Book Review
Vignettes. A How-to Guide
Guide to realize scenes and vignettes
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by: Carlos Martin [ VARANUSK ]

An unique book

Let me start this review by the end, with the conclusion: this is an amazing book, and for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, because it guides through building vignettes from start to end. The books I have read about dioramas are exclusively or at least mostly focused on the groundwork, sometimes with some theoretical information on designing. However this guide teaches also how to paint and weather vehicles, and how to paint figures. These areas receive the same degree of attention, so it can be considered three books in one, for scenes, vehicles and figures -all of them needed to build a vignette.
But it is unique also (as far as I know) because it deals exclusively with vignettes, that is, small scenes with a base, one vehicle and one (or a few) figures. Although the techniques may be similar, large dioramas are out of the scope of this book.
Finally, a feature which is not exclusive from this book but neither I see often is that it made me feel I can do it. First because the projects are affordable, with few elements, and second because all processes are carefully explained, step by step with text and photos.
The Book

The book, as the title says, is a how-to guide for building vignettes. There are several scenes with detailed construction process, explaining not only how to do it but also why, thus showing what is behind what we see.
It has 168 pages, which I find adequate to cover all areas in depth, without requiring a long time to finish reading it. It is a softcover volume, printed in good quality paper, thick and glossy. It has been published by Accion Press, the publishers of Panzer Aces magazine.
The author is Joaquín García Gázquez, a Spanish modeller with a long and successful career. His works have been published in Military Illustrated Modeller, Abrams Squad, M-Hobby, Steel Masters, Military Modelcraft or The Weathering Magazine, among others.
He is one of those talented artists who can make a great model, no matter if it is a tank, aircraft or scene.
Two of the chapters have vignettes by Andrés Bernal and Javier Redondo, modellers of great skills also, who make an interesting contribution to the book. Unfortunately, these two articles lack the detailed step-step painting photos for both vehicles and figures, although they do a good job with the text and images.
While the book is predominantly about painting, there are also several tips about building vehicles and figures. All scenes are at 1/35 scale.

The book opens with a foreword by the author and an editorial from Rodrigo Hernandez. Then starts the content itself with an introduction that defines what a vignette is and gives some basic composition information.
The rest of the chapters are based on a vignette each, except one focused on the proportions. Apart from the introduction, this is the only theoretical chapter but it is kept to a minimum, to lay the foundations of what comes next, and is profusely illustrated.
As one would expect, the book is full of images. Most of them are photos but there are also drawings. One interesting technique used along the book is to present greyed photos with the main lines of the subjects painted over it and axis or proportions used.
Images are of a good size, both general views and details. The finished photos are just a few for each vignette, so there is no "gallery of models" occupying lots of pages.
The text is clear and easy to understand, with both a main story and detailed captions for the photos. Some original Spanish text has slipped on a couple of illustrations, but it does not really affect the readability of the book.
The layout of pages is very nice and easy to follow, including numbered photos for easier location of the text. The fonts used are also clear and of a good size.
As for the products used, there is a variety of known brands with no particular preference for one or another.

So, this is a list of the different examples in the book:
Composition, a brief study, dealing with symmetry, balance and height to create a pleasant view.
Days of wine and roses, a vignette of a German soldier with a Simca car on a countryside road in France, the ground has some bright green plants and a small water stream.
The (other) Desert Fox, again a German soldier in Africa with a Kubelwagen, on a desert terrain with sand and dust that cover the vehicle.
Hungarian AFV Crew on manoeuvres, a Toldi tank with three soldiers crossing a rail road, using different heights for the elements and positioning the figures to keep the balance and interest.
Regio Esercito, Tunisia 1943, by Andrés Bernal, showing part of an AB-41 with two figures at very different heights, showing how works the triangle overall shape.
Stalinetz S-65 with howitzer on the Spanish Civil War, built by Javier Redondo, where the tractor and gun are positioned on a sloped street with a house. The house and walls are made of stone.
The first flower of spring A T-70 in front of a house, with a soldier and a girl giving him a flower while a lady looks through the door from inside. The wooden house has faded paint and there are patches of snow in the ground.
Postwar kids, a small scene of two kids seated on an abandoned T-34 track and playing with papers.
All of the chapters by Joaquín García Gázquez start with a study about the composition, followed by step a step detailed sections on how to paint the vehicle, the figures and how to build and paint the base and its elements. It is noteworthy that the techniques are explained once, and not repeated for each scene to fill pages. For example, the first chapter explains how to paint figures, then the next just give the colours used and some photos.

This is an excellent guide that goes beyond what you would expect from a diorama/vignette book, as it covers all the processes from composition to painting and weathering vehicles and painting figures, all in great detail.
The text is clear and easy to follow, supported by many photos showing both general views and details. The examples cover most of the situations (desert, snow, urban, countryside).
I find it absolutely recommendable, both for modellers new to scenes and for experienced ones. The former will have a detailed guide which is perfect to start, while the latter will surely find interesting advice.
Highs: Wide coverage of all areas. Step by Step explanations with many photos. Examples of different scenarios.
Lows: None that I have found
Verdict: An excellent and detailed guide to build small scenes with vehicles and figures.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:35
  PUBLISHED: Jan 23, 2017

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About Carlos Martin (varanusk)

My main interest is German vehicles and guns, and I like spending time researching the vehicle and the options for the camo once I have chosen a subject. Sometimes I go for specific and rare vehicles, of which only two or three photos are known so it takes me a lot of time to figure how everything w...

Copyright ©2021 text by Carlos Martin [ VARANUSK ]. All rights reserved.


Hmmm, seems like this book tries to cover everything in small space. I understand that building, painting and weathering figures and vehicles is important but there are so many instructions and SBS manuals that there is really no need for new one. If book is about building vignettes it should focus on that, how to create dynamic setting in small area. And not rehash same advice on shading and highligting figures and where and how to build dust and dirt deposits on vehicles. Maybe book like this would be handy 20 or 30 years ago when you couldn't find advice on painting online and one, jack-of-all-trades book was good addition to your reference library. But now you have so many bigger books that manage to be both wider and more detailed (though also more expensive) and focus on actual build and not on building figures. Yes, tell me how to make a tree, shrubs, bushes, wooden fences and unpaved roads, don't tell me how to paint a figure. When I need advice on that I'll grab one that has "Figure Painting" in title.
JAN 22, 2017 - 06:57 PM
Looks like a complete guide to me!
JAN 22, 2017 - 07:42 PM
The strength of this book is the task of condensing a great idea in a small vignette. Joaquín García Gázquez experience is showcased in this book which is a compendium of all concepts composition and creative work required for creating a vignette observing just the greatest simplicity and proportionality. The book teaches us how to use Golden Mean or Golden Ratio in modelling, how to undertand the workings oh the visual perception and some Gestal theory. This is what really makes this book different. What amazes me after reading this book is the explanations about how to create the composition, not only for a vignette but also for any kind of diorama. Joaquín makes the composition easy to undertand to modellers.
JAN 23, 2017 - 02:55 PM
The book will be distributed by Stevens International soon!
JAN 23, 2017 - 02:57 PM
Possibly useful as a good oversight and general primer on the subject. Can't hurt.
JAN 23, 2017 - 09:23 PM
Frank, this is not an overview or introductory book, what surprised me was the depth of the coverage, yet for different areas. The sections for vehicle weathering or figure painting could fit perfectly on a dedicated volume, and used independently of building a scene or not. There is no wasted space on this book, I found all pages to be worth reading or looked at. And the information is perfectly condensed. Honestly, I feel that this guide is full of useful resources and I have no doubt there is room for it nowadays.
JAN 25, 2017 - 05:18 PM

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