Only two things will make you a better modeler

At various points during my articling year, I found myself repeatedly hitting my head on my desk. As it turned out, this was common amongst frustrated law students and easily explained those bruised and flattened foreheads. Another common thing law students run into is what I call that ‘ol codger lawyer. That guy (and it is always a guy) is always nearby when physical bouts of frustration are in full swing. Usually with his arms folded, a condescending wall lean and a smirk permanently planted on his face.

My ‘ol codger was Morris and he was rather snarky, rude, and unsympathetic to us students. But eventually, over those twelve months, I think he took a shine to me. Or, maybe his meds finally kicked in. Either way, he offered some helpful practice advice such as: “no one knows everything on the first day,” and that “Peterson IS an asshole”. There may have been other tidbits of advice but the only one still I remember is:

“The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

Morris – ‘Ol codger lawyer with accurate albeit plagiarized guidance. Oh well, at least he was right about Peterson.

We builders start out with all the enthusiasm in the world. We grab kits and paint. We slap them together. And when we are all done, we go and grab another. In these early stages, we can’t help but get better with every kit completed. Each build means improvement with basic building skills, better paint, and noticeably better results.

But at some point, most of us hit a wall. Maybe we stop getting better with every kit or no matter what we do, we always seem to have the same build issue. The traditional places to turn to for guidance have been print media and local clubs. Today we have a lot more. We have very well-made books with detailed pictures featuring specific techniques for every category of models. We also have online blogs and forums with all sorts of build sequence pictures. Finally, we have free, on-demand video.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video has got to be worth a million.

Each of those sources of guidance is chock-full of every conceivable accessory, tool, or finishing supply item designed to give us every ounce of precision or to make our hobby lives that much easier, vibrant, and satisfying. We also live in the age of incredibly cheap electronics, software, and the internet. It seems every week there are new and interesting tools and supplies; available to us at the click of a button.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all about learning how to use nice tools and where to get them! The problem is that some builders quietly fall into a trap. Some start to believe that owning reams of superior reference materials, stocking shelves full of exotic tools, and gleaning knowledge from watching endless hours of YouTube instruction will make them better at making models.

But… come on now. Morris may have borrowed that whole ‘success before work‘ thing, but it applies nonetheless.

We all know that guy who has all the do-hickeys and bebops. He has the $600 airbrush, all the latest kits, and knows all there is to know about the latest finishing techniques. But he doesn’t have time to build a thing. We also know more than one guy who longs to make those amazing scratched, chipped, bleached and weathered models found within two or three clicks on the socials. But he never attempts anything outside of his fifteen-year-long comfort zone.

Maybe that “guy” is us.

Well, guy, it is really simple. Only two things make a better modeler and they don’t cost a dime: Investing the time in developing those skills and taking risks to try new things. In other words, that fancy new airbrush might help you get there eventually. But you still have to take a big breath, fill it full of paint and use it a few times.

16 thoughts on “Only two things will make you a better modeler

Add yours

  1. Old kits are a great way to expand our skills because they require a butt-load of work to bring up to today’s standards. (Which will also teach us how to deal with FRUSTRATION and yet persevere.)

    Another way to expand skills is to start a kit we aren’t sure (or just plain don’t know) hiw to finish…and then *finishing* it.

    Step up and go for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am he! My comfort zone has gone only as far a spray bombs. I had an airbrush once, a small very cheap single action Badger that was powered by cans of air. I stopped using it once I started a family and for various reasons, stopped building and divested myself of 80%+ of my stash.

    Well I’m back in and I’ve gotten back my skills in painting to the spraybomb level. I found my old Badger but it’s not useable without a great deal of work to repair it. Who knew you should totally take it apart if you are going to “store it” for 20+ years – LOL.

    So I bought a new one and a compressor when one came up on sale at Crazy Tire. That was almost a year ago and I’ve not used it yet. I’m just so comfortable with the cans but I know that is not sustainable if I want my models’ look to improve.

    I’ve seen lots of people use them and I used to be comfortable with one and I know the finish I can obtain by using one, I just can’t take step. It’s always “oh, I’ll use it on the next model” but then a spray bomb is used for the base colour and it goes from there.

    Well, I think it’s time I took that step….

    Wish me luck!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The important word you didn’t use is ‘practice’. Sure, buy the $600 airbrush but then learn how to use it, and keep using it until using it is second nature. The same with all your tools. Watching videos about how to do things might be instructional but you have to put that knowledge into practice and then hone what you’ve learned by doing it over and over again. In the early days almost all of your models will not be competition level, but keep at it until they are.

    There’s also ‘natural talent’. Some of us have it and the rest don’t. I don’t have it but practice has meant what I’m making these days is better than alright.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Absolutely!

    And the irony is we’ve hit this wall because what we want to be doing is building more models and learning to do new things and the cure is the desire. I know it’s not that simple. It’s strange how we hit this plateau where we think we’re high enough for the gods to see us and that pile of kits we did build, we’re now standing on, as if this is what earned us the sudden free, now unlocked for free, gift of new experience.


    Liked by 1 person

  5. My two things are 1) asking questions of modelers better than you and trying their methods, and 2) actually building kits. Remember however, that the method or technique that person used may not work for you.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: