Saturday, April 18

Read n' reviewed: David Parker's Crew School: Techniques to Bring Your Armour Model Crews to Life

It is always good to get tips from the creators in this hobby, and you could say that David Parker is a very good candidate to follow in that respect. His work on unique scenes that tell stories with the help of the figures he creates and modifies is second to none. Thankfully for all of us he has written an educational book on just this subject, and we have read it to give you an account of just what is inside in today's review...

David Parker's Crew School - Techniques to Bring Your Armour Model Crews to Life
Published by: AFV Modeller Ltd
English Language 
Format Paperback
Dimensions 210 x 297 x 7.62mm
112 pages
Colour photographs throughout
Price: £25.00
Product Link on the AFV Modeller Website
The latest book from AFV Publications comes from the author of several previous titles and their high-quality magazine "AFV Modeller". Mr David Parker is a very well known modeller not only in the UK, but right around the world, and his new book "David Parker’s Crew School: Techniques to bring your armour model crews to life" sees him sharing his hard-learned knowledge of making new and adapting existing figures to fit your own dioramas and model scenes.

In this review we will first look at the book in its physical form, then a walkthrough of chapter to chapter, then I will tell you what we think about it at the end - pretty straightforward right? 

OK let's go...

The book in its physical form.

The book comes in a matte finish softcover that encases 112 pages on a good quality semi-sheen paper stock. The book measures up at 210mm x 297mm x 7.62mm (A4 size), and it is filled with (a little smallish) text and good quality photos. A combination of step by step (SBS) articles and small galleries of finished works from the author. It has a quality feel and look throughout.
Page by page...
The Synopsys of the book is deftly explained in the introduction pages. Mr Parker takes us through his aims of the book, and how by adding the simple suggestions to stock figures and careful upgrading and painting your model kits and therefore stories told inside them can be improved upon greatly...
The author gives us the first step of the modeller's technique that we can all do with more help - painting faces - in the first chapter of the book. The introduction of how he selects his paints and the step by step (SBS) process of ver six pages. He does not miss a step in the explanation of his technique, which when broken down and shown graphically like this is a cinch to follow for the reader. 
Mr Parker also talks about how to paint different coloured subjects and larger figures (1/16th & 1/10th as an example) and he denotes in text and illustrated pictures the slight variations in the approach he uses when going up in scale and size and realism required.
Next, we talk about the second most important part of the figure - the uniform that covered the body. Illustrations of his "two shades" method of figure painting we looked at with the faces are again shown to great detail in plain coloured clothing. When it comes to camouflage-patterned uniforms we learn his process of working from base to the last colour to create what I can see here as a very realistic result.
The author talks us through a smart solution to finding just the right figures for the right tank. The simplicity of finding the right poses to fit your scenario and then altering them to fit the scene correctly is discussed in detail here. David shows us a few variations of this in practice, ith larger pictures and smaller detail shot both painted and through his creation progress denoting with pointed text or captions. A great way to get to the point of what is illustrated in the block text.
It hurts me to see good figures from Alpine Miniatures carved up, but the author shows us just how to modify these to perhaps an even better result in the next section of this book. Using putty and copper wire and careful selection of figures poses and sculpting we see how to devise, shape, sculpt and paint these two to make something we only thought figure sculptors could create. It all seems simpler when shown and explained to in such a way.
We join the dots between the copper wire skeleton and the full-bodied figure next. Mr  Parker shows us how he sculpts the parts that he is substituting to look like real creased, crumpled and crushed clothing showing a detailed numbered series of photographs pointing out just where the folds and bends in clothing happen. He then shows us how he replicates them with a myriad of homemade and off the shelf tools to create the look and feel of real movement and cloth on the body.
A small scene of workers on a WWI assembly line and a crew of two IDF tankers in their Merkava. These are adapted from a (MiniArt?) WWII Russian tankers crew and a lot of change is seen, described, denoted and pointed out along the way but the modeller.  Mr Parker gives us insightful tips of his own during the process from wire and plastic through to sculpting, shaping and finishing these figures. The subject matter that is pointed out are varied and a lesson is learned with every small section of the book.
It almost looks too easy in the next section of pages. we look at there soldiers in a scene with a WWI-era Holt tractor as the Author shows and tells us through his choices and methods in making what he describes as quite simple while others might disagree on the end result looking simple to create.
David puts together a few of his figure creations using mannequins next. Simple wire and plastic skeletal frames sold by AFV Modeller come ready with lace-up shoes and heads. He sculpts the clothes, moves the poses into creative and natural positions and body language situations as he describes each picture with informative text. Working from smaller and simpler sculpts with just thick clothing to larger 1/16th scale figures with layers of clothing on the body the text and photographs communicate clearly and helpfully and the reader tends to learn a lot from this approach.
From a basic tutorial on mannequins to something a lot more substantial is next. The 35th scale King Tiger crew are brought from their basic poses to life with the explanation of how to add features such as belts, collars, ribbed texture on a roll neck jumper, insignia, shoulder boards and even objects in a pocket in a great step by step serial of several pages. We then are treated to some painting tutelage and a picture of the completed figures not he tank in a realistic to scale (and dramatic thanks to the poses) scene by the modeller.
A pair of Panther crewmen in a quite static pose, and a french crew of a Hotchkiss 39 and a lovely onlooker are included in the mannequin tutorials with the same amount of care and attention to learning from the author.

The crew of another Panther are next, this time with the dynamic pose of a "shell slinger" as the figure is sculpted to recreate movement and drama. Mr Parker takes us through his methods and inclusions of materials to improve on simple putty and wire. The result is as good as the learning provided here.
A well-known scene has to be done right! and this scene of the Kaiserbaracke road junction on the N23 road between St Vith and Malmedy during the Ardennes Offensive in '44/ '45 is well known to this and many other modellers. The larger-scale 1/16th set of figures made from scratch to suit the Kubelwagen that Mr Parker has made rally did impress me when I saw them for sale as a set. Now we get to see their creation from 1/16th scale mannequins to the finished pair of very realistic figures in the book.  David talks and shows us the challenges fo making the figures fit naturally to the Eduard Schwimmwagen, and the additions to the sculpt with extra materials in this in-depth picture and text step by step. 

The quality of the finished sculpts and the steps to painting them and the map in this scene are top of the line, and the SBS learning in pictures and text invite the reader into the thought process and composition of the figures - it made me think about how I would do my own in a far smarter way. We end the model making with the scene, the Schwimm and figures painted and weathered up very nicely indeed.
I don't know if I would like this at the start of the book or here at the end, but I was wondering just what materials (exactly) that Mr Parker was using for his sculpting, carving, shaping and figure work and here in the appendix at rear of the book we get just that. Thank you - excellent inclusion.
That's all he wrote...
This book is over one hundred pages of solid and engaging learning that is genuinely entertaining to read and well put together in a schmick package. Mr Parker is a smart author and he certainly has the modelling skills to back it up in spades. You see it all here, but more importantly, you learn a lot about how he thinks about it and executes the end result.

I don't want to go into hyperbole about my appreciation of the lessons learnt in this book so I won't. I can say that the learning here is delivered thoughtfully and concisely and the value of reading this book will last long past the reading of the contents - far beyond it.

Adam Norenberg

Thanks to AFV Modeller for sending out his book for us to read and review. If you like this title you can purchase it directly from this link on the AFV Modeller Website.