The hardest part of modelling for me is getting the project across that finish line, when I find myself in the zone, which does not happen as often as I would like, I select the project which is usually inspired by a model I see in a magazine or online, do a bit of research source the kit or reach for one from the stash and start the building process, this of course has to fit into my stringent set of parameters, is it Tamiya, can it be built in a couple of weeks because if it doesn’t I am likely to lose interest, can it be painted in a single colour, if the answer to all of them are a resounding yes then on we go. Once the build starts I make my way through the instructions usually ignoring the parts that I don’t fancy plus the wheels and tracks which I tend to revisit bit by bit whilst doing the bits that I do like, it is something that works for me and helps me get those repetitive jobs done bit by bit and helps to hold my interest. There are occasions when I am building a tank when I will digress if I have trouble with the barrel or tracks or need some etched brass especially on an older kit and I will spend hours tracking replacements down on the internet when I should have really done this at the planning stage (not that I have much of a planning stage to be honest) and not when I am part of the way through, sadly I never seem to ever learn my lesson as it is a habit that I have repeated over and over again for as long as I can remember.
Once the build is completed as far as the construction phase is concerned this is where it goes a bit awry and where the wheels can begin to fall of my project, not literally of course however they may as well as this is the hurdle where most of my projects fail, the painting stage. I have read many articles and internet posts by some of the worlds top modellers who say that the building of the kit is the bit they least enjoy and that the painting is where they get the most enjoyment, for me it is the other way round I dread the painting I don’t quite understand it to be honest, it is possibly because this is where it can go spectacularly wrong and all that time building the kit can be messed up in a couple of minutes and I do have previous. I remember building Tamiya’s older Jagdtiger kit in about 1993 and in the painting guide it said that it could be painted in a lovely dark panzer grey with what I can only describe as lime green blobs, so after having an uneventful and enjoyable build, I even cut down the side skirts to replicate damage which showed how I was developing as a modeller, plus I used some etch brass for the first time in the shape of some mesh for the engine vents on the rear deck. Feeling very happy and accomplished with the build I reached for the airbrush, a tin of Humbrol 112 tarmac (think I read about it being a good likeness for Panzer grey in a magazine) thinned it and sprayed away, can you imagine my horror as all the paint just ran off the side of the tank like I was just giving it a random wash over of water, I was gutted and the tank was put to one side in a box, all my hard work down the drain in just a few moments of madness, that may of been the last time I airbrushed with enamels, and was probably the catalyst to my dislike of painting.
If my project is going to progress any further than just the building process this is the moment, the moment I start contemplating painting the damn thing. I do not know about anyone else I give my build a wash in the sink before I think about painting in some diluted screen wash, I don’t know if this does any good or not but I do it anyway, once it has been washed I pop it in my airing cupboard, (top shelf so it does not suffer from any damage due to a towel being dragged from underneath it) for a day or so until I can be sure it is dry then it is off to the shed for some primer, a bit like the bath it receives I am not sure why I do this but it is something that I have been doing as far back as I can remember. This is another instant where my project can stall, many projects are sitting in little plastic boxes primed in a lovely grey colour just waiting for me to take interest again and move it forward, I think that many of my projects stall here because at this point the airbrush needs to come out, yes I could paint them by hand and I know quite a few modellers still use this mode of painting however I am a bit of a perfectionist and I like the finish you get from using an airbrush so that is always my preferred choice and has been since I got my first ‘spray gun’ back in 1993. I have had quite a few airbrushes down the years, a badger 250-2 basic spray gun, a badger 200 which was my first proper airbrush, I then moved on to an Aztec A4709 which I just could not get on with at all, then it was Iwata time, the only time I have ever felt comfortable with using an airbrush, this of course has not been without it’s triumphs and disasters, I have ruined more paint jobs than I care to think about, badly mixed paint, too mush pressure, lack of concentration, interruptions, and most recently using the airbrush without the lid on the colour cup which enabled me to splash paint all over the place including onto the model I was painting, I have bent needles, split air hoses and sheered off the smallest of parts whilst cleaning the smallest of nozzles, airbrushes and me have a love hate relationship.
Now if that is not enough to put me off painting and finishing what comes next most definitely is, once I have washed, primed, highlighted, although I am not sure why I add highlights as for most of my projects I get carried away and paint over them completely. Once the highlights are done, on goes the main base colour, normally either sand yellow dark grey brown or varying shades of green, once this is done and dry I paint all the bits that do not need to be this boring monotonous colour by hand and I have to admit it is not a part I enjoy, using a paint brush adds more danger to my project as it is so easy to slip and mess up the base coat. If I could find a kit that needs to be the same colour all over with no wheels, tracks tow cables and tools I would be a happy man. That is if, and it is a big if the project gets this far and has not fallen at some hurdle way down the line. When and if we get this far it is time for a gloss coat, I have dabbled with several gloss coats over the years from Johnsons Klear to Vallejo gloss varnish however when I built my Tamiya MKIV last year I used a tip from esteemed and highly respected modeller Spencer Pollard and mixed some Tamiya X22 and Mr Color levelling thinner which gave me the best finish I have ever found for decaling and weathering. Now this is definitely a hurdle I would avoid if I could, I hate decaling with a passion, I have reached this stage with many models only to come up short and drag a disaster from an odds on triumph, I admire these finished models with their perfect looking decals, luckily tanks and military vehicles have few in comparison to their flying companions, I have used all the decal setting solutions however I have yet to find one that does the decaling for you. Once the decaling is done I return to the airbrush and spray over some more of that gloss finish and the weathering can begin. Now if I have reached this stage and the project has survived the building, washing, priming, highlighting, base coating, detail painting, the glossing the decaling the glossing again the chances are that it may actual stand a good chance of being finished, now I won’t bore you all with how and with what I weather the thing with as it is always a bit hit and miss and I tend to make it up as I go along until I like what I look at and as I have only finished one kit in living memory that does not happen very often. Once I am happy with what I see I go back to the airbrush and give it a couple of coats of matt varnish, then voila it is done, I could say I then add numerous figures and put it on a base but I would be lying, it is something I really need to look at as a next step however getting projects finished is what I am working on achieving at this moment in time.
The process that starts the moment you snip off that first piece of plastic with the sidecutters is a lengthy one and is always fraught with danger and far too many opportunities for things to go wrong and the project go to the dogs. I can admit that my approach to modelling is in a way very haphazard, could do with a bit of organising and I give away far too many opportunities for things to go wrong. There is a very true statement that says practice makes perfect, I need to take time to practise and perhaps find a way that I feel is more me when it comes to finishing off projects as far too many stall at the many stages along the way for far too many reasons. Over the years that I have been modelling it has become far too easy for myself to become bogged down while trying to copy how other modellers approach the hobby, maybe what I need to do is find my own approach, work out my own ways of over coming the problems that I face whether that be in the building painting decaling or presenting my models, I certainly need to change something as I need to get more projects over that most vaulted of places the finish line.
The Average Modeller.