Masters Interview with Alfonso “Banshee” Giraldes Pt 1

Masters Interview – A BRIEF INTRODUCTION

I have built a fair few friendships with other figure painters through Facebook and many of them are those that we consider at the top of our community, the masters or as I like to consider them “Guiding Lights”! So I decided that I would endeavour to interview as many as possible, for you our readers. Interviews have been done many times but I hope that these really deliver an “insight” into the artist, their background and their work. These interviews will hopefully also provide you with the inspiration needed to keep you moving along your personal journey.

This interview I am particularly proud of, it is in my opinion an honest, raw and passionate insight into the Figure Painting World’s largest personality and one of the all time greatest talents. It was conducted over several months, I sent the questions via email and received hundreds of minutes of voice recording through Whatsapp which I then had to type up, pausing and playing the messages over and over. Even then I had to send everything to Alfonso to check my spelling of named artists, museums, dates and other details, it was a long process and a lot of hard work.

at one of his classes with students such as Lappat, Picca, Rath, Prinz etc

However, despite the extra work at my end I believe it also allowed me to create the most intimate and “colourful” interview ever written for our little world of Figure Painting. With the interview totalling more than 22, 000 words (no joke) I thought it might be a good idea to break it down in two or three parts and release each a week or two from each other, at the end I will also create the full version, just in case you want to read it all in one go! So without further delay, let’s start!

a – Where did your journey begin?

my mum always there supporting me

I was born (1983) and raised in Madrid. I did however, live in Valencia for one year and the same again in Nottingham, U.K.

b – How long have you been on your journey?

Mhmm I think I have been painting since I was 12 years old, I painted maybe until I was 16 and then discovered girls! I returned to the hobby, figure painting when I was 20, painting continuously until now at the age of 33.

the wonderful city of madrid

c – Which milestones have you achieved along the way?

I won two GD Slayer Swords in France and Spain in 2006, which I think is a really cool achievement, winning two in two different countries in the same year! I have been lucky enough to win 10 Gold Golden Demons, 2 Silver Golden Demons, 1 Leganes Best of Show, Bronze Crystal Brush 2013, Gold awards at Torrent, Soldat de Plom, Monte San Savino, MFCA gold medals, 3 Gold display medals at world expo (Girona, Montreux, Stressa).. I don’t think I can remember, maybe some more too, I don’t recall as I have participated in so many contests over the years! I think the ones I mention are the most important ones.

d – How did you start your journey?

I began playing Warhammer 40k when I was 12, I started collecting and painting an Ork Army, but soon realised that I actually preferred and got more enjoyment from painting and not playing.

e – What future achievements do you hope lie ahead?

I started teaching my own workshops four years ago, they are going very well and so I plan to continue this. I think the natural progression in this is for me to begin touring, rather than just one class and begin to offer more topics in my workshops. In this way those students who have already attended my Colour Theory workshops, can return and learn even more from me.

I will continue my freelance painting for figure companies that I like and plan to start my own range of figures as I have so many ideas and concepts. I think this will eventually be the natural evolution of me as an artist, as I can create the concept, sculpt and paint the final boxart all by myself as I have done this for many companies like Knightmodels, Scale75, Nuts Planet and others.

1 – How did the formation of Team Spain develop figure painting within Spain and what influence did that have on the painting scene within Europe in general?

the spanish team in full

I think this was fundamental to the growth of the figure painting scene in Spain, because basically most painting was focused within the historical genre, fantasy and science fiction subjects were largely ignored. There were however, many painters that produced good tabletop armies as their interest was with Games Workshop and war-gaming, the team came about as a growing number of us were becoming interested in developing our skills at competition level.

At this moment in time the Golden Demon events in England and France were the best competitions in the world and so many of us travelled Europe merely to enter these competitions. These shows were always attended by the biggest names, the people that today are recognised as some of the superstars of figure painting such as Jeremie Bonamant, Thomas David, Alan Carrasco, David Waeselynk, Remy Tremblay, Romain van den Bogaert. They regularly attended GD France and so that was the big challenge and inspiration that we had, at that moment in time.

We decided to go there as a group, sharing our passion, it began a little innocent and naive, as we just wanted to travel with people with the same interest. It became the seed, the spark for something far greater and totally unexpected, The Spanish Team Forum. We decided we could help others by sharing our knowledge, passion and experiences garnered from travelling Europe. It totally shocked us all how big it grew, to the point that I will claim it was the biggest Spanish language forum ever!

It affected many painters, in particular the new generation of Spanish painters who began painting fantasy and science fiction miniatures. All of them were heavily affected and influenced by the forum so I think it was a real blast and inspiration , a real source of knowledge, not only in Spain but also in Europe as more and more articles were translated into English. Even those articles that remained only in Spanish had something to offer everyone as the images were of such clarity and quality that they became a great visual resource.

Alfonso’s Gold and Slayer Sword winning OPEN category entry 2006 Barcelona

In my opinion, without us even trying, I believe we became part of the history of figure painting, creating a vibrant and exciting Spanish painting community. I think it was in 2006 that we would attend GD events in large numbers, maybe 150 people, all wearing the famous red shirts of Team Spain! That year Albert took the Slayer Sword for his Orc Warboss! Sadly the forum is now extinct, going the same way as many forums, yet for so many people it is remembered and rightly considered part of the history of Spanish figure painting.

2 – How far back does your interest in Art go and when did you decide that you wanted to do this as a career?

my dad was integral to my love for all things art

I was always interested and focused on Art as my father was an Art enthusiast himself, I remember my childhood being filled with visits to galleries and museums such as the  Prado and Sorolla Museums, they really inspired me and it was thanks to my father and the love for the art he had shown to a child like me. In my family home the main interest was always Art so I grew up reading books and looking at the pictures of the greats, so my interest grew with me as I myself grew. It is without doubt my biggest passion. When I was a teenager I began to focus on artists and their works of Impressionism and it became my greatest inspiration. So is what I try to bring to the world of figure painting.

Museo Nacional del Prado of Madrid, Spain

In 2007 I was working as a graphic designer, the work wasn’t really a challenge and I became bored. In my free time I found that I was always sculpting or painting figures, even until 3am and it was at that moment that I thought I needed to realise that perhaps this was a great opportunity for me to work and earn a living doing what I truly love, working as an artist with no constraints.

Jorge and Delso (co founders of Knight Models), Julio Cabos and myself

Then Knight Models offered me the opportunity to paint some very interesting models including their Star Wars range, I was so intrigued and excited I decided to leave my job as a Graphic Designer and focus on the miniature painting. Then over a period of time I found myself submersed within other elements of this type of work including Sculpting, Concept Art and Art Direction.

alfonso’s work across many Art mediums is exemplary – portrait of Tony Nieto, charcoal on board

3 – For myself I first noticed your name back in 2004, before I even started painting, when you won Gold in the Open Category at Golden Demon for your diorama Battle of Gunberg. What effect did that have on your approach to painting during the Golden era of Golden Demon?

Oh wow I can’t believe you even remember that, it is so old! To be honest I look at it now and realise it was a terrible diorama and I remember how hard it was to finish as there were so many figures involved. It was a perfect example of how a project can “kill you” during the process and there were so many things wrong throughout the piece.

This was the first time I tried to do a really big project to win first prize, because at the time in Spain we only had Golden Demon statues for the overall winner of each category, so I decided to try everything to achieve the goal of winning that first prize. I did it! It was nice as it was my first Golden Demon but as the years have passed and I have improved every aspect of my figure painting, I look back at it now and realise that I am not too happy with it and I can see just how bad that piece now is.

Battle of Gunberg GD 2004 Diorama GOLD – alfonso Giraldes

It certainly hasn’t stood the test of time. It was also the first time I showed anything on the Internet and it was received into the community and achieved high scores online, quite a lot of people spoke about it and I guess that was the catalyst in many ways for me to continue my journey to become the best painter I could be. It is a perfect example of how stubborn I am both as a person and Artist, as I was so determined to win that award. The diorama is now in the MuMi and is a small part of Banshee’s history!

4 – Which lessons did you learn about figure painting and the development of your style whilst working under such great names as Julio Cabos at Andrea Miniatures?

Back at this time whilst working at Andrea my work colleagues included names such as David Rodriguez, Jose Manuel Palomares Nuñez, Joaquin Palacios, Alfonso Gonzalo, Jose Miguel Caballero Delso, Paul Dehenau,  Julio Cabos, I was surrounded by really great artists and learnt a little from each of them to help create my own understanding which would eventually lead me to develop my own style.

The lesson I absorbed mainly from Julio was process, something that I am currently now totally against. In my opinion now, I feel that a structured, step by step approach to painting smothers the artistic spark and stunts passion, you lose the moment, the vibrancy. Yet I am also aware how important process is to so many when they are learning and finding their way, for me Julio Cabos is one of the biggest examples of a real professional. Someone who produces every single piece to the highest standard, within the shortest deadlines and who is a true master with the airbrush.

Julio Cabos at Andrea Europe Workshop

In addition to all of the teaching he gave me around processes he was also my boss at Andrea and so had a large impact on my learning as an employee how to develop a working relationship with your bosses. Julio was a very nice guy as a boss, not a dictator, I have worked for some dictators in my career, at this point I was no more than an amateur, a trainee living the bachelor lifestyle.

I wasn’t paid a lot but I received something far more valuable to me, knowledge, so I became like a sponge, every day was super exciting watching the masters paint and produce these incredible miniatures. For me it was the pinnacle of Andrea Miniatures and they had just released their range of fantasy figures: The Warlords Saga. It was incredible for someone like me at the age, I think, of 20, to be involved with these people, to sit in meetings and to be asked my opinion and such like was very exciting for me to be fair.

5 – You are rightly considered a master figure painter yet you are a multi disciplined artist. Do you have plans to develop your expertise say in concept art or sculpting?

Yes you are correct, jejejeje you seem to already know so much about me!! Yes it is something that I hope to utilise when I start my own range of figures. However, I have been doing this in many processes for other companies such as Scale 75, Knight Models, Forge World and others. For now though I want to not say too much about my plans for the future as I am very focused on my commissions for collectors, I have a long queue of collectors patiently waiting for their figures. This is something I must complete first.

Abyssal warlord – a perfect example of Alfonso’s multiple artistic disciplines

But yes this is something I wish to develop further so I am in the best place possible to ensure my own range of figures are the very best that I can produce, I have recently invested in more tools and software to produce better art and faster too. I also attended a Karl Kopinsky workshop a few months ago, which also gave me the will and inspiration, it was like a spark or wind to fan my flame, my passion for doing something special.

Karl Kopinsky and myself – i was his student (Sevilla 2016)

To refine my drawing skills and push them further and I believe I will need to also add 3D sculpting knowledge and skillset to my repertoire as I think it will become more and more important for sculptors in the future. I still take more enjoyment from traditional sculpting, for me it is more organic but I will also learn ZBrush to ensure I can become as complete an artist as possible.

6 – Can you explain the impact that moving abroad and working at Forge World  had on you as a person, artist and teacher?

fresh start in Nottingham with his now wife Sofia and is friend Israel Gonzalez

Phew! O.K. first of all it meant I was much more proficient at communicating with people both face to face and online in English. It gave me the confidence to improve my speech without feeling embarrassed to fail, in many ways it makes me think that this was one of those chapters in my life that has most influenced who I am today.

I have gone on to visit over 30 cities ( I have actually counted them), in 12 different countries teaching more than 450 students. Next year I plan to return to Rome and Switzerland and I have also planned two courses in London. I am actually planning some new dates in the USA for 2018 and maybe South Africa too.

I am currently doing this interview via voice recordings through “WhatsApp” in Vancouver in Canada and is actually quite special, as rather than just a course, it is a Workshop Tour of Canada! Taking in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Montreal and Calgary, maybe next year I will do similar tours of the U.S. and maybe Australia too, so much of this I can put down to the experience and confidence I gained whilst at Forge World.

It also helped me to understand how a large company worked and how the various people and job roles all interact within a large office environment. I learnt by being “hit” by the reality of life, I had lived always as a passionate force, in whatever I did, but soon I realise that you have to rein in a little bit of your own personality and passion to succeed and deliver the bigger picture. I learned a lot of techniques, processes, materials, how to create my own tools and develop my own resources and processes.

I was surrounded by great artists such as Simon Egan, Edgar Skomorowski, Phil Stutcinskas, Phil Hayes , Steve Whitehead and Rhys Pough many other people, I don’t want to try and name everyone as I am sure I will forget someone and I will feel bad. Steve Whitehead who is probably one of the best designers I have ever met in my life, there were so many incredible artists of one kind or another there. They showed me more the way they worked but also how they think, that in it’s own way also taught me how to think and plan for myself and has helped me to become a freelance artist. It was a very difficult yet exciting journey to go from an employed artist with a guaranteed income to a more free artist.

alfonso’s concept arts are particularly innovative

The period at Forge World was probably one of the best and most important to me. Then we have the City of Nottingham which I also really enjoyed, I immersed myself in a new culture, it made me love a culture that was distinctly different to my own. I loved it too much, it offered me a different perspective on manners, traditions, lifestyle, I don’t know, I think it helped me to grow up and made me improve my personality and I became more myself but with more control. I learned that when you are too much yourself you can have troubles especially in a large company where their policies are so important and you have to hide your passion as they see other things as more important, the focus in a large company with many employees is about the bottom line, financial considerations, the most important thing at Games Workshop is not to produce the most innovative and creative projects but to create attractive figures of a certain type that they are confident will sell well.

I learnt that such things in a Capitalist society are very important, as an artist, we lose that focus or idea that something has to make money, we shouldn’t as it is important to bare this in  mind so that we may survive and to be wealthy enough to ensure we are not hungry such as many artists did many years ago. I definitely learned about the commercial element too and to be involved with a GamesDay and seeing all the fans that were interested in our products and works also helped me to stand up in a crowded room and give a speech or seminar, which again helps me so much now with my teaching, I have so much to be thankful for my time in Nottingham.

the red butchers – one of Alfonso’s creations whilst at ForgeWorld

7 – #fucksmoothness – this is fascinating on so many levels; firstly why do you feel that compelled to lead the painting community into a new, experimental, expressive direction? Secondly, was the decision to use such a divisive # intentional to cause a debate, as it seems to have split the painting community in its message, on one hand people understand you are saying to embrace all styles of painting, yet on the other some feel you are attacking painters who are technically solid yet may be lacking a certain flair?

Wow, this is something I will explain in writing once my website is ready, I am considering maybe doing it through a video so that I can explain much better with speech than the written word in English. However, you are one of the first people to ask me about this in such a direct and passionate manner and I have to say I am really enjoying the questions you sent me, including this one so I am happy to explain myself in this interview.

some of the demo busts from the Canadian Tour

I think #fucksmoothness should be interpreted how I explain it, as it is me, myself that has started or should I say created this movement. It is not that I feel compelled to lead the painting community into a more expressive direction, it is that I see a necessity within this miniature world to find other directions and styles, I think this is necessary, because our “world” is dying. This isn’t just my perception but is something that is realistic and it is happening, you can ask any company how much they are selling right now in comparison to what they sold ten years ago? I can give a perfect example of this, a new release for Latorre Models, or Andrea Miniatures ten years ago resulted in 7000, 10,000 or even 15,000 sales, can you imagine this nowadays!?

Now if a company sells 500 pieces it is considered a massive success. Andrea Miniatures when they released the first figures from the Warlords Saga range we are talking of sales in excess of 7 and 8, 000 figures and now 500 is considered a success. For me this says we all have to do something about this and my proposal is about being more open minded, I am not against the more technical, smooth approach to figure painting, how can I possibly be against something which I, myself, have done and spent many a year perfecting and enjoying?

I think it is very stupid for people to think that in essence I am therefore against myself, that I am against a style which I learned and perfected after many many years of hard work and study and practice. I have many examples of boxarts that I have done, that are perfect examples, depicting a high technical level and super smooth blends, such as The Hulk, you have many examples, there are so many, I won’t even list them as it is boring. Yet if you know anything about me, especially as a painter you will know this already. After you have overcome and perfected technical aspects of painting and you are already proficient at smooth blends then you need something else, you can not just repeat, repeat, repeat the same thing, to continue to grow and develop as an artist you need something else.

This is related to what happened when Impressionists arrived to the world of Art, it was able to appear because the photography allowed reality and perfection. Today we can use our cell phones which have a 13 megapixel camera, it is so sharp, so much better than the images created at the start of the 20th century but back then, for the time, when they took pictures it was like a miracle. They realised we cannot paint better than a picture as we cannot replicate the perfection and accuracy of a camera. So we have to search for other elements, the colour, the light, the ambience, the mood. They played with the concept that light affected mood, setting, ambience etc and the mood is always connected to time, which is always moving, never still, always in movement.

The light conditions are always shifting with time so you need to capture a moment in time very quickly, for this they developed techniques to represent what they saw in real life and nature very quickly,  they took their canvas out of the studio, into their natural environment and tried to capture all of these elements, whether environment, object or person in a snap shot of time using their new techniques in a rapid and quick manner. They developed the style of impressionism, where the brush stroke was very important and from this other styles emerged, new styles such as cubism, expressionism, fauvism and surrealism, even if you do not like these styles, you need to understand they are part of Art history, if you are an Art lover, as most of us figure painters claim to be, then you need to know some Art history, if not then you have not completely immersed yourself in your “art”, it is as simple as that!

Henri Matisse. Luxe, calme et volupté (Luxury, calm and sensuousness). 1904. Oil on canvas. Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France.

So we have two options, we can be colourisers, like colour by numbers you know? Place colour 1 here, colour 2 here and you fill in the colours and be happy, this is up to you, I will not say this is right or wrong. Everyone has their right to choose the way they enjoy their hobby and that is fine by me. You can enjoy your sexual relationships how you like, I will not be someone to tell you how to do anything you enjoy. Yet I am sick and totally against the official way of how to enjoy a figure, whether as the painter or the observer, the way of painting super smooth transitions and blending; because ultimately this is not the TRUTH!

I have proof through many years, I have painted the anonymous bust, many times, it is a fun bust to paint because of the nice volumes, pushing gesture, expression, ambience, lighting situations, bold language, it is very versatile and I have proven with something like 40 different versions, you can paint something beautiful with a sketchy or impressionist style. It doesn’t matter that you can see the brush strokes, as long as they are correctly placed and you understand their placement, you can create something beautiful that the observer can see and understand the reasons why what they are looking at is beautiful! So why? Why does it matter if the blends are not super smooth?

Kirill is renowned for his realism and superb textures

Life is not perfect, we are confusing, the miniature world is confused, historical figure painters have said for many years they replicate realism in their paint works, have you ever seen a face that is completely matte, a face with perfectly smooth transitions? What is the point in painting perfect transitions, maybe ten years ago it was a big thing, there were perhaps only 30 people who could paint the perfect transition. Nowadays, with the videos, tutorials, articles, workshops and classes, Painting Buddha, MiniatureMentor, with live demonstrations at the big shows, with the top artists including now Kirill Kanaev, showing everyone their secrets and techniques and up close and personal how they achieve their results, it is much easier to achieve. I would say now there are like 200 people who can make super smooth blends and perfect transitions. So what is next, that is my question, what is next?

Moving the figure world into the realm of fine art with Marc Masclans

Either we take figure painting to the next level or this will die. If we want to consider ourselves as another Art form we need to show the Art critics, the collectors, the galleries something else other than smooth blends, because right now, they see us as people who paint toys! Nothing more! If we don’t get rid of the same subjects we paint nothing will change, a soldier, a warrior, a dwarf, a orc, nothing changes, we repeat all the time. There are only a few who actually create a narrative with their works, such as Roman Lappat, Marijn Van Gils, Kostas Kariotellis and some others.

“survival of the fittest” by Marijn van Gils the exceptional story teller

During the last thirty years they have been some true artists within the figure painting hobby but for the most part we are just artisans, nothing more and that is the problem. We have not given true value to the works, I have tested this for example, I have shown my class painting demos to some galleries in San Francisco and they were surprised, they tell me they are very nice and ask “what size is this?”, when I show them this is the size, their reply was can you do this bigger? Sure, of course I can and so they say come back when you do this but bigger. We are so limited by sizes and stupid rules, who invented such rules?

Who said at some point a cape should be painted with Napoleonic red, highlighted with fiery orange and a little of elf flesh at the end? This is stupid! Colours are just a perception! The same colour change to the eyes of the observer depending where is this material, under which light ambience, source or mood… the same Napoleonic red would be completely different if it is under the sun of Egypt or the cold fields of Austria.. or even more after 12 months of campaign, colours are just perceptions, always relative never absolute, concepts, that’s what I teach in my classes, and is not an opinion, is a fact.

If people are really interested in developing their painting skills, people should learn how to mix paints, people should learn the relationships between all of these pigments and how those pigments behave by mixing or filtering against each other. They should understand their brushstrokes and it’s correct use, it is a very important tool. You can and should be expressive with the brush and if you can, then why avoid it? Why shun it? I am not against perfect blending, sometimes it is useful or can even be the best way to achieve a certain effect but sometimes it isn’t.

kostas kariotellis – BOS World Expo 2014

Even more it is very cynical that we say we all love the perfect blending and then to follow Sang Eon Lee or Kirill Kanaev, because if you see these pieces, and I mention their names, like I do in my classes, Jay you know this as you have been my student, I told you in our class, I always name them and credit them as the two best painters in the world, for me Sang Eon is number one, Kirill is second, if you make zoom in using your iphone or device, you will see all the fucking brush strokes!

This is because they are painters, true artists, masters of their art, they are not figure painters, they are not hobbyists. They are painters’ whose canvas is a miniature, it is a vast difference. That is why those figures look alive, and one of the reasons is because you see the fucking brushstrokes, the brushstrokes have meaning, the direction of the strokes have meaning, the viscosity or thickness of the paint has meaning, the type and direction of each brush stroke will have a meaning whether it is pointillism, tracing, glazing, thick paint, everything changes, so it has different reasons.

on the edge of no man’s land – sang eon lee at his most perfect and emotive

It is the way you use the tool, you can hit the ball in many ways, you Jay are a football fan like me, you know this, it is not the same when you take a freekick, or a penalty compared to how you strike the ball when you are passing, short distance or long distance. So if we have all these tools at our disposal why should we not use them how we like just because somebody claims a miniature is only well painted if it has super smooth blending? This viewpoint is stagnating our Art.

If you as the individual makes a choice that you, not someone else, has decided for yourself you want to paint smooth, then I totally respect that but you should not be fooled in thinking this is the only way to paint a beautiful figure. You are free to choose the style you want, the issue we have in the current climate though, is that if you do not follow these stupid rules of what is considered a great figure, then you will never win a contest and this is where the community is ill, this is where the hobby, the Art is ill and sick. We are made to feel that recognition as a great artist comes with winning awards but to win awards you must play by the rules, how is this Art? Art should be expressive and self exploring, never with boundaries.

one of my first scratch builds back in 2005 (greenstuff and milliput)

There are great figure painters who have never won awards. I am as an artist in a position where I already have followers, as I have been working, let us say, at the very highest levels for the last ten years or so, maybe since 2003 when I won my first Golden Demon. So thirteen years at the top with the top painters. I have, you know the saying right, with great power comes great responsibility? That for me my responsibility is to have a speech, to make a statement, to say to the new generation of painters, even the super talented ones, here is a discussion, here is a spark, I want you all to paint how you like!.

No one should tell you how to paint! My statement is about free speech, about saying no to the rules and what is expected and what is considered good or bad, no no no the complete opposite. It is telling the people, there are more options, more styles and if you like another style that is more illustrative, more impressionist, more expressionist then let’s do it, nothing else. That is #fucksmoothness that is the meaning of #fucksmoothness!

I hardly understand how people who know me for many years all of a sudden have an issue with my #fucksmoothness message, what is the problem? Is the problem the word, fuck? Come on guys,  be serious with yourself, be critical of yourself and honest with yourself. Take a look in the mirror and think of the number of times you say “fuck” on a daily basis, and if you are one of these people who regularly use this word in your vocabulary then why do you have an issue with me using it in a provocative statement? I am being provocative, it is necessary within the Art world, I have people tell me “I agree with your sentiment, but not the way you are doing it” but if I don’t use this word, this statement, this abrupt and in your face #, then I create nothing, I challenge nothing, it is no longer provocative. I am being provocative for a reason.

diego valezquez (1599-1660) a self portrait

Some people agree and some disagree, this is good, it means people are taking their position (for or against) and it is causing debate! This debate will allow all of us to look for more, to give us more options, it is like shaking a box and jumbling the contents, we might find something new at the bottom. When we live in a world so staid and rigid the world will eventually die. You need some shaking all the time, revolutions, we need a revolution, with my approaches to paint, I can finish a figure in two hours and move onto the next. This is because I don’t need to paint smooth I just want to learn how to paint and grow. You look at the Old Masters, you choose your own, Rembrandt, Rubens, Goya, Velazquez, Sorolla, Monet, choose your own but you will see all of them the brushstrokes, it is not super blended like an airbrush.

The airbrush is a tool that is all, if you like it, great, I have used the airbrush many times, it is part of my process but the problem is, if we do not accept that the Masters did not paint ONLY smoothly. Look at Frazetta, tell me if he paints super smooth. No! There are brush strokes everywhere, very expressive and he is one of the greatest artists ever! Look at Brom, look at Paul Bonner, these guys use the brush to express things, if they can do it, why do we not want to do similar in the figure world?

the first sketch demo way back in 2009 and now i see more and more of my students incorporating this into their painting process

It is funny that apparently we are the only Art field that to do a great figure we must paint super smooth, it is bullshit. I am sick of this bullshit! I think that the miniature world could grow and be more advanced if we allowed and accepted more varied styles at events, shows and competitions. Unless we paint smooth we win nothing, it is wrong, there are so many beautiful figures available to us now that would suit a more free and expressive painting style, if it pleases your eyes, what is the problem? What is wrong with that hey?

#fucksmoothness is not an attack on anyone, it is the complete opposite in fact. I am saying we must be more free, I feel that myself like some others I could name, can stand up and say this, because I have already shown I can paint smooth. This isn’t someone saying fucksmoothness because I can’t do it! I can and I have done so for many years. This is bigger than just me, I am talking about the world of figure painting and it’s future. I say super smooth painting is one step, when you have done this over and over on many projects, what is next?

Maybe if the clients can paint their figures in one afternoon then they can move onto a new project. I say client, as in you the reader, because I am producing figures for companies, for you, the client. At the moment, we buy a figure and take one month, two months to paint it, that is 6 figures a year, maybe that is all they buy that year. It is so poor for the companies and artist that survives out of the miniature world, what will happen if they learn to paint fast and more expressive, paint ore projects, never get bored or bogged down trying to achieve a super smooth blend because they have been led to believe that is the only way to create a great figure.

Romain van den bogaert demon bust painted by Matt DiPietro

If someone wants to paint the older way, super smooth, it is ok, no problem, but many of my students after classes have said to me that they enjoy even more this new way of painting and expressing themselves. Look at what Matt DiPietro is doing right now, he came I think to my workshop in LA, a couple of years ago, he saw that this style fitted with his way of thinking, his personality, now he paints sketchy and people love it, because it is beautiful! It is not loose or rough, it is not hiding that he might not be able to paint smooth, believe me he can, he painted for Warmachine.

Now he is not painting smooth and he is successful, it proves there is a place for this style, and he is enjoying it and people love his works. So why should it be persecuted or overlooked at a competition or show, or why should the powers that be say no this is not permitted? It makes me angry because painting should be fun and enjoyable, if you enjoy painting faster why someone will make you feel you need to do it another way?

All those guys that say I am being offensive, or whatever, it means they either don’t know me or understand the passion and love I have for the hobby, painting and the community. I have been displaying my passion for this for most of my life, I have been demonstrating  this for years, teaching, guiding, answering hundreds of emails, travelling the world, being away from my loved ones, spending time talking about miniatures and my perspective and always trying to find some time, even the smallest amount, to support as many painters as I can. You know this Jay. In the slideshow below you can see some of the many classes I have given, to novice, intermediate and even advanced painters!

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They either do not know me or they are purposefully trying to hurt me, because for anyone to be blaming me for fucksmoothness, when he has been in the same contest as my fucksmoothness piece, with eleven different versions of my anonymous busts painted in so many different ways, something that in the Art world has been done so many times, a study in light, colour, emotion, face expression, different characters, ambience etc. There are eleven examples, selected carefully from more than 30 demos, eleven different busts, same canvas but totally different finishes, titled #fucksmoothness, subtitle “a year of teaching and learning around the world”  which is exactly what it means. Eleven studies, conducted during classes, with different people from around the world, it is also a message of my gratitude towards my students for giving me the opportunity to help them but to also learn so much about myself and my painting evolution.

the anonymous bust – an exercise in light, shadow, ambience, colour, mood etc

Some people just keep the words fucksmoothness going around in their heads and are getting pissy, rather than focusing on the exercise, a brilliant exercise, or looking into the meaning of the message, instead they just go on about the choice of my words. Really? Fuck causes you such concern? It is so offensive? Are we so touchy and sensitive? Come on?! We claim that our niche hobby should be considered an Art form, yet the first sign of controversy and some members of the community become big babies?

You go to a museum or gallery and look at Contemporary Art, you will see far more provocative subjects, isn’t that what this is all about to evoke, provoke, challenge, inspire, create? Yet a word like fuck causes all of this offence, a normal word in the English language, one word? Come on! this is a childish attitude, we see everyday movies, of death, murder, violence, explosions, a family favourite such as Bruce Willis in DieHard, saying “yippy ki yay motherfucker” and no one cares about it, yet people are talking about me for #fucksmoothness.

the anonymous bust as a teaching aid has proven invaluable

I will shout it all my life #fucksmoothness! So what? It is a great claim and I am completely sure and convinced by my message… Do you want to burn me at a stake like a medieval witch? fine, if this helps the future generations to know and see that there are other ways of understanding our art, our painting, our colours and light, because we need to go further with this, have to link with other Art such as illustration, canvas painting, CGI, animation, we should go this way, our world of figure painting needs this! I am sure we can not stay in this way, our world is dying, take your own path, don’t be constrained by what people say is the “correct” or “acceptable” way of painting. Every style should be encouraged if it is executed well.

I am not saying that every painter who does not paint smooth is a great painter, no, obviously, as not all who paint with a certain brushstroke can be considered Masters of Impressionism. They are Masters because of their ability, their expertise in that field.

There are ways to differentiate between good and bad, advanced and novice, intermediate and Master, but my friend, it can not be based solely on how smooth one paints, it is ridiculous. If we make a contest where winning is only achieved with perfect blending, then we have trouble. At MSS, out of all of those entries, all those participating Artists from around the globe, 50, maybe not even that many, are figures with smooth blending! Which one is best, then it comes down to style, storytelling, which has the greater character and personality, or is more original or more unusual subjects. This is what we most search for, it is an evolution, we NEED an evolution my friend!

this bust and the classes with hundreds of students has taught Alfonso much about himself and his Art

#fucksmoothness, I say it again. It is an attitude, an  attitude to confront the establishment, to confront the things or the persons that manipulate us in our lives in a way that we all behave exactly how they like us to behave. I say no, fuck this, fucksmoothness, in a revolution we must shout, as loud as we can, about what we want to change, this is not an attack on an individuals style, it is a direct attack on the established traditions and rules, imposed on us and what “they” consider good and bad figure painting, what “they” consider a worthy winner or not at the shows. These are OUR shows! we should make the rules, we should paint how we want to paint, we should do so with joy, happiness and support for everyone’s styles!

always striving to develop – a never before seen image of a promo, scratch built sculpture and paintjob for Bitoon Games circa 2011

You know, to be a little more critical with ourselves is necessary. People ask me all the time, how come I am a “great” painter, what did I do to get to where I am, the answer is simple, I was super critical of myself and my abilities. In my opinion this is needed so that I don’t become complacent, in my comfort zone, I always try to aim for outside my comfort zone, to push myself into a new challenge that I know I cannot achieve, especially in one attempt. I have been like this all my life and I can not see a time when I won’t be like this in the future, maybe at some time I do not do this, then that is when I fail. Most of the people in the miniature world, only want to receive compliments and be treated as Masters, they are not pushing, making mistakes, challenging themselves, they stay in their comfort zone, doing what they are “good” at, receiving compliments and awards.

Michal Pisarski’s technically stunning version of the Barbarian from BlackSun Miniatures

I saw a figure recently from Michal Pisarski, LAN Studio, his first 75mm in his life, the barbarian from Black Sun Miniatures and it is probably ONE of the greatest figures I have seen in the last five or six years! I have to show everyone this figure, if I had the chance I would show it to all my students. I messaged him telling him how impressed I was with this figure. I also can enjoy and marvel at super smooth painting, but in this case the smoothness was clever, it was done with a goal, a goal to create something beautiful, not centred on the smoothness, that was just an element, but it was the catalyst to everything else that he understood about the figure, the volumes, the lighting, the colour palette, the understanding of the different materials, it was impressive and almost technically perfect. I can enjoy these figures too but it is NOT the only way we should enjoy our figures.

Not just one style, a world where everyone is different, you love Punk and Heavy Metal, I like Hip Hop, it is not question of one being better than the other, each genre has the artistes who are considered top of their game, the musical genius, your idol or my idol, I don’t know, you choose Sex Pistols and I choose TuPac, they can not be compared, we should not try to. Our hobby, our world should be made enjoyable, we should not suffer in something we love. We need to grow, to express ourselves and feel part of this Art form in the way we choose to participate in it!

Well everyone that is the first instalment over and done with, I think you will agree it was quite the insight and we are only now getting started. Stay tuned for the second instalment soon! Remember you can subscribe for FREE and receive email notification of all of our awesome content! Thanks for reading everyone and see you next time! (Ed).

Comments

  1. Kristian Simonsen

    Thanks, this was a good read and it reminded me of much of what I learned myself at Banshees painting class. For me #fucksmoothness means a lot of freedom as an artist and has changed my way of painting down to the core. Not that I have stopped blending smooth but because I now realize that it is as much a tool for expression as the brush strokes and textures and that a good piece does not need to take forever to finish.
    Can’t wait for part two. 😊
    Kristian

    1. Author
      Redrum

      Great point Kristian, thanks for your kind words and yes Part 2 aims to be every bit as good as the first instalment 😉

  2. marc yablon (ski)

    wh’t if you go to shows since the l’te 60’s & you see things h’ppen th’t ‘re different h’ppening such ‘s younger modelers coming from Europe t’king home m’inly gold ‘w’rds while those modelers th’t deserve winning some of these ‘w’rds still get either silver or bronze & this is ‘fter they did best without ‘ p’rtner doing the sculpting bec’use they do this themselves is this right yes or no ?

    1. Author
      Redrum

      Hey Marc all I can say is that there will always be some questionable decisions by the judges at shows across the globe.

  3. Kelly Kim

    Miniature painting as an art form owes a lot to Alfonso. While most painters are primarily concerned with refining and promoting their own work, their own style, here’s a guy who is actively trying to get people around the world to innovate, rather than emulate.

    I especially like hearing how he feels about his own personal journey and development of his painting philosophy. The thing is, I wonder if, in another 15-20 years, he will be able to look back at this interview and his current works, and hold another opinion entirely. I doubt he will be going “#lovesmoothness” or some other 180 degree turn, but it will be interesting to see what the next stage of Banshee evolution is… the guy is so far ahead of almost everyone else, who knows?

    1. Author
      Redrum

      hey thanks Kelly, you raise an interesting point who knows? Hey maybe in 15 years time people will talk about me in the same way they talk about Alfonso now, I can only dream right?

  4. Michael "JayCan" Heun

    Hey what a Blast !!!

    So i must say that this part of the Interview touched me alot
    Me started mini painting some 30 Years ago with 1/35 Military models and bad Revell colors…i experimented ,made my own Dust pigments and thinks as the market didnt had them to offer. And i was always pleased with my results as i learned a lot of creating some athmosphere.
    Later then as a tabletop painter and GW employee i HAD TO paint in a very small range of techniques and i must say…the time at Games Workshop killed my individual style. No growth in skills and all done under pressure but successfull as had the very nicest Cabinets in a GW Store. But as i started my Paintservice 5 Years ago i did not offer “Art” but the same bullshit as at a GW Store. So me only offerd a tt painting in different levels and the goals were big armys… holy fuck…i lost all my power , my ideas, my creativity….Dont get me wrong, to earn some money its okay to paint 500 minis for an Army all the same way but hey fuck off it kills you as an artist or better lets say as a painter as i dont see myself as an artist yet in thet kinda business.
    With this inside look in Alfonsos mind i feel really motivated to climb out of my hole and start experimenting on my own minis. Some comissions still need tobe done but after that…Phew i say #fuckcomissionpainting and then i go my own way and yess i say #fucksmoothness

    What a great inspiration Banshee always was, is and will ever be

    regards
    Michael JayCan

    1. Author
      Redrum

      Great! Im happy our interview seems to be inspiring so many and i so agree with your sentiments on commission painting, i guess that comes down to having to make business decisions. Thanks for reading and your kind words!

  5. Luis Salamanca

    Wow, amazing interview to such a unique master. Although I thought understand the meaning of #fucksmoothness, I didnt, so it has been incredible to read these words, truly coming from Alfonso’s soul, and grasp a bit more the complexity of such a message. These words have been really touching. Now, and although I was lucky of knowing Alfonso many years ago, I truly need to attend some of his workshops to fully get captivated by such a powerful message. And now, really looking forward to reading part 2! Obviously, thanks for taking the time of compiling such a great interview!

    1. Author
      Redrum

      Hi Luis, wwow thankyou so much for your kind words, creating a piece of writing on this scale takes a lot of time and effort and it is always a relief and a pleasure to hear that it has been appreciated and inspired people! Thankyou again, Pt 2 will be available in the coming week or so 😀

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