Q&A Time: John Harrison From The Weekend Workshop

June 24, 2015 by crew

One weekend, as I was hanging around Firestorm Games in Cardiff trying to get some much needed Warmachine practice in, I noticed a rather studious looking group of people at the back of the store, eyes down and lit by task lights, surrounded by air brush compressors.

Poster

I’m far too nosey to let that go and I’m so glad I asked what was going on! Cue a rather illuminating chat with the host of what turned out to be an intermediate miniatures painting workshop called simply The Weekend Workshop. I couldn’t help but grab John Harrison to probe further.

Dani: For those of us who don’t know you, can you tell us who you are and what you do?

John: So my name is John! I am a competitive miniature painter from Liverpool. For the last six years I have been travelling around Europe attending painting competitions and workshops trying to hone my skills. In late 2010, inspired by the great artists who given me so much of their time I started a teaching organisation called the weekend workshop. I now aide my students to gain the skills they want to apply to the hobby they love!

How did you come up with the idea for The Weekend Workshop?

TWW was inspired by a seven day workshop I attended in the south of France back in  2010, organised by legendary painter Jeremie Bonamont Teboul, it was called Figostock! A group of us ended up attending because we were struggling to improve our painting skills and we saw Figostock as a way of acquiring knowledge and techniques that simply weren’t being taught in the UK.

Workshop at Firestorm

Figostock ended up being one of the best and most horrific experiences of my life! We were painting in 40c heat, we stayed in a tiny static caravan, which didn’t have enough beds, so we all slept really poorly! The campsite manager hated us because we were English so he refused to serve us food and drink!

We couldn’t go for a swim in the lovely, cool, refreshing lake next to us because it was full off jellyfish, a fact we found out for ourselves after an afternoon swimming!

However! We were surrounded by some of the most talented people in the world! Painters like Jeremie, Alfonso Giraldes, Thomas David, Jose Palomares, Jacques-Alexandre Gillois. It was essentially a crash course in the European style of painting, something we had very little knowledge of.

Workshop at Firestorm (Alt)

All the ideas that were being talked about were all of a hugely high level and we honestly struggled to get to grips with it, for me it took about six or seven months to truly understand what I had learnt.

Once I got back to the UK I really wanted to pass on this knowledge, doing it through forums wasn’t really cutting it, neither was writing articles so I decided I wanted to take the greatness that was Figostock and recreate it in the UK, so, The Weekend Workshop was born!

Can you talk us through the different levels of Workshop you offer?

We have three different levels of workshop, Beginner, Intermediate and Masterclass. The beginner classes are designed for people with literally no experience to come in, pick up a strong foundation of skills and to go away feeling really confident. The Intermediate workshops are a little more flexible.

Teaching

Of course they are there to support and encourage you but they are also there to challenge you, to push you our of your comfort zone and give you a glimpse greatness you can achieve. The Masterclass workshops gives you access to the worlds best painters teaching at the highest level they can. No filters and no restrictions.

Do you travel around? What locations does The Weekend Workshop visit?

I do quite a lot of traveling, yea! With teaching, traveling to contests in the likes of Spain, Germany, France and going to see my girlfriend in the States, the miles certainly clock up! Workshop wise we have 4 locations, Liverpool, Cardiff, Cambridge and Sutton-in-Ashfield.

Do you attend any big gaming events and conventions and give talks or painting demonstrations?

Wargaming wise, despite having a 12,000 point Space Marine army back in the day I’ve never been to a big event! The competitive side of wargaming has never really appealed to me, which is odd because when it comes to painting contests I can be quite competitive and serious!

Techniques

Painting demo wise, the last I gave was at the final Golden Demon Germany. Most of the support I give is either done via workshops or online, there are far more talented people then me to give talks and demos!

Do you enter painting competitions? Would you ever run one?

I do enter painting contests yes! Contests are a big part of my life because I get to travel to fantastic places and socialise with fantastic people! The latest trip I’ve just booked is my pilgrimage to Tuscnay. Ten of us Brits are heading out to join 400 other painters in what I feel is the best painting competition in Europe and that is Monte San Savino!

Painted Mini

Monte really has it all, the beautiful location, the wonderful food, the warm, welcoming community, world class judges and to top it off, over a 1500 top class competition entries across sci-fi, fantasy and historical. If I could run an event anywhere near as good as Monte in the UK, I would do so without hesitation!

I am a total, utter noob at painting miniatures, aside from joining your workshops, have you any tips on getting started? What do I need?

For me I think there are three things that will really help you out when you get started. A permanent, well lit place to paint, because when the mood strikes you don’t want to be bogged down in setting up. A group of painting buddies who you and learn and get support from and paint at least half and hour everyday!

The Firestorm Class

And yes, I did say everyday! The only way you’ll improve is if you practice often, half an hour a day gives you at least fourteen hours worth of painting a month, that’s a solid number!

What do you have planned for the future?

Right now I am working hard to increase the amount of workshops we shall be providing this year, we are on course to do twelve with a heavier focus on beginner workshops. I am also looking for new communities to take workshops to, especially in the North of the UK!

Airbrushing

At the moment am leading a steering group that is looking into the possibility of running an independent painting competition in the UK, but that’s still very early days! Personally I want try and increase my productivity so I can take some truly epic pieces to Monte!

In a rather lovely happenstance, I met a member of the workshop in Cardiff who has become a great friend and Warmachine/Hordes opponent! Stuart Sim has actually attended a couple of John’s workshops and I asked him what he learned…

“I have attended two of John workshops so far and can’t wait to attend more. Not only have they improved my painting skills but I have met so many great people through them.

My first workshop was the core skills workshop. In this case we covered everything from priming to colour theory. It is a brilliant workshop for pulling together all those basics to help you produce excellent tabletop miniatures, making your army pop. I found that the course had something for everyone whether you had no experience or fifteen years of attempting to paint like me.

The second workshop was an intro to using the airbrush. I had barely used an airbrush when I went on this course (I literally had bought an airbrush the month before!!). The proof is in the pudding and I now quite happily use my airbrush, in-fact I use it that much it is permanently set up in my painting area!

Stuart (Far Right)

John has a very down to earth approach to teaching, no question is too stupid! He has a very good knack at providing you with enough knowledge to make you push yourself but never making you feel lost. Always happy to answer any questions on the course and later on as your skills develop.

I can’t recommend these workshops enough, if you just want a nicely painted army to play with or if you want to paint display pieces. John and the weekend workshop will get you started and help you to achieve it. I know I can’t wait for my next one in June!”

Thanks so much guys! If you are interested in furthering your painting skills, or like me, are starting your painting journey, you can find more info on attending The Weekend Workshop on the links above!

I know the topic of painting gets us Wargamers quite excitable, so what do you think? Would you attend a workshop?

Dani Abram

If you would like to write an article for Beasts of War then please contact me at ben@beastsofwar.com for more information!

"Cue a rather illuminating chat with the host of what turned out to be an intermediate miniatures painting workshop called simply The Weekend Workshop. I couldn't help but grab John Harrison to probe further..."

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"For me I think there are three things that will really help you out when you get started..."