On the weekend of the 17th and 18th of November, I attended the Eavy Metal Masterclass ‘The Foundations of Excellence’, held at Games Workshop head office in Nottingham. I headed up to Warhammer World the day before to play on Warhammer TV and after a good night’s sleep, woke up ready to do some learning.
When I told people that I was going up to this class, some people questioned why I would do this as I had been painting miniatures for 20ish years and currently to a relatively decent standard. After considering this question I used my recent golf lessons as an example. I have been playing golf for about as long as I have been painting miniatures and recently had lessons, where the instructor took my swing and reinvented it, to the point where I now score a lot lower than I did before my lessons. I saw this masterclass as an opportunity take the way I painted, break it down and then rebuild it in a better and more efficient way. Well that was the plan anyway.
I arrived at reception on day one, signed in, got my pass and led to the room where the magic would happen by Chris, our Events team host for the weekend.. Turns out this room was the one directly behind the big Age of Sigmar symbol at the front of the main building at Games Workshop head office. The room was packed with tables covered in pots of paint, palettes, water, brushes and big LED lamps. There were also cabinets of Eavy Metal miniatures and personal projects of our two teachers for the weekend, Max Faleij and Aiden Daly.
After the obligatory fire drill briefing and a rundown of what we would be doing over the weekend, we wasted no time and cracked on with it. Out first three hours would be spent on learning edge highlighting on the pre prepared Primaris Marines and the afternoon would be spent painting faces.
Max took the morning session, painting along with us, so we could see what our efforts should look like. I don’t think any of us were under the illusion that our attempts would be anything like Max’s, seeing as he is painting for 8 hours a day, five to seven days a week!
We started on what turned out to be the most important stage when painting power armour, the basecoat. As this part of the armour is most of what is on display on the miniature, we had to make sure that this was smooth, bold and consistent. This meant doing four to five thin coats to get the right effect, which took a little time, and this was just the first colour. When Max handed his Marine around for us to see, it was good to see that mine looked very similar to his. A good start.
We had recipes for four Space Marine Chapters, Ultramarines, Space Wolves, Blood Angels and Dark Angels, most of us chose Ultramarines as that’s what Max was painting, but some people chose Space Wolves. We then moved on to the infamous chunky highlight, and then the next two highlights after that, each time with Max’s model being passed round after each stage so we could see how we were all doing. I think it’s fair to say that even though I was very happy with how mine looked, when seeing the professional effort you could see what years of practice brings as each of their highlights were cleaner and consistent, where as you could see the roughness on my effort. Something that will come with more practice and definitely not out of my reach if I keep trying.
We finished the session with the last ‘dot’ highlights to give the armour that shine and then it was time for lunch. It was surprising that in three hours I had only really painted a Space Marine leg, but it did look really good and shows what taking your time and applying the paint thinly in multiple layers (sorry not just the two Duncan) can do to a miniature. I’m sure as I practice more and more, I will speed up, but at the moment I am happy that the entirety of a Space Marine’s armour could take me 12 hours to do properly.
After lunch it was time for Aiden to take over and who us how to paint faces. Little did we know that four hours later we’d have a head finished that we’d be proud of.
Again it was reiterated about the importance of the base coat and several thin layers were used to get a clean smooth finish on the head. We then used our first and only shade paint. From then on the only glazes and thin washes we used were using the ‘normal’ paints. The next shade was sparingly applied in to the recesses, with hardly any paint on our brushes it was surprising how this help define the features on the Space Marine’s head as we added multiple really thin layers of paint in specific areas.
The Highlights were then added. With a great drawing on the board from Max, we were able to place the colours in the correct place and the face began to really take shape. The one thing I found hard was the consistency of the paint, with it drying out too quickly when trying to do those subtle tiny highlight on the tip of the nose of top of the cheek. Something I need to work on at home.
With the face done to a level that most painters would be happy with we applied glazes around the eyes and cheeks to really bring out the warmth, and even got to add a bit of stubble to the miniature which brought the face to life. Lastly it was down to the eyes, which I think all of us struggled with. When we saw Aiden’s efforts, it was obvious to me that that my eyes were too big and a much smaller eye looked so much better. More practice needed on this final detail that can make or break a model.
For the last hour of the day we got to look at some of the miniatures painted by Max and Aiden close up, it was a rare privilege to actually touch these models and have a proper close up look. Max and Aiden were kind enough to answer all our questions, except those about what they were painting at the moment; spoil sports!
Day two was scheduled to be a much more relaxed affair with us all having free reign to paint in the room, go to Warhammer World and look around the exhibition. Throughout the day we would also have a one hour 1-2-1 session with either Max or Aiden where we could talk about specific techniques that we were interested in. While this happened, Eavy Metal painter Simon Adams looked after the rest of us in the room, answering any questions we had whilst he worked on an Aeldari miniature of his own.
I opted to take one of the first sessions and was paired with Aiden. I am interested in repainting my Slaaneshi Daemon army to have black/dark skin and took this opportunity to see how this could be done. Throughout the hour Aiden painted a dark skinned head whilst going through the techniques he was using. At the same time we covered painting white cloth, Turtle shells, Mortarion’s wings and the armour and claws on a Daemonnette. Before I knew it time was up and my session was over.
Back in the room, I took the opportunity to take what Aiden had taught me and attempt to paint a dark skinned Daemonnette, using one of the models I had used on the TV. I painted a Dark Angel leg and finished the second leg of the Ultramarine I had started the day before, breaking only for a carvery lunch half way through the day.
During one of Aiden’s breaks I showed off my progress on the Daemonnette and discussed the colours for the claws, which I then had a go at. I’m happy with how the skin looks and although the claws do look pretty cool, after showing Aiden we agreed that I should look to brighten them up, something that I will be looking to do in the next few weeks before confirming whether I will be stripping my Slaanesh Daemons ready for a repaint in time for the new books and miniatures due very soon.
At four o clock I decided to call it a day, even though there was still a few hours available to do painting. With a 2.5 hour drive home ahead of me and my painting at a point where I was happy with what I had learnt and what I had created it seemed like a good time to finish up.
I was lucky enough to be able to take home all the paints we had used during the weekend, the brushes and the models we had painted. I did pop into Warhammer World on the out and pick up two painting handles, I used one all weekend and after thinking I’d never use one when they came out, found them extremely useful during the weekend, I would Highly recommend you get at least one as soon as you can, you’ll feel the difference.
So was the weekend worth it? It wasn’t cheap, with the ticket costing £175 and then adding the cost of the hotel and petrol, it took a big chunk out of my bank account. However, saying that, by the time you take the cost of the paints you get, lunch and entry to the Warhammer World exhibition, £100ish is great value for the priceless painting lessons learnt, especially the one on one session that it very rare to be able to take advantage of.
I was very surprised that the next day I was hyped to do some more painting, I thought over a dozen hours of painting would have put me off for a few days, but the next morning I was back at my Death Guard and am looking to practicing more edge highlighting on my Primaris Marines and Reivers very soon. This course has really got me hyped for painting my next projects and with enough armies to keep my playing at the moment, I can afford to take my time and produce some work I can be proud of. Watch this space.
Thanks again to Max, Aiden, Simon and Chris, and all my fellow masterclassers, I can’t wait to see everyone’s work as we all put our new skills to the test. I can’t wait to show off what I produce over the next year, maybe that entry in to Golden Demon might actually happen this year….