Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Whatever happened to the Tarrasque project? On learning from your mistakes and pressing forward!

Upon seeing the above your first question should be 'what the f&^% is this s*&^?' to which my answer would be . . . hundreds of dollars worth of learning from your mistakes.

I like to think of myself as a guy who learns from his mistakes.  Certainly in regards to money and when dealing with the ladies, but also in regards to modeling  There's something to be said for the old adage 'Don't know it til you've tried it.' and let me tell you.  I tried it.

 So about, oh, I don't know, let's say 8 months ago, I set out on a mission.  I have been training my assistant Nick to work beside me in the studio.  I'd build a model, get a feel for how to do it and then show him how.  Nick was brilliant in that he could pick up what I was putting down and literally pick up where I left off.  He's that kinda talent.  Mind you neither of us are sculptors, full well, but Nick is spades beyond my ability.

So, me being the money hungry and egotistical creature that I am got the idea to build something big.  I figured big details were easier to sculpt then small.  We're been working on refining techniques for months, so the time was ready to try an original sculpt.  Nick wasn't strong with small detail, so I figured 'go big or go home!'.  So that's what we did.  And my first project to fall under this adage?

Why a tarrasque of course!  The legendary beast of . .  . legend.  The French creature with the head of a lion, the body of a . . . turtle, or armadillo, or something like that.  Anyway, nothing like the D&D version, that's for sure.  Not wishing to risk copyright infringement, we worked up a few concept sketches.  We came up with this lion leaded standing dragon with an armored shell not unlike an ankylosaurus.  I must say, overall I was pleased with the design and greenlit Nick to go ahead and begin on a prototype.

This is where things went wrong.

We roughed out the model in clay, in an attempt to save money on filler material.  A model this size in greenstuff would cost hundreds.  In grey stuff it would have cost less but me being the spendthift that I am figured 'hey, why not use clay.  It's  cheap and dirt, and maleable.'  So we did.

Problem with clay is, once dry it turns brittle.  A few months is more than enough time to dry out.

We covered the clay manakin in a greystuff layer of skin and then set about sculpting the major details in the 2 part epoxy.  Seemed like a good plan to me.  Nick assured me the figure out fit together.  It was looking lanky, but I knew Nick was doing his best, so I went with it.

We settled on a scaly skin pattern for the majority of the body.  Scales are the sort of thing that doing them right can take hours upon hours upon hours.  So to make a long story short, maybe 40-60 hours later, the entire model was scaled.

At minimum wage in NC, this means I spent anywhere between $300 or up to $450 bucks on labor to have Nick build this puppy.  Let's say another 50 in raw materials and the like.  This project was getting expensive, and I was smart enough to know the mold would cost hundreds as well.

Not a big deal, I told myself.  I can make it back selling a few of these for 1-200 bucks each (in my mind) and make it back in no time.

Problem is the bigger the model, the harder they are to sell.  Johnny Gamer can buy a reaper figure for $6.99 on lunch money, or a tank for $50 bucks on a few nights pay at the local gas n'go.  But a large figure like the Colossal Red Dragon from a few years back?  Those went for about $100 bucks each and did you notice WOTC doesn't make them anymore?  No market!  How many reaver's have you really seen in your life?  Not on a blog, in person.  2?  3?  Now how many Space Marine Tanks have you seen?  Hundreds?  More?  Price matters.

Companies like CMON sell their own figures of similar scale and excellent detail in the 4-500 range, but those are master made and are unbelievable to behold.  I figured 'well, I'll make on that's a fraction as nice for a fraction of the price.  Figures for the everyday man!'

So, Nick had done his work and the figure was 'done' around January or so.  Now it was time for a test run to make sure it all fit together.

WHY THE HELL I DIDN'T DO THIS BACK IN THE FALL WHEN THE PROJECT BEGAN I HAVE NO IDEA.   My only defense is my wife decided it was time to start trying to get pregnant back then and my mind must have turned to mush overnight.   I mean, we had been talking about it for a while, but that was the month we actually went OFF birth control, and without understanding the concept of ovulation, I was 100% sure we'd be pregnant later that week.  Obviously, I am an idiot because 6 months later, no baby to speak of in sight  More on that in another post . . . maybe .  .

To make a long story a little bit longer, after fitting the pieces together (or at least attempting to) wouldn't you know it, they didn't quite fit right.  On top of that, drilling the pieces for pinning was a mistake, because the claw was so brittle they started crumbling before my eyes like the Roman pantheon in a Discovery channel montage.  It was frustrating, embarrassing, humiliating, insert other negative gerunds here. . . .

In 'The Sun Also Rises' a rich man is asked how he went broke.  Hemingway wrote 'Gradually, and then Suddenly'.  That's sort of how I felt about this model.  It failed gradually, and then suddenly it was just over.

Looking back, like most things in life, there are many things I would do differently.  Obviously, don't skimp on the materials.  Secondly, don't bite off more than you can chew, walk before you run, etc.

Over the past year, working on projects like this, I've learned a lot about myself as a hobbyist.  I LOVE building, but I've been criticized for slopping on the glue.  Got to get better at that.  I don't love painting, but I want to get better at that too.  So I want to get better.  That's a good start.

Mostly I've learned that you can't please everybody.  In fact, some days it's hard to please anybody.

The world is so full of hate and critical views that it's easy to fell dejected some days.  Truth is, you have too ask yourself who your doing this for.

If I was just doing this for myself, then I wouldn't blog at all.  I'd build my own models, and be satisfied with that.  No one would judge me and I'd not have to weed through spiteful comments on my blog from time to time.  But the reality is it's easier to take down than build up.

This project  took months to build, ultimately failed, but even if it had succeeded, there is a very good chance a 14 year old middle class child somewhere in the mid-west would have seen the blog post, seen the pics, typed 'meh' or 'first' in response, and then unceremoniously moved on to the next sparkly gem that caught their eye, whether that was a new video game or a song or an app, or maybe even 'gasp' a girl.

Tyranids call themsevles the Great Devourer, but the truth is mankind is the great devourer.  We chew up things and spit them out, processing the world and all it has to offer so fast we rarely stop to appreciate anything anymore.

At dinner last night my wife and I had some wine.  Like any couple on a budget that also enjoys a glass of wine with dinner, we would like to enjoy fifteen dollars bottles of vino, but usually settle of the six dollar bottle and tell ourselves it'll taste just as good.  But last night, sipping my wine, I noticed how bad it was.  Not just bad, but awful.

I realized my taste buds had grown over the years.  I could single out certain tastes and flavors, and I had a profile I was looking for when enjoying wine.  And this wine, this poor five dollar bottle of crap wine, had none of them.

I wanted more from my wine.  And this transpires to other aspects of life.  I want more from my life.  I want more from my time, and I want more from my hobby.

So that leads me back to who I do this for.  Who is this blog for?

Well, originally it was for me.  It was a place to post my work in hopes of gaining a loyal following of regular clients.  But over the last few months I've noticed my sales go down down down.  So either I'm not very good at this, I don't have the time or money to dedicate to it, or maybe, just maybe, this blog isn't about me anymore.

It's about us, as a community.  It's about giving something back, sharing interests, swapping stories, and sharing pitfals.  Celebrating our mistakes and rejoicing in our triumphs.

Now don't get me wrong.  Money would be good.  We like that money.  Please send more of that yummy money.  But for those just reading this on a lunch break, with nothing else to do but count minutes on the clock til the end of the day, this blog's for you. 

 If you are going to call yourself a conversion artist, a businessman, an artist, or even just a blogger, prepare to be scrutinized.  Grow a thick skin.  You WILL be criticized.

But after that, stand tall, dust yourself off, and get back to the business of living your life.  Or in my case, the business of become a career hobbyist.

So, that all being said, my name is Caleb Dillon and I am conversion artist for hire.  I put my mini's where my mouth is, esp. my failures.

If you are interested in setting up a commission, consigning models through ebay, or even just shooting the breeze, send me a line at caleb@whitemetalgames.com

Until next time, happy wargaming!