A year in focus – 2017 comes to an end…

Completed models, missed opportunities and a desire to improve – what will next year bring?

“Here’s to 2018 and to another year of diverse builds, intriguing releases and conversations about the hobby and just why it is that personal favourites are sidelined once more in the face of kits that actually make money for those involved in their creation”

IMG_4023At this time of year it’s traditional amongst the modelling community to recount their trials and tribulations and reveal what they’ve completed over the preceding twelve months. Normally that involves a simple collection of photographs and a few words to describe the models, but I thought that this year I would break from a personal norm and perhaps pen a few words about not only my work, but the hobby in general and then use my thought both in print and Online.

In terms of completed models, last year was a little less productive that the previous few, a fact that can be explained by a number of factors, namely my inability to complete projects that should have been done (Revell’s 1:32 Me262 and 1:48 MiG-25 Foxbat, the Airfix 1:72 Fortress and 1:48 P-40, all of which were two-thirds complete as the curtain came down over Christmas) and also choosing to build a number of models that took more time that I appreciated, the Mistel combination, that Kittyhawk Su-17 that caused such a kerfuffle and then an involved diorama entitled “The Game’s Afoot” that needed to be done for the relaunched Euro Militaire show in September, throwing more than a few spanners into the works. Add to that a return to my scratch-building roots as part of the detailing process within a number of aircraft builds and the diorama that was almost 50% built from scratch, and the consumption of limited time is not hard to see. That being said, there were a handful of simpler builds that took less time, but they were not enough to raise the average in the face of projects that were more complex, the 100+ hours on the Fitter being particularly gruelling. Still, at least I managed to finish it, despite the claims from elsewhere that it was virtually unbuildable and to this day it remains one of my favourites from the last few years…

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In terms of specifics, 2017 was as disparate as it was entertaining, my desire to push the boundaries of my skills being every bit as great as my need not to stick to one subject, one scale or in some cases, one style. This year has seen the completion of aircraft in 1:72, 1:48 and 1:32, armour in 1:35, dioramas and vignettes, vehicles in 1:24 and over Christmas, Star Wars craft in all manner of scales – I was certainly not hamstrung by convention! The list of actual completions is as follows (in no particular date order…):

Completed Models
Tamiya 1:48 Ki-61 Hien
Academy 1:48 F-86 Sabre
Airfix 1:72 Jet Provost
Tamiya 1:24 Citreön 2CV Fourgonnette van
ICM 1:72 I-153
1:35 Vignette “Clocking Off”
Kittyhawk 1:48 Su-17 Fitter
Tamiya 1:48 P-51D Mustang
Tamiya 1:48 P-51B Mustang
MENG 1:48 P-51D Mustang
Eduard 1:48 Messerschmitt Me Bf109G-4
Revell 1:48 Junkers Ju88A-4
Revell 1:32 Spitfire Mk.IX
Rye Field Model 1:35 M1A1 Abrams
Italeri 1:35 ISO Container
1:35 Diorama “The Game’s Afoot”
Kinetic 1:48 F-18C Hornet
Tamiya 1:48 Messerschmitt Me Bf109G-6
Academy 1:72 F-18C Hornet
Airfix 1:72 Spitfire Mk.I

Those that didn’t cross the finishing line…
Revell 1:48 MiG-25 Foxbat
Airfix 1:72 100 Group Fortress Mk.III
Revell 1:32 Me 262 Night Fighter
Airfix 1:48 P-40

Seeing the list in full, I’m happy with what I’ve achieved — after all, this is only part of my job, I also have the magazines to prepare each month — and the standards that each model has reached, or in some cases, not. When doing this job you are always treading a fine line between quality and the need to actually complete models in a short period of time and against deadlines that hobby modellers would perhaps not place upon themselves. Over the months I know that I’ve cut corners with each one, ignoring areas that couldn’t be seen, not sweating over details that would not show in the images on the pages and learning when to cut a model loose. These builds are all there to serve a purpose, to be fun to look at in Model Airplane (well, other than the civilian and military vehicles…) and I never loose sight of that and never spend more time than is absolutely necessary on each on.

“Perhaps though the one thing that defined my approach in 2017, was my need to complete kits that have been hanging around for a while and not always to be swayed by the shiny and new that cross my desk each month”

Two of the models for instance suffered from paint appearing within canopy sections, areas that could not be reached and thus the models are compromised as a result, my 1:48 F-18 being particularly annoying. I’d love to be able to sit here and type that everything ran on rails, but it didn’t and it is the mistakes and somewhat flawed results that illustrate just how difficult it can be to hit those concrete targets when your aim is hampered by lack of time and blind panic. Hopefully, the corner-cuts are not too visible and that despite my honestly here, readers of MAI and those that see my work Online, aren’t too disappointed when they see a mistake — deliberate or not! — because trust me, all modellers make them.

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Perhaps though the one thing that defined my approach in 2017, was my need to complete kits that have been hanging around for a while and not always to be swayed by the shiny and new that cross my desk each month. For instance, the two Hornets that I finished a few weeks ago were started in 2016 and sat unloved in their boxes until a move from my workshop in the Garden into my new studio in the house, got me going once more. Initially, I’d considered throwing them out — as I often do when a project stalls to a point where I’ve completely lost interest — but a cursory look into their respective boxes and a few hours ploughing through reference books, reignited the fires and both were finished side by side. The same thing happened with the two Tamiya Mustangs, kits that had been lying around for a while, only the arrival of the MENG kit being sufficient to kick-start my love of the aircraft last January. Oddly, January 2017 will be defined by two more Mustangs, the Airfix and Revell kits being on the shortlist to be done as soon as time allows.

But of course it hasn’t all been about the older kits, last year saw us look at many new offerings from the world’s kit manufacturers, with my workbench seeing a collection of fine releases with two in particular that were simply spectacular: Tamiya’s 1:48 Hien and Me Bf109G-6.

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We are of course used to this particular company hitting the high notes with their releases, the F-14A from last year being described by this particular scribe as the best ever aircraft kit in that scale, but if anything they raised the bar, first with the Hien and then with the ‘109. It’s always a path fraught with danger to announce in public that a certain kit is the best ever, the chance of it being overtaken an ever-present danger and so that came to be with the ‘109, a kit that is so clever, so easy to build and so packed with design ideas and features, that you can’t help but be blown away by the journey to completion and the resulting miniature. So yes, it’s now my favourite 1:48 kit and my ‘2017 Kit Of The Year’, but then that’s somewhat implicit isn’t it?

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Despite the ever-present Tamiya masterpieces, there were other projects that were just as much fun and in one particularly tiny package, my favourite build and model: ICM’s delightful 1:72 I-153. The scale of 1:72 is easily my first love, so when the ‘153 pitched up, I couldn’t help but be captivated by its detail and finesse and so had to see what I could do with it, adding a few details, improving a number of areas, pushing the finish and then completing the picture with a little vignette base being a tick-list to completion. It might not have been the best kit of the year, but it was the one that give me the most joy and sits centre-stage within my display case.

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The other build that took me away to somewhat far-flung islands of nostalgia was my 1:48 Mistel that combined the Revell/ICM Ju-88A-4 and the Eduard Me Bf109G-4. Based on the late Anthony Clement’s 1:32 masterpiece that he won the IPMS National Champion’s award during the early Eighties, my model copies in detail his build, both in terms of set-up and colours, the earlier Ju-88 with cockpit being a neat contrast to other later variants of this fearsome weapon. In fact, so keen was I to replicate his larger build that I grabbed two copies of Scale Models magazine and then surfed the Internet for images to ensure than my model was as close to his once painted and assembled. Now that it’s done, I think that Tony would approve of it and thus it remains a tribute to one of the UK’s best ever model-makers and to this day, one of the Top 5 models I’ve ever had the pleasure to see.

Away from aircraft, last year has also gave me the chance to tackle a few rather more ground-based subjects. The first of these was the Tamiya 1:24 2CV Fourgonnette van, a kit that I built over a period of one day whilst my wife was out with friends. I’d always liked the idea of charting a build Online in real time, so that what’s I did, building and painting the kit as the day passed and though it wasn’t fully complete by the end of the allotted time (it still needed to be weathered the following day) it proved that with modern tools and techniques, ‘weekend’ builds were still possible! Now all I have to do is build a Vignette around it, something I plan to do over the coming months.

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If the Fourgonnette was a quick build, the same cannot be said for the diorama and vignette that were constructed to be displayed at the Euro Miniature Expo in Folkestone. Having bought the RFM 1:35 M1A1 Abrams, I couldn’t really decide what to do with it, so decided to create a fantasy scene based on many of the Playstation 4 games that I enjoy. Entitled “The Game’s Afoot”, the scene includes many of the motifs that define video game worlds, and though not entirely successful in terms of layout and design, goes some way to achieving the aim that I set myself… I think. But boy, was it time consuming to create! Not only did I have to build the M1A1, I also tackled two ISO containers (only one of which appeared in the scene, along with a large number scratchbuilt structures, a ton of accessories and seven fully-detailed 1:35 figures, the most I’ve ever painted for one diorama. I might be a while before I tackle something quite so involved in the future!

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Last year certainly had its share of ups and downs, the industry and hobby being no different. We’ve continued to see the rise in the number of manufacturers, finishing products in particular being almost daily releases. This has created a sense of almost fanatical devotion to particular brands and than has been reflected in the images and features that have appeared that are just as much about what has been used to complete the model, as it is the model itself. For me, this has always been something to avoid; I cannot find myself in a position where I’m seen to favour one brand over another and fortunately, those that supply both MAI and myself personally with products to use, understand that this is the case. But it is hard to remain neutral in the face of such an overwhelming avalanche of new items and that’s why I recently decided to concentrate on the models and stick to what I need to use to complete each one and if I can use a particular product along the way, I will. Simply put, it has to be about the kits and not what we use to finish them and that is certainly something that will define 2017 and in many ways, the year to come.

“If the Fourgonnette was a quick build, the same cannot be said for the diorama and vignette that were constructed to be displayed at the Euro Miniature Expo in Folkestone”

If the number of new kits and accessories can be seen as a positive, the rise of the Internet, its social media presence and various forums, has added to a level of negativity that’s not always balanced with its more positive aspects. It may well always have been there, but I’ve nevertheless found myself shocked by the vitriol that has poured forth on occasion about new kits and manufacturer’s choices, modeller’s angst at particular subjects not being released, or even kits being late. I understand the passion that hobbies such as ours generate, but I cannot get to grips with the idea that something that is supposed to bring pleasure and relaxation can cause similar levels of anger to those seen by other more weighty issues. But it’s also the rise in the number of arguments about how modellers approach their hobby from other modellers, that has really got under my skin. It seems that we have become a group that is no longer prepared to take criticism, only offer it, unwilling to learn and lacking in the most basic understanding that non of us knows it all, despite some thinking that they do and then proving in spectacular fashion that they don’t. Fire has seemingly raged through modellers that have turned passion into misplaced anger and that’s an ill wind that blows across us all. As someone who has spent a lifetime asking questions and passing on ideas, this intransigence is hard to understand. Build models; don’t build models; leave others to carry out their hobby as they see fit. Simple really. And if you have nothing better to do than only offer criticism, keep quiet – or is that asking too much?!

So 2017 was about great kits, the continued rise in popularity of products designed to finish them — step by step in many cases… — filled gaps in lists of the unusual, the desire for the world’s manufacturers to build anything and everything Soviet in origin and a continuation of companies to copy others when a more original choice may have been more enjoyable for those that don’t want to build another Flanker! Kidding. But I guess that that’s the way of things today, manufacturers trying to outdo each other in a market that is almost at saturation point and though I would argue that we really need a range of cutting-edge, first-generation Harriers in 1:32, I’m not convinced that the world’s manufacturers feel the same way! Well, at least we have new kits in 1:48, so all is not lost…

Here’s to 2018 and to another year of diverse builds, intriguing releases and conversations about the hobby and just why it is that personal favourites are sidelined once more in the face of kits that actually make money for those involved in their creation. Now come on – where the hell is that 1:32 Harrier GR.3?!

See you next time.

 

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10 thoughts on “A year in focus – 2017 comes to an end…

  1. Darren McQuillan January 1, 2018 / 12:10 pm

    Morning Spencer,

    I look forward to continuing to read about and looking at more of your models in 2018. I’m also particularly interested to see how the Shed 2.0 looks in more detail.

    Happy New Year,
    Darren

  2. kfutter January 1, 2018 / 12:25 pm

    That’s a very impressive output for a single year, Spence! Fantastic stuff.

  3. STEPHEN WHITESIDE January 1, 2018 / 12:31 pm

    happy new year Spencer your blogs are a great push to build and improve my standards but the bigest of 2017 incentive is to finish/build my older kits and let the new ones sit a bit longer thanks

    steve

  4. Christian Atkins January 1, 2018 / 1:10 pm

    Happy New Year to you too! Impressive list and well said! Tolerance for others and the understanding that comes with it.

  5. Jim Chadwick January 1, 2018 / 2:22 pm

    Happy New Year Spencer. Some great builds there. Here’s to more in 2018.

  6. modelhangaratkind January 1, 2018 / 4:12 pm

    Spencer, your completions are more than I realized. Watching through your published articles and internet updates, I didn’t realize this amount of completions was done. Very impressive work as usual, and I believe many of us are looking forward to you getting back to “The Shed” videos when time allows in your schedule.

  7. 日本 再起 ▶ Stand UP for Japan ▶ May 1 January 1, 2018 / 4:28 pm

    Yep I have absolutely nothing to do with any modelling forums or Facebook groups these days. It’s insane the amount of displaced anger that can be expended over something as innocuous as, say, decal softener. After witnessing countless pile-ons I’ve bailed from them all.

  8. Luiz Carlos January 1, 2018 / 5:00 pm

    Fabulous stuff!…hope to see more and more works in 2018!… Congratulations!

    Luiz from the hot Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

  9. Neil Page January 29, 2018 / 3:50 pm

    ..amazing body of work..and I enjoy the mag too..

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