2018 is just about over, and I don’t see anything coming off the bench in the next few days, so it’s time for the obligatory end-of-year post.
What a Year
2018 was an…eventful year. Before I get to what happened on the bench, I want to touch on everything that went on beyond it. Because damn was this year an emotional rollercoaster.
In February, we took the kids for their second ski trip, this time to Park City.
In April, we welcomed a new pupper into our life. We weren’t in a place to take on a puppy, but this was the last litter from Maizie’s mom and dad, and Maizie has turned out to be such an amazing dog that we couldn’t pass it up, so enter her sister from another litter, Mollie.
At the end of May, I took my sabbatical, a five-week vacation that’s a perk you get after your five year anniversary. And we went all over the damn place. First, the wife and I escaped to Mexico for a few days.
Then, we took the kids to San Diego…
…before heading up to Vancouver to hop on board a Disney cruise to Alaska…
Where we saw seals and bald eagles, humpback whales and calving glaciers. Where we took a train up into the mountains and a Beaver floatplane over fjords.
We also went to Disney World in November, and here and there I got to jet around the country for work. All told, there were some substantial breaks in benchtime action.
Then at the end of September, the ultimate disruption hit. I got laid off. In the world of marketing, and agencies in particular, it’s just one of those things that happens. This was actually my third time being laid off in the past seven years. In the past, modeling has been a sort of sanity-keeper during the ensuing resume sprucing and job hunting. And I suppose this time it was as well, but I found that my modeling game was thrown somewhat out of whack by the circumstances.
Happily, in mid-December, I accepted an offer with a great company, and am set to start soon after the new year, so that great stress of the past few months won’t be following me into 2019. And what’s more, I’m moving from the agency side to the client side, so I can kiss the hell that is timesheets goodbye.
What About the Bench?
During my sabbatical, I also took some time to do some updates to the bench itself. My goals were to 1) do something about the spider web-attracting, cobbled together hutch/lighting mount, 2) get paints off the actual bench surface to open up space and 3) find a better way to mount my camera for video work.
You can read all about the updates here, but I think the results are pretty striking. Of course, keeping it this clean is not something I excel at.
A Fast Start
2018 started out with a mostly blank slate. Late in 2017 I abandoned the two aircraft I’d been working on. Just…unhappy with them and unsatisfied with what I was doing at the bench overall. So I pulled out the little Takom AML-90 that I’d been working on earlier. DEF Model finally put out some resin tires for the thing (the kit tires are awful) so I was able to press ahead, using AK Real Colors to put out a fictitious scheme.
Weathering and my second or third attempt at a base later, I had my first completion of 2018 under my belt.
I also started playing around with some tiny 1/144 Bandai A-Wings, after my positive experience with their tiny X-Wing, but unlike the X-Wing, the detail on the A-Wings seemed heavy-handed, and I just couldn’t get over how toy-like they appeared, so they got shoved aside.
During the opening several weeks of the year, I found myself working from home while we waited for our new office space to be ready, and that gave me the opportunity to glue plastic together while sitting on conference calls or brainstorming concepts. I find I do some of my best thinking when building stuff, so on that front it was great. But it also left me with a few half-completed things.
The furthest progress I made was on the massive AFV Club boxing of Trumpeter’s Patriot. It was going swimmingly until I got screwed over by a combination of their shitty decals (a running 2018 theme) and bad reactions between AK Real Colors and decal solvents.
I picked up Trumpeter’s PAC-3 version, intending to push forward, and I did end up getting the trailer and missile boxes mostly built, but I have yet to revisit them for painting and whatnot.
During my work-from-home exile, I also got a good way through Meng’s T-72B3…
Trumpeter’s URAL 4320…
And Trumpeter’s M270 MLRS.
All of these were thoroughly enjoyable kits. There’s a slickness to the MLRS especially that blows me away. But for whatever reason I just haven’t gotten back to it.
Enter the Flankoff
In March, things got completely thrown out of whack with the Flankoff, a build-off between the Great Wall Hobby and Kitty Hawk Su-35 kits.
This was originally supposed to be just a naked build review, but I decided, despite not particularly caring much about the Su-35, to go whole hog on the GWH kit. This proved to be a major time sink, especially when I came to dealing with the exhausts and heat shielding.
Everything was going along well enough, but I was thrown a bit when the sabbatical hit and I found myself away from the bench for something like three weeks. When I got back, a lot of the enthusiasm for the Su-35 had bled off, and it fell away completely when the decals proved to be carrier film nightmares. This is also one that reinforced my belief in glossing before decals. Not because it’s necessary to prevent silvering. But as insurance to unify the finish, in case you need to take drastic steps to blend decals in and the like.
Ultimately, it was the decals…the prominent carrier film and the discoloration from lacquer clears slightly shifting the finish…that killed my drive to keep pushing forward on the GWH Su-35 at the end of July.
Massively deflated by the Flankoff’s ignominious end, I wanted to get some quick wins before deciding on the next big project to sink my teeth into.
These came across multiple fronts. I decided to bring that T-72 from earlier in the year back out for painting. I also picked up Flyhawk’s neat little 1/72 FT-17s around the same time, along with a 1/144 Eduard MiG-15UTI. And on top of all that, I was offered a chance to review Tiger’s ERC-90 F1 Lynx.
Throughout August and September, these occupied most of my time, and I ended up finishing all of them in time for the annual Austin contest in early October.
Of all of them, I was happiest with the T-72, which has a fun scheme, some interesting weathering, and reasonably successful icicles.
The Flyhawk FT-17s were interesting as well. 1/72 scale armor is certainly a different beast than 1/35, and I think I got a bit turned around in the weathering stages. What works nicely in 1/35 piles up and kills contrast in 1/72, so I think some “stage makeup” planning might be called for in any future tiny tanks.
The Eduard MiG-15UTI? I don’t consider it very successful. While I loved the new Tamiya Lacquer Painto LP-11 for representing the silver lacquer finish, the panel lines were too heavy for the tiny scale and the result is a clean look that just comes across as toylike.
Last up for the September completions, we have the Tiger ERC-90 F1. Which was partially satisfying, partially not. There are some weak points on the kit – the tires, the articulating exhausts, the muffler and the water turbines are the major low points – that killed off my enthusiasm for maximum effort. There’s also the fact that the F1 is only used by Mexico and Argentina (and Argentina only has like 12) and is generally cleaner and far less interesting subject-wise than the ERC-90 F4 Sagaie. I entertained plans to do a digital camo scheme, but that faded with my enthusiasm.
Then I did a three-color NATO scheme, and for whatever reason it didn’t sit right with me, so I resettled on a tan-and-green number.
I was pretty happy with how the paint came out, but the scheme opened up problems in terms of weathering. Mainly it’s hard to do interesting, subtle desert-like weathering on this kind of yellow-tan color.
Overall, I’m glad I built it, but I’m not satisfied with it. I’m hoping Tiger does the right thing and makes an F4 variant so I can come back and take a fresh swing, since I do love my esoteric French armored cars.
A New Generation of WIPs
Right around the time I was wrapping these bastards up, I got laid off. Which threw my bench activities into a bit of a tailspin as I buckled down to get my portfolio site up and running and all of that jazz. I was a decent way into my main WIP at the time, a second go-round with Italeri’s F-104, and I won’t lie – it killed some of my enthusiasm for the project. I got off track with painting the damn thing, and had to reverse course and take a second stab, which thankfully came out how I wanted.
Now I’m limping through the weathering stages, not really feeling it, but close enough that I’ll definitely be seeing it through.
I’m also working on three other kits. Hasegawa’s 1/32 Ki-44…
Zoukei-Mura’s F-4D Phantom II, for a magazine article…
And a tiny Trumpeter T-80BV, as a nice distraction between the larger projects.
What’s Ahead of 2019?
For the coming year, I’m hoping to settle down a bit and be less all over the damn place. My hope is that, once I’m through this brace of kits that’s currently occupying my bench, I can find my ideal pace of one aircraft and one armor kit at a time. But I’ve also found that trying to plan too far ahead is a great way to totally screw myself for projects. So I’m just going to see what comes.