Eagerly anticipated by many, this latest offering from probably the highest profile AFV modeller of the last ten years has now been published by AK Interactive, the enterprise with which Mig Jimenez is now engaged. It is of course the follow up to his highly successful “FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions of the AFV Painting Techniques” published in 2005 by Andrea Press, but now out of print for some time. I only obtained a copy of FAQ1 earlier this year, managing to buy a relatively cheap used edition, and I have to admit that I loved it… and what I loved best was not so much the individual step by step guides to the techniques, but more Mig’s philosophy and approach to the hobby of modelling. In some ways it is one of liberation, constantly seeking not to be constrained, to demystify the increasing complexity of the hobby, to freely practise and understand the techniques first hand, and above all to make the models for ones’ self. So, how does FAQ2 follow on from FAQ1?
I suppose one of the main things that an owner of FAQ1 will want to know is how much of the same ground is re-covered? Before looking at content however, let me say straight away that although the two books are virtually the same size and shape, FAQ2 is about 50 pages longer and is more densely laid out, with longer blocks of text, and in a smaller font – so there is considerably more content, and in fact it comes over as a bit of a tome, unlike FAQ1 which was a relatively light read.
Mig attempts to describe the way in which he intends FAQ2 to relate to FAQ1: “The present book is not exactly the second part of the book… as much as an update of that book. It is possible to say that FAQ1 is now obsolete, because things have changed so much.”(p19, FAQ2) It’s interesting to look back at what he said six years ago in FAQ1: “Maybe in the year 2012, a modeller will use this old book as an example of what not to do in modelling…” (p30, FAQ1).
Unlike FAQ1, there is essentially nothing on construction at all. For some modellers, construction is the thing they like best, while Mig is clearly not too inspired by all that fiddling around and just wants to paint! The fairly short survey of materials that leads the main content of the book does reflect the developments that have taken place in recent years in terms of the number of specialised weathering materials that are now on the market.
- Priming: now a proper section with meaningful advice and discussion of various types of primer and application methods; similar section in FAQ1 was virtually pointless.
- Base Colour: more options and recommendations explored, but relatively brief still.
- Colour Modulation: OK, this is a big section and modulation was totally absent from FAQ1. I think this is certainly the best explanation I have seen of this, and it is comprehensive indeed, offering several examples with differing degrees and purposes of modulation. Some very nice photos.
- Panelling: briefly includes outlining techniques and also using masks and modulation type methods.
- Washes and Filters: two sections, relatively brief; as Mig says: “This is one of those techniques that have been explained over and over again a thousand times” and it was covered in FAQ1.
- Streaking: covers in some depth both grime streaks as well as running rust streaks. Rain comes later.
- Oil techniques: quite interesting that Mig sees oil paint as a medium that has gained increasing significance for AFV modelling; here he explores some techniques with AFVs that relate to those used with figures, such as shading and highlights.
- Rain Marks: essentially more streaks but watery and subtle.
- Hairspray: aka Chipping Fluid. One of the happening techniques of the moment, and it gets over twenty pages with detailed techniques and variations explained. No-one will be able to resist trying it out after reading this section.
- Chipping: lots here too - principles; with a brush (8 pages on that!); sponge; more hairspray; salt.
- Rust: not expanded a great deal in terms of technique over FAQ1, though developed with newer materials and more theory, but I do think what he writes at the end of this section is spot on and quite inspirational…
- Dust: better than the dusting section in FAQ1, which I thought a bit vague.
- Mud: was big in FAQ1, but more explanation appears here, as well as new materials used.
- Oil and Fuel: “Theory of oil” – nice explanation and source photos, though mostly concerned with how to use AK Interactive products specific to this purpose, not more generic materials – more on that later.
- Tracks: goes into painting finishes with acrylics, acrylics-enamel- pigments, Blacken-It, and painting spare links.
- Special effects: a section mixing metal effects, leaves, transfers, headlamps, wheel masks (here again using a product, nothing on making your own – although he is very much into speeding things up so you can get on with the painting!)
- Painting Accessories: here we get several pages a bit more in the style of FAQ1, i.e. big step by step photos with less text, but very useful (in my view) and I would suggest getting in there and copying in order to learn from them. Four pages on oil drums alone, three on jerry cans, then ammo boxes, helmets, buckets, guns, sacks etc….
- Simple dioramas: 45 pages starts off with some quick techniques using DAS clay and then goes into really quite a lot of theory about the composition of elements within a diorama, using lots of arrows and circles. I have to admit that I wasn’t totally convinced by all of what is written, though it is undoubtedly a good thing to bring the subject to the fore and get people thinking about it. I suspect one either has a feeling for getting composition right, or not – and if not, reading this might not necessarily help you to get that feeling. Though part of a section titled “simple dioramas” there are then some more complex scenes with multiple elements, guidance on painting buildings, and detailed (and very nice) techniques for ground effects.
- Gallery: another 45 pages, and you know what to expect here; high quality models to admire and be inspired by, some of which I recognised as having seen before, while others were new to me.
I could honestly say that after owning FAQ1 for a week or so I had actually read most of the words it contained, but with FAQ2 I have to admit I haven’t managed that after a month. As stated, this is a significantly more wordy book than FAQ1. Mig specifically says that he wanted to address some of the weaknesses of FAQ1, so here there is more in-depth description, and the contents has been structured to provide a more complete explanation of the variations of an overall technique, rather than the FAQ-type series of questions on how to achieve particular results. The rendering of Mig’s text has been improved in terms of the quality of the English (sub-edited by Iain Hamilton), and though that’s beneficial in terms of making it understandable (there were some very odd passages in FAQ1) it still sounds like Mig, and that’s got to be a good thing. I especially like it when he gets all philosophical and theoretical.
Another aspect of FAQ1 that he states he wanted to improve on is in the quality of the layout, printing and photos. I have to say that I am not totally convinced this has been achieved and is really my only reservation about the book. The size and shape of the book remains and the paper is a bit nicer (although it was OK before). The font is similar size but lighter, and in the big blocks of text I found it a little hard to read, though I know really this is my middle aged eyes. Then however there is the photos: in FAQ1 the photos were mostly a minimum of around 88mm x 63mm, which was eight to a page; in FAQ 2, in many instances photos of 54mm x 40mm are used in order to fit 18 to a page, and in many instances this seems to me to be just too small.
As stated above, many of the models featured as examples have been seen in public before. Extensive use is made of his 2010 Euro Militaire silver medal winner Panther II, and his Afrika Korps DIANA kit and stunning Opel Blitz were both subjects in his excellent “migjimenez.blogspot.com” (I recommend you subscribe as a feed so you get notified of updates). It is unfortunate really that if you look at the blog, where you can pop out the pictures to full screen size, it can serve to highlight the weakness of some of the photos as presented in the book where it can be hard to see clear and close in detail. Another example from the book to contrast, I suppose, with the small photos, is the magnificent close up over two pages of the front end of that Blitz, where you can really see in detail just how it has been painted, and it is quite fascinating. There are, needless to say, many other large and excellent photos throughout, so this is not a problem all the way through, but I did find myself peering at some of them, wishing they were bigger.
I suppose if there was another reservation, it might be that some parts can come across almost as a bit of an advert for AK Interactive products, and I suppose some might consider this to be an area where Mig has some “previous form”. It is by no means all the way through, and most of the time it is obvious that “other products are available”, but as noted above, the section on oil stains pretty much concentrates on using AK Interactive’s “Engine Oil”, “Engine Grime” and “Fuel Stains” products and similarly AK’s “Fresh Mud” and “Dust Effects” feature very prominently in the Mud section. You may, if you have memories of past controversies of this nature, smile when you read that the finest and purest pigments produced are AK’s (I remember another company once going to some lengths to back up a similar claim), and there is a side by side comparison showing the superiority of the AK Interactive metal pigment compared to the Mig Productions item. Sparmax airbrushes, it’s nice to see, get a strong recommendation on the basis that you don’t have to pay big money to get a decent airbrush.
If you have FAQ1, you won’t be disappointed if you buy this as well. If you don’t have FAQ1 but wish you could still buy it, then buy FAQ2 and you too won’t be disappointed - and you can always keep an eye out for a used FAQ1. Why have just one big book by Mig, when you can have two?
Informative, absorbing, inspirational and about as deep as you can get on this subject, this is to be highly recommended despite my reservations. Now, did you get in there quickly enough to lay hands on a signed copy? (Like me – yes!)