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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hey everyone,
I'm trying to write a paper for my English class about model kit building and any help would be greatly appreciated. So I have a general question for you guys. Why do you guys build and customize models? What is it about building models that is so intriguing? How did you get introduced to it and why did you keep doing it? Thanks guys.

Here's a copy and paste of a reply i made to a response that I felt was important to why I'm asking this question:
I know that the question "why do you..." can be applied for any hobby, but I feel like each hobby has its own uniqueness that only the hardcore hobbiest would understand. Like I've been a rock climber for a good while and throughout the years, I've understood that climbing is not just about using upper body strength to hang on, but there's a spiritual, yoga state to it, learning to control all parts of your body, inside and out, and brings out these mental games that you learn to play, which surprises me that a sport can have such a deeper meaning to it. Which is what I am aiming to find in model building/customizing. I could think of stuff like "oh its fun building," but I what I really wanted to find out, was the essence or soul of building that only veteran builders would know.
 

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Model building is one of the oldest art forms. Models of ships were placed in Egyptian tombs for the dead to use in the afterlife. I have always been fascinated by miniatures, and modeling is a way to own something that you couldn't possibly have on your own.
(say an F-15) The fact that you built it yourself is also a matter of pride and accomplishment. Your first attempts are crude, but as your skills develop, the models look better and the satisfaction grows.

As for customizing models, there comes the day when either a particular model is either not available, or is unsatisfactory in appearance someway. The only option is to custom built or alter it in someway. These are usually the kits you are most proud of as they are "unique."
I began building models as a boy in the 1960's. Back then there were no "action figures" or realistic replicas available of many of the things we saw on tv or in the movies. The classic Aurora monster kits were all built by me and played with, as were the Flying Sub and Seaview. Like most boys, I dropped them when I discovered girls and other, more mature pursuits, but when Star Wars hit the screens the passion flared up and I again picked up the hobby.

I built both the fantasy and "real" items- whatever catches my fancy. Real or not, I try and do my very best on each one and the imaginary items get just as much respect as the actual subjects. Modelers often become "experts" on the subject being modeled as much research can be put forth, especially when the subject is historical. (say a WWII aircraft) When I modeled my "Memphis Belle" B-17 some years ago, there was no real information on the actual aircraft for modelers. I did alot of research and was invited to actually crawl through the "real" plane in Memphis. I discovered that the models had many of the details wrong, because the "Belle" was built before the assembly was standardized. My model was changed to reflect the actual plane- not simply built as the kit was engineered. I was very proud when the then-president of the Memphis Belle Association examined my work and pronounced it most accurate build he had ever see, and he had seen lots.

My builds have gotten slower as I've grown in the hobby as I usually customize each one in some way. I have no plans to stop and have enough kits waiting to last a lifetime.
 

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Modeler's Brand
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The question "Why do you..." is easily asked of any hobby from models, to fishing to climbing mountains.

It's a great distraction from whatever you do in daily life, an engaging way to pass time. You can build something easy just to do it, you can dig into something extremely complex for the challenge. You can slap it together as is, or dig into some truly extensive research and learn about the real thing.

There are several fronts on any model that are all specialized skill sets in themselves. From gluing to finishing to painting to decals. Each one needs attention and any step can ruin or set you back if you screw up. Conversely, knocking any step out of the park can make up for a deficiency in another aspect.

From a philosophical point, whether ancient Egyptian or modern, likely stereo-typed, voodoo culture or Wall Street mathematical models, models are also a form of 'posession' and 'control'. Once athing is modeled, you can manipulate it, study it, look at it, hold it or fly it around your house in the case of planes and space ships. An RC boater or plane guy can imagine themselves on deck or in the cockpit as they wield their model in air or on the water.

It also demonstrates craftsmanship in a roboticized world of production. You can point to it and say 'I did that!' with pride or humility, whichever is your view point, when someone asks where you got it.

Models are vehicles of the imagination. As with the RC plane and boat example, you can put yourself in the milieu, as it were. Whether it's a 1/25 Lambourghini or a 1/72 Space Shuttle, you can 'be there' with it. Not models, but as a kid playing with those green, plastic, army guys that used to be popular, in the backyard, digging mud pits and blowing things up with firecrackers, the 'toys' put you 'in' the army 'fighting the battles'. It's vicarious living, like the movies.

For any hobbyist of any kind, though, ultimately I think it boils down to one simple thing: it's a fun way to pass some time on your way from birth to the grave.
 

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rc,

Interesting question; you'll probably get enough material to write a book, let alone an essay.

I've always been an artist; I knew that by the time I entered First Grade. For a long time I wanted to be a cartoonist, drawing comic books. Later the ideas of being a free lance illustrator or having a newspaper strip held promise. For awhile I did caricatures at parties and other functions.

None of these ideas really panned out. Primarily the problem was that I just didn't have the level of talent to make my work meet my expectations: I just couldn't draw as well as I wanted to. The real blow came when I got together with a couple of friends to do a self-published comic book called Zombie Hit Men. We sold a lot of copies with the help of a distributor, but they got 60% of the take. After three issues, unable to attract a publisher to take some of the work load off us, we folded. The worst part for me was learning that I found drawing a comic book to be pretty arduous. I'd always assumed that would be my dream job, turned out that it wasn't.

The Olympics came on shortly after the demise of Zombie Hit Men. I watched the young athletes perform their amazing routines and envied them for their passion and skill. It was clear that they'd been pursuing their various disciplines from an early age; how else could they get so proficient at what they did? Having reached middle age, I wished there had been something in my life that was comparable to what I saw these Olympians performing.

Then I realized I did have something I could do, and do well, since I had been doing it since childhood - plastic modeling! Oh, it had no performance value - unlike the long jump or the parallel bars - and there was next to no income that I could see myself making from it. But it was the one pursuit in which I was satisfied by my own work, and in which I even was able to compete well.

So I concentrated on getting my work more notice on the Internet. The effort paid off; I had already had several articles published in several hobby magazines, but with Steve Iverson's intercession, I was approached by Round 2 to build test shots of reissued model kits to be photographed for the box illustrations and instruction sheets. And I get the odd commission from time to time as well.

This is a dream I never find boring in reality. The income is sporadic and won't replace my day job, but I'm losing less money building plastic models than I used to. All this having been said, the main reason I build models has been the same one for nearly fifty years - because it's my idea of fun.
 

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Very well said Mark!!
...what he said....

Chris.:)
 

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Man...everything I was going to say has been said above...word for word:rolleyes:
....oh yeah... one more thing...it's fun :thumbsup:
Denis

 

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They've been reading our minds Denis!:drunk:
Do you want me to make you a foil hat like mine??
It stops the brainwaves from escaping my head. All 3 of 'em....:drunk:

Chris.:drunk:
 

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To paraphrase Mr. McGovern, I view modeling as an art form. Aside from the fact that I simply find the hobby enjoyable and relaxing, I do it because it's a way for me to express whatever artistic creativity I have within me, and the end result is a miniature piece of artwork that not only pleases my eyes (most of the time, anyway--I'm my own worst critic) but gives me the satisfaction of knowing that I created it. So that answers part of the "why".

Customization. That is an art form in itself. It can be challenging not only to find ways to "fix" the little things about the basic kit that aren't quite right, but also to find ways to make each build your own (particularly when the subject is a favorite among modelers like the aforementioned U.S.S. Enterprise from Star Trek and every modeler is trying to faithfully replicate the original). And, although there are "better" and "worse" methods for accomplishing each goal, there really are no "right" or "wrong" ways. And that's another thing I enjoy about this hobby--seeing how other modelers overcome whatever challenges each model kit presents, learning from their mistakes and accomplishments, and gaining inspiration from their imagination, creativity, and artistry.

How did I get introduced to it? I quite literally discovered it on my own. I was an eight-year-old boy browsing the aisles of the local toy store in 1969 when I spotted a box with a remarkable painting of a skeleton on the top--Aurora's "Forgotten Prisoner of Castel-Maré" (specifically the "Fright'ning Lightning" version with glow in the dark parts). I grabbed it and ran to the front counter to ask the clerk what it was. He explained it was a model kit and not a toy, that I'd have to glue the pieces together and paint it myself, showed me which glue and which paints to use, and sent me on my way. It probably took me a few days to complete it, crudely assembled by most standards, but I was pleased with the results. And that was it. I was hooked. I was intrigued by the way the kit was engineered, the way the parts fit together to recreate the artwork on the box top in three dimensions. And more than 40 years later I still get the same enjoyment from the hobby as I did on that first day (though I think my skills have improved).

I hope this helps, and good luck with your project!
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Model building is one of the oldest art forms. Models of ships were placed in Egyptian tombs for the dead to use in the afterlife. I have always been fascinated by miniatures, and modeling is a way to own something that you couldn't possibly have on your own.
(say an F-15) The fact that you built it yourself is also a matter of pride and accomplishment. Your first attempts are crude, but as your skills develop, the models look better and the satisfaction grows.

As for customizing models, there comes the day when either a particular model is either not available, or is unsatisfactory in appearance someway. The only option is to custom built or alter it in someway. These are usually the kits you are most proud of as they are "unique."
I began building models as a boy in the 1960's. Back then there were no "action figures" or realistic replicas available of many of the things we saw on tv or in the movies. The classic Aurora monster kits were all built by me and played with, as were the Flying Sub and Seaview. Like most boys, I dropped them when I discovered girls and other, more mature pursuits, but when Star Wars hit the screens the passion flared up and I again picked up the hobby.

I built both the fantasy and "real" items- whatever catches my fancy. Real or not, I try and do my very best on each one and the imaginary items get just as much respect as the actual subjects. Modelers often become "experts" on the subject being modeled as much research can be put forth, especially when the subject is historical. (say a WWII aircraft) When I modeled my "Memphis Belle" B-17 some years ago, there was no real information on the actual aircraft for modelers. I did alot of research and was invited to actually crawl through the "real" plane in Memphis. I discovered that the models had many of the details wrong, because the "Belle" was built before the assembly was standardized. My model was changed to reflect the actual plane- not simply built as the kit was engineered. I was very proud when the then-president of the Memphis Belle Association examined my work and pronounced it most accurate build he had ever see, and he had seen lots.

My builds have gotten slower as I've grown in the hobby as I usually customize each one in some way. I have no plans to stop and have enough kits waiting to last a lifetime.

That is amazing to have your builds recognized! How did you get invited to crawl through the plane? I definitively agree with the slower build process, why rush through art?
 

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Discussion Starter #10
The question "Why do you..." is easily asked of any hobby from models, to fishing to climbing mountains.

It's a great distraction from whatever you do in daily life, an engaging way to pass time. You can build something easy just to do it, you can dig into something extremely complex for the challenge. You can slap it together as is, or dig into some truly extensive research and learn about the real thing.

There are several fronts on any model that are all specialized skill sets in themselves. From gluing to finishing to painting to decals. Each one needs attention and any step can ruin or set you back if you screw up. Conversely, knocking any step out of the park can make up for a deficiency in another aspect.

From a philosophical point, whether ancient Egyptian or modern, likely stereo-typed, voodoo culture or Wall Street mathematical models, models are also a form of 'posession' and 'control'. Once athing is modeled, you can manipulate it, study it, look at it, hold it or fly it around your house in the case of planes and space ships. An RC boater or plane guy can imagine themselves on deck or in the cockpit as they wield their model in air or on the water.

It also demonstrates craftsmanship in a roboticized world of production. You can point to it and say 'I did that!' with pride or humility, whichever is your view point, when someone asks where you got it.

Models are vehicles of the imagination. As with the RC plane and boat example, you can put yourself in the milieu, as it were. Whether it's a 1/25 Lambourghini or a 1/72 Space Shuttle, you can 'be there' with it. Not models, but as a kid playing with those green, plastic, army guys that used to be popular, in the backyard, digging mud pits and blowing things up with firecrackers, the 'toys' put you 'in' the army 'fighting the battles'. It's vicarious living, like the movies.

For any hobbyist of any kind, though, ultimately I think it boils down to one simple thing: it's a fun way to pass some time on your way from birth to the grave.
I love this reply and thank you for writing it out. I know that the question "why do you..." can be applied for any hobby, but I feel like each hobby has its own uniqueness that only the hardcore hobbiest would understand. Like I've been a rock climber for a good while and throughout the years, I've understood that climbing is not just about using upper body strength to hang on, but there's a spiritual, yoga state to it, learning to control all parts of your body, inside and out, and brings out these mental games that you learn to play, which surprises me that a sport can have such a deeper meaning to it. Which is what I am aiming to find in model building/customizing. I could think of stuff like "oh its fun building," but I what I really wanted to find out, was the essence or soul of building that only veteran builders would know, which I felt you introduced. Thank you.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
They've been reading our minds Denis!:drunk:
Do you want me to make you a foil hat like mine??
It stops the brainwaves from escaping my head. All 3 of 'em....:drunk:

Chris.:drunk:

Foil hats come in handy! Not just to stop the brainwaves but to get free "burritos" from the Chipotle restaurant during Halloween. (I really hope you guys have a Chipotle around you or you have visited a Chiptole before, otherwise my joke is ruined haha)
 

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Discussion Starter #12
rc,

Interesting question; you'll probably get enough material to write a book, let alone an essay.

I've always been an artist; I knew that by the time I entered First Grade. For a long time I wanted to be a cartoonist, drawing comic books. Later the ideas of being a free lance illustrator or having a newspaper strip held promise. For awhile I did caricatures at parties and other functions.

None of these ideas really panned out. Primarily the problem was that I just didn't have the level of talent to make my work meet my expectations: I just couldn't draw as well as I wanted to. The real blow came when I got together with a couple of friends to do a self-published comic book called Zombie Hit Men. We sold a lot of copies with the help of a distributor, but they got 60% of the take. After three issues, unable to attract a publisher to take some of the work load off us, we folded. The worst part for me was learning that I found drawing a comic book to be pretty arduous. I'd always assumed that would be my dream job, turned out that it wasn't.

The Olympics came on shortly after the demise of Zombie Hit Men. I watched the young athletes perform their amazing routines and envied them for their passion and skill. It was clear that they'd been pursuing their various disciplines from an early age; how else could they get so proficient at what they did? Having reached middle age, I wished there had been something in my life that was comparable to what I saw these Olympians performing.

Then I realized I did have something I could do, and do well, since I had been doing it since childhood - plastic modeling! Oh, it had no performance value - unlike the long jump or the parallel bars - and there was next to no income that I could see myself making from it. But it was the one pursuit in which I was satisfied by my own work, and in which I even was able to compete well.

So I concentrated on getting my work more notice on the Internet. The effort paid off; I had already had several articles published in several hobby magazines, but with Steve Iverson's intercession, I was approached by Round 2 to build test shots of reissued model kits to be photographed for the box illustrations and instruction sheets. And I get the odd commission from time to time as well.

This is a dream I never find boring in reality. The income is sporadic and won't replace my day job, but I'm losing less money building plastic models than I used to. All this having been said, the main reason I build models has been the same one for nearly fifty years - because it's my idea of fun.


Life of an artist is hard, which where the "starving artist" term comes into play right?
I know that I’m pretty young and I’m obviously not as wise as you guys who have all the experience, but I did learn that even if what you love won’t always pay the bills, it’ll keep you sane. I can’t believe though, that the distributor takes 60 percent! That’s ridiculously high.

What I don’t get is why you decided to go from drawing to building if you knew that you did have artistic capabilities in both areas. I know that you tried your hand at drawing, but why stop? It’s cool that your building and drawing, but why not both? Do you think that you continued with model kit building because you found some sort of success with it with people noticing your work?
 

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In addition to what everyone else has already said, I'd have to add that although it started with me when I was 8 years old during the 60s Aurora Monsters craze, the big jump came in my 30s when I got a hold of a reissue of the Aurora Phantom of the Opera model. It had been decades since I had thought about modeling. I tried painting it with acrylics and I took my time. The improvement over my childhood attempts was amazing, and that's kept me going in my adult years. It's rare when you can outperform your younger days (think sports, for instance...).

It's also a great way to lose yourself on something insignificant for hours at a time. It's like a mental brush'n'floss.
 

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I was born an artist. It's something I've always done since early childhood. Drawing, painting, building.... I take great pleasure from it. I've always considered this talent as a gift from God. So, I don't waste it.
Bob
 

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And, unlike many hobbies and pasttimes, you have something to show for your efforts. You can tell a friend you're on Level 10 of D&D, or whatever, or you can show them and say "I built this.". Whenever the wife and I had parties somebody would always want to go down to my dungeon to see the lastest creation.
 

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Oxidation Genius
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Because!!! :D

For one thing, it's the only thing I do that I've done all my life. It's a connection with my childhood.

It's a connection to my late father, too, in that his WWII adventures (probably) inspired me to start building model planes.
 

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rc,

Interesting question; you'll probably get enough material to write a book, let alone an essay.

I've always been an artist; I knew that by the time I entered First Grade. For a long time I wanted to be a cartoonist, drawing comic books. Later the ideas of being a free lance illustrator or having a newspaper strip held promise. For awhile I did caricatures at parties and other functions.

None of these ideas really panned out. Primarily the problem was that I just didn't have the level of talent to make my work meet my expectations: I just couldn't draw as well as I wanted to. The real blow came when I got together with a couple of friends to do a self-published comic book called Zombie Hit Men. We sold a lot of copies with the help of a distributor, but they got 60% of the take. After three issues, unable to attract a publisher to take some of the work load off us, we folded. The worst part for me was learning that I found drawing a comic book to be pretty arduous. I'd always assumed that would be my dream job, turned out that it wasn't.
My brother!!!!
I had much the same experience, except we never got as far as publishing - hell, I never got as far as finishing an issue! :lol:
See: http://www.inpayne.com/portfolio/cartooncomic.html
 

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...I can’t believe though, that the distributor takes 60 percent!
Believe it, RC. Diamond Comics is the biggest and the best there is. We had sales in Japan and the UK, not to mention some all over the United States. Without a distributor we'd have had to schlep our books out to area stores only, selling next to no books while spending a fortune on travel. We hoped that the increased exposure would help us land a publisher, but that just didn't happen. It was a worthwhile experience, though, and who knows? - maybe some day Syfy Channel will turn Zombie Hit Men into a movie...it’d be way better than Piranhaconda, that's for sure!

...What I don’t get is why you decided to go from drawing to building if you knew that you did have artistic capabilities in both areas...Do you think that you continued with model kit building because you found some sort of success with it with people noticing your work?
Pretty much - I'm sure Round 2 has sold more kits with photos of my build ups on them than I ever sold copies of Zombie Hit Men. As I said, my two-dimensional work never fulfilled my expectations the way my 3-D work has. I realized at about age fifty that I am a better sculptor than a graphic artist; better late than never, n'est-ce pas? But the painting skills I developed in art school haven't been wasted; I found I can apply them better to models than paper or canvas.


John P - nice looking comic. Zombie Hit Men was a lot of work to draw, get printed, etc. So if yer heart ain't in it, believe me, you're better off just hanging onto the dream. BTW, some of you guys from the Detroit area might be interested to know another project that failed was my attempt to get a comic strip about Sir Graves Ghastly published. I did get to meet Lawson Deming through that effort, so it wasn't a total washout.
 

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Why do I like to build and customise?

I like using my hands. It's something I am reasonable at but can improve upon with experience. Also I do it as a memory aid, creating models of things I experienced when younger. And also for the nostalgia.
 

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...And also for the nostalgia.
Geez, how'd I forget to put that in?


I think that for most of us, the customizing issue comes when we reach a certain stage of development at which building models out of the box no longer provides a sufficient challenge. Then we begin to alter our models to suit our tastes, or we become interested in the use of aftermarket parts to improve the level of detail that ordinary manufacturing process can't match, or we simply wish to put our own stamps on mass-produced kits.

The Aurora Frankenstein monster model is a good example. I've built several of them, and each one was an improvement over the previous model as my skills progressed. Still, all were out of the box builds. The last Frankenstein I built was in 1999, by which time I was ready to go to greater lengths with the model than I ever had before. The figure was built with the seams either removed where they didn't belong or added where they did. The hollow back of the vertical headstone was blanked off with a piece of sheet styrene and the gaps around the foot stones were filled with putty, which I sculpted to look llike grass. I added a lot of groundwork to the base and attached the model to a wood craft plaque.

I built this Frankenstein for competition, so the careful handling of the seams was a must. Otherwise, the additions to the base were purely aesthetic choices. If I were to build another one, I'd use some aftermarket parts to create a monster who had a less generic appearance and probably scratchbuild a more unique-looking base.

That would be about as great a challenge as I would care to meet with this particular model. Some one once told me at a model show that he recognized my "style", but I haven't got the least idea what that is. What I do know is that I just can't build out of the box anymore (unless a client requires it) and I strive to make each model I finish uniquely my own.

Does that make any sense?
 
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