I was lucky enough to be chosen by Beasts of War to head over to Golem Painting Studio in Manchester to take part in Tommie Soule’s NMM Masterclass. Tommie is well known in the online mini-painting community and always receives great feedback on his works. He has previously worked for GW and is venturing out and now running a very successful commission painting service, employing fifteen staff to work out of his studio in central Manchester.
So I guess I should give some background into who I am. My name is Martin Waller and I come from Northampton. I painted minis as a kid however I took the usual “beer and girls sabbatical” when I left school and joined the Army. The re-release of Space Hulk in late 2009 dragged me back into the hobby and two years (and hundreds of pounds!) later I won two awards at the UK Golden Demon in 2011. I managed to scoop a Bronze for my Arachnarok Spider and a Gold for my Large Scale Death Company Marine.
Since then however, my painting has improved dramatically but the awards have been less forthcoming. I completed another large scale model, a Black Templar Apothecary, before being told the large scale category was scrapped and have had various finalists medals but sadly no more “podiums”. I was hoping that this masterclass would assist me in refining my techniques and teaching me something new.
So, after the bleary eyed drive along Britain’s finest motorways I found myself at the Studio. The Golem Studio itself is located on the fifth floor of a converted disused Mill. The outside is not much to look at and it took me a while to work out if I was headed in the right direction! I had been warned that there was a lift that looked spooky but was fine to use. Well, I took one look at it and opted for the stairs!
The Mill was very dilapidated inside but up on the 5th floor, behind a big wooden door was a very well decorated corridor. This had many different offshoots leading to various studios and, of course, the Golem Studio.
It was very interesting to see a working studio in the flesh. With various projects being worked on and each painter having their own workspace and shelf. It was clear that it was a very organised operation with a rightful place for every model,paint or tool.
We were greeted by Tommie who was very chipper and was immediately putting us all at ease with his very down to earth attitude towards absolutely everything and once we had gone through the formalities we got stuck in to the theory of NMM painting.
An interesting change to my usual painting routine was the inclusion of Tommie’s palette. All the staff within the studio used a large sheet of MDF as a palette. This was painted the same colour as the undercoat of the figure being worked on. This was explained as “What happens on the palette will happen on the model”. So, if the paint was pooling and streaking on the palette then why would it act any different when its applied to the model? I had never given thought to the paint behaving differently on a palette to a model so within five minutes I was already learning!
A lot of what Tommie was teaching was on what he described as his “fundamentals”. Everyone in the room was at a different level of skill and experience so the chance to discuss paint thinning, blending and glazing was a good refresher and to some it was a real eye opener.
The NMM was broken down into 3 basic rules. The first being the “RULE OF JEWEL”. This was to paint flat surfaces in the same way that we would paint a jewel on a normal 28mm figure. The second was the “RULE OF REAL”. This was applied to curved and cylindrical shapes and basically followed where light would naturally fall on the mini. Hence a more realistic look. The 3rd, and most important, rule that supersedes all rules was the “RULE OF COOL”. Basically, if it isn’t technically correct or natural, but looks cool, then its fine!
We were each given a Sanguinary Guard to practice the techniques on. Tommie came round to speak to everyone whilst we worked. It was hard not to overhear him saying things like “One shot on kill” whilst talking about adding highlights and “sneak up on it” whilst talking about shading.
He was very funny and had everyone laughing, and learning, very quickly. Once we had tried out the rule of jewel on the Marines rear plate we moved on to the more ambitious rule of real on the curve of the leg armour.
The NMM gold recipe was slightly different to what I had used before, using a mix of GW and Army Painter paints. It involved using XV-88 as a basecoat and then shading with Doombull Brown and highlighting with Bleached Bone. Black and white were added to give more contrast and a yellow glaze was added to finish.
Lunch time came round very quickly and we had a break while Tommie’s mum brought out some well earned lunch. The break gave us a chance to nose about at Golem’s current projects and display cabinets. Tommie was also on hand to answer any questions we had and gave feedback on models that people had brought in.
There was a massive emphasis on the theory behind the techniques he was explaining and took time to make sure that everyone was moving at a pace that suited them. He used his whiteboards a lot to describe light blooms and how we could transfer the theory onto our models.
The rest of the afternoon was geared at practicing the techniques we had been taught, with lots of face palming from various members of the group as they messed up a blend or went too dark with a shade. Luckily Tommie would appear and offer a simple remedy to anyone that was struggling.
The end of the day was spent as a Q&A where we had the chance to quiz Tommie on anything that had been troubling us with our painting. He gave some great advice on painting black power armour, which was ideal for me as I have ten Death Company sat on my desk for this months painting pledge!
Overall it was a great day and I took a lot away from it. Obviously the higher level painter you are the more technical you can be. However the simple blending and shading techniques taught to the more inexperienced members of the group will be massively invaluable to them and will no doubt springboard them into using more technical painting skills.
If you are interested in learning some new techniques and having a real good laugh at the same time, get yourself over to Golem.
If you would like to write articles for Beasts of War on painting or indeed any other aspect of our hobby then please get in contact with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.