This is one of my favourite times of year - when the countryside springs into life after what always seems like forever. Trees, hedgerows, fields and verges are all competing to outdo each other with the most extravegant displays of colour and new life.
I think my renewed interest in modelling has had the bonus side-effect of making me appreciate the physical world around me a lot more - I suppose it's simply because I'm being more observant with the ultimate aim of reproducing as acurately as possible what I see in miniature, but it's surprising what a positive experience the observation itself actually is.
Driving the few miles back from my in-laws earlier this evening was a case in point. It's been one of those days so characteristic of early English summer, where the sun never makes it through an overcast sky, the air feels damp and heavy and unusally still. Nevertheless the vibrant spring colours seem almost to glow with their own light, dazzling out of the grey. I kind of like these sort of days - I don't know why - there's just something really atmospheric about them.
Often when I'm driving (or more often when I'm being driven) I'll see something that inspires an idea that could be translated into model form - maybe it's a particular grouping of trees or a view down a winding lane, or an old barn set in the fold of a hill... in fact it's often not even an entire scene as much as just 'something' that is triggered in my imagination.
This evening as we were driving one such moment occurred as I glimpsed a rambling hedegrow hugging the line of a dip in the landscape, with a couple of old, gnarled trees just coming into leaf. In my mind's eye I caught sight of a weather-beaten 'Jinty' tank, ambling along bunker-first with a couple of ageing carriages. Of course in reality there was and never has been a railway there - but that's not the point - it's about imagination and those little 'triggers' that you can gradually piece together into a coherent landscape in your mind and then ultimately translate into model form. And then I suppose the aim beyond that is that the viewer is transported back into that same imagined landscape as they view the model.
It doesn't have to mean that a whole layout is built around any one idea such as this - it's all about building up a larger picture from each of these little cameos. So this particular cameo might be reproduced in just a few inches of model width. I suppose another way of thinking about it is as a series of photographic snapshots. In fact this is a familiar concept when you regularly read model railway magazines and even prototype railway magazines where you are only ever seeing a limited view of part of the whole (at least the best model photographs, in my opinion are like this - I'm not a fan of those 'eye-in-the-sky' kind of photos).
So I suppose for me, modelling is about first building up a convincing landscape in the imagination, almost 'living' in it, before ever beginning to create anything in model form. I guess this is only the same thing as novelists do when thinking up a new story, or film-directors, or artists. It's about creating a believeable illusion - something that draws you in and enables you to lose yourself in another world temporarily. And of course, to create an illusion of reality you have to observe actual reality fairly extensively first. The best models - just like the best stories, films, paintings etc. - do exactly this.