The Masters of Miniatures series is about to return! And instead of yet another interview with a painting celebrity I think it is time to interview some lesser gods, painters like you and I, but with some important achievements under their belt. First up is Pascal Rooze, a painter from the Netherlands and winner of the prestigious Games Workshop Lowlands Painting Competition. Pascal will tell you all about this competition and more about himself in this interview.
Gerrie: Hello Pascal! First of all thank you for taking the time for this interview. Can you please introduce yourself a little?
Pascal: I started this hobby around 20 years ago thanks to a friend of mine, but I was a gamer mostly back then. It was until I came to do an internship with a hobby store, that some people started to recognize some talent and pushed me to improve my game. That was when I took some more interest in the painting hobby. In a short time I read a lot of articles on the net, watched work from others, and dabbled in techniques I was unfamiliar with. I was pretty much teaching myself by example. I entered the occasional local painting competition, but nothing really heavy duty. Around 2010 I really set out to get out of that comfort zone and in 2011 I tried my luck at the Lage Landen Schildercompetitie (Lowlands Painting Competition), and later that year at my first Golden Demon (first Germany, later UK). The successes and failures there have opened not only my eyes, but also doors to keep on improving. I am meeting and befriending painters that inspire me greatly to go beyond the range of Games Workshop, and see all sorts of models, styles, themes, and competitions (like the Scale Model Challenge); I am following master classes (recently did my first with Mathieu Fontaine), and so forth.
Gerrie: For those who don’t know this Lowlands Painting Competition, can you tell us a bit more about this?
Pascal: When the first Lowlands Painting Competition was hosted, Games Workshop in the Netherlands and Belgium wanted to do a high level painting competition without it being a Golden Demon Contest – at least, that is how I perceived it. The formula is as follows: first every participant enters a preliminary round in one of the GW stores. On that day, each store nominates the three best contestants in each category to go to the finals one week later in Amsterdam. So on a local level a lot of young and upcoming painters have a chance for a bit of fame and encouragement, which is nice. You could compare this round to the finalist cut at a Golden Demon. In the week after that, all nominees are invited to assemble in Amsterdam (GW Store – which can get a bit crowded!) and final top-three’s are being picked in each category. These categories are roughly the same as in a Golden Demon contest – hey, it’s GW, right?
The first year (2011) was an obvious start-up: the level of contest was mainly great table-top qualities (which is not bad in itself though!). I racked up a whooping 7 finalist places there. I guess after this it urged other great painters that did not enter that first time to enter now – and indeed: last year the level of competition was awesome. I was positively blown away, earning ‘only’ a gold and two silver. But I was very happy, because this meant the level of competition would be taken very serious from now on. I will definitely try to enter next year again. Just like I intent to enter the Golden Demon, and the Scale Model Challenge, and …who knows?
Gerrie: With a handful of exceptions, The Netherlands isn’t particularly well known for its miniature painters. Why is that do you think? How big is your national and local community?
Pascal: First of all, I think it is all a matter of statistics. If you’d take the number of great well known painters in, let’s say, Germany and compare that to the German population, I think the average would be more or less the same as here in the Netherlands, where we have a far lower population! But there could be another aspect to this as well, and that is the lack of support for high level painting skills. Like a well connected community, or serious painting competitions. The latter is being remedied now somewhat with the Lowlands Painting Competition, and I think that the community will grow from that. Already after the 2012 Lowlands Painting Competition I met some like-minded painters to try to increase that level of commitment, that sense of community, by setting up a focal point for painters to refer to. A form where everyone could and should learn from each other. Well, it’s all quite in start-up mode actually, but the mindset is there.
I hardly ever come into a games store nowadays – I order my supplies mostly on the net. But the local shop in my city is owned by a good friend, so I visit him now and again. I get to meet the hobbyists there, which is always fun. They often ask me for advice, and I help them mostly by setting their mind to a more self-criticism state, so they can improve on their own level. Nothing is as useless for a beginner to ask a better painter “What do you think of this mini?”. I always answer: “Compared to what? My work? Or the work of a Slayer Sword winner? Then it is crap. But compared to your own work, did you improve since your last model?”. Often they realize they asked the wrong question, which should be:”What should be the next thing I should focus on?”. In that way they have a goal to aim for. These guys actually know where to find information on techniques, or color schemes, or whatever. What they lack is a hand to guide them to the next step, to demand a higher level than before, to put the dots on the i’s, so to say.
And there’s the sad thing I noticed in the Dutch community: there is a group of well performing painters, that have some sense of secrecy about what they do. They feel they need to protect what they have learned themselves, and not share it with the newbies in fear of copycats. Hell, I think it is an homage to your work if kids want to copy you! Are they afraid they are going to ‘steal’ their ideas, schemes or prizes away from them? Which is stupid. For starters, that kid will probably never pull it off as good as you did. And if he could, he would not be bothered by copying your old work, but would want to make name for himself by creating his own work. We should support the kids, just to have more great painters out there!
Gerrie: You almost exclusively paint GW miniatures, right? Any other brands which find their way to your painting table?
Pascal: Actually I am starting to cut myself off of GW models more and more. Obviously, if I want to win a Demon, I need to use those. And I started out as a gamer in the first place, so I still do some army painting. But I am seeing so many gorgeous models from other companies, that my shelves are lining up with models I want to do (but will never come round to probably hahaha). I don’t have a favorite brand. If I like the model, I want it. And sure, one brand has more of those than others. At the moment, I am rather fond of Studio McVey (these models tell great tales), Freebooter (there is something about the aspect ratio’s of their female models), and Kingdom Death (these are awesome and painting female skin is a challenge).
Gerrie: What about wargaming?
Pascal: I started out as a big Warhammer Fantasy player, and later picked up Warhamer 40K as well. But the latter mostly just to have some fun with friends, rather than to be really good at it. When I found that this was actually why I want to play anything at all, I lost a bit of interest in gaming itself, and cared more about fun with friends. So nowadays I play about three games a year, hahaha. Seriously though, I often have painting ideas for whole armies, but I am starting to distance myself from those, as I want to spend more time on single, display quality models. Still, I have two armies I want have finished (Skaven and Necrons). Which is the hard thing: I really need to ‘tone down’ my own level of skill, to do the armies. No one in their right mind would paint armies the way you should paint display models. But I feel that each time I ‘tone down’, I will pay for it in my ‘up-game’. But maybe that’s just bull. Anyway, I tend to interchange my pace of painting to put things in perspective. If I am doing table-top quality for a long time, I really set myself to do one awesome piece. But if I get tired of that, I ‘loosen up’ a bit by getting back to the armies.
Gerrie: You told me the Lizardmen Stegadon which got you gold in the monster category of the 2012 Lowlands Painting Competition took more than 100 hours to complete. How do you keep yourself motivated during such a project?
Pascal: I must honestly say that it is not 100 hours of painting. There is a lot work done in preparation and sculpting. But yeah, if the piece is something you really, really like, that makes up for a lot of it. In this case, I had a really cool idea (the transparent portal) that I wanted to see if it worked. I only had to work up past the Stegadon itself, which at first I hated, but later on I started to love because I saw it work. But really, if you are having fun painting it, you hardly notice time passing by. I loved doing the Gold NMM, since I set myself to try to blend those colors better. And if you see it working, that’s a great motivator. But once in a while I find myself lacking the energy, so that’s when I need to step out. I start working on something else. My girlfriend is a great motivator too: she is such a hard but fair critic. She has absolutely no affiliation with the hobby, but she has a great sense for color, composition and quality. And she knows what I am capable of, and expects it to show in the piece. Or even better.
I find inspiration in everything: in paintings, other people’s work, but also in everyday life, in stories I hear or read. I always look for passion in what other people do. Did they create their piece with passion? Even in what people have to tell: do they talk about it with passion? I believe that it shows, and that is what inspires me to show my passion.
Gerrie: What are your favorite online hobby resources?
Pascal: I visit CoolMiniOrNot a lot. Just to look at the pictures. I love to see the creative solutions some have to tell a story. Or to see how colors make the piece work. Or just to be baffled and have a goal to want to work to. But weirdly enough I hardly visit the forum there. I have never really felt much for participating on forums – I think because there are too many people there who tell you a lot but hardly say anything useful. It sometimes overshadows those people I want or need to hear. So if anything, I mostly am a lurker.
I do have a blog that I infrequently post on, just to show what I am working on. Which is contradictory to the forum-thing, I know. But yeah, I don’t know, it may be a fear-thing or something. Considering online painting communities, I pretty much resemble a hermit with Twitter I guess, hahaha!
Gerrie: How do you see yourself progress as a painter?
Pascal: I have no illusions that I will be a pro-painter one day – if by ‘pro’ you mean ‘earning my living with it’. I lack the guts to take such a step. So I am content with it being a hobby. But I will always strive to be better with each new piece: try something new, try something challenging, work on something I am afraid of making a mess of, or even do a challenge as a dare. And nowadays I am very interested in following painting master classes that are able to kick up my level a notch (thank you Mathieu Fontaine). I do intent to win a Golden Demon once. That would be awesome. Should be doable, I think. But I know myself: once there, I will set my eyes on the next goal – a Slayer Sword, Gold in the Master categories on the Scale Model Challenge, maybe even Crystal Brush?
But those are goals of winning. Foremost, I want to enjoy. Enjoy the painting itself, the process of learning, enjoy the beauty of a model, enjoy the passion of another painter, and your own. This, I feel, is the most important thing. if you cannot enjoy your own work, you will not give your best, you will not see your own growth and thus you are not improving. Which is okay if you are happy with where you are at. But I am not. I always see, and seek, room for improvement.
Gerrie: Thank you again for this interview!