Not really a child of a mech (granted that would’ve been cool) but one hell of an artist. Tim has been a collective source of inspiration and motivation in the hobby for years now (I think longer than I’ve been alive but we gotta confirm that one later on).
He is talented and tenecious in his builds. They’re recognizable and iconic. I’m very happy to have been able to interview him for the blog!
Q: Where are you from and how does that affect your work?
I am from Maryland in the United States and honestly, I don’t think my location really affected my work at all. I mean Maryland is kind of that place where we don’t have an accent as most of the east coast does. It’s very vanilla here, it’s amazing don’t get me wrong, but in terms of background cultural influences, it’s very vanilla. So, I don’t think it did have an impact on my work.
Q: Tell me about your favorite medium.
Plastic. That’s easy. Plastic is great. Plastic allows for a lot of different things especially when it comes pre-molded for you. Plastic is a great medium because it’s similar to wood but on a smaller scale. Way more stable than wood. I watch a lot of woodworkers and hobbyists. It’s very interesting. I’ve always been into that side of things, but you know plastic translates to a smaller scale in much the same way working with wood or other material does. It can be molded or cut, sanded, painted, and all of that. Plastic is good.
The beauty part of that cannot only be a subtracted medium but can be an additive medium. You can cut pieces of plastic off and glue them back on. That’s another beautiful part of the plastic. You can glue other stuff on it that isn’t plastic.
Plastic is kind of an all-encompassing medium. You can heat it, bend it, shape it, and all that stuff. You can glue other materials to it. Create something brand new, you know? It’s a cool material to work in.
Plastic is my material of choice.
Q: What tools are crucial to you?
To me and not just the hobby I’d say the chopper by Northwest Shoreline. Specifically, the chopper 2. It’s an amazing tool and it changed the way that I build. For anybody who does not know what the chopper is, it’s this amazing cast aluminum piece of equipment. It’s almost like a miter saw for small-scale plastic. It’s got a hinged arm with a razor blade in it. It’s at a nice right angle. You can pop different angled guides to it and make angled cuts. You can make repeated cuts. It’s great. As soon as I got it changed the way that I worked with plastic.
You can cut angles, strips, bevels, and all sorts of stuff with it. Even scribing tape, you can cut which is great. So, getting those little nice, beveled corners on scribes, you can do that. Sky’s the limit on it. So that’s a tool that’s crucial to me and my process.
Another one would be Tamiya quick-type epoxy putty. That stuff is worth its weight in gold. Especially if you’re customizing and reshaping forms and building new forms. If you have a Kampfer that you need to get perfect and you don’t necessarily want to cut plastic, just smash that into a corner and trim it off to corresponding points. If you’re trying to make curves or something like that or in an organic shape. That’s the way to go. You got a tremendous working time, about eight hours or so. It’s sticky so it’ll adhere to the surface you’re applying it to. With a little water on your fingers, it won’t stick to you, which is great. Likewise, you can smooth it out with water. You can cut it, drill it, the whole nine yards when it dries. You can even polish it.
Q: Where do you find inspiration?
In a lot of different places. One of my favorites is concept artists. That is my go-to. That’s where I kind of got the inspiration for both the Ozymandias and Airdrop. I love just scrolling through Art Station and just looking at different concept designs. Pinterest is another one but not on the same scale. Art Station is just the place for professional concept artists. I love just perusing through there. I was looking through because I knew when I was building Ozzy I wanted to create my design and not stray from the formula for a Zeon suit too much. I found these concept medieval fantasy armor designs by Johnson Ting and this one had a helmet that was in the shape of an owl with the beak coming down. Very close to the end product of how Ozzy turned out to be. I kind of shaped that around that owl, which was a great reference.
Then looking at the concept for Airdrop, I saw an image on Instagram and flipped by it but then saw it again on Art Station like that’s pretty cool. I’m midway through working on Airdrop when “What if I put parachutes on it” like in this image.
Art Station is massive. That’s my go-to number one. Pinterest to a lesser extent than I look at what the rest of the community does too. Other builders, other artists, and things. Kinda cherry-picks little things from them if I think it’s cool or if I think I can incorporate and spin them in my own way.
Q: What does your artwork represent? Are there themes or messages?
I don’t think most of my stuff represents very much other than my love for robots and stuff. Fictional mechanized humanoid robots. Airdrop was an exception because it was an homage to the 67th tactical fighting wing which is a real combat unit located in Japan. Otherwise, I don’t have much in terms of deep meanings or anything like that. Most have stories or ideas behind them. I wouldn’t necessarily say themes. Hummingbird was more of a passion project for me, and I did come up with a backstory for that. Ozzy was similar but not to the same degree.
Q: How do you think art is important to society?
It’s fucking crucial. I was thinking about this one earlier today. This was one of the questions that stood out to me. Art has been around since man walked on two feet. People can express themselves and even at that early, early developmental stage of the human brain they still created art. I mean if it’s not absolutely crucial I don’t know what is. It’s not on the same scale as the things you need to survive like air, water, shelter, etc., but in terms of human happiness of the utmost importance. It’s critical to human mental survival. I can’t imagine a world without music. Imagine how dull would shit be without music. How dull would it be without TV or movies, even video games. So, it’s like I think 100% critical and crucial to everyday society and it does pain me to see the relative importance diminish especially in American society. You see year after year, and this has been going on for decades, the lowering of funding for art. Especially the endowment of arts and things like that.
It’s a shade of what it once was and it’s sad. You see that too in school. My daughter is in high school and there’s not nearly the emphasis placed on the arts as it was before. A lot of the elective courses tend to be more analytical and business based. Things like that as to where I went to school in the mid-nineties. There was a ton of art. You could take a myriad of things. You could take drawing, painting, or sculpting. Even at the higher levels, you could take airbrushing and things like that. There were all sorts of music and other crafty arts. They just don’t have that nowadays. It’s unfortunate. It’s sad.
I think for the grandiose health of society art is absolutely critical. It’s insanely important.
Q: What motivates you to create? What burns you out?
What motivates me to create it is just my absolute undying passion for this hobby and how I get to express myself by not only working in plastic but creating something that didn’t necessarily exist prior. Choosing the color palate, the decorations in terms of decals, metal parts, the base, and how to present it. That keeps me up at night. That keeps me thinking and going. Even throughout the whole hiatus from moving I never once stopped thinking about building. I’ve always had the itch to build.
That’s my happy spot sitting down at the bench and going toe-to-toe with myself. Trying to incrementally improve my skill set from the previous day or session. Just knowing what I create impacts others keeps me going. The inspiration that I am able to impart to people and help them achieve their goals in their hobby is another thing that drives me as well especially when I was streaming. I would get messages or tagged in posts all the time where people would be like “this is inspired by Tim” or whatever. Those are the main two things that drive me to the hobby.
In terms of burnout, my friend Bailey said on his podcast that “burnout doesn’t have anything to do with you. Burnout is caused by outside influences making a radical change in your lifestyle. When someone gets burned out it’s usually due to outside influences not usually something that happens because they’re tired. Every single time that I’ve been burned out I look back and “yeah that’s 100% accurate”. It’s impossible to keep outside influences away 100% of the time but I do try to minimize their impact. There’s been plenty of times when I’ve been impacted. That did take a toll. I stopped a couple of times here and there. That causes me to not burn out but stop to focus on others. I think that’s a lot of what burnout is. The fact that you have to refocus your efforts on something else other than the hobby. It’s a point in time where the hobby’s not the priority and the priority supersedes any importance of the hobby.
I don’t think anything causes burnout but external influences.
Q: Do you have any tips for managing time for hobbies/art and maintaining family responsibilities?
My time management sucks ass. I will say that plainly. My time management is bad, really bad, and has always been bad. I always think I have more time than I do. (Or) I always think things will take less time than they do. That’s my shortcomings. I can’t estimate and time manages very well.
So, in terms of tips, nope. I don’t have a single fucking one for anybody. You don’t want to listen to me. I’m the last person you want to listen to for time management.
In terms of family and balance, yeah. I mean family always comes first no matter what. Going back to the divorce, I think that was a hard lesson that I had to learn. It wasn’t completely all of that but now with my daughter who lives with me, she’s my number one priority above everything else in the world. If she needs my time or she needs my attention, she needs something that she can’t get for herself or provide for herself then I’m right there.
In terms of overall balance, family should always come first. That quality time, that meaningful time, that time where people are maybe dependent on you. Not necessarily for monetary purposes even for emotional or mental support, you know? Even just to talk about whatever. That always takes precedence over the fucking hobby. This hobby can be gone tomorrow. Your family is still probably going to be there.
If I had to give this hobby up for her, I’d do it in a heartbeat. There wouldn’t even be a question. See you, done. It’d be sad. I’d be sad about it, but I wouldn’t think twice about it.
Q: How do you define success as an artist?
I think success as an artist can only be measured by yourself. It can’t be measured by external sources because art is so personal and individualized that when you’re happy with your art is when you become successful.
You have to think about it if someone is making a million dollars and hates what they’re doing, is that art? I don’t know, I personally don’t think so. You can be homeless on the street folding the thrown-away newspaper into origami and be completely blissful about it. That’s an art to me. That’d be art to that person. I don’t think the amount of money or the number of trophies or the number of accolades, the number of likes, followers, or whatever, that doesn’t equate to success to me.
My own happiness and my own satisfaction with my work are what make me happy. The sad part about it is the way the artist’s psyche is that I’m not exactly sure if I’ll ever be happy or satisfied with what I do. It’s always a cat-and-mouse game. So, I’m not sure if I’ll ever reach “success”.
Q: Does art help you in other areas of your life? Such as mental health or work?
Yeah absolutely. In terms of mental health, always. It’s my sanctuary. It’s my happy place. Fortress of solitude. That’s kind of your bubble. That’s where you can truly express yourself without outside judgment. I think that’s massively important. It’s comfortable. It’s like comfort food. It’s good for your soul.
Now in terms of work, it definitely translates to because I’m a graphic designer, and creative for my company. The skills that I learn from both translate equally, a bilateral exchange if you will. The things that I learn or use in the workday can be translated into the hobby and the thing from the hobby translates into the workday. It’s parallel in that aspect of things.
Being someone that wants to have their stuff out there you have to have a range of skill sets. If you’re creating videos you have to know how to shoot them, edit, color, sound, and all of that. That all translates to what I do for work. The things I do for work then translate to the hobby space. For me, having a creative job there’s a synthesis there.
Q: How do you develop your art skills?
It depends on the art. I think the base level of improvement of any art is just to do it. You just have to jump in and do it. Everything’s difficult in the beginning. It’s very true. When I started building models, I sucked at it. It was hard and I was like “This sucks. This crap doesn’t look like that. Why doesn’t it look like that?”. The longer I went down that rabbit hole the more I learned and the more I took in and the more I became a student of the hobby. For any art, whether it is painting, digital, music, sculpture, or whatever, you do need to become a student of that art.
What I mean by that is that you need to embrace the learning side of it. You need to embrace the history behind that art and what people have done before you. That’s massively important to become more skilled in whatever art you’re pursuing. With modeling, I was lucky enough to come up at the beginning of social media when we still had message boards. I was lucky enough to get subscriptions to HobbyJapan, and stuff like that. I was lucky to come up at a time when new techniques were being created and evolving.
Look at pre-shading. Preshading was essentially perfected by Max Watanabe. Max back in the early 2000’s kind of perfected the pre-shading technique on gunpla. There’re whole articles on HobbyJapan on him doing the technique and showing it. I was lucky enough to come in that time, the golden age of Gunpla modeling before HBWC or competitions. Before it was commercialized, especially here in the states. Learning that and seeing those guys, learning the names of those modelers. Some of those guys were the forefathers of techniques.
I use a strapping detail, like wrapping around a corner detail, and that was from Motosumi. He kind of created that look and perfected it. He used epoxy putty in his whereas I use plastic most of the time. I remember getting a HobbyJapan and was like “oh my god this is amazing! This is what I want to build!”. I based my style on that.
Being able to look at this HobbyJapan and break down his style. I see what he did there. That taught me to become a student of the hobby. There are not that many individuals in the hobby who can become students of the hobby.
In terms of improving, you have to become a student of the hobby. That’s my job and priority.
Q: Do you have a network of other artists, and how do they support you?
Yes and no.
Yes, I have a lot of friends, a lot of acquaintances, and a lot of people that I know. If push came to shove, they’d be there for me. Having that is so massively important. I have friends all over the world, simply because of who I am. I’m insanely grateful for those connections. I cherish each and every one of them.
A network of support in terms of art itself, I don’t know. I feel like when it comes to me and what I build. I’m very singular. I keep that very compartmentalized. I don’t bounce too many things off of people simply because I don’t want my work to be homogenized into something that’s not completely mine. If that make sense? It’s not in a selfish way. That’s why I say yes and no.
When it comes to building, I don’t naturally seek outside influence all that much if at all honestly. I may ask “Hey, how do you do this?” once in a blue moon. In terms of what I want to build, I typically have an idea in my head, and I want to stick to that. I usually don’t go outside of my head.
Q: Do you have tips for other artists looking to connect with their local hobby scene?
I’m probably not great at this subject because I don’t have many hobby stores around me. The one I had near me closed back up in ’18 or ’19. There’s not any place close. I think the closest place is like forty-five minutes away. It sucks but it is what it is.
Just go there and start talking to people. Ask questions. I know for some people that’s difficult, me included. I’m not the type to walk up to someone and strike up a conversation. If you want to find your group of friends at some point, you’re gonna have to bite the bullet.
Just walk in and around. See what it’s all about. It may not be your scene. It may be. You gotta take that first step.
Q: Which hobby trends inspire your work?
Hobby trends? I’m vested enough in this hobby that I don’t follow trends. I think trends are dumb. I try to go anti-trend if you will. If some hot model comes out and everyone’s building it, I try to build the opposite of that. If I have a new project or something.
The hummingbird and Ozzy were perfect examples. Opposite of whatever was coming out at the time. Opposite, against the grain if you will. I’m not huge on trends.
(Insert 3D printer tangent here. Everyone, go tell Tim to get a printer.)
Q: How has your style changed over time?
Style’s an interesting thing because you do develop it over time. In the beginning, most people don’t have a style. Most people just replicate. Most people would replicate the box art or the anime. As times go on as their skills develop and their creativity blossoms then they may want to step out of the box a little bit. That’s kind of what my path was. In my first few models, I tried to replicate what was on the box and anime. I quickly got bored with it and started custom color schemes and stuff like that. Got into actual customizing.
I don’t think I developed an actual style until the Hummingbird. That was kind of the beginning of “my style”. Airdrop was the one where I found my lane so to speak. With that slightly weathered look. You can still see the cleanliness. I do like that style, that look, that presentation but I also like the clean builds too. I may alternate between the two.
Trying to find your style is trial and error. You’re going to hit something that feels comfortable. Something that you like. Something that you’re good at. You’re gonna start to recognize that and use that more in your models as time goes on. I think that was my path and generally is most people’s path.
It’s a very individualized process.
Q: Is there a specific environment or material that’s crucial to your work?
The material is plastic. That’s critical in plastic modeling. In terms of environment, I think to be able to improve and focus on your skill set and style you need a place of peace and solitude. That place is different for everybody. Me, I have my room which is my studio. For others, it may be the dining room table late at night when everyone was asleep. That may be their space. You don’t necessarily need a studio like I have to have an environment that’s good for scale modeling. You don’t need a dedicated room or garage set up. You are just the ability to focus and zero in on what you’re doing.
That’s different for everyone.
Q: What’s the nutritional value of a mecha decal?
The nutritional value of a mecha decal is very high. It is a superfood by the way. Gluten-free, high in protein, vegan, naturally sourced, and sustainable. It is crucial for human survival above air and water. So, you need to go and buy them.
It’s crucial to the survival of the human race.
(I have a question; we got a few flavors already. When are we going to yellow mecha decals, orange mecha decals, purple mecha decals, and more frog mecha decals Timothy?)
I can’t answer that question. We have four sheets out. We’re still in the baby steps of this thing. So, we’re getting the decals out there now. They’re available in Hobby town. Hoping to get stores on board. More countries and stuff like that are on board. It’s all about developing the brand and business. It takes time. You have to crawl before you walk.
Everything’s on the table at this point. It’s just the capabilities that’s the hurdles. Two colored sheets. Funky colors. Metallics. The possibilities are endless.
Q: Who are your biggest artistic influences?
Motosumi. I kind of styled my own style off of his. I will always credit him for my style and what I put out to the world. The techniques I will always attribute this to him. Wonderful modeler. Outside of that, there’s a ton of concept artists, Emmerson Tung, and Johnson Ting, I can’t even think of the other ones.
If you go on my Instagram and go to the people I follow, you’ll find a ton of concept artists.
Q: What do you listen to when working?
That is a wide range of things. I’ve gone through audiobook series like a hot knife on butter. When building the Hummingbird, I listened to the entire current Game of Thrones audiobooks. I listened to them twice, not while I build but collectively. I’ve listened to the entire Witcher series. If I’m not listening to audiobooks, then I’ll bring up movies or V series. Different series. Different documentaries. Stuff like that. Things that I can listen to, but don’t have to pay attention to. Anime with subtitles? Hard pass.
Q: When people view your art, what do you want them to experience or feel?
Selflessly, I think every artist wants everyone to be in awe of their work. Everyone deep down has to admit that, right? That natural feeling is what I would want people to experience or feel. I think it depends on the model. Airdrop is a great example because when I took that to different IMPS shows these older modelers who were veterans would come up and take a look at it and ogle at it. That was awesome because I could see the fascination and equal part nostalgia. They saw the military background of that piece, but they also saw the science-fiction side of that piece.
I loved sitting back, twenty feet away from it just watching how people would interact with it. It always got me when the older guys would come up to it. You would see guys with patches and pins, it would always intrigue me to watch those guys in particular. They would have the most impactful reactions. Just sitting back and watching those guys interact with it was cool. I would want the awe and impressiveness of how people feel. I think any artist would.
I would also want people to be inspired by it. I would want people to say to themselves “one day I want to do better than this.”
Q: What’s your favorite woodworking/power tool?
That’s a tie. Table saw and the router. The table saw is a universally amazing tool. Once you get a table saw it changed how you build but you have to be semi-serious in that hobby. The router can do so much. It can flush cut. It can be cut into a profile. You can cut in rabbits. The router is only limited by the number of bits you put into it and your imagination.
Q: What’s your scariest art/hobby experience?
Scary? The scariest moment was in 2021 when covid hit and the world shut down. I got temporarily laid off from my job and not knowing what the hell I was going to do for money. I quickly applied for unemployment. This is like 1/3 of my paycheck. This is really going to suck for us. I jumped headfirst into streaming. Tried to set up monetization and everything. It did bring in a little money but not as much as my paycheck. Thankfully I was only laid off for a month, but I thought our company was gone. When that realization struck, I tried to take inventory of what I was good at. The first people getting laid off were creatives.
I wasn’t going to get an uber or deliver food because we didn’t know shit at the time. There were no vaccinations. I wasn’t going to risk getting sick or getting my family sick. Not going to work in retail because that’s the same damn thing. No one’s going to hire me for an office job because I have no skill set.
My only option at the time was to fall back on modeling and try to push that because everyone was locked in watching YouTube and streamers. This is my only option. That was extremely scary to think that I had to rely on that and that I had to ramp that up so quickly. That puts a huge strain on things, especially family life. That was one of the things that led to the divorce. Not the only thing, but one of the things. I was trying to do right by my family and put food on the table.
It was scary at that time. I was streaming twice a day, sometimes more. Putting all that together was tough.
Scared the shit out of me.
Q: What’s been your most embarrassing art/hobby moment?
I don’t know. I’ve done a lot of embarrassing things on stream before. Hobby-wise, I’ve done a lot of embarrassing things on my solo streams like cutting a piece wrong. Some dumb shit like that. There are probably too many to list. They escape my memory. There’s not one that stands out. You gotta let it go and roll off your shoulder. Do not dwell on it. That’s the important thing.
Q: What was a seminal art experience for you?
That’s a tough one. There are so many. GBWC has got to be up there. Going there and being in that atmosphere. Being in Japan, being in Gundam base, and being around those other champions. The atmosphere is thick, and you feel it physically. There’s not much of a similar feeling that I had to that because you’re around an elite level of talent and you’re a part of that. You don’t necessarily realize it very quickly because it’s that imposter syndrome, right? You are not sure of yourself but you’re in awe of everyone else. At some point, you have to realize that you earned that spot to be there, and you can hang with the rest of these people, talent-wise.
If you look at most of these GBWC, the first and last place there are not a ton of point differences.
Another one was in January 2020 going over to Dubai for the OtakuME modeler cup. Those guys are so good. The people are amazing. Everyone’s friendly. Met James Quinsaat, a person that I admired for a very long time. He’s so nice! I wanted to talk to James for the longest amount of time that I could because he’s so talented and such a nice guy.
Going over there and meeting everyone and being a judge was amazing. It was the first place I’d ever been asked for an autograph, and it was such a weird feeling. One guy had me autograph his trophy. One guy was decked out head to toe in a child of mecha gear. He had a hat, shirt, and a print of my work. He had me autograph that!
That was a really special experience meeting everybody.
The last one was in February 2020. I want to ODO in Richmond Virginia. It was an IPMS event. The second one I’ve been to. I took Airdrop. This older veteran modeler came up to me and kept pouring praise on it and I was like “Wow”, and he was like “Can I show you some of my work?” and he was fucking amazing. That’s also where I met Jon Bius who was an army paratrooper so his connection to Airdrop was very significant. He said “Hey this is awesome, amazing. This brings me to those days jumping out of planes.” Again praise. To have someone who lived that life and had that experience dump praise on some dumb plastic robot model that I did. It felt really good.
Those experiences you never forget. Those do go to shape your outlook on things and shape your hobby as well. Those were big ones.
Q: What art advice would you give me right now?
Never stop grinding at what you love to do even if you’re not good at it. If I were to stop when I was frustrated in the beginning, what would I be doing now? I sure as shit wouldn’t be in this hobby. That’s the thing. So many people get frustrated because they’re not producing work as good as some who’ve been in this hobby for plus years. That’s an unfair comparison because I have a 20+ year head start.
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What do you think? Drop a comment below and let me know, I’d love to hear it.
Have a snowy Monday everyone!