March 12, 2016

Mat Johnson checks in with a report on his "The Future of the Hobby" Family Day event

The lovely Amanda Johnson tells a couple of 'kids'
they are 
probably a little too old for the event. 
Instead of a kit review, today I will be doing a ‘future of the hobby review’.  Recently I was contacted by a local museum to see if I would be able to help out with their Family Day event they were holding on February 15.  For my American friends, Family Day is a statutory holiday that happens every February in the province of Ontario.  This day is dedicated to promoting family through community events, such as that that the museum was running.  Besides the Bruce county Museums usual displays there were many special booths set up for Family Day. Things such as rope making, antique tool demonstrations, model railroads, and I’m sure this sounds typically Canadian, maple syrup, snowshoeing, and dog sledding.  Initially they had asked me if I could do something along the lines of World War One models, and in the end we decided that a booth where kids could paint and take home model figures would be great.

Amanda is locked, loaded & ready for the fun to begin!
Our location in the museum was perfect.  We were set up right outside the military gallery which is currently featuring the ‘Bruce Remembers’ First World War exhibit.  After seeing all the miniatures and dioramas in this exhibit, kids and families had to walk right past us.  Many, if not most, took the opportunity to try their hand at painting their own military miniature.  I had no idea what to expect as far as number of kids so I brought quite a random assortment of figures from my spares box.  Most were 1/35 scale Canadian WW1 figures to coordinate with the exhibit. However, I had 1/35 British Napoleonics, WW2 American and Russian, Civil War, Revolutionary War, and some good old fashioned green plastic army men.  Most of the figures I pre-airbrushed with their base colour allowing for a faster painting process.  However, as I was to find out many of the kids had their own ideas as far as uniform colour scheme.  We provided each kid that sat down with a good assortment of various size brushes, a cup of water to clean brushes, a liberal amount of basic colours and chance to let their imaginations take over and paint their interpretations of soldierly dress. 

I know all the kids had great fun, but what an experience for my wife and I running the booth. We  had everything from very young children who left with more paint on themselves, and subsequently Mom and Dad, to kids who were asking me for reference materials as they wanted to “get it right”.  By far the most popular thing kids tried was camoflage.  We had some interesting schemes…, green-brown-black, red-white-green-brown-black, all black, all white, all red, and my personal favourite, khaki with pink puttees (because they are his lucky pink socks we were informed by the 6 year old girl).  I was impressed as most kids recognized the red coated British soldier, and one little girl went as far as to mix 3 colours together to create a very nice skin tone for her highlander she was painting.  

My personal wow moment of the day was when a Mom told her two small boys to “paint their guys with camo like Daddy wears”.  “Oh very cool, your Dad must hunt then if he wears camouflage?” we asked. “No”, replied the Mom, “Daddy is actually in the Royal Marines”.  You don’t hear that every day. Mom was quite knowledgeable on his military uniforms and the boys were very proud of their Dad in the army. 

In all we had a great day.  At the end I think we sent home somewhere between 70 and 80 figures on wood bases that the kids painted.  I answered many questions about the hobby from parents hoping to get their kids involved.  For the smaller kids I suggested just start with craft paint and some green plastic army men they can get from the dollar store and see how it goes. For most of the older kids, and many interested parents, I directed them to check out hobby shops and specialty stores like T​he Michigan Toy Soldier Co. ​as they would have more variety to choose from.  A couple times throughout the day I laughed as I thought how some of the ‘rivet counters’ in our hobby just wouldn’t be able to do an event like this.  They can’t even handle when a cartridge box has the wrong clasp in 1/72 scale, let alone a red helmet, blue pants, white jacket and lime green webb gear on a WW1 infantryman.  The important thing is the kids had fun, and were creative.  Many parents sat and encouraged the kids, and many older kids took it upon themselves to help younger siblings.  And I didn’t see one cell phone. 

No one knows the fate of the painted warriors the junior artists took home.  I’m sure some will find closets and toy box bottoms, however I am also sure some will sit proudly on shelves to be shown off to friends and family.  We will be back next year on Family Day, and hopefully we have sparked the imagination and interest in these kids for a very enjoyable lifelong hobby.  

Mat and his "supportive wife" Amanda hail from  Durham, Ontario. Mat will be will be posting on 1/72nd products and his diorama work for several museums in Canada. I was drawn to Mat's views by his philosophy which he mentions in detail below..."I will be focusing more on the positives and the enjoyment factor of the hobby"  More from Mat Johnson
Here's just a sampling of the Gold Medal figures that were created by the kids at the event

DYK: We here at Michigan Toy Soldier support anything that exposes kids and newcomers to our hobbies. If you have an event, meeting, school project, scout troop, birthday party let's help. We will support you in anyway we can!  Contact us  at 1-888-642-4869 or email us at

No comments:

Post a Comment