Our next interviewee needs no introduction: Our very own Mig Jimenez. Having extensive experience as scale modeller and manufacturer, Mig’s contribution to the hobby world is valuable. Across the interview, he talks about his origin, way of understanding scale models and the hobby in general, the future and some personal issues. From here, we appreciate his generosity. Warning: might contain typos. Photographs courtesy of Mig Jimenez.
I think every well informed scale modeller knows Mig’s work and his contribution to the discipline, but as introduction please tell us who is Miguel Jimenez? How and when your love for the hobby began?
Well, in fact “Miguel” ceased to exist as such when I was about 10 years. At that time, I changed my name ‘Miguel Angel’ to MIG only because I was fascinated by Soviet MiGs. From that moment, my name has been MIG, although some still insist on calling me Miguel. Back then I also began to get interested in the plastic modelling, but from as far as I remember I have been doing this kind of stuff, like artistic drawing, sculpturing, architectural drawing, etc. With 11 to 12 years I already was drawing architectural perspectives and reading books about delineation and architecture.
When did you decide to start a career as professional scale modeller? Is this the moment when Miguel became Mig?
By 1995 I began to publish my articles professionally, mainly in magazines from France, Spain and England. But it was in 2001 when, aware of my increasing worldwide popularity, I decided to use it to start my own business (Mig Productions, 2002). But as I said before, I was MIG already (since I was a child) … and I have never differentiated between MIG as my own name from my brand (also MIG). It is the same person.
Tell us briefly the story of Ammo Mig. Who are you? When did start? And where is located?
The origin of AMMO can be traced to many years ago, when I started in 2010 my previous company AK Interactive. My supposedly friend and partner betrayed our friendship and dumped me from my own business, the place where I did all my previous year creations. Thus, my team and I created a new company, AMMO of Mig Jimenez, to continue doing what I have been doing since 2002. Actually AMMO has not started from nothing, but is a new way to carry on doing what I have created from my origins. In fact the company is now producing the finest products on the market, improved over many years. AMMO is now, after a year and a half of life, a much larger and stronger company than all my previous efforts, with 16 employees and more than 30 external collaborators and freelancers, plus 20 employees exclusively focused on paint manufacturing. Carlos Cuesta is my right hand and finance brain of AMMO, in charge of make things work and generate enough profit to feed the huge monster we have created in such a short time. AMMO is located in northern Spain, region of Navarra, in the small town of Estella, near Pamplona.
Who has inspired you across your career?
I think scale modellers from my generation were mainly influenced by Verlinden. Now I am surprised that many young modellers do not know him, but perhaps he was who inspired all of us back then in the 80’s and 90’s. Others have seduced me in some very specific ways, but I have never had someone specific to follow. I have been always working on my own without following trends.
During the nineties people talked about schools of scale models divided by geographical areas. Back then many were experimenting with new techniques and materials. In that sense, I think Panzernet was a major hotbed not only for Spanish modellers, but inspired a whole generation of new talent. What memories do you have of that period?
Actually this is not true. It was not Panzernet but the Spanish magazine EUROMODELISMO which was the hotbed of new talent. This magazine was true nest for excellent modellers across subjects and Rodrigo Hernandez Chacon was responsible for all this. He taught us to write articles, take pictures, do step-by-step like the ones we are used to read today. There I started my career too and gradually I could find places to publish my articles periodically. Panzernet was rather a meeting place like Missing Lynx or other sites. I personally distanced myself quickly from Panzernet to focus more on Missing Lynx, where I felt much more comfortable. These sites saw their better days gone mainly because of the freshness and dynamism of Facebook. About the association between styles and places, this was more like an artificial invention than reality. When we Spanish modellers from Euromodelismo began to participate in contests across Europe and won countless medals in all categories, people began to generalize, calling the group the ‘Spanish School.’ Mainly because so many of us painted in a special way, we made good articles and people generally liked what we were doing. Over the years, when other countries began to highlight groups of modellers, the same term was used: Belgian School, the Nordic School, etc … But I insist this is too broad and today you cannot classify modellers by schools or regions.
Which other places, communities and people from that time do you think influenced the development of the aesthetics of the Spanish scale modellers?
I think my previous answer explains it well. Rodrigo Hernandez, who primarily shaped the Spanish model making scene for over 25 years. Without him, I think our trajectory could be very different. Other Spanish companies also emerged from him, like Andrea, the popular brand of figures, or even Acrylicos Modelistico Vallejo owes its origin to him.
Part of this long learning processes are summarized in the memorable articles from the Rarities series in Missing Lynx and then the book FAQ. Did you imagine the impact these would have on the scale models scene?
Rarities was my personal commitment to painting. Of course I never imagined that this would transcend both, but many people around the world are those food items for many years. It was very sweet to me, very creative and exciting time, but everything was in order to teach others, to share everything I know. She was happy to share all techniques. Especially if these were simple to do, because I know that many modelers did not have the same skills. The simplicity and simplicity were my battle flag for many years. You were dealing with paint models good, acceptable, with little effort. I did not intend to create good modellers, but make modellers engrossed in his hobby. The first book published by ANDREA FAQ that was the biggest bestseller modeling history books after Verlinden. They were sold around the world and has helped many people improve their models. That book was never intended as a showcase for what I did, but a collection of useful techniques for everyone. After time, more people have copied my idea and sought the success FAQ adding the title of a book, thinking that would give the same result. But it was not like that. That’s where I realized that many modelers looking for a quality assurance under my name, as people had gotten used to all the items that had previously included Rarities. The success harvested with passion, generosity and heart, not a title or an acronym. And this is the origin of the failure of many other modelers.
(This is the only question on model making theory) A question I imagine you must hear a lot is from where the concept of modulation comes from? When did you decide to adopt it as part of your style?
Modulation was developed on 2008 or so … in my first company. It was a laboratory technique, artificial, created by another modeller and I. I named it, and the name was already used in art as a clear concept that people could understand very well. Modulation consisted on exaggerate lights in various panels to make a three-dimensional volumetric model. It was not intended to represent reality but to create something beautiful and attractive to the eyes of the spectator. Many people told me later: But this technique does not look real!!!!. And my answer is always: Of course not. It is fiction … it is like an illustration from a Tamiya box. Illustrators use optical tricks to make us believe colour patches and perspectives are a tank. But in reality it is only paint on paper. Films are not real. Everything is based on visual effects and tricks. A film about the Roman Empire is not real. They are actors playing their role and decorations are made of card boxes or CGI. Does it matter? Absolutely not. We just want to have fun. Even with historical films like ‘Save Private Ryan “or” Enemy at the Gates’. The modulation is a particular vision about scale models to make the more appealing to the eye. Now I only use it for very specific models. Not always.
How and when the idea of commercialise products related to your finishing techniques was originated?
It was in 2001 when trying to give start-up advice to friends interested on start a scale models venture I thought why not make my own company with my ideas. At first my idea was to make resin aftermarkets for military modelling, but back then I was working with pigments so I decided to include them into the initial catalogue. That was an overwhelming success. Over time, all products I made where motivated by my own needs. They born from modellers’ needs. But I quickly realized that my needs were common across the world. Never attempted to copy others, only created what we could not find on the market. For example a filter or a wash.
In business terms, Mig is a powerful brand in the scale models scene. How Miguel deals with the fact of being its image?
For many across the world MIG means ‘modelling’, ‘painting’, ‘realism’ and above all ‘learn’. MIG brand has surpassed my own person and my own name. It is almost a seal of quality and many modellers want to be sure about what they buy will work and is not going to ruin their models. So now I must be very cautious and to use my brand with caution, as many companies have wanted to take advantage of it. Today, almost everyone associates me with my previous companies, Mig Productions and AK, and not everyone knows that I lost both. First, I lost Mig Productions in 2008 when my former partner forced me to give it up. We have a child in common and he was the reason I gave it up and loose everything. This is an unknown story because back then I wanted to protect my child from this. Half a year later, a friend (now former friend of course) suggested me to start a new venture together, AK. By then I was on trial for custody of my son and many more problems, so my friend advised me not to put my name be in the documentation, thus, years later, managed to dumped me, keeping everything after the company was already on track and making profits. All these events made me much harm and suffering, especially by the comments from people in the media. Basically I was torn from my professional life in the modelling scene, lost everything twice, my models, my personal stuff. But I have learned to overcome and live again with dignity against those who speculate with all kinds of stories. Many of the traveling I do around the world also serve to explain what happened during those dark years of my life.
After Verlinden, I think you are one of the few professional scale modellers who have been ‘seriously’ involved in the industry. How Mig reconciles the wishes of the hobbyst with the business side of the industry?
When a modeller dreams about working in the industry, is actually not aware of how hard work can be, especially because you cannot do what you want. I like, for example, aircrafts from Falkland’s war, but I cannot build them because I must do German tanks. When you are a professional, you have to sacrifice many things, for example, during the whole process you stop at every step to take pictures. And that is hard for the average modeller. Although I much enjoy this work, every day I miss those days when nobody knew who I was and only did models at home for pleasure. That’s the real secret of modelling, the reward, be happy doing what you want any time at home, while listening to music and relaxing after a hard day’s work.
Being yourself a manufacturer, or being directly involved during research and development, does provide you freedom to continue creating and innovating in techniques and materials?
Precisely because I am manufacturer I can produce what I imagine has the best features for our models. When you do not have a factory behind, or a chemistry lab you are more limited when it comes to innovating or doing new things, because you simply cannot solve many of the technical problems. For example, if a modeller does his own wash at home and notes the pigment is decanting and does not mix well with thinner, would not know and could not fix it, whereas in my case, I have a team of chemists to solve each of the problems you encounter. The inverse problem is when manufacturers do not know about scale models or do not experiment themselves.
On what are you working nowadays?
Wow, in my life I have two main subjects: the first is part of my work. For work I have to do many military vehicles primarily, or some very specific things. In this case, they are projects that I do in AMMO offices and are mostly tanks. I’m finishing some Russian vehicles, T-72, BTR 80, etc … Others are models I do as a hobby, just for me, which rarely share and do not always manage to finish. Topics I like are strange and unusual, for example, I am passionate about American bombers from the Cold War, 1950s and 1960s. Also Argentinian and British aircrafts from the Falkland’s war and the entire British fleet from the same conflict. Now I’m trying to finish the HMS Sheffield. Finally I must mention my favourite subject: Russian reactors of the Cold War and Soviet submarines.
These days do you spend more or less time on models than, for example, Rarities époque?
(Less) Of course. Managing and coordinating a large modelling enterprise is time consuming and demands many hours of work, and at the end is time you lose to work on you own stuff. But I always try to spend some time making models every day, although working professionally on scale models often means do not work on models. At the time of Rarities I had another job, as art director on a dance, techno and Latin record label. After work I spent all my free time on modelling. Now, my job in AMMO takes all my time, including free time and weekends.
Is it possible to separate between making models for business and pleasure?
Yes, (but is) very difficult because entrepreneurial side always pushes you to take advantage of everything you do to write articles, books or magazines and is very difficult to do something without photos only for personal enjoyment.
Do you still enjoy doing models in a similar fashion as when you started?
Differently. At first modelling is a discovery, a search of challenges and this was very exciting. Now, when you control the environment and tools, satisfaction comes in another form, such as a working on book to help modellers. The model itself is not the purpose, but an input to teach something to others. My objective is also to observe how others learn and make exceptional models using m techniques and products developed across time. That gives me great pleasure and I enjoy the work of others.
If we consider scale models as a job, which hobbies do you have?
When I made modelling a job, necessarily stopped being a hobby. So I looked for hobbies to distract and forget work. Riding my bike is one of the things I like the most. I am a fan of custom choppers, something I have inside of me since I was very young when I used to paint fuel tanks for others. My other passion is airsoft. Although I have had accidents that forced me to take breaks, I still love it as the first day and I like to practice at the most serious way possible, especially with people who come from the police or army so the sport becomes more serious and realistic. On the other hand, as a fan of Russian and Soviet stuff, all my equipment is original, including uniforms from Afghanistan to nowadays and the entire range of AK’s and Vitorez.
Following your career gives the impression that you prefer to paint. Is this right?
I hate building models. I’m very slow and not my strongest feature. Although when I have to build something I do my best. Many years ago I used to do many scratch buildings and I started complex projects, especially detailing interiors, but over the years and considering kits available today, there is no need to have special building skills. Also today there are many modellers who like only build, so there are chances of good partnerships between modellers like me who just like painting and others who just like to build.
I imagine does not happen very often, but do you make mistakes when assembling or painting models? How do you handle frustration?
There is no frustration but the secret of my success. I make many mistakes and precisely in seeking to hide those errors I find very creative solutions that in many cases are transformed into products or techniques that now everyone uses. Making mistakes when we make models is essential to develop and progress as modellers. We have to consider mistakes as part of modelling, a very important that teaches us lessons so we can improve. Sometimes, let them happen will teach us more than trying to avoid them. In my opinion, the best scale modeller is not who makes the perfect model, but one that makes a model where errors are unnoticed.
One of the old debates was the use of acrylics versus enamels. Do you think today we have achieved a balance between uses of different media?
Paints and techniques are tools. You cannot ask whether to use a screwdriver or pliers. Both are different and serve different things. The mistake is to think that you must use pliers for everything! Products can complement each other, for example, using acrylic for base coat and enamels for weathering. In general, in many parts of the world modellers got used to this combination, solving many issues.
Regarding tools and materials, do you think the industry has reached the point of maximum development? Can you imagine new revolutions in the industry?
Yes, of course… this is not over. There is lot to do there are new techniques that will be popular in the coming years. In AMMO we already have new techniques that will be released in the next 3 or 4 years. But takes time to develop them, it is a matter of time and work.
There is great concern about the future of scale models and modellers. Some believe we will extinguish. This is partly due to the delicate social and economic situation in many places (particularly Latin America). One of my recent columns generated much discussion about the situation (this column, originally in Spanish was recently translated by Gerardo Escobedo and published in IPMS Alamo Squadron (San Antonio, TX) newsletter). What is your vision about the aging of scale modelling? Do you think we are dying?
I cannot agree more with your column. You explain it very well and very few people manage to have a vision such as you describe in the text. Modelling is transforming. We cannot expect that children today become crazy for modelling like us in the 80s. Children prefer other hobbies, easier and immediate, but are they still attracted by plastic modelling. And as you also say, modelling has shifted to other disciplines and countries. In Asia, modelling lives a golden age, especially focused on fantasy and science fiction. But military subject still are very important. We cannot pretend everything remains the same when the world is changing. It is precisely the more conservative sector which seen agony and decline of scale modelling. In some respect they may be right, such as figure modelling, and old resin manufacturers such as the iconic Verlinden Productions. We are not facing the end of modelling, but the end of an era that will cause major changes not just in the industry, but for tastes and attitudes from good modellers. Now we begin a more complex, more competitive and more professional era, where is enough with being a good modeller. To transcend you need to shine brighter than ever or do something spectacular to draw the attention of others. Many just throw the towel.
As a brand, which events will you visit during the second half of the year? Will you do more demostrations?
Every year I always tell myself that I have to travel less, because they are time consuming. Time I could use to be with my family and do my own models. A weekend trip makes me lose another four of work, preparing everything two days before and two days to catch up. Not to mention that my children need to be with me. But it is very difficult to say no to the many invitations I receive from around the world to attend events and demonstrations. This year I still have to attend to more events in Spain, Brazil and Argentina, Germany and next year I resume my Asian tour. This year I visited China and again Hong Kong. Perhaps Beijing show was the most spectacular so far, with sound system, big screens and an infrastructure like never seen before. Demonstrations begin to become more a show than a lecture and people enjoy a lot, almost like going to a movie or sporting event. This is something I really enjoy although exhausts me. It demands a lot of preparation several weeks before and a lot of concentration when done. I’ll keep doing this while there is interest from organizations and they keep inviting me. Of course it is unthinkable to me afford those trips.
Plans to visit Latin America?
I will go to South America this year. Although I have been twice in Mexico, I know South America is geographically and culturally a massive place and is a new world for me, but at the same time I think I have a very good connection because of the language. Except shows I do in Spain, 90% of them are always in English or English translated into local languages such as Russian, Chinese, Hungarian, Czech, Polish, etc … I am very curious about modellers from this great continent and learn about how they understand modelling. I am aware of many problems in some countries, especially at economic and bureaucratic level, and certainly to be a scale modeller there is much harder than here. Especially about military modelling, in South America is impossible to find a King Tiger or Panther on the street, and here in Europe is easy to see them in many countries. Also, people who make dioramas may find it difficult to understand geography, colours, vegetation, etc… For example, Russia is very different geographically to Germany … and especially to Italy or Spain, but instead, many modellers make look Europe a very generic place.