Review: The Encyclopedia of Figures Modelling Techniques, Vol. 2

by David

Disclaimer: I received the book as a free review copy by the publisher. This will not predetermine my review, which will be a fair summary and assessment of the book's strengths and weaknesses as I perceive them.


Hey all,

David back again with a little review of a recent book. This time it's Volume 2 of Ammo by Mig's multi-volume Encyclopedia of Figures Modelling Techniques. This second volume of the Encyclopedia is titled "Techniques and Materials" and, accordingly, focuses on different materials, media and tools used in the miniature painting scene and the associated techniques and methods how to apply them. As such, it fits nicely into the second category of painting and modeling-related books that I introduced in my review of Volume 1 of the series. If you have not seen it, yet, feel free to check it here. The book's listed price is 29.50 Euros; it is available through Ammo's website as well as most scale model-retailers.

The book's table of contents ... along with some very nice miniature art

 

In addition to a brief introductory blurb by the editor, the 112-page strong, full-color book consists of four chapters, each with a number of sub-chapters, dealing with different media tools and painting techniques: Acrylics (Chapter 1), Oils (Chapter 2), Airbrush (Chapter 3), and mixing oils and acrylics (Chapter 4). As was the case in the first volume, the chapters are a mix of parts written by the series' editor, Rodrigo Hernández Chacón, and an international cast of incredibly talented and well-known miniature artists as authors of sub-chapters. Each chapter begins with a general introduction by Rodrigo that provides some general topical information, for instance on the propoperties and basic principles of working with acrylic colors, oils and the airbrush. This is, then, followed by the authors' sub-chapters in which they show in step-by-step fashion how they apply these techniques in their work. In Chapter 1, for instance, Rodrigo explains the basic layering and wet-in-wet techniques for painting with acrylic colors. These techniques are, then, exemplified in more detail by Enrique Velasco (layering) and Paulo Carrelo (wet-in-wet), respectively. In addition, it briefly highlights three other brush-techniques (stippling, splattering, and outlining), as well as "sketching" the basic volumes and non-metallic metal (NMM). The latter is illustrated with a step-by-step by Aleksandra Tana Cvetanovski, while Alfonso Giraldes provides a comprehensive summary of his painting approach, showing how sketching and layering work in practice. Chapter 2 has three sub-chapters, in which Gianfranco Speranza, Jean-Louis Balanec and Dmitry Fesechko present their respective approaches on using traditional oil colors for minitature painting, each exemplified by painting a bust. Chapter 3 centers on the use of the airbrush in painting with acrylics and stresses the benefits of combining the airbrush with brush work to profit from each instrument's particular strengths. In the first sub-chapter Rodrigo shows the airbrush-first, brush second approach; in the second sub-chapter Rubén Martínez Arribas and Sergio Calvo show the brush-first, airbrush-second approach. In Chapter 4, Paulo Carrelo shows in six pages how to combine all the painting materials discussed in the book (acrylics and oils, brush and airbrush) on painting the Carthaginian War Elephant bust by RP models. The book closes with a 13 uncommented pages which present very nice pictures of some of the authors' best known works.

A very brief introduction into sketching a miniature's volumes...

... and Alfonso's illustration on his famous Anonymous 2.0 bust

As was the first volume of the series, the book is beautifully layouted and overall has a high production value. It is printed on relatively thick, slightly glossy paper; the pictures are excellent and show very well what is going on on the mini. In terms of substance, I found the book to be a mixed bag, to be honest. It combines a number of substantively strong chapters with a few weaknesses. For me, the absolute star in this book is Dmitry Fesechko's chapter on painting with oils. I found the chapter to be the most detailed, didactic and well-structured in the whole book. Dmitry starts out by providing a general overview of the medium, its peculiarities and the necessary tools, and presents an easy "two-layers algorithm" on how he paints a bust with oils. While I do not paint with oils, myself, I have the feeling that this chapter would be a great introduction should I want to try it out some day. The chapter by Alfonso Giraldes also succeeds in giving a very good insight into his particular work process; it shines because it so nicely illustrates the rather brief conceptual introduction on sketching values and volumes with a comprehensive step-by-step practical application. I also found Sergio Calvo's illustration of his approach on painting NMM by combining brush and airbrush work insightful, even though the actual use of the airbrush is hard to understand from pictures and words in a book.

The introduction to the chapter dedicated on oil colors...

... and Dmitry's description of his two-step painting "algorithm".

 
As the first volume, this second book in the Encyclopedia has a bit of sloppy editing and language checking, here and there. More substantively, I found some of the chapters a bit too superficial, talking and showing only very briefly some of the techniques and approaches. Maybe it's because the editors wanted to include so many topics and as many as nine fantastic artists into a single volume, in addition to the series' editor, such that individual contributions are by necessity a bit brief. For instance, I would have loved to see Aleksandra get a bit more space to elaborate on her painting approach and the decisions where to put shadows, highlights and tonal variations. Moreover, because there are so many individually authored chapters, there is some degree of redundancy with different authors repeating, ultimately, what has been said elsewhere. This is particularly the case in the chapter on oil colors, where all three authors introduce the medium, its characteristics and differences to acrylics. Here, a single more encompassing chapter might have been a better approach. As for the airbrush chapter, I am not sure how useful many of the elaborations will be to beginners hoping to use the airbrush for their miniature projects, because a book might not the best medium to show and explain the technical and practical steps of handling an airbrush. In fact, the airbrush chapter does not talk about many technical issues such as dilutions, air pressure, distance, handling of the trigger, etc, but ultimately in large parts presents paint recipes. Finally, and maybe most problematic, I find it a bit confusing to see a picture of Alfonso Giraldes's incredible Hellboy vignette on the book's cover, even though the model is not featured in the book itself. This will disappoint readers who buy the book in the hope of reading a step-by-step of that masterwork, especially if readers come from the first volume, which does include a comprehensive and well-made tutorial of the cover-art (Roman Gruba's Boudicca).

The chapter on airbrushing...

... along with insights into Sergio's process.

In conclusion, and comparing it with the first volume of the series, I found this book a bit more of a mixed bag. It includes a number of strong contributions and the sheer variety of incredible artists sharing some of their wisdom on a range of different topics means that most readers will be able to draw some useful information and inspiration from it. At the same time, I found the book a bit less coherent and systematic than the first volume, such that beginners hoping to get a comprehensive, hands-on manual on applying different techniques and using different materials might struggle with this book alone.

A small gallery of some of Aleksandra's colorful works

Let me know if you have questions or comments. All the best,

David

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