Book Review: Shep Paine by Jim DeRogatis

Book Review: Sheperd Paine: The Life and Work of a Master Modeler and
Military Historian by Jim DeRogatis; Schiffer Publishing Limited,
Atglen, PA 19310; 272 pp. with profuse color illustrations; retail
price US$79.95; ISBN 978-0-7643-2929-6
Advantages: long-awaited biography/autobiography of the best-known
modeler in the US and one of the all-around best military historians
extant today, especially in regard to uniforms and details
Disadvantages: no major ones except this is a BIG book!
Rating: See Text
Recommendation: to all modelers and military historians - as much for
inspiration as well as education
Back in 1985 I joined the fledging Lone Star Military Miniatures
Society in Austin, Texas, as I was assigned to nearby (by Texas
standards) Fort Hood. We had some great guys in the society =96 Bob
Bethea, Chris Mrosko, Steve Hardin, and Dieter Mattingly, just to
mention a few. Dieter wanted to have a show in Austin similar to the
MFCA and Chicago shows, using their judging system and a much more
distinguished approach to modeling and figure painting in particular
than most of us were used to. Dieter called an old friend of his =96
Shep Paine =96 who came down to be our guest of honor and guest speaker.
I had a great time at the show and wound up spending a good portion of
the late hours of the evening having a couple of beers with Shep. He
and I had a lot of views in common, and he also gave me the best
criteria I have ever had to judge a model in a competition: what=92s
right with the model, what=92s wrong with it, and what did the modeler
have to do to get to the end result. We later used that same
philosophy when we created the AMPS judging system in 1994 for judging
our shows.
I have had the privilege to judge with Shep at the 1993 World Expo
Show in Tysons Corner, Virginia (an international show of the first
rank and another of Shep=92s creations) and we had an easy time of a
very difficult task for just those reasons. But many people wonder,
who exactly is Shep Paine, and why do so many very good modelers and
figure painters hold him in such high regard?
Author Jim DeRogatis, whose =93day job=94 is the pop music critic for the
Chicago Sun-Times, has now answered the question in spades in this
magnificent volume which presents a full panorama of Shep=92s work and
covers his life from its beginnings. He worked with Shep for several
years on this book, using interviews with Shep and later with a number
of prominent modelers and figures in the modeling community, to create
a very thorough picture of the man and his art. Shep himself had
authored a couple of books for Kalmbach Publications, but this would
be a different type of work entirely.
One of the few people truly qualified to introduce such a work,
legendary miniaturist Bill Horan, has written the foreword to set the
stage. He too cites the fact that Shep changed judging model
competitions as we know them by focusing on achievement and not
triage. One-two-three judging systems have to work that way; the
=93open=94 system can therefore award each for his own achievement and not
being in the right place at the right time with a good work.
Jim opens with a biography of Shep, the son of a military doctor who
brought his son toy soldiers from every country he visited. Shep was
actually born in West Berlin and spent his first three years there,
coming back to the US in 1949. He grew up in Boston but did get to
spend a year in England in 1957-1958, getting a thorough dose of
history from the museums as well as other countries in Europe. A
British model soldier shop called the Sentry Box was what got him
permanently hooked on figure modeling. Once back in the US, like many
of us he also got into model railroading, first O and then HO Gauge,
which then brought in ROCO Mini-Tanks and Airfix =93HO/OO=94 figures.
After he failed to get into an Ivy League school, Shep joined the
Army and served with the 3rd Armored Division from 1965-1967. It was
during his life in Chicago that Shep finally got into serious modeling
and miniatures, joining the Military Miniature Society of Illinois. By
1969 he was a sculptor for Valiant Miniatures doing figures. Here he
found his favorite medium, A+B Epoxy Putty, which he has used since
for sculpting.
From that point on it was eclectic. Shep met Phillip Stearns at the
1977 MFCA Show, and between him and Stan Malinowski he learned the art
of model photography. Roy Andersen became one of his major influences.
Shep also did such things as sculpt the medals used at the prestigious
Chicago show in 1975, and they are still in use to this day.
There are a lot of tips and hints on successful modeling in the book,
accompanied by illustrations and photos of finished works to show what
the final effect of the techniques will be. The book covers subjects
by generic type, such as stock or =93kit=94 figures. These even include
the old Aurora (later Monogram and Polar Lights) Movie Monster figures
=96 don=92t look much like the ones I did as a teenager! Flats - to me the
ultimate figure challenge, getting three dimensions out of two =96 are
covered as well.
Historex figures are next, and in point of fact Shep=92s 1971 figure of
General Colbert in the 2nd =93Red Lancers=94 uniform is the cover figure
for the book. The amount of animation, and how it was obtained, in
these popular if generally stiff figures is really worth a second look
just to see the amount of detail and expression in each one.
Next up are armor dioramas, which are the reason many of us got into
large-scale (e.g. 1/35) armor modeling if just to see what we could
do. It is recommended that readers pay attention to the dates the
works were completed before deciding to =93sharpshoot=94 them, as most are
before any of us had more than early Tamiya =93Military Miniatures=94
series kits to work with and not a whiff of resin, etched brass, or
turned aluminum after-market items. In 1972 Shep carried out a number
of contract works for Monogram which began with their recent 1/32
scale German armor releases, and then moved into their 1/48 aircraft
kits. These small four-page fliers told many of us there was something
more to slapping a bunch of plastic together, spraying it from a can,
applying silvery decals and calling it a =93work of art.=94 Even dogs like
the Nitto Sd.Kfz. 251/1 Ausf. B halftrack somehow look great, even by
today=92s standards!
Next as a point of fact are the aircraft dioramas, starting with the
Monogram B-17G kit. As many of us learned years ago, the science of
detailing which Shep dubbed =93creative gizmology=94 has its roots in a
lot of model railroad detailing parts (widgets tend to look like
widgets, and as long as they are not installed in a recognizable
assembly they fill the bill).
The book then moves into one of Shep=92s fortes, namely scratchbuilt or
sculpted figures. This one covers a wide variety of subjects,
including a lot of the Valiant subjects Shep either worked on or did
up for illustrations. He did up several of their 1/2000 scale line of
sailing ships, and Shep even did up the fight between HMS Lydia and
Natividad from =93Captain Horatio Hornblower=94. He was also responsible
for a 1980 MMSI staging of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1/2000 scale,
which still requires modeling more than 70 sailing ships and getting
them in the right places on a seascape. This chapter also highlights
how much of Shep=92s work now resides in museums around the US, and
where to see some of the more well known works.
The next section covers one of Shep=92s real advances, Boxed Dioramas.
My personal favorite is =93Son of the Morning Star=94 in which three
figures of the 7th Cavalry appear ghostly over plains Indians on a
dark night (alas, it wasn=92t in the book, but is listed as work number
374 as a 1985 achievement.)
The book is saturated with tone boxes from a veritable =93Who=92s Who=94 o=
modelers, model makers, and model publications editors with their
personal views of Shep and how he has affected their lives and
modeling; I was fortunate enough to be one of the contributors so as I
=93have a dog in the fight=94 will leave the reader to make his own
judgements of this book.
There are a few minor kibbles over some typos or mistakes =96 Steve
Zaloga and I both live in Maryland, not Massachusetts! =96 but nothing
major to spoil the great job that has been rendered. I believe
everyone who builds models or paints figures should have a copy on
their bookshelves =96 if nothing more than just for the inspiration.
Thanks to Schiffer Military History books for the review sample.
Cookie Sewell
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i'm guessing for $80 it is loaded with many color illustrations? sigh, hope the library gets it but i won't hold my breath. thanks cookie, good one!
Reply to
ng Lone Star Military Miniatures
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ified to introduce such a work,
ep, the son of a military doctor who
vy League school, Shep joined the
ic. Shep met Phillip Stearns at the
s on successful modeling in the book,
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h are the reason many of us got into
aircraft dioramas, starting with the
Shep=3D92s fortes, namely scratchbuilt or
hep=3D92s real advances, Boxed Dioramas.
boxes from a veritable =3D93Who=3D92s
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ory books for the review sample.
It's nearly ALL color and most of the professional shots (some are ex- magazines and not as good) are gorgeous.
Cookie Sewell
Reply to
ADDENDUM: Shep was kind enough to point out that I missed =93Son of the Morning Star=94 which is on pp. 246-247 of the book and also has three photos: one of the figures, one of the box diorama without its case, and one of the final effect with the ghosts in the sky. Still my favorite!
Cookie Sewell
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