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Osprey Masterclass, Advanced Terrain Modelling. By Richard Windrow. Hard cover, spiral-bound, 8 x 9.75-inches, 192 pages. Contains one B&W and 353 color photos, three line drawings, index and sources list. ISBN 978-1-84176-975-2. Price: $29.95 USD.
Back in the Year of Our Lord 2001, a book of near-Biblical proportions was released by this author in Osprey’s Masterclass series, entitled appropriately enough “Terrain Modelling”. It was a “revelation” in that what the author and his “disciples” presented would help to allow the modeler to “create” his own natural environment for the model or figurines of his choice. Gone forever were the days of using lichen to represent foliage; the bar had been raised towards the heavens.
Now, a follow-up book has appeared so that those who do not have a copy of what should be considered as the “Bible” on the subject, can now procure an up-dated version. For those fortunate enough to have the original book (or “Old Testament”; how far can I carry this analogy, anyway?!), fear naught; there is more than enough new content in this title to make it a worthwhile addition to the library.
This book is divided into eight chapters as follows:
1. Materials, Tools and Techniques.
2. A First World War Trench.
3. A Motte-and-Bailey Castle.
4. Fall in the Forest.
6. A Walled Garden.
7. A Second World War Street.
One main difference between the two editions is the emphases on modeling various structures, from a tranquil English walled garden and an early Norman wood castle, to a destroyed German city street. So, there is a great deal of information presented on constructing such things as brick walls, wooden palisades, thatch-roofed houses and city dwellings. Another section provides information on how to create a typical trench section from the Great War.
By far, my favorite chapter is entitled “Fall in the Forest”. In this section, the author takes the modeler step-by-step through various techniques used to create a forest floor, complete with trees, windfalls, undergrowth, moss, rock formations, detritus, and various flora. The remarkable thing here is how completely convincing the finished piece is, complete with two Native Americans on a scouting mission for their British allies.
The chapter on Techniques shows how to create ice and snow effects, how to create incredibly realistic trees of any kind, tidal flats complete with mud and brackish water, and even a forced-perspective box diorama. Interspersed throughout this chapter are photographs of actual natural features; the remarkable thing here is how closely the models resemble the images of the real thing. It is easy to become confused; that’s how good this man is at his craft!
The opening chapter discusses tools and materials. These items include tailor-made modeler’s products, as well as natural materials, all of which can be used virtually at will for nearly any effect imaginable. Not to be forgotten are common household items, which include tools and various scenic materials. The final chapter covers sources, while the included index will be quite helpful when searching for a particular tool, material, manufacturer, or topic.
Throughout, the model photography is first-class and is accompanied by excellent captions. As I said above, in some cases, it is extremely difficult to tell if the image is “real” or “modeled”! In a few places, numbered call-outs on the images are keyed to segments of the captions, allowing for easy digestion of the information that’s presented. The text is not only informative, but in many cases quite “merry”. The author educates and inspires, while injecting a bit of well-done humor here and there. The many photographs of nature that are included also serve as a handy reference. But, as the author states, nothing beats personal observation; he recommends (and I concur) a visit to “the wild” for a first-hand look-see.
Overall, this book is simply fabulous and should be considered a “must-have” for diorama and vignette modelers. It will also prove to be quite inspirational for AFV, ordnance and vehicle modelers, who sometimes place their creations on a display base, where the terrain is not necessarily the focus.
Frank V. “Curley Stooge” De Sisto
Osprey books are available from mail order and retail outlets. They can also be acquired direct through their web site at: www.ospreypublishing.com.