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MSW Artist Profile~Jean-Bernard Andre'

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"The Model Shipwrights (http://modelshipwrights.kitmaker.net/) Artist Profile is an interview with artists of the ship modelling world. These artists may include sculptors and painters; commercial and private modellers; well-known and lesser-known artists. Whoever they may be, the artists featured in Model Shipwrights Artist Profile are highly respected members of our global community; people who have greatly influenced our world in their own way. As we honour these artists with this humble Q&A and photo feature, they honour us by sharing a piece of their world."

Q. Tell us about yourself. Your age, where do you live, Married, Kids, Occupation, Other hobbies and interests?

A. "I am 37, married in 2003, to a lovely lady called Florence, with a 6 month’s old little boy named Pierre. I am currently self employed, as a freelance website programmer and computer related things teacher. I mostly work on some EEC energy saving and Environmental projects."

"My other passion is music, I used to make a living out of rock music journalism throughout most of the nineties, and I still buy quite a few records. Otherwise, I live in a small flat in Lyon, a big French town, door to the mountains, lots of good wines and cheese –but too far from the sea for us."

Q. Tell us about both your first modeling experience, and your first ship modeling experience.

A. "I recently found a picture of me at my 6th or 7th birthday with a Heller veil boat, and that was my first ever model built. I can still remember it ending up as an unpainted block of glue and plastic. Generally speaking, I never had much luck with the kits I bought."

Q. When was the first time ship subjects as a preferred genre appealed to you?

A. "It took me quite some time actually. I scratch built the vehicles that I put in my dioramas since I was 10. Though at that time, I could build tanks without any problems, the round shapes of boats always appeared to me as being too hard to make. And then the ships I wanted to model were mostly the big ones, while the scales I favored were 1/72 or (now) 1/35."

"There was an incompatibility, so I was building sea, marshes, rivers, but with planes or tanks wrecks nearby. But then I thought “go for it” and I finally managed to find an array of cheap tricks to include the ships that I wanted in my dioramas.
Now, ships are certainly my preferred genre, and it should keep on like that for the next few years, but I also could go for planes at one point, when I feel like I have emptied my boat-related ideas."

Q. Where do you draw your ship building inspirations?

A. "The ships I build (or the bits of ships) end up in dioramas; they are accessories of the scene. In no way must they get more attention than what I want the viewer to see. I don’t model things; I model people, or interaction between things and people."

"That being said, my inspiration comes from music and from my life. I really like History, and read quite a lot of books about history, but in the end those have very few influence on my dioramas. I usually have an idea with a boat that is generic, and when the idea is clear in my head, and then I start looking at reference to choose the right boat. Advices of friends or tips about a particular boat are usually a great influence at this stage, or even stuff I could happen to read."

Q. Tell us about what, in your opinion, is the very best thing about ship modeling in general.

A. "While modeling the boats, you model the sea, and there are few things I find more fascinating than the sea."

Q. OK, now tell us about what, in your opinion, is the worst thing about ship modeling.

A. "It costs more money than I can afford!"

Q. Tell us about your all time favorite modeling era/period and why?

A."The pre-dreadnought era definitely. There’s something really weird about their shapes –look at the Borodino, it looks like a stone castle. Some French boats like the Masséna or the Dupuy de Lôme are so twisted and impossible they seem to come out of an opium smoker’s dream."

Q. Of any and all of the modeling related awards that you have won or earned, which one of these is the most important to you?

A. "I stopped presenting my stuff at shows in 1995. On one go I won both a gold and a silver medal at some Parisian championships. The level was not very high but nonetheless it was enough to feed my ego for the last 12 years."

Q. Please take a bit of time now and tell us some of your favorite modeling "things"...tools, reference materials, or a particular ship or ship model kits.

A. "I don’t own any reference material; every referencethat I have ever used was either given to me by fellow modelers, or found on the internet. I own exactly 5 books about boats –including 3 about galleys. My tools are generic and I don’t particularly like one of them -they’re just tools, if I break them, I replace them."

Q. What is your all time, number one, modeling acquisition, or most favorite ship kit ever?

A. "I made an investment last year in buying a true colour lamp; this really improved the quality of my work quite a lot."

Q. What's your best or most recent ship kit purchase? Details please!

A. "I didn’t buy any ship kit since Revel’s PT 109 –I suppose it was in 1985. I gave it away recently."

Q. Time to get a little deep...What are your thoughts, opinions, and overall evaluation(s) of the ship kit industry?

A. "I try not to spend more than 2-300€ per year on modeling stuff, I suppose I could maybe buy a Yamato model in 1/350 with as much money. No? Well, I really enjoy the box arts, and I follow the discussions on the internet about resin vs. plastic, I read the reviews, look at the model building SBS... but I don’t feel that much concerned about the whole industry honestly."

"I read Jim Baumann saying that it was great time to be a ship model maker, so I suppose he is right."

Q. If you could model one ship, any ship, what would it be (May or may not be available in kit form!) And why?

A."I would love building a diorama around the Pamiat Azova, a Russian cruiser whose lines and bow I think are very handsome –if a little on the gothic side of things."

Q. What, in your opinions, would be the all-time modeling “no no’s" ?...

A.There is no way that you can model the smoke, no way to model the fire, no way to model the smell.

Q. OK, mate, now tell us one (or more!) of your own modeling secrets...

A. "I have no secrets when it comes to technical matters. I really love it when I find out that somebody picked one of my tricks. I certainly picked a lot of tricks from other people, often unconsciously, and I really enjoy giving back what I have taken. I always write lengthy sbs after the completion of dioramas, where I basically give up everything."

"But then more generally if I would have a secret, that would be that I always aim higher than my skills every time I start a new project. Even if I end up being disappointed by the stuff, at least I really tried, and then the project will always end up looking better than if I applied the same old dumb tricks forever."

Thanks Jean-Bernard! (edit.)

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About the Author

About Mark R. Smith (Gunny)

I have been building models of all sorts all of my life, concentrating mainly on the coolest one's when I was younger, but now I focus directly on all military subjects, from armor to warships. After years of counting rivets, I put away the calipers, dial indicators, and micrometers and now just ha...


Well Jean-Bernard André, What can I add to the already well deserved accolades, unfortunately very little, every thing that I would have thought about saying or wish I could have thought to say has already been put down by the other fellows. I can only say that I agree with all the above comments. We have spoken, if that is the correct term, on many occasions and I think you know how much I admire your work, in particular you must know how highly I hold your ability to model what I believe is the hardest element WATER, you my friend do it so well that I often think one could wiggle ones finger in it and create ripples or if I looked hard enought I would see fish swim pass. Well done PeteV
FEB 14, 2008 - 02:02 AM
Quite simply Jean-Bernard, you just come across as a nice guy. very imaginative models too, I like the way you find an element of the hobby to suit your own needs and budget. Mike
FEB 14, 2008 - 03:16 AM
Thanks for sharing your excellent craftsmanship with us! I especially like your perspective on the pre-dreadnoughts!
FEB 14, 2008 - 03:59 AM
Certainly a portrait of the artist as a genius, and a very interesting set of suggestions (not rules) to follow. There's a lot to learn and J-B A can certainly teach by example of his work. Peter F
FEB 14, 2008 - 01:00 PM
Oh wow, my friends, so much compliments! i ain't dead yet!! Glenn no problem for the wedding if you do the Cajun food! About SF and stuff.. I think I stopped doing some regular military dioramas or even regular SF stuff (the games workshop stuff) when i realized that it didn't mean anything about my life. I'm a not an ex soldier nor I am an orc or a dwarf. So as I needed a way to express myself with those bits of plastic, I choose to be totally uncompromising about my ideas and tried to force-enter my own little history into History if I may say so. I like the idea that my stuff is completely borderline, not real history, certainly not well mapped Science Fiction. What i really want is that guys who like an accurate XIXth century torpedo boat could like what they see, because whatever the way i mess with the stuff, I always use the best sources thanks to all my friends in forums. I'd like the guys into SF to see the eerie atmosphere i try to create -and finally I'd like the girls to like the stuff because in most of my dioramas, because I try there could be some romantic edge to the stuff. Of course by trying to play on all those points, i may be able to please to no-one, but not yet it seems for the Pre-dreadnought fans. What incredible years of experimentation! here's a postcard of the Charles Martel of Bob's fame i have been buying, it *does* look like the engineer was supercharged when he designed her! Al, indeed most of my dioramas are in the garden shed these days thanks once more my friends JB
FEB 14, 2008 - 04:18 PM
To laugh at ones embarrassment through their faults or handicaps,........... is a sin. To laugh at ones embarrassment from well deserved praise and recognition on their hard work and achievements, ............. well , now that's pretty dam funny. These sentiments were not given lightly, we love your work and ideas - keep them coming. Glenn Edit: Ahh speaking of the garden shed. I've just been elected to give up my modeling room and have been given the smallest room in the house. My daughter just recently turned 13 and decided she wants her room back. Since my last post on the freighter, nothing has been accomplished - I've been switching rooms !!!!!!!
FEB 15, 2008 - 04:20 PM
Ditto all that was said above..this is not modelling, but art... his grasp of 3D space is simple outstanding.. bookmarked for future enjoyment!
FEB 15, 2008 - 11:00 PM
It's all been said so well here - your work is emotional, interesting, and 3D...real scenes, whether real or hyper-real/surrealistic. Stunning on so many levels...truly "artist" and not modeler. Superb! Also enjoyed "meeting" you, a pleasure.
FEB 16, 2008 - 11:56 AM
James and Wink, thanks for the additional comments i think i am going to print all these and pin them in duh, my garden shed actually. I can't sniff glue inside the house anymore Glenn as long as your new modelling room is bigger than your dioramas all is well! *edit* all the pic on the interview thing are from dioramas done between 1992 (the guy with the balloons) and 2007 (the Sokol). So that's quite a great span of time! thanks again all of your JB
FEB 17, 2008 - 03:52 PM
Thank you, Jean-Bernard. I look forward to being amazed by your works for a long time to come. Cheers!
FEB 17, 2008 - 08:44 PM