A BRIEF INTRODUCTION
I have known Bohun for several years now and along with the other Polish painters I have always found him willing to help with my own painting, time permitting. I did this interview for Legion of the Cow about a year ago now I suppose. It is quite insightful and informative and so I was given permission to republish it here with a few edits. I hope you find it interesting!
First things first, time for a little background information before the big questions kick in.
a – Where are you from?
I live near the centre of Warsaw, Poland in a small but cozy flat.
b – How long have you been painting?
I’ve been painting since 2005, so that makes just over 10 years. Hard to believe how time flies!
c – Which major awards have you won?
A few Golden Demons and such, back in the early days. Awards and contests are not very important to me.
d – How did you start painting?
Back then, in 2005, I was having many doubts about my future. I’ve been disappointed with my studies and sort of burnt out. During one day, when I was feeling lower then usual, my wife (she was still my girlfriend back then) tried to help me by asking if I could remember anything in particular that I liked doing or was good at. I recalled that when I was younger I really enjoyed painting miniatures for my Warhammer army.
Nothing serious, that is true, but this is what I came up with. During the time when I was waiting for my wife, who was having exams, I searched the internet and found the CoolMiniOrNot website. It was like a revelation, I knew instantly that it is what I want to do for my living!
e – What would you like to achieve in the future?
I would like to push forward the boundaries of what is possible in painting models. To be the one that does something first and innovates some brunch of our art/hobby. I want to make history. Getting back to Earth, I’d love to be able to do what I do for a living in the future, until I won’t be able to hold a brush anymore. To earn decent money for my efforts and be able to provide for my family.
Now let us develop this a bit further…..
INFLUENCES, INSPIRATION AND LEVELLING UP
1 – I’m a firm believer that outside the influences of other artists, politics, social status, religious viewpoint and the economy of our countries all plays a part in influencing our creative processes. What do you feel has influenced you the greatest?
That’s not an easy question to answer. A lot of things inspire me to paint and a lot different stuff inspired me throughout my painting years. First of all, I am a selective perfectionist, by which I understand that I’ve got a need to dedicate myself to a single goal and work on becoming the best in it. Just by chance it happened to be miniature painting.
When I decide to dedicate myself to something I hate to do it part time, I need to invest 100% into it, otherwise I feel awful. Saying that I remember reading Vincent Hudon’s (Silphid on CMON) article about how he created his Slayer Sword winning Magmatrax (follow link for indepth tutorial) and how he dedicated himself to learning everything from the basics.
He stated that his success was 10% talent and 90% hard work, or something like that. This single interview helped me to get through the first difficult years of learning, especially since I never considered myself as especially talented. I decided that I will work extra hard and achieve just the same success, and that was exactly what I did. I remember looking at the creations of my favourite artists, and saying to myself: I can do just as well!
I am looking very fondly on those first years, even though they were very difficult as well. But everything was so fresh back then, every week there appeared some amazing work that kept me dumbstruck and inspired me to paint.
2 – I remember quite distinctly where my painting “levelled up” and I also recall looking at your earlier works on CMON and the progression in ten years is staggering! Has your painting evolution been structured to reach the top as quickly as you have done and if so what were the stages of this progression: or was this something you’ve achieved subconsciously?
When I look at my progression and how my painting has developed, I am sure that it was subconscious. Of course, my goal from the very beginning was to become one of the best, but it’s not like I planned anything! I was simply trying to learn by looking at pictures of miniatures and then doing my best to achieve a similar effect. Somewhere along the way it all just slowly ‘clicked’ and I realised I can not only copy other’s work (besides I only had partial successes at that), but that I also have my own sense of what is ‘right’.
This stage I think was very important, although I am not certain at what particular moment it did occur. It’s like with math, you can solve some equations alright if you just know the formulas, but it doesn’t give you understanding of what you’re doing.
Only after you understand why the formulas work, you achieve the true understanding and an incredible satisfaction. It’s the same with painting, I suddenly gained the feeling of mastery of the craft, not because I mastered some technique, but because I felt I knew what I was doing, not merely following some instruction.
3 – You’re one of the biggest names within our community and yet you remain one of the nicest and most humble people I know. However, with this in mind I feel that other artists of a similar status are more involved in the community and are passionate about developing upcoming artists than perhaps yourself. Is this a conscious decision or the result of other factors? Do you feel a burden or responsibility to those painters trying to find their own path?
Thank you. I like to be humble, because I feel grateful that I’ve been able to continue to do what I love and do it successfully to some extent. It is true that I achieved a lot by hard work, but the luck factor also played a tremendous role. Moreover I could always count on the support of my wife and part of my family. In the end I don’t think I accomplished anything of real significance. I am just a medieval monk that wastes his time in the seclusion of his cell, working on some codex.
Regarding the second part of the question, I think I already answered it, at least partly. I don’t feel a need to take an active part in the community, because for me it is my own personal way of dealing with myself, a sort of meditation that lets me function semi normally in the everyday life. Not the best way maybe, but one I am dedicated to stick for good or worse.
It doesn’t mean that I am not associating with the community at all, far from it, but I do it in my own way. As for developing new artists, I don’t really feel that obligation, maybe because I became who I am all by myself. I didn’t have a mentor, and I feel that it worked out well for me. Lastly, I am not really that much of a social person. Off course some people need a mentor to develop, but I don’t think I am a good mentor material. That doesn’t mean I won’t do any workshops or videos in the future, I am thinking about it a lot actually!
FINDING YOUR FEET, PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES AND THE PROBLEM WITH POPULARITY CONTESTS
4 – With each new piece of yours it feels your pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in figure painting. What drives this?
Thank you, though this is surely an exaggeration. I paint a lot of stuff that is repetitive, some people, like Julien Cases, like to point that out, whenever they have the chance. But seriously, I am always thinking about trying new things. Generally I like to be innovative, make risks and being over the top at times, even if this doesn’t work out in the end. In this I follow the images in my head that represent some form of idealised reality, or reality how I would like it to be.
I am a kind of person that spends a lot of time in my private worlds, talking to myself and acting in all kind of ridiculous ways. I am never satisfied with the world that surrounds us. In that I feel torn between the adult that I became, and a child that I used to be. My personal view on growing up, is that it’s a tragic yet unavoidable occurrence.
I miss so much the way that I was able to look at the world as a child. All that wonder and fascination and subconscious faith in the rightness of everything. I am blabbering about all of this, because I believe that this feeling is what drives me to try to create something beautiful and aesthetically appealing.
5 – Creating and painting figures with an attractive balance/composition between colour and light is a difficult exercise to achieve properly, so how on earth do you always manage it with the wealth of colours you use in your painting. A good example would be the Lion Knight you recently created!!
Well, I don’t really know, it comes naturally to me. I never attended any studies in colour theory or any sort of artistic studies in general. I think I am good at seeing colours. I can always tell by looking at various objects what basic colours they are made of and how to achieve them by mixing.
Saying that I am actually bad at copying particular colours, because I always tend to add nuances that I find more to my liking and come up with a completely different result! Some of my bravest works, like the Lion Knight, have all been totally freestyle, I didn’t plan anything, simply added colours as I’ve seen fit. I understand this is not helpful at all, hahaha. Sorry!
6 – You recently stopped uploading your works to two popular online galleries, which for me is quite sad, because I feel your amazing work should be seen by as many people as possible. Can you explain the reasons behind your decision?
Sure. For CoolMiniOrNot the reasoning was simple, the site is simply dead. This makes me a bit sad, as I have a lot of sentiment for it, but one has to move on. I am not even exaggerating, the average number of votes for a top 7 days entries is around 30-40 with perhaps 2 comments. For anyone remembering what it used to be 10 or even 5 years ago, you just can’t put it lightly. Unfortunately CMON has been rapidly degenerating for the last couple of years, with a lot of controversy around the sniping and self voting and, I guess this is the result.
As for Putty&Paint, there are more layers in my reasoning. I became kind of discouraged that my work didn’t receive a lot of attention, I would be lying to myself if I didn’t state that. After p&p came to exist, I browsed it often and spend a lot of time looking at some inspiring work posted there. After some time, my enthusiasm kind of cooled, when I witnessed the flows that the site has.
First of all the people that form the p&p viewing base, seem to appreciate only very specific type of work: either a boxart/illustration or a kind of realistic style, that often lacks in depth and technique. I don’t say there’s anything wrong with those styles, but they are not my style. An ideal page should appreciate all type of styles and not discriminate.
Of course CMON had the same problem, though because of different reasons. Also, I became pretty fed up with the voting system in general, as it seems to promote a popularity contest and makes votes and scores pretty cheap in my eyes.
I feel I am on that stage of my life and career as a painter, that I feel I don’t want and need to court for the scores. I might get back to p&p if the voting system changes or gets removed, especially with the type of work I am planning to focus on in the upcoming year. I really would like to upload my best works to some sort of permanent online gallery. For now, I think I will continue to upload my paintjobs to my Facebook page, while checking p&p every now and then in order to be up to date with how the community develops.
LEARNED OR TALENT? NEW INNOVATORS AND DEVELOPING YOUR OWN STYLE
7 – There’s been more and more debate from some of the master painters recently about, “taking away the crutches of developing painters I.e. providing colour recipes etc” and encouraging them to express themselves in their painting and to be bold and not scared of making mistakes. To a degree I believe the same but there’s also an element of me that feels many painters without past experience in art, how colours and light interact and basic colour theory would struggle to get past the early stages of painting without some structure to their learning. I.e. the use of colour recipes. What are your thoughts on the ongoing debate?
I understand the reasoning behind this and agree to some extent. Providing everything and ‘making things easy’ certainly will shorten the time in which an upcoming painter learns techniques, but also takes away the chance for them of developing their personal style/approach.
It is like learning at school, when you have the solution provided, you learn to follow blindly what is given to you, taking it for the best way of achieving a result, often without questioning it. There isn’t much place for creativity in this.
When I was learning how to paint, there really was nothing, no videos, dvd’s or even written tutorials. The only way of getting knowledge was by asking other painters.
This was often pretty difficult, because their English wasn’t often the best, so it was somewhat taxing to understand what they were saying. In the end I had to learn everything the hard way, making a lot of mistakes, experimenting, and coming up with often unique ways of doing things. The benefit I got from this process, apart from the satisfaction, was knowing that there is no best way of achieving a result, you can do it in many different ways.
So, if a painter wants to develop his own personal style, I would recommend learning the hard way. To this day I never look up techniques or videos by other painters, I don’t want to be influenced by them in any way, even subconsciously!
On the other hand, when you are at the start of the road, some basic knowledge, as you said can certainly be very helpful. It all depends what your goals are, not everyone has to develop his/her own personal style, you can certainly be a good painter without it. Besides, the level has increased a lot during the last 10 years, so I bet it would be much more difficult to catch up for a novice painter if he/she was to learn on his/her own, then in, lets say, the ‘golden years’ of CMON.
In the end, even though I am tainted by my own experience, and in contrary to what I just said, I don’t want to take sides in this argument. As with painting itself, there is no one, true way, great results can be achieved by different approaches, and every person is unique in that aspect. That is what I believe!
8 – Who has inspired you in your painting life and who do you see coming through at the moment that excites you with the work they’re doing?
My greatest inspirations have been the artists that got me into painting in the first place. My idols, back then have been: Allan Carrasco, Thomas Barse, Cyril Abati, Jeremie Bonament, Kirill Kanaev, Albert Moreto Font, Alfonso Giraldes, Raul Latore, and guys which I now remember only by their CMON nicknames: Mercenary Ogryn, Nano, MatheiuL (a little bit later on I believe). Those are the ones that come to mind. I loved especially the French and the Spanish scene, which were the best in the world back then. They were the one who innovated both painting and sculpting and made it what it is today.
Apart from miniatures, my main inspirations were and still are: Zbigniew Beksinski (a Polish surrealist and abstract artist, I highly recommend you check him out if you don’t know him. Right now I am especially inspired by his later works, starting from the 80’s, which focus on abstraction and formalism, with a lot of attention to great textures and light and shadow). Off course I am a fan of the classic art as well, and I love to go to museums and exhibitions looking at the paintings of old masters. I don’t think I have a favourite artist or style, but a sentimental favourite would probably be the works of the Pre-Raphaelites.
As for who excites me at the moment, I don’t follow the upcoming scene as closely as I used to, but there are a few names that come to mind: Marc Masclans (I think that’s his name, right?), I remember reading somewhere that he was a protégé of JMPN, but I actually think that he’s even better then Jose. I really like his use of colour and light, especially on his Papa Jambo Bust (although his work on the bust from Hera seems rushed to me, not at all to the standard of his previous works). He represents perfectly the boxart/illustration style of painting and I would argue he’s one of the best at it.
Another name is Dmitry Fesechko. What I appreciate the most in his art is the freshness and innovation that he brought into figures. I can’t think of anyone with a similar style, he’s completely unique. My opinion is that he could certainly improve on his technique, but saying that, he make it all work. The final name that I would like to mention here is a representative of the rising Korean scene. He’s not a new artist by any means, but someone I learned about relatively recently: Sang Eon Lee of Life Miniatures. I don’t think I should explain too much about him, everyone know that guy, his light and shadow placement is simply amazing and so is his use of colour. His style is slightly unrealistic, it’s simply too clean and over saturated, and has a sort of a 2d, flat aspect to it, which makes it unique in the ‘historical camp’. It’s impossible not to be amazed by his execution on some of his best works!
9 – I love the work of Dmitry Fesechko and have over the past year become quite good friends with him online and speak with him regularly. I love his unique style. How do you think a figure painter creates his own style? At the moment I’m learning how to perfect techniques and broaden my knowledge but I feel I’m lacking a style.
This question is difficult to answer for me. I am not sure I know ‘the how’ of the process. My guess would be that it is a road on which you search for something that is closest and dearest to you in painting.
The thing that inspires you the most and makes you desperately wanting to achieve that result. You define that particular thing or things and then try to broaden the perspective by searching for similar results in other media, like classical painting, photography, etc. It could be anything.
Then you try to combine all of those things and see what results you can achieve and how you can transfer this to miniatures. After some time you should probably come up with something pretty unique.
This is only a theory and my speculation, but, I guess, it was more or less like that for me. I am curious to know what is Dmitry’s insight into how this happens. His style is truly unique.
10 – Following on from your comments about Vincent Hudon, do you believe figure painting is more about studying and learning or more down to an inherent creative talent?
I think that both of those things are very important, but with miniatures in particular, I believe that studying and learning is more vital. This aspect, which you can call determination and hard working builds up you character and lets you dedicate yourself to something and also truly appreciate the results you are achieving. When you look upon all the struggle and failures and disappointments that let you become who you are, well that’s just very rewarding.
Of course I am not saying talent and innate predispositions are not important. You need to have some of that, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to improve, and most important of all, you wouldn’t be drawn to this figure painting in the first place! However, it is true that a very talented person can achieve great results much faster, but the fact that it came so easy often doesn’t let you build up that character, which I think is essential in being a successful artist/painter in the long run.
A SOMEWHAT STALE POLISH SCENE, KINGDOM DEATH AND NEW CHALLENGES
11- What are your views on the Polish painting community and what do you feel is different say compared to the work being created in Europe and America?
I think that the most distinctive future about the Polish painting community was, and still is to some extent it’s focus on commission painting. That focus resulted in pretty high technical skills of some of the painters, but very low innovation and originality. Since most of the painters worked on mostly GW models, the prevalent style had been some form of offshoot of the standard ‘eavy metal style.
Of course there were and are original artists, I am only talking about the main trend. Right now there is a number of young, promising painters, I am looking forward to how they will develop in the future.
Another thing is the fragmentation of the scene. There has never been something like a ‘Polish Team’ kind of thing, where all the painters were keeping very closely, wearing the same style of shirts, etc. I am sure you remember the Spanish Team from some years ago, which was the best example of how this could work.
Currently there is much more variety in the scene, and I don’t think it’s that much different from any other in the world. Also, you’ll see that we are pretty fun people if you come Hussar, especially after you give us a chance to drink a bit, haha.
12 – You mention that the community in Poland are more “commission” orientated than other painting communities, why do you think this is? Is it because of the economy and employment opportunities in Poland?
I feel this is correct, the scene has been heavily commission orientated since the beginning, maybe less so now then ever before. I guess this was because of the economic situation. People in Poland, in general, earned and still earn a lot less then in Western Europe, so, many painters treated commissions as a way of earning additional money. A few, like myself tried to make this their main source of income.
However, I am talking here only about the so called ‘fantasy scene’ which started around CoolMiniOrNot site somewhere in the early 2000’s and focused on Games Workshop models, more then anything else (Privateer Press has never been hugely popular in Poland, same as Rackham models). Off course this has changed a lot since then, I think the scene has switched from the GW figures to the smaller companies that produces more artistic and collectible pieces, also to larger scales and busts. Still, miniatures from the world of Warhammer play and probably will continue to play a very large role.
13 – There seems to be a great camaraderie amongst the Polish painters and I’m aware of FB groups such as Fellowship of the Brush and the Brush Brothers. With this in kind would it not be possible to create a team Poland?
It may seem so, yes, but I think the camaraderie happens inside smaller groups of painters, not the majority, mostly from the same region or city.
In the past, the fantasy painting scene had been congregating around the ChestOfColors website and forum in particular, but I think it just never progressed to that next level, that made people create something like ‘Team Poland.’
Another reason for that might have been that the scene never did much of the travelling to Golden Demon competitions in contrary to Spanish painters.
Since the downfall of the GD competition, I don’t see a chance for a strong Polish scene, that would manifest abroad.
For that you need some event to focus individual people. Unless, off course, some other competition will become the next Golden Demon for the entire painting scene. Maybe MSS show could become that, we’ll have to wait and see!
14 – Two recent events have happened in your figure painting recently, Kingdom Death and Busts. Two different extremes and I am curious to understand what attracts you to the design of Kingdom Desth and why the sudden interest in busts?
The Kingdom Death switch is not something that I decided on my own, but rather it was the Collector for whom I paint asking me wether I would like to paint the KD range. I like challenges and chances to try something different, so I agreed instantly. I actually prefer it that way, the decisions being made for me in terms on what type of models or what specific figures I should paint, unless off course I really don’t like them, then I simply decline.
I often find out that when I have a totally free hand in choosing my projects, it is difficult for me to focus on a single project, I become to distracted. There are so many beautiful figures out there that I would potentially love to paint, and new ones come out all the time! This can become a source of a lot of chaos and I need to be able to totally focus on one single project, in order to achieve best results.
The busts on the other hand, was something I wanted to do for my own. I decided to have this one particular fancy just for myself, and when I find to have a bit of free time, which, alas, doesn’t happen to often, I will dedicate it to working on the busts. I’m in no hurry! Also, the interest in busts was not sudden at all, I’ve been following the scene for quite a long time and was being inspired by artists like Sang Eon Lee or Kirill Kanaev. As to why busts in the first place, it is again the need to do something different and fresh, something out of the box from the stuff that I usually do!
15 – I remember watching a friends DVD you did of a Nurgle Dreadnought for Miniature Mentor, then it seemed to disappear from their site. Was that due to a GamesWorkshop issue with it? What was that experience like, was it organic? Or very sterile and structured (look here, move your head, twist your hand, keep figure in shot, be quiet etc)?
Yes, as far as I know, it was because of Games Workshop had issues with copyrights or something. I don’t know the details. The experience was very organic, I was pretty much doing what I usually do when painting, with the addition of explaining the process. After a few hours of getting use to the new environment and making sure that the camera can see what I’m doing it went very smoothly.
16 – Can you talk us through your paints, materials and tools and please show us your workstation, you know how nosy us painters are about other peoples mancaves!??
Sure. I have a wide range of paints from different companies, but I tend to use regularly only around 30-40, which I keep close all the time on a rotating, oval stand. These change all the time, depending on my mood, still I have some that I always use and which are my favourite.
Lately, most of my paints tend to be Andrea, with addition of some Vallejo, Scale 75 and Citadel. As to brushes, my favourite are W&N Series 7 Miniature range, with 000 being my detail brush. I don’t use any mediums, retarders, etc., but I like to add a bit of Matt or Satin Varnishes to my metallic mixes and shades.
I use a standard plastic palette instead of the wet one. Other then that I use two lamps, one a pretty antique, but standard one, the other a led lamp with magnifying glass, which is very useful for the tiniest details and freehands.
I also use a laptop stand, to make my working station higher, as I like to have it around my eye level when I paint. I recently bought a comfortable tv-style chair, with massage and heating functions and what a change it is from my old, crappy chair! I cannot stress out how important it is for your back to have a comfortable chair if you paint for 8 hours in a row, 5-6 days a week!
17 – Why should I come to Hussar?
Michael Bartels keeps saying that Hussar is one of his all time favourite contest. If that isn’t enough of an incentive, you will be able to meet me and drink some Polish vodka. Just admit it’s not something you could resist. I am expecting to see you there this year!
So there we have it, quite an extensive insight into the mind of one of our hobbys’ greatest shining lights, a master of his craft, a painter not scared to push the boundaries, who doesn’t care for winning trophies, moreover is fascinated with where his personal journey will take him. I for one hope to see more of his work for many years to come!
Many thanks Bogusz, for your time and effort!