As promised earlier, here is an interview with a professional painter Vesa Mäkelä. Vesa is a relatively new face in the painting scene and does work for Pulp City Miniatures and his obvious talent will ensure that he will see much more success in the future.
Vesa has also generously volunteered to paint a figure for the winner of my contest to keep as part of the first prize!
Since Vesa is a painter I thought many of you would enjoy some insight into how a professional painter operates. Sculpting and painting are two essential skills in today's hobby whether it be in fixing separate parts, converting or customizing mini's, or making that great base for a diorama.
"Defiance: a diorama using Corvus Belli Cutter and Billie and Alyx minis from Hasslefree"
Enough Rambling Here is the interview:
JVS:Briefly describe your background in miniatures and gaming, and of course painting.
VM:I’ve been painting minis for about six years now with a few longer breaks and many months away from the hobby but for the last two years I’ve been painting pretty actively and trying to improve my techniques and style. I am not much into gaming anymore but oddly enough, I still love to paint playable skirmish groups for visually intriguing games.
JVS:Do you have any official training or experience in fine arts?
VM:I have done some fine art studies mostly traditional painting and drawing.
JVS:When did you paint your first miniature? What was it?
VM:I painted my first miniature in the late autumn of 2003. I happened to find a box of plastic citadel dwarfs from a local book store. I built and painted four of them and started to wonder why they didn’t look anything like the picture in the box. Then I learned about undercoating and GW paints…
JVS:How and why did you make the transition from painted as a hobby to being a professional painter?
VM:I first got an opportunity to paint a group of minis to get some old Rogue Trader era Citadel figures as a reward and as a passionate collector of RT minis I of course pounced on the chance. Then I slowly started to get more commission offers from collectors and gamers and moved to doing commercial painting as a logical step.
"Pulp City: Tangent"
JVS:How did you learn and improve your craft? What tips, tutorials, or books did you use?
VM:I’ve never had tutorials next to me when painting but I’m sure I’ve learned many things from them. Studying master painters techniques from the pictures of their works have always been important to me. Some of the feedback I’ve received over years on a Finnish miniature forum Sotavasara.net have also been a major source for encouragement.
JVS:How much time on average does it take you to paint a miniature from start to finish?
VM:If the figure is very simple and I’m doing a basic paintjob I probably can finish it in one sitting with no rush, if the mini has a lot of tiny details and different types of surfaces it should take a day or few. It is very hard to say any average without defining the level of painting.
JVS:What would you say is your specialty?
VM:I would like to think that my specialty is the placing of light and shadow which I use to imitate the directional lighting. I also like to strengthen this effect with strong contrast by using complementary colours. It’s an old technique but I aim to use it expressively to learn how to create almost impressionistic effect on a three dimensional object.
JVS:What has been your greatest challenge with regards to painting miniatures?
VM:There are many things I could put my finger on but I think the greatest challenge was the full wood elf army commission that I did last year. Painting a whole army on a such a high level in two months was very tough but I learned a lot during that time and it especially added a nice bit of dexterity to my blending/layering technique.
"Pulp City: Sister Bedlam"
JVS:What type and brand of paints do you prefer?
VM:Vallejo Model Colour range of acrylic paints is definitely my favourite, the drop-tip bottles fit perfectly with the use of a wet palette and the wide range of different hues is very inclusive. I actually painted my very first minis, the dwarfs I mentioned before, with VMC paints! After that I immediately moved to official GW paints and during last couple years, ironically enough, Vallejo started to conquer my painting table back.
JVS:What type of brushes do you use?
VM:I use EM-4 Kolinsky brushes sizes 1, 2 and 3. When I paint larger surfaces I tend to use some cheaper Schubert model brushes because they hold more paint and withstand my violent brush handling habit better. I also have a mystic sealed W&N Series 7 size 2 brush which I preserve for extreme emergency.
JVS:Are there any other tools you use?
VM:When painting I have Tamiya tweezers in my reach just in case if I need to remove a dust fibre from the mini. I also have needle to open clogged paint bottles and something to smooth sludgy paints.
JVS:What type of thinner do you use?
VM:To thin paint I just use tap water, it’s nothing fancy but works well. Some time ago, I used Vallejo glaze medium for glaze to prevent the puddles created by surface tension but now I use more brush control, precise thinning and drier brush when glazing.
JVS:How important is basing to the process of painting a miniature?
VM:For me basing is very important. When I decide to paint a mini I first start to think what type of base the character needs. The base tells a story and the mini tells a story and when these two are well combined with attention and care every finished miniature is like a small diorama.
"Yu Jing Mech-engineer from Corvus Belli"
JVS:Do you use sculpting techniques in your work? If so briefly describe them?
VM:I haven’t combined much sculpting with my painted works yet but nevertheless I’m practicing sculpting and have entered my sculpts in few competitions. My aim is to develop my sculpting skills and combine them with painting to be able to realize some personal ideas in a miniature form.
JVS:How important is photography in your work?
VM:For me the photography is the most important way to share my work with the wider audience, it’s also my primary way to receive people’s thoughts about my works.
JVS:Briefly, describe the process from start to finish that takes place when a company commissions you to paint a miniature?
VM:It’s very complicated so I thought I should make a little comic to explain how it happens!
To see more of Ves'a amazing work visit his blog "Static Painting" HERE.
"the dragon is from Ultraforge and the rider from the Asmodee's Hell Dorado range, Karl Franz on a griffon is from Citadel"
Thanks again Vesa, for the great interview and for volunteering to paint the grand prize winning figure!
My next insider interview will be a in depth look at what goes into creating and managing your own gaming company when I chat with Maciej Zylewicz, the owner and operator of Puly City!