In the spirit of Rutherford’s recent essay on snowflakes and getting off his lawn, it’s time for another edition of Constructive Criticism. For those of you not familiar with the series, it focuses on builders that usually reside just outside the spotlight of the big blogs or right on the border. There is no escaping the inherent arrogance of the notion, but these are builders who I think need to be pushed and encouraged to take the next step with their models. Many of these people already have a nice Flickr following, but their work tends to get lost in the shuffle from time to time. I’m also going to offer my usual disclaimer that I’m a fan of Josiah’s and in no way is this article meant to be mean-spirited, especially to a teenage builder. With that boilerplate out-of-the-way, today’s victim on the rotisserie spit is Josiah N,You may remember him from such popular builds as Science is Fun!, Gates of Bodus Minor and Anne the Toucan. I’ve been watching Josiah’s recent W.I.P. shots with great anticipation, I dig the subject matter and the bare bones of the model, but I have to say that the final product was disappointing.
As of the writing of this post, the photo has racked up an impressive 44 favorites on Flickr so if you’re going just by the numbers my negative feedback doesn’t hold much water. Since Josiah openly embraces criticism on his Flickr profile, I’ll have a go at it anyway.
“I try to improve as much as I can, so if you’ve got any criticism or advice, feel free to tell me, I can take a hit. ;)”
That’s the spirit! It’s also worth noting that Josiah received some great suggestions on his W.I.P. photos, some of which I touch on in my evaluation. It’s too bad he wasn’t able to incorporate more of them into the final product. It’s not very common these days to elicit so much feedback and it’s probably a testament to Josiah’s popularity.
I’ll start with what I liked, because I like the core of nearly everything Joshua does with the brick. The octagonal shape of the build is a great choice and the black roof along with the black base frame it nicely. I do wish the builder had used collect-a-fig bases throughout because the roof of the interior structure looks better than the roof of the walls. The main doors are well done and so is the facade of the dojo building in back. The diorama is dressed nicely with minifigs and accessories, and the statues look pretty cool on the cracked surface. Again, the concept is great but it the final product looks like a rough draft, like it could have used a little more sanding to take the jagged edges off.
The tree is probably my biggest complaint. The roots should visibly penetrate the stone floor and reappear somewhere else instead of just laying there on the surface. The trunk of the tree seems too large in proportion to its height and it could probably use more variations in the height of the leaves. I’m not down with the studded trunk either, how many trees do you see with uniform studs all over them? The floor was a near miss for me as well, the dark-tan pseudo peace symbol is fine, but it would probably look better if it was centered and not obscured by the building. I’ve never seen the cracked floor technique done better than Thorsten Bonsch, so the bar is pretty high and this seems like a missed opportunity to do more with the ground. Although I appreciate the fact that Josiah decided to include an interior for the small dojo building and I know medieval Japanese buildings were spartan in style, but it’s a little too bland for my taste. Maybe the inclusion of minifigs or a sword rack or some kind of framework in the walls would have improved the situation.
I had a similar reaction to Josiah’s The Abandoned Train Station from February of this year: great concept, great moments, but ultimately underwhelming. The roof looks pretty good at first, but not so much when you look at the way it interfaces with the concrete. It looks too insubstantial and tacked on, even taking into account the apocalypse. It also seemed like a strange choice to have masonry bricks peeking out through gaps in the concrete walls, like the concrete was plastered over brick. Then there is the big heavy train car hanging from a single chain. Why is it hanging? Is it hanging at all?
As usual I think the train has too many exposed studs, a smattering of studs would be great but it seems like overkill here. I also wish there was a transition area between the car and the rails, as it is here, the car just lays there with no suggestion of how it moves at all. I’m all for the greenery, a color sorely lacking in most ‘post-apoc’ themed models, but some earth tones under all that green might have been more convincing, or a change in plants. I’m guessing Josiah was going for the whole “weeds through cracked concrete” thing but these plants don’t look like weeds. Even with all its flaws, the diorama has a great mood about it, something that you can’t easily define or explain how to accomplish.
We’ll end things on a positive note with one of my favorite models by Josiah, 2015’s Mountain Monastery. I think part of the reason my hopes were so high for the dojo is the promise shown here, from the rocky base to the roof the entire diorama is well thought out and inspiring.
Constant reader, if you know a builder who you think might benefit or be entertained by this regular feature on the Manifesto, let me know in the comments.