My nephew, Nat, has loved cars since before he could walk or talk. Even when he was just a few months old, there was always a toy car in his hand. By the time he turned 4 and could speak rather fluently, he was able to identify most cars on the road and tell you what kind of wheels they had.
Obviously, that meant only one kind of presents for him. Nat has been given all kinds of toy vehicles over the years. I once even spent an obscene amount of money buying him a matchbox Ferrari from Italy. He was however not allowed to play with it.
This is why. The most fun way for Nat to play with his cars were re-enactments of car crashes. He has always had a morbid fascination with collisions and destruction. Needless to say, his toy cars were pretty banged up after a while.
I remember how outraged I was when I saw the state of these wonderful model cars that my dad had bought for Nat from Thailand. They were rather pricey too and nobody had the heart to throw them out.
That was when I thought I could save these cars and build a diorama with them. Nat and I discussed it and we decided it would be a junkyard for broken old cars. It would be our project, something we could do together. That was in January this year. The project never quite took off because I was too busy with work, travels and all sorts of lame adult excuses. Poor Nat would ask me almost every time we met about the junkyard project and when we were going to start.
It was only on the 14th of April this year when Shir asked if I could babysit Nat that work on the junkyard finally started. Even then, all we did that day was to spray the 1st coats on the cars. Before he left however, we decided that he would come over every Saturday and continue our work on the junkyard together till it was completed.
2 Saturdays later, on the 28th of the same month, we started the serious painting. Nat worked on the Mini while I did the Volkswagen.
This was mine at half time...
Nat's at various times.
At this point, I want to share something poignant that I experienced with Nat. You might have suspected by now that I was not able to teach Nat, my 7 year old and rather impatient nephew, how to weather the car in just that one session. I tried to show him how it was to be done but he just wanted to dip the brush into the colours and start painting immediately. So it ended up with us painting our respective cars side by side, stopping once in a while to share paints or rub more sand into the cars. We went on quietly for about 10 minutes before he suddenly said Ta Ta Ah Yee (nickname for eldest aunt), I am done. I remembered looking up from what I was doing and immediately going Oh, look at what a mess you have made to your car.
If someone was to teach me the meaning of the word crestfallen, there would be no better example than Nat's face the moment those words slipped through my tongue. He dropped his brushes immediately and said Ta Ta Ah Yee, I don't think I am good at art like you. I am sorry that I made a mess of this car. It is not good like yours. He was fighting very hard to hold back his tears when just minutes ago we were happily chatting about the things that we could do for the junkyard.
O dear, what have I done?
I thought for a while and then said to Nat, Teedee (nickname for little brother) there is nothing wrong with your car. In fact, you have done a great job. We are making broken and rusty cars, so mess is very good! Tata ah yee also doesn't like perfect. I love imperfect things.
Why? He asked.
Because perfect is boring and also in real life, most things are not perfect. And I want to make our junkyard very realistic. I told him.
After listening to my explanation, he took up the brush and dipped it into some green paint and started dabbing it on the back of his car.
Is that moss? Or green oxidation? Like copper rusting? How clever, teedee. You always have such good ideas. I told him.
Now, I might have told a little white lie about the mess bit but I was definitely sincere when I praised him for that touch of green.
That dash of green not only inspired me to finish my car with traces of moss but it also became the theme for this junkyard.
This is a close up of Nat's mini after I had helped put the finishing touches. Don't worry, Nat knew that he was only to paint the base colour and that I was to paint the rusty bits for him.
He was very pleased with how his car had turned out and I didn't let him forget that all the great ideas were his.
I have really enjoyed rusting these cars.
Nat has contributed a lot to how interesting the weathering process was for me because what he did with the base colours was unpredictable and spontaneous. He might not have a coherent explanation for why he used a particular color or painted in a certain way but I am sure he did what he did based on his own views of how a broken beat up car should look like. He really is the expert here because of all the you-tube clips he had been watching on car crashes. I am glad I allowed his instincts to guide me through my own painting because I think these cars turned out just perfectly imperfect.
We ended that day with a trip to the park behind my house to see if we could find more things for the junkyard.
This was what he found to make a tree. I told him it was too big. Nevermind, tata ah yee, he said, it doesn't have to be perfect.
My captain, my muse.
Teedee might not have learnt how to paint rust that day but I believed he finally understood how things don't have to be perfect to be great.