Step into the Barnes man-cave and aside for a precarious pile of books I have to review and odd bits of military junk you will see a fair number of toys and models. I’ve always loved the things and although I stopped making kits years ago when my son’s attention turned to bass guitars, air guns, Marlboro Lights and all the usual things fourteen year olds are interested in, I am always happy to visit the models tent at a military show or admire the work of skilled people wherever I see it. Such is the case with this very impressive painting instruction guide from José Luis Lopez Ruiz.

What can I say? This book offers a lot of advice on how to get the most out of brushes and equipment and the best way to practice a range of painting techniques. The artistry on show is stunning, supported by really top class photography. We don’t do a lot on model making here at WHO my bias towards it, based on happy days of my own childhood and then building kits with my son remains strong.

The attention to detail and the range of skills on view is a delight.  My son came back in a bleary state from a weekend of hitting the nightspots of Southampton and we sat looking through the images and admiring the author’s black and white painting technique that brings out the detail on today’s modern kits with a finesse I could never hoped to have achieved forty years ago. Stage by stage guides explain how to prepare models for painting in a modular way and I really admire the way Mr Lopez Ruiz puts a huge amount of effort into the tiniest details. Perhaps the most important lesson is not so much in painting but in taking time to really understand the effects of colour and light.  This methodology isn’t far removed from that of the great painters – just watch the recent Mr Turner movie to see what I mean.

As a publisher Histoire & Collections goes out of its way to promote model making by providing excellent reference works. While I am more used to seeing titles about the real thing, this book is equally as impressive and has done the job of briefly tempting me to return to a hobby for which I really don’t have time to do any justice. My loft is full of un-built or half built models and things will stay like that.

So, I am content to continue admiring the skills of others. Up on one of my bookshelves is an old Tamiya M3 half-track kit I made during the 1970s. My son has made me stipulate in my will that he will get it when I snuff it. Isn’t that nice!

That is the power that a well-made kit has on a right thinking person.

Mr Lopez Ruiz clearly knows a lot about doing things properly. He has made an informative and very entertaining book. This is a skilfully made product in a large format that gives the impression of an enlarged magazine. It fits into the bookazine style that works well for a good many publishers. I like the layout and the general feel of it. Quality is the name of the game. I am sure you could read a much more informed review of it on a model makers website but you will have to make do with me the fan and not the practitioner. I am not sorry.

Reviewed (sort of) by Mark Barnes for War History Online.

José Luis Lopez Ruiz
Histoire & Collections
ISBN: 978 2 35250 387 3

Mark Barnes

Mark Barnes is a longstanding friend of WHO, providing features, photography and reviews. He has contributed to The Times of London and other publications. He is the author of The Liberation of Europe (pub 2016) and If War Should Come due later in 2020.