Modelling, like any visual medium, has its own language. There are obvious tropes, like Tigers and Shermans and Spitfires and 109s, and there are modern modelling tropes like “‘heroic’ German retreats from Russia” models, whitewashed T-34s and Panzers with rusty metal and primer red panels, that have become clichés in the last 20 years. But I’m not here to bash tropes and clichés (as much as I LOVE to).
At the same time, there are finishing tropes. accepted ways to depict rust, bright Olive Drabs, rain and dust streaking, and panel streaking on aircraft. These are looks that are accepted as the way something looks, somewhat divorced from how something may have looked. But again, I’m not here to complain about realism (I already litigated that HERE.)
What I’m getting to, is that modelling has become so full of clichés and tropes, and accepted ways of depicting things, that an expectation has creeped in: that you must use these things if you want your model to be understood.
What Are You Looking At?
This has raised its head for me recently with Will Pattison’s 1/48 Easy 8.
When Will posted this on Facebook, people assumed it was intended to be the improvised wooden armour on Shermans in the Pacific theatre, like this one on Tinian:
But it wasn’t.
Will was making a what-if speculative model where some crew had welded steel angle to their tank. This didn’t stop people telling him his wood looked wrong, he needed more woodgrain chipping, and just generally lots of comments about his wooden armour. If you look closely at the picture, you can see its angle metal.
The problem is that people were seeing what they expected to see, rather than what was there.
Will took that as a failure to communicate; that what he was doing did not translate to what people were seeing, but I don’t think the failure was his.
Some time ago I did a museum diorama of the Cobbaton Combat Collection‘s Centurion AVRE, using the superb AFV Club kit.
A feature of the museum is that they use mannequins in the exhibits and they like to make the vehicles look ‘lived in’
I decided to paint some 1/35 figures like the mannequins and pose them like them.
When I showed progress to Will and Tracy they said they didn’t work. That people might just think they were badly painted figures. And they were right, but for me, they were also wrong. While people may think that when they look at the figures, it was more important to me to paint them as I wanted them to look, to be true to the actual thing, than to fit what a modeller may see through the lens of their conception of the hobby.
Later I painted rust on a vehicle and I had the same dilemma. The rust on the real thing did not look like rust on a model. There are many many many kinds of rust of course, but in modelling we more commonly go for a very uniform look, that is usually tending towards oranges and reds, with some grey, and a lot of speckling. But my reference didn’t look like that:
I tried to replicate the photo and failed, but again it was more important to me to try to do this, than to conform to the common visual language for a subject like this.
EVERYONE ELSE IS WRONG
That’s what happens right? Often when a modeller makes a poor model, they blame everyone else for not getting it, that’s what I’m doing right? No. I’m not blaming anyone who doesn’t get what I’m trying to do, for not getting what I’m trying to do. I understood when I did these things that they may be misunderstood because they don’t conform to the usual way we see models.
When you come up against something like this, you can decide, is it more important to be understood, or to make it how you want to make it? Why do you make a model?
Its up to you