When I was planning this blog I made a list of ideas that might separate the Manifesto from the rather large pack of competitors out there. One of those ideas was to find a way to engage and encourage the builders who are not given their due by other blogs because of flaws like less than perfect photography or lack of advanced technique. Frankly I find it boring to just cover the hottest hits by today’s greatest artists…that’s the equivalent of top-40 radio which has never done much for me. You don’t need this blog to tell you that Tyler Clite’s latest model is immaculate, you’ve already seen it in your photo-stream, Facebook feed and at the other blogs you frequent. There isn’t much point in dissecting Tyler’s work because it’s typically genius, highly polished and its value is self-evident. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always good to give props when they are deserved, but I find it more interesting to engage with a model or a builder that perhaps just needs a little constructive feedback or a push in the right direction. Most comments these days are shit, useful only because even monosyllabic praise can help boost the ego, whether rookie or veteran. With that in mind I’d like to talk about an underappreciated builder whose work I have always enjoyed over the years, but who has also frequently frustrated the perfectionist in me: Mike M. The native Floridian’s latest build is entitled “consumed“, and it caught my attention immediately for both good and bad reasons.
We’ll start with the good stuff, the textured floor is really effective, both for its reflective properties but also because it looks like it would feel terrible walking across it bare-foot like the subject of the photo. It’s a small detail, but it adds to the tension of the scene, which is great even if it reminds me of a first-year art school project. Usually I’m not a fan of using the same texture for floors and walls in a single build but it works quite well here, adding to the depressing quality of the room. The brick-built figure is basic but very effective in a mannequin sort of way. The forward tilt of the head is a nice touch, although the feet seem massive the more I look at them and using the same part for the hands and feet might not have been the best choice. At first blush though, this scene has an effective creepy vibe and something to say: the timeless message that TV corrupts your mind, body and spirit. Mike frequently has a strong point of view a a point he’s trying to get across and I wish we saw more of that from builders, an attempt to reach for something more than surface content.
However, just as I really start digging this model there are things I can’t abide like the design of the televisions. The decision to go with old-style brown cabinets suggesting wood is an odd one, but if you’re gonna go that route they need more detail (knobs, antenna, speaker) and having some sets studded and some smooth is distracting. I understand that going with black-framed TVs risks having them blend in with the background but the sets don’t earn their place in the diorama. My biggest complaint is with the home-made TV screen stickers that are not cut very consistently and are curling up at the corners. While I’m definitely a purist, I don’t push my arcane religion on other builders but I do sort of expect non purist solutions to have a higher level of quality than what I’m seeing here.
I’m not sold on the face either. I like the round decorated tile Mike selected, it’s an interesting choice that gives the figure some character, but the rubber band makes it look like a mask. Maybe it’s supposed to be a mask, I’m not sure, but you don’t typically see a mask strap that goes around the front of the face like that. I think the builder would have been better served to attach the tile to the face more conventionally, which would in turn necessitate a change in parts for the cranium, but I think it could have been better.
Mike’s photography can be frustrating because he’s capable of getting some truly great shots and others end up making me irritated because the quality of the photo takes away from the effectiveness of the scene, as in the photo below entitled “Cletus Kasady”.
This scene has great cinematic or comic book style shot composition, but the blurry victim in the foreground takes away from the power of the image. Even with a fuzzy picture this model earned Mike 80 favorites on Flickr, but I have to believe that it would have performed even better with a clear shot. It’s definitely worth noting that in his profile the builder states that he doesn’t have a “bad ass camera or Photoshop” and may not care all that much about good photography. It is possible to work wonders with a mediocre camera (or phone camera) and minimal post processing, you just have to be willing to take a large number of shots. To be fair, most of his photos are of decent quality, but I think Mike could maximize his obvious creativity and great sense of framing if he worked at it.
To round out my list of unsolicited petty grievances with Mike M, I also think he relies too much on masonry profile bricks. We all have our beloved go-to parts that show up again and again and again in our work, but sometimes you need to make a conscious decision to either not use them, or use them in an unconventional way.
I’ll close with a few of my favorite builds by Mike M, who has made a great deal of progress over the years and always has something interesting to share. I can’t encourage you enough to take a trip through Mike’s photo-stream, you’ll be well rewarded and don’t forget to leave a comment. Everybody likes a good comment.