Weekend Masterclass with Banshee – A Summary by Paul “Bully” Bullock

PRELUDE

We will actually begin with the thoughts of another student, owner of RobotRocket Miniatures, figure painter and Eavier Metal admin , Matty Pearce:

“Well … what can I say that would describe this weekend with any justice.. I can’t really. All I can do is to say it was one of the most intense and enjoyable weekends I’ve had in a very long time. From meeting the man himself to the in depth knowledge he throws out for almost 24 hours across the weekend. I found myself intrigued by everything Alfonso had to say, this was no accident, I wasn’t just intrigued from my own drive for this Art but because he is one of the best teachers I have ever sat in front of.

Someone once told me that the most valuable things you can give anyone are time and knowledge, Alfonso gives these in abundance. I left the weekend feeling full, full of Knowledge, full of inspiration, full of drive and most importantly a new way of looking at everything. I feel more able to analyse and digest miniatures in a more complete way with a better knowledge of colour theory and also the history of the art of miniature painting. I would say it’s a necessity for any budding miniature painter to do and I certainly can’t wait to attend future Banshee workshops”.

THE BUCKET LIST AND COLOUR THEORY

Hi I am Paul Bullock, known as Bully to my friends and as a miniature artist and a passionate painter I have long aspired to learn from one of the modern masters in the flesh. You can be certain that Roman, Ben, Lucas and Kirill still feature heavily on my bucket list, but first up was a desire to learn from the master colourist himself, Banshee.

I jumped at a chance of a place on his weekend Masterclass, as any competent painter should, with the hope of upping my game. What I did not expect was for it to completely change the way I wish to paint moving forward. My most recent piece prior to this course was a respectable 76% Silver on Putty & Paint…… but now I look at it and see everything I could have done better, every fault in the contrast or colour theory.

#fucksmoothness an exercise in light and colour

In short my awareness of colour has been heightened to a whole new level. I understand things I only ever felt before, and I feel things I now no longer understand. When Jason Martin asked me to pen this article, it forced me to stare at the 40 pages of notes I wrote on the course and face my new reality. Alfonso has given me the tools to take my Art to the next level, now it’s down to me to use them.

It started on a damp morning in Chiswick London, we had a private studio at the delightful Cross Keys pub, run by the communities own Tim Marsh. As you would expect we got a warm welcome, biscuits and coffee a plenty and room to set up our painting areas ready to absorb the information that was to flow from Banshee. I knew we would be painting the Anonymous bust sculpted by Alfonso himself, I had seen the results of his previous workshops in the student’s pieces and I expected a solid two days of bust painting and explanations.

all so attentive

That is however, not how things were going to go down. I have met Banshee a few times in passing, but I was not prepared for the sheer gravitas and energy of the man in his element. Make no mistake, this is his element, Alfonso was born to teach. We did our introductions, and then he looked at all our set up areas and smiled:

“Take out your notebooks, before you touch a bust, you learn how. Colour is a language, the oldest language, together, if you can keep up; we are going to learn that language.”

With that sentence, a cheeky smile and a flip pad and black marker pen, so began the process of destroying my brain and all my previous perceptions on the use of colour. To put it bluntly, the first day was a 12 hour download of one man’s lifetime of passion and expertise. We covered colour theory in a way I could not imagine. I will never buy flesh colours again!

LEARN THE RULES TO BREAK THEM AND WHEN NEON GREEN IS NOT NEON GREEN

We learned the rules of paint and pigment to an extent that has changed my every brush stroke. We studied the old masters, those geniuses of oil and canvas who pioneered the use of colour before we forgot how. We studied the modern masters of our field and examined their work in microscopic detail. We cannot replicate their mastery without thousands of hours of practice, but I now understand why their work takes my breath away.

If you are hoping that this article in some way will pass some of those lessons on, you will be disappointed, to attempt to convey even a small part of what I learned, and do it justice would be impossible, in short the only way you will reach the level of mental destruction and resurrection myself and my classmates experienced will be to front the cash and attend a course. I promise you, it is worth every penny and more.

As I looked about the room at the dead and exhausted faces of my fellow students as the clock ticked past 9.30pm and Alfonso was still in full swing, they returned my glance and we shared a moments bond that will never be broken, certainly not as broken as we were. We had reached our limit, we begged Alfonso to stop. Literally begged, we all believe he just would just have kept going all through the night we however, were close to needing to be institutionalised, and my brain had stopped functioning an hour before.

now one of my prized possessions

Banshee had taken neon green from Vallejo and spread it onto the face of a stunningly painted bust. At this point, I thought I had finally lost my marbles, but then before my eyes, in less time than it takes to boil an egg Alfonso made it work…. it lifted the paint job…. it became invisible on the perceptive level, but was there purely on an emotional one.

I knew it was neon green, but it no longer behaved like neon green. This was the exact moment my inner monologue began to scream, the final shreds of my sanity unravelling…. and I was not alone.

Master Giraldes, for make no mistake; he is a modern master of his art, graciously if not with an unbearable air of disappointment, agreed to stop and recommence the following morning. At this point the drinking would normally begin…. for as those that know me will understand, I like a pint or ten…. not so this evening, Bob Turtle and I meekly drove to my house and went straight to bed. I was asleep in moments, and when my children tore me from the bliss of oblivion the following morning it felt like I had been lobotomised. Bob and I shared little more than a series of grunts before jumping in the car and heading back for day two.

AN IMPOSSIBLE EXAM BUT ONE THAT SUCCEEDED

alfonsos workshop bust

Day two began with an “exercise” the final exam if you like, before we were pronounced ready to apply what we had absorbed (I say this as it will take me years to learn) on the blank resin bust sat before us. We groaned, we moaned, we are miniature painters! Let us paint! I am certain that was the collective thought. Banshee just smiled and gave us the exercise.

I pride myself on being a smart man….. This exercise could not be that taxing, could it? Alfonso has taught over 400 students; only three have ever completed the exercise successfully…… Roman Lappat, Ben Komets and Raffael Picca. I feel, dear reader those names are more than enough to explain the complexity of the task, we all ultimately failed, just as he knew we would. However, we had moved closer to the perfection of the masters mentioned above. That became apparent the moment we began to paint.

I approached my first piece in a way I had never before, bold colours filled my wet pallet and I threw them on my piece, not with abandon, but with calculated understanding. At first I was scared, but then, my God the enjoyment was euphoric. I was painting free, allowing the language of colour and my eyes to guide my brush, not my brain. My broken mind put up less resistance than I expected as I worked neon orange into the lights of my piece, in hindsight I wonder if that is all part of the process, the method to his teaching brilliance.

Thirty minutes later I placed my brush down. In that short time, I had replicated or exceeded the standard of several hours work prior to the class. At that beautiful moment my conversion was complete. I smiled and reached for my second bust….. After all, I had plenty of time!

exhausted but inspired

Then it was time, we were finally deemed ready. Alfonso took the chair and with almost exclusively a GW Chisel Tip basing brush and in 90 minutes, produced a piece of Art. I like all those who had gone the distance, watched in awe and confusion turned to clarity and suddenly it all clicked, my life was changed.

The next day I woke up and painted the Young Miniatures Spartan bust as one of my Salute Entries for this year. I painted a competition piece in four hours…… and I loved every moment of it.

Thank you Alfonso, and you can be damn sure that I will be at the next round of courses. NMM here I come!

nmm course? yes please!

Comments

    1. Author
      Redrum

      Hi Noah, I would loved to have known this too but as Paul pointed out at the beginning of the write up, he wasn’t going to tell us anything about the technical exercises or share the information of the course as it is Alfonso’s livelihood. I’m guessing it involved colour and light in some way but we are all as in the dark as you are.

  1. Kelly Kim

    Great writeup! Everything you mentioned reasonated with my experience in the Vancouver class. I’m hpping to one day take his class again, as the amount of material covered was immense… I think half of it bounced off my thick skull.

    1. Author
      Redrum

      Kelly, I took a class with Alfonso over two years ago and a lot of it is only now clicking, it’s in your head don’t worry, it just hasn’t clicked or found its way to your painting yet, I think it’s a long process.

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