The long-awaited third installment of Michael Rinaldi’s Tank Art series arrived at my door a couple of weeks ago. Of course, I dropped whatever I was reading to dive into that book which now deals with modern armor and will be the subject of the present review.
(Note: all four Tank Art books have now been re-edited, but I haven’t seen them, so the reviews you see here are all from 1st editions).
For those not familiar with the series, I encourage you to read reviews of the first two tomes (Volume One here and Volume Two here). I’ll state it upfront though: the Tank Art series is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting and certainly the most inspiring modelling book I’ve ever seen. They’re fantastic books and every AFV modeller should have them.
Physically, the book is 8.5 by 9.5 inches. It’s 224 pages long with high-quality, full-color pictures. The binding is made to lay flat on your bench and the book pages and cover are made with a matt lamination that makes for an apparently more durable book, although I will confess I haven’t experienced any durability issues with the previous two books and I’m using them fairly often.
In addition to forewords and intro, the book is made of 10 chapters:
- Products & Materials
- Weathering Principles
- Combining HS & OPR
- Pigment Application
- (Project) D9R Armored Dozer
- (Project) T-62M1 Main Battle Tank
- (Project) AMX-30B Main Battle Tank
- (Project) FV221 Caernarvon
- (Project) T-72B (Model 1989) MBT
- Guest modeler Andy Taylor (Project) MT-LB
As per the series’ custom, the book feature a guest author, in this case Andy Taylor. Contrary to the previous two volumes, this time instead of figures the project is a full-fledged model, an MT-LB, and Taylor’s skills are just as stunning as Rinaldi’s (and should be praised for making such a gem out of a Skif kit). So all in all it’s SIX full projects that are included in the book.
As their name implies, the first four chapters deals with technical aspects while the remaining six covers specific projects. Although I won’t cover the content of them all, some points are worth making: In Products and Materials, Rinaldi points out his approach toward weathering products: the important thing is to understand what a product does, how it works, how best to make use of it and experiment with it. The point is not about having the latest product, it’s about finding how to best represent reality in scale.
In Combining HS & OPR, Rinaldi puts forth how his approach to weathering has matured from a thorough exploration of a wide range of ‘traditionnal’ techniques including filters and washes. Rinaldi explains how he consolidated this into a simpler yet more flexible approach by the combined usage of the hairspray technique (“HS”) and oil paint rendering (“OPR”). Oils, in particular, are presented as the ultimate weathering medium that can replace many common techniques, provided it is correctly employed.
While I won’t dig into each projects, let it be said for the record that every single one of them is a great read. It should also be mentioned that the focus is almost exclusively set on painting and weathering (With two exceptions: Rinaldi provides more insight on construction of the T-72, almost a 10-years standing shelf queen, and it’s just as interesting and refreshing to see him dwell on this other fundamental aspect of the hobby. Andy Taylor also dwell more extensively on how he detailed his extraordinary MT-LB) but each project do start with some notes and highlights on construction. The projects also features a full resin kit, the Caernarvon (I haven’t the faintest idea how to pronounce that word).
With this book, Rinaldi is fine-tuning his approach and definitely adopts the hairspray technique and oil paint rendering as cornerstone techniques to his impressively wide range of techniques. Although he dealt extensively with these two techniques in TA1 and TA2, and even though his mastery of these techniques was already very impressive in these books, it seems to me the way he conceives them and integrate them into the two overriding principles of his modelling, namely artistic scale-ism and layering, is getting even clearer and easier to grasp.
(Side note: artistic scale-ism is a funny word coined by Rinaldi to express the fact that the most important factor in modeling is to make sure that anything you do, whether it’s historically accurate or not, is to make sure it looks right in scale. In other word, while you can debate whether paint chips on a MBT are realistic, make sure those chips are well rendered and properly scaled if you do chose to have them.)
On the other hand, the more I dig into the book, the more I realize Rinaldi’s approach to painting and weathering is really that of a master and resonate more on the side of fine arts.
Now, even though I won’t hide being extremely admiring of and inspired by Rinaldi’s work, I don’t say this merely as a compliment: I also want to point out that in my humble opinion, truly grasping the author’s approach and applying it effectively to one’s work isn’t like following recepies. It’s about getting a strong foundation on color theory and a good eye for properly mixing them, it’s about understanding the specific qualities of the products you are using, it’s about experimenting various techniques and, above all, it’s about practicing.
The best analogy I can think of is that of cooking. You can turn out very tasty dishes with a good cook book, but to be a master chef, you need to go much further into your knowledge of ingredients, chemistry and the science of taste. Of course these aren’t mutually exclusive, but in my opinion the Tank Art series is more aimed at the second kind of knowledge (although the author does provide a wide range of technical information and provide numerous tips for some very specific techniques).
Maybe quoting the author on this will better illustrate what I mean:
“There is so much more than just the simple application of a technique, it is not a robotic endeavor and getting you (the modeler) to challenge yourself, to not fear making mistakes, to push yourself to new levels is all part of this for me.”
I guess I must be on the right path: I got the “making mistakes” part nailed pretty good! Interestingly, the author himself does experiment a bit of a bumpy ride while attempting to perform some HS chipping on the T-72 project and take that opportunity to share his thoughts on the matter. Yet another learning opportunity!
All this to say that Rinaldi’s book is a very, very nice book. The projects are absolutely stunning, comments and pictures are highly inspiring, and the overall quality of the book itself is -almost- beyond reproach. Almost because we keep seeing typos. Not a big deal but like I said for TA2, it kind of clashes with the otherwise stellar all-around qualities of the book.
There are also a couple of ads. I’m guessing few will care about this, but strictly as a personal opinion, to me a book is a special contact with an author. In a world where we are constantly subjected to ads (a massive understatement), a book used to be a quiet place free of these things. Ads invariably add a layer of ‘Hey! Products Products Products! You Buy Now!’. At the very least, I’d place them at the end of the book, not at the beginning, and certainly not among the intro pages. But hey, that is just me. If these ads means more freedom for RSP to keep producing such amazing books, more power to them.
Highest possible recommendations. Every AFV modeler should get all of the Tank Arts volumes and modern armor modelers are committing a serious offense by not rush-ordering Tank Art 3. (As a side note, I believe volume 1 is re-edited with more pages to include Lester Plaskitt’s fantastic Drilling 251. If I didn’t possess the first edition already I’d get it right away!).
Michael Rinaldi, Tank Art Vol. 3, Modern Armor, Rinaldi Studio Press, 2014, 224 pages.
Available at www.rinaldistudiopress.com.
Images courtesy of Rinaldi Studio Press.