Building is grossly underrated in this hobby.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to put on my slippers, reminisce about bagged Airfix kits, and bemoan the lack of ‘beZiK MolDeriNg SKizz’ and ‘Millennials’ like some bitter old guy. I assume all modellers have basic modelling skills and, frankly, they are a given and not some super power only a subsect of aircraft modellers possess.
I’m not talking about competent clean building, I’m talking about the art of building. Building to a very high level to make a unique and far more interesting model.
The Fun Bit
In luddite-grandpa’s days (pre-2000) kits could be a chore. You had to put a lot of work into getting a decent result, just to get the thing together in a good clean build. Added to that, the standard of detail on most kits up to the late 90s, was not great. If you wanted sharp, crisp, scale detail, you needed to learn to scratch, or to use PE well. Kits in the last 20 years, and especially in the last 10 years have come a hell of a long way, and its now possible to build a very sharp, detailed kit right out of the box.
This has lead in many cases to people focussing purely on painting as a way to drive their modelling forward. It is certainly true that there is a lot in painting and weathering to learn, to practice and to explore, and I am not here to say that artistic painting and finishing is a bad thing. its a freaking awesome thing and I love looking at it, reading about it, and doing it.
But along the way, building has kind of been side-lined. Its seen as the thing people do to ‘get to the fun bit’.
I am here to tell you it can be the fun bit, and more than that, it can make your painting and finishing even more fun.
Make it Yours
If kits are so much better now, why are we even talking about this?
Kits are much better, but they are still not as good as they could be. There is still room to improve kits, either as conversion, correction, or just super-detailing. Building can be a major way you can add distinctiveness to your model and make it unique. Kits are a mass-produced thing, and most people building them will build them out of the box, and to one of the schemes in the box.
You don’t need to be constrained by the box. Make yours different. Make your model, Your Model.
How you do it is up to you, you can add PE, 3D parts, wire, scratch, your options are almost limitless, so long as you can open your mind to all of them, but make your model unique. Look for period photos to find unusual features, or damage or anything out of the ordinary that you can replicate.
Stretching Your Canvas
As some of you will know, if you listen to the Sprue Cutters Union, I went to art school (drink). I practiced painting and printmaking, so you could say I am a painter by training. But I also learned the value of preparing your surface to paint. Your model is your canvas, if its not on your model, you can’t paint it; so even if you are all about painting: good, interesting, unique building, gives you a good surface to paint and lots of stuff to pick out, highlight, shade and otherwise show off your painting prowess.
Yes, you can make a model unique looking with how you paint it, but if you rush to paint, you are denying yourself 50% of the distinctiveness your model could have.
Good building + excellent painting = good model
Excellent building + good painting = good model
Excellent building + excellent painting = outstanding model
Building vs Painting
There is a common argument in modelling, “are you a builder or a painter”. This is going to ruffle some feathers, but so be it.
You should be both.
Finally, to slay a myth that perpetuates among certain modellers, good building is always important, whether you scratch, add AM, whatever it is: clean building and seam elimination is always a must, because you can put lipstick on a pig, but it will still be a pig. Make your surface ready for your paint: Build well.