by: Mario Matijasic [ ]
I have got quite a selection of modeling books in my library... the entire Shep Paine's collection, number of Verlinden's how-to books, both Mig's FAQ volumes, several Osprey Modelling and Modelling Masterclass titles, couple of EuroModelismo monographs and AK Weathering magazines. Some of these books were considered as "modeling bibles" and they included really helpful tips and tricks how to make your models as realistic as possible.
Now there is a new player in the publishing business: Rinaldi Studio Press. It is actually a one-man band with Michael Rinaldi as a creative force behind the project. I'm sure most of you know the name: Michael's work has been frequently featured in numerous modeling magazines. Recognizing the limitations of magazine articles well, Michael envisioned a publishing concept of his own... a series of modeling books in which he could "share, teach and inspire" called TankArt. Each TankArt volume would be dedicated to only couple of painting and weathering techniques, but those are to be covered in great depth and accompanied by large high-quality step-by-step photos of several different modeling projects. It was a different concept than we used to expect from modeling manuals, but it seems Michael's idea was a good one; the first TankArt volume appeared about two months ago and took the modeling world by storm.
I must admit I was drawn to the TankArt immediately after seeing the first teaser pictures Mike posted on Armorama. Although dedicated to WWII German armor which is not my favorite modeling topic, I wanted to get this book as soon as possible. And I did.
The book arrived perfectly packed in a hard cardboard box, additionally secured inside two bubble-wraps. Here are the basic facts:
Title: TANKART Vol.1 WWII German Armor
Publisher: Rinaldi Studio Press, LLC
Format: paperbound (22x24 cm)
Color: full color
Retail Price: $29.95
At first glance the book looks amazing, well structured, professionally presented and with large step-by-step images. After taking the time and reading it cover to cover, I realized this book is so much more than just pretty pictures... but let's start at the beginning.
Weathering principle & techniques:
Mike is an amazing modeler who developed a particular interest in painting and weathering models. In the introductory chapters of his first book, Mike presents his modeling philosophy and the desire to share his techniques and experiences with the public. The authorís weathering principle is actually very simple, yet most of us never thought about it this way: the focus of every modeling project should be to tell the story of a particular vehicle, and the weathering techniques are of utmost importance in conveying that story to the audience. Thus, the weathering processes should produce realistic results in scale.
After a short chapter describing products and materials used in this book, the rest of the volume is dedicated to two model painting techniques and the author describes them in detail, specifying each painting stage well and supplying a ton of photos illustrating each step perfectly.
The first technique presented in this book is hairspray technique, a method which Mike uses frequently not only for chipping but also for creating the perfect whitewash. The chapter describes the hairspray technique in tiniest detail, from the optimal hairspray application to type of paint and tools needed for making chips and scratches. The images support the text well, showing the painting stages and presenting numerous examples of the technique in use.
The second technique Mike describes is oil paint rendering, his own invention. After a short presentation on origins of the method, the technique is again described in detail... there are 24 step-by-step pictures with captions and accompanying text. Mike also shares number of tips for successful oil application and blending, as well as his thoughts on the extremely versatile and powerful technique.
After explaining the two techniques, the author goes deep to show the techniques in use on his 5 model projects. As the TankArt Vol.1 title suggests these are all WWII German armor models, but each unique with regards to colors, camouflage patterns, weathering concept and finish.
The first model presented is Befehls Panther AusfG. Introduced in both hairspray and oil paint rendering chapters, the model receives the Dunkelgelb SS Wiking criss-cross camouflage plus a whitewash... bruised and battered, this is a perfect example for utilizing both techniques to the extreme. The next chapter describes Tiger I Initial Production in a peculiar two-tone grey scheme, a model which was completely re-weathered after winning a medal on Euro Militaire! Besides chipping and using oil paints, an important part of this project is also working with pigments, as well as using Blacken-it on the metal tracks. Mike then shows his magic on Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer, painting ambush camouflage, one of the most complex patterns used in WWII, and keeping the weathering in perfect balance with the paintjob. A really nice tutorial on painting rusty exhaust is included as well. The following chapter deals with Sd.Kfz 251/22 Pakwagen. Painted in very faded Dunkelgelb, this model depicts an abandoned and ill-treated vehicle showing a good amount of abuse with extreme chipping. However the real challenge for Mike's techniques is actually in the scale of this model... unlike previous examples, this one is in 1/48 scale! The final model presented is Panzer IV Ausf. E DAK, the workhorse of German tank divisions. In this chapter Mike describes one of the most intense paintjobs he ever attempted: a heavily weathered desert combat vehicle which requires a more unique finish due to the extreme climate in North African theater of operations. An interesting technique of replicating paint wear using laquer thinner paint removal is included in this chapter.
Each of the model chapters is about 30 pages long... quite a comprehensive read, and although Mike goes to great lengths explaining the process of making these models come to life, it is never a boring experience. Paint callouts are included for each project as well as a quick reference SBS images shown in sequence at the end of each chapter.
Last but definitely not least, the final section of the book is dedicated to figure modeling and is written by Marijn Van Gils. I'm sure most AFV modelers like to add "the human touch" to their vehicle models, but are actually scared of painting figures. Marijn is one of the masters when it comes to figures and in this chapter he presents several short but very informative SBS projects, including a nice tutorial on painting faces.
OK, after the basic description of the book and its contents I definitely have to address the most important question of this review: what's so special about Mike Rinaldi's TankArt that makes this book stand out from all the other modeling how-to books I have in my collection?
- First thing one notices is an attractive layout of the pages: not just the large images, but also the captions and orange text boxes which are extremely eye-catching. Mike's background in design definitely shows to full extent, and this is by far the most visually appealing modeling book in my library.
- The book is jam-packed with high-quality, large images. The images are of utmost importance in how-to books and Mike obviously did not want any compromise with displaying the photos... his concept of providing an enormous amount of large images, illustrating perfectly each step in the modeling process seems like a fundamental thing to do, but I have seen too many modeling titles lacking in this department. Some of the images are overlaid with white circles which guide the eye to the section of the vehicle of particular interest. These are usually fully described in text captions.
- The images themselves are extremely clear and most show the materials Mike used in the process, however the strongest point of this book is definitely the wealth of information included in the text, and the way it easily connects to the images. All the techniques are described in a simple language, yet in great detail. The orange text boxes are a really nice touch; separated visually from the rest of the text, the author uses them to share his thoughts and ideas with the reader, explains his intentions and even points to some flaws in the build. The text is engaging and creates a feeling of chatting to your friend.
- Even though a big name in modeling with numerous awards received for his beautifully executed models, Mike never sounds like a know-it-all supernatural being teaching his followers a "correct" way of painting and finishing models. Instead he describes the techniques in tiniest detail, explains the reasoning behind each one, and challenges the reader to try these to see how they perform.
- There is no bias toward any product brand throughout this book. Mike works with various different products and shares his experiences regarding the strong-points of each one.
- Finally, the TankArt concept of modeling book series is something new and refreshing. Mike created an enormously large body of work on painting and finishing techniques, and it was simply impossible to put it all in a single modeling book in detail the author intended. Instead, each TankArt volume is dedicated to only couple of techniques which are to be covered in great depth. Also, each volume would present several different modeling projects featuring these techniques in elaborate step-by-step format. Thus, each individual TankArt book can not be compared to Mig's FAQ or a similar "modeling bible" regarding the content size (and, as you can see, that was not Mikeís idea in the first place). However, the content of the complete TankArt series is definitely going to surpass any modeling book released so far by miles.
In my opinion there are some things that could be improved in the following TankArt volumes. These are really minor things, but I felt I need to address them as well.
- The typos. I know this is nitpicking, but the book of this quality should be free of such mistakes. Mike confirmed the next TankArt volumes will be written using a different editing software.
- The text font in orange boxes is a bit small for me. I did all of the reading in the evenings, so it could very well be the case of straining my eyes under low artificial light.
This is one of the finest modeling books on the market today. And the best thing is that this is only the first TankArt volume with many yet to comeÖ I have to admit I canít wait to get the next one and finally the entire TankArt series. With an attractive layout, detailed descriptions of each technique, superb step-by-step photos, and most importantly Mikeís engaging writing style, the complete TankArt series is definitely going to be the pinnacle of every modelerís library.