Can You Really DO That?
Scale modeling is one of those evolutions that we progress with throughout our lives, or at least those of us who stay with the hobby for any length of time do. That evolution gives us the opportunity to see what others do with the hobby and how they do it and, if we're lucky, allows us to grow as modelers. I'd like to share an example of that with you today.
Two years of my collegiate career involved working part time at a local hobby shop in San Antonio which in turn led to meeting, and in many instances becoming friends with, a number of highly talented individuals who were far better modelers that I was at that point in time. It was what some folks might call a Golden Opportunity to Learn and even though I was at that time, and pretty much always have been for that matter, what certain of my relatives would call a slow study, I knew a good thing when it slapped me in the face. Yeppers; strange as it may seem to many who know me, the ability to pay attention and learn did, and still does, overcome me from time to time. It's nothing deliberate on my part but it's there. Sometimes...
Anyway, one of those customers who became a good friend was a guy named Bill Todd. He was attending Texas A&M at the time but would visit the shop fairly regularly, both to purchase things and to show his latest work to us. He was a figure painter of superior abilities, probably one of the best in Texas at that time if truth be told, and he was pretty good at everything else model-related too. He was also an intellectual in the truest meaning of that term and was prone to thinking in unconventional ways to solve problems so it didn't surprise me one bit the day we received our first shipment of Imrie-Risley enamels allegedly blended, color-wise anyway, specifically for figure painting and he expressed considerable, if polite, disinterest towards them. It wasn't that he thought the paint to be inferior or anything like that; he just had no particular use for it and that, of course, resulted in me asking why not.
Bill's answer shouldn't have surprised me at all but it did, and it got me thinking. He had never bought any of the paints by any manufacturer specifically formulated for use with military miniatures but he did purchase a fair quantity of paint of almost every variety we sold, eventually to include the aforementioned Imrie-Risley. He bought Floquil. He bought the classic Testors in the little square bottles. He bought Pactra. He even bought some of the first Floquil Polly-S to hit the market, but he purchased everything a bottle at a time and almost never bought a lot of paint on any given occasion.
We were both the same age and shared a number of similar interests so it wasn't unusual that we began to hang out together, which eventually led to him showing me how he painted figures. His work was amazing and quickly accomplished; there was no agonizing over brush strokes for him! That wasn't the astounding part, however. Nope, the astounding part was the way he mixed his paint to achieve the colors he used. He had a small color cup, maybe the lid of a paint bottle although it's been near fifty years since then so I honestly don't remember that particular detail, and he had the several colors of paint ready for mixing on his work surface. The thing was, none of the paint he was using came from the same manufacturer. He mixed square-bottle Testors, Floquil, Pactra, and even a little Polly-S in the same batch, thinned it all with regular modeler's paint thinner, and applied it to the figure he was working on. I was pretty astounded and told him he couldn't do that and expect it to work. He told me he did it all the time and it worked just fine, thank you very much, and he was right! All that paint, admittedly in extremely small quantity, was mixed, blended together, and worked the way it was supposed to. He painted with his mixture, and he applied thinner to his brush and blended the colors he'd just applied as though he was working with fine oils instead of bottom-end hobby paint. His results were spectacular.
So what's your point, you may well be asking yourself at this juncture. It's a simple one really and, at the heart of the matter, is something that only peripherally has anything to do with blending paint:
Bill didn't mix all those different brands of paint together because he necessarily wanted to. He did it because those were the colors he needed and they were on hand, while buying anything else would entail borrowing his dad's Delta 88 and making the 30-minute drive to Dibbles to get it. The problem was a simple one and it had a simple solution. If it hadn't worked he would probably have made that drive but it did so he didn't, and everything worked out just fine in the end.
I'm not saying you should do that literal thing yourself and I'm here to tell you that if you indulge yourself in such madness you're 100% on your own and I'm in no way responsible for whatever mess you might make, but I'm also saying that the conventional way may or may not be the best way to solve a problem in each and every instance. Chew on that for a minute or two and let's look for a conclusion we can draw.
Our hobby is presently choking with readily available assets for the modeler. There are web sites and blogs (somewhat obviously including this one!), there are magazines and books, and videos by the battalion telling you what you can and can't do. They can all be helpful but sometimes the solution to a given problem is already in your own head, just waiting to pop out and amaze everyone you know.
I once knew a retired Systems Command Lieutenant Colonel who made things happen each and every time he encountered something that was difficult. His solutions were often unique and very much outside the norm but they were also effective solutions that worked. I once asked him what his secret was. His response? Just work the problem. That's all there is to it, ya'll; just work the problem! Maybe you really do need to buy something special that you don't already have, or do something the way all those other folks are doing it, or maybe you don't. Maybe all it takes is for you to work the problem.
Think about it...
Everybody Has Seen the Airplane
But a lot of folks haven't seen it like this: