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.




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