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MSW Artist Profile~Al Ross II

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"The Model Shipwrights (http://modelshipwrights.kitmaker.net/) Artist Q&A is a monthly site feature. Basically, it’s 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; people who have greatly influenced the hobby overall, all in their own unique way. As we spotlight these artists with this Q&A and photo feature, they return the favor to us by sharing a piece of their own private world."

Q. Hi Al, please tell us a little about yourself... Your age, Where do you live, Married, Kids, Occupation, Other hobbies and interests?

A. "I’m 61, single, and live in Bangor, Maine. I have a daughter (Jessica, 35), son (Jim, 31), and a grandson (Randy, 8). I have a PhD in Adult Education from Florida State University, used to design technical training programs for nuclear power, and taught technical writing at a four-year college. Now, as an independent contractor, I design ship model kits for BlueJacket Shipcrafters and build custom ship models for their customers."

"I’ve collected and drawn ship plans for 40+ years, written articles for a variety of historical journals and ship modeling magazines, written/illustrated four Anatomy of the Ship titles, co-written/co-illustrated the multi-volume Allied Coastal Forces of World War II with my good friend John Lambert, reviewed manuscripts for the U.S. Naval Institute Press, and been involved with a number of restoration projects. Hobby-wise, I tinker with cars, do a little photography, and keep the couch warm."

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

A. "That was over 50 years ago, so I haven’t a clue! Most likely, it was one of the new Revell models of the period like MISSOURI or PT212. At the time, I lived in the Panama Canal Zone, where my Dad was the naval communications officer for the area. I was diagnosed with “lazy eye” and one of the therapies prescribed was model building. As Dad was a naval officer, ships were a natural."

Q. Al, when was the first time that ship subjects as a preferred model building genre appeal to you?

A. "Probably from the beginning, although I like aircraft almost as much."

Q. Fair enough... Where do you draw your ship building inspirations and ideas?

A. "When it was a hobby, from the many books I read on the subject and from my experiences as a Navy brat. Now, as an occupation, it’s whatever the customer wants."

Q. Ok, Al, what, in your opinion, is the very best thing about ship modeling in general?

A. "For me, it’s the research leading to the eventual build. Keep in mind that I’m primarily a scratch-builder and seldom assemble kits, so heavy-duty research helps me create accurate kits and models."

Q. Great answer, mate... now tell us about what, in your opinion, is the worst thing about ship modelling?

A. "Sloppy research by many kit manufacturers and so-called “authors”, the latter in particular. To me, most of what has been published in my area of interest over the last twenty or so years is of the “pirate and parrot” variety. That is, the publications are little more than rehashes of other authors’ work with limited or no primary research, often by writers whose knowledge of the subject is pedestrian at best.

I’ve read texts where I could actually identify the book from which the writer took the material. The result is that nothing substantive is added to the literature and that errors are perpetuated, negatively impacting the historical accuracy of kits and finished models."

Q. Another great answer, mate...Al, please tell us about your all time favorite modeling era/period and why is it your fave?

A. "My primary interest falls in the 1930-1960 range. For me, ships and craft built during these years just looked “right”. For instance, the British Power Boat Company MTB/MASB/MGB designs and the Baglietto MAS designs from the late 1930/early 1940 period are just classic, beautiful shapes."

Q. Al, 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 have no awards/trophies/whatever, as I avoid contests like the plague! What matters to me are positive comments from folks who have read my books, commissioned models, and bought my plans."

Q. Ok, mate, now please take a little time now, and tell us about some of your favorite modeling "things"...tools, reference materials, or a particular ship or ship model kits?

A. "Reference materials are probably my favorite modeling “things”. Over the years, I’ve been very fortunate to interact with a lot of folks who do meticulous research and produce works (books, drawings, etc.) that are very well done and in which I have a huge degree of confidence.

Some, but certainly not all, of these folks are John Lambert, Norman Friedman, Dave Baker, Alan Raven, Erminio Bagnasco, Tom Walkowiak, John Roberts, Maurizio Brescia, and Achille Rastelli."

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

A. "No single item stands out."

Q. Ok then, now what's your best, or most recent ship kit purchase?

A. "I just bought an old Marine Models kit of HARRIET LANE as a collectible."

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

A. "Overall, it’s positive. I think the resin kit and photo etch folks are doing a great job providing quality kits and details of many subjects to which we might never otherwise have access. I seldom buy injection-molded kits, so can’t really comment meaningfully on them.

I do have problems with the spurious claims of accuracy that many injection kit manufacturers still make, especially when reissuing an old kit that most of us know isn’t even close. The wooden kit industry, in which I work, is generally improving by updating their kits with laser-cutting, resin, and photo etch to complement the wood and metal parts."

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

A. "Depends on which day you ask the question. There are just so many interesting subjects."

Q. Al, what, in your opinion, would be the all-time modeling "don'ts" ?...

A. "Doing sloppy research and passing along inaccurate, unsupported information."

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

A. "I don’t have any “secrets”... :)

Edit. note:-Thanks Al!
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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...


beautiful work.... love the modeler philosophy also.... thanks for sharing!
AUG 13, 2008 - 10:52 AM
Very interesting profile. Thank you for sharing your inner thougths with us Dr. Ross.
AUG 13, 2008 - 11:36 AM
Thank you for sharing Al. Kenny
AUG 13, 2008 - 01:40 PM
Ayuh, now you've gone and done it! Chummie there is going to impossible to live with now.
AUG 15, 2008 - 05:59 AM
Hi Al, Like your thinking and some great builds there, excellent work, thanks for sharing. Nice one. Al
AUG 15, 2008 - 06:48 AM
Very nice work, and lovely you scratch and strive for accuracy and history. Thanks!
AUG 17, 2008 - 12:15 AM
Hi Al Thank you for sharing a little bit (more) of your life, your life philosophy and of course, your model works! Thanks Mark! Rui
AUG 18, 2008 - 12:20 PM