Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Hobby Police

This is a topic near and dear to my heart. As far as the hobby goes, I have two primary goals for myself: try improve my work and encourage/teach newbie hobbyists & artists. The self-appointed Hobby Police don't acknowledge the former and work in direct opposition to the latter.

Let's start from the beginning, shall we?


This is--no joke--my first custom. The blanket is white out and sharpie over enamel model paint. Sadly, this probably marked a high point in my first few years of my customizing career. Quality took a steep drop off as I discovered hairing, airbrushing, oils, and attempted to tackled any color that wasn't black. You should have seen how I created "roan" at the age of 13--and yes, I even tried to hawk it on eBay.

I have very little formal training past "coloring in the lines," so my current skill set is the result of years of trial and error. And in this hobby, you go through a lot of error. However, no amount of public humiliation was necessary to get me from this first attempt to my latest:


Honestly, I was a sensitive and emotionally unstable teen. Harsh criticism would have driven me to quit--without question. I was lucky that I started customizing in an era where the internet was new and access to the hobby came primarily through the Model Horse Gallery and MH$P. If I was getting a public dressing down on the Haynet, I never saw it. I never discovered a thread like this aimed at my work. Or this. Or this, or get the idea. (Apologies to those of you that cannot see the above links as these threads are in a paid-only section. In fact, I've been unable to dig up a single fully public example of the Hobby Police in action.)

I don't intend to single out Blab or blabbers here, it just happens to be the community I know best. This behavior is hobby wide. There are lists devoted entirely to this purpose, although most are private. You'll see these kind of comments in blogs, other boards, and in person.

The Hobby Police follow a distinct pattern:

1. Find a target. This is most often an auction on a site like eBay or an ad on MH$P. In person, it will be an unattended model on a table.

2. Post a link with commentary. Sometimes the comments are constructive (the head is out of scale, the pattern in unrealistic, etc.) but most are mockery ("a rather unfortunate paint job," "Excuse me while I choke on my tea," or "Nice neck [sarcasm.]")

3. Defend their comments as "helping" the artist, who otherwise would not improve on their own. Example from one of the linked threads:
"You need to know when the time is right to put your work out for the public eye to scrutinize. This seller obviously doesn't know when that time is. I hope they keep painting and progressing and sooner or later they're going to look back and these pieces and say 'what the heck was I thinking when I put THAT on evilbay?'."
The justification is that if they don't point out and "critique" young artists, those artists will never improve. Some critics will attack Big Name Artists (BNA's) as well, comfortable in the thought that they are contributing to the hobby by taking the artist's ego down a peg. The flaw in the logic here is that every artist I've met in the hobby, every--last--one, constantly struggles to improve. Most are easy going and down to earth people. Many (even BNAs) are very sensitive to criticism. These artists would leave a gaping hole in the hobby if they left.

Some already have.

There is no litmus test for artists. Newbies and BNAs alike, the quality of their work has no correlation to their personality.

Most of the discussion in the linked threads aren't pointed constructive criticism. It's a game. The authors don't write gently worded emails to the artist suggesting how they could improve their work or sales practices. They don't write because they know the response they receive will likely be curt and unwelcome. And that's not nearly as fun as mockery.

Artists, take heart! This kind of unwanted attack isn't about you. Never was. The point of the game is earn the respect of their peers by pointing out the supposed failings of others. They write this stuff because they want to feel like they are above the artist they attack. They are looking for positive feedback from their fellow hobbyists that their opinions of a particular model are valid, feedback they fear they won't get in direct communication with the artist.

The same goes when they attack the owners of custom work they don't like. Really, it's high school all over again. They want to be seen as the head cheerleader with the best taste in clothes.

The same behavior you see online will manifest itself in a different form at live shows. Personally, I believe a live show can be the greatest teaching tool for a hobbyist, but snark isn't helpful.

Next week, I will touch back on this topic as it applies to live showing. This portion of the hobby can be a shock for new showers (I know it was for me) but it doesn't have to sully your experience. There are techniques for dealing with them without ruining the fun of showing.


  1. Well written post. I agree sometimes we need to point out problems (say when someone puts a pricetag of $200 on a custom that's their first one), but not in a harsh way. I think one of the great things in the hobby is that we have people who encourage and help newbies, and that we all get better because of it.


    A friendly hobby police meme :)


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