by: Mario Matijasic [ ]
You just finished your last model masterpiece and the only thing missing are the crew figures. Adding the “human touch” to military vehicles and dioramas would surely bring your model to the next level, but you are reluctant to take that step. You are still struggling with painting figures and besides, a suitable figure for your project just doesn’t exist on the market.
AFV Modeller has just the thing you need to upgrade your figure modeling skills: David Parker’s Crew School, a book covering techniques to bring your armor model crews to life.
The book is presented in A4 format, soft cover, and spans over 112 pages. It is printed on high quality paper, features a beautiful layout and is packed with large and clear images. The accompanying text was printed in a rather small font which strained my eyes, perhaps it is time for me to get a pair of reading glasses.
The book opens with a short introduction in which David Parker, the author, presents the aim of this title: to provide a guide to making the most of the vehicle crew figures by showing simple techniques to adapt stock figures and then developing these techniques through to more advanced sculpting solutions, as well as to provide basic figure painting techniques which should help overcome the fear of face and uniform painting.
The book continues onto what probably presents the biggest barrier for most modelers to using figures… painting faces. This chapter delivers a quick and simple “two shades” approach to miniature 1/35 scale face painting, using a rather small palette of colors. Along with covering the basics like brushes, paints and paint mixing, there are two very comprehensive step-by-step guides which provide large images and captions explaining the procedure in detail. This chapter also deals with darker skin colors, as well as some particularities of painting larger scale faces. The next section covers painting uniforms, again using the “two shades” approach and step-by-step guides. Tips and tricks to painting complex camouflage uniforms are included as well.
Adaptation, conversion, sculpting
Several examples in this section clearly demonstrate how even a small modification to a commercial figure can make a unique looking piece. It is all about choosing the miniature based on its pose rather than specific uniform or the time frame of the figure, and adapting it to a specific project using a resin replacement head, as well as by adding simple details to the uniform. Although adapting figures is something many modelers probably feel is out of their comfort zone, this chapter provides an exceptional inspiration to take the plunge and start with the modifications.
The following chapters go a step further, showing how converting commercial figures can influence the overall appearance of the model and help in telling the story. Small sections of copper wire can be used to reposition arms to achieve a desired pose, filling the gaps and resculpting missing detail. A section on creating creases and sculpting fabric provides a very informative step-by-step which can help during the process.
Next up are even more challenging projects which include using wire armature to create completely new miniatures. Sculpting figures does not have to be daunting, especially as commercially available resin heads and hands take the most demanding elements out of the equation. On the other hand, creating custom figures provides modelers with the huge opportunity to pose the miniatures as desired, to position them realistically and naturally inside the turret cupola, and to suit any scenario. The possibilities for storytelling are immense. Working with mannequins offers advantages over wire armature skeletons because the scale anatomy of the mannequin is already established and there is no need to waste time and energy on “dressing” up the wire armature with the generalized limb shapes. Two step-by-step projects in this section clearly display and explain the process of turning large scale mannequins into panzer crewmen… positioning the limbs, slowly building up the figure, sculpting the uniform and its details, etc. Finally, the section showcases several additional projects in both 1/35 and 1/16 scale, which offer great examples of going through basic posing and adding the details while relying on commercial heads, hands and feet. Detailed step-by-step sequences are included.
This short section displays the tools of the trade. The author provides tips for on how to work with sculpting putty, both Magic Sculp and Green Stuff, as well as their properties. Sculpting tools, brushes, paints are covered as well. Most importantly, the author delivers a take home message for all the aspiring crew figure modelers: don’t be reluctant to try new techniques to improve your skills and then practice to achieve the desired results.
Immediately after seeing the first announcement on “David Parker’s Crew School”, I knew I had to have the book. As a big fan of David’s work, my expectations for this title were extremely high… and upon reading it cover to cover, I have to say I’m very impressed.
Before turning to modeling military vehicles, I used to be a figure painter. My modeling library holds a selection of figure modeling books, majority of those aimed at large scale figure painters. Elaborate painting techniques presented in those books, however, are often too complex for 1/35 scale military vehicle modelers. Besides, topics like converting, adapting and resculpting figures are rarely tackled. David Parker’s Crew School fills that void perfectly. Along with providing a simple guide for painting figures, the book really shines when it comes to modifying miniatures. The techniques are easy to follow, with the step-by-step sequences and finished projects providing inspiration. It is really amazing to see how even the smallest changes to a commercial figure can add to the character, and how simple modifications can help in storytelling. I’m definitely interested to try it myself.