Realism in modelling. It crops up periodically here and there, engenders a usually prompt response that (if a recent discussion on Facebook’s anything to go by), boils down to the popular view that the hobby only really winds up pointing in one of two directions – ‘realism’ and the pursuit thereof, focussed on perceived replication of detail, colour and the other facets of the full size object or ‘art’ in rendering said object in a stylised manner, principally also through the use of colour but in a perhaps more dramatised and extended way. Like so much in modelling philosophy (and the most prominent key speakers), the conclusions demand adherents divide into camps; it has that tedious ‘billy goat’ intellectualism that pre-supposes that both sides are right, while catering for the expressed need to regard the other side as ‘wrong’.
The Facebook thread I mentioned too’d and fro’d and was all very good natured as it happened but didn’t mention (at least overtly) that in order for a model to be mistaken for the real thing there has to be a filter between the model and the observer – photography. Put a 1/35 M4 Sherman on the museum exhibit you based the model on and no-one will mistake the former for the latter. Place the model on a meticulously crafted base, with the tank equally skilfully finished – photograph the combination sympathetically in natural daylight and Photoshop the whole lot seamlessly into a photographed background and you have the right cocktail for fooling the eye into believing the ensemble is the full size object.
Quite some years ago, I saw this done with a 1/32 Hawker Hunter. The paint was realistically given a sheen that tallied with what I was used to seeing in the flesh. The finish had been applied over an extremely smooth surface – no give away texture in the paint. The low angle of the photo was commensurate with an image taken from a standing position and the bright overcast nature of the daylight matched the photographed background that the model was immaculately stitched into. It was quite startling to realise it was all a representation of reality and not reality itself. It was also a fine achievement by the author (who’s name escapes me now), as success in this doesn’t come easy…or often.
There. I’ve done it. I’ve mentioned a word you’ll likely never find crop up in this debate. Representation…and when it comes to modelling, it’s what it’s actually all about. Even the astonishing 1/5 Spitfire by David Glen, that resides in the RAF Museum Hendon, is a representation. The attention to detail in that momentous model is rarely matched elsewhere, down to his re-creating the same number of knurled ridges in a hand wheel for instance…but it’s still representation not replication. That realisation in no sense diminishes David’s legacy achievements but instead enhances it in tandem with the conspicuous care he took in creating his masterpiece.
When you accept modelling as representations of reality, suddenly there is no longer any need for divisions between ‘realist’ modellers or ‘art’ modellers. Both represent the full size object and both have much to teach the other – when ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are removed from the dialogue.
Until next time.