Workshops and Bootcamps

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. 

Alfonso 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. 

Sergio Flyer Spring 2019 FINALIf you can find a way to get to one of these events, I highly recommend that you do it! Contact miniaturemonthly@gmail.com 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.

Bust I painted in Kirill Kanaev workshopThis 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.

Textured cloth examples on male and female dancersI 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. 

My painted figure: PromenadeI 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

Painting… with Friends!

(Groups, people, and products mentioned in this post are linked at the end.)

The fact that painting is an activity you can do on your own in your own home is a big plus for most of us. You’re not at the mercy of someone else’s schedule – you can paint at 3pm or 3am or whenever else works for you. You don’t need a particular type of weather or time of year. It’s a great activity for recharging your introvert battery. You just need some brushes, paint, a miniature and a bit of time.

But as true as all of that is, it can also be a ton of fun to paint with other people. One of the fun activities at my favourite conventions is the opportunity to sit and paint with others. I enjoy the rare chance to meet up with friends in a more intimate setting, too. Yesterday I had the good fortune to spend a day painting with friends, and we had a great time! 

42207932 638893582016 5814045006087847936 oI’m on the left. Across from me is Elizabeth Beckley-Bradford, a renowned miniature painter. Our local friend and miniature enthusiast Susana is sitting next to her. Liz Hunt, a great painter who works with Elizabeth on Miniature Monthly, is taking the picture.

Entertaining conversation with friends makes it a lot easier to sit and paint for a long period of time without getting bored or noticing that your back is hurting. You have someone to bounce ideas off of or get colour scheme suggestions from. There is the occasional danger of a brush stroke going awry as your friends send you into peals of laughter, but I think it’s well worth the risk. It’s also a great opportunity to show friends your work in person (it’s hard to take good pictures of miniatures!) and give and receive feedback. Looking at other people’s figures with a critical eye helps improve your ability to see strengths and weaknesses in your own painting. Having other people look at your miniatures and tell you what they think is the best opportunity you have to see your work through someone else’s eyes.

Getting together with friends to share tips and tricks is also very valuable. Elizabeth showed us how to use lightweight spackle to make quick and easy groundwork on bases. I shared some tips for painting shiny hair. Pooling resources to share materials is also very helpful. There are a number of products you can buy related to other hobbies that come in larger quantities than you need for miniature basing and scene creating purposes. For example, static grass is often sold only in giant containers of a single colour. If you get together with friends and each buy a different colour and divide each container up amongst the group, you’ll have a much larger variety of materials for a smaller cost. Susana and Liz shared out some cool things they found at the big box the hobby stores, including plant pods that look exactly like tiny pumpkins. And Elizabeth shared a treasure trove of beach wood and plant materials that she finds on trips to Lake Michigan.

IMG 4258These treasures will make for some nifty bases and scenes!

If you don’t have any friends who paint miniatures, you might try asking at your local game store whether they run any events for miniature painters, or if they know of any. If they don’t and they’re interested in the idea, you could consider starting a regular miniature painting event. Some years back I started such a group in Knoxville. It took a fair while to get going (remember people can paint at home of they want, so sometimes you have to be a little patient and keep a regular schedule before they’ll be lured out to join you), but eventually we had a good group of people coming out to each meeting. In the past few years I have been too busy with preparing for and attending conventions to come out to the events, but Cera (front left in the picture below) took over the group. And she’s doing a better job than I ever did. There are now bi-monthly sessions and more than a dozen people come out to each one! 

Kamp 0824The early days of the Knoxville Area Miniature Painters group.

I’d love to hear more about your experiences painting with other people in the comments. Do you paint with friends? Is that something you’d like to try? Have you ever had a tools/materials swap with friends? Tell me more about it!

Links:

Miniature Monthly is a Patreon-based painting tutorial service. Elizabeth Beckley-Bradford, Aaron Lovejoy, and Matt DiPietro regularly post video tutorials of a wide variety of subjects related to miniature painting, including brush painting and airbrushing. https://www.patreon.com/miniaturemonthly

Knoxville Area Miniature Painters coordinates events via a Facebook group. Note that this is a closed group and membership is limited to people who are close enough to the area to physically attend events. https://www.facebook.com/groups/425292220862477/

The Hobby Hangout is an open Facebook group that is a great place to ask questions and chat about miniature painting. They also have online real-time hangouts. Liz Hunt is the main coordinator of this great group. https://www.facebook.com/groups/thehobbyhangout/

If you’re looking for a place to get great basing materials that you can swap with friends, check if you have a model train supply store in your area, like HobbyTown. If you don’t, Scenic Express online has an almost bewildering array of cool stuff like grass tufts, trees, flowers, crops, etc. I’m not sponsored by them or affiliated in any way, I’ve just spend too much time drooling on their catalog and making the occasional purchase. With train items, O scale is the closest in scale to modern gaming miniatures. HO is a little smaller and probably more appropriate for original 25mm scale figures. For natural materials a range of scales works, but the train scale equivalents are useful to know if you want to pick up a mailbox or trash can or something like that for a diorama. http://scenicexpress.com