Tuesday 2 July 2019

[Interview] Paul Smith About Sculpting and the Ever-Growing Hordes of Chaos!!!

The Ultimate Chaos Hero!
A few months ago in an Oldhammer group I ran into a nicely painted miniature of Kaleb Daark, the forgotten badass champion of the forgotten badass Chaos God Malal. At first I thought it was an ancient Citadel mini I haven’t seen before, but as it turned out it was a custom sculpt made by the talented Paul Smith of Creative Sculpts / Dark Hollow Miniatures. He already had a small but successful Kickstarter campaign called The Hordes of Chaos!!! that helped him start a line of Chaos Champions, and is running his second campaign called The Bigger Hordes of Chaos!!! to expand the line, which will end in a few days. Since Paul seemed to be keen on answering questions and talking about his work, I thought I should ask him for an interview.

When did you get involved with miniatures?

I started to kitbash tanks and jet plane airfix models when I was about 8 years old - painted them gold and silver enamels to look sci-fi... It was the 70s everything was in white or silver and looked sterile.

I started collecting miniatures when my Nan took me out for the day (we lived in Balham SW 12) to a shop in Hammersmith - and I bought my first miniature: a pre-slotta dwarf. It was so grey, I painted everything back then in enamels. I went on to buy a Chaos Dwarf Bazooka Team, and then saved, and bought more and more when I could.

How did you get into tabletop gaming?

I didn’t start tabletop gaming until last year when I bought HeroQuest. I absolutely love the ease of game mechanics, although now we are all thinking about adding new characters, and rules, and working out some level progression for our existing characters. It’s just loads of fun, my family and friends love playing it, and we usually make an evening of it with drinks and nibbles - £120 well spent! In fact I love playing it so much that I commissioned someone to make me £300 worth of dungeon tiles and buildings that I’m painting up (slowly as time allows)

So you got into minis without the influence of any wargames, rpgs, or other games, do I understand that correctly?

Yes, I always enjoyed drawing and painting as a kid - loved fantasy and sci-fi. My dream job as a child was to be able to make monster like I saw in the Ray Harryhausen movies like Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts, Star Wars (obviously!), Alien - these fuelled my imagination so much I wanted to have my own creatures. I started collecting White Dwarf magazine and loved all the fluff/backstories to the scenarios and the painted minis . As far as gaming went I didn’t know anyone else that was into it at that age and I moved around a lot for the next years - from London to Bournemouth to the middle of nowhere in country village.

When did you start sculpting?

When I was 11. My first mini that I made was a “slime monster”! With a spear! It was made out of Blu Tack and the spear was a cocktail stick... I painted it green with black shade and a mix of white and green for highlights ... all in enamels. I was super chuffed with it until a few days later, and then the paint started peeling off it ... Then along comes WD and someone in it mentioned Milliput, and how you could stipple it to make grass and also make mushrooms.

Bugs Bunny after a few months of warpstone diet.
When did you start freelancing?

Well, I did paint miniatures for money as a teen for the very small group of fellow teens that collect minis as well - I had also by this point started doing conversions and making full scale dioramas. Just before I turned 17 a friend in Bournemouth contacted me and asked if I wanted to move down there and sculpt miniatures with him and a mate - which I jumped at!

So I grabbed my backpack and moved down there. It was a small company run out of an old school house on a private estate in Winterbourne/Dorset. The owners didn’t charge rent, just wanted a collection of the miniatures we made. I sculpted a few minis and learnt how to cast, clean up, and paint resin casts for sale in shops all over the country and for festivals - Glastonbury festival being one of them and the Dorset steam fair being another. Our stuff was very influenced by the art of Rackham/Froud/Lee - all of which were big influences as well as 2000AD artists, Simon Bisley, Rodney Matthews, Roger Dean, Vallejo, Frazetta, Blanche....

Also, strictly speaking my mates couldn’t actually afford to pay me, so they subsidised my rent in the bedsit and I sold reject models at the weekend to make some cash to live on

You mention in your Kickstarter profile that you took a break for 27 years. Why did you leave the hobby, and how did you rediscover it?

Unfortunately my mate’s company suffered a bit of a blow - the person doing the accounts was draining money out of it on “expenses”, which is why we never seemed to see much of a profit and it came to an unhappy split - my mate was so upset by it that he stopped trading . I went back to where I used to live, met a girl, got married, had kids - broke up a few years later - time just seemed to fly by and I just didn’t really get back into it. Getting a “real job”, paying bills, and spending time with my kids became my priority when I got married and stayed my priority ever since. My kids moved in with me 14 years ago and they are now grown and flown the coop.

So I rediscovered the hobby a few years ago. I was doing my first ever further education course learning to become a therapist at Southampton university - half way through my 3 year course a series of unfortunate events happened - my mum passed away, my brother had been diagnosed as mentally ill, and some other things that I don’t wish to get into happened to my family that resulted in me taking a break for a while. I found myself feeling creative and a need to do something that made me happy, so entered the Milliput! Started sculpting again and loved it, great way to focus and relax from the things I couldn’t change (from a therapists point of view). I went back to my course and did it for another 6 months and couldn’t stand it anymore. I spoke to my tutor and he said that so many people join the course and then “find themselves” doing it without realising. He said that “of the 21 in the class - by the end of the 3 year course - only 5-7 will actually finish.”

So I left the course and looked into making miniatures - and was bowled over by the amount of talent and that the the community had grown so much! I decided to practice getting better at sculpting for a year before going the whole nine yards and asking peeps to pay me. I’d done it before. So essentially after everything that happened I guess I just realised I’d spent most my life doing what was needed, expected and wanted of me only to realise that life really is too short, and now I have an opportunity to do what I always wanted - which was to make monsters and stuff and took the plunge as it were

Wasn’t the abundance of sculptors and miniature projects threatening?

No, I thoroughly enjoyed looking at other peeps work. Obviously it makes people happy (like myself) and I don’t really see it as competitive, but I suspect some do unfortunately - the mini sculptors and small businesses can be quite “cliquey” and competitive as other businesses and industries. It’s not something that really interests me. I do my job because “I” love it, if other people do too that’s great, and I do appreciate their support, but essentially I’m doing it for my reasons.

Are there any particular projects or lines you like and support?

Recently I’ve loved getting some of Hasslefree Miniatures stuff - I recently went to Salute and bought loads for future projects.... They will get painted as well as my 2000 point Skaven army... I quite like a lot of other sculptors in the OSG and also in the Shiflett Brothers Forum . But at the moment organising my first couple of KS’s, tweeting, a webstore, sculpting commissions, painting minis, and running the campaign on 3 different media platforms doesn’t leave me much time at the moment! Hopefully, over time I will get used to running it all and have more time to devote to other projects

Do you have a favorite sculptor or painter?

No - there’s too many to choose from! I like a lot of sculptors for their ideas that they bring, regardless of “perceived” skill - as for painters well I’ll always be a fan of John Blanche’s techniques. Ana Polanscak does great minis too, but I also like fun, colourful paint jobs too and there are lots of good painters - David Stafford is one. There’s a few others but I can’t remember the names at present.

A chaotic cast of new minis, only the Usurper is missing.
What's the difference between Creative Sculpt Studio and Dark Hollow Miniatures? 

When I started out I just intended to be a commission sculptor, hence the name “Creative Sculpt Studio Ltd”. As time went on I had lots and lots of ideas of things that I thought would be awesome to sculpt and have as minis to paint (not a lot of everyday hobbyists can afford sculpts). The idea of selling my own miniatures to people sounded “wrong” with the old name, so I came up with a new one just for the miniatures - so, essentially I’m still Creative Sculpt Studio Ltd (for the sculpting) and Dark Hollow Miniatures is trade mark of CSS Ltd and gives a bit of a background for the minis live in - like Citadel was for GW. Plans change and I’ve loved making my own ideas so far.

Your miniatures are very characterful. Where do you draw inspiration from? Do you have a story or background for them?

Thank you! Usually I read a fair bit and get most of my ideas from books (I have a fair few WH novels), my favourites being “Ignorant Armies” and the older GW books Warhammer Armies. I tend to get an idea of how something looks and feels in my head quite easily - by that I mean I can see it and get a general vibe that I want to convey. Then sometimes I will do a sketch (which speeds up the process quite considerably), but most of the time I just do it straight out of my head. Although I have done a couple of “fan sculpts” I tend not to copy anybody’s else’s ideas, I have plenty of my own. It’s easier to sculpt something fast if half the work has been done and you have the reference material in front of you to work from.

But, I digress! I enjoy making up stories for my miniatures, it puts them firmly into context for the “viewer” and it just makes the work more fun to look at and brings it to life.

Artistically a lot of my influences come from the artwork of famous artists Rackham, Froud, Frazetta, Vallejo, Bisley, Blanche and Miller (there’s definitely more). The odd movie is a good source of inspiration sometimes. One of my favourite movie makers (apart from George Lucas and Spielberg) is Guillermo del Toro - Hellboy (I & II, not that travesty... Hellboy III) - he has a unique and wonderful imagination, and some of his sci-fi stuff too.

How much time to do you spend on average on sculpting a mini? Which one was the most fun to work with?

Ooh, difficult question! Greatly depends on the complexity, size, and whether or not it’s getting cast or just a private one-off. I’ve managed to sculpt an entire mini in 3 hours (see below), and loved it, very fun. Some of my bigger sculpts have taken weeks - and I loved doing them too. I don’t really have a favourite one, I tend to (if I have the time nowadays) to set myself goals of doing something for the first time - getting hands right (can be a pain) - doing an anatomy study because people actually look different to how you imagine them to be. Scales on dragons, making wings, all need to be done for the first time if you’re self-taught. I have the most fun, I think, sculpting my own ideas. But I do also get some really fun commissions too. My average time is about a day for a standard generic posed mini, sometimes I’ll do 3 in a day and a half. But it is very dependent on details, pose and size - the bigger it is, the more care you take with it, the more time it takes.

A few of my personal sculpts - the “speed” sculpts are the Warlock and Hag (middle top, top right) the blind cave troll is one of my favourites and the Draugr with the spear was my first 28mm sculpt I made after I got proper glasses for work. And the Chaos Marine was just because I’d never sculpt any sci-fi yet

The Hordes of Chaos are steadily growing. What's next? Are we looking forward to even more Chaos, or you have plans to explore other Oldhammer themes?

Yes more Chaos is on the way! This morning I made armatures for sculpts (11 more) 5 Beast-Men, a couple of hounds, 3 Minotaurs, and an abomination. The Chaos Minotaur Standard Bearer is already cast, I’m using a couple of the casts to convert into new and interesting Minotaurs - Minions and familiars are on the way, as well as war machines. But I also have s bunch of “randoms” that I want to release too, but we’ll have to see how the timetable goes before I can say when.

Can't wait to see more of them. Thank you for taking your time to answer my questions!

If you want to know more about the sculpts visit the Creative Sculpt Studio Ltd. website, the Creative Sculpt Studio facebook page, or the Dark Hollow Miniatures facebook group. You can also still support the The Bigger Hordes of Chaos!!! Kickstarter campaign to get both the previous, and forthcoming minis.

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