Monday, September 14, 2015

Miniature Painting Masters: Sebastian Archer

Welcome back to The Miniature Painting Masters Series where we sit down with some of our hobby's most prolific and well known painters. In this installment we talk with Sebastian Archer, multiple Golden Demon and Slayer Sword winner, creator of Twisted Miniatures and sculptor extraordinaire.

Tyler: How did you first become a member of the miniature wargaming and painting hobby?

Sebastian: I’ve been into miniatures ever since I was a young kid! I’ve always loved the fantasy genre and my first introduction to miniatures was through the old Warhammer box set with the plastic elves and goblins when I was 10 years old (best Christmas present ever!). I took to the painting side of the hobby straight away, and ever since then I’ve been more interested in the creative aspect of miniature than the gaming side.

Tyler: How long had you been painting at what you would consider a serious level before you won your first award? (Golden Demon or other) and can you take us through a little of your thought process on how you prepared that winning model?

Sebastian: I guess I have a slightly unusual story in that my first award came as a huge and unexpected surprise, at my very first major competition. I’d long had the goal of entering Games Workshop’s Golden Demon painting competition one day, as I’d grown up admiring pictures of the winners in White Dwarf. I’d done a lot of painting over the years – particularly in the aftermath of the LOTR films when I went nuts on the miniatures – so in 2005 I decided it was finally my year to give Golden Demon a try. I decided to focus all my efforts on a single miniature: a Dark Apostle character from the Word Bearers chaos space marines, which I converted from a metal space marine veteran figure. I spent a ridiculous amount of time agonising over every piece of the conversion and every stroke of the brush, and in the end I thought I might have a shot at a trophy. You can imagine my utter shock, disbelief and excitement when I not only won the gold trophy but was lucky enough to win the Slayer Sword (best of show award)!

Tyler: What is your favourite model or models that you have painted?

Sebastian: It’s hard to say, it changes with time. Probably a toss up between the Chevalier des Baronnies, because painting it was one of those pleasurable times when everything just seemed to work and the painting felt effortless; the Skaven miniature I sculpted and painted for UKGD in 2007, as it was my first full sculpt and first major overseas award; or Severus: ‘Renewal’, both because I had a lot of fun creating the base and attempting to make the garish colour scheme work, and also as it won me a ticket to attend the Crystal Brush competition in 2012.

Tyler: Can you name one major change in the painting world that has impacted you the most since you started (basing changing from green flock to an integral part of the mini, more subdued colors, source lighting, etc.)?

Sebastian: This is hard to answer. I guess I’ve found that most of the changes have come fairly gradually in an organic way, rather than being a sudden shift. But I definitely think the increasing role of basing is a huge change, and it kind of represents the fundamental shift of display-painted miniatures away from being ‘well-painted gaming miniatures’ into something separate and much more creative. I think there used to be some confusion at competitions over exactly what the entries were supposed to be: despite the fact that competition winners were never intended for gaming, there was a strange legacy left over in terms of base size restrictions, and so on. For a display piece, the base is an integral part of the figure, not just a stand to sit on; it has an important role in creating and supporting the overall scene and it ties in to all the creative decisions when it comes to painting the miniature. So I think recognising this fact has been an important development in expanding the creativity and overall coolness of painted miniatures over the years.

Tyler: How do you feel the rise of the internet has affected the way people paint their models or the general direction in which miniature painting has gone?

Sebastian: I think the Internet has had an incredibly influential role in the development of painting, particularly post 2000, as a result of it exposing us to so many miniatures, ideas and techniques. If you look at the difference between a competition miniature painted in 1999 versus one from 2009, it’s obvious how much painting developed in that decade. And since then it’s only gone from strength to strength. The fact that ideas, techniques and inspirational photos are shared across the world by such a huge group of painters means we’re all constantly being challenged and pushed to reach ever greater heights as we discover what is possible.

The Last Light by Roman Lappat

Tyler: Which miniature painter(s) inspire you the most?

Sebastian: It’s hard to answer without leaving anyone out! So rather than give a long list, I’ll say Roman Lappat (jarhead) because I love the passion he has for painting, the way he is so free with his creativity, and the way he tells a story with his pieces. Plus he is such a friendly, open and all-around great guy, too. I think he epitomises what a miniature painter should be - I wish I could be as free and creatively uninhibited as Roman!

Tyler: What direction do you think miniature painting is going to go in next in terms of style and techniques?

Sebastian: I think we’ve moved on from focussing purely on technique, and we’re now looking more at creating a moment in time or telling a story with a piece. It’s more of an artistic attitude where the best pieces can transcend the state of being ‘just a miniature’, and instead become something more evocative and memorable. I guess that road takes competition painting further away from ‘gaming’ painting, but I don’t think that’s a problem – the two worlds were always separate anyway, and I think a clearer distinction between the two is ultimately a good thing.

Tyler: Games Workshop seems to have decided to make the Golden Demons a UK only event. They also seem to now be splitting it up even more, so each category is it’s own day, starting with Tanks, instead of one large competition. Do you think this shrinks the hobby a bit for painters since it limits the number of people able to attend, either geographically or economically as well as diminishing any overall awards by splitting up the categories?

Sebastian: I think it’s a shame that the national Golden Demon competitions have gone because they did so much for the painting community over the years, both in terms of driving forward painting and also creating a sense of community. With GDs appearing in so many countries,they were real, tangible goals many painters could work towards, and the large size of the events gave them a great level of excitement as well as attracting international visitors which made for a nice sense of sharing and social spirit. So ultimately I think the watering down of the event in the UK and the disappearance of the other national competitions round the world is a real shame for the painting community. However, all is not lost – the world of miniature painting doesn’t begin and end with Golden Demon. It simply means we need to support newer independent competitions instead, by helping to build them up and create a sense of prestige around them. There were lots of problems with Golden Demon, anyway – the biggest of which was that only Games Workshop miniatures were allowed, of course! So ultimately independent competitions where all miniature are welcome provide a much better option for the future.

Tyler: The Crystal Brush awards introduced a $10,000 prize for best overall a few years ago, which is the largest cash prize for any miniature painting competition in the world. How do you think this affects our hobby?

Sebastian: When the Crystal Brush prize was first announced I thought it would have a significant impact on the painting scene, and I’ve been quite surprised that the effect has been much less apparent than I expected. However, the competition seems to be growing well, especially in the last couple of years with more and more international visitors attending. I think that’s a real key point: if an event can attract painters from not only the whole country but also overseas, it creates a sense of prestige and also a chance for ideas to be shared, for people to see and appreciate different styles, and for a sense of community to build up through face-to-face meetings.

Tyler: Painting to a competitive level is a very time consuming activity. How do you find time to balance life, work and miniatures?

Sebastian: I guess I’ve managed it by merging the two categories of work and miniatures, through working as a full-time miniature sculptor! Honestly though, at times it can be difficult to manage and making sculpting my job means I don’t have much time left to do any miniature-related stuff in my leisure time. But I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to work at something I love to do, and it has given me great opportunities to travel the world and meet lots of wonderful people. That’s something for which I’ll always be grateful.

Tyler: Having won nine Golden Demons and two Slayer Swords, what do you think makes an award winning miniature?

Sebastian: Attention to detail and precision have always served me well in competitions. That extra effort to make something perfect, rather than stopping when it’s ‘good enough’. As I mentioned before, ‘telling a story’ with a competition piece is becoming more and more important so it’s also critical to have a strong, focussed idea as a starting point. Don’t be afraid to get creative – it’s essential!

Tyler: How long do you normally spend on one of your award winning models?

Sebastian: For really high-end competition pieces I’d estimate around 50-60 hours. But it varies a lot and depends on the project of course. Sometimes you can nail the painting in 30-35 hours, but it takes almost as long (or even longer) to make the base! I tend to do things in a rush at the last minute though, and spend a week or two painting intensely rather than stretch things out over months. I generally like to focus on one project at a time and complete a project before moving on to the next.

Tyler: Since you have won awards at multiple competitions as well as judged a few of them yourself, do you notice a distinct difference in the type of model and style of painting that tends to win at one competition over another?

Sebastian: Not really – I don’t think there is any kind of ‘secret formula for success’, or anything like that. Sometimes a miniature will be really original or innovative and will immediately strike a chord with the judges, but the only common thread is that winning miniatures also tend to be ‘creatively successful’. By that I mean they succeed in clearly transmitting an idea, whether it be a well-executed colour scheme, coherent scene composition, evocative storytelling, or all 3 put together for the best miniatures.

Tyler: You are not only an accomplished painter, but also an extremely talented sculptor. How did you begin the transition into primarily sculpting models?

Sebastian: I started dabbling with conversion work a long time back: swapping parts between miniatures, cutting things up and reassembling them in different ways, and generally acting in a Dr Frankenstein-esque manner that I’m sure many of you fellow converters will be familiar with! But once I found the online community and saw that other people were actually sculpting their own miniatures completely from scratch, I knew I had to give it a try. I mentioned earlier that my first (nearly!) full sculpt was the Skaven miniature I took to UKGD in 2007, and from that point on I think sculpting started to become my primary creative challenge. I started working as a freelance sculptor in 2009, and since then I’ve transitioned almost completely to be a sculptor rather than a painter. My main motivation is trying to improve my skill – I’m pretty competitive so that drive to get better is what keeps me going – and I find sculpting so challenging and difficult that I think it will keep me entertained forever!

Tyler: Your sculpts are breathtaking, were you self taught or did you take courses on sculpting?

Sebastian: Thanks for such a kind compliment – I feel a bit embarrassed to say that I’m only self-taught! I wish I had done some kind of artistic anatomy courses earlier on in life because it would’ve been a huge help, especially in the early days,and I still have a lot to learn on that front. But I’ve reached this point mostly by trying to emulate other sculptors’ work, and by sheer persistence, time and effort. It’s amazing how the more sculpting you do, and the more you improve, the more you realise how much you don’t know about sculpting and how much further you have to go!

Tyler: You also have your own miniature line and game that you sculpt for now, Twisted. What was your inspiration behind that and how did you get that started?

Sebastian: Twisted is my dream project – I’ve always wanted to create my own universe, game and miniature range! Freelance sculpting work is fun, but it’s really great to be working towards a larger goal in creating something over which I have more of a sense of ownership. I’m involved in every aspect of the creative design work in Twisted and oversee a lot of the character concept development as well as the sculpting, so it is super cool to be engaged with the project on every level.

Tyler: What can we look forward to with Twisted in the future?

Sebastian: LOTS! We have loads of miniatures already sculpted and queued up for release, and the rules are now done pending final approval from our games designer. We’ve got a few surprises coming soon, and something special planned for the release of the rules later this year. We’re intending Twisted to be a long term project which will grow over time as factions are added and more and more miniatures are sculpted, so stay tuned! I’m very excited about it, and it’s been a great start so far.

Tyler: If you had to pick one, would it be sculpting or painting?

Sebastian: I’m afraid I have to say sculpting! There is something very cool about making something out of nothing – it’s creative in the most fundamental way. I find sculpting such a difficult creative challenge with more than can be learned in a lifetime, and that journey to is what keeps me motivated and interested.

Tyler: Any final thoughts?

Sebastian: If I have a single piece of advice for painters (or sculptors!) out there, I think I’d say that it’s important to focus on something that you enjoy, and do it in a way that you enjoy doing. This sounds silly and obvious, but I’ve met too many painters who get bogged down in trying to do everything the ‘correct way’, or end up painting something in a certain way/method/colour because they feel they have to, rather than because they want to. This is a recipe for disaster because if you don’t like what you’re doing, you’ll inevitably lose your passion and motivation. There is no right way to paint: everyone has a different style, and something painted with enjoyment will inevitably have a much stronger spirit shining through it! So don’t be afraid to experiment with techniques, push yourself, and do things your own way.

You can see even more of Sebastian's amazing models on his Cool Mini or Not page and his website which also has a bunch of his original sculpts for sale. Be sure to check out the website for Twisted and Like the Facebook page to stay up to date on all of the newest releases and progress on that model range.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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