Always Keep A Dead Idol Handy

All your life you have worshipped little idols. Even if the administrators of your main faith – the rabbis, priests, ministers, and mullahs – have cautioned you against it, you have still carried on. Clothing, entertainments, relationships, possessions, arts and crafts have all served as objects of worship at some stage of the game. And they have all fallen by the wayside eventually.

This is called getting older. Some people call it growing up, but that is more of a taunt than a tag-line. Maturity is the best way of looking at it, and if you can do so in a childish fashion you are winning.

The sport you loved, the car you desired, the culture you worshipped…they all pall in time. And this is as it should be. No-one can enjoy a smorgasbord if they just stand at the shellfish counter all the time – they need to move to the breads and the pickled herring and the princess cake, though not all at once…variety is needed, and you would do well to make sure that you get the same variety all the time.

When something falls away from your desire – when it becomes de trop instead of de thing – by all means usher it out of your life. You need not wear fluoro bell-bottom hipsters a moment longer than it takes to get you into bed with someone. Bell your bottom, if you will, but spare us the sight. Get over it – I assure you that the rest of us will. We are all too busy burying our own dead idols to worry about yours.

But keep a memento of the time. If it is only a badly taken Polaroid of you in the 70’s, it is at least a reminder of the hippie days and a talisman against them returning. You need not look at it more than once a decade, but don’t lose sight of where you came from and remember why you left.

Even dead idols have a place on the altar.

The Little World – When You Cross the Line…

The line? The line between a toy and a model. And who says that you only have to cross it in one direction…?

I purchased a number of Schleich dinosaurs and animals to help with my studio composites. They are a wonderful toys – well-modelled and painted, and as real as anything you can purchase in the stores. For a person who does not do figurine painting or modelling, they are a godsend. I freely confess to admiring the horses and ponies as much as any 9-year-old girl would.

When I saw a Schleich tank-trailer in the shop I grabbed that, and had a glorious time dirtying it up as a oil tanker. The fact that it is 1:16th rather than my preferred scale of 1:18th is neither here not there – I can position it in studio shots to make it any scale I wish. Far better to be larger and more detailed than the other way around, I find.

Then I googled around to the toy stores in the eastern states and found a Schleich barn. It is a beauty, but up until now has taunted me with a plastic-play appearance, even though it is largely made of wood. One week I set out to remedy that. My only problem was that I had no idea what a barn looked like or what the various bits did.

Oh. I knew that the Scheich horses and cows fit in there – I tried them for size. And I get the idea of putting real beasts under shelter in the northern winters – but the ins and outs of doing it were a mystery. I started with airbrushing the plastic base inside with a varied mixture of dung-brown colour and left it at that. The only other interior bit I felt confident about was to scribe wooden floorboards into the loft. I painted the pulley of the barn lift a rusty iron colour.

The roof came as three pieces of 5-ply in blond wood. I printed out sheets of shingles with a wood-grain pattern onto matte inkjet paper and glued them in rows to the ply roof. And then weathered it with moss stain between the shingles. The theme for the barn is dirt and age.

The external walls remained in their wooden form – I didn’t incise them for boards for fear of spoiling the surface – either it had to be smooth toy or perfect model. The plastic masonry, on the other hand, got some pretty rough stonework painting in matte and then the mossy green as grouting flowed down the channels between stones. Then green moss spray from the bottom and dust from the top with the airbrush.

I also researched period barn stickers with advertisements for suitable rural specialties like Red Man cut plug tobacco and possibly a Dr. Pepper sign. I tried the experiment of making these sorts of signs as stickers rather than decals…. the idea was to make up sets that can be stuck on or removed depending upon the era that the barn depicted. I could not made up my mind whether to have a Pennsylvania hex sign on the end or not…

I can hear the farmers amongst my readership laughing at my amateur efforts but I assure you that when the farm ute and the tractor are posed there it will all look as rural as hell.

 

 

 

 

 

The Little World – What Scale Is That?

Why, it’s a different scale from the one you need, of course. That’s how modelling is done. You go to the shop, see a wonderful model product, and then find that it is the wrong size for what you do.

So you change scales. And the next time you go to the hobby shop the best new product is in yet another scale. If you are in luck the shop will be nearby to a liquor store and you can drown your sorrows.

But don’t get too fond of any one particular drink. Because the next time you go to the booze shop they will be out of it and you’ll have to change again…

You have no chance of telling the manufacturers what to do unless they are back-yard resin casters who make limited-run plastic kits for the specialist market. Even then, your influence will be tempered by their market experience and the practicality of the thing. No good asking someone to invest a considerable amount of time and money in master-modelling something that no-one but you will ever want. You stand a far better chance of getting a one-off model by doing scratch-building yourself. The skills involved will do you good, no matter how successful you are in the finished product…and you can at least take heart that whatever you make has real value if it is unique in the world. Others may reel back in horror, but they cannot deny that you are the owner of the only one.

Smart money plays the odds:

a. If you have any particular idea in mind, do some serious thinking beforehand as to the scope of the project. If it is truly a one-off for yourself, and no-one else will ever want or get one, you can make parts by laborious means. If it is the start of a series of models, you’ll want to have more easily repeatable parts to make it up. If it is a commercial venture, the parts that make it up have to be as good as possible for as cheap as they can be made.

b. The fact that it is one-off in itself does not mean that it will always be alone…ie, if you make a 1:29th scale Roto-Rooter truck you can also use it as part of a large-scale railway layout with Bachman trains and bad drainage. An encouragement not to stray too far mathematically from current commercial scales. And be careful what you plant.

c. Smart money also knows its own limitations – particularly in terms of technical skill. If you know you can make buildings but not cars, you choose a scale where someone else makes the cars and you make the buildings. That’s not really as fatuous a statement as you might think…many’s the time when someone has started out with great ability only to foul up the works when they undertake something with which they have no resonance. I cannot make model figures that look good, but I can make buildings to house commercial figures and buy vehicles to display with them. I choose my scale based upon both of those other factors and my dioramas work.

d. Smart money knows other smart money. Using my example, I know that there are figure modellers who can make superb maquettes to people my dioramas – figures with posing, musculature, shading, and painting. Once I conceive of a scene I can measure, sketch, design, and specify in such a way that one of the custom modellers can make exactly what I need. This might also apply to other enthusiasts who are adept at vehicles, landscaping, painting, or weathering. I hope to raise my skill levels, but if they will never be high enough I can employ those who already have them.

e. Smart money knows that it only needs to make so much – a great deal of the realism of a scene is in the mind of the beholder. Michael Paul Smith said as much in his book about Elgin Park – he gets the realism right enough to start the suggestion juices flowing for his audience. They do the rest.

All this having been said, I would be grateful if the die casters and plastic extruders would set to and give us more stock of ordinary goods in the 1:18th scale. Park benches, lamp posts. fire plugs, pillar boxes, wheelie bins and rubbish tins, ordinary motor-car tyres, Belisha beacons, road signs, witches hats, and such. I would love a set of plastic or concrete temporary barriers and a portable light bank. And a complete set of traffic lights and crossing beacons for an intersection would sell like hot cakes!

The Little World – Finding The Missing Links

Every modeller – whether dollhouse builder, plastic scale worker, or die-cast specialist – has found the dark places. The parts of their chosen scale where the lights do not shine. In short – the bits that no-one has ever made. The model that they know is crucial…but no-one else wants.

This can be a very galling experience. If you are a person who thinks that 1:12th scale Victorian drawing rooms and kitchens are the be-all and end-all of existence, you are fine. There are no end of dollhouse suppliers that can fulfill your needs. If you love the British Spitfire airplane you can rest assured that you never need be out of reach of a model. If you are a person who wants to collect 1:29th scale South African flying saucers, you are on your own.

That’s an extreme example, but you only have to move a very small way off the commercial pathway to be lost – try googling 1:18th scale furniture and see what happens. Yet there are tens of thousands of model collectors into 1:18th scale cars who might want to make a 1:18th scale house to go with them. In most cases they have been told to go and scratch.

Well, at least I scratch better than I did before. I was frightened that I could not reproduce the complex details of the world, and as a child I hesitated to try. But radio controlled modelling in the 1970’s showed me that the concept of stand-off scale was valid. Simplified detail could still validate a project. I use the concept all the time these days and reserve my heroic efforts for things I can do. And every now and then extend the working hands to a new spot…

Currently I am making the facade of an Art-Deco cinema as part of a 1:18th street scene. The thing resonates with me as a memory of similar things seen in my childhood. And it has speed lines, which make everything good. If you don’t believe me try adding them ot a baroque palace like Potsdam or Versailles and see how much better you feel. You need not put them on with bolts or nails – a can of spray glue will do. Or even a can of spray paint. Freddie Rex III Rules OK.

 

 

The Fountain Of Pen

When I retired from retail trade my employers were gracious enough to present me with a fountain pen – a rather nice Visconti model – as a going-away present. I kept my end of the bargain – I went away. I treasure it as the best writing stick in the drawer, but I have recently been shocked to discover how many more of them there are in there.

Yep. All mine and all functioning, albeit spottily in some cases. Some were bought for me, but most were bought by me…and in most cases they never really measured up to the standard of my own particular industry: the Parker cartridge pens I used in high school.

This is not going to be a ” I remember that crispy bacon we got before the war ” post. Pens are pens, and there are undoubtedly pens out there that are as good as crispy bacon. And they may be as cheap as the old Parkers – but so far I have not found them. The Visconti comes closest to it, and it is too dear to give to a high school student.

The old Parkers probably succeeded due to the fact that they had soft nibs that would quickly wear into the writer’s hand position. That they then continued to wear out was the flaw – the lines got wider and the ink lasted less…and one day the inevitable clumsy fall dropped the pen on the nib and it could never be recovered.

The other flaw of the Parker was it crude nature of the cartridge seal, A standard pack of cartridges were fine as the pen pierced them and drew the ink. The flaw arose when I tried to refill the plastic cartridge from what I thought was going to be the same Quink ink via a hypodermic syringe. I could fill it, but not seal it to take to school for use later in the day – Scotch tape would not keep the ink in, and my school bag or shirt pocket told the tale eventually. Also my chest, but as I chose Washable Blue, I didn’t have to play at being Braveheart for longer than the day.

” Why not use a ballpoint or rollerball or sharpie? ”

Because they simply do not give the control, line texture, and feedback of a fountain pen. Even the mighty quill or school nib pen does not do what a good fountain does. If you want to merely communicate, use a keyboard. If you want to create verbal or visual art, use a fountain pen.

The Trap Of Entertainment

” Entertain me. ”

Has anyone ever said that to you? What did you feel like? Nervous? Despondent? Annoyed? Or all three in layers like Neapolitan ice cream?

It’s the sort of command that carries with it the unspoken criticism that heretofore you haven’t been doing a good job and the fact must be corrected. And that it is going to be a difficult job.

The whole concept of entertainment is a difficult one in some cultures. I imagine that the Puritans would have been a tough audience to front. Not just for the fact that they were grim to start with, but that they would also be offended with you if you succeeded in making them feel good. All pleasure would have been of the guilty sort, but not sweeter because of it.

Modern entertainment is so varied as to suggest that the very concept is unlimited. We have books, music, plays, television, radio, sports, pastimes, hobbies, and art to occupy us. Of course some will find no pleasure in any of these and some will take it in an inordinate measure. For the vast majority it is a place to run when the shackles slip off the ankles. Until they catch you and weld them on again, you can enjoy yourself. The problem is that there may be too many things available at any one time. Wise escapees limit themselves to one thing at a time, and reserve the rest for a later chance.

This becomes even more important when you are too old to be salable and are left to wander away. Then you need to have cached little pleasures here and there in the landscape so that you can go to them and be refreshed. Don’t be tempted to make them too grand nor too far away – you would have to expend an inordinate amount of energy to get to them. And you might discover that they would have decayed in the meantime – far better to have something small and comforting close at hand.

You may even find that your entertainment need not be provided by others – that you carried it with you all the time.

 

The Little World – What’s the Point…?

Every Little Worlder has had it – whether they are miniature builders, doll house enthusiasts, toy collectors, model collectors, collector collectors, scale modellers, airplane flyers, train hobbyists, or r/c boaters – they have all had that sneering question…

” What’s the point ? ”

It is not actually a question – it is a statement. It says two things about the person who utters it:

a. I don’t enjoy little things – because I don’t or can’t have, make, see, or imagine them.

b. I want to make you feel less than me – and the best way is to belittle what you obviously enjoy.

Answering a question is one thing – but none of us is required to answer a statement. We don’t have to become incensed or feel bad about it, or to notice it in any way. But if we do want to reply, may I suggest one of the following…

a. ” There is no point. There never has been nor will there ever be. Only fools seek a point. ”

b. ” I do it as therapy. Let me tell you about my illness. Have you an hour? Come close and I will stimulate you. ”

c. ” You can’t see a point? Oh, dear. Not had much to do with art, then, eh? ”

d. ” You’d like to buy my  models/toys/figurines/diorama? Well why didn’t you say so? Don’t be shy. For you –  a special price –  $ 1500. Now don’t be a piker…no-one likes a cheap-arse. Let’s see the colour of your money…”

Most bullies never expect the victim fight back. If you are ready with a faster, funnier, firmer response than they can deal with, you have them on the run. When you see them sheer off and try to run for it, pursue them. You have the entire support of the Little World behind you.