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MSW Artist Profile~Bob Cicconi

"The Model Shipwrights (http://modelshipwrights.kitmaker.net/) Artist Q&A is a monthly site feature. Basically, itís an interview with artists and modelers of the ship modelling world.

Whoever they may be, the artists featured in Model Shipwrights Artist Q&A are all highly respected members of our worldwide community, greatly influencing the hobby overall, in their own unique way. As we spotlight these artists with this Q&A/photo feature, they return the favor to us by sharing a piece of their own private world."

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

A. "Iím 54 and live in West Chester, PA, which is a suburb of Philadelphia. Iíve never been married and donít have any children, but I live with my girlfriend, Rose, and our two pet Newfies, Rufus and Bella. Iíve always been in the automotive business since graduating from St. Josephís College in 1974, and am currently an auto claims adjuster for Allstate Insurance."

"My other interests are also mostly auto related. I drove open wheeled race cars all over the country for over 30 years, and ran midgets, sprint cars, super modifieds, and Silver Crown cars with USAC and other sanctioning bodies. I also enjoy aircraft and flying, and have a Cessna 310R that I use for business and pleasure, including flying to some of the contests that I attend. In addition, I like to read a lot, and enjoy antiques and art, and just going out to dinner with friends."

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

A. "I canít recall my first experience specifically, but my dad built U-control and R/C aircraft when I was young, and I remember building plastic models - mostly aircraft - while he worked on his airplanes in the basement. For some reason, I remember building a Ford Tri-Motor kit when I was young, probably about 8 to 10 years old."

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

A. "I was always interested in ships in addition to aircraft, armor, and automobiles. I canít remember what made me start devoting almost all my building to ships, but I remember seeing the Iowa class battleships and other mothballed units at the Philadelphia Navy Yard when I was young and being fascinated by warships in general."

Q. [Where do you draw your ship building inspirations?]

A. "I like to see the way other modelers treat a certain subject and also how they handle certain atmospheric portions of a build Ė the way they make their water, for instance. Iím inspired to try and replicate their results, at least to the extent of my ability and patience!"

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

A. "Without sounding corny, I think itís the camaraderie that exists between the people that frequent the various websites and boards. Iíve met a lot of fascinating people from all over the world, and made a lot of friends, some of which Iíll probably never meet in person, but friends nonetheless. I think thatís the best thing."

"I think thereís a closer bond with ship builders than with aircraft or armor builders. In addition, everyone is willing to share what works for them, and little hints and tips with building and painting, etc. I think ship builders are very open and sharing for the most part."

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

A. "I donít really think there is a down side to ship modelling. Costs can get out of hand, but you can always improvise with details, and there is always someone who will give you a needed part, or sell it to you cheap."

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

A. "My favourite time period for ship modelling is the pre-dreadnought era, from about 1876 through the beginning of World War I. I was always fascinated by the fact that even though cars and airplanes werenít yet invented, there existed these fabulous machines that could travel at 18 to 21 knots and fire a large artillery shell about 10 miles. In addition, there was a lot of experimenting on a trial and error basis, thereby producing some really weird ships. You just have to look at the French ships from the turn of the century to see that!"

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

A. "I recently received the best ship award at Maraudercon in Towson, Maryland. That is my most prestigious award to date. It gave me the confidence that my building is on the same level as a lot of other good builders. Overall, however, I donít think that Iím in the top tier of modelers. There are a lot of extremely talented builders that far surpass anything Iíve done, or am capable of building. Iím okay with that, though, as I mainly want to build something that looks decent, is cleanly built by following the basics, and that Iím not ashamed to display."

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. "Among my favorite reference books are the books by R.A Burt on British battleships, the one concerning pre-dreadnoughts, and the later one that covers the WW I era ships. I really like the photos and commentary. I also like the Janeís Fighting Ships series."

"Concerning ship models, I like almost anything Combrig makes, as they have been producing excellent kits that just keep getting better. My favorite and most used tool has to be my optivisor, which is a necessity for me, especially for the 1/700 scale which I prefer!"

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

A. "Thatís a really tough question as itís hard to have just one favorite ship kit. Among my favorites, though are the limited production resin kits made by Yumemato in Japan, and include the Jaureguiberry, Carnot, Massena, and Charles Martel. Although they are nowhere near the quality of a Combrig kit, they are really oddball subjects (French pre-dreadnoughts), and therefore interest me a great deal."

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

A. "I just received the Combrig Danton and Jeanne DíArc from Bill Gruner at Pacific Front. They are both 1/700 scale French ships; the Danton is one of the last pre-dreads built, and the Jeanne DíArc is an armored cruiser. Iím sure Iíll be getting into one or the other very soon."

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

A. "Overall I think itís great! There is a wealth of subjects in many scales, great research materials and accessibility by using the web, and a lot of detail kits and items to enhance almost any kit in existence."

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 like to build a Majestic class battleship as it signifies (to me) the basis by which all contemporary battleships were measured. It also represents the zenith of British naval might and world domination, the Victorian Age, where horses were used to travel on land, but technologically advanced steam powered ships ruled the oceans. I think thereís a Majestic in the pipeline at Combrig."

Q. [What, in your opinions, would be the all-time modelling ďno noís" ?...]

A. "I think that not following the basics of building any model is a no-no. A lot of people think you need to put railings, rigging, ladders, and other extra details on a model for it to be acceptable. In fact, itís better to just build a kit right out of the box with nothing additional, but do it right, than to try and add items without regard to the basics. I have a good friend who builds exquisite models, but doesnít like to put railings on his ships. It doesnít detract at all from the look of the model as he did everything really neatly. I love to look at his ships."

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

A. "One of my ďsecretsĒ is to try and make a kit look like I spent a lot of time rigging it without actually spending a lot of time rigging it! I try and identify the major lines going between the masts, from the masts to the bow and stern, etc. I then put the rigging on, but put on just enough to make it look like itís rigged without putting every single line or antenna on. The overall effect is there, but you donít spend an enormous amount of time rigging a ship."

"Another ďsecretĒ is to use water colors for washes whenever possible. I use a ď0Ē brush with a good point to apply regular kidsí watercolors when doing dark washes to pick out details, and for the decks. You get really good control with the small brush. Itís easy, quick, subtle, and if you donít like how it looks when it dries, just clean it off with a water-soaked Q-tip. Itís great!"
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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...


Very nice. I too like seeing those "odd ball" ships. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us Bob.
JAN 17, 2008 - 08:35 AM
Great selection of pre-dreadnoughts. Your models are both inspiring and motivating. I look forward to your continued wonderful work. Frank
JAN 17, 2008 - 10:11 AM
USS Maine, IIRC - the Combrig kit.
JAN 17, 2008 - 10:23 AM
I have remade the image banner in the same fashion as other Artists Profiles Hope you like it - it can be seen in the MSW Homepage and also at Features Home Skipper
JAN 17, 2008 - 11:04 AM
Thanks mate, great work, my friend!
JAN 17, 2008 - 12:11 PM
Thanks for all the nice comments, guys! I really enjoy being associated with everyone on this and other sites, and consider myself very fortunate to have such nice friends from all over the world!
JAN 18, 2008 - 03:21 AM
Hello everyone, Sorry to join in at this late stage, but I have to say that I agree with all the comments made so far, well apart from the one that says I know Bob personally, I wish I did, that way I would also be able to get a good look at his pre-Dreadnought collection. This period as Bob has stated is very interesting, as a (fellow Vehicle) Engineer I find the early development stages of almost any machine fantastic, the strange shapes, lumps, bumps and bulges that appear to be the result of smoking an illegal substance, OH NO, I feel another area of interest opening up. I hope that Bobs work will continue to grace the pages of MSW for many years to come. Really enjoyed it, great work. PeteV
JAN 18, 2008 - 09:29 AM
Thanks for sharing Bob. That's a beautiful selection of ships. Kenny
JAN 19, 2008 - 06:45 AM
Bob, very nice interview, interesting time period and loved your points about technology - yes, the steam train was like a Starship to the people of the time, hadn't thought about ships! And your models are very well done, complete excellence! Thanks for the tips on watercolor washes, too!
JAN 19, 2008 - 10:47 AM
Great stuff Bobby, keep producing those weird and wonderful pre dreads! Mike
JAN 20, 2008 - 02:20 AM