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Miniature painting and sculpting classes at conventions are a wonderful resource. Typically they are an hour and a half to two hours long, though occasionally you will find three or four hour classes. That is enough time to get some insight into a particular technique or effect, like wet blending or non-metallic metal, and it is invaluable to see how other painters handle their paint and tools in person. Many classes are hands-on, which gives you the opportunity to get direct feedback on your efforts with the subject of the class. But convention painting classes also have their limitations. If you think of painting like a puzzle, you get an in-depth look at one piece or section of the puzzle, but you may not get a good sense of how that piece relates to the whole picture. And generally you only have 40 minutes or so to practice before you go on to the next class or convention activity, which may not be enough time to fully internalize the new information.
There is another type of in-person miniature painting (and sometimes sculpting) instruction that you might not be as familiar with – workshops and bootcamps. These are all-day intensive instruction from a single painter that might run for one, two, or occasionally even three days. The instructor has a lot more time to go over their general painting process, as well as their approach to specific techniques or effects. Students have more time to practice, and more opportunities to get feedback. You still might not completely finish a figure in a workshop, but you tend to get much more of a sense of how that painter approaches painting a figure as a whole.
In April 2018 I attended a workshop on colour theory with Alfonso “Banshee” Giraldes. He has toured the United States several times giving workshops.
The challenge with workshops is that they tend to take place only in large cities, as a minimum number of attendees is necessary to make it feasible for the instructor to do. So unless you are fortunate enough to live in the cities where they are often organized, you will likely need to travel to attend one. That is an added expense on top of the cost of the workshop itself. (Though I will note that these events in the miniature painting world tend to be less expensive than similar ones in the traditional art realm.)
If you live in the United States, you have the opportunity to attend a workshop next year with the fantastic Spanish painter Sergio Calvo Rubio. Not only is he an excellent painter, he has also worked to develop a process for painting quickly. I took a couple of classes with him at AdeptiCon 2017, and just those few hours really jumpstarted me on finding a way to paint with more directional lighting. I am very excited about what I might be able to learn from him in a full two day workshop!
You can look at Sergio’s lovely miniatures here: https://www.puttyandpaint.com/sergiocalvo
Below is a list of the dates and locations for the Sergio Calvo workshops in the United States in 2019.
If you can find a way to get to one of these events, I highly recommend that you do it! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to sign up.
I have previously attended two weekend workshops. The first was with renowned Russian painter Kirill Kaneav in 2017. I highly recommend taking a workshop with him if you ever have the opportunity. He really opened my eyes to the value of using photo reference in miniature painting, and showed us some fantastic techniques for creating shadows and highlights to build three dimensional form with texture strokes instead of just smooth blending, and showed us several other things in addition.
This is the bust I worked on in the Kirill Kanaev workshop. The cloth texture work is on the back.
Below is a pair of figures I painted after the workshop to practice with the texture techniques. I also used photo references for the faces, as we had in the workshop. I referenced a picture of Helen Mirren for the woman, and one of Sean Connery for the man. These sculpts are pretty rough, particularly given that they are 54mm scale. Smooth blending looked awful on them, but building highlights and shadows with textures looked much more attractive.
I maybe went a little nuts with the textures…
This year I took a workshop with Alfonso “Banshee” Giraldes, a Spanish painter and sculptor. He is well-known for his bold use of colour. He is a strong champion for a more painterly style to be used in miniature painting. (In a painterly style, the aim isn’t necessarily a perfectly smooth or photo realistic finish, but rather one where the hand and intent of the artist are visible through brushstrokes and colour transitions.) The workshop I took was specifically focused on colour theory and colour use. So it was less focused on painting an entire miniature, and more about exercises and experiments with colour. (Although we did also work on a miniature bust.) I recommend this workshop to people who would like to learn more about colour theory and how to apply it to miniatures, and who would like to mix colours from a small set rather than using a huge collection of pre-mixed paints.
I painted this figure to practice colour mixing after taking the Banshee workshop. You can read more about my painting process here: https://birdwithabrush.com/2018/09/14/a-critique-filled-promenade/
The best way to hear about upcoming workshops is to participate in the miniature painting community via Facebook groups and website forums. It is also pretty common for the historical painting shows to be preceded by a one or two day workshop with a renowned painter. So it might be worth finding out if there is an historical painting show near enough to you to attend. I’ve listed the shows I know of near the bottom of this post: https://birdwithabrush.com/2018/08/09/some-prose-on-cons-conventions-and-shows/.
Have you ever attended a workshop? Are you thinking of going to one of Sergio’s next year? Let me know your experiences and thoughts in the comments!
Links to figures and people mentioned in this blog post:
Miniature Monthly Patreon (organizers of the Sergio Calvo workshop tour in the US): https://www.patreon.com/miniaturemonthly
Sergio Calvo Putty and Paint gallery: https://www.puttyandpaint.com/sergiocalvo
Sergio Calvo Miniatures page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sergiocalvominiatures/
Sergio Calvo Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/sergiocalvominiatures
Alfonso Giraldes Putty and Paint gallery: https://www.puttyandpaint.com/BansheeArtStudio
Banshee page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Alfonso.Giraldes.Banshee/
Banshee Miniature Art Academy on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/miniatureartacademy
Kirill Kanaev Putty and Paint gallery: https://www.puttyandpaint.com/Yellow_one
Angelface bust – sculpted by Kirill Kanaev and used in his workshops, but I can’t find a link to buy it, sorry.
54mm dancing couple – these were a commission for a client. I’m pretty sure you can buy these, but I don’t know where, sorry.
Dark Sword Shaman figure: https://www.darkswordminiatures.com/shop/index.php/miniatures/elmore-masterworks/female-shaman.html