Interview with Michael Fichtenmayer (Part I)

Most of you reading this like to build models. Some of you build them out of the box adding more or less different after-market parts. Some of you are building from scratch, using blueprints and photographs of original machines. But not too many people do scale modeling as a visual art and build things that have never existed in the first place, using their imagination instead of historically accurate references.
I do not think many of you have heard of the name Michael Fichtenmayer. Somehow we do not pay attention to one’s name, but do notice their work. Michael’s work cannot go unnoticed. Some of us know his models from different postings on the internet or directly from his site www.fichtenfoo.comand some of us are familiar with his creations thanks to MIG Productions.
But who can tell us about the artist (or the modeler) better than he can himself?   So here is the interview with Michael Fichtenmayer:
Michael, would you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
Well, I'm a 36 year old web and graphic designer from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania in the United States. I've always been artistically inclined with an interest in all things science fiction. As a child I wanted to be an astronaut, but later realized that art was my real passion. I would spend hours alone reading comic books and drawing. I also was very into cartoons. After high school I went to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh with the desire to be an illustrator or comic book artist, but soon realized that if I wanted to eat and not be homeless I should find a job in graphic design. My first design job in 1994 started off quite boring with little pay working for an industrial news magazine which soon after decided to jump on the internet. I taught myself web design and have been doing that ever since either full-time or on a freelance basis. 

As far as I know you have been building models only for 9 years. How did you become a modeler?
I had built a few snap-tite model kits as a child then two small out-of-the-box Gundam robot kits in 1994 in art school after a classmate introduced me to them, but aside from that I didn't do any real modeling until around 2001. I started collecting robot toys but realized pretty quick that the coolest robots were only available as models. So I started buying a model every month or so and learning how to put them together. I still had my airbrush set-up from art school (and still use parts of it!) and along with my art skills started really getting into the art of modeling. I found that it was very relaxing and filled an artistic void that my years of commercial web design had not come close to filling.
Why such an interest in robots and Sci-Fi? Did «normal» and historically more accurate models not interest you?
I grew up obsessed with Star Wars, Transformers, GI Joe, and Robotech (Macross). It's something that I've always found fascinating and engaging. My childhood wasn't great so these movies and cartoons were a fantastic escape. I've never outgrown them and don't think I ever will. I love that the science fiction subjects give me and other modelers such freedom to create our own worlds. We're not «stuck» so to speak recreating the history, we make up our own instead! I do like the occasional real-world subject, but they're rarely finished as they don't hold my fascination for long. Sci-fi lets me express my creative nature. I've got a head full of ideas and just wish I could get them all out into model form, but there's just not enough time for that.
Please tell us a little about your involvement with MIG Productions. How did it start and what are the plans for the future?
I was a poster on their forums for a while and Mig enjoyed my works. After a bad experience with a caster while trying to produce my first design, the KV-2X, Mig asked why I didn't ask them to do it. I replied that «I didn't think you guys would be interested». They were and quickly purchased my KV-2X and Hovertank masters. I made the small hovertank because Mig and a few others really liked a larger one I did earlier and gave me some good tips for completing it. I thought that they might be interested in a smaller kit-able version and they were. They wanted more walking tanks, especially German ones, so I created the 38t(x) master for them next. That little guy was a lot of fun to create. I had some boundaries to work around in keeping with the German aesthetic, but I was pleased with the end result having learned a lot since creating my first two masters. As for the future, who knows? If they ask for more tanks, I'll be happy to oblige. I think an allied version would be a lot of fun to create.

Your KV-2X got a lot of attention in the world of scale modeling, but there were enough people on the modeler's forums who were criticizing the engineering aspect of the design, debating the possibility of such a tank. Do you give much attention to the engineering parts or do you mostly concentrate on the visual and creative aspects?
I wasn't aware of the attention actually. Where was this? LOL! Seriously! My bad I suppose since aside from the Mig forum, my usual forum haunts are sci-fi modeling focused. I did see a couple threads when it was announced on Armorama and Missing Lynx and did see the engineering

concern posts. It's funny because most armor modelers seem to have a very hard time thinking outside of their favorite period in time. They see something like this and they react to it in the way they best understand which is comparisons to real-world objects. The sci-fi modeler for the most part just cares about how cool something looks. (then there's a whole range of people inbetween of course). The weirder the better! Having said that though I did strive to make it look like something that could have existed. I based the legs off of back-hoe excavators, same as the hydraulics. I did learn about hydraulics from those criticisms and if you look at the 38t(x) and even the BergeLuther walking bulldozer I built, dual lines were added as opposed to the singles on the KV. I also was totally aware during the building process that in the real world those cables would snag on everything and one shot to a leg and it's kaput. But again this falls into the looks cool and interesting category.

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  • 09 October 2010, 20:42
  • Minsk94

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