Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Well, it looks like I've finally gone over to the dark side, and started a blog of my very own.

I guess it was inevitable.  I've never really been able to shake the writing bug that started back when I was a kid, and manifested itself fully while in University.  Same goes for the fantasy / sci-fi artist wannabe side of me.  Together, along with my introduction to gaming that served as the catalyst between the two all those years ago (lets see... it was either Gamma World the RPG or Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader back in the mid eighties), and I was condemned to be a miniature painting geek and blogger from an early age.

Well, at least I've got a modest set of credentials behind me.  Nothing like some of my mini-geek heroes (many of whom have been blogging for quite some time already... check out the "Blogs of Interest" listed on the right side of my blog), but I used to write a regular column for a website / community forum called, "Portent" way back in the day.  It was the first big site to publish all sorts of rumours and sneak peek pics regarding Games Workshop games and models back in the '90s. 

It started off when I joined a team of professional painters under the banner of "Brushworks" that was loosely affiliated with Portent.  I had worked for a local GW retail store for about two years prior to that, gotten myself fired from that job, and then went on to win a few minor painting awards (runner up Best Army in the Toronto GT, Best Army in Seattle, etc.).  I did some photo coverage for the Toronto GT for a major online retailer called Newwave Games (the owner, David Doust, is one of the people behind now).  While all that was going on, I managed to join one of the pre-eminent painting studios of the time, Brushworks, whose ranks contained the likes of Jason Richards (multi Golden Demon award winner and fellow Canadian), Mike Butcher (multi Best Army GW Grand Tournament winner), David Dresch (American with 4 GDs), Leigh Carpenter (Aussie with 2 Slayer Swords and well over 20 GDs), Tom Schadle (American with 1 Slayer Sword and over 20 GDs), and Jeff Wilson (American with 3 Slayer Swords and around 20 GDs), and ended up painting for a living (not a great living, mind you, but it paid my half of the rent).

The rest of my memory from that time is a bit fuzzy, but I think I noticed that many of Portent's regular editorial columnists weren't all that productive with regular posts.  My writing bug kicked in, and I approached the owner / moderator, Pete Closs, and pitched a few articles.  A short time later, I was posting all sorts of gaming and modelling related musings on a weekly basis (much like a modern blog, only hosted by a major hub of a website).  I had quite the following, and spent much of my time responding to emails, which I loved (as it was a nice break from all that painting).

In the end, Brushworks folded when the owner ditched the business (for understandable reasons that had nothing to do with BW), and while the rest of us valiantly tried to keep the whole thing afloat (including a great Yahoo group where we swapped ideas and critiques of each other's work, thus improving each other's skills immeasureably), it just lost too much focus and slowly split at the seams.  Portent followed suit shortly, which opened an Internet void that sites like DakkaDakka and Warseer quickly filled, and I found myself no longer painting for a living, and no longer writing for fun.

After a yearlong stint in the film industry (as an assistant casting agent... and no, there were no couches involved...), I found myself looking for a new direction once again.  My buddy Chad Lascelles was in a similar situation, having ridden out the big Internet bubble (when web developing businesses were going boom and bust on a near daily basis), and we were sitting on a small dock  at a mutual friend's cabin, tossing back beers, talking about how we both loved painting miniatures so much.  Somehow that led to us forming a professional painting studio called Sorcerer Studios, and I was back to painting for a living once again.

Sorcerer Studios was everything Brushworks wasn't... the only thing they had in common was a decent amount of success (we were booked solid, and ran with a 3-4 month waiting list for projects), and a good chunk of the same clients.  Brushworks artists worked alone, and corresponded and collaborated on projects only by email and by courier.  We were scattered all over the globe.  In contrast, Sorcerer Studios was two artists, working on either end of a used dining table in a spare room that was completely converted over to a dedicated studio.  We got to work at 9am, and worked straight through till 5pm each day, 5 days a week (minimum).  We freely passed projects back and forth between the two of us, and collectively came up with time estimates and price quotes.  We did our best to run the thing like a serious business, and it was.  Only it was a ton of fun too.

During the 4 years that Sorcerer Studios ran for, I got to work on all sorts of amazing projects.  From individual character models for role playing games, to massive armies (I nearly went nuts doing 130 Mordor Orcs for one client), to giant Forgeworld models and terrain (super heavy tanks, mammoths, greater daemons, titans, etc.), to pre-release models for fledgling miniature lines (like Dark Age and IK-Warmachine), I practically painted every model ever released during that time.  And we did it to as high a standard as we could... if it couldn't at least fit in to a "Best Painted" award winning army, it wouldn't get shipped until it could. 

In the end, the business was still going strong, but we couldn't.  It completely burned us out (well, it burned ME out at least... Chad was a painting machine).  There were also some real life issues that proved to be bigger than our business, and so it was time to move on.

In the years that followed, I dabbled a bit here and there, teaching the occasional painting class, writing the occasional painting article and review (many for my friend Zac Belado, who was getting a website called, "Tabletop Gaming News" off the ground), and half-heartedly following what was going on in the miniature painting world.  Overall though, I had a hard time dredging up the motivation to paint much.

Then, at the beginning of 2012, I took some classes taught by the incomparable Mathieu Fontaine.  Some local gamers (organized by my friend Jason "Doc" Dyer) had flown him out to Vancouver from his home province of Quebec, and I found myself challenged in ways I hadn't forseen.  His painting style and techniques, heck, his whole approach to painting was completely different from what I had done before.  His painting philosophy was different.  His vision of painting was different.  In fact, even his accent was different (for one thing, he never pronounces the letter "h"... ever).

The whole "European painting style" was something that Eavy-Metal style traditionalists like myself just didn't get, but now I had an inkling about how they did it.  I would force myself to abandon my tried-and-true techniques, and get out of my comfort zone.

And it inspired me to seek out every technique, product, or approach out there that I hadn't tried out yet.  The resources available to the aspiring master painter were endless, unlike when I had first started out.  I would tackle new things with every model I touched from here on out, with varying levels of success.  Some things I would happily incorporate into my painting arsenal, others I would modify to suit my own personal tastes.  It won't be like the French artists, or the English ones. It won't be like quite like Jennifer Haley's style, or Matheiu's, or John Blanche's, or anyone elses. It will have elements of all the artists I admire, but it won't pass for one of their works.  In the end, I suspect I'll end up with a style that's not entirely like anyone elses, but I hope it'll make ME happy, at least. 

So why "Sable and Spray" as a blog title?

Those are the two tools that I use most often to get paint on to models.  The finest miniature painting brushes are made of hair from the Kolinsky Sable (a kind of Siberian Mink).  The other tool that's making waves in this hobby is the airbrush, which has been a staple in military and large figurine modelling for quite some time, but is a relative newcomer to our teeny tiny models.  Between the two, I came up with the title, "Sable and Spray"... it sounded good at the time, anyway.

So welcome to Sable and Spray.  Here you will read about my misadventures in miniature painting, my thoughts regarding it, and the people and styles I currently admire and try and live up to.  As a father and working man (no longer employed painting minis, thankfully), my actual painting time is limited, but my thoughts on the subject are endless.

Please enjoy and comment.