I am eternally grateful to a writer in the 1970’s who introduced a phrase to me – probably writing for the english MODEL BOATS magazine. Somewhere about 1972 I first saw the words ” stand-off scale “. It opened a door for me – I could continue scale modelling, and into a new era.
As a child I built plastic models of all sorts. And ran toy rains and flew model airplanes. All of the models were to a great extent products of others put into my hands. I did very little scale modelling from scratch – because I was frightened of the complexity of it. Even complex wooden kits like the Guillows aircraft daunted me. I had an SE5A kit that never got built – opened, fondled, but ultimately abandoned…
Fear of lack of skill was one thing, but fear of the amount of work needed to put in enough detail was another. It had come to me in the 1970’s when I took an interest in model boats and saw the marvellous display models in Greenwich Maritime Museum and realised just how far down the detail scale people were prepared to go to. I drew back – until the MODEL BOATS writer made a “stand-off scale” steam yacht and included plans for it in their Christmas issue. It was simple enough to build and allowed you to see the basic shapes and colours in action.
Yes. I bought balsa wood and tissue and paint and an electric motor and made myself that steam yacht. It was a beauty and welted around our swimming pool for years. It gave me courage enough to tackle a radio-controlled TBD, then a fishing boat, then a trawler, then a tugboat and finally a train ferry. Each one got a little more detailed but none ever approached museum status and the wonderful thing about it was…it was okay. Stand-off scale modelling existed in r/c airplanes and boats, and could by a simple mechanism be extended to model villages, trains, and dioramas. I could now feel confident that viewers will not judge me as incompetent if a few rivets are never seen.
The wonderful thing was when they saw the overall shape of the model and then their minds filled in the detail for me. All the credit, none of the filing and sanding…Win.
The other thing about stand-off scale was that it allowed you to model in somewhat of an impressionistic manner. Wide swaths of shape and colour and suggestions of contour could be made with the paintbrush and the viewers accepted it well. Indeed, nowadays the computer with image-editing programs can be called in to suggest the details that would otherwise be stopping production. My current coffee bar project looks into an interior but I do not want to intrude into the commercial premises – so I just select the element I need – the cheerful coffee lady – and blur and smudge the rest of the view to neutralise it. Everyone is happy.