Lester Plaskitt, in the forward to Michael Rinaldi’s Tankart Volume 2, discusses the three most important words that have guided him in the construction and painting of scale models: aspiration, inspiration, and knowledge. I have added harmony to the list as an important word for me. According to Dictionary.com the definitions of these words are as follows:
Aspiration - strong desire, longing, or aim.
Inspiration - an inspiring or animating action or influence.
Knowledge - acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation.
Harmony - agreement; accord; harmonious relations; a consistent, orderly, or pleasing arrangement of parts; congruity.
Aspiration: Mr. Plaskitt identifies other modelers as a source of his aspiration. We are very blessed in CASM to have a large number of accomplished modelers who bring their work to CASM meetings and post on the CASM Forum. They are a source of aspiration for me and constantly show me where I can improve in my modeling skills. I have also found excellent models at the Tulsa Figure Show, Wonderfest, and our own Sproo-Doo contests. I have often found myself looking at models and wondering “How did they do that?” This always calls for a closer inspection of the model and finding the modeler who created the piece to ask a thousand questions. Publications are another source of aspiration such as modeling websites, magazines, and the excellent books published by Mr. Rinaldi. I also draw aspiration from modelers that are new or re-entering the modeling hobby. I enjoy watching their growth in modeling skills and aspire to grow along with them.
Inspiration: Mr. Plaskitt cites as a source for inspiration pictures of actual the actual subjects of his models. Publications or the internet that depict the subject matter in real life situations provides for him context and scenarios where the subject flourished or met its untimely demise. Since I build fantasy and Anime models, I would add to the list of publications artwork completed by masters of fantasy depiction, such as Boris Vallejo, Julie Vargas, and Luis Rojo, and cinema. This work often provides inspiration for bases that provide context to a piece as well as influence on the colors selected for painting.
Knowledge: Modelers are consummate historians who often seek as much knowledge about their selected subject matter as is possible. The amount of information a modeler has related to their modeling subject is phenomenal related to how something was constructed, the color and aging characteristics of paint and material, and the environment in which the subject existed. Figure modelers research the historical nature of a subject as well but also the textures of clothing, color of skin, the nature of jewels, and the color of precious metals as they reflect the items around them. Figure modelers also invest in instruction on art technique, relationships of color, and the characteristics of different kinds of paint. It is knowledge that lets us know if the completed subject “looks” right.
Harmony: When I first starting modeling as an adult I was content with insuring the modeled piece was painted the correct colors. You know what I am talking about: the inside of some cockpits were chromate green; Sherman tanks were olive green; and some uniforms were khaki. I saw color as being, well, one color. What it was is was what it was. And, when I was finished I was well-pleased with a clean looking model, but the different elements of the model did not standout and were difficult to see. As I started competing in contests I found the “clean” look did not stand out when sat next to other models where all of the parts could be clearly seen. Panel lines were darker, edges of panels were lighter, tops of ridges on clothing were lighter and inside of wrinkles were darker. The contrast between colors became important. But what color is the correct color when creating the contrasts? Why was it that some models looked pretty good and some models looked harsh and discordant? The differentiating issue was color harmony. As I further plunged down the rabbit’s hole of figure painting I slowly came to an increasing understanding of color harmony and how color harmony allowed me to emphasize specific elements of the piece I was rendering. It is often not enough to paint parts the correct color. A better outcome occurs when the correct colors are influenced so the collective parts of the piece are not only correct but are also in harmony with one another. This next step often distinguishes the difference between a great model and an excellent model. As an industry, modeling is lucky to have attracted the attention of professional artists who have taken that next step and written information on how to render accurately and in harmony. This step is not for everyone but it certainly has been a source of aspiration and inspiration for me.
This last word I did not include on the list but I believe is a necessary quality of a modeler is courage. It takes courage to aspire and grow in modeling. Growing necessarily requires initial steps of failure with a faith that taking the necessary steps, with practice, results in an ever improving quality of workmanship and painting. As such, I rejoice in the effort by those modelers who have the courage to take steps into a new, for them, technique that eventually improves their final piece. I personally find it stimulating and astonishing that over the last six years since I have re-entered the hobby, every model I have built has incorporated some new technique. It seems there is always a new technique to try. While this often leads to mistakes it has also led to a steady progression of improvement. It is sometimes daunting to learn something new for every model and it often slows down the painting process as I try to think and understand the new way of rendering my model. Sometimes it has led to a creative paralysis that has caused gaps in my building and finishing process. Okay, it sometimes has made me down right mad. But in the end each new creative step has led to a better model than the previous model. Learning new ways is a way that keeps the hobby fresh for me. While I do not advocate this method for everyone, for me, it has been a necessity to hold my attention and provide countless hours of enjoyment.
What greater joy can there be than finding an area of interest in which you are surrounded by so many people who can serve as an inspiration for growth; where the subject matter can inspire creative activity; where an ever-increasing knowledge of a subject can be gained, the manipulation of color harmoniously can increase the quality of a piece; and courage can be strengthened? All of which can be shared with like-minded people!