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  • Hotseat Interview with Chris Clayton

    Chris-Clayton-pic.jpgWAMP gets inside the brain of currently, one of the best in the business and find out what makes him tick?

    What do you prefer, painting or sculpting? Painting and sculpting, for me, are very different sides of the 'same coin’. When sculpting a figure I always try to imagine how it will look when it is finally displayed and try to make the piece as easy and pleasurable to paint as possible. I’ve never considered myself a particularly great painter and find it very difficult at times, usually making judgements based on intuition rather than prescribed techniques. I'm generally itching to sculpt when I'm painting and nearly always wish I were painting what I'm only halfway through sculpting. Where do you like to get your inspiration? Inspiration can come from many different and disparate sources. I generally avoid looking at other modellers work for inspiration, relying instead on more abstract elements to kick-start an idea. Scenes in movies, passages from novels and pieces of music, walks in forests, fragments of memories or dreams and even birdsong can all be considered inspiring. If not in the literal sense then more in the initiation of the creative process. What three tips would you give the budding sculptor or painter? The most important three tips I would give the budding sculptor or painter would be to practice, practice, and practice. Seriously though, practice is invaluable however much experience you have. Just because you have mastered a new technique, don't expect to be able to cast it over your figures like a magic wand for instant perfection. It is essential to keep all of your skills up to date and not to be afraid of trying new methods for fear of failure. Furthermore, only paint or sculpt what you enjoy. Being true to yourself and your interests will show through in your work. I see excellent painters and sculptors talents subdued because they are painting or sculpting what they think they should, rather than letting go and having fun. Lastly, get up and go out. There is nothing like a good stroll and a few gulps of fresh air to get the brain working and the creative juices flowing. Spending all of your time at your desk or your computer diminishes your 'world'. If not a lengthy hike then just a walk round the block every now and then will give you a well earned break so you can return to your modelling with a fresh eye. Apart from your own stuff, what other minis do you like? There are so many fantastic miniatures and figures available these days it would be impossible for me to pick a favourite. I don't buy that many miniatures, as I generally don't have a great deal of time to give them the attention I think they deserve and paint everything I liked. I do however have a real soft spot for vintage miniatures by the likes of Grenadier (John Dennet and Andrew Chernak sculpts), Ral Partha and Citadel (anything before 1990). I also have a large collection of Japanese garage kits by Fewture, Falchion, Max Factory and Billiken. Who is your favourite painter and sculptor? There are so many incredible talented artists in the modelling community it would be unfair to single out favourites as I'm sure I would omit as many important people as I would include. However, there has been one constant and driving inspiration and influence for me, is the great Japanese model maker Takayuki Takeya. Takeya-pic.jpg Takeya is one of the most original creative minds of our generation. If you are fortunate enough to spend time with a copy of his two-volume book of works, Ryoshi no Kakudo (Angles of Hunters) contained within are not only Takeya's incredible commercial pieces but also a rich fantastic story illustrated with amazing lifelike dioramas. For me Takeya changed the way I perceived model making and encouraged me to think and try to work outside the conventions of traditional sculpting and painting. Did you have any formal training as a sculptor or is it all self taught? I've never had any formal training as a sculptor. I have a degree in illustration and during my final year I produced a number of 'three dimensional illustrations'. I had been model making for a number of years before then but this was my first real foray into full sculpting and scratch building. After getting a taste for sculpting I continued, trying different techniques and experimenting with new materials and tools. What do you think will be the next big thing, as in technique, to set the hobby alight? Zenithal lighting, seamless blending, object source lighting and non-metallic metal etc, etc. These are techniques we have all become familiar with. Each one has its place and in the hands of the right painter can be used to great effect. However, for me, they are all just techniques or tools for the painter to use as part of their arsenal. I personally don't believe a models’ worth should be determined by how well a 'glowing eye' effect or NMM armour has been executed, but rather by how well the painter has incorporated those techniques into the piece and contribute to the overall success of the piece. I have noticed recently that there now seems to be a reaction against the pristine finishes everyone spent so much effort trying to master. Dirtier, weathered, painterly, expressive paint jobs may be considered 'one to watch' emulating the works of artists such as John Blanche and evoking an 'old school' atmosphere. Techniques, as fashions, come and go and on their own stand to demonstrate the painters ability to master said technique, but for me the 'next big thing' will always be a beautifully realised and engaging model regardless of the techniques employed in its execution. I have noticed you don't use NMM on your pieces, why? Regarding my previous answer, non-metallic metal is a valid technique and in the hands of a good painter can display a huge amount of patience and skill. For me, however non-metallic metal has never really appealed to me or suits the way that I tend to work. It is safe to say that I am increasingly obsessed with the reproduction of convincing, realistic metallic surfaces and will go to great lengths polishing, burnishing and painstakingly applying gold leaf to try to achieve the right look. I like to be able to view a figure from all angles and let natural light play upon surfaces and textures. In my opinion non-metallic metal can reduce the field in which the figure can successfully be viewed. Roughly how long did it take to complete Dragonslayer? The production of Dragonslayer, along with most of my other display pieces, was spread over several months alongside other projects. I usually like to space out the conceptualising, sculpting and painting to give myself time to properly evaluate my progress. There is probably about 150 hours of work in Dragonslayer. Dragonslayer-pic.jpg When and how did you start in the hobby? It is difficult to pinpoint an exact start point, as there are probably a combination of elements that first initiated my interest and passion for the hobby. One of my earliest recollections of exposure to miniature figures as a boy was on a trip to the city centre with my dad. There was a store in a small shopping arcade with a window crammed with all manner of miniature figurines. Mostly historical subjects, Greeks, Egyptians and Carthaginians (I remember the elephants) with other such gems of antiquity. I think I was probably old enough to know that these were not toys but something different, more precious. Later I stumbled upon a store called Games Workshop. This was at a time when GW was an independent retailer and stocked everything from Dungeons and Dragons to playing cards and jigsaw puzzles. There was a small cabinet within crammed with miniatures. Somewhat crude by today’s standards they seemed serious and exotic, adult, dark coloured metal figures, languishing in blister packs on a bed of foam (ahh the nostalgia). After buying a few figures I was hooked and soon I attended my first Games Day in 1986. It was there I discovered miniatures from many different companies. Grenadier, Dixon, Essex and Ral Partha, some of which I still own and have recently been painting some of the old favourites. Over the following years my thirsts for model making lead me to explore beyond the realms of miniatures and into other areas of the hobby and the rest is history... Do you sketch out your ideas for a figure before you start? Before I start a model, be it either sculpting or painting I usually spend an unhealthy amount of time thinking about it first. I'll then, very quickly, make several thumbnail sketches and notes to coagulate the various elements of my ideas and inspirations. When sculpting I'll work these thumbnails into resolved conceptual images and diagrams to help map the idea and the form of the piece. I never used to use sketches and found that I would abruptly come to a frustrating halt halfway through a piece not knowing what to sculpt next because I hadn’t properly planned the figure. Because of this I am now fastidious in my preparation of any new piece of work. What made you choose an Ultramarine for your famous 120mm re-sculpt and have you ever considered doing another Space Marine, maybe from another chapter? Ever since I first saw the Forgeworld Large Space Marine I wanted to do some kind of conversion on it. I found it so disappointing that Forgeworld had basically scaled-up a Space Marine miniature rather than using such a large figure to really explore the marine design. I’d had one of the kits for a few years and periodically made some notes on the conversion. None of the notes had ever been chapter specific but I had always been drawn to the iconography of the Dark Angels and Black Templar chapters as these leaned towards a very medieval styling with their robes and swords, something that appealed to me. However, I realised early on in the project that I would really like to use the marine to try out some new techniques and that it would be prudent to choose a less fussy and complex styling. An Ultramarine was eventually decided upon as they are both a ‘vanilla’ and iconic chapter frequently used to encapsulate the idea of the Space Marine. Ultramarine-pic.jpg The Ultramarine was such a huge project and if I did have the luxury to revisit the idea of another Marine I would want to do something completely different with the kit, one of the Traitor chapters or a pre-heresy suit perhaps. What piece of yours are you most proud of and why? I never really sit around and admire my pieces as I am always striving to improve and learn from my works. Although I have won awards for some of my pieces, for which I am immensely honoured, I don’t linger on those figures as I’m always looking towards the next sculpt. The Ultramarine was, in retrospect a huge undertaking into which I put an incredible amount of time recording the process. The Dragonslayer too was a real labour of love and something of an emotional roller coaster. Winning Best of Show brought closure to such a difficult piece. I think however that if I were to single out a piece to which I measure all my continuing work it would have to be Giantkiller. This piece was a real turning point for me in both painting, sculpting and building a narrative into a piece. It is one of the few pieces I feel fairly satisfied with. Giantkiller-pic.jpg What does the future hold for Gigantic Miniatures? Gigantic Miniatures has been an incredible learning experience and great fun so far. Partly setup to satisfy my thirst for knowledge and experience about all areas of the hobby and partly to exorcise some ideas I’ve had gnawing away at me about producing large scale figures. When I initially launched GM it was a very hectic time for me, having just won Best of Show at Euromilitaire. Obviously I didn’t foresee this and in hindsight this probably wasn’t the best time for me to do this as there was a huge expectation for me to create the same type of figures that I had done for my display and competition pieces. I chose 120mm figures as I was used to sculpting in this scale and it was a size I had become ‘known’ for. However my future plans for the range included some huge pieces and at 1/15 scale the figures would have been massive and very expensive to produce. In addition I was doing everything myself from the conceptualising and sculpting to the casting, web design and marketing. Once the last figure was released the range came to a natural end and to mark this I produced a ‘show only’ limited edition figure for Figureworld 2011, which completely sold out in about ten minutes! Gigantic-Miniatures-LE-pic.jpg Gigantic Miniatures is far from over though. I am currently working incredibly hard sculpting a brand new range of fantasy figures. They will continue my passion for classic fantasy ‘standards’ with human and demi-human adventurers accompanied by all manner of enemies and monsters. Stylistically I want to give them an old-school feel with a contemporary twist, classic dungeon crawl characters realised for a modern audience. I’m creating the figures at true 1/35 scale too, so an average human figure will be about 50 mm tall. This is a challenge for me and I’m very pleased with my progress so far. Why 1/35? Primarily the reason for this scale decision is for me to expand the range to include some truly gigantic beasts and terrain pieces without them being ridiculously huge or expensive. Furthermore I think, from the comments I received over the previous range, that they will be more comfortable to build and paint. Not too large for a miniature painter to feel intimidated by and have to change their techniques for and not too small that people from other areas of the hobby would feel that they were exclusively ‘gaming’ figures. Lastly they will be easier for me to produce and will give me a chance to really push the boundaries of the mould making and casting process to deliver very high quality affordable figures. I’m very excited about the new range and really looking forward to release sometime in the new year. What was it like to win Best of Show at Euromilitaire and did you think that you would win? Winning Best of Show at Euromilitaire has to be one of the highlights of my modelling career so far. I really like the Euro show and for the past few years it has become the focus of my working year. I never intend to sculpt a piece specifically for competition, it just turns out that I’ll produce a couple of display pieces during the year and usually get them finished in time for the competitions held in the autumn. Dragonslayer was no exception only a little more thought was put into the engineering of the piece as it had to be transported in a couple of pieces and assembled in the hotel the afternoon before the competition! I’ve never created or entered a piece of work into Euro with the intention of winning anything, I see it as a way of displaying pieces I’ve been working on over the last 12 months and what is more important than to get a chance to see some truly astounding work by many, many talented artists. The competitive element always makes me feel slightly nervous on the morning the results are displayed and this time, for no good reason, I felt particularly agitated. So much in fact that I had to send my wife to the competition room while I stayed in the trade hall. She came back looking a little shaken and told me I had been awarded Best of Show! I remember standing there with tears rolling down my face in utter disbelief. The rest of the day was a bit of a blur and it took a few weeks for it to properly sink in. I never imagined a fantasy piece would ever be awarded Best of Show at Euromilitaire, let alone mine. It was a great day, not just for me but fantasy modelling had finally been recognised, accepted and awarded at what is considered a predominantly military and historical international competition.
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. billy7's Avatar
      billy7 -
      Very nice
    1. Ulfgrimr's Avatar
      Ulfgrimr -
      Great Interview, many thanks Shane and also to Chris for the time and insights.