I have a bit of a conundrum. I'm a builder - a frustrated engineer at heart that loves machines. At work I build and troubleshoot complex machines and electronics. I build model kits to celebrate the fact that we as a species can start with raw materials and end up with a multi-ton machine that can do what we can't - fly. Maybe it's beautiful, maybe it's industrial-ugly. Maybe it was created only to visit death upon our enemies. The stories around them and those who flew them are part of the appeal.
My problem: I can glue things. I can look at a picture and scratch-build a necessary part or detail. I can fill and sand and re-scribe. But I have a problem bringing my kits to life. I can't seem to translate age, dirt, wear and tear, into a mind-picture that I can apply to the plastic. It's what drove me away from the hobby as a kid and several times since - it just doesn't look believable. I'm aware of the techniques of chipping and washes and pre- and post- shading, but I can't seem to make the jump from knowing to applying. I watch videos and a guy starts with a plain painted cockpit and ends up with a weathered scale masterpiece by 'just adding a little random...' something. Burnt umber or raw sienna? Panel wash or pigment? Filter or post-shading? What layers? What order? I find it a lot like trying to mix your own color paint - eventually it's all brown. I know what I want it to look like, but I don't know how to get there, or even know how to know, if that makes sense. It's like watching Bob Ross paint - swish, swish, swish, and we have some Happy Little Trees. I swish, swish, swish, and I have... swishes of green paint.
I guess I'm looking for some inspiration on "How do I Art?" because I sit and look at a bunch of my nicely assembled and brightly-painted sub-assemblies that have no soul. Do you just have an eye for it or is it something that can be learned? Tell me to paint a thing blue and I'll paint it blue. But if that blue thing is an old thing, where are the highlights, the shadows? Lighter on the edges, or in the middle? I can paint a seat cushion brown, but I can't imagine how to make it look like old leather.