2019 IPMS Nationals: Chattanooga Choo Choo!

961 people entered.

They came from as far away as Japan.

They came from cultures as different from Chattanooga as Argentina, Canada, or Palo Alto, California.

They were young, old, men, women, and any variation in between.

They brought over 3000 models to be judged.

Two even got engaged during the show.

The quality was stunning, and the experience was phenomenal. I have never been as humbled walking through a show and looking at the models on display. I was certain that I was, at best, only average. To leave with three awards and two models to be featured in Fine Scale Modeler magazine was something that left me swollen with pride.

And then, my wife said “Is that good?”. :/

As if I needed further proof that we are not normal. We don’t need proof that as different as we all are and from many varied backgrounds, we share something that most people don’t understand.

We’re mutants.

We get “it”, and for a brief moment in Chattanooga, Tennessee, we celebrated that together.

Speaking of celebrating, I took over 350 pictures and didn’t come close to getting a shot of every model on the tables. Of those all were fantastic, but a few, for any number of reasons, stood out to me and were interesting. Check these out.

As with anything that relies on subjective criteria, there were choices made that could be debated. That said, there weren’t any choices made that I could say were wrong insofar as what I could see of the awards given. The quality was so good, the top 3 in almost any category could be interchangeable. In fact, the top ten in most categories were probably close enough to be argued to be the best. The overall quality was astounding and I don’t envy the job of the judges.

As well as this show was ran, however, I think there is still room for improvement:

One thing that bothers me, and it isn’t unique to this show, is when models are moved in favor of others, especially late entrants. I purposefully got to the venue early enough on Wednesday to make sure I could put my models on the table. When I returned on Saturday, my models had been moved and shuffled around. Three of them suffered minor damage in the move (pitot tubes were knocked wonky, and one set of aerials was stretched and sagging). To be fair, one had a judges note that they pitot was misaligned but it didn’t affect the judging, and it wasn’t difficult to fix when I got home. But still, damage from third parties due to a move is avoidable. Could the pitot or sagging aerial have affected the judging? Of course. In fact, one could argue that in a contest with quality this high, those things should have mattered. I think the solution is that tables can be marked off in grids, and pre-registrants buy a space. Late entrants can still get a spot in any unsold spaces, or at an overflow table that can be scaled infinitely.

Another thing is how some modelers demand more space than their model requires, further exasperating the point above. They do this by using bases, and pedestals, often that the model is not affixed to. Some are the size of server’s trays. Others raise the model off of the surface in an unnecessary way that tends to just obscure models around it. Some bring paperwork and literature that stands up off of the table like a science project tri-fold board. Models should not be moved to make space for that, nor should (at least in my view) people be allowed to put their model on pedestals or to have literature surrounding their model, that obscures other models or takes up a disproportionate amount of space. This issue would get fixed by my grid suggestion above, with a statement that any additional materials have to be attached to the model entry form, can be no larger than letter size, and must lay flat on the table, under the model.

Another issue I had was the length of the Saturday portion of the show and the awards. At 4pm I could not get back into the venue to get my models as the judges were putting the awards out. At 7:15pm the award ceremony started. At roughly 8:30 they finally got into the actual awards. At roughly 10:30pm I was back in the model room. At 11:45pm, after three long trips to the parking garage, I was finally loaded up and ready for the two hour drive home. That’s a very long day. To make it worse, as I was trying to burn several hours in Chattanooga, the vendors had mostly evaporated well before the doors were locked in the model room. My suggestion, as the judging occurred Friday night, would be to put out the awards in each category, after judging but before the venue opens on Saturday. That way the Saturday visitors can see, and appreciate, the best three in each category. An awards ceremony should absolutely be held to announce special awards winners, best of category winners, best in show, and all of the ancillary congratulation and business meetings that are required for a show of this scope, but I don’t think a 6-8 hour block in the schedule is requried.

Finally, and probably the most controversial, is a discussion about the merits of the so-called “Spanish School” of building. I define the “Spanish School” by comparison: it is the difference between Picasso and the later realist movements. It has taken over so much of the hobby, and when done well is gorgeous, interesting, and provides a pop that certainly stands out. But, I wouldn’t say it is particularly “real”. It is weathering and tonal variation overdone to the point of looking like the picture of an average looking person who is made up then ran through instagram filters until they look like someone different. It looks like the expression of an emotion instead of a nod to reality. It is a mood, not a visualization. It seems like what armor builders imagine of aircraft. I can appreciate the skill of the work, and the effort involved, without agreeing with the merits. To me, a significant nod should be given to realism. A picture of the model next to a picture of the real thing, should find little difference. Ironically, a great deal of the people who practice in the Spanish School would also tell you that they want realism in panel lines, rivet count, engine wiring, and other shape and visual indicators. They will argue endlessly about the correct shade of a color on some obscure Russian Yak, but then want to wipe all that away with exceedingly exaggerated color saturation, shading, weathering, and otherwise. I understand this is a wholly subjective critique of what is essentially a hobby of art…now get off my lawn!

In all, this was an amazing event. My criticisms are merely suggestions on how to refine something that is stellar already. My thanks to IPMS Chattanooga, and my congratulations to everyone who attended. You inspire me.


A New Beginning.

In May of 2015 I reentered the hobby after an absence of nearly 20 years. Things have changed significantly.

Growing up in the late 80s and early 90s I built dozens of old Revell and Monogram kits. I thought that Testor’s kits were a luxory-a comparative Mercedez to the Fords that I could buy at my local Wal Mart. My pinnacle achievement was winning first place in the junior category of the Monogram 5487 P-47DNew Orleans chapter of IPMS in about 1992.  Beyond that build, Monogram’s “High-Tech” P-47D, long since destroyed with no proof it ever existed, I had little patience or desire to do anything other than throw some plastic together, then slather it in paint so it might loosely resemble some machine I was temporarily interested in.  I built on the weekend, at my dad’s workbench, in the sweltering garage.  More often than not, I ended up abandoning a project in frustration and moving on to something else.  It was rare that I truly finished the kit and was proud enough of it to display it.  About the time I started high school, I lost interest.  Then came college. Then love, marriage, starting a business, more college, a child.  Before I knew it, a couple decades had passed without a thought to a hobby that had taken up so much of my youth.

I can’t exactly remember why, but around Christmas of 2014 I decided I wanted to build a model again.  My parents gifted me some cash and I20160818_175007 spent some of it on Tamiya’s 1/48 Corsair, some tools, brushes, glue, and the list of paints that were called for in the instructions.  I was amazed at the quality of that Tamiya kit.  I was floored when I found all of the how-to videos, reference materials, and hobby shops that are available online.  I went a little over the top.  I bought Eduard’s photo etch, resin parts, masks, and spent about two months working on it between studying for finals and working.  For graduation from law school, my parents bought me an Iwata Ninja air compressor and an HP-CS airbrush.  The Corsair fell together, and I began the journey of learning to airbrush.  I soaked up every youTube video I could find.  I completed the Corsair just in time for father’s day, and gifted it to my father.  He seemed pleased. He also made the mistake of saying that he wanted me to build him a little air force.

My next build was Academy’s P-38.  It was a far more challenging than the Corsair but turned out reasonably well given the reputation that precedes th20160818_173659e kit. It was my first time scribing panel lines I had sanded away, and preshading. I was still barely getting the hang of the airbrush and weathering seemed totally unecessary. At this point, I was hooked…again.

Almost a year and a half since I opened the box on Tamiya’s Birdcage Corsair, only a handful of days have gone by without a model on my workbench.  I’m certain my wife has regretted whatever it was that triggered my re-entrance into the hobby.  Similarly, I’m certain that my father regrets asking me to build him a little air force.  As my time disappears into hours on the bench, or online researching some detail of an aircraft, my parent’s house fills up with aviation in miniature.

Needless to say, I sincerely enjoy my rediscovered childhood.  The years have taught me the patience I never had.  With a little more cash on hand than I had in the 1980s, and with access to a universe of techniques and message boards, I can see the quality of each of my builds improve.  I’ve even won a few awards at some local and regional shows.  Positive reinforcement doesn’t help an addiction.