I believe one of the worst insults a modeler can receive is a compliment: “Oh, that’s nice”. It’s like a chef being told his cooking tastes “OK”. Maybe at one point in your life you bought a Pontiac Aztek and your family forced a smile and said “It’s cool”. Well, it’s not cool and you should feel ashamed, but I digress.
Each one of these instances includes an empty statement affirmation. Not necessarily a lie (well maybe in the case of the Aztek) but an emotionless gesture to convey the most basic of thoughts. It’s not that the food is bad, Chef, but there’s really just not much else to say.
I was spurred to write this thanks to a post on the Scale Modelers Critique Group Facebook page showing a photoshopped IPMS table full of identical Tamiya 1/48 F-4B jets. The post was obviously in jest that modelers across the country are going to be binge building the new hotness from Tamiya. It got me thinking though, how many of these entries are going to make us say “Oh, that’s nice” and move on? How many of these entries are going to strive to be different?
To me this is modeler purgatory where your work looks acceptable to you, looks acceptable to others, and everyone moves on. Who actually wants that though?
If your goal was to receive a hollow “atta boy”, well congrats I guess, you succeeded.
Sure, we all want some sort of affirmation that our work is well done but should we not want people to be engaged in our work as well? There’re many forms to that, whether it be through critiques, suggestions, or engaging conversation about your chosen scheme or reference.
Think In Terms of your "Bounce Rate"
I often wonder what the “bounce rate” is for models posted on various Facebook groups or forums. In web design, bounce rate measures how long a user is on a page. The higher the bounce rate, the less time someone spends on your page. Meaning your content just isn’t engaging enough.
In the modeling world, I like to think of models as having a bounce rate as well. This can be thought of by how many pictures you look at, or how long you spend examining someone’s work, before you ‘peace out’ and move on. Think about how many models you quit caring about after two or three images out of a 15-20 images in the gallery. How about at a convention or show, did you spend more than 10 seconds checking out someone’s work? If the answer is ‘no’ then that’s a high bounce rate and we don’t want that.
Check out the image below of a Delta Dagger taken by Roland Turner for an IPMS Glouchester show.
How much time would you spend on this before moving on?
By and large the model is well done but do you see anything truly engaging? Interestingly enough, the image contains a cut off shot of another Delta Dagger that looks exactly the same. If not by the same modeler, would you really think your build stands out against the others?
It's Not About Skill
Now some may be thinking that they just don’t have the skills or artistic ability to be engaging.
That’s flat out wrong.
This isn’t strictly about skill. I’ve seen some piss poor models out there that tried to be different, that tried to execute a new technique, or tried to use a new tool (i.e. “my first time airbrushing…”). They were still engaging, people critiqued most of their photos, and the conversation threads were long. I will concede though that you need to be somewhat competent at taking photos and having some semblance of a lighting setup if you’re going to bother posting photos online – but that’s a discussion for another day.
Check out Doogs Models “Tank the Rainbow” challenge where he plans to incorporate rainbow colors into paint schemes. Some of those builds may turn out ridiculous looking but I guarantee they will be engaging. Even the most novice modelers can make overt attempts at trying something new and still be engaging in the process.
Below is a good example of an aircraft that caught my attention. This one was also taken by Roland Turner at Halifax Model Show. The model has a unique paint scheme that’s sure to draw questions, some interesting paint variations on the titanium heat plates around the tail, and at a minimum a basic panel line wash to bring out the details. It’s not a perfect model and I don’t think it won best in show – but it IS engaging to look at.
I challenge you to set goals on every build to do something that can be engaging. Strive to attract people to view every picture or to zoom in on details whether it was a botched job or a magnum opus build. Try a paint scheme not included in the build, try a new shading technique or try some new weathering. For ‘assemblers’ out there try opening up a panel, scratch build something, pose a canopy open when you’ve always done it closed. Avoid being one of the other 50 modelers who built the same kit, with the same scheme, with the same (or none at all) weathering.
My own AV-8B Harrier was born out of that challenge. While it has its misses, the custom det cord on the canopy (cut by my Cricut Explore Air 2) drove a lot of conversation. I also got a lot of engagement on the blue tail scheme as it is not copied often.
Will Pattison of YouTube and SMCG fame likes to use the word “interesting” in his posts and critiques. That chipping looks “interesting” or that paintwork is “interesting”.
In my opinion, if you’re not interesting, you’re boring. If you’re boring, then your model sucks.
Don’t be boring.