Can you think outside of the “beige box”?

There comes a point in every modeler’s life when they need to have a coming to Jesus moment (or coming to Yoda moment if that jives better) and decide if just settling for “beige” work is ok by them. By beige, I don’t mean the color of the plastic tank, fresh out of your store bought box that you are working on. By beige I mean status quo, ordinary, nothing special, by the book model building. You open up your kit, put it together, just the way the instructions tell you to do. Yep. Looks just like the picture on the box. Bravo for being your badass, beige self. You just continue being a legend in your own mind, Michelangelo. Beige does not win you contests.

Thinking outside of the beige box does. In our house, beige is a four letter word. My wife loathes the color and what it represents: blah, void of life, void of color, void of risk, void of personality, doctors office boring, the epitome of mediocrity. She is a found object/assemblage artist and designer. Don’t get me wrong, she will use it if absolutely necessary, but it will pain her to do so. Here’s a good example of what I am talking about. Her dad wanted to redecorate his bedroom and asked her to do it for him. The look he wanted was of an English library – leather, dark woods, brown, lots of books and wait for it….*gasp* beige, b.e.i.g.e., BEIGE!!! In the end, she gave him the look he wanted, but she went there metaphorically kicking and screaming. What was her reasoning? She knew she could give him beige, if that was really what he wanted, but even more so, she knew she could make it so much more spectacular, if he was just willing to step outside of the beige box, even if that meant just adding a contrasting color to the overall look. In the end, he stuck with his beloved beige and she gave him one bangin’ English library bedroom. He gets asked a lot now if he has any Grey Poupon, so you know, win-win. I can totally see what she was trying to do in getting him to move past his safe zone, and to embrace something more special. One of the most important things she has taught me with regards to my own work, is to think outside of that beige box, and to think outside of the kit box. That’s not to say that I was not already doing that before we met, but her work has inspired me to take even more risks with my ideas, and thinking “bigger” if you will, even if I am working on a 2” figure.

If you want to do by the book model building for the rest of your life, then that is totally cool, if that floats your boat (or your 1/35 scale Soviet Navy G-5 class motor torpedo boat – you know, just whatever). If you aspire to be beige, then you do the most smokin’ beige that you can do. If however you want more from yourself and your work, then read on. Congratulations Sunshine! You just took your first step towards big boy modeling. My wife lovingly sends her sardonic applause to you as well.

If you want to break free from beige thinking you need to think outside of the beige box. Those of you into historical military model building…how many of you think those kits you buy are historically accurate? I think you might be surprised to know just how many aren’t. You need to do your homework. If you are working on a British WWl armoured car, or French Light tank, are you certain that what you are building is exactly like what was made in the real world? Do you know that judges are expecting a historically accurate model? So the company who made the kit didn’t get it exactly right. What are you supposed to do and how do you even know if they got it right or wrong in the first place? Research, research, research. This is one of the main things that separates a mediocre or beige modeler, from someone who cares not just about the overall look of the finished kit, but also about the historical accuracy of it. Judges don’t like shortcuts or shoddy work.

Ok, so let’s say historical models are not your thing and your genre is SciFi. You obviously can’t focus on historical accuracy for a craft or creature that never existed in the first place – though my wife may argue with you on that (cue X-Files music here). This is where you can let your creativity go wild. Again, you may have your basic kit that you start off with, but it’s how you tweak it that takes it from, “gee, that’s great, to “holy $hit! That’s f’ing amazing!”

With either genre of model building, and every genre in between, you need something that sets you apart from others. You want your piece or pieces to stand out in the crowd, and at the nerd convention (aka any model show in the free world). How do you do that? You need inspiration an fresh, innovative ideas. When my wife conceptualizes a new piece of art, she is not just pulling ideas out of thin air (although she has been known to manifest some pretty freaky $hit from other dimensions, but that’s a whole different spacetime continuum ball of wax). She can come up with a new idea from just about anything – the pattern on a bedspread, pictures she took of a gothic church, while on one of her photographic outings with her dad, a classic work of Pre-Raphaelite art, even tacky, plastic pink flamingo garden stakes – yes….seriously! Everything from the obscure to everyday objects have been inspiration for her pieces. I don’t question her process – I just know it works when I see the finished pieces. It blows me away.

What inspires you is totally personal and individual. Your inspiration may come from a movie you once saw, that set your mind reeling, a riveting book, a video game that had you transfixed or even just that special little warped imagination of yours (seriously, do you have to mess with people’s heads like that?! If you’re not careful you’re going to end up on an “S.O.L.” list somewhere). Whatever inspires you can inspire your model making. The possibilities are endless. On a (temporarily) serious note…be original. Don’t steal others’ ideas or work. That’s not cool and so bourgeois. You’re better than that and your work should reflect your personal originality and take on the piece you create. Yes, work from your base, but your base is just your starting point. You may even have to build your own parts from scratch if need be and any truly great modeler needs to know how to do that. I will be covering more on that topic in a later entry.

Modeling, like life is what you make of it. You can choose to have a ho-hum outlook and outcome on your builds, but chances are it’s not going to bring you an immense amount of satisfaction or medals (if that is your eventual goal). Research, get inspired, take risks, think big, no matter how big or small your pieces are and step outside of the beige box. Your future, loving and adoring fans will thank you for it. In all seriousness though, it is time to leave your mom’s basement. No, really, I’m totally serious!