The present review was initially published on modeling website Track-Link in 2015 and deals with the fourth volume of Rinaldi Studio Press Tank Art series, by author Michael Rinaldi. The first three volumes dealt with Axis, Allies, then Modern subject, in that order, and the fourth volume marks the return of the series to axis subjects.
(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 based on 1st editions).
For those not familiar with the series, I can only encourage you to read the reviews I did on the first three volumes (You can find the links to those at the end of this review) You’ll immediately see that there’s a constant trend in these reviews: the books are awesome, and volume 4 is no different as far as I’m concerned. 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 matte lamination that makes for an apparently more durable book. I haven’t had any durability issues so far with the other three books of the series, books that I keep returning to quite often.
- Technique Proficiency
- Winter Whitewash
- Sdkfz 182 Tiger II
- SdKfz 164 Nashorn
- SdKfz 138/1 Grille ausf M
- Sturminfanteriegeschutz 33B
- Guest author Mario Eens – PsKpfw B2 740(f)
The author’s focus is mostly on finishing, although I get the feeling volume 4 devotes a bit more space to construction notes (a good thing). It shows how Rinaldi envisions this part of modeling and what are his thoughts about the many paths one can take. Just as finishing, there is plenty of creative thinking going into this, too, and it’s good to see this all-important aspect of our hobby treated in some length.
While the content list above shows five ‘full’ projects, it should be noted that the Winter Whitewash part deals with four vehicles that almost qualifies as full projects, for a total of nine builds being presented in some depth. The part titled ‘Technique Proficiency’ is wrapping many common techniques in a quick summary kind of format. It covers pinkwash, blending, hairspray chipping, whitewash chipping, mapping, pigments use, speckling, disc camo application, whitewash application and a three-steps panzer gray application process.
The book, just like the preceding three, features among the best models I’ve personally seen. It does so with great details, using high-quality pictures, again using the faint focus circles to draw the reader’s attention on what is being mentioned in the accompanying “thoughts on…” sections. Michael Rinaldi certainly ranks among the best modelers in the world (and God knows there are good modelers out there!) and Tank Art provides you with the opportunity to look at a master’s work in great details, all around. This, in itself, is a unique opportunity that can only be topped by seeing the model in person, which is obviously not something that is easy or even remotely feasible for a lot of us.
Quoting my earlier review of Tank Art 1: “[T]he books most interesting appeal is from its text […]. 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.” This is still very true on TA 4. The read is fascinating because it really gets you in the front seat of modeling. Being a super busy father of two, I don’t get nearly as much bench time as I would like, and frankly, to me, the Tank Art series comes as a relief to get into modeling in almost as satisfying a way as when I get down to modeling myself – almost!
With TA 4 Rinaldi sets the series at cruising speed and stabilizes the sort of benefit one may expect from following it volume after volume. Obviously, there are a lot of things that are repeated over time, from books to books, but it really doesn’t sound repetitive at all to me. I think this has to do with the author’s philosophy to consider each project carefully and avoid sticking to sweeping ‘recipes’. Rinaldi pushes this philosophy of keeping his pieces’ story at the forefront of the entire modeling process at all time. And so the reader is being told is great details what is the kind of questions the author considers. Likewise, Rinaldi approaches his subject in segments and carefully consider the appropriate treatment toward the overall intent of the piece. For instance, the right-hand side of the chassis will not necessarily look like the left-hand side. Why? Maybe because the vehicle only skimmed a water puddle on the left. That, just like any other weathering detail you may add, is part of the story. In the end, the author suggests, don’t just apply a technique. Think about the effect you want to achieve, and how that effect is relevant to the story you wish to tell.
From a purely technical point of view, Rinaldi pulls a couple of nice feats to prove some of his points. First, he weathers an entire model’s exterior (the stunning Grille ausf M) using only Oil Paint Rendering (a.k.a. OPR). No washes, no pigments, no nothing except OPR. And the result is gorgeous. But as if to prove his point about going for the story first and not over-focusing on any specific technique, he does the exact opposite and completely skips OPR on the next project, the equally stunning Sturminfantriegeschütz 33B. And again, although Rinaldi does mention which products he uses, he insists that products are just a means to an end, just as technique is (he falls back on good ol’ dry brushing a couple of times!).
And finally, a word on Mario Eens’s work. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, but having a guest modeler is a wonderful idea, period. It’s great to see different approaches to similar objectives and just looking at alternate ways of achieving intended results. It would be great to see an entire Tank Artbook of guest authors eventually. There are a lot of guys I would be interested in reading and learning from following Rinaldi’s approach.
There are no real downsides in my opinion with this book. We still see a couple of typos, I’d say above average for a book of this quality. I’ve read that some people find Rinaldi’s style of writing a bit arid, which I can understand, but at the same time, the author dwells into some of the more subtle aspects of modeling which do require more substantial writing I would say. Apart from that, I did find the ‘Technical Proficiency’ section layout a wee bit confusing. It packs a lot of content with some light-on-light body of text making it harder to read. No big deal but worth mentioning.
I said if for the first three volumes and will say it again here: Tank Art volume 4 is yet again one of best modeling book I’ve personally ever read, and I feel any AFV modeler will gain something out of it. It is inspiring, informative and exceedingly well-made all-around. In my opinion, it is well worth the price and should be on anyone’s shelf. Highly recommended.
Useful Links & References
Book provided by Rinaldi Studio Press for review purpose.
- Softcover: 224 pages
- Publisher: Rinaldi Studio Press (November 20, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-13: 978-0988336346
- Dimensions: 8,5 x 9,5 inches
- On Rinaldi Studio Press.