet, inspire and buy models and related items.

  10. I love going to model building shows. Unfortunately do to school and other situations I was unable to go to two of my favorite shows this year. Both were held this past weekend. This is from a friend of mine, Brian Messier. He had a VERY BAD experience at one of my favorite shows of the year. MosquitoCon. Here are HIS EXACT WORDS. This is from Saturday April 2.

    I TRIED going to MosquitoCon in NJ today…Got there at 1 PM.. Walked in with my wife, 3 year old son, and 1 year old daughter in a stroller. Was “greeted” by a big hefty tub of a man with white hair and a beard. “what are you lookin for” was his greeting. I said I’m just lookin where to pay the fee. He replies quite rudely, ” The shows over and we don’t want you bringing that carriage in there anyway, there’s thousands of dollars worth of models in there and we don’t want your little kids running around breaking them. If you want to go into the vendors area and look around go ahead.” My wife replied, ” yea we know.. we go to about 3 shows a year we know how they work”. The man walked away, and we went into the vendors area for a very quick once over. My son was upset over not being able to see the models and decided he had had enough, which put me in an even less pleasant mood than the greeting I have previously spoken of. Turned right back around and left. Packed the family back up and went elsewhere. Too bad too, We drove from Massachusetts to NJ to see this show as the first leg of our vacation. Not the way I wanted to start, but the grumpy Gus with the President’s badge on (he was apparently the chapter President) cured me of spending any of the $200 dollars burning a hole in my pocket OR straight out offering to pay the 10 dollar walk in fee. Went back to the car, RE-READ their flyer which clearly states the show was from 9-5, and decided never to waste my time again. I have dealt with jerks all my life, but to come to a show, where I meet dozens of FRIENDS from all over the northeast, and be treated like some dregs off the street instead of a paying customer or God forbid MAYBE someone interested in GETTING INTO the hobby just blew it totally for me. Please Chapter members, remember that YOU represent our hobby. First impressions are lasting impressions, and ones you will have a hard time getting back if done wrong.

  11. I take it that you talking about models you have actually seen in the plastic in which case I would be curious to know how many shows you have attended over the past 10 years? And could you break it down by country?

    If you are basing your comments on pictures of models my question would be how advanced do you consider Europeans modelers to be in the use of photo shop?

    • Unfortunately due to work and kids I don’t have the time to hop around the world in Doogs Force One and attend any show I like, so this impression is more based on photos.

      As for Photoshop – it’s truly a global skill, but are you implying that contest photos are doctored, literally photoshopped to improve the builds? That’s something I’ve never seen – most P-shop work is levels, curves, color balance and other processing adjustments (and Lightroom is generally the better tool for those, especially for large photosets).

      • Don’t you think that to accurately comment on a model, and determine which one is better, you have to view it “in the plastic”?

        Concerning photo shop, on the sites I visit it seems the majority of pictures which I feel have been “shopped” have been submitted by European modelers.

      • I think if it’s close, yes, they have to be viewed in person (or at least both well-shot under similar conditions). But when we’re talking about shots of show/contest tables and the entries sitting upon them, and especially when we’re talking in broad, sweeping generalizations, pictures do just fine.

  12. A contributing factor might be the state of the industry. The USA model industry (Monogram, Revell) was the first and was based on the assumption to mass produce models and position them as toys. The Central European industry such as Eduard and MPM was started by hobbyists wanting to make better models for themselves. This makes for a different “Eco system” for modellers.

  13. This is so true, look at all the modeling Magazines world wide. England Frog was the 1st plastic model company then came Aurora and other U.S. manufactures.
    The rest of the world has built on the American Modelers and taken it beyond the nth degree.
    You are correct we in the U.S. ARE NOT FIRST. Great Article. Totally spot on.

  14. “Does the US lag much of the rest of the world in terms of the overall quality of modeling? ”

    First, if you’re basing your analysis on IPMS competitions you’re looking at
    a fraction of a fraction of the models built in the U.S. As others have pointed
    out, it’s a world within itself and veering away from the known judging standards
    is risky and since the organization has a stated goal of judging based on the
    mechanics of model building which is where the application of ‘imagination’ is also risky.

    One can bring all kinds of socio-political and economic factors into the discussion
    but when it comes down to simply building models, it’s tuff to find a distinct difference
    between any two groups of people. Modeler’s worldwide have access to most of the
    same resources, tools, references so no one can claim an advantage there.

    It’s also a style thing. Some modelers strive for pristine accuracy which is not at all
    realistic yet the model is excellent on those terms. Others strive for realism which
    often becomes a discussion regarding the degree of realism, tires too flat, too much
    staining here, not enough there.

    So building a model involves mechanical/physical abilities combined with the
    application of creative imagination. Your assertion would need to explain what
    the differences are between US and non-US modelers.
    Do non-US modelers have some physical ability that US modelers don’t ?
    Do non-US modelers have a greater degree of creative imagination than US modelers ?
    You be the judge.

    • Do non-US modelers have some physical ability that US modelers don’t?

      Maybe. While the internet has certainly made the world smaller, different countries have different cultures, different proclivities.

      Do non-modelers have a greater degree of creative imagination?

      I would say if you took a macro view, yes, slightly so.

      But I also don’t think those two questions answer anything. Ability is just one pillar. There’s also willingness to expend effort – whether on a single kit or on improvement over time. There’s also intention. Ability helps you execute closer to that original intention, but if that original intention is a safe, conservative build…

      • Good, that’s clear then.
        So summing it up, US modelers are incapable, lack imagination and are too lazy to expend effort.
        You should have just said that to begin with.

      • Uh, no, not at all.

        The only thing that’s clear is that you’re either intentionally being an ass, or you need to work on reading comprehension.

        This is really simple. A blog post sparked a conversation. Everyone in that conversation agreed that, IN GENERAL, Europe (particularly Central and Eastern) and parts of Asia seem to display more ingenuity and risk-taking when it comes to modeling. There also seems to be – again IN GENERAL – an overall higher ratio of really stunning builds.

        I found it curious that there was such unanimous agreement. I started wondering why that perception might be so strong. Were there maybe some underlying reasons? I happened to have some time while waiting for a video project to render, and thought I’d put those musings into a blog post. Because it’s fun to ask why. It’s fun to ponder such things. It’s fun to see what others make of it – and so far there have been lots of interesting additions, direct experiences, and so on.

        There is absolutely no agenda here to be divisive or troll or “take this hobby too seriously” or be a suicide blogger (LOL) or any of the other aspersions I’ve seen cast in the last 24 hours. It’s just…here’s this weird thing some of us noticed. Wonder why that might be? Nothing more, nothing less.

  15. I’ll tell you one thing Europe can’t do…. F*CKING WINDOW SCREENS. Most places in EU I’ve been to don’t have AC and they ALSO don’t have window screens to keep the bugs out. Sure we may not be geniuses over here in the US… but for the love of Christ DO ONE OR THE OTHER!.

    • Chris – in much of Europe (with the exception of southern Spain), it usually doesn’t get hot enough to need AC, and there’s nowhere near the amount of bugs to need screens! Both are very much needed in the USA from my experience 🙂

  16. Last year I went to Bulgaria for a month and a half. I found a very nice hobby store within decent walking distance of my hotel. The staff there were all very friendly and I found myself going and hanging out at that hobby store more than anything else I did there. I befriended a few of the customers that frequented the place as well. It was great! Those guys were avid modelers. One of them made this diorama of a crashed and sunk F4U corsair at the bottom of the ocean. it was amazing. I can’t say that every person in Bulgaria was a modeler but I was shocked at how many I saw while I was there. In contrast, there is only one hobby store left in my extremely large city in Florida and their model selection is smaller than my stash. The owners and workers are almost standoffish, somewhat mean or bitter even. They primarily sell only RC stuff now. Its what is profitable, that’s what it seems the Americans seem to be gravitating toward. I’ve tried joining a modeling club in the USA here, but so far it seems the people don’t want to hang out and really talk about models, building or techniques the way I expected/wanted to. The pull of the damn smart phone and playstation/xbox is too powerful on American kids today.

  17. I’ve taken to modeling via the kits called gunpla which seems to fit with the disparity between the two halves of the world. It seems with gunpla they encourage new and crazy ideas and technique. It seems every year the winners in contests are more diverse in what they come up with as opposed the the military kits of the US which strive to look all the same. Even among the random sci-fi kits, there has to be this sense of realism that almost feels like a check list of chores to notch off. Don’t get me wrong, attention to detail is great but when it forces the hobby into a duplication contest, the fun leaves. Reasons why I believe the bandai kits and gunpla hobby is growing. They have levels of the hobby that anyone can enjoy as well as the creative elements people can expand upon. And someone mentioned magazines and shops: here in the states it’s like the great hunt, however in Asia the hobby is easily accessible. (I was fortunate to visit Hong Kong and Singapore )

  18. At the risk of violating the ‘attaboy-free zone,’ you’re right Matt: we’re not the best anymore…at least generally speaking in the context of this hobby. I partially blame this on IPMS’s dogged adherence to the ‘no weathering’ philosophy for, what, decades, into the mid-’90s. I’ve been a subscriber to FSM since 1986 (when it really was Fine Scale Modeling) and read time after time that in order to place at a National event, models should be as clean as possible. I never could figure this out, as to me if models were representations in miniature of real things, they would be dirty, dusty, paint-faded, dinged up…etc, with the exception of showroom vehicles. Thankfully a contributor to FSM by the name of Mark Savage threw that idea out the window and gave us beautifully scratchbuilt and weathered scale Canadian oilfield heavy equipment.

    Yes, the Europeans seem to have taken the lead in creativity and imagination. I would argue, though, that Shep Paine is still quite relevant (the Lady Be Good and his scratchbuilt interior of Tamiya’s 1972 release Tiger I, anybody? Two of my favorites…and his body of work does merit the recognition). Yes, Francios Verlinden took things to another level, and some (including me) credit Mig Jimenez for initiating the next significant evolution. However, I must point out that Adam Wilder (born, raised, and currently residing here in America)- who did work for Mig for a few years- left and took things in his own direction. Admittedly, he’s got quite a following in Europe and Asia but isn’t very well known at home. Another gem we have here is Rob Ferreira (Massachusetts), who specializes in burned-out and otherwise destroyed armor. And I know this is getting away from the point.

    As I’ve posted on this blog before, I’ve spent considerable time judging (IPMS locals to Nationals, and AMPS) and try to point out when necessary the nouveau weathering techniques and how (to the best of my ability) they are employed properly. As Mike Maben pointed out above, though, there may be those who strive for a pristine model which may not reflect at all a realistic state of weathering, but in terms of technical modeling skill is top-notch. This is a topic for another discussion, but again to the point of this post, America is decidedly behind but does not completely lack the resources to compete with the creativity being exhibited abroad. As to the assertion that some European work may be photoshopped, I can assure you that I’ve seen several of Adam Wilder’s pieces in person and his certainly are not- but I’ve been in the company of others viewing his work and am absolutely dumbstruck that some don’t get what he’s trying to pull off.

  19. Well now…
    I lived in Germany for 7 years and have also traveled extensively in the UK and some eastern european countries. Here’s what I’ve found:
    1. Unlike in the USA, modelling clubs in Europe are EXTREMELY tight knit. Everyone gets together usually once a week, some clubs several times a week. I have seen clubs that have their own apartment/ small commercial space where the members all have a key and can come and go as they wish 24/7. What this does is let the new modeller learn very quickly, with mentors readily available coaching them in the basics and also how to do new methods. This tight knit club atmosphere also fosters a culture of trying to do something better or different to gain the approval of the other club members.
    2. There is much more competition in the UK and Europe. Unlike the IPMS USA Nats, to be entered into competition in a show such as scale modelworld means that the model has already been shown, judged and has placed in local and regional competitions. (At least this was how it was done in the past if I understood correctly.) I have had several modelers at scale modelworld in the UK tell me that they reworked parts of their models after defects were found in local or regional competitions. So, by the time a model is shown on a national level it may be close to perfection…
    3. Most modellers I have met (Not all, but many.) who are “Fanatic” modellers (i.e.: insanely talented) in that part of the world tend to be of MUCH more limited financial means than Americans. Since modelling is their one and only hobby, they spend more time with it and are much more devoted to their craft…. I think back to when I did the majority of my modelling, It was when I was poor as a mouse and didn’t have a gaming computer, car, boat, laptop, tablet, disposable income to go out or travel, etc etc.

    Anyway, just my .02… -Robert Starnes

  20. Doogs – I have a question about your method(s) for clear coating and weathering. I realize that this may be off topic to this particular thread, but it very well may help bridge the US / EurAsian modelling gap. May I ask?

  21. I build paper models. I am definitely in the minority here in the states and regularly participate in international forums where I get most of my tips and techniques answered. My experience shows that non-US modelers definitely have a more defined skill set. Some of this has to do with more skill and imagination required when these builders were younger to build what they wanted on a smaller budget vs buying a high dollar kit with all the bells and whistles already thrown in the box.

  22. “The only thing that’s clear is that you’re either intentionally being an ass, or you need to work on reading comprehension. ”

    Comparing different ‘cultures’ by siting anecdotal (and mostly bogus) negatives about one, while extolling the virtues of another is by definition ‘divisive’. If you read the definition of an internet troll
    you’ll find it describes (IN GENERAL) your posting as being very close to that definition.
    It’s obvious you were trying to spur a discussion, and that’s fine (not at all new or original topic btw).
    My post was an effort to clarify your GENERAL assertion that one group of people (not just modelers) were inferior (not just lagging behind) to another. Insisting you were just asking a simple question out of unbiased curiosity without an agenda seems disingenuous at least.
    I believe my 2 question post, which you answered honestly, brought some focus.
    I understand that you were not trying start a discussion about a ‘serious’ topic.
    I did not take your post or any of the responses (here or elsewhere) seriously.
    I appreciate your labeling your theories as half assed.
    I did not engage in any name calling.
    ;O)
    There, happy now ?

  23. I have been using Alclad and Model Master clears (believe they are both lacquer) to prep my surfaces for washes. Do you find that using enamel washes interferes with these clear coats? I know the general rule of thumb is that your clear coating should be one medium (say enamel) and your washes should be different (say acrylic) for best results. Would also love to hear how you approach clear coating and washes?

    • Sure. So first, Alclad clears (save Aqua Gloss) are enamels. I like the finishes they give, but stopped using them because they seem to have issues fully curing.

      My preferred clears are lacquers (Gunze Mr Color and GX) or “lacquer-like” acrylics (Tamiya). They spray well, perform dependably, cure quickly, and I’ve never had anything interfere with them except for salt messing with Tamiya.

      I use mostly oil and enamel for weathering, and haven’t had any issues to date.

  24. Ok, interesting. I’ve heard good things about the Gunze Mr Color clears so I’ll try that first. Thanks for the feedback, most helpful!

  25. Doogs, I was alerted to your post over on Hyperscale, and I find it quite intriguing. Frankly, you are absolutlely right and I think it is most useful to tray and figure out why.

    Here are my thoughts. Firstly, we should frame the discussion as being about the “American Style” of modeling, because that is what we are really talking about here. As many critiques point out, trying to qualify talent or skill based on nationality is simply too complicated to be of any practical service.

    There is definitely an orthodoxy to the American Style that disringuishes us from Europe and Asia. I’m inclined to think IPMS judging rules have something to do with that, though I think the real problem lies in the interpretation of those rules, not in the stringency they expect. I think there is genius in the IPMS criteri of identifying observable and irrefutable flaws: silvering, seams, and the like. It strives to define what is objective in judging models, and that is a strong foundation. Better, it implies (though rarely discusses, oddly) these issues are regarded as flaws precisely because they detract from a convincing illusion; a fingerprint in the paint reminds us we are looking only at a little plastic toy, and the spell is broken. This is their true justification.

    But I wonder if they inadvertantly stifle creativity by encouraging orthodoxy: Someone wins a prize with a really nice, smooth, Alclad finish, and everyone decides that this is what you have to do to win a prize. Soon, all the NMF finishes on the table look exactly the same. Meanwhile in Europe and Asia modelers are goofing around with all sorts of techniques to make their kits “look” like they are made from metal. Some work better than others, but we see a real variety and creativity in the manner each modeler chooses to solve the problem.

    If something like this is true it may be an error in how IPMS trains their judges. Excusing the few brilliant judges at the top and, and a few awful ones at the bottom (nothing can improve either) the vast corps of decent guys in the middle may feel too much an obligation to “search for flaws,” having received little input about how to measure the vision a modeler defines for a project, and how well that modeler achieves that vision.

    The argument has long been IPMS should drop “1-2-3” for “gold-silver-bronze,” (which many argue encourages more artistry) but I have always thought they should simply do both. I’d like to see a two-tiered approach that first compares craft (seams, silvering, etc.) and then– in the finals– devises a system (maybe a point system?) to reward creativity, innovation, and artistry.

    One other quick thought: photography indeed might have something to do with the perception. The “American Style” may simply be more subtle. I’ve often felt that bland uniformity when looking a a table of models, but then saw some really amazing stuff when I judged, because I was scrutinizing much more closely. Maybe American modeling excellence just doesn’t photograph as readily?

    Looking forward to your thoughts– John Ferdico

  26. Reading your article and the variable geometry swept wing responses, I feel that there are a few issues here that are (more or less) global in their reach and impact.

    These are:

    1.Manufacturing base – the commercial face of the hobby
    2.Apparent skill – the rise of the ‘expert’.
    3.Willingness to learn adapt and experiment – related to a creative environment
    4.The perceived link between hobby-income/wealth- and social standing
    5. Geographical location

    lets have a go at myth busting these five pillars of modelling wisdom in a top five countdown

    5. I come from a land down under…
    Living in NZ (I moved there six years ago from the UK) gives me a slightly skewed view on what modelling was/is and how it is ‘done’ in other parts of the world. Firstly the Kiwis (New Zealanders to you colonial types) have a particularly relaxed view on life, yet at heart are uber competitive (they’ll compete with their own shadow to be first to the pub). But whilst the model scene here is tiny (in a population of just under 5 million souls), it seems to have a vibrant, supportive, inclusive community. In Wingnut Wings it has a world class kit manufacturer who isn’t afraid to offer some obscure and tangential subjects. Granted its owned by a multi-millionaire movie director (a previous employer of mine) so the subjects are more a personal predilection than sound commercial venture (32nd scale flying boats? Are you mental?). But still, even though WNW and the modellers in NZ are to coin a phrase ‘at the arse end of the world’, it doesn’t prevent them form making world class stuff. So No.5 is busted.

    4. ‘I’m considerably richer than you’*
    The opinion that Americans are (or were until the sub prime market imploded) better off than their poor european counterparts who all live in shoeboxes and eat deep fried horse and can only afford one kit a month is understandable.
    Yeah right, by and large, Brit modellers don’t have a huge modelling budget or a sprawling air conditioned hobby room to store and build their stash… but you wouldn’t think it judging by the BMW’s Audis, Mercs and other ‘luxury’ cars parked outside the IPMS Nationals at Telford would you? In fact being a one time contributing illustrator to MDC’s resin products and seeing first hand how modellers go mad with the plastic at shows like Telford, shows that the hobby wealth is there. True, the hobby used to be a relatively low key ‘pocket money’ activity and this is an aspect that has been well and truly buried by the rise of the ‘expert’ who ‘demands’ ‘excellence’. Simply put, the adolescents of the 1980’s have grown up, rediscovered their hobby and are in turn supplied/exploited by the product makers who know that today, middle aged men have a higher disposable income than in the 80’s and will pay anything for a styrene replica of some long forgotten war machine (or whatever).This isn’t modelling exclusive and all hobbies have been transformed in this way since the late 80’s, as media and technology allows makers to exploit a global market and new design/production methods to make better products.
    We’ll come back to how the USA has largely failed to exploit this later.
    Busted.

    3. Look Pa, I built a hover-plane! ( yes son its called a he-li-co-pt-errr)
    Someone said it’s easy for europeans to network and connect than Americans, who live in a huge country and may not have that sense of (or access to a) community that exists elsewhere in places with smaller towns etc.
    Eh? Oh I get it America big, rest of world small, you’ll have to explain that one to me, I don’t get out much.

    And…European competitions have a higher level of perfection? don’t make me laugh.

    That’s so general its like saying Donald Trump is an egalitarian level headed rational human being… (the human part is right (arguably) but the rest is open for a fist fight). And the androgynous competition tables aren’t just confined to the USofA. I’ve seen some astounding mediocrity win gold at big shows.
    That said, the ‘community’ aspect has its down side and the modelling cosa-nostra does a great job of perpetuating that insular activity thing for their own big fish small pond aims.

    So the advice is, you can be creative and experiment, just don’t enter that hover thingy into any organised competitions…

    But wait, modelling is art and art is a creative response to idea and should move forwards… errr yes it should, but:
    Many modellers over-use the ‘art’ moniker when describing that latest piece of styrene mastery (see 2…oh and its not Art BTW) but a challenging aspect of creativity has a lot to do with geographical situation and is also more about culture and history and a response to that situation. It might be easy to see how the contemporary creative arts in Europe and Asia has always responded to a change in the social structure of the country, people and events, whereas America has never faced any tangible threat to its way of life in the same way that european and asian cultures have had to evolve over the centuries. This isn’t a criticism, the USA is a young country. So the creative arts and crafts in the US doesn’t do it the same way as Europe. As for experimentation… what happened to your mad sense of adventure? Space rockets and cars with unfeasible fins on the back? Even the North Koreans have an interest in rocket motors…get with the program!

    2. Skill!
    So how does a creative and talented modeller in the US get any recognition (when the worlds best modelling web site is Australian, ha ha)? The lack of a modelling press (FSM used to be a monthly modelling bible for me in the 80’s and 90’s and was a paragon of quality when the largely Brit based hobby magazines were struggling with a stunning lack of proof reading and staff photographers who had still to work out what the focus ring was for…never mind that their cameras also worked with colour film).

    So, FSM…what happened there America?
    Cost, the internet and a lack of willing talent probably. Actually anyone who could write and produce good copy probably could make bigger bucks writing for some other more lucrative hobby subject.
    Meanwhile, the Brit and French mags had discovered colour and a spell checker and the big publishing houses saw an opportunity to buy up these titles and amalgamate this into their portfolio.
    So SAMI and its ilk (I illustrated for these briefly in the late 90’s) went past FSM like it was still in second gear. It astounds me that with the advent of print on demand ( my own forthcoming modelling photography manual leverages this media), more American modellers aren’t producing and printing their own stuff. Not like there isn’t a ready made domestic market of millions to buy the magazines is there? Go on turn some of your excellent blogs into a POD magazine. People still read the paper stuff you know.

    1.Build it and they will come… (is Kevin still waiting in that corn field?)
    Well its a long time since a mainstream American model company did anything remotely interesting let alone dare to dream (Fisher Models are an exception).That’s mostly true, but why? If Airfix can weather the commercial storm of the Chinese and eastern European Tsunami, and go on to produce Sea Vixens (an aeroplane so ugly only its designer could love it) an unfeasably huge Typhoon and a brand new quarter scale Gloster Meteor, why has Aurora and Monogram fallen by the wayside? Greed, ambivalence, a belief that the product will sell regardless of quality/subject matter?
    If the big companies cannot sustain their market share, then why aren’t there US based homegrown start ups using 3D print technology or even crowd funded initiatives? It works in Europe.

    Maybe its a state of mind?

    Maybe its something to do with that 40 year hurt that Bruce Springsteen talks about?

    American ingenuity, that fabled ability to produce innovative cool shit has hung onto those moments of greatness for too long. Or maybe it has been told for too long that the rest of the world is now smarter, better, quicker, gives more value, works harder and has more style. Arguably so, but that doesn’t mean you should allow it to happen or go on happening does it?

    Or maybe its a psyche thing?

    Whatever it is, you, the archetypal American modeller should grab your hobby by the scruff of its neck. America may be the rest of the world’s favourite joke with its bizarre rugby for softies game, glow in the dark liquid cheese coated cuisine and tonsorially challenged (but ever so slightly dangerous) politicians, but that doesn’t mean you should just sit back and accept the inevitable.

    Call yourselves neo-modellers, discard the tedious conventions of some tired ‘old boys network’ (The Intentionally Plausible Machiavellian Sorority method of placing plastic just so on a silly little piece of cloth on some wobbly wooden table in a draughty social hall) and reinvent yourselves.

    Go on, do Shepherd Paine, Michelle Choquette, Pat Covert, Bob Steinbrunn and Les Sundt proud!

    *said in a Birmingham accent. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8Kum8OUTuk

  27. Not entirely related , but not unrelated either I think

    Return to Index
    An interesting observation regarding previous winners.April 12 2016 at 12:05 PM Christopher Deegan (Login echoindia1701)
    HyperScale Forums
    from IP address 74.243.245.123

    Response to Open Judging at Wright Con Region IV event over the past weekend
    Hello all.

    The open judging policy I think is the right way to go. I would hope to see more chapters and clubs adopt this practice.

    I am writing in part to ask some questions and to make some observations. I had noticed that some of the table entries at the show were previous winners from the IPMS national convention of last year which was also held in Ohio. After looking at the contest flyer I saw that this was fine by the contest rules as it stipulated that only IPMS national winners from previous to 2015 were excluded.
    My first question is this ,……does that not stack the deck in regards the competition in favour of particular members of the local chapters who already have a nationals gong in the bag for a particular model? My second question is , was this a practice which is in keeping with the aim of the IPMS to promote the hobby in a positive light ie,….moving away from the customary practice of excluding previous Nationals winners which in this case would include a number of models which have both won at the Nats and come from the local area? My third question is What was the thinking behind this change of the usual practice if not to serve the trophy collection interests of a small number of builders? Was it perhaps an effort to make a show look good by having some clearly expertly built models on the field of play? If so should they have not been on a display table for everyone to see if the builder wanted to showcase his work?
    I was not at the show myself as I live in South Carolina so I am not a disgruntled competitor or anything like that. I am however a member of the IPMS who is getting a little concerned about the focus on building for competition that is prolific in the hobby. This in at least in this observers opinion just that , a hobby not a sport. It is clear to see from the internet and from going to shows that their is a core group of model builders who pick projects and build with a focus on competition , nothing wrong with that. But I am of the singular opinion that if local chapters start to write rules for shows and competitions that lean to serving the perennial trophy seekers who build according to specification more then promoting the hobby as a creative and fun activity with a social element then we are losing a little something I think.
    My own chapter held the regional in our own city of Charleston SC some weeks back and we did not have any models entered into competition or allowed chapter members to enter the raffle, we did have the normal no previous winner policy which was comprehensively ignored by a lot of the participants which I have to admit pisses me off , give somebody else a chance people , it is only a hobby and a $4 coaster at stake , but hey what can you do? Would it be better for the hobby as a whole if this became the norm???? Anyhoo , those are my thoughts on a rainy Tuesday in Charleston ……….still warm though.

    Kind Regards,
    Christopher j Deegan.

  28. This is a very interesting discussion and relevant to the modelling scene in Australia also as it’s only the last few years that we have seen modern weathering techniques employed by some modellers here. A lot of finished models here displayed in shows and competitions are very well done but are bland, uninteresting, and limited in subject matter. I think it does come down to how model shows are constituted and our local dominant modelling culture as I’ve seen the cold responses models ‘outside the box’ can receive from the dominant modelling hierarchy at model shows. .

    I think most of my favourite modellers these days to check out on the net are Japanese. They combine often very skilled scratch building, extremely creative subjects, with a high degree of excellence in finish which leads to an almost new way of seeing what a model is or can be.
    Anyway that’s my 0.5 cents (AUD worth). I enjoy your site and your forthright views on modelling. Keep it up! 🙂

  29. Hi Doog and all your contributors
    I haven’t taken part in an online discussion before so please don’t shout at me if I screw up.

    Like most of you I have come back to the hobby after a long break, I built my first model when I was 8 or 9 (An Airfix Ju88), I came back to it after Art School and University and discovered Hasegewa and Tamiya and then I got married and that put an end to it until about 10 years ago.

    All my adult life I’ve been interested in Naval History, particularly the pre WW1 period and so a natural step was to build models of some of the ships I had researched, the trouble is they can take months even years to complete, my current model of HMS Hood at 1:200 has taken longer than the shipyard took to build the real thing.

    Stay with me I will get to the point eventually.

    I decided to take on smaller projects alongside the big ships to develop my building skills and break the monotony, I bought myself some Roden and Eduard kits of WW1 Aircraft but found that I lacked some of the essential building skills/techniques such as Detail Airbrushing and working with Photo Etch to overcome this I began attending exhibitions, researching the web and buying some of the excellent books available.

    My research online has led me to some excellent sites where I have found invaluable info on numerous subjects and many of those sites are by modellers in the USA.
    Finally I get to the point, I think you are being a bit hard on yourselves as regards your perceived lack of adventure/skill because this lack of variety and blandness you are discussing was apparent at all the Shows I visited in the UK including the IPMS International Exhibition held at Telford in the UK where Clubs and Manufacturers from all over the globe had Displays.

    Its sites created by individuals like yourself where you will find all the things we are looking for, new ideas, alternative materials, interesting techniques and ultimately bloody good models.
    Joining a Club and entering may be good for a beginner but the desire to win becomes more important than originality and developing a personal style, a problem not just with modelling but other hobbies such as photography (my other hobby), I decided very quickly I would not be joining a modelling club.

    The one thing that does annoy me is rivet counting, cutting a fuselage in half and extending it because its 1mm shorter than the original in scale terms is ridiculous, making a change to improve the look, add interest or improve buildability is fine but as with many hobbies there are always individuals who don’t know when to stop.

    I’ve enjoyed reading this discussion (string, thread or whatever its called) and your unique style makes it good fun so I’ll be looking to contribute again, I have some questions about some of your other debates but I’ll leave it there for now, the site is brilliant and I’ve already put into use some of the techniques you have outlined.

    Regards
    Max

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