Sunday, October 11, 2020

I can't draw - and I know why

As a bit of light relief from all the stuff in the world, I thought I'd take part in Inktober. The rules are that you take the title for each day, draw something based on it and then post the result online. 

The idea of being able to draw has always appealed to me. I filled many sketchpads when I was young, and as you can tell from my profile picture, I fancy myself as a bit of a cartoonist. 

Needless to say, the reality hit me quickly - I'm not nearly as good as I wish I was. Lack of skill, time and a couple of bad days saw me give up in under a week. 

There is a good reason for this, and it's amply explained in this video by illustrator Shoo Rayner - I don't practise enough. If you want to become good at anything, you can't skip the dull practise, trial and error. 

"What has this to do with modelmaking?" I hear you ask. 

Simple. I am not bad at making things and that's because I do a lot of it. All that practise means when I work in Plastikard, I know how the material will behave. Using solvent allows me to joins parts by shoving them together with just enough force. When things go wrong, I have the experience (sometimes) to bodge my way out. 

Those skills took time to develop. 

I often read, especially in the finescale model railway world, of people who assemble and read all the correct books. Who buy the right tools. And when they finally decide to build a model, they are convinced it will be as great as any of those they have read about in magazines. How can it fail, after all, they have accumulated the knowledge. 

It won't work like that as knowing what to do is one thing, actually putting that knowledge into practise is completely different. Glue won't set. Solder won't flow. Paint will flow too well. You'll file too much off something, or bend it wrong. That a chassis jig will help, but it won't build the thing for you.

That's why, like Shoo, I encourage people to get their hands dirty and do some modelling. The quicker you start, the quicker you'll find out what you are good at, and where you need extra practise. Start small and work up to the dream project or end up disheartened and abandoning the whole thing.  

Me - I'm going to find some old editions of Buster comic, the one I had as a child and whose cartoon style I emulated with my face picture. With more study and more practise, maybe next year I'll get all the way through Inktober. 

In the meantime, if you want to see someone who can draw - follow @tabletop_mog on Instagram.


Paul B. said...

Folk want to do it all now as well, they want to start on their dream kit rather than practice on several easier kits first to develop their skills. Only with time, practice, and mistakes can we advance our modelling/drawing/sporting skills.

This especially applies to soldering! Where the waters are often muddied by modellers offering advice that would better suit an advanced/experienced modelmaker rather than a tyro.

Huw Griffiths said...

That's an interesting point about soldering.

To be honest, though, I sometimes wonder if soldering is really a skill.

No - I'm not suggesting that it's something so simple, so intuitive, that everyone can do it well, with their eyes closed.

Far from it, in fact.

This isn't an arrogant boast - but I know that I am very good at soldering - electronic soldering - because a previous job of mine depended on this skill.

A major part of this job involved fitting resistance strain gauges to specimens - then wiring them up. This required very neat routing and soldering, often with very restricted clearances available for the wires.

I've also done a lot of miscellaneous electronic soldering over the years - even if I haven't had chance to do very much lately. However, I'm pretty confident that, the next time I do any of this stuff, I won't make a mess of it.

So, if I'm so good at soldering, why don't I also make similar claims regarding soldering white metal?

Perhaps this might be because I know that my last attempt at white metal soldering ended up as a molten mess.

I'd probably have slightly more confidence about building etched brass or "nickel silver" kits (assuming that I first got myself a suitable soldering iron).

In other words, I don't actually see soldering as a skill.

I don't imagine for one second that it's one skill. Rather, I view soldering as a whole suite of skills - which I don't think too many people possess all of.

James Finister said...

Perhaps echoing Paul's point one issue can be that what works for one type of modeller might not work for you, for all sorts of reasons. Whilst having a range of books to refer to can help, you can also end up with analysis paralysis where you can't make a start because you can't decide which route to go down. That probably explains why I have so many packs of different types of 4mm couplings lying around.

Something I seem to say an awful lot is that it is best to start with a good kit, and not all simple kits are good. A good beginners kit should be relatively easy to build with care, but should basically fit well, have great instructions and introduce the modeller to good practices - by at very least being basically accurate.

Paul B. said...

'Analysis paralysis' - I like that.

Going back to soldering (sorry!) I note that whenever advice is asked for folk start talking about gas torches, temperature adjustable irons, creams and pastes, RSUs etc., when all that is needed by a tyro is a basic good quality 25w iron, some flux, some suitable solder, and something to practice on. Too much advice can be counterproductive, the only way to work out what you need rather than what you think you need is to make a start using the basic kit outlined above and develop your own style. Does the same type of thing happen on drawing forums I wonder?

I did write a lengthy blog post about this, but I deleted it before posting as it was too negative/critical and not suited to the overall tone that I want for me bloggy.

Phil Parker said...

I remember a forum member saying they were going to have a go at soldering once they had aquired all the different temperature solders, fluxes etc. Basically, they had read a lot, alighted on "step soldering" and decided that was the ONLY way to do things.

As Paul B says, the basic equipment is minimal. I've built a lot of kits and never really bothered with step soldering. I use electrical solder, a bit of low-melt and then glue. But then I'm not a "proper" modeller.

My guess is with some that he leap into trying to do some modelling is scary, so by focussing on buying the right stuff and reading the right books, the actually work is put off. You can't fail if you don't try.

James Finister said...

I think Phil has hit on something with the buying out of fear theory. And often the toolkit you really need and use is different from the one you think it should be. If I look at my modelling one it is dominated by clamps, pliers, broaches and measuring tools. Other than that the tools I use are a good set of screwdrivers, a razor saw, three weights of knife,a couple of pin drills a glass fibre brush and a scrawker. Although I've replaced the soldering iron I was bought for my 16th birthday (from that great and much-missed little model shop in Birmingham's Burlington Arcade) my current Antex is pretty basic - although I would advise people to buy suitable bits

Phil Parker said...

The number of tools I use on a regular basis is only a tiny percentage of my total tool collection. There are special tools that I own because they are valuable for the rare times I use them, but I could get by without them.

It might be that articles in print and online try to use the right tool for the job - either for commerical reasons, showing off they have the tool or simply because you can't really show bodgery - and this tempts anyone looking for a reason not to get started to think they can put it off until they get the Guy Williams soldering iron that will make them a master modeller.

I started when I had no money and so developed the "skill" of making do with what I had.

Christopher said...

I always wanted a Guy Williams soldering iron, but couldn't find one anywhere. (Actually, I'd quite happily settle for a John Hayes version.) So I make do with a couple of modest Antex irons, and plenty of practice when I have the time... ;-)

You and me both, Phil! My father was useless at DIY and most things practical, bless him, so we had very few tools in the house when I started in my teens. All my early efforts were bodges, but I was keen and managed to produce something that I was pleased with at the time, with little or no budget. Perhaps this instills the habit of seeing potential, i.e., model-making, uses for everyday objects?