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Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Engineers and the Visualists

For me, modelling preferences fall into two categories, which explains everything from scale preferences to the debate over accuracy to color interpretation to joyless modelling Nazis.

There are the Engineers and there are the Visualists.

For the Engineers, perfection is a model that is visually indistinguishable from the real thing. They tend to stress detail accuracy and color fidelity. An anemic fuselage width or missing cannon port drives them mad. Rivets and raised panel lines are just minor obstacles to be overcome in the process of building.  The Engineer wants each model made to be the summation of all that is known about the particular aircraft type, and generally, the larger the scale, the better. When Engineers go mad, they become JMNs.

For the Visualists, the impression is every bit as important as the reality. Buildability is liable to be valued higher than ruthless accuracy. Color and markings tend to be the driving interest, so you will often find them building multiple copies of a single type in all sorts of different markings. They will often shrug and say that it looks like a B-17 to them, something an Engineer would never do. When Visualists lose it, they are the guys who overweather, paint shadows, and run felt tip pens over panel lines.

Engineers like larger scales with tons of detail; Visualists are drawn to smaller scales so they can make multiple versions with different markings.

Visualists are often described as artists, though that seems a bit strong to me. A hugely detailed P-51 can be every bit the work of art that a beautifully finished basic model is. While I personally fall more into the Visualist camp, I have a lot of respect for the Engineers of the modelling world. But if you sense a whiff of contempt toward the brutal rivet-counters, at least you’ll understand where I’m coming from.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

An introduction

So here we are in 72Land, a spot where only 1:72 scale model aircraft live. In an era where the larger scales seem to be taking over the media attention (such as it is), I felt there needed to be a place where the divine scale would get its proper due.

So, why 1:72? It’s pretty simple, really. That scale boasts the two main attributes I am looking for: manageable model size and breadth of subjects that have been kitted. My unattainable goal is (in my dream world, and what else is 72Land?) to have every aircraft type ever kitted on display. No other scale comes close to the number of kitted types available since the dawn of the plastic modelling age. 1:48 is generally more interested in fighters and 1:144 tends to skew toward airliners. There is no other scale where you can place a Hughes H-4 next to a BD-5 and marvel at the difference.

When I returned to modelling in the early 80s, I was entranced by tales of Alan Hall’s History of Air Power model display. Apparently he used to cart around over 1000 completed 1:72 models to various shows and exhibitions in the 70s. And given how many fewer kits were available at that time, the accomplishment is all the more impressive. The rush has recently been reignited by a display at the Seattle Museum of Flight, where an exhibit of 500+ 1:72 models has been installed in the new Personal Courage Wing. We’ll get to that at some later date.

So I must have many hundreds of jewel-like completed models displayed in my house, right? Well, no, like most, my conceptions far outrun my abilities. I do have nearly 350 completed models in the garage, displayed in a combination of second-hand commercial display cases and homemade display boxes. They’re waiting until I get the funds for the first official standing cabinets to be ordered and set up. That effort was temporarily derailed this year by some expected contract downtime (I’m an IT Project Manager by trade), but once the income returns we’ll get moving on that purchase.

And alas, one thing you won’t see in 72Land is a series of flawless examples of model-making talent. When it comes to modelling, I am profoundly average. I know how to hide a seam (usually) and do use an airbrush, but my emphasis is on building, not being perfect. For every model out there in the garage, I have enough IPMS judging experience to know where the bodies are buried – which decals have a teeny bit of silvering, which seams could have been sanded better, which tailplane is marginally off of a perfect alignment with the ground. With a little luck (and photographic skill) I hopefully can hide most of that when I take photos for the site, but I don’t want anyone to have the impression that I am claiming superior model skills. I ain’t haz em.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Introducing 72Land

Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends.

You have just stepped into 72Land, the place where only 1:72 scale plastic aircraft models live. I have been modelling as an adult for just over 24 years, and settled on 1:72 scale since it provides the largest list of available kits of all the scales.

I am currently gearing up to start entering posts on a regular basis, though I probably won't begin putting them online until after Christmas. Until then...