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 my 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. Our first interview is particularly exciting as a) the artist isn’t necessarily one you all will be familiar with, b) the interviewee is considered one of the guiding lights in the new era of figure painting and c) our subject is a multi media artist, which will provide for some interesting discussion outside the realm of figure painting.
So let us introduce our first subject of the series, Dmitry Fesechko! Coming up first is just a brief introduction, to give you an overview of Dmitry, after that it gets far more in depth.
a – Where did your journey begin?
I live in Moscow. I was born in USSR, in Kuznetsk-8, interesting name of place, isn’t it? Such names were used for military bases in former Soviet Union and my father was a military man, so he moved a lot with his wife – my mother. I also lived in Riga, Latvia in very very early childhood. But most of my life I lived in Moscow.
b – How long have you been on your journey?
I’ve been painting since 2007.
c – Which milestones have you achieved along the way?
I guess almost none. I won overall prize in Spring Angel contest that was held in Moscow in 2013, and there were some known artists not only from Russia, but from Europe too. But I still have not found the time to visit the major contests. I tried to visit Monte San Savino last year, but I was too busy with art exhibitions. I hope I’ll visit it this year.
d – How did you start your journey?
In 2007 for some reasons I somehow rushed into the world of art. One day I just bought some acrylic paints and canvases and began to make abstract paintings. The same time one friend of mine gave me some miniatures as a gift. And I have painted them.
e – What future achievements do you hope lie ahead?
I think every artist or even every person wants to leave some trace in this life. So I want to leave something that would amuse and inspire people after my life. And I also have some kind of vanilla dream to build a Palace of Arts with peacocks and fountains, with musicians and artists and sculptors from all over the world, with great parties and exhibitions. Ludwig II of Bavaria also was crazy about it. I think all the artists are crazy somehow. And kings…
…… and now to the gritty stuff.
DEVOLUTION OF THE RUSSIAN EMPIRE AND A LOVE AFFAIR OF ALL THINGS ART
1 – I recently interviewed Kirill Kanaev, whilst working for Figure Painter Magazine, he was born a decade before yourself and his childhood years were spent growing up in the former Soviet Union. He spoke about his difficulty in finding decent figures, how a hobby was a luxury and how a black market in toys and models helped him to develop his painting and modelling skills. In your opinion did the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 make it easier for the next generation of Russian artists?
If you don’t mind I would speak not only about miniature art but also about art itself. Of course Russia of 2007-2015 and Soviet Union and post Soviet Russia till about 2000 are two different countries. After the Soviet Union replaced the Russian Empire during the revolution it fought with Russian culture, especially in its early period. Really the soviet Russian culture would be closer to Chinese soviet culture , for example, then to Russian classical culture in some cases. You can see it in architecture, art and so on. Russian art school was almost totally destroyed. As you know in socialism there are no private businesses, everything belongs to the government. So if you are an artist you can’t just work for yourself and sell art to collectors, and in fact the development of art is stopped, because the artists can work only for government orders. And this is a great tragedy. Why I have started so far away? Because the same thing is with miniature art. The miniature art as we know it takes its start a long time ago, about beginning of 19th century (or even further), when Napoleonic-era soldiers became very popular. Many kings and high-class people have collected them. For example on the painting of Russian artist Eduard Hau you can see a collection of models in a cabinet of the Emperor Alexander II.
They are not so small as now but we can also remember The steadfast tin soldier, fairy tale by Andersen. The collectors always moved the art forward. In Soviet Union there could not be any collectors. And the art school was destroyed. Now when there is no Soviet Union we have to resurrect or even reinvent the Russian culture. And when in the rest of the world in about 1960s-1970s there already was a sphere of professional collectors and modellers, we had only some kind of toy soldiers as Kirill said and black market in late 1980’s. The new generation (I think Kirill also belongs to it, though he started in early 90’s) is the first generation that works in the same conditions as modellers from rest of the world. With collectors, came access to information and availability to visit events.
2 – How far back does your love for Art go? For instance I know that as recent as your university days you were training to be a lawyer? What was the catalyst that transformed your interest in law to a passion in all things artistic?
Yes, I learnt jurisprudence and graduated with a copyright law diploma. The 2007 was the second year of my education. I was fond of playing music, we had a band, even had some performances. I had many friends who were older me. And they were two kinds of person. The first kind were the people who worked on ordinary positions as managers, lawyers and so on. What I learned from them is that almost everyone dreamed to be someone different imagining themselves occupied in some creative spheres. The second kind of my older friends were mostly musicians or connected to it. And what I learned from them is that they were happy with whom they were but most of them had a money shortage and that this path is very risky.
Nevertheless I decided that I should try, it was only second year of my university education so I understood that I can live without full-time job for about 1-2 years more. Why have I chosen the fine arts not the music? Because when you are musician you depend from many people and being an artist is to be on your own. As I said before I really rushed into the world of fine arts. I have never been fond of museum visiting or anything like that. One summer day in 2007 I just went to an art shop and spent almost all the money I had to buy canvases, brushes and acrylic paints. The same time one of my good friends gave me some models to try to paint. Since then all of my time has divided into two parts – one part was learning law, second – miniatures and paintings. In 2008 I started to use oil paints in my paintings and on miniatures. I could not find any tutorials of painting miniatures in oils, but I loved oils so much that I started to try the same things I learned from making paintings. So maybe my technique has become a little bit unique, because on miniatures I use a lot of things that I learned from classical multilayer techniques of old masters. Later I took private lessons on anatomy and classical drawing, completed a course of digital illustration and concept art, even worked for some time as background artist in an animation project. I painted and painted and painted miniatures, because I liked it and liked it so much and I could make some money with it.
As you can see I don’t separate working with paintings and working with miniatures. They both were always ART for me. Some artists are making some incredible things in miniature that I think they deserved to exhibit in well-known galleries and museums with other art masterpieces. For now I think there is a kind of separation – miniature art is pretty “closed” kind of art (I hope you understand what I mean) – yes, there are a lot miniature shows, some museums, etc. but why not to make some thematic exhibitions on historical, fantasy or surrealistic themes, where paintings, miniatures and sculptures would be presented together? I think it could engage more people and collectors with miniature art. Why do I love Art so much? You know the empires fall down, the peoples die and the art stays. The drawings in caves, the roman mosaic, the paintings from Louvre, heritage connects us with those who are dust for a long time and helps us to understand yourself and each other.
3 – Your style comes across as realist but with vibrant colours, without the overall effect becoming “illustrative” or “cartoony”, I also notice an oriental influence too. Would this be a fair interpretation of your style, if so, why do you think you paint in this particular way?
I think you defined what influenced me pretty well. As usual I’ll start from a little bit third-party things. I like to watch movies, everyone likes. And I very like to watch old movies and series. I may be talking like an old man moaning, may be, but something had really gone wrong since FX (special effects, 3D graphics) began to occupy the screen. It has started some kind of race. For example if in one movie you are making a fight where a good hero wins against five foes and survives a couple of hits with baseball bat to his head, then in second movie to amuse the audience the good hero should fight against twenty foes and survive some shots to his chest, and in the third movie he should fall from a plane, defeat an army and save the planet.
Or if in one fantasy movie you create a dragon and a couple of spells then to amuse the audience in the next movies there should be guys with lasers from their eyes, fire swords, lava everywhere, icicles falling from the sky and the army of dragons flying on space shuttles from another universe. We don’t believe in it no more, it does not impress us as things that impressed us the first time no matter how many dragons or robots there would be on the screen.
So I can make two conclusions from this. First is that we should not forget about logic and realism, that which allows people to believe the story. I think that’s why the Game of Thrones series are so popular. Because it is like a breath of fresh air. People are reminded that characters die. They die, Carl! Not only because of sword hit, but they can just choke. The second conclusion is that we should make really unique things to amuse the audience. When we saw liquid T-1000 in terminator: that was awesome. If then they would show us thousand of T-1000 it would not be thousand times more amusing than one. In fact it can impress us less than one T-1000 the first time around. And now we are coming back to miniatures. Painting in realism or illustrative style are just two different approaches. I don’t like much comic-book or cartoon looking miniatures (except some of them that are made to look like that) and that is just an opinion. They can look gorgeous, I can admire them, they can inspire me, but I like realistic painting much more. This also connected with airbrush techniques that become more and more popular. I think if you use an airbrush a lot – you are losing yourself. And that is a very bad thing, cause if you are an artist you should have your “signature”, your “brushstroke”, not the “signature” of airbrush, that everyone can buy. Use airbrush with care – it should only help you, not make all of your work. But I’ll repeat – that is only my opinion. Also I’d wanted to say some words about colour. As I said I appreciate realistic looking miniatures and the use of high-end class oil paints made of natural pigments helps me to achieve this realistic-looking effect. It is really awesome for example to use natural indigo paints on Napoleonic uniforms, as this pigment was really used to dye those uniforms. Or to use chrome oxide in mixtures for patina effects. Acrylic paints are usually more vivid, but also are more chemical-looking. I use both oils and acrylics and they are both irreplaceable for different purposes.
But when we talk about realism we should not forget about miniature design and sculpting. I don’t sculpt myself (just made some works in Zbrush, nothing serious) but I want to say few words about it. There is a rule in design – everything should have logic, ergonomics and usability. You know in steampunk thematic the models usually have a lot of gears all around – on clothes, on every mechanical part and so on. In fact if we would try to imagine the world with alternative steam-technologies of the late 19th century we will understand that the clothes would not differ from what they were in late 19th century. We will also understand that women in night dresses would not wear goggles, because the logic tells us that they are needed to protect the eyes while working and it is hard to imagine that someone would put on the night dress to work with some steam engines. And the mechanical parts with gears would be protected for sure because they are fragile.
Forgetting the logic ruins the realism and we don’t believe in it. It becomes some kind of farce. The same thing in fantasy. I usually see some characters that have a lot of skulls on shields, belts and so on. I have a plastic cast of real size human skull and I’m sure that if you’ll tie three of them together and attach them to your belt it would do nothing except disrupt your movement. Of course on some models it could be done because of some background story, but I’m talking overall. It is not good, realistic design.
Now we are coming back to the second conclusion about unique things in miniatures. Many artists do compositions with a lot of effects – light from different sources, glowing stuff and so on. They look great but in most cases it has already been done and it has already been seen. It is hard to impress the audience with such things. And we are facing a great problem of modern world for all artists, not only for miniaturists. It is HARD to impress the people in the world where thousands of new digital illustrations are uploading to the web everyday and where new movies are coming to the screen every week. That is bad news. But most of them copy each other. That is good news. The Illustrator Matt Rhodes once wrote a small article “I think the internet broke my brain”. I’d recommend to read it! As he said: “Ten thousand dragons have fought ten thousand knights in front of ten thousand castles. Why add yet one more voice to the chittering cacophony?” Artists are copying each other and the only way to impress the people is to make something unique. In miniatures I think it could be unique compositions, unique colour schemes, unique interpretations of classical models or unique techniques. I tried to make unique interpretations working on Arabian sea pirate (bashibuzuk) bust and Achilles, I tried metal gilding working on knight bust and man-at-arms model, I tried to make some interesting compositional interpretation of Geisha with letter, I tried interesting technique working on Don Collier bust, I tried some unusual drawings and textures working on Soum and Enchantress. And I think I have attracted some attention with them.
The “orientalism” has strongly affected my paintings. I can say much about that if you want, but if we are talking about influence on my miniature work I’d say that I just find a lot of inspiration in its colours, especially in Indian, in Chinese patterns and drawings and in overall eastern art.
4 – Are there any figure painters that have inspired you along your artistic journey or do you believe in inspiring yourself through life and your surroundings?
When I first started painting miniatures in 2007 I was inspired by works of Kirill Kanaev, Sebastian Archer, Allan Carrasco, Jeremie Bonamant, Ben Komets, Matt Cexwish and many others. But you know many artists advise when you start the new project to look what was done before, to find some references. And some day I realised that this approach is not as good as it first seems. Looking at other works can not only inspire you but also destroy your personality.
The more you look at others work the more the chance that you will do the replica and it can happen even subconsciously. And it is very hard to walk the razors edge to find some inspiration and not to fall to copying someone. Now I’m trying to find the inspiration for miniatures in paintings or illustrations, in trips, museums, surroundings and not to dig tons of other artists model works. Many people says that I use pretty interesting colours, that I work with light in a different way than most other artists. I think that’s because I’m trying to limit my studies of another works. But it also has a negative side. I usually miss some tendencies, new interesting techniques, projects and so on. Also I almost never read the tutorials. Mostly because I use oils a lot and not so many artists are using it as much as I.
5 – I think I saw that my master Francesco Farabi commented on one of your works on Putty & Paint, claiming that you were the very best of the new, young painters coming through, how does that make you feel?
This is a really important comment for me! I have not answered, I’m sorry, but as I said I seldom visit the miniature sites, so I want to thank him now! I very much like his works, especially one of his latest “Sherwood Tale”, a very atmospheric piece of work! And it is very inspiring and honourable to read such comments from the great artists. I also want to say that I like to hear the critics from artists too. Well, not so much like may be, who likes? But the critics pushes you forward, even if you are trying not to pay attention to it. When I started painting miniatures with oils you know I had visible brush-strokes and I heard a lot of critics. I even thought to start painting like “all the normal miniature artists” with only model acrylics.
Many people advised me just to watch more tutorials and leave the idea of using oils a lot. But after each of such comments I tried to improve my oil technique, to find a way to make the paint layers thinner and smother, I tried different paints, different diluents. And the same time I learned how masters of old worked with oils on paintings. Finally I have reached the satisfying results. I also really enjoy the painting process, but I was not so fond of such technical processes as basing. I also had and still have some critics about it and it pushes me to improve this aspect. The good comments are putting the new heights for you and you are trying not to make worse the next time. The comments with critics are pushing you to these new heights. You have to understand it and use it.
6 – What are the “irreplaceable qualities” of both oils and acrylics that you touch upon?
I think it is all about dry time and consistency. Long dry time of oils allow you to make wet (it is not so wet in fact, let’s call it a la-prima) blending for the period of whole work session. You can add some colours to the layer until it is dried, you can remove it easily if you don’t like something. You can put one, two, three colours to the surface and then blend them easily. You know in acrylics the blending could be really time consuming and it can be a real problem for newcomers. When you get some skills in oils the blending becomes just a part of process, you make it very fast and even don’t think of it. The process becomes more creative and less technical. This is my opinion, may be it is just because I work with oils for a long time. The second quality of oil is consistency. For example when you work in dry brush technique with acrylic paints the paint lays down grainy, because paint starts to dry. If you make the same thing with oils – will not add a diluent and wipe away excessive paint and then start to work with brush, the paint will still lay down softly and blend without any grains. It is very useful for adding the lights to some textured surfaces.
Now about acrylics. They dry very fast. So they are irreplaceable for making some sketch, for making some under-layer (and it is needed if you continue working with oils). You can try different sketch variations. So acrylics are unbeatable for the first stage for me. And they are also great for the finishing stage. Acrylic paints are very good when they are diluted. Diluted oils are not so good for the miniature purposes. I always make some patterns and graphic drawings with them. I highlight the edges, make very small things as eyes, work on textured surfaces as hairs, some scratches effects and some other textures (but some textures I make with oils). I’d say I make all finishing touches with acrylics.
7 – Can you tell us a little about the creative process you go through to produce one of your pieces? For instance, starting from an inspiration, how that develops into a plan, how you decide your colour palette, lighting, atmosphere etc?
I take the model and begin to study, inspect it for some time. And then some chaotic images come to my mind. I try to catch something interesting from them. Something to start from. It can be interesting colour palette, some theme, plot or some detail that can become the focus of the composition. Then I begin to find some references to help me. It can be photos, paintings, drawings, digital art. I have a collection of books dedicated to famous artists, art genres, digital art and they help me. When I am developing colour composition I try to find the focal colours and background colours. The focal colours are making focal points in composition such as face, interesting details and so on. It is good to place such points in composition to lead the eye from one to another. For the background colours I usually use complementary contrast.
If you look at Arabian sea pirate bust you’ll see that the focal colour is orange for the face and the knife cover and some red on fabrics to lead the eye. The background colours are blues and greens. The second important thing is light composition or tonal composition. I think that the tonal composition is more important. It works the same, for the focal points you use the lightest or the darkest areas. I think it should be about 20-30% for focal colours and focal light areas. The rest are mid tones and background and other colours. If you work with some monochrome compositions or very vivid multicolour composition then the tonal composition becomes the most important. When other people ask me how they can improve their painting skill, I give them advice to learn colour theory and to learn to understand the importance of tone.
8 – You touched briefly on figure painting as being another form of art. You yourself are a multi media artist in the sense that you do traditional painting as well as digital painting etc, do you think that gives you a better insight into what can be considered an art form? The community seems divided as to whether figure painting is true art and do you think it would be possible to display our works at galleries?
Yes, I learned digital illustration a little bit, sculpting in Zbrush a little bit, worked with acrylics, water-colours. And all of that tore me apart. So I stopped on traditional oil painting and miniature painting. I liked them most. But defining what is art is not so easy. Let’s talk of fine arts and leave the music, literature and other. Nowadays the art is usually divided into the low art and the high art. The low art is intuitive art, when the creator doesn’t need to have special skills. It can be abstraction, primitivism, installation and so on. In the high art the creator uses his mastery to create an art form. Not so long ago the low art was not real art, so the definition of art becomes wider. I’d say that to call something an art form first it should give some pleasure to the viewers eye and give some aesthetic feelings. The second important thing that it should have some expression of the creator, to translate it to the viewer. For example most of the abstraction paintings have no meanings behind them. But it is still a pleasure to view them. And if we are not using the widest definition of art and we are not talking about car design, smartphone design, furniture and so on (that is also art) so the art object should be unique. Whatever one may say the miniature painting and sculpting is an art. And still you have to use your mastery and skills to create it, this is a high form of art. And I always thought that way. Of course I have talked to many gallerists, they are very interested but no practical steps have been made to bridge the gap or develop the concept of displaying figure or miniature art in a gallery. There is still some wall dividing it from exhibitions in galleries and museums along with traditional paintings, sculptures. I think that this should become the main task of major miniature artists to break this wall in the future.
9 – What do you believe are the reasons or factors that have prevented “miniature art” from become a mainstream form of art?
It is very interesting thing to think of and discuss. I’ll try to describe the reasons that comes to my mind. First of all I think that it is still a very young art, though as we talked before the roots comes back in centuries. Not so much time passed from the moment when people started to cast complex and accurate miniature stuff. Resin, silicone forms, polymer clays, 3D-printing and so on are quite new things. The second thing is that for a long time the miniature art was concentrated on war history of Napoleonic era and WWII era.
I’d say that it is not wide audience thematic. If we are talking about art, the war thematic always was not the most popular. And it still dominates in our miniature world. It is mostly the task of sculptors to make more philosophical and civil miniatures that would be interesting for both artists and viewers. Or for example the miniatures based on some mass-media persons usually attracts new auditory to the miniature world. It can be busts of actors, musicians, miniatures of book or movie heroes. The next thing is that it is still highly associates with hobby and here is a thin line between. For most new viewers it is hard to see if the miniature is in high league or still lacks something. But don’t worry, with a lot of modern paintings we usually have the same problem!
It is really hard question, but galleries, contests, exhibition play a great role in it. For example if you are a bad artist and want your painting to be exhibited on some exhibition, the gallery or agent probably would not take it. Learn more, become a better artist and then come back. And if you want your miniatures to be exhibited you should just come to some expo and exhibit it. Without questions of how good it is. So we get a mixture of hobby and art under the same roof. I don’t want to say that all the model expos should be only by invitation and some exam and there always would be a lot of really great artists that don’t visit such events. It is hard question and I don’t know the answer. Agents and galleries and maybe even auctions play great role in art industry and we almost have none of them in the miniature world. Some information in art magazines (not miniature), on art web-sites, may be even documentary movies for wide audience could help to break this wall.
10 – This takes us nicely into another area I am curious about with yourself and that is that you regularly exhibit your works, I believe you did so for instance at the Gallerie Natalie Boldyreff in Paris. Could you perhaps give us an insight into your experiences in this. As an artist what did you feel, smell, sense, touch during these exhibitions?
As I know it is not so well in gallery business now. The modern technologies and fast rhythm of our life have its influence. People watch hundreds of pictures on their screens every day and they have no time to visit exhibitions. That’s why the interactive art forms become more popular in galleries, when the visitors become the part of the art. But it is pretty hard to sell traditional paintings in the gallery for the example than even to sell it or to make some useful connections with internet. The exhibitions are stopping to be the best place to promote traditional art and there is something to think about. But nevertheless I like to talk to different people on such events, to discuss different stuff with another artists and to hear some positive feedback that inspires me and making me feel useful. I think that feeling myself useful, knowing that I made people to think on philosophical themes, knowing that I have inspired someone and gave some positive emotions is very important for me. It is like you are making this world a little bit better.
11 – You touched upon certain characteristics of design for instance within the steam-punk genre, what are your general observations of the miniatures being produced currently? Whenever I picked up a modelling magazine the introduction was always rather sombre talking about how their hobby was dying, with no new blood building and painting, how the market was stagnating etc. yet I don’t feel this within the types of figures we paint.
There are always some stating that the grass was greener and the trees were higher in the past. The main problem as I said before is that it becomes harder to impress the viewer from day to day. I can say that there is abundance of clichés in the miniatures being produced now. If someone makes the fantasy barbarian for example it would probably have some bearskin, axe and beard. These are the first associations that come to our mind when we are talking about barbarians. And almost everyone uses just the first association. When everyone does it we get a lot of similar insipid figures. When I learned concept design we practised a lot in getting inspiration from associative thinking. For example you are sculpting this northern warrior and you have such first associations as bearskin etc. Let’s get some second associations with north and bear. Maybe walrus or deer? I have not seen barbarians with walrus head helmet. So it is much more interesting! But we can go further. The walrus reminds me John Lennon’s “I’m the walrus” song. So let it be a beetle. Maybe barbarian riding a giant beetle? Or has some beetle minion.Your associations to axe? Maybe tree? Northern tree? May be fir-cones? How can we use it? Maybe some shield or armour design with fir-cone scales. Let’s try with beard. Old man, wise man, staff. Staff is good but we want to make a warrior. Maybe the staff with fir-cone style metal parts on its endings? Or with walrus tusks. And so on, you can continue. We have spent about 5 minutes and found some good variations. Designing something is not so easy; the design education takes 2-5 or even more years. But it is absolutely necessary for miniature sculptors to have at least some basic design knowledge. For the model manufacturers it is very good to cooperate with good artists or concept artists.
The Rackham miniatures just came to my mind. They have made many models based on the Paul Bonner art, Paul Bonner is magnificent artist and designer, I mean he pays a lot of attention to design in his art. And by the way he does it with watercolor! The medium that very is very intolerant to mistakes. So he has to make a lot of drawings before starting the painting. I also like The Smart Max miniatures design. Though they are not so popular. May be because it is pretty hard to make good scenery, basements in steampunk setting, those models are good for placing them into 19th century interiors or 19th century city-streets, but for making such basements good sculpting and scratch-building skills are needed. Maybe that’s why I have a lot of their models, but they are still unpainted. I realise how much time it would take to make something really interesting of them.
Industria Mechanika also cooperates with some good concept artists such as Ian McQue and Derrek Stenning. But their good figures are made in large scales that they hardly could be called miniatures. I also want to mention Keith Thompson. He is an awesome concept artist that made a lot of illustration work for the Leviathan novel of Scott Westerfeld. I think that his works could inspire for really interesting miniatures in unusual settings. I don’t mean that they should be based on novels, no, something new, the second associations that can bring some fresh air. Just don’t forget that ten thousand dragons have fought ten thousa… You already know it Jay!!
12 – During a road trip with Francesco Farabi to one of his workshops that was held in Liverpool, through The Weekend Workshop, Francesco told me to stop painting figures, he told me you always paint paint paint. He told me I should paint projects, tell a story, convey something to the viewer and then you can improve as an artist. So my recent works are a little more than just a figure, now they have some nice scenery too but I’m still working on the story telling aspect and I’m getting my head around the beast that is good composition. Can you talk our readers through some good composition rules, perhaps illustrate good and bad composition with some examples.
It is very good when art tells us something. But I think that it should impress and translate some emotions first of all. And the story behind is not always needed for that. It is like different genres in traditional paintings. Busts are like portraits, single models on gaming bases are like concept drawings, single miniatures in some scenery compositions are like full-figure portraits, single miniature on the scenery composition with some story behind could be symbolism or illustration, battle dioramas are like battle scene painting and so on. I want to say that single models can impress much more than even very complex dioramas sometimes. If some readers are making good busts for example, but have poor skills in dioramas, I’d say they should not worry.
Maybe you know a good story about some old and young street musicians. The young musician plays very complex music with a lot of notes. But he does not attract the attention. And the old musician that plays very simple melody attracts a lot of attention. The young one asks the old musician “why does it happen? You are playing just some notes and attract so much attention!” And the old one says: “It is because I’ve found the right notes and you are still finding”.
The good artist should be able to work in every genre. I really have poor skills in sculpting miniatures, though I can sculpt in Zbrush. And because of that I just can’t create a lot of things that comes into my mind. And it makes me feel sad, cause I have no time to learn miniature sculpting at a high level, you know I also work with paintings and it is very hard to find some time for something new for me. Now I’m waiting for the time when there would be good quality desk 3D printers and then I’ll try to find the time to make many interesting things. Because to tell something with your art is really important. You can start from just making the scenery that would reveal the character of the figure and create the right atmosphere. Then try to add some small details that would reveal some story. For example I’ve just added the letter to geisha in “Sad letter composition” and it became the composition with some story behind. Then try to work with more than one figure without converting them or sculpting. I have made “Gang band” such way, though I’ve converted dead soldier a little bit. Just added some archers to the basement and destroyed wagon. There is nothing really complicated.
And then if you want go further you should learn to sculpt, scratch build, work with plasticard, plaster and so on. I’m also going this way trying to make more complex compositions. The advice that I can give is not to forget about tonal and colour composition and focal points in your projects. I have noticed about it before. All the rules are applied as for the whole composition and for the certain objects of it. Most of the mistakes are made in tonal contrast. And I repeat that it is the most important part perhaps. I’ll illustrate it. Try to desaturate some good realistic paintings. You can still see where is metal, where is leather. So in fact the colour does not affect our ability to recognise the materials. The trick is in tonal relations. Different materials reflect the light in different ways. That’s why in traditional school artists learn to draw with pencil first. To concentrate on those tonal relations. Many newbie miniature painters and even some advanced artists think that if they would make the maximum contrast on every detail then the model would look awesome. No. Try to desaturate some good realistic paintings and you’ll see how light is the skin. Usually the darkest shadows on it are much lighter then even the lightest areas on fabrics! The extreme shadows are possible of course but only under the source light in the dark room. When you are making the shadows on skin too dark it looks “burnt” and unrealistic. Always pay more attention to tonal relations in your compositions!
13 – Is there a particular genre of figures you prefer to paint?
The first models I have painted were fantasy models. It does not mean that I like mostly fantasy but it has influenced me. I also like historical models, especially on some eastern thematic. The influence of orientalism. I really like the models of some non-standard settings. I have Waldo airship from Industria Mechanika and I hope I’ll find the time to make it. I also love their 1/8 scale model called “Freak Gothic”. I like steam-punk and diesel-punk models of Smart Max. I really appreciate unique design in models. And I also try to choose the models with less details. May be it sounds strange but it gives you much more freedom in working with textures, drawings, patterns that I like.
14 – Can you talk us through some of the tools you use and why?
- Books. I collect them and use for references, inspiration and learning.
Brushes. I usually use sable brushes for acrylics and synthetic for oils.
- I work at home. I’m a member of Creative Union of professional artists and I’m able to rent a cheap studio. But
- I still prefer to work at home, otherwise I should live in studio. And I very like to paint at night.
- I store everything in some containers and I always try to keep the workplace clean taking everything away after work. The mess outside meaning the mess inside your mind. Or something like that.
- Acrylic paints. Not so much. I just mix everything with everything.
- Oil paints. In fact many of them duplicate each other, there are just cheaper and more expensive. The cheaper paints I use for studies and sometimes in first layers on the paintings. For miniatures I use only high quality paints. The best paints I think would be Old Holland. And I also like Schminke and Rembrandt brands.
- I left to play music on serious level but I still enjoy the instruments. And it is very relaxing to have a break and play sometimes. The Fender Stratocaster Eric Clapton signature version and Sitar.
- I don’t use airbrushes much. Just for first rough layers. H&S Infinity and Iwata HP-B Plus. I like Iwata more, don’t know why.
- Diluents. White spirit. The yellow diluent that consists of linseed oil, white spirit and siccative. And dry accelerators such as that by Schminke Malbutter, (very reliable). It also reduces the drying time.
- Varnishes. After oil paints dry you have to varnish the model if you want to remove the gloss and proceed working with acrylic paints.
15 – Can you tell us a little about the Creative Union of artists in Russia?
In Russia there are few major creative unions for artists and a lot of minor. I am member of the Creative Union of professional artists. It is a major one. It gives me an official document that I am an artist, I have a free access to some museums (even when I have been to Louvre in Paris I went there for free and without waiting in queue). For some exhibitions I have discounts. It is useful for getting visa, as I don’t write that I am unemployed, but professional artist. The purpose of the union is to help artists find exhibitions, make documents for the paintings and a lot of other things. To get there you need to pass the exams and pay some fee. Very useful organization.
16 – In traditional forms of art (and indeed the work of the masters across all genres of modern Art) , factors such as demographics, politics, recession, religion etc of that particular time all played a part in said artists work. I don’t necessarily feel that the same approach is taken by figure painters, for the most part we try to convey something fantastical. Do you think that’s a deliberate decision or do you think there’s room for those external factors to influence our works in figure painting as they did previously?
I think there are two sights on what art should be. First one is that it should reflect the times the artist living in. The second is that it should reflect the eternal themes of human being. You are right when you say that in modern art the first one has almost won. The most promoted modern art is full of politics, religion and other mentioned factors. But the art Is the sphere where art agents, galleries and auctions form the taste of “consumer.” Not vice versa. And only time would decide what will stay for centuries and what will go. In my opinion the eternal themes have more chance. Or maybe the fusion of eternal themes and time period context. Because I know a lot of people and collectors who are fascinated by classical art and don’t like modern art at all. It does not matter in what times you are living in when you watch the Caspar Friedrich’s “Wanderer above the sea of fog”, when you watch Bierstadt’s landscapes or Vrubel’s “Demon seated” it makes you think on eternal themes. Nobody knows if the art full of problems that are specific for our times would be interesting in about 100 years or 200 years. But the “Wanderer above the sea of fog” and “Demon seated” would be for sure.
The fantasy genre takes its origins from ancient myths and legends that are full of symbolism and also usually touch those eternal themes. In modern fantasy the symbolism and philosophy are usually faded away leaving only decorations. It is not good or bad, it is just so. The value of this genre is that these are the decorations we want to live in. Fantasy is a dream from the meaning of the word. And dreams are also eternal. So I think fantasy is a genre that has a very good chances to stay in history for a long time. It is apprehensible for people of 1st century, 11th century and 21st century. Though I’m not sure about sci-fi genre. For example sci-fi of even 1990s is looking like retro-futurism nowadays. If someone remembers Warhammer 40k in this context, don’t forget, it is not sci-fi. It is fantasy in future. And don’t confuse those genres. In fantasy, historical and sci-fi genres I think the modern world themes has very small impact. But don’t forget about people who are working with models like tanks, planes, ships and battle dioramas. Modern conflicts affect this sphere, I’ve already seen a lot of dioramas on Iraq war thematic, Afghanistan thematic and some on Ukrainian thematic. So I think there is a room for such external factors. But I appreciate the art in which I can totally forget about all those problems. The art should not divide us. I very much appreciate when the art is understandable for people of different cultures and even times.
17 – I was once told that once we decide for ourselves that we wish to become better painters, we all begin a journey! And that we are all at different destinations along the same journey. I quite like that anecdote, it makes me believe that one day I can be as good as those I respect and look up to within our community. If you could give some advice to those who wish to become better painters, what would you say?
The journey or The path in eastern philosophy is a very interesting comparison. But I definitely believe that each of us has his or her own Journey. Just because when you create something your creativity is based on your own life experience. So my first advice would be not to follow someone else’s advices always. Maybe you’ll find your own unique path in this Journey. The second advice is no matter what you’ve done you always can make better. Always. It leads to the third advice –try to set the tasks for yourself that exceed you skills. Only this will push you forward. The fourth advice – ask for critique. Sometimes it can be painful to hear that, but it is necessary. When someone criticize you don’t forget about the first advice!
Thanks for taking the time to read this, I hope maybe you can take something from my musings and experiences and it helps you in some way along your own personal journey! Thanks to my friend Jason also for this opportunity!