Tutofig’s Interview (English version) – Part 1

Tutofig’s Interview (English version) – Part 1

Interviews - Le 19 juin 2012

This is the first part of an interview I had the pleasure to do for the website : Tutofig. Very interesting questions, on various subject.

Because of the size of the Interview, we have decided to publish it in two parts. Have a good reading !

(You can find the interview also on Tutofig’s website : here.)

Specials thanks to François Lozach for having tranlasted it from french to english :) .

1 – Your background :

- Julien, before becoming a very good painter, were you already artist ? On any other fields perhaps?

No way! I cannot make the slightest drawing on a piece of paper or anything else. This is also the reason why I have trouble making freehands!
In fact, my arrival in the figurines world came, classically, when I was a teenager. I am a huge fan of video games (let’s discuss this later on), particularly the saga of “Zelda”. However, one of my college fellows played Warhammer. During a meal, he told me more about the Elves, “a kind of small Link,” according to him. And since I never give up. I was 14!

Before this, I have never tested to paint or sculpt anything, or artistic approach on any supports whatsoever. However my mother has painted in the past. I cannot really qualify me as an artist, far from it! Neither nowadays with my actual productivity. Without emphasizing that exists this eternal debate of “the figurine is an art or not? “… Blah, blah, blah. I shall maybe consider this in that term when I will elaborate my hobby to denounce a fact, or highlight an idea or concept … etc. That won’t be happening in a hurry !

- Are you a « pro-painter » ? Do you have another job?

From the strict standpoint of the definition, I am not a professional painter since I am not earning my money with this. I have already had occasions to enter some studios as a full time job (I was asked to join the Eavy Metal team) but that i didn’t have the possibility to said “yes”. Well, this is a pretty complex feeling. If I have been asked to do so few years ago, I would have perhaps agreed to work in England for example.

Besides that, I studied journalism. And since about 2006, I realize articles for the “Ravage” magazine. I recently achieved a total conversion, by becoming a plumber / heating engineer. I recently moved, and have to find out a job !

- I asked you to take a picture of your workstation, with something you like placed on it….

Here we go !

So that’s my new studio. When moving to a bigger flat, I have an entire room just for this. Concerning the stuff on the desktop, you can see some video games controllers. Indeed, I am a big fan, a huge fan of video games. I often explain that miniature is my second passion, because I’m much more a “hardcore-gamer” than anything else.
I am lucky that my father gave me a video game machine since my childhood (the first Nintendo). Since then, I have owned each and every brand of consoles existing.

In short, I used to paint episodically, a month here and there, and I manage to have big cut from four to five months, playing video games. That leads me to be often in late for contests deadlines, like the Golden Demon. Playing dozens hours RPG, strategy, adventure or PvP games, does not really help, when you have to finalize a giant or a diorama within two weeks. Although, right now, I fail to resist to Diablo 3, but have to finish for a Celeborn in one month …

In fact, this is typically my way of life. I straggle away on a game when deadline are closed, just to put me in trouble. So when you take in account also daily routine work….

More seriously, even professionally, I think I like working with a bit of pressure over my head. It motivates me.

2 – Inspiration and method

- Everyone has a specific way of working, way of thinking when we start a project. What are your thoughts when you start a miniature or a diorama?

Generally, it starts with a “vision”. It could come from a specific miniature, drawaing or diorama idea. Then the parts are mixed together, refine better the idea. I never make sketches; I am much more a mental view addict. The composition is often already finished in my mind before I even start working on it.

For example in 2009, while visiting “Warhammer World”, I stumbled on a wonderful drawing by Dave Gallagher. It inspired me the concept of an Empire city (Warhammer Battle) during a Carnival. From there, I have just started a diorama, after nearly four years of maturation. The time for refining the concept. However, I have to deal with the drawback of this method.

Mentally, everything seems to fit perfectly on your pretty base. But when real elements are in your hands… you have to twiddle and sometimes make compromise to stick to what you wanted initially.

- Talking about inspiration, from where it comes for you ? Movies? Technology? Books?

Nothing really exceptional I think. Inspiration comes from everywhere. Museum, reading, films, drawings. Indeed, a concept is often found in different format: paper, digital, 3D volumes, music …

Nevertheless, I enjoy browsing art books, and I usually read a lot (much less than before, when I was absorbing the entire volume 1 of Lord of the Rings, within a day). By the way, reading is perhaps the best way to elaborate concepts. Because it pushes you to empower your imagination, creating an image from words. Creation is almost from scratch, because when color and shape are not totally described, you have to establish it.
A dome with ornaments, a column, or just a paved road along vegetation, could be declined boundlessly. Many dioramas or scenery ideas can be generated from this.

Of course, inspiration from others exists, but let’s discuss this in the next topic, hop !

- Years after years, who inspired you in the miniature world? Are they the same nowadays?

So many guys inspired me. Looks like a “cliché”, but like I said, inspiration could come from everywhere, without distinctions or disparagement. Thus, one could find nice ideas from hardcore gamers armies. This is anyway not so easy to implement afterwards. Nothing should be forsaken.

Making long story short, I’ll try to make it comprehensive. This will let you the opportunity to explore their work over the Internet, it’s worth it.

Fantasy area :

France : Allan Carrasco, Rémy Tremblay, Jérémie Bonamant, Jacques-Alexandre Gillois, Bruno Grelier, Thomas David, Benoit Ménard, Christophe Bauer, Laurent Expostio Mas, David Waeselynck, Stefan Kochowski, Maxime Penaud, Axel de Mohrenschildt , Jérôme Otremba, Maxime Pastourel, Nicolas Rouanet, Vladd Jünger, Guillaume Lemas, Steve Party, Bruno Grelier, Thomas Barse, Cyril Abati, Olivier Herblot.

Belgium : Aliaume Chapelle, Cédric Lurkin, Patrick Corhay, Michaël Delcroix.

Switzerland : Mathieu Rouèche.

Australia : Sébastian Archer, Kyle Morgan.

UK : Matt Parks, Joe Tomasweski, Darren Latham, Joe Hill, Mark Tait, Steve Buddle, Brian Nelson, Jes Goodwin, les frères Perry.

Germany : Ben Komets, Matt Cexwish, Raffaelle Picca, Stephan Rath.

Spain : Alfonso Giraldez, Jose Manuel Palomares, Javier Gonzalo Lozano, Ruben Martinez, Ruben Perez Alonso, Luis Gomez Pradal, Rafael Garcia Marin, Joaquin Palacios, Raul Garcia Latorre, Fernando Prieto et David Rodriguez

Italy : Andrea Ottolini, Fabrizio Russo, Angelo Di Chello.

Poland : Bogusz Stupnicki (aka Bohun).

Russia : Kirill Kanaev, Natalya Melnik.

USA : Marike Rimer, Jennifer Haley, Todd Swanson, Chris Borer, Tim Lison, Dave Taylor.

Canada : Vincent Hudon, Mathieu Fontaine.

Danemark : Jacob Rune Nielsen.

For Historical : Marijin Van Gils, Bill Horan, Mike Blank, Diego Ruina, Danilo Cartacci, Mariano Numitone, Sylvain Deschamps, Kostas Kariotelis, JP Dana, Louis d’Orio, Philippe Gengembre, Jean-Philippe Prajoux, Daniel Ipperti.

And that’s enough. I am sure I forget people, but my fingers hurt! In the end, I am really curious, by looking everyone’s work. I love to probe on the net.

To be honest, my eagerness to improve myself and win my first Golden Demon, made me spends hours reading and watching Golden Demon winners work. Finally that pushed me to look at the creation of many different people, following them until now.

3 – Your vision of the market today

- I know that you paint a lot of GW miniature, do you play a bit? GW is an huge cash machine. Maybe a bit too much, isnt’it? Does the ai mis to sell more, lowering the quality ?

I’ve played before. In fact before winning a Golden, I played a lot, I tried almost all the armies of Warhammer and 40K. During the huge national tournament “The Thirteenth Black Crusade of Abaddon,” I was even at the first place, three days in a row, at GW paris 8. Since then, I forgot all the rules. I played again a year ago, and rules were like foreign language for me.

If I decide to play again in the future (a miniature game), this would be more a skirmish game system. Fewer figurines, to really have fun painting them, and an easier game system. I would look at “Eden” probably. People told me a lot of good things about this game, and the “Jokers” or the “Resistance” really attract me.

Then, seeing Games Workshop earning a lot of money, why not, great! However, less earning distribution to shareholder would be great, but that’s another debate. GW is the undisputed leader in mass fantasy wargame since 25 years. They crush everything, like steamroller. Their business strategy is reliable, they fix targets precisely, they know how to create loyalty, and attract new customers. Just be down-to-earth. This is a holding company, not tads in a sandbox. The rationale behind is to make money, nothing else, and sell more and more. Far from the original “fanboys style” in early 80/90.

One could think that the quality will go down then. But it’s really the opposite.
Games Workshop invests so much money in new technologies for our hobby, 3D printing or molding. Twelve years after discovering the company in 2000, I am flabbergasted by looking the complexity and ingenuity of the kits they manage to produce.
The kits of the giant, the Trygon, the carnifex, the Arachnarock, latest ogres, or the recent kits of empire or Necron are just wonderful. Those are the perfect examples of quality increase of GW products. I did not even mention also the wise idea of Warhammer Battle generals sold at 10.50 euros. Brian Nelson’s sculptures are breathtaking. The cutouts are very precise, and each time really charismatic. Without any doubt, good products sold cheaper, means selling tons of units.

To be honest, the quality is increasing nowadays. Of course, Finecast was sometimes disappointing. Perhaps due to a suboptimal quality control, or a lack of experience on the technology. However, unlike many people, I bet that GW will correct this soon.
They inject a lot of money, and look forward to develop the resin manufacturing. Let’s just remember the first plastic kits. They were far from what we buy today. The next four or five years would probably bring surprises on the Finecast side. About customer respect, what a chance !. We represent just a billfold for GW, nothing else. But considering the charge on their shoulders, I am not chocked. It’s a bit naive to believe to this kind of “la la land”.

- There are other brands of miniature games. The market is tricky. Do you feel possible to build another empire like GW ? Or at least survive in this market?

The market is tricky because it stands in a luxury niche. Manufacturing little characters cost a lot, and I am not even a player anymore! There is no place for faint heart, without very good project, and start-up capital. Without mentioning advertisement, a key success factor even if you have good products.
It is perhaps harder in France than elsewhere. One can see the Privateer Press success story in the United States. In the hexagon, that remains anecdotic. Rackham end illustrates well my talk.
In the collective psyche, Rackham was the second “best seller” company behind Games-Workshop. And it’s not totally wrong. Except the fact that GW has raised an “Everest” when Rackham was only a small hill at the corner. They never really shared the same playground.
Therefore, in a market where GW stands strong for two decades, finding its audience is even more difficult.

After the end of Rackham, people said, especially in France, there was an empty seat  ! GBA, Mortebrume, Ilyads Games Alkemy, and so on, many small companies have “tried their fortunes” and have broken teeth. Maybe others will try again. You need a real innovative product … but not too much. CMON has launched its brand, with pig “beast men”. For me … it’s doomed to failure, with already a lack of communication. If sculptures are not strongly hitting … no way !.

Simple concepts are mandatory. Why Privateer Press rocks? Because they bet on a med-fan-uchronic universe, and they put a pile of money on the table.

Why Mantic will take off? Because they are all former high level GW employees, who know the market like the back of their hands, the wishes of new and old customers, they know the actual GW strategy and they own a huge financial manna. Only rare companies can be proud of starting plastic-parts mass production. It represents hundreds of thousands dollars. Even more perhaps.

Now, they try to charm gamers with their nostalgic feelings. Dwarves and space rats-men, SpaceHulk-like in a new form: Pandora … they also release classical fantasy army of undead, good or nasty elves, demonic dwarves, orcs and goblins … Does it ring a bell? However, the graphic identity is unique, sufficiently different than GW (but not too much). And it is cheaper. Mantic is the one to follow.

For all of those skirmish games, I think it will live a while. Maybe ten years for the best, but I cannot imagine a skirmish game spreading the world in the actual state. A huge investment is needed to conquer the world, in this difficult saturated market place. Mass army games are even trickier with real need of financial support. Only two companies are in line with this: Mantic and Privateer Press. We are talking about thousands, even millions bucks.
Briefly, there would be no huge surprise pulling out of a hat. Winners will play on established codes and customers known wish list. In addition to a really stunning communication campaign.

- Why the situation is now so critical for editors or miniature shops, leading some of them to the end, or to enlarge their products to other branches (board games, role playing games…)

In this saturated market, if you bring a bad concept, a medium quality product, and if you are not the best seller ever, you should not be surprised if you break your teeth. Mortebrume, GBA are really perfect examples. Alkemy also somehow. But their communication was really organized and miniatures was really nice . But the product was really too different from the players expectations, and did not catch their interest. I forgot to mention also that you need a great game system.
I would love to play again. I went through some rules books, but I quickly give up. Alkemy is a skirmish game, with a huge rules book of 128-pages, personally I’ve found it stodgy. Moreover, I was not seduced by the available armies. To me, skirmish rules should be easy and fluid. Fitting in a small booklet maximum. That explains my interest for Eden: 32 pages.

For mass gaming, this is really a particular case.

For shops, I don’t have an opinion. Indeed, the Internet and online market is a competitive area. Especially while GW hardeners conditions for its resellers, pushing their heads under the water sometimes.
Enlarging your offer to board game is a good idea. Moreover, this could be needed to survive. A wargame only shop is dead on arrival. The niche is too small, and you need a nice location for your shop to live … The board game market continues to increase, he was more or less always in good shape . In Germany the market is outstanding. In France there is a real come back to this.

4 – The contests

- You have participated to plenty of contest, Games day, Open historic or fantasy… Why are you coming there? To show your figurines? To discuss ? To win?

I have never hidden that winning a Golden Demon was my aim when going to the Games Day. I will not start saying the opposite today. Winning a golden demon is exciting. The GD is the gold standard competition for fantasy miniatures. Worldwide !. Indeed, because GW is the undisputed leader.
The GD also stimulates you for two reasons: finishing within a deadline, and finally making you better from year to year, wishing again to win the golden demon. Going there again and again makes you better by competing with the others.

This is a funny part that made me laugh in the chats. Guys who go to the GD to “see people, have a good time” but certainly not to win, was never criticized, although most of them placed one or two miniatures in the contest (of course). While those who tell they want to win, was all the time attacked. Cannot be there to win, while having good time seeing friends? Then this appears to be totally incompatible apparently.  This false modesty flirts then with bad faith …

Going there to win is not discordant with having good time with your friends, maybe some people will finally accept this idea… Hopefully, friends are there, because if you are not a gamer, there are not so many things to do.
Interacting with other participants, friends, happens naturally. It may also help us to meet people, discover new styles, new talents, new sources of inspiration …

“Open” competitions are totally different. Less exclusive, there are enough medals for the people who deserve to win. We go there to have good time; nothing else. They are often more familial, more quiet. Every congress has its specificity and its environment, different than the others. At the opposite, every GD are similar, you have already seen everything after visiting your first games day.

- Is there any evolution in the contest since you started?

Globally I would say No, either for GD or Open. Nothing moves a lot. However, I would say that overall attendance is lower, and the emulation also. The general level has really skyrocketed. In the past, there were three / four guys ruling out all other competitors, we are now on a dozen or two that play in the same ground. That’s flood everything.

About my last attendance to Golden Demon, takes two minutes to know what figurine will win the Slayer Sword. Behind this scene, two or three paintings are noticeable over the entire contest. The remaining categories are fully filled with good quality entry, but parasitizing each other. Finally, there is a lot of repeats and lack of renewal. Yore, the suspense was present until the award ceremony and every winning entry was putting questions in your mind.
This is also the magical aspect of Internet. When I start painting, chats were not existing (I feel like a dinosaur, however it dates only from 2004), forcing you to build your own identity, and move forward to find new techniques.

Nowadays, Google is born. Any technical question about painting a figurine could be found in less than a minute. Hence the overall level increases, leading to a total uniformity. Anyway, when leaving a Games day, I did not have anymore stars in my eyes. I’m not saying that winners are not valuable anymore, but this is less exciting than before. However, my personal evolution plays perhaps a role in this feeling. But hey ! I become maybe an old man right now.
Nevertheless, uniformity is really evident.

- Does it bring something to win a golden deamon or a slayer sword ? Does it change something for you?

Honestly, that brings nothing. However that leads you to meet people who are interested by the GD, and I mean only those who are interested. And that’s it! You do not earn money with it anyway. Those who think that winning one or thirty GD, suddenly brings you painting commissions, put their finger in their eye, deeply. But we will come back to this afterwards.

I own thirty golden demon, and I have very few painting commissions. Indeed, I do not particularly chase after this. I do not communicate on this, so obviously, I’m not interested a lot in painting for others. Truly, I do not need this to live. If I should take time to paint, I prefer to do it for me or my friends. Having trophy or not, as long as you communicate on your painting activity, searching customers, and doing good job, it’s coming to you anyway. The Golden Daemon maybe acts as a guarantee of quality but nothing else. (This is even partially true. From one year to another, from one category to another, winning a GD is not as tricky as most people imagine. It is very doable).

It does not even interest the companies. No matters how many trophies you have, only counts your overall work. The job offers I had came from my painting level, rather than the trinkets accumulated. Honestly, it makes no difference professionally. People who want to buy “display figurines”, knows how much it costs. Having a demon does not increase your prices. Sometimes this is the case, but this is anecdotic. A model is sold the price the buyer is willing to put in it anyway. It depends more on how you negotiate it, and you commercial fiber.

The Slayer Sword is the “ultimate prize”, but except making you proud, that brings nothing else. Especially since you take into consideration, this is a trophy given by a brand to represent its own product range.
Few years ago, I started a race to win a Slayer, and finally that was not conclusive. Winning one will not change my life, so, I give up. I continue trying, but being very close three or four times, I let now the destiny comes to me, no matter when it comes. Right now, I have to finish a big diorama. Instead of achieving everything for the next GD, if I take 3 years, I will do it in three years. The project is maturating in my mind since already 4 years, so can wait a bit.

If this project brings me a Slayer finally, sounds good. If not, no problem. I consider having kind of “Slayer Sword level”, and this is sufficient for me. When I was young, I wanted to win a GD;  and the personal way I have achieved, is more than sufficient for me. This gives me the opportunity to meet fabulous persons, considering some of them as a part of my family today, which is really much more important and even more unexpected initially. So bringing a sword at home would be nice. But apart pleasing you a lot, it really changes nothing.

- Why not giving money to the winners? The golden deamon exists because painters are paying to participate. Some contests give huge money back to winners, what do you think about this?

This is the idea of the Crystal Brush, launched by Coolminiornot. This is an interesting idea, but this has pros and cons. First of all, the geographical location of the competition is a problem. It is in the United States. Even US citizen did not move to the 4 different Golden Demon – happening the same year – in their territory. Since a while, there is only one organized, and it remains the same. Only few foreigners organize their trip to go there, and even the US guys do not necessarily move to attend.
In the first edition of the Crystal Brush, there were a lot of figurines, with good, even very good global level. Everyone was dreaming to win one of three prizes: $ 10,000 for first, $ 2,000 for second, $ 1,000 for third. The distribution of money was then obviously strange. Finally, this has attracted some foreigners (maybe a dozen only) but the level was really high.
The participation was largely lower, as a consequence, in this year’s edition. This was the same for the global quality. The 3 best competitors were clearly found in a minute. Last year’s participant were not present, discouraged by the general high quality, knowing that the 3 first places were almost unreachable. Due to organizational cost of one hundred participants contest (even less), it’s not really lucrative to give $ 13,000, without earning cash from something else. I’m not sure that sponsors will continue like this if global enthusiasm is not higher. As I said on chats, I saw local competitions with a much higher level and better overall quality. People were then afraid by the prizes weight, or their bad distribution between winners.

Talking about giving money to winner, it would have been clever to distribute it among all categories, not only to the Top 3. Maybe giving 500, 300, 200, for gold / silver / bronze in each category, could be an idea. Afterwards, one can distribute the rest to the 3 best performers, like 5000, 3000, 2000. Of course this is an idea like a bottle tossed on the waves. This is strongly depending of the money available for such event. I consider long term success of such contest is strongly linked to fair money distribution, to avoid frustration. Anyway, I am not organizer of this event, so it’s up to them!

For Golden demon, people are not paying to participate, but to see the showroom, it’s totally different. The distinction is substantial. However, Games Workshop does not need painters to exist, far, very from it. Giving cash to the winners is just throwing money at the wall. The competition has already a comfortable reputation. They don’t need to go further.


The second part is available here !

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