January 25, 2016

Trench Runner Review: Justin Skrakowski takes a look at AK's Extreme Reality book


Extreme reality is difficult for me to think of as a “new trend” when it comes to modeling, as, isn’t this what we’ve all been striving for this entire time? But, that doesn’t mean that your average modeler’s techniques and resources aren’t light-years ahead of what they were even ten years ago. Of course the internet has had so much to do with leveling the playing field when it comes to building models; what seemed to be such closely guarded secrets concerning the process are now common knowledge to most of us. Things like pre-shading, better application of superglue, use of pigments, and of course the all-pervasive weathering techniques, have made the hobby fairly homogenous—but not in any negative way. In fact, I think that the sort of “cat out of the bag,” no more secrets approach to model building has let most of us reach levels of realness that already seemed so out of reach to the average builder. This newfound capableness that most of us have fond ourselves with has really made the modeling world so much more interesting, and in turn, so much more fun to be a part of.

But this in no way diminishes the true awe one feels when they see a single piece or a diorama that is completely indistinguishable from a photograph of the vehicle or event presented. That sort of thing where you find yourself pulling the magazine back and forth, and tilting it at different angles because you really think the artist might have just taken pictures of an old barn, or a run-down T-34, and then presented it as a model. It’s especially relevant these days since so many of us are able to produce our own pieces that we’re really proud of, where just a few years ago we were still so left in the dark as to any of the processes that delineate the good from the great builders out there. And in that, it’s also become more difficult to impress your average modeler, since, well, we’re pretty damn good at it ourselves!

This is where one of AK’s newest books comes in, the aptly titled Extreme Reality. The main artists included (and they truly are artists, I don’t think anyone would argue otherwise) are Andrew Argent, the always amazing Kristof Pulinckx, Edouard Nouaillier, John Simmons, and someone new to me who goes by the name of Doozy. Although the person responsible for most of the book and the text is (I believe, sometimes it’s hard to tell with some of these AK books, so my apologies if I have not given the proper credit) Andrew Argent.
Now, let me get my few gripes out of the way first—and, unfortunately, they are the same gripes I’ve had since I’ve been reading AK’s book offerings (in English of course, I cannot speak of this for the other editions)—but so much of the text is just a jumbled mess! And of course this is a purely visual medium when it comes down to it, and the true experience of the book lies in the pictures, but when the text comes out this poorly (and I am also in no way a “grammar nazi,” I’m sure plenty of people will be able to find typos or odd punctuation in this, so don’t think I’m pretending that I’m above any writing mishaps, but…) the sheer amount of mistakes in the text portions of the book are, at the lowest end of the annoyance spectrum, completely distracting, and at their worst, make the book just shy of disastrous. If anything, all these mistakes take so much value away from what would (and should) be an otherwise breathtaking book. The lack of concern for the presentation of the text in these books belittles the painstaking work these artists have given us in their builds. And besides being demeaning to themselves, it’s really hard to take these guys seriously when they seem to have so little regard for the readers. And I say this because these books are so, so great in every other respect, and I really wish that someone at AK was listening, because it really seems like they just put the original (Spanish I’m assuming, AK being from Spain) language into Google Translate—Hell! I don’t even think they’re using Google Translate some of the time—but whatever translation program they are using, it’s like a friend pointed out to me after trying to use Google Translate to read an email he had received from one of his friends in Germany, “You put it through the translator and now it’s turning what I’m sure is a perfectly fine email into garbage poetry!” And that doesn’t include the things that aren’t capitalized that should be, things that are capitalized for no reason, the words that have no spaces between them (or far too many spaces!), the seemingly just plain missing words, and what’s really the biggest flub, the sentences that are sometimes downright incomprehensible. And for a book that is supposed to be a step-by-step guide, when the sentences are incomprehensible it totally defeats the purpose of even having text in there.
Okay, so, now that I’m done pleading to AK to hire an editor for their English editions—you know what? Not even an editor, just someone who can merely gloss over the English (I’ll do it for free in exchange for some paints!), now that I’m done haranguing them on their butchering of the written word, on to the rest of the book, which is of course, absolutely stunning.

The book has seven separate pieces, in range from pastoral scenery to claustrophobic old barn, and has a great range of scale; from a 1:35 scale (or close to) diorama subset of old and worn French café walls that are 100% scratch-built, to a diorama of a (seemingly) simple oil drum left to the elements in astonishing 1:6.
First of all, if you’ve read anything I’ve written here before, you know that I am always in search of anything that can be of service in the ways of scratch-building. So to see Mr. Nouaillier’s section “Walls of Decay,” (which, in my opinion is the best “how-to” in the book) was nothing short of a revelation. Not to mention it being the most coherent of the step-by-step guides.

Then the oil-drum by Andy Argent! I’ve yet to branch as far North in scale as 1:6, the closest I’ve gotten is my Maschinen Krieger models which (except for a few exceptions) rarely come in sizes other than 1:20, and even in that scale I start to get very nervous re my abilities. So to see something in 1:6, and something so banal as a rusted oil-drum, become one of the most beautiful models you’ve ever seen is something that you can show anyone who tries to dispute whether building models is an art or not. Not only that, but seeing the methods Mr. Argent has employed gives me the courage to go up in scale.
And that’s really what this book is about, it’s about giving your average modeler a lot more courage to try new things. It’s like a nip of whiskey before you have to go onstage, but to your modeling abilities. After reading this book (when you can read it—okay, that’s the last time I mention it… in this article) you really do feel like you’ve learned an entirely new skillset. Whereas most books offer sort of the same things over and over again, I believe that this book can help you do things that you never thought that you’d be capable of. Especially in this era in our beloved hobby, where so much of us are already at a place in our skills where we never thought we’d be able to get to, since we have the internet to go to with any little problems, this book might just be what every modeler needs who feels like they’ve plateaued to bring their game to a competitive level—even if you’re only competing against yourself and your past modeling accomplishments, this book has enough newness in it to make you toss all your old models and feel like you can start from a whole new level of creative mastery.

 Best,
Justin

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