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.


  1. I would venture to say that IPMS judging standards promote this stagnation. I have been to plenty of judges' meetings where pretty much all of the emphasis is on craftsmanship in the assembly. Absolute perfection in the "basics" is all that matters. Paint "effects", weathering and detail are all secondary to construction. Judges are instructed to hunt down any imperfections in the basics and immediately eliminate a model from contention as soon as they find any. Any merits that model may have beyond that are not even looked at. In other words, it IS a technical endeavor, not an artistic endeavor if you are trying to win a contest. Hence, those who want to do well have to appease the judges by adhering to this standard, which by its very nature does not reward or promote creativity. Personally, I think open style judging similar to what AMPS does might help. When a judge can look at more than the model's technical merits, maybe more builders will be willing to "push the envelope" instead of playing it safe to appease a judge in order to win one of three trophies amongst more than three deserving models. But I don't believe that's ever going to happen with IPMS. At the last Nationals I went to (two years ago) they were bragging about how quickly they judged around 3,000 models. That's not how you appreciate art and looking at this as an art promotes creativity. You need to look at more than just how perfectly something is assembled. IPMS Nationals is a four day event but they judge the contest in hours. Kind of sad when you think about how many hours most of the builders put into their work for that one contest. For myself, I don't care what the judges like. I don't even care what the "community" claims is the newest great fad. I know what I like and that is all that matters. Sometimes that coincides with what is popular and sometimes it does not. The internet has been the greatest tool for me in recent years for inspiration and techniques. I still like to go to shows, but I look at the contest part as a roll of the dice anymore. Most of the time I do very well but sometimes not. The important part is that I build the model for myself and what I want to see out of, not what I think some judge wants to see. If IPMS does not want to go to an open judging format, then more builders simply need to stop worrying about how they do in a contest and push the boundaries, which may in turn push the judging criteria into new boundaries that may be able to take the creative aspects of modeling into account.

    1. "basics":
      -I cant convince anyone that I am a poet if my poem has spelling and grammar errors.

      -to be able to judge any "artistic endeavors" a judge should have some fine art education and critique background. I doubt if this kind of people will ever want to bother with Tomcat and Panzer miniatures as IPMS judges. In case they accept the task we will be surprised by their judging :)

      -does not come from other peoples models, a copy is always a copy and will always be considered inferior to the "original". To "push the envelope" read books, study history, observe the real world, take or study photos/films and find your way to replicate what you see. It is not easy, but it is the only way. Youtube "modelling how to΄s" is the worst thing ever happened to the modelling world :)

      "open judging":
      will leave less people with complaints, more satisfied with a prize, but will not cure the "boring models" syndrome.


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