Solitary Confinement and the need to be different…

Why not just try and fit in rather than constantly hunting for the unusual?

“No one likes to be told what to do or how to think in any other walk of life, so why would I choose to do that during my working day, or as part of my hobby?”

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When I first started building models several millennia ago, almost everyone I knew did the same, bought a kit at the weekend, stuck it together on the kitchen table and then waited until the following weekend to repeat the process. Occasionally, we would get together to show off our latest glue encrusted, gloss-painted masterpiece, but often we would simply work in isolation and that would continue until we either became bored, found something else to do, or ran out of money. Mainly though, my memories of those days was the solitude and a burning desire to fit in with my peers and those that I admired.

Fast forward 40 years and the whole picture has changed. Modellers are now interconnected in a way that allows us all to share everything we do at the click of a button. Pictures can be shared, thoughts disseminated and a sense of community encouraged and grown like never before. It’s a wonderful thing to behold. But like any community there is almost always a drive to belong by fitting in with trends and interests, building similar subjects, painting with widely used techniques, using the same materials. It’s a natural aspect of any social interaction and much like supporting the same football team or listening to the bands your friends crank up on their BOSE speaker, it helps forge unions that perhaps would not naturally occur. And that’s fine, but it’s not for me.

I never feel the drive to fit in. Indeed, I will find any means possible to distance myself from the crowd and trends and fashions that I see as unnaturally restrictive.  It’s not like I don’t enjoy the interaction or the friendships and I love to see the models that everyone builds – it’s just that I don’t feel the need or have the desire to do the same.

Over the years the desire to be different has become as much a part of my day to day life, as the building of models or eating cheese on toast (I love cheese on toast). Though I’ve tried to ape the ideas and models that I’ve seen from the hands of my friends, that has almost always caused me angst and helped create models that I’ve more often than not ignored upon completion and either given away, or broken within the recycling bin. And so now I don’t. The idea of building a model that looks like someone else’s fills me with such horror I would rather not build at all, than have someone announce that the result looked like that from the hands of another modeller. I actively hunt for unusual subjects, different ways to paint and keep everything within a style that I feel is mine and mine alone.

Part of me thinks that this is simply age-related belligerence and a desire to be different for the sake of it. No one likes to be told what to do or how to think in any other walk of life, so why would I choose to do that during my working day, or as part of my hobby? When it’s often suggested to me that I “should” weather my models more, I weather them less; when it is “suggested” to me that I should build more armour, I build more aircraft and when companies ask me to only use their products within a project, I use someone else’s just for the hell of it. I simply won’t be told! Yeah, I know…

Of course it’s all rather self-defeating and results in the solitude of my confinement not being limited to ‘The Shed’ in which I spend my days. I’m then confined by my own prejudice and awkward attitude within my own head and that alienates me from those that simply want me to enjoy what they do and to show that I understand their passions by taking part in the pursuits that make them so happy. And yet I continue with my desire to be different. With my confinement. With my solitude.

At the moment I’m building MENG’s P-51D Mustang, a kit of a classic WWII aircraft and one that you would think I would be attracted to by the idea of building an ace’s aircraft. No. I spent two hours yesterday looking for markings that would allow the building and painting of a model that I felt would not be seen anywhere else. No American pilot for me! I did the same thing with my Zoukei-Mura Phantom – I just couldn’t bear the idea of building ‘Showtime 100’ because I knew so many others would. Why not just build what’s in the kit and then enjoy the idea that I’ve enjoyed what others do and that I’m part of a bigger picture painted by a community that I should embrace rather than hold at arm’s length? It’s this drive that has made me build natural metal P-40’s, unpainted Hurricanes and then spend six month’s converting a 1:24 Harrier into a T.2 – that need to be different. It’s also the reason why I’m now planning a 1:24 YAV-8B because I know no-one else will have one. Why can’t I just build a model from the goddam box?!

I guess that there is nothing particular unusual about the need to be different and to build models that are slightly off the beaten track – even if that means only a change of colour scheme, rather than a different aircraft or vehicle. Why it’s worthy of discussion here is more about my own personal fight with this part of my personality and why after so long needing to be accepted and to fit in with the community I love, I spend so long hiding within the shadows of my own isolated world, rather than the sunlight and warmth that beckons from elsewhere. I’m lying on the psychiatrist’s couch and opening up to my peers in hope that help will be around the corner. Thanks so much for listening.

Now if you don’t mind I have a P-51 to finish. What’s that – what colours have I chosen? You’ll just have to wait and see…

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7 thoughts on “Solitary Confinement and the need to be different…

  1. Sanjay Lal February 10, 2017 / 11:58 am

    Brilliant incisive article. Always enjoy reading your thoughts and admiring your work.

  2. johnnycomelately February 10, 2017 / 12:25 pm

    I started building models again about three years ago after nearly 40 years. The hobby had changed beyond recognition in so many ways, many of which I’m sure you can guess; but I really had no previous inkling of the centrality of the “show scene” and even less about endless discussions of camera set-ups and the general internet driven “sharing culture” of posting build threads and ready for inspections.

    Initially I visited a show in London and found everyone knew each other and were talking about stuff and people I wasn’t privy to or was too esoteric for me at the time, but more generally I found it all *not really my thing*.

    So, after honing my skills to a decent enough level, I decided to join in and signed-up to a couple of forums and Facebook groups. I posted and participated. But after a year or so I found, like the rest of everyday life, you get involved and there’s loads of knobs out there waiting to channel whatever crap is going on their personal life into an argument over something trivial and totally unrelated. I witnessed people being bullied, harangued, belittled & trolled daily, and was bemused (plus, sooner or later your arse is next in line, usually at the most unexpected moment over the most innocuous thing). The spats, beefs and lifelong feuds between grown men over how to approach sticking together bits of plastic were funny at first, but basically if you can’t explain a thing to your wife or friends with a straight face…

    So I withdrew, and here I am totally obsessed with the hobby again. Having deleted myself from all the groups and forums I’m also carving my own furrow without anyone really aware apart from close friends, who all think I’m a bit mental (models are totally uncool, let’s face it) and my family who are bemused but accepting.

    I pick up tips from people I admire and trust online and think I now get who IS an authority, who is self-appointed and who doesn’t really make any claims about themselves apart from simply sharing stuff they’ve discovered.

    I mix this up with my own way of doing things (I spent seven years at art school so I have some other stuff to bring to it) and endeavour not to get caught up in any dogma or system which threatens to turn modelling into a process.

    And you know what? I’m much happier about it than when I was trying to fit in. I bet there’s thousands of us out there.

    Absolute identification with this and your previous post on the subject.

    Thanks Spencer.

    (I think I’ll go back off grid now)

  3. dknights February 10, 2017 / 2:10 pm

    It’s called a grilled cheese sandwich and they are one of the best comfort foods on earth. There are whole restaurants dedicated to them.

  4. Hageuro February 10, 2017 / 4:10 pm

    I’m the same. It’s why I built that Bronco and continue to do all those derelict aircraft. Also why I rely on Mal Mayfield so much, I couldn’t build what I build without his one off custom masks.

  5. Andy Bewick February 10, 2017 / 6:35 pm

    Glad you are posting again Spencer, you have been a miss. Are you planning anymore videos from the shed. Also is there another book on the horizon.
    Many thanks,
    Andy

  6. cornay February 10, 2017 / 11:38 pm

    Again a great article.
    Creation vs Building.
    Thanks Spencer.

  7. Konrad Schreier February 11, 2017 / 3:38 pm

    After building models for over 50’years, I couldn’t agree more – the real fun is making it your own. My AMPS buddies kid me about my complete inability to build out of the box, but where’s the fun in that? Trends are fun to participate in, and often help you evolve your own style, but trying to build or paint exactly like everyone else will just wreak your creativity – and that is not going to keep you in the hobby.

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