So Part 2 of my interview with Alfonso “Banshee” Giraldes is finally here and I can only apologise for the delay, if you didn’t read or you have forgotten Part 1, you can read it HERE! So without further delay let’s see what Banshee has to say about Frazetta and the Masters, sculpting, paints and the anonymous bust to name just a few subjects.
8 – I attended one of your workshops, a real eye opener, where we basically painted with just primary colours, white and black. On reflection, this seems to be a major milestone in your painting style and beliefs, yet it is the complete opposite to what you would have been telling figure painters to do when you worked for large figure companies. Back then it would have been about selling the need for a thousand and one different paints. Do you find this liberating? Has it unleashed your creative spirit?
Hey, first I want to say thank you for the compliment, it is very special to hear feedback from my students, even more so when it is positive! You know I have to lie in a negative way, when I worked for Andrea Miniatures and I wrote articles say for Figure International, monographs (collaborative books) or other magazines. I am forced to tell everyone we use certain colours.
It is not that I lied per se, but those colours are not the ones I used, they are the names of colours of a particular brand, that if you use how I explained, you will receive similar effects and results to me. Yet, I am a mixing guy, from the very beginning, I have mixed, I mix my colours and love my interaction with my palette. The palette in many ways tells me far more about the relationship the colours have with each other than the actual painting itself.
So somehow, yes, I am more liberated now as I can say what I want without having to take into consideration the bigger picture of the company I may have worked for. Remember though also I have designed paints myself, for instance the first ranges of inks and metallics for Scale 75, they are really nice colours, I really believe so and I was not constrained by any obligation to the company, I was left to do what I wanted to do, what I wanted to develop, design and create in agreement with Elias Alonso.
Those colours were valuable and useful for me as I developed the colours I personally wanted for my own workbench.
The point is that now I am more able to explain this or that, because I had to force myself to make my painting understandable for others. So whilst I was teaching and explaining actually what I did subconsciously when I was painting, I am now consciously thinking, revisiting the painting, stripping down the steps and describing the work, this surely has helped me to understand more my own painting and evolution. The understanding of colours came from mixing and practice, and having freedom in the creative process.
I have to be thankful actually that I have always been given that freedom with the companies I have worked for, at Knight Models, for instance my boss knew of my temperament and passion, he made sure to use me as a tool in a good, positive way, he knew how to , I’m trying to find the word, to use my skills in the best way for the company. They gave me the most complex figures, knowing that I would spend the time necessary on them to create the best possible boxart. This was because of my passion, my passion for pushing myself outside my comfort zone and searching for the best possible result. I was not thinking about money at that time and so if I needed to spend a long time on the figure I had no other considerations than to create the best possible result.
I didn’t have the same responsibility then as I do now, I was living at home with my parents, I wasn’t married, I did not have the same financial responsibilities so I was able to spend one month painting one project, the money was not such a factor. I was able to have fun and enjoy my work. They knew that and allowed me the freedom to develop and create a mind-set that allowed me to think about colours in a free way as I was allowed the space and time to experiment and to fail and to learn. So projects such as The Duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan, Ghost Rider and the Iron Man bust were all projects that came about the way they did because of the relationship I had with my work.
How I treated it in such a passionate way, and my interest to experiment and find new ways to achieve more and more complex contrasts and layouts. They were complex projects in terms of colours and their relationships with each other, my desire for a challenge, my willingness to accept hardships and to keep fighting are the traits that allow me to eventually succeed. This is the way I grow, it is the only way I know, I always wanted to be the best, even know there are painters better than I, but I still every project want to have the attitude of making this piece the best ever and the next and the next.
9 – How have the masters such as Caravaggio and the fantasy painters such as Frazetta influenced you and your style? What technical aspects or theories can we take from 2D art and incorporate into figure painting?
First any technique from any of the Masters or Arts can be incorporated into our figure painting, this is fact. It can be proven, any technique. Grisaille for instance, painting in black and white. Has been around for five hundred years but again we have a problem with our world, a world where the “pie” is getting smaller and smaller and everyone wants their slice of the “pie”, the biggest slice. This I mean that rarely do people tell you where they get their information, their knowledge, when I started painting Black and White, copying the Masters, I started this around the time of joining Knight Models, eight years ago, and no one else was doing this. Then more people started, it is a valuable process, as it allows you to define volumes and check your levels of value and brightness contrast, you can make amendments easily, then when you have an outline of what it is you wish to achieve, the colours can go on over the top.
Now it seems this techniques has been here forever, but this is not true as someone brought it to our miniature world, and it is a pity we don’t have miniature painting history books. I firmly believe people should learn who introduced what or which attitude, style or technique and when, that’s part of the respect that any field should have in order to be considered as an Art, Art always has heritage. The same can be said for zenithal lighting, almost everybody paints this way, but before the nineties it was never heard of. It was introduced into our world by the great Raul Latorre, before this everybody painted a general source light, the Latorre, Mike Blank, Speranza, Horan, Van Gils, Gillois, Abatty and so on, people like this brought styles and ways to understand the miniature Art to our world and developed and perfected it, before this, there was nothing. Now everyone paints like it as if there were no other way. How many people know this story? How many know this chapter of our figure painting world? The problem for us is that there is no book, An History of Figure Painting, who made what, who introduced what?
I remember working at Knight Models with Jose Manuel Palomares, people were saying you can not mix metallic and non metallic, so O.K. we tried, it worked, it worked with good results, people were surprised with those boxarts and some of those boxarts were the most successful and easily recognisable that Knights Models had ever produced. This was easy, why not?, we just tried and succeeded because of our risk at painting. Now more and more people do it but if you ask anyone, I doubt they know where the idea came from or who first executed this particular technique, so I think it is important that people need to be reminded of how our figure painting world has developed, remind them of who started what movement, who was the first to achieve something different than what was previously done.
I do not understand these people who have a hobby but have no knowledge or desire to learn about the history and development of their hobby. I love football, it is probably my hobby, I know you love football too and from our chats, I know you know your history of football and your club, so do I because I love my hobby. It is as simple as that.
You ask this question, pfft, they influence me a lot! Those guys are so amazing and impressive that having them as a reference should be an obligation, Caravaggio developed chiaroscuro, the effect of contrasted light and shadow, to such an extent we can use it in figure painting today. I can say many other names and they change with time as I learn more and more about my Art and so the examples of what is relevant at any point in time change. For instance I was in Chicago, in 2013 for Crystal Brush, the first time I saw the works of, John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), is a hard name to pronounce for a Spanish guy, he was post Impressionist portrait artist, who was super impressive, I saw his works at the Chicago Art Gallery, I was like in shock, I thought to myself how can I not already know this guy?
So now this guy is a reference for me, he will be added to my mental reference, like a library.
Yet I also say Frazetta of course and so many others, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Monet, Caravaggio and Goya though he is not one of the favourites that please my eyes, but Goya who I say is THE first surrealist, impressionist, expressionist. He is super impressive, he was a guy who in his Art I would say predicted the future, he predicted the new trends that would appear some fifty years later, I will also say Durer, Raphael, Vermeer and so many more besides, the imagination of Hieronymus Bosch, the accuracy of the brushstrokes of Van Dyck, the refreshing style of Norman Rockwell.
Many that are big inspirations to me, whose work or elements of, that I have incorporated into my own interpretations of figure painting, in a clumsy way of course as I am not an Old Master such as they were, I never will be, I am not a genius like they were. However, I try to learn from them every day and I try to apply what I learn, one example I remember was Count Dooku from Star Wars for Knight Models, I tried to analyse and apply the Caravaggio style, it worked O.K. but it was obviously quite naive, but worked reasonably well and taught me to focus on his work and make an in-depth analysis of his Art and try to understand his works and techniques. I think everything is related in the end and that if you are a figure painter you should have an interest in the history of Art and try to always look for new innovations to develop your painting further.
10 – The anonimous bust is so simple and organic and yet has been interpreted in so many ways. Did you ever consider it would become such an integral component to your teaching and of the forty or so different versions you yourself have painted, what have they taught you about your painting?
Wow, yeah I think I have talked about this a little already and I think you are right, it probably is 40, I think I am getting so tired of painting it. It is a period of my my painting life that is coming to an end now, it will probably be the last bunch I paint, then I need to find something else to use for my message and teaching because I know the volumes and curves so well now that it no longer offers a challenge. Even more I will say that it is hard to paint one in 90 minutes anymore because, I have painted so many I can not think of another way to quickly paint anything original, so I begin to smooth and tidy up and blend, that in itself then goes against the principle behind the bust and sketching something beautiful but not smooth. So the last bust I painted I did not enjoy it, I need something new now.
I didn’t expect it to be this successful, I sold around 500 copies all around the world, maybe 30 painted versions, it has been the core of my #fucksmoothness manifesto and is the figure I have learnt the most about myself. To paint something so organic with so many interpretations has obviously helped me learn more about my painting. I have to use different techniques, different colour palettes, different interpretations, interpretations of the volumes, interpretations of the lighting, interpretations of mood, character and environment. So yes it is something that been successful, is liked a lot and is versatile. There have been some stunning versions of the bust, by Masters and students too, one student of mine, Anthony Rodriguez, from my Denver class painted it in a van Gogh style, I loved this version.
Now you can see the trend now where others have began to create other “anatomical” busts such as Raffa Picca has done and Diego from Hera Models has created shall we say an Anonymous Orc, so I am excited also as it seems I have inspired perhaps others to do something similar. Something that was unbelievable maybe five years ago, that a bust of no one, no name, no history, no background, so plain and organic could be so successful and of interest to so many. It was totally unconscious though, it was not planned, it was not a marketing strategy, I am not so clever, it was a “happy accident.”, something I search for continuously in my creative process.
The story behind this is that towards the end of my time at Forge World, I was so tired of doing space marines everyday, I needed to create something organic and in larger scale, so I began to create this in my spare time. In my home, it came naturally and quickly, I am slow at sculpting, so it took me maybe three days. Compared to Masters such as Palacios and Latorre who sculpt like some sort of possessed machines, I am very slow indeed. In my case, I found that this process was slow but very enjoyable and free, at the end I looked at the bust and thought to myself, O.K. who is this guy going to be, what is his story? What will I do with him? Then I thought, actually the way he had been sculpted, I could make him a pirate, a thief, a gladiator, a business man who has made a million dollar deal, anything really, so many ideas, so I decided to make him anonymous and let the painter choose himself. It is the reason I think why he was so popular, it was a blank canvas for the imagination of everyone!
Then I thought it could become a teaching aid, a tool to help me explain my concepts in class. I had taught using miniatures from other companies before but when I thought about it, it made more sense to do something with my own creation. It made sense to use my design and sculpting knowledge and skills, since then, maybe three years, it’s successful and people still want it to paint their own versions. I have seen so many online and at shows and actually it is my “fans” and fellow Artists that have inspired me to think more and more and to develop ideas and concepts for my own range of figures, which I am working hard on. It really makes me so appreciative and I have so much gratitude for everyone who supports me in what I am passionate about, it is truly appreciated.
11 – In your opinion what makes a beautiful sculpt?
Mhm ok well I think I will answer this when I look at other people’s works because if I were to discuss my own sculpting I would be too critical as I still have so much to learn! I have so many failures with my sculpting say compared to those that I look up to as fellow professional sculptors such as Raul Latorre, Andrea Jula, Jacques Alexandre, Romain, Lucas Pina, Joaquin Palacios, Pedro Fernandez and the such. These people are at the very top of our Art and let us not forget Sang Eon Lee.
So when I have been in positions of Art Director there have always been two facets that I pay particular attention to:
The technical aspect – which is not always the most important, but is obviously the key component to ensuring a sculpt is not “bad”. It is the minimum criteria that we should aim for! The aesthetic value – what doe it do to me when I look at it? With this I mean I have seen many that are technically and anatomically correct but do not create an excitement in me. So, there are many that tick all of the boxes composition, anatomy, design, silhouette, the cut of the figure for casting, details, textures and so on yet for whatever reason may not adhere or suit the concept art. Sometimes these elements are not suited for the sculpt, that they were added because the sculptor felt obliged to do so even though it does nothing to complement or add to the sculpt.
Also, what is good for me is not appreciated by someone else and vice versa it is a matter of taste. I see people on social media say great things about a sculpt that in my opinion does not work in it’s design and/or can be ugly. We can look at some elements almost scientifically, for instance certain wrinkles to the skin occur because of the musculature and forms of that anatomy, yet I see these wrinkles applied to a bust for instance that just would not naturally occur. It can be incorrect yet still pleasing to the eye so it is very difficult to lay out a series of rules that you can apply to determine whether a sculpt is good or not. Sometimes however, you can see something that you just know is perfect, I can state Life Miniatures as an example of this, to me is the company that releases the most products with the fewest mistakes ever, the sculpt, composition, the design, the level of details is perfectly balanced. I see some figures that because of their scale I think are overloaded with details.
So it is difficult to define or quantify what makes a great sculpt but ultimately what makes an attractive figure will come down to personal taste, I can point at something that I appreciate on son many levels to someone and they do not like it and vice versa.
12 – What have been the key advancements or guiding lights (artists) that have developed and pushed our hobby of figure painting, closer and closer to the realms of what can be truly considered an art form?
BooF! I say Shep Paine was the first and greatest modeller I can name, he was the seed, the catalyst for those artists who followed such as Bill Horan, Raul Latorre, Mike Blank, Gianfranco Speranza, those guys were like my biggest inspirations when I was younger. I remember buying magazines featuring these artists and so wanting to meet them one day and I wanted, from an early age, maybe just 15, I wanted to practice and become as good as them. Now after all these years in the hobby, I have met most of them and you know some of them were like a dream for me, meeting Latorre, my biggest influence was like a big fan boy moment for me!
The most talented personality I know in the figure painting world, without any doubt, I have no reservations naming him. Also Jaume Ortiz, who has a rather original style, very pretty, also Jacques Alexandre Gillois at the pinnacle of Golden Demon, our references in particular, was a big name and big influence, a true genius, a master in every field; designing, sculpting, painting. I do not know, maybe just maybe, he was one of the most complete and complex artists in our miniature world. I would also like to name Benoit Menard who in my opinion is another one similar to Gillois, someone who is as strong at designing, sculpting or painting!
I would also say, Thomas Barse, at the beginning of this period, 2001-2006, French School of miniatures, then he just disappeared but his works were pretty awesome! Allan Carrasco was super unique sculptor, I like his painting a lot but for me his sculpt work is incredible without doubt! One of the greatest sculptors in our miniature world.
Also I will name someone I think was special and many people will not realise something about this artist. Cyril Abati, a great figure painter who invented the “scratches” technique on armour and metallics. He was the first to bring this to the miniature world from the other genres such as military modelling and scale armour. He created the iconic space marine utilising this technique and was in my opinion another great painter and influence.
Now I will say, returning to the historical genre, although I dislike separating the two, in my eyes it is designing, sculpting and painting figures, that is it, but as I say, Marijn van Gills, is one of the true Artists! The biggest artistic reference in our world, creating iconic images that are so much more than just figures, I could easily envisage these on display in an Art gallery and being very successful!
Kostas Kariotellis because he is the craziest guy in our world, he creates everything from scratch, even the tiniest details, his creations are unique and I am sure he has the touch of a genius! Another person I truly admire is Kirill Kanaev, wow, what can I say? Probably the best painter in understanding and bringing the illustrative effect to our miniature world and is a master in replicating textures in garments and materials. I remember back in 2005, his pieces in GD, were so fresh and original, never seen before and I believe in some way or another, he changed the way many people painted. He has been in the elite for so many years, probably the number one painter in many people’s opinion, because he is so amazing but he is my number two.
Sang Eon Lee, to me, is the very best figure painter, he is probably the last great figure painter to have arrived in our world and when he did, something quite profound changed! He is a guy who has sensitivity and empathy to his painting, creating pieces that are out of this world, super unique and is someone who is almost untouchable in my opinion, this guy is at the peak of the mountain, far above everyone else, without any doubts.
From the new generation of painters that we have seen emerge in the last five years or so, I really like Sergio Calvo Rubio, I think he is very talented, Marc Masclans is super talented too, he is not as risky perhaps as Sergio, but his work is more consistent, his techniques and applications are perfect, but in some ways I really can appreciate the more risky work of Sergio’s. I like the risks he takes with colour relationships and combinations result in a very personal interpretation.
Let us not forget about Romain van den Bogaert, this guy is a true Artist, creating very unique pieces, a unique way to understand characters, he is a wonderful designer of characters. Roman Lappat doesn’t rely on technique alone, a true believer in expression, creating narratives with his projects. He is one of the few guys who brought to our world, story telling, a guy who with what would appear simple techniques, brings to life a basic miniature with some wonderful effects, lighting and composition. His piece “Maestro” depicting an artist in his workshop, contemplating his next creation, although technically is not the best, but the overall feel of the piece is exceptional. I love this guy!
Joaquin Palacios, is probably the most professional sculptor, he is a guy who can replicate any style to an incredibly high standard, whether it be Frazetta, Brom or Paul Bonner. He can do any scale, any style, any volume, male, female, monster, anything, he can create anything and is incredibly fast, maybe sculpting a complicated piece in three days, to a level I would dream to be able to achieve in one month!
Pedro Fernandez is a sculptor that is very noticeable, very unique style, there are many, so many to talk about. Jose Manuel Palomares, somehow became the guy who taught me the most, my sensei, he is one of the guys who has an almost exhaustive knowledge and understanding of painting with an ability to resolve any possible problem with a painting project. I do not want to say too much but he was able to create some stunning boxarts, with his knowledge and technique, on figures that believe me did not deserve the boxart, these were not great figures, but he was able to create the correct volumes, outlines and shapes with his paint where previously they did not exist. Jose really is an incredible painter and I am so lucky to have him as an inspiration and reference, we have shared a lot of time together in the same team at Andrea and Knight Models which I am particularly thankful. We have been working buddies for many years.
There are many painters that are interesting to me nowadays and some that in my eyes at least seem to have appeared only in the last two or three years such as Michal Pisarski, Dmitry Fesechko etc. Dmitry is super original artist. There are so many more I can name and already I feel bad that there are so many that I did not mention that deserve to be mentioned, so I must apologise!
13 – Ghostrider! This seemed to me to complete your knowledge of light and contrast following on from The Duel. The lighting on that boxart is incredible, it has been painted in such a way that it looks like an illustration from every angle. How is that achieved?
Well, yes you’re right, it was like settling down or solidifying the knowledge I had gained from painting The Duel, maybe 8-9 years ago and Ghostrider came several years later. Yes it was like the confirmation of all the skills that I had been developing on several projects, a culmination of my skill set involving lighting, ambience, reflection, environment and drama. It is a beautiful sculpt but when we look at it from an Art Director’s point of view the composition could have been better, predominantly because the KnightModels kit is presented on a flat base. So I inclined the base and created a larger one upon a wooden block, literally half a tree jejeje and the wooden plinth was hand painted to match the colours of the scene. I basically created a spiral shape to imitate the movement of the bike, otherwise as it is from the box, it would lack dynamism and movement.
How I did it? Basically, I planned what I wanted to achieve using several views of the kit that I sketched out in 2D, using these to create a fully 3D illustration. Maybe I did upwards of a dozen different views at the top of my skill level at the time, the clue to this, was that when I basically come up with the idea of a 3D effect, it is to place so many 2D views, depicting the boxart, when seen in the hand, one sketch after another. I can explain also like this, but it is difficult to completely understand through the process of a narrative, but I try. If you look at every view, the main light work of each view will be the outer light (rim light) from the next view, the next view will have a main light which will go on to be the outer light of the next view and so on.
This was how I would do my 3D illustrations and I must admit to having some personal incentive to create this boxart in this manner, that was to shut up and raise a finger to all of those that on the forums and social media were saying this cannot be done, that my works were photo-shopped and so on. So I decided that I would create something special, that would push me to my limits and that would require me to pool all of my knowledge, techniques and skill set together to achieve the desired effect that I was after. To then show in the flesh so that people could understand more the effect I took it to Monte San Savino show, it is still one of those figures that I am most proud of. It sold really well and was well known yet I think I have only seen one other painted version of this kit and I think so many people, whether painter or collector, look at the box art and believe they cannot achieve the same. However, you should not think like this, you should be looking at creating your own version, the box art is just one version of countless other viable solutions.
There was a step by step of the process that came inside the box of the kit (although I am unsure if they still include this), I do not usually like doing this, imagine I had to paint Ghostrider in 15 days and for each day I worked at least 8 hours, How do I then put all those hours and days into a piece of writing with images that is no more than maybe twelve pages? Yet it was what the company wanted, I had no choice in this, I think if you get a chance to look at that sbs you may find something useful and give you more of an insight into how I achieved that paint job.
14 – I remember you telling me that Grunkful, the dwarf from Mproyec, had been from a technical point of view, one of the most difficult figures you had ever painted. Can you explain why the pose and volumes made this so technically difficult?
OK, nice question. This is a great, great sculpt from a technical point of view yet in my opinion is not a great sculpt for painting purposes when we consider it within the confines of figure painting. Latorre is one of those people I love so very much and is without doubt the most talented Artist there has been in our Art’s short history, I love the miniature too. However, this miniature, in fact this question also ties in with the earlier question about what makes a great sculpt, is a beautiful sculpt but it has two sides that are just not right. Let me explain, the back is sculpted as from one pose yet the front does not follow this logic and is a sculpt from a totally different pose. These two areas of the body are not related, also Raul applied an overly stylistic way of sculpting, searching for volumes that do not normally exist, exaggerating the anatomy to the nth degree.
It is like reading a Simon Bisley comic, aesthetically it is beautiful yet technically, when you are working on it, it becomes difficult to understand the volumes. For me, it is a miniature you can only paint this in two manners, one with thick paint like a paste and cover the musculature or with super thin glazes which is what Raul did with his boxart. Raul is a very clever and impressive Artist with a varied and expansive skill set, always capable of making the right choices with his painting and sculpting. So he knew how to enhance the volumes of his miniatures in order to make it simple for him but also beautiful for the boxart.
However, my intention is that it has to look awesome in a picture but ALSO for the collector who is going to see it in their hands, that has paid for a complex painting and not only for a colourised version of the sculpting. So playing just with flat tonal variations by glazing; wouldn’t be enough contrast to please my eyes and definitively wouldn’t show my style, so it was a pain in the ass to modify so many micro volumes in order to achieve an illustrative effect.
So when you look at the boxart, there are NOT so many light and shadows added in addition to what is actually sculpted to the figure, what I mean by this is that he paints with a water colour technique, pure glazes, creating lots of tonal variations over the surface that allows the original volumes of the sculpt to come up. This “flat” style of painting allows the volumes of the sculpt to come to the surface. If you had to paint it in any other style, for instance in a style similar to mine, that is a little more risky with the level of contrast and colour, searching for larger range of light gradients, tones, saturations etc, many different steps to modify the volumes. I would say that my style is more like that of a traditional artists, painting colour with expression in my brush strokes, rather than only a painter I am also a draughtsman, sculptor and so on.
My concept of painting is that I will add my own interpretation of the volume, I will adjust the volumes to suit, if I take a sculpt by Palacios, Colossus from Knight Models, Joaquin was the original sculptor even though the name that was credited with this is not the one… anyway, this figure has surfaces that allow to create and interpret to your taste, making them larger or smaller, soft or hard, and so on. You can make anything you wish with this sculpt as the volumes are relaxed, Palacios he use to sculpt simply and cleanly, no micro volumes, creates the perfect anatomy, cleaning each muscle group as he goes, there is no micro detailing or anatomy within the larger, universal anatomy, this allows you to interpret in your own way or style. This allows you to create your own volumes with the strokes, colours, tones and even in some cases the thickness of your paint dilution.
With Raul or Romain they are great sculptors, some of the very best and most respected in our community, yet they add so many micro volumes within their anatomy, you have to play with colours in glazes, leaving the volumes almost as they are, introducing tonal variations using very diluted paint. I paint more like an oil painter I guess, wet blending with large amounts of thick paste directly upon the surface of the miniature, my problem therefore is that trying to interpret these volumes using my style of painting becomes very difficult. Check the miniature, you will see the micro volumes I talk about, the knots of muscle, the cuts, scars, textures, look through a magnifier, even the fingers and toes, within the volumes we have micro volumes and within these we have the tiny details, to paint all of this to your best, drives you crazy.
It can be painted more easy, for instance use an airbrush to create the volumes and contrast etc and allow the volumes to exist as they are. If you wish to interpret in your own manner, to push a particular point of view, to force a perspective or create areas of visual interest that you wish the viewer to observe, then technically this figure becomes particularly complex and difficult.
Thank you Alfonso for your time and energy again for this second part, the third and final part will be ready very soon, so stay tuned. I will also release the interview as one whole piece for those who wish to ingest it in it’s purest form. Stay tuned (Ed).