Where do these stories come from?

Creative work begins in the mind, long before one sits down at the keyboard, the drawing table or the workbench. It begins with a story you tell to yourself about the work and your attitude toward it. Quality work begins with your attitude. It begins when you believe this is work worth doing. It begins when you’re willing to fail, not just once but many times. It begins with humility and with respect for the subject you’re modeling. In this case the subject is the visible wall section of the Hoosier Drill Company building for my 13th and North E cameo.

I’ve previously mentioned the idea of capturing the essence of a subject: those qualities that make it unique from other things. This building has several such qualities; the shape of the window openings and sash construction for example. These both give the building the character that drew me to model it in the first place. Capturing the essence of these windows is what led me to do the wall over.

Even with an increased awareness of the subject, I redid portions of this second build over. Initially I didn’t recess the arched lintels into the brick wall. I placed them on top of the siding because it was easier and I wasn’t confident enough in my ability to accurately layout and cut a recess to let them sit flush with the rest of the brick siding. I figured who cares right? Well, I did and realized I was shortchanging the model and myself.

I already had the first and second storey lintels finished, so I decided to cut around the outside of each with a #11 X-acto blade and with some careful work, cleanly peeled off the two layers of brick sheet down to the styrene sub wall. For the brickwork of each lintel, I cut the brick sheet into individual courses then cut each strip into pieces that are two bricks in length. They are glued in place with gel CA one at a time and the lintels now sit flush with the siding, as they should. To fill in a few gaps on the third story window, I pieced individual brick pieces as needed.

Yes, the work was tedious and, as you can see, there’s plenty of room for improvement. It was worth every minute of time and effort expended. This wall section will be front and center on the cameo and plays an important role in the setting and story of the scene. Would anyone else really care about such a small detail? Likely not, but that isn’t the point. The point is do I care enough to make the effort? Do I care enough to adhere to a set of values that I freely chose? If not, then why bother at all?

These are all personal decision one makes. I’m not here to preach or change anyone’s mind. I’m simply sharing my journey for those who are ready to make one of their own. This craft means many things to many people; we each choose the stories we tell ourselves about that meaning.



  1. Dave Eggleston

    Yes! Excellent post, Mike.

    Carving your individual path is what makes this hobby interesting. But to me the strongest point of this post is your action of pulling out and taking a knife to an existing object to bring it up to your true standard. Critically assessing our own work is easy, convincing ourselves issues won’t be noticed is easy, admitting something isn’t right and then rebuilding it takes courage and confidence. Sharing those stories is critical.

  2. Simon

    “I figured who cares right? Well, I did and realized I was shortchanging the model and myself.”

    To some, that’s unbelievable.
    To other’s, that’s the whole point.

    I know this is a hobby, and not work, but if I want “easy”, I can watch the TV.
    If I want satisfying, then shortchanging myself won’t cut it.

  3. Jeff Peck

    Great post. Setting personal standards and sticking to them…that inner voice that says no, this isn’t what you set out to do…get back on it and do what you know you can do even if it means pushing yourself beyond what you think you can do.
    I’m doing this myself these days…I call it “the year of living uncomfortably”… picking up new skills like LED lighting and electronics or re-familiarizing myself with old ones like airbrushing.

    These days it’s too easy to take the easy way out and say meh, it looks ok…but blogs like this and seeing your efforts inspires us to look deeper and do better.

  4. mike

    That inner voice can be a killer if you let it.


  5. Jeff

    True, Mike. that’s when it’s good to have a friend that shares your modeling philosophy to tell you if what they see matches up with that voice you hear.