Banshee Masterclass 2017 – Brighton UK, by Joe May


I was very disappointed when I initially enquired for a position on the London Banshee masterclass course. By the time I had heard about the masterclass and applied, the positions had already been filled. Luckily, the Brighton masterclass (Held at the Dice Saloon on the UK south coast) opened up a few positions a week before the start date – result!

As a massive fan of Alfonso Giraldes and his influential work in our great hobby, I knew straight away that this was an opportunity not to be missed. I had spoken to many hobbyists who had previously attended a Banshee workshop to help paint a better picture of what to expect (pun intended) – this was insightful to say the least! It quickly became apparent that the most important thing to take with you is an ‘open mind’. To be completely honest I was not expecting the course to be that open minded.

It is important to say at this point that if you haven’t already come across Alfonso or his online alias Banshee, you would probably recognise his work if you saw it. His Star Wars box arts for Knights Models are iconic pieces of art that are used by many as the benchmark of excellence.


An early and foggy morning – the perfect excuse for some painting…

Or so I thought. When I think of a painting course, I think of just that – painting. Alfonso’s approach was a completely different story. The day began at 10:30am with a meet and greet with the other participants, talking in some depth with Alfonso about our hobby backgrounds and painting abilities. We then moved on to a quick rundown of the two days, which was accompanied by a very passionate dialogue from Alfonso of his current view of the state of our community and the dying art that is figure painting.

We discussed the different perceptions people had about the art and credibility of figure painting, and whether or not it can be considered an art form or just a hobby past time. We spoke about the different pioneers of figure painting and their impact on today’s figure painters. We also touched upon some influential classical painters that have influenced all modern day art forms, with Alfonso communicating a message that he would revisit throughout the weekend, which is that colour theory is always current and relevant – it never changes. In other words, we can apply the theory associated with two dimensional paintings, past and present, and use it to help us with painting our three dimensional figures.


After this lengthy and worthwhile discussion, we then moved onto the hard-core colour theory. What follows is not an exaggeration. We were all completely drained by the end of the first day – we literally had colour theory coming out of our ears with no energy to paint by the end of day one. This is another point to touch on. The length of day one is more than you could ask for. Alfonso was happy to stay long into the evening but most of the group stopped and pleaded with Alfonso to end the day at around 9pm. Talk about committed!

Rewinding back to the content of day one, Alfonso followed each segment of theory and discussion with a demonstration. It was great to see that Alfonso cared about all the students in his class – he made sure everyone had a clear view of his masterful demonstrations every step of the way. We were all encouraged to take notes as the day went on, which I started to do but decided to stop so that I could fully focus on all the knowledge Alfonso had to offer.

Alfonso had created different activities for us to complete. To refrain from giving away too much about the content of the course I will say this – the activities catch you completely off guard, which Alfonso addressed after one of the hour-long activities as the main intention. From then on, my whole perception of colour theory had been broken down, swept up and slowly re-built.

It was at that point we thought the theory had finished…


The second day started with some very tired looking people slowly making their way to their seats. Alfonso jumped straight back into it and started round two of colour theory overload. I say overload because there was SO much information. All of this information however, was relevant and helpful. Alfonso even admitted himself that he could easily fill a 9-5 week full of his colour theory – I have no problem with believing that!

We then moved onto looking at how the newly acquired colour theory could be applied to figures, with Alfonso giving many examples from artists including Kirill Kanaev, Roman Lappat, Sergio Calvo Rubio and Sergey Popovinchenko. If you haven’t already familiarised yourself with these artists, you really need to!

Alfonso gave us an insight into how top flight judges look at models during competitions, as well as giving us guidance on how we should be looking at a piece from the artist’s perspective. We were given tips on storytelling, photography and how to best display a figure. Alfonso used his own examples to communicate these ideas both digitally on the screen and with some display pieces he brought with him. It always fascinates me looking at a piece first hand as oppose to through a computer screen. It was at that point I knew the infamous ninety-minute demo was imminent. We positioned ourselves around Alfonso and watched with eager anticipation…


How someone can throw primary colours at a model and a with a few carefully executed brush strokes using a size six (yes a size six!) brush, create a stunning piece of art is beyond me. I was so shocked and inspired in fact, that I decided I wasn’t leaving the masterclass without owning that demo piece. Looking at the infamous anonymous bust (which is sculpted by Alfonso himself) as I write this review, I still can’t fathom how he created it, even though I watched him like a hawk every step of the way! His demonstration was paused at certain points with some time for Q&A and a closer look at the work in progress. It was also interesting to get an insight into how Alfonso likes to set up before he paints. The A4 palette was ‘way too small’, with him explaining that his studio palette is at least three times the size. My shopping list quickly expanded and now contains the following:

1 x W&N size 4-6 brush
1x A3 wet palette
3x Primary colour heavy body artist acrylics
1x titanium white artist acrylic
3-4 liquid acrylics including black and purple
1x open minded approach and the confidence to paint expressively

Once the demo was over, it was then our turn to pick up our brushes and have a go ourselves. The paint flowed, using the brush as an extension to our creativity, not worrying about what might happen and seeing mistakes as happy accidents that could be changed. We finished the afternoon sharing our work and discussing our ideas. Alfonso made himself available moving around the room, providing constructive feedback when required.

Alfonso finished the day by collecting everyone’s email addresses to be added to a group for all of his students to discuss their thoughts and feelings on his teachings and to share current works in progress with each other which was a nice touch.


To finish this review, I would like to say that I have covered everything, but in all honesty I have only scratched the surface. I attended the masterclass a good few weeks ago now and I am still downloading all of the information from what was an exciting, draining, insightful and knowledge packed weekend. I would like to thank Alfonso for the experience and say that I can’t wait for the next one! I would also like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to the Dice Saloon in Brighton for being such excellent hosts and providing all of its visitors with everything we needed from wet palettes, to artist grade paints and even a delicious chilli meal.

The Banshee weekend masterclass – Highly recommended!


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