Review: Banshee - A colorful Mind

by Hansrainer

Hi all,

Hansrainer here :)
This is a review I've been meaning to write for a few months now.
The reason is simple: I really love this book.

But to start at the beginning: I am a very academic student, meaning that I am usually not happy to learn how to do something until I can also understand why. Due to this reason, I have started to collect books about painting as soon as I started painting. And I do not only collect them, I actually read them, back to back.

In the last few years, the number of books on the topic of painting miniatures have been slowly rising (I am talking miniatures specifically - this has been much different for scale models for a looooong time). Most of this books fall into one of two categories:

1. Step by step photo sessions of a number of rather specific projects, sometimes with a more or less detailed shopping list with regard to paints and other material.

2. A number of chapters dealing with general aspects of painting miniatures as for example color and light theory, brush stroke technique etc.

Sometimes a book might cover both categories sometimes just one and some books I found really good and helpful and others not so much. Still, pretty much all were worth the read.
In my experience as a student, there is only so much I can learn from books though, so a second leg to learning for me is visiting workshops by different artists. One very interesting aspect that pretty much all the workshops by experienced miniature painters have in common: Referencing the past - or more specifically: Referencing past artworks, be it painting of the old masters, impressionists, modern fantasy artwork  and even photography.

And this is where I met Alfonso "Banshee" Giraldes for the first time: During a color theory workshop in a cozy basement in the middle of Germany. This little Spanish guy brought so much input to us, that a considerable part of students in the class went home with a headache after the first day. Apart from the deep joy he derived from pronouncing my name "hansrrrrrainerrrrr" I found his very intensive work with references inside and outside the miniature world the most memorable (Oh, the color theory was also great, mind boggling even :D).

He was like a professor, citing his old masters and opening a window into a world that rather new arrivals to miniature painting could not hope to find by themselves, dropping names left and right and digging up pictures from the depths of the Internet of artists and works long past  - well, whats considered long in a young hobby like ours, a few years, maybe a decade or two.

Even then, he intended to write a book and I have been waiting ever since for it to finally materialize. So when the announcement came I ordered it as soon as I heard. So, with the introduction out of the way, lets go in medias res:

With more than 300 Pages and more than 800 pictures, weighing in at close to 4 pounds or two kilo gram, the book is a whopper, period.

With regard to its content, it goes a different way than all the other books by miniature painters I have read. The book is not so much a book about how to paint and much more about the journey of becoming a painter.

The book is subdivided into 7 chapters, with the 6th chapter, a comprehensive and detailed gallery with descriptions and analyses of Alfonso's work, taking up about half of the book.

It starts with a chapter about his biography and career, something some readers might construe as self-glorifying, but I rather got the impression, that it was important for Alfonso to give thanks and credit to all the supporters along his way. It was an interesting read for me though, giving some  insights on the career-paths and options in the miniature world.

The second chapter was were it got real interesting for me - on a bit more than 40 pages Alfonso grants many insight into his processes, how he tackles projects in sculpting and painting. Starting with artists that inspired and influenced him over the years, going over basic considerations and into the design process, painting as well as sculpting up the final steps of packaging and product presentation. Aside from the gallery the chapter I will go back to every now again when working my own projects.

The third chapter deals with his experiences abroad, a nice little chapter, giving some kudos to friends and students, probably best perceived as an extension of his biography.

The fourth chapter goes even deeper into his head, and if one wants to be critical, it could be considered a little bit as navel-gazing. I personally enjoyed this particularly as I can resonate with many of his personal experiences and developments. For any reader interested in the human behind the brand, I think this is an interesting and valuable read. For readers more interested in the hard facts and ways to improve themselves, probably not so much.

The fifth, aptly named "#fucksmoothness" is somewhat of a personal reckoning with the painting world, expectations, hopes and dreams of where our hobby and his passion may go in the future. Again, it contains a lot of interesting thoughts and concepts. And again, its personal. That's why I liked it.

The sixth and most voluminous chapter is something I personally consider the centerpiece of this book.

It begins with pretty detailed analyses and descriptions of seven projects, including insights into the design process, color analysis, and detailed descriptions, among them dioramas as well as busts and single figures. Its then followed by more then a hundred pages of high quality fotos of many sculpts, paintjobs and design and art sketches.

Finally, the book is rounded out in chapter seven with texts by many of Alfonsos contemporaries, painters and sculpters and their collaborations.

In conclusion, the book is different then other books on painting miniatures for obvious reasons. Its a book by Banshee, and lets be open: Its a lot about Banshee. Alfonso is an honest guy and he never hesitates to give credit, where credit is due. But that doesn't stop with himself. This can at times seems self-aggrandizing, even arrogant and most definitely its something thats considered impolite to brink of rude by most western standards.

To be honest, while at times a bit tedious, it is also authentic and real. This is not a book for you if you are interested in learning about blending, color theory and awesome NMM. If you are however interested in the art beyond the artisanry, the artist and his life beyond the individual works, this is the book for you - and so far the only one I know of in the miniature world. Its a new and fresh way to tackle this, at least within our own small world and its something I'd like to see more from by other artists.

Technique and effects are evolving ever more rapidly, we paint on the shoulders of giants. This has opened the doors for many aspiring painters to go beyond technique, tackle expression and content and take the step from artisanship to artistry. This book is a good tool to learn about some of those giants and their contributions.

If you want to get yours, check back with Scale75 



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