One could certainly say it’s a little late in the game to be writing a review of Michael Rinaldi’s first TankArt volume. The book has been out for a while now, and it has been surrounded with quite the hype. You’ve probably made the decision whether to buy it or not already, and no doubt a sizable quantity of previews/reviews has helped you with that decision. A book of this quality deserves all the attention it can get, and here’s my take on it.
(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).
The first thing that must be said about TankArt is that it is a beautiful book. The author is a professional graphic designer and it shows. The visual unity and purity of design is remarkable and makes for a collector book. Thus, its appeal is not solely for modelers, but anyone who likes nice books.
In addition to a foreword and introduction, the 207 pages-long book is made of the following chapters:
- Products & Materials
- Weathering Principles
- Hairspray Technique
- Oil Paint Rendering
- [Model] Befhels Panther ausf G
- [Model] Tiger Initial Production
- [Model] Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer
- [Model] SdKfz 251/22 Pakwagen (1:48 scale)
- [Model] Panzer IV ausf E DAK
- Figure (special guest Marijn Van Gils)
In the first part of the book, the author discusses various modeling principles that guide his practice. He then goes into more details for two of them, namely the now quite popular hairspray technique, and oil paint rendering. Then Rinaldi presents various models. We follow the progression of each project in an informal step by step process, which is also recapped at the end of the chapter in a quick reference two-pager. I believe this is the format that was initially planned for the TankArt series as a whole.
The pictures are of excellent quality, and we get some very close shots of various details. The models are exceptional pieces by any standards, and shows without a doubt that the author is a master modeler with a strong inclination for finishing. There is something to be learned just by looking at those pictures.
Yet the book most interesting appeal is from its text, for many reasons. Not only is the book full of it, but the way it is laid out is quite well thought out. You get a general linear text for the subject at hand and you also get a vast array of “thoughts” on various details. The superposition of the two makes for an insightful approach that delivers quite a lot of content.
One major strength of the book is thus to let you contemplate the author’s thought process in detail. Rinaldi seems to be asking himself all sort of question on everything he does. Every angle, nook and crannies are treated the way they are to support the story the modeler has in mind. Here leaving certain details off or undefined in order to avoid distracting the viewer; there adding an unusual stain to do just the opposite.
In my opinion, this is where the book shines: Rinaldi shares all of his thoughts on modelling, from the particular execution of a technique to more general aesthetics principles he applies as a modeler. For me at least, this is where the book made a most powerful impression. The tone of the text is also interesting, in that it reminds me of other masters, in various field of endeavor: a peculiar mix of franchise, very precise comments, humility and confidence.
The last chapter of the book is written by special guest and renowned figure painter Marijn van Gils. Here the format is roughly like the whole book: some general principles at first, and a couple of detail projects with a focus on specific aspects of figure painting. The guest author is a very interesting idea that brings some fresh perspective on a related topic.
Not much really. There are very few points to note in terms of lows, but they do exists. First, the size of the text may be challenging to those with impaired eyesight. It is very small indeed. Second, there is a slightly higher than average number of typos which isn’t quite up the rest of the content’s absolute excellence. I’m inclined to think that that one last proofreading pass which would probably have taken 90% of the remaining typos wasn’t done due to lack of production time. TankArt vol.1 is Rinaldi Studio Press’ first book.
A remarkable book, both visually and content wise. Anyone into AFV modelling will get something out of it, and it is a definite must for all military modelers’ library. I look forward to vol.2 WWII Allied armor (even more so to vol.3 modern! ), and the only question that remains is how will the second book manage to be as good and satisfying as the first. Very highly recommended.
Michael Rinaldi, Tank Art vol. 1 – WWII Axis Armor, Rinaldi Studio Press, 2013, 207 pages.
The book is available at www.rinaldistudiopress.com.
This review was originally published on April 2013 on Track-Link modeling site. Images courtesy of Rinaldi Studio Press.