I love Christmas and almost everything associated with it, like the break from work, the Winter Solstice, egg nog in the dairy section, and so on. Having said that though, it has become a season requiring disciplined scheduling to insure all hosting and visiting obligations are met, as well as church services, school concerts and the like. After a year I would characterize as both rewarding and punishing, I feel like we could have perhaps used a smidgen more unstructured down time. We had a little yesterday, as a couple of us are fighting colds or chest infections of some fashion or another, which made it totally acceptable to lay about downstairs watching episodes of Young Justice on the new television, and then play Nightmare Before Christmas Monopoly after supper. Another day or two like this would be good for my soul.
It's not as though I don't enjoy hosting, far from it! And it's not as though our guests weren't both loved and delightful company. In fact, having my sister-in-law and her children over provided a great opportunity for me to do something cool with my nephew Mark.
Last Christmas, we gave Mark his first plastic model kit, a Revell 1/72 scale Sopwith Camel. Mark has been building intricate Lego and MegaBloks kits for many years, with a heavy emphasis on aircraft and warships, and peaking with a 1400 piece USS Nimitz.
I was probably a little younger than Mark when I started building plastic models, but one thing we both had in common was that our dads had no experience with them or any real inclination towards them. It's a bit ironic actually, as Mark's dad is pretty handy mechanically, and my dad worked on or around aircraft during ten years in the RCAF and RCN, but there you go. At any rate, since there was no one around to coach Mark, I told him to bring his Sopwith along when he visited us last spring, and I showed him how to put it together, and he did a very decent job for his first time out, certainly better than mine.
He brought it along last week, hoping we would have a chance to put some paint on it, and sure enough, we did. My regular painting area was inaccessible so we deployed some newspaper on the kitchen table and brought up my paint station, brushes and paints. He had brought along the ubiquitous orange Testors carousel, but when I told that I hadn't painted with those in about three decades, and am actually a little intimidated by them, he was willing to use my Citadel Colours and brushes.
It's been more than 4 years since I gave a painting lesson, something I used to do almost daily when I worked at Games Workshop, but it all came back quickly enough: caring for brushes, trying to keep paint off the ferrule, getting the paint to the right consistency, loading the brush properly, et cetera. Mark has a lot of patience and was not at all timid about getting stuck in, and after I put the beginning strokes on the wings, he became fully engrossed.
He spent a couple of hours working at it in the afternoon, while i stayed at the table and alternated between surfing on my iPad, answering questions, consulting on colour choices and reclaiming paints from pots that had begun to dry out. We took a break when Audrey's parents arrived for a visit and to take us out to Tony Roma's for supper, and After we returned, I showed him how to apply the waterside decals that came with the kit. Perhaps an hour after that, he held it up and said, "Uncle Steve, I think I'm done."
If my first airplane model looked half as tidy as this, I would have been extremely proud, and I told Mark so. While we didn't have time to get into any advanced techniques like shading or highlighting (although he did throw a little ink wash onto the pilot and drybrushed the engine), his painting was very neat, with few visible brushstrokes and no drips at all that I could see. He had also done a very nice job with the decals, which add an awful lot to the visual appeal of the kit.
I hope Mark is encouraged enough by this first kit to do a few models on his own now. Model building was a hobby I enjoyed a fair bit when I was younger, and led directly to wargaming and miniatures later in my life, and which I obviously have no intention of giving up any time soon. Even if he doesn't go much further with it, building and painting a model with him was a wonderful way to spend some time with a great nephew.