Friday 21 February 2020

Book Review: The Art and Making of Fantasy Miniatures by Jamie Kendall

As a wargames miniatures sculptor, it is always interesting to see how other sculptors and companies work, what their motivation is and how they design their miniatures. So this book was bound to end up in my collection.

When the book arrived, the first impression was that it was clearly a "coffee table" book. Large, hardcovered and full of lavish colour photographs and illustrations. On the initial flick through the book, I was a little surprised at the minimal amount of text included.

The book is split into eleven main chapters, each focusing on a different figure manufacturer. 

Now, it soon becomes apparent that the different companies included have each written their own content, and unfortunately some of them have really only given the bare minimum. This leaves their chapters as little more than glorified ads, just showing off lots of photos of their miniatures and giving the briefest introduction to their ranges. However, the better chapters go into quite a lot more detail on the design ethos that the various companies used, with comments from both the owners and the production team/artists involved. Some of the insights are very interesting and really help to understand how individual figures and indeed ranges of figures have been designed.

The same mix of quality is reflected in the artwork on display. Some pages seem like nothing more than images lifted from the companies own catalogues whereas other show artwork taking a figure from a rough sketch right through to the finished 3-dimensional model. 

The choice of different manufacturers is quite interesting, with a mix from the smallest resin and white metal cast operations up to larger-scale companies that work with plastic injection moulding. I will say that most of the companies are working with quite a characterful style which will certainly not be to everyone's taste. Many of the figures featured seem to have been designed using the exaggerated manga/comic-book styling which personally does not appear to me in the least. Obviously, the author must have approached these companies and asked if they wished to be featured in the book, and I assume that he may well have spoken to other companies too. Some kind of explanation for his choice would have been very interesting, especially as he seems to specifically have avoided most of the bigger names in the industry.

So, overall I was a little disappointed with this book. There is no doubt that it has some luscious artwork and makes a beautiful coffee table book, however, the actual content is thin on the ground and in some sections, extremely disappointing. If any of the companies involved are favourites then it may be worth picking up purely for the figure planning insights that they give, but don't expect a beginning to end guide, explaining sculpting, mould-making and manufacture, as those aspects are not covered at all. In the introduction, the author does mention that he plans/hopes to write a second volume to accompany it. Let's hope that it has a bit more substance than this one...

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