The backdrop for this scene is the epic battle of Kursk, or Operation Citadel, when in the summer of 1943, German and Russian forces clashed in an epic struggle for supremacy. Each side throwing thousands of tanks and aircraft into battle as Tigers and T-34s engaged one another in swirling, mortal conflict. In historical terms the Battle of Kursk marked a turning point in the war, the initiative now turning to the favor of the Soviets.
Even in the grandest of all conflicts my preferred historical study rests with the personal narrative; the stories of triumph and hardship as experienced by the individual soldier. The smoke filled fury of the battle engulfs them taxing their strength and straining every sense. Rarely do these men realize the larger context of their mission as they have the more immediate concern of their own survival. Based upon historical narratives and photographs, this small vignette depicts an abandoned T-34 partially buried in the torn earth. It is to the viewer to decide whether the vehicle has become stuck in a tank trap or has blindly driven into a large crater.
Some time ago,2007 to be exact, I was at the early stages of my attempt to break into the scale modeling industry. While although I had continually
built models since the age of 5, it was at about this time that I made a conscious decision to “get serious” about modeling. Not only did I want to up my game in terms of skills and presentation, but I had it as a goal to get an article published in a modeling magazine. As mentioned above, inspiration came from a photograph showing a T34 partially buried in a crater. The model of choice was the DML T34 STZ in 1/35 scale. I began the build in earnest, putting all my efforts into the details and stretching my skills along the way. Internet modeling, at this time, was relatively new with modeling forums springing-up allowing for the easy sharing of work and instant feedback. I became very active on the Planet Armor forums, with this T34 project being one of my first shares in the virtual world.
In my opinion the project came off good, matter of fact it remains one of my favorites. Obviously, it would be published soon and the rest, as they say, would be history. With the project complete I sent submissions to a couple of magazines, Military in Scale and Military Miniature in Review. Well, things didn’t go quite to planed as neither of the publications ran my article – nor even bothered to reply. Time to regroup! Oddly enough I wasn’t too discouraged. For me the hobby and the enjoyment I derived from it were the most important – the other stuff – being published, would only be the icing.
Fast forward to 2013, I am now the editor of The Weathering Magazine (funny how that worked out!) and we are working on content for the
upcoming Issue 6 – a combined issue with the theme of Vegetation and anniversary of the Battle of Kursk. “I will do a T34 with a Kursk theme” I quickly volunteered. Little did anyone suspect that I would be selfishly using this opportunity to revisit my past work. The buried in dirt T34 would finally see print, only this time as in 1/48th scale – and with a totally different mindset and expectation on my part.
Throughout the project I couldn’t help but compare and contrast the two projects – based upon the same photo yet my methods, techniques – and yes – my outcomes where quite different. Looking at my original build I feel the tension of trying so hard to make a “great” model. There is a tightness and precision to be felt and seen on my first piece. Not a bad thing, just different from how I tend to approach things now. Looking at the Revised piece you can clearly see the years of accumulated practice; the brush strokes are bolder, the colors are bolder, the weathering is bolder….it has a certain looseness about it. Some might even say a messiness!!
In the early years I made it a practice to study the works of others that I admired. Trying to figure out why I liked something; was it the colors used? The brushstrokes? Perhaps the products applied? I will admit that amongst my early infatuations the Spaniards played a huge part in my development. At times I would try to mimic their bold use of colors, light, brightness and artistic style. Looking at this particular piece – the revision – I think that these influences are clearly on display….perhaps more so than usual?
I do know that I am still trying to develop my own “style”. Some say that I already have it, that they can recognize my work before they seem my name attached. IF this is so, then I am truly flattered. In my mind I still have a long way to go. For instance – take a look at this project and then look at my recently completed Gvozdika project, you will notice a shift in style with the latter coming across as much more muted and “realistic” in finish vs. the artistic flair associated with the Spanish influence.
One of the other areas of “growth” is obviously the photography. Like it or not, if you are going to take this hobby into the public realm then you will need to have a little more than a basic understanding of photography. Although I have more or less “dialed in” my settings by now, I still spend a considerable amount of time fiddling about – trying to find that elusive sweet spot.
Finally – and this fact cannot be separated from how I now approach the hobby – is that now I am a part of the industry. First with MIG Productions, then with AK Interactive and now with AMMO of Mig Jimenez. Product placement, product testing, deadlines, tutorials, Facebook pages, blog updates, magazine content, etc…..all of these factors influence my time allocated and how any particular project my be approached.
And now back to the the T34. It was my little secret, the fact that I was able to revisit one of my hidden favorites and bring the idea to the printed page was too good to pass up. As you glance across the accompanying photos know that I had a good time revisiting an old theme. Both of these piece now sit side-by-side in my model case, neither better than the other – just different – each with its own personality.