Taking Back Life – Part Four – From Whom?

The catch line about taking back life begs a question – where did it go and who has it now? I’ve only just started to find out that answer for myself.

It’s one that all the readers can ask themselves – because the answers that they find will all be as different as their own lives.

In my case a great deal of time went out to learning – all the years from 1953 to 1972 were spent in formal education. It was not unpleasant, and paid me handsomely by giving me a profession that I could trade upon. Subsequent years also educated me in a subsidiary art that I could turn to employment after the initial profession petered out. So I was set for earning power.

A great deal of time was spent in travel – this means re-location, socializing, and the discipline that comes from experiencing the solitude of the newcomer.

And a certain amount of time was spent in pure amusement – in my case I found most of it from the construction of scale models. All through my life I have had a chance to try my hand at a number of types of modelling. Most were successful – the only exception being model flying. But even here the act of constructing the failed airplanes was rewarding – training hand and eye to small tasks. Teaching visual proportion. And also teaching patience – very few models were ever dashed to the ground in the workshop. Most of them suffered that fate at the flying field.

So what am I now going to take back in my retirement? Why the pure amusement. I now collect scale models and make scenes and dioramas with them. I then use these in my studio for art and commercial illustration. I have discovered the joys of scratch-building as well as kit assembly. I look daily to solve new problems at the workbench – I haunt hobby shops and toy stores looking for parts. I have even started to exhibit some of the models at fairs and shows.

The real benefit this gives is internal – it brings me back to my roots – the little kid at the kitchen table making models – and stimulates my memory. I’m starting to get back some of the scenes and scents of my youth. Daily life took them away for 50 years and now daily routine can bring them back.

Advertisements

Taking Back Life – Part Three – Hand And Mind

I am 69 this year. A delightful time, if I let it be. But it takes work. The trick is to like the work…

I don’t mind it – though I must say that I appreciate the change from weekly duties in the shop or surgery. A daily routine includes writing, photography and communication, bathing and shaving, making the bed, doing the dishes, planning the evening meal and cooking it, and doing the round of suburban payments and shopping. You might think it odd to include the bathing and shaving in there as work, but they are – and you need to do them as regularly as ever before to give shape to your day.

The household tasks are not as annoying as one might think – a weekly clean-up of rooms and the regular laundry. Cooking each day. Garbage disposal, etc. Mundane, but if you go about them the right way, actually pleasurable. It is all in the mind – in my shop position I was the staff member who did the dishes for the rest of the crew. Many of them thought it was demeaning for an older man to be doing dishes, but they didn’t realise that I was pulling a half hour of overtime each day at the task. Every week paid for one more car in my model collection. And on a freezing winter’s day, I was the only one in the building with warm hands! Every task I undertake now for my family means we are better fed, housed, and clothed. That’s worth doing.

My day also includes some time spent at the workbench. This can be in my photo studio illustrating goods, or in my workshop making props and models. I treat the two activities the same way – a chance to explore art and craftsmanship – rather than just dog work. As a result, I can be pleased with a clean illustration of a camera bag or the paint job on a model building. It is the doing rather than the buying or consuming that rewards me here.

And lastly, I try for some reading each evening. ( And if I am dining alone, I can read at the table as well…a social no-no, but a divine dinner companion…) I’m not a novel reader, unless it is a Victorian pot boiler. I tend to read technical books or art histories. Biography needs to have a strong hook to catch me, but then I am surprised when some unknown historical figure pops up. As I’ve gotten older I understand more of what I read.

I’ve more or less decided that my time is what I make of it.

 

 

The Plates

I used to be scandalised by things on a regular basis. I’m talking about pre-social media days…when there was less scandal to cope with, and you could get right down to it on individual cases and do a thorough job of indignity. In the last 5 years this passion for outrage has dissipated. I can still spark up at people being bad mannered to no purpose, but I rarely react to inanimate objects.

Just as well – the special plate craze has flourished in Perth over the last 20 years and there can be some pretty extreme ones. But I’m happy to say that the examples I found at this year’s WA Hot Rod Show were charming, silly, or just plain fun. No more comment – just a few views of the name badges of the cars.


 

The Little World – The Wonderful Can Of Beans

A bit of a digression in today’s LW…I attended my monthly collector’s meeting yesterday, and while I did not get a monthly newsletter, at least I got to see some rather wonderful tin toys.

They hold a monthly competition based upon a theme, and I guess this must have fitted the bill. The theme, by the way, was the letter M…perhaps these are M of metal.

In any case they are the cheeriest set of racers in the hall. You can make a fuss about scale modelling or not, but these toys would have been the delight of the young when they were new and have remained to delight to old now that the world has become more sophisticated.

I grew up in the 50’s and Japanese and Chinese tin toys were commonplace in the dime stores. They were somewhat despised by us kids as we got older for their simplicity and garish colours, but we didn’t know art when we saw it. Now they are regularly traded and reproduced as cultural objects and I can count several cars, locomotives, and robots in my collection. Nothing as good as these, though.

The forms were simple – I suspect the racers were formed in a press over a wooden master buck and in some cases the pressing wrinkles are still visible. The sheets of tinplate would have been lithographed before the forming process, of course and they are a tribute to their artists. I think they might have loved their design brief as well, because they have certainly not hesitated to use every colour in the poster paint box.

It does raise a question about whether they would have as much appeal if they were printed up as contemporary Jaguars, Ferraris, Astons, etc. The heading image seems to indicate that they might be just as good in a closer to real configuration.

And I should be fascinated to see modern Australian stock racing cars in their complex paint jobs done in tin style. I wonder if there is still the artistry and machinery available?

The Little World – You Can Lay New Bricks On Old Walls

My recent project of building a 1:18 scale model of a house I once lived in went very well – better than I had expected. It is now sitting in my studio ready for the next phase of my art – tabletop photography.

But once I had completed the actual build i realised that the miniatureist has a wonderful facility that other people may miss out on – we can go back in time and rebuild memories.

Some people never want to do that – they have had experiences that they wish would go away. They actively bury them by various means. You can’t re-write history – unless you are a Soviet Ministry of Propaganda – but sometimes you can add extra pages to what is there to modify it – or at least to understand it.

Thus my researches into the model house I built. From a vague image on Google that sparked my memory, through to more images, and then the discovery of an advertising page from the 1950’s that named the house and showed plans of it. I experienced a re-awakening of mental images of the colours, surface textures, and relationships of the place. I’ve almost recalled the furniture positioning – and can certainly remember the downstairs playroom where I had my toys and games.

It is a bit creepy, as well, to look a Google Earth images of the house standing and flourishing 58 years later, and to realise that I could probably open the front door, walk past the startled present owner, and go to the kitchen, bathroom, and any other part of the place unbidden. A stalker on the other side of the planet…Out of consideration for them, I will not do it…

As I built the miniature I started to undersand more of the layout and dimensions of the place – things I would have had not knowledge of in the 50’s; the size of lumber, the types of roofing, the plumbing layout adopted to give the shortest and cheapest run of pipes. Because, make no mistake about it…the theme of this sort of house was economy and quick build and any corner that might have been available to be cut…was. And I would be willing to bet that there are houses built today that are just a few computer strokes away from this design – and probably assembled from cheaper materials.

Still, it has lasted 58 years and still has someone in there…and here…

The Little World – Nowt Boot A Trick – Part Two

Well, having established the basic dimensions for the exhibition street modules, I have to ask myself a serious question.

Why? Not why are the modules to be 900mm x 600mm, but why do it at all? Am I come to the point as a modeller that all I want is the plaudits of the plodding? The popular vote that tells me that I have amused the mouth-breathers? Am I to be the operator of a raree-show?

Or is there an artistic point? Is there a personal point that I am making for myself? Is there a value there somewhere? Would I be better putting on pasties and joining the burlesque troupe?

Fortunately my studio work furnishes me with an answer, and it is a comforting one. Just as I can strengthen my own memories by making photographic images of a fictional Alberta town in the 1960’s, so I can bring this concept forward – or push it back into history – with the interchangeable street scene. I need backdrops, and low-relief ones are perfectly acceptable for studio tabletop work. My collection of model cars spans many eras and several countries and the modules need not always be made for only one time. Many towns and cities have had sporadic architectural development and many new structures sit cheek and jowl with historic ones.

I am hoping, as well, that the business of making 900mm-wide low relief structures will allow the actual buildings to be detachable from the baseboards – the boards can then stack separately in the studio from the structures and I’ll be able to cram more into the storage space.

I am also hoping to discover inexpensive ways of lighting the structures and the street itself so that effective night-time shots can be taken. I’ve already succeeded in the HO scale due to the commercial lighting systems, and I think 1:12 scale would be catered for in dollhouse accessories. The 1:18th will need more scratch building.

Now, if only the cold and rainy weather would let up and allow me to go out into the shop and build!

 

The Little World – Nowt Boot A Trick – Part One

I always remember a lifestyle exhibition I worked at in the 80’s for two things; Dire Straits’ song about money for nothing playing ALL WEEKEND in loop and one old Pom who circled around our camera stand. The stand had a television set playing the vision from a closed-circuit camera that the firm sold. It pointed out at the crowd and they could see themselves as they passed by.

The chap, from Yorkshire, kept bobbing his head in front of the camera and then in front of the screen, trying to catch a glimpse of whoever it was on the set…possibly wtiout realising that it was himself. Finally he gave up in disgust and turned to a companion and said ” Ee, it’s nowt boot a trick “. From that day forward it has become a catchphrase for all who worked there.

Same thing in the Little World. I am engaged in making a series of buildings that are going to be nowt boot a trick…albeit a clever one at that. I am about to do my first low-relief street scene.

Low-relief, bas-relief, flat face modelling – call it what you will – is a very good way of creating an image when you need two chief points; viewing from one angle only, and more scenery crammed into a small space. In my case it will be big cars – 1:18th scale models – with shop fronts behind them. The idea is not new – I’ve seen it done fabulously well by 1:24th plastic car modellers and OO railway builders.

My efforts are going to be regulated by the need to fit the display onto a standard trestle table as supplied at exhibition halls. My first expo this year showed me that there is only a limited amount of space available when there are a lot of exhibitors, and you must make the most of what you can get. Full buildings in 1:18th are generally too big to go on an 1800mm x 600mm trestle table and leave any parking space for the model cars. I hope that the strip concept will work better.

The other thing that it will do is allow me to transport the displays more effectively. My little car – a Suzuki Swift – has a limited capacity in the hatchback cargo area. I barely squeaked it in with the May display and I don’t think that some of the stuff I have made for my studio would actually fit in to travel across town. So I am going to make my street strips modular – 900mm x 600mm with removable structures – and take as many as i am allowed to display – at least I can get two on a table.

More news as the idea develops.