Sunday, April 3, 2016

Take More Risks

Saturday morning I woke up early, hopped in my car and speedily dashed over to my father's house where we in turn jumped into his car and drove our happy butts two hours through the pouring rain to Wayne, New Jersey, best known for William Paterson University and the greatest thing to happen to the Navy since Josephus Daniels, Tom Cruise. However, it was a lesser known event that was the purpose for our visit to Wayne today,  called MosquitoCon 25.
MosquitoCon is an IPMS sanctioned convention that takes place on the first weekend in April. The attendance is usually substantial, ensuring both the show room floor and the vendor tables are full of models. One could easily spend a few hours trying to absorb the craftsmanship of several hundred contest entries. Even if you breeze through the display tables, the vendor room has enough merchandise to wade through to keep you busy. It is a feast for a modeler's senses.

This year's turn out was no different from previous years but as I looked at all the models representing all the various categories I couldn't help but notice there were very few that stood out among the others. Everything looked so similar. So flat. So safe.
The majority of the models were put together well, with no visible seams, obviously silvered decals, or careless over spray. But on the other hand, there were no examples of crazy weathering. Not much tonal variation. No off colored panels. No incredibly well applied oil streaks. No in flight poses. Really, there was nothing that grabbed my attention and made me marvel. Nothing that made me wonder how did he do that? 

It felt like the contestants had completed each kit for the judges, aspiring to a posted criteria, meeting the standard but nothing more. They filled the gaps, sanded the seams, painted the correct RLM, applied machine gun streaks, and called it a day. Not that there is anything wrong with that. There were some skillfully finished models like this 1/48 Tomcat.

Or this 1/48 F-111 and Kfir.

But for the most part, the more I walked down the aisles the more I felt immersed in a sea of uniformity. I was hard pressed to find an example of someone taking a chance on a particular technique or creating a look that set it apart from from everyone else, like this Corsair that was recently turning heads at a European show last week.

 I came away from the Wayne feeling as though I just attended a sporting event that ended in a 0-0 draw. While the game play was of good quality, there were no plays that made me jump out of my seat. Both teams played textbook defense and at the end of the day everyone walked away with the same result as what we started with. Nothing lost, nothing gained.
Likewise, I felt the quality of models overall was good but the problem with Saturday's show is that I didn't see the level of work I was hoping for. I saw nothing that inspired me to learn more about it.

While driving home, my dad and I discussed the day and concluded that a well put together model doesn't make the hobby interesting. What makes the hobby interesting is risk taking. When a modeler puts himself out on a limb and achieves a look that will impress the community more than just appease the judges - that adds value to this tremendous pastime of ours.
This hobby thrives through its tight knit community. Every risk taken is an opportunity for the rest of the community to learn. We feed off of new ideas. We grow on the inspiration of others. If a risk worked for someone, the rest of us may try it too. If a modeler failed, we'll learn why. Even through failures, the community grows.

In the end, I'm a fan of the hobby. I want to see models that take me on an adventure. Make me think. Make me ask questions. Maybe even make me a little jealous. What I saw on Saturday was less than inspiring but the shortcomings had nothing to do with skill. MosquitoCon made me understand that modeling is about taking risks and standing out. Ultimately, it's really the only way this hobby will continue to thrive.