A collection writings and thoughts by artist Gary Llama.

Thoughts on Model Building

I recently purchased a model airplane for my daughter and I to build. The idea was based around her fascination, since very young, with the ‘stearman’ aircraft, which is the quintessential biplane. This fascination took root with her when she began watching the ‘There goes a…’ series of VHS cassettes my aunt had passed down to us, with the episode on airplanes featuring the Stearman. Since then, whenever we encounter

Fig.1 – A younger Madison in front of bi-plane.

aircraft at museums…

Fig.2 – Younger Madison checking out a Stearman model.

or the like…

Fig.3 – Current Madison in VA Beach at air memorial, Stearman!.

we usually find something stearman related.

Anyhow, the model seemed like a fun thing to do. As a kid, my dad and I built a couple models, the most memorable being a Huey helicopter, and the experience really stoked my interest in building things in general. So I wanted to give her some of that experience, if possible.

The Kit

Fig.4 – Kit we built.

The kit we got, a Revell Stearman ‘Kaydet’ kit, was very nice for a few reasons. 1) It was reasonably priced, at around $9, 2) It was relatively easy to put together, and 3) it was of decent quality.

Fig.5 – Madison building. Note: critical tongue placement for extra dexterity.

As expected, she had a great time building the kit. What I didn’t expect, was how much fun I would have building it with her. So much fun that I ended up wanting to build another model just a few days later. I mean, it was probably the most fun I had allowed myself to have in a while.


But it came with some conflicts…


As a kid, I wanted to be a soldier. As an adult, I’ve gone from being one comfortable with violence (to a derogatory extent) to a person who has worked towards being non-violent. So building aircraft, specifically military aircraft, brings some interesting bits of cognitive dissonance, to light. So in choosing my model, I chose a variant of the Sea King helicopter, as it isn’t an attack helicopter (one outfitted with weapons) but more of a utility helicopter. Hell, in my own fascination with helicopters (and I am fascinated with them) my favorite is the MH53, which basically just carries things.

So in building it, at a certain point, it was time to mount a machine gun at the door, I just omitted it. I literally left the gun on the sprue, upon which it was thrown in the trash. No big deal. Perhaps, more poetic than I gave the occasion time for in my mind.

Fig.6 – Rack of bombs from a later model I built.
Fig.7 – Rack of bombs before being tossed in trash.

And really, building this helicopter was extremely fun. There were some drawbacks. Perhaps 1/72 scale is a bit too small to enjoy building, as a lot of the work can be very cramped, and difficult, though I like looking at the 1/72 when it’s finished.

Should I have Fun?

Also, there is a bit of debate in my use of time to build something just for fun. Having health issues, I tend to prioritize my time greatly, and theoretically, I could have used this time to build something new, like art, or a song. Coincidentally, I was using the helicopter build to offset stress from recording a few songs, so perhaps that wasn’t valid here. But it brings up the question of self-love, and where does allowing time for one to simple have fun, at both expense of time and money, fit in to my life? I have to admit, I felt GUILTY with this model, both in time spend building it, and in purchasing it. Could the money have gone to something more useful. Well, of course it could have. But when we rationalize EVERYTHING down to utility (and I am very adapt at this, to the peril of my self) then Fun things have to be forced in, collisions with logic be damned. So there was also something of an existential aspect to it too, in that I was questioning the whole entire basis of what I want from life, just trying to build this model. Such as, do I want to be purely rational? Because a sense of guilt has definetely been built that, if I follow it as guide, will surely prevent me from having any fun that isn’t rational, logical, or tied to making something new.

Existensial problems

There is also this other, scary, existential aspect. Perhaps it’s a fear of normality? Or a fear of losing my creativity? It seems somewhat tied up in age as well. Like a fear of becoming some kind of trainspotting-esque type person, which is hilarious, as I am damn definitely that way already. Perhaps it’s more a fear of seeing myself as I could be, or am?

The whole experience ended up being like navigating a minefield of existential questions, which is fucking ridiculous when I step back and look at what I was trying to do. Explaining it now, I feel a bit silly. But this is what I think about. Probably need to talk to my therapist about this.


Overall, It was FUN, and that was nice. Very nice. And Madison and I got some good father daughter time. Unfortunately, she wanted to play with the model, and with a few days had destroyed most of it, but thats not why I did it. So I’m happy. And again, the experience brings up a lot of questions, of which are still confusing to me, but I view that as a good thing, as they were illuminated by the experience, rather than caused by it. Makes me wonder how much these issues that appeared here, fuck with my normal daily life, without notice?

Fun project.

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Llamatism is a collection of things, a cabinet of curiosities, and reports from explorations on things, by Gary Llama.

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