Why do we need a definition?
The hobby of scale modelling probably means different things to different people. Some people might regard making models of science fiction subjects as outside the realm of scale modelling, whilst others would argue that it most definately is scale modelling. We do not wish to start or continue any arguments on this subject.
The only reason for defining scale modelling here is to clarify what is included on the Scale Model Guide.com website.
ScaleModelGuide.com is intended to be the ultimate reference guide for scale modellers, so it is only appropriate that we explain what we mean by scale modelling.
The ScaleModel Guide Definition
“Scale modelling is the art and craft of creating scaled down realistic replicas of original subjects for display.”
It may help if we try to explain the reasoning behind the particular words used in this phrase:
|‘art and craft’||There is little doubt that scale modelling is a craft, but is it art? We will discuss this further in a separate section below|
|‘creating’||This word was used because it covers both construction and painting and applies equally to making a model kit or producing a model entirely from scratch|
|‘scaled down’||Models are smaller versions of the original and must be in scale (this is fundamental)|
|‘realistic replicas’||There is nothing wrong with making artistic impressions of real objects, but that would take them out of the scope of being scale models where making an accurate realistic copy is paramount.|
|‘original subjects’||The term ‘original objects’ was used in preference to ‘real-life objects’ because we wanted to include subjects from fiction – particularly figures and craft from the movie industry.|
|‘for display’||This is important because a fundamental aspect of the hobby is to produce models to look at. There is nothing wrong with radio control or railway modelling, but by making the model active there is normally a compromise with realism. At SMG we only cover static models, although much of our content will also be useful to the radio control and railway modelling communities.|
But is it art?
There is little doubt that scale modelling is a craft since it involves the creation of three dimensional objects using manipulative skills that can take years to master fully, much like a blacksmith, or carpenter. It is perhaps less clear whether scale modelling can be regarded as an art form in it’s own right.
In it’s simplest form perhaps scale modelling could be regarded as a just a craft (not that there is anything wrong with that). If modelling just involved buying a kit and putting all the parts together following the instructions then it would be difficult to argue that there was any artistic input.
However, these days many modellers take their hobby much farther than this. In the construction phase, model kits are often adapted, enhanced and superdetailed to make each one unique. It has become common to display models in a diorama setting that not only shows off the model to good effect, but often tries to tell a story and generate an emotional response from the viewer.
Where the artistic input can really be let loose is on the paint job. Top class modellers will lovingly and painstakingly cover their work with dozens of layers of different types of medium to create subtle effects that are much more than just trying to create a replica of an original. Techniques such as dry-brushing, various types of washes, filters and weathering can transform a model, make it completely original and give it a ‘wow’ factor. Recently, a technique called colour modulation has been developed that has more to do with enhancing the interest and visual impact of a model than it has to do with realism. A single model may have acrylics, watercolours, enamals, oils and pastels used to produce a desired effect whereas a traditional artist is only likely to use only one of these mediums on a painting.
If one doubts the artistic value of first class models, then a visit to a model show should help to convince. Not only will the models each be a wonder to the eye, but it is easy to recognise the style of many modellers (artists) just as the style of painters and sculptors can be recognised. It is also possible to see that two models of the same subject, both of which are very realistic, can look very different.
Is it art? That depends on the modeller.
The photo on the left is an interior bay on the 144th scale Narcissus shuttle craft from the film ‘Alien’. The bay is a construction entirely from the imagination as it is never shown in the film. The builder had to imagine what such a bay would look like, find or make the parts and decide how they should fit together to look right. The bay then had to be painted, aged and weathered using acrylic, oil and watercolour paints.