Thursday, 9 February 2017

The Eavy Metal Style of Painting, or "Is Duncan Rhodes the Messiah of Mini Painting?"

Duncan Rhodes always drinks his painting wash water after he finishes a model.

For some, mini painting is an art form.  For others, it's simply a chore to be quickly gotten over with prior to playing a game.  Sometimes the two mindsets clash.

However, there IS a happy medium between the two, and I would have to say that it's the Eavy Metal painting method / style, which was popularized by Games Workshop eons ago (and is more popular and refined than ever today).

Now, I've mentioned before, I started mini painting back in the late eighties when there were very few published mini painting step-by-steps, no YouTube videos, no painting DVDs (or VHS tapes, for that matter), and no mini painting classes.  These are all things that we all take for granted nowadays, but back then we simply saw pics of completed minis in White Dwarf and Dragon magazine, and did our best to guess at the tools and techniques used, and somehow reverse engineer the process.

Back in the 80's, we would stare at White Dwarf pages like these for hours, trying to figure out how the artists achieved various effects.
And then we'd end up with something like this...

GW / Citadel Miniatures was making the move away from being a game importer and distributor in the UK, to their new focus of creating miniatures.  However, sales of individual miniatures as a business model was very limited in growth.  After all, most D&D players only needed a single miniature to represent their character, and a DM might only need a handful of models.

"The Role-Playing Games Monthly"... a far cry from where White Dwarf's at now.

So GW started publishing rules for playing with entire armies of miniatures.  As you know, this was a fantastic business model... and suddenly GW was selling quite a lot of minis.  In some cases, however, the only thing slowing down people's purchasing was how much money they had to spend, and how fast they could paint.

In some ways, that's how the Eavy Metal method of painting came about.  Gamers and collectors needed a fast and efficient way to paint their miniatures.  The sooner they finished a miniature and got it on the table, the sooner they would be back in the shop, looking for their next acquisition.

It also needed to be easy to understand, so that people new to the hobby would not be intimidated, and could pick it up quite quickly.  When I worked at GW, we often heard non-gamers look at the display cases and say, "Wow, I could never paint like that".  Of course, like wolves hearing a distress call from a weakened deer, we would then swoop in and say, "Actually, it's quite easy.  If you've got a minute, I can show you how at our painting table over here...".  Then, after a 20-30 min demo where the potential customer got to walk away with their first painted miniature, we were often able to talk them into a purchase.

"Why hello, dear... would you like a painting lesson?"

Lastly, it still had to look good.  This style of painting had to help showcase all the details on the miniature... it couldn't be a quick and dirty "dip-job".  It's understood that part of the draw of the hobby is how fantastic a fully painted army looks on the tabletop... potentially every gamer's army would essentially be a marketing tool to drive further sales of minis, and help bring in new blood.  Whatever method of painting that GW promoted would have to keep that in mind.

And so if you look at the motivations behind one of the main driving forces behind the evolution of miniature painting, Games Workshop as a corporation, then you see how the basic primer, basecoat, wash, and layer highlight (with optional drybrush) method made perfect sense.  It's quick to learn, quick to paint, and for economy of effort, it's hard to beat the end result.

Now, also consider that GW also sells their own line of paints, and has done so for quite some time.  Yes, they are made by other companies, but they are made to GW's direction.  Sales of these paints represent a very large chunk of their income, and any painting tutorial published in White Dwarf, or posted online or on YouTube goes a long way in helping drive sales of GW paints.  Part of what makes the Eavy Metal method so easy is that you rarely have to mix paints... every painting tutorial has a long laundry list of colours that you can simply pick up and layer on your mini.

Use this system, and you may never need to learn how to mix paints.

(Side Note: Other companies are also doing their part as well in specifically targeting the beginner.  Reaper came out with a "Triad System" of paints, in which each they grouped each colour into separate base, shade, and highlight pots.  I've also noticed that many P3 paints are given names like "Menoth White Base", and "Menoth White Highlight".  Organizing your paint range in this manner turns purchasing paints into an established system that new painters can easily understand, even without any knowledge of colour theory).   

Okay... so if you've read all that, you might now think of me as some tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorist.  You likely just love the painting techniques shown on the WarhammerTV YouTube channel, or those published in White Dwarf, for the simple fact that they have vastly improved your own painting.  The thing is, both are entirely valid reasons for this style to exist.  This method of painting has evolved BOTH to help new painters / gamers, AND to help GW's sales as well.  One reason / result does not devalue the other whatsoever.  They live in happy harmony.  GW has done the hobbyist a huge favour, while at the same time doing themselves a favour too.

Now, there's very little NOT to like about the painting method.  Even though it's simple in concept and execution, the end result is a clean, bright, and characterful model, that looks fantastic on both the tabletop, and in the display case.  For that reason, it's incredibly popular, and in particular I'm seeing many people rave about Duncan Rhodes' painting tutorials on the WarhammerTV YouTube channel.  I've seen a few of them, and most recently I've been checking out the ones on how he has painted the new Saint Celestine model and Inquisitor Greyfax.  Frankly, I was blown away at how simple, effective, and elegant the painting was. 

How to paint Inquisitor Greyfax, the Duncan Rhodes way

The best part of the promotion of this method of painting is that it's getting more painted miniatures out there.  One thing that I absolutely loathe is seeing hordes of bare metal / resin / plastic at gaming stores or at tournaments (I even wrote a whole article on how much I dislike it).  I think it's absolutely awesome that we are seeing more and more beautifully painted minis, and people are taking more pride in their models.

However, to play Devil's Advocate for a second, the one drawback to everyone following Duncan's painting vids is that we're going to start seeing similar paintjobs from one person's army to another.  Much the same happened back in the early nineties, when everyone copied Mike McVey and the Eavy Metal style. Many of the gamers I played with pretty much had identically painted armies.

Don't get me wrong... I still like Duncan's vids. As far as economy of effort, it's fantastic. Easy to follow, and amazing results. However, unlike the McVey era, there are so many different styles and techniques out there now, it's a bit of a shame that more people aren't trying to branch out a bit more and find their own style of painting.


Let me make an analogy here.

Say everyone has a bunch of potatoes. Most of those people are serving boiled potatoes, because Duncan has posted a vid of how to quickly and easily get your potatoes to the dinner table by dunking them in a pot of boiling water. It's simple, and it's a heck of a lot tastier and better looking / smelling than a plate of raw potatoes.

But if that's all people are trying, then they are missing out on all the other ways to prepare and eat potatoes. Why not roast or mash them? Cut them up and deep fry them as french fries? Bake them and pile on some butter, chives, and sour cream? Slice them thin and fry them up as chips? Dice them up and turn them into hash browns? Sure, all those methods take a bit more time and effort than plopping potatoes into boiling water, but the end result may be worth it.



If cooked potatoes are like painted minis, then poutine is a Slayer Sword winning entry!

My point being, sure, it's awesome that we are seeing fewer raw potatoes on dinner tables, but hopefully after people have tried boiled potatoes for awhile, they go out and try their hand at other ways to cook them. Otherwise every time you go to a friend's place, or visit relatives, or go to a restaurant, you'll see the same boiled potatoes over and over again... just done up by different people.


But that's a very minor point considering the overall benefit to gaming / hobbying.  The impact of the efforts of WarhammerTV, White Dwarf magazine, Duncan Rhodes, and every red-shirt staff member at a GW store is enormous.  While many gamers will likely watch WarhammerTV and be satisfied with a lifetime of painting to that standard, many a future Slayer Sword winner will take their first baby steps because of Duncan... but not if they stop their progress there.

I really hope that after people learn to "thin their paints", and that "multiple thin coats are better than one thick one", that their interest and passion will just have started to be piqued.  Hopefully they go on to find other influences, like Mig Jimenez, Mathieu Fontaine, Massive Voodoo, James Wappel, John Blanche, Darren Latham, David Soper, Alfonso Giraldes, etc etc etc (please see some of the other blogs on my sidebar list, or Google them).  Duncan Rhodes is the starting point I recommend for anyone new to this art form, but I implore you, do not stop there.  Just as there are many different ways to prepare a potato, I strongly urge everyone to try out as many different ways to paint a miniature as they can.

Just not the "Pure Edging" approach that some White Dwarf staff were pushing in the years previous to Duncan Rhodes coming on the scene... jeez... it's still shite.

2 comments:

  1. I see it, as you were saying at the end, as a stepping stone for new painters. Those who aren't huge fans of painting might not expand beyond those basics, but at least their painting. Those who find a love for painting will research different techniques, and expand upon those early basic principles they learned. It really is a win-win in my book. Nice article too.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks. I'm a big fan of this as a starting point, but as I said, the only possible drawback is that it becomes TOO popular, and we start to see a homogeneous commonality to any painted army we see.

      But what I really like about this method is that all the basics are there. Paint consistency, brush control, a rudimentary form of lighting, etc. Yes, colour theory and manipulation of paint through mixing and blending are missing, but those are skills and theories you can pick up later.

      But unlike the "Pure Edging" approach, you don't have to UNLEARN anything in order to advance to the next level of painting mastery. If all you do is basecoat and edge highlight, you learn brush manipulation, but that's it. The approach to highlighting is wrong, and there's no solid foundation of skill to build upon.

      And GW found a great banner-bearer in Duncan. Those vids are easy to follow, he is easy to understand, and he's not intimidating to new painters. Basically, they found a great "everyman" that people could like and listen to.

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