Lance Mindheim wrote an important book a couple of years back entitled, Model Railroading As Art. It is a very thoughtful book I encourage modelers to read.
We can enjoy our work as a standalone piece of art, the same as we would a painting, photo, or sculpture – something we enjoy looking at, whether it’s in motion or not.Model Railroading As Art by Lance Mindheim
Think about the above photo. B. Smith, and really all of us, have some artist in us to do what we do. From positioning the camera, to including various shrubs or vehicles in the photos to weathering our cars to the lighting, we create a type of art. Lance expands on these elements at significant length in the book.
There is a line in Lance’s book that really jumps out at me.
We do it because we want to evoke specific feelings and moods. In the case of art, we do it not only for the moods that wash over us, but for the feeling of being transported. We look at something and we like the way it makes us feel.Model Railroading As Art by Lance Mindheim
Picasso once mused–
Yo no pinto lo que veo, pinto lo que siento
(I don’t paint what I see, I paint what I feel.) — Pablo Picasso
We model trains and scenes for a variety of reasons, but partly because how a scene makes us feel. And as Lance points out in the book, the more we do it for ourselves, the more satisfying the experience we have. In other words, we will be happier if we do it to make us happy versus getting “likes” or adulation.
As a writer and artist, I know that is true. My work is better when I strive to make myself happy versus a commission where I am trying to please another. It is great when our work bring others joy, but we should seek to please the “audience of one” that Lance writes about so eloquently.
I appreciate Lance inviting us to embrace our work as art and taking our work to a new level. Inspired by Lance’s book, I will also be sharing posts from time to time on this site that will discuss different sources of inspiration because we often find inspiration from sources we never expected. Some may in fact have little direct connection to railroading, but may in fact inspire something in you to produce more fulfilling work as a model railroader, for in the end, we are artists.
Rest assured there will also continue to be traditional RailsWest posts! We are working on robust posts sharing B. Smith’s Eureka Branch and Kerrville Branch in the near future. The goal is to encourage all of us to take our work to the next level (that makes US happy!)
I posted this picture I took in 1992, because it evokes a special feeling. I remember the fading light, the smell of creosote, the wind, the cooling New Mexico evening, etc. Hopefully, you like it too!
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