by Petrelka


by Petrelka


by Petrelka


by Petrelka


by Petrelka

Review: The Art of ... Volume 02 Christof Keil

by Hansrainer

Hello dear jungle readers,


this is Hansrainer welcoming you to the second review in my Series on "The Art of …" by Dave Taylor Miniatures. As with the last volume, I procured the review copy myself, again a friendly loan by a member of my local community, Oliver.

The second volume is at the same time the first that follows the by now customary format of the series: A monograph by a single artist - in this case Christof Keil, a miniature artist and blacksmith from Germany.

To be fair and as mentioned in the last article, the journey to review all of the "The Art of …"-Books started somewhere in early 2023, but then life happened. To be honest, Christof's book was the first of the whole series I saw and when I took a first look at it, I was not terribly impressed. While I am a huge fan of John Blanche and his Artwork, I cannot say the same for the style of dark and grimy miniature painting he inspired with the "blanchitsu"-Movement back in the day. This first impression wasn't helped by the fact, that the act of assembling and building models before painting (and in this vein kit bashing) is something that I loathe. So, from here on out, please take everything I am writing with a grain of salt...

BUT - in the end, you shall not judge a book by its cover and a monograph about the work of an artist not by just cursory leafing through the pages and looking whether you like the shiny pictures. And so, after quite a hiatus, I eventually sat down on a quiet afternoon to read the book. And what can I say - I read the 110 pages in one sitting.

Christof's work in this book is mostly in the realm of smaller miniatures (28-32 mm), more specifically it mostly focuses on Games Workshop - but given the huge impact those worlds had on many, if not most of the painters in the current hobby community, that's not necessarily a bad thing. And in fact, I would actually recommend it for most hobbyists interested in modding and building hero scale miniatures in that scale range.

The content

The book features roughly 110 amply illustrated pages, the quality (and size!) of the photos is mostly good to very good. Its printed on a high quality glossy paper, thread bound and with a good solid hardcover with some silver embossed titling - the production value is pretty high.

Beginning with a foreword by Tommy Soule and a short introduction, The Art of Christof Keil starts off with some clarifications of terminology and the basics of Kit bashing - including tools and a number of examples. 



The first section - aptly titled "Kit bashing" consists of a number of short articles on individual projects of varying sizes, focusing on the concepts, ideas and the workflow behind the projects. It culminates in a slightly longer tutorial, in which the conversion process is shown in a lot more detail and step by step. For me as somewhat of a GW-Fan, most of the kits and parts mentioned in passing are familiar. However, that might not be the case for a more general audience - I would have preferred  a more detailed labelling of the pictures, maybe even with arrows for specific parts and how they looked before and after integration into the kit bash. I think its a missed opportunity - and if Christof does another book in the future, I would find that really helpful. All in all, the part was good though and it even got me thinking of a few simple conversions for future projects in the small scale.



The next section is on the Black Phallanx, essentially a love child where Christof really starts to put together a coherent, strongly individualized force with its own lore and background. And while a hardcore puritan GW-Fan might find the deviation from standard design patterns disturbing, I was really impressed what he designed and put together: Especially his HALO-strike team and the second big suit were really awe inspiring.



The third section deals with his foray into larger scale models, especially Busts and here I liked especially his elaborations on how he learned to sculpt, first in Busts and how that change of medium again helped him to improve to become more free on his smaller scale conversions.



Chapter 4 - Adeptus Astartes - is all about space marines, space marine conversions and his well known black templar diorama, inspired by the cover art of the 3rd Edition Box Set of Warhammer 40k. Again, he lets us participate in the thoughts and considerations as well as the limitations of the medium that informed and shaped the creation of this piece as well as a small number of other Astartes works.



The final chapter - Food for Thought goes into the depths of thoughts and ideas that had and have an impact on Christof's work. To be frank, these kind of introspective insights are usually what makes it worth spending the time and read a book by an artist. And he does not disappoint here.


Conclusion and judgement :)

The Good: All in all, the book provides some satisfying insights into the processes and considerations at the foundation of this artists works. Its not just that, it has its tutorial aspects, the pictures of Christof's work over the last few years and some solid ideas how to tackle certain aspects from a craftsmanship- or sometimes organisational perspective.

The Bad: My main criticism is at times the implicitness with which the author assumes a quite high level of familiarity with the world of Warhammer 40k and also recent and older kits. Here it would have been really helpful to be even more explicit in the selection and preparation of parts for the kit bash - although admittedly that might have been nigh impossible given the fluid nature of his process.



The ugly personal view: To me personally, it seems that the author got better and better in finding his voice as the book goes on. Chapter 1 can be a bit lengthy and somewhat repetitive but it definitely picks up from here. 

For me, this book is a clear recommendation if you are interested in:

  • Christof Keil
  • kit bashing tabletop models
  • in well converted Grim-Dark model
  • artists' work and thought processes
  • blanchitsu


Its not so much a recommendation if you are looking for:

  • loads of information on painting
  • painting instructions

I hope this review was informative and helpful - looking forward to reading Volume 03 - the Art of … Ana Polanscak.



Review: The Art of … Volume 01 Miniature Monthly

by Hansrainer

Hello dear Jungle readers,

this is Hansrainer with the first of a lengthy series of reviews on "The Art of..." book series by Dave Taylor Miniatures. Dave started this series with a first Kickstarter in April 2021 to fund the production of the first three volumes. He followed up roughly a year later with Volumes 4-6 and a third one with Volumes 7-9 last year. So far, every Kickstarter has been very successful with more than a thousand backers - doesn't sound like a lot but our community is not exactly gigantic - and so the result is pretty darn impressive.

I only learned about the series roughly a year ago, just in time to miss the last Kickstarter and I got access to the books via Oliver, a friend who was kind enough to loan me the first six books. Initially I had the goal to get the reviews done before the publication of Volumes 7-9 but - as it tends to - life happened. I had the reviews of book two and three completed quite quickly, but with this first one it was a bit tougher - I had read it roughly a year ago and unfortunately in this case time doesn‘t make the best editor.

After that time what stuck with me was that this book really delivered a unique view into painting miniatures from what we are used to in the diverse books and series in existence. Similar to "A Colourful Mind" this book contains descriptions of the personal journey of the three artists that were crucial in the foundation and running of the Miniature Monthly painting collective: Aaron Lovejoy, Elizabeth Beckley, and Matt DiPietro. The book is separated into three main Sections, one for each of the three.

Each section contains strong biographical parts that describe the way and development of the artists as well as personal views on specific projects, experiences, philosophies and thoughts that shaped their journey and development to becoming the artists and persons they are today. Each section also contains content more directly tied into the authors' specific ways of creating their content and miniature art, many examples of their work and ideas what to take for the readers own journey.

Aaron Lovejoy


Aaron's section is the one most closely tied to Miniature Monthly's history - no wonder given that it was him who created  Miniature Monthly in the first place. We learn about the challenges of working in the miniature industry for a living - this in and by itself very interesting inside view is already a very good argument to get the book for everyone interested in venturing down this path herself. 
He goes the whole nine yards from the challenges and pitfalls to things that work and also how to stay relevant and alive from an artistic as well as economic point of view.
He addresses many interesting points, like the different challenges different kinds of art for hire projects deliver - army painting vs. display, box art vs creating online content, how he balances personal and business projects, how to learn and incorporate new skills like airbrush or digital sculpting and 3D-printing. The last few pages are dedicated to a few of his favourite pieces:

All in all its mostly the documentation of a personal voyage but there is a lot of wisdom and experiences to be taken from that.

Elizabeth Beckley


The second section is written by and about Elizabeth Beckley. It starts again with a biographical chapter that starts with her upbringing and background and then focuses on her by now lengthy career working in the painting business. Starting out as a private commission painter, not unlike Aaron before, then quickly graduating to work for companies like Impact Miniatures and later as a studio painter for CoolMiniorNot and finally working freelance and founding her own small company as well as joining Miniature monthly and painting for many more companies.

After this section she dives more into the practical aspects of her career and I personally really enjoyed the parts where she connected her classical fine art background with working on miniatures. She connects aspects like composition, colour selection and how to use specific details to create and lose focus. She repeatedly goes back to the importance of using references, especially when it comes to the human form and creating specific results. 

The final note is a page with direct advice for aspiring miniature artists, drawn from her experience in teaching as well as creating art. All in all a very interesting take again and I have to admit I love the whimsicalness of many of her works - would love to get to meet her one day and see her work in real live!

Matt DiPietro


The final section of the book is by Matt DiPietro, the third pillar of the Miniature Monthly team. Beginning with the biographical part, I still find it very interesting how many of the great miniature painters have at least some family roots in the fine arts - and Matt is not the exception it seems. The biography starts with his youth and then moves into his career as a professional artist, starting out in the warehouse of Privateer Press and then slowly migrating over to the studio team with Mike and Allie McVey and Ron Kruzie and finally taking over the position as lead painter later on. Eventually he started his own studio - Contrast Miniatures - and joined the Miniature Monthly team in 2017, as of the writing of this book, he spends his time creating content, teaching and creating art.
Like the other two authors of the book, Matt by now has a very strong focus on teaching and this shows in the more practical parts of his chapter. He puts a strong focus on sketching and underpainting: Be it for purposes of defining Lighting and Drama, establishing material properties like reflectivity or texture or even more vivid skin and other materials be creating a lot of variance using (sometimes multi-coloured) underpaintings.
In a very interesting, though brief, foray into the more artsy aspects of miniature art, he addresses some inherent conflicts many aspirants of hour hobby face as time progresses: The struggle between technique and expression, dealing with the limitations of the medium, painting against sculpts, deviating from traditional or seemingly "right" colour compositions for certain subjects and finding ways to express ones own voice. 
The final pages of the chapter are dedicated in more detail to three specific works of his and conclude the book.

My Impressions and Conclusion


The Good: The Art of Miniature Monthly is an impressive first entry into a series that we now know has been going strong for quite a while now.  With Volumes 7-9 just released and the Kickstarter for 10-12 on the near horizon, there is no end in sight. The concept of the book being more of a biographical thing with large bits of knowledge sprinkled in between is very attractive to me as a reader: I like reading about people and the art they create. I love the fact that the book isn't yet another "how to colour-theory" and "how to volumetry" thing.

The Bad: If you are looking for the typical "this is how you paint X" or "this is how X-Skill/Technique works" kind of book - this is NOT for you. In hindsight and with the knowledge of how much deeper this can go, if each artist has a whole book to expand in from the follow up books in the series, it feels like it falls a bit short. Some, if not many of the pictures could be a bit better - but that's owed to the biographical curse of "dammit I should've taken wayyyy more pictures"…

The ugly personal view: I think this is a book worth buying and reading. If you are interested in the hobby business, if you are interested in any one of the three artists, if you care for their view of the world: get this book. If you are interested just in shiny pictures and looking for that one pro-tip to level up your painting: There are other books for you - and we in the Massive Voodoo jungle have a growing selection of reviews on numerous such books.

I think I will actually pick this one up, even though I have already read it now (actually close to twice) and that's saying something.

See you for the the next review!