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MaiBzh, January 15 in
A few weeks ago, Mr. Grandbarbe joined us in Brittany for a bit of fresh air. We were not going to miss the opportunity to ask him a few questions!
Martin Grandbarbe is one of the greatest French miniature painters, internationally-renowned and as humble as he is talented. We were fortunate enough to be able to have him paint over 150 of our miniatures for our games like Conan, Batman: Gotham City Chronicles, Mythic Battles: Pantheon, Claustrophobia 1643 and now Mythic Battles: Ragnarök.
Come along, and discover more about the man who paints such colorful figurines of so many colorful characters.
How did you learn to paint miniatures?
I trained by myself until I was 18, painting at home with whatever I had available ... and without the Internet!
When I started professionally, at Rackham’s, I had more effective training with pros and colleagues who created a real emulation. Before that, my father took me to exhibitions in Paris, where I asked painters for their feedback.
Then I worked on it for 8 hours a day, with the goal to improve myself constantly. This is when everything started moving quickly.
How did you manage to transform your passion into a professional activity?
It was a combination of circumstances. I had not planned to make it my job at all. It was a passion that became my dream when I was looking at all the displays. One day, came my definitive trigger: if some people could make such beautiful paintings ... why couldn’t I?
Then everything went very quickly: I saw the same people regularly, they gave me feedback on my work. I was finally offered a trial period at the studio. Since I didn’t know what I was going to do professionally, being a rather average and dreamy student, I took the opportunity. It went well and I have never stopped since.
I basically put in a lot of hard work and got lucky.
How do you share your knowledge?
From time to time, I organize training sessions where I share what I’ve learned and point people in the right direction. There are many people with different levels who do not always have the same time to devote to painting. We must adapt to each one of them, to help them leave with the right way of thinking.
Afterwards, it's not rocket science—everything will come in time with enough work.
I am always happy to come across the work of former trainees on social networks.
There are today about 10 French studio miniature painters. Can one still make a living out of it?
It's feasible, but you have to fight because there is not much room left. It depends on the number of studios and their requests. I am the only one working for Monolith at the moment, for example.
But if things are going in the right direction, maybe there will be more room in the future?
On my side, I manage because I always worry about doing my job well. I always question myself because I'm never satisfied. I just hope my customers are happy.
What would you do if you were not a painter?
If I had kept up with my studies, I might have been interested in animal life and insects. But for that, you must be serious! I would have liked getting involved in that area, too.
What is your daily life as a painter of figurines like?
I get up early every morning to help everyone get out of bed. When everyone is at work or in class, I get to work. I fit in some breaks here and there.
It's a lonely activity, but I socialize from time to time on social networks! You’re in front of your desk and you know you must finish. You cannot spend too much time on whatever you do, but enough to make it good.
You work with music. What do you listen to while you are painting?
I listen to a bit of everything! Old rock, English hip-hop... and I love movie soundtracks, which allow me to focus and channel my best skills. Without music, it would be more complicated.
Creatively, how much freedom do you have when you paint for an order?
Let’s take the example of Monolith, my biggest customer. I am totally free and have never been forced to do anything.
I, however, always follow the specifications, to respect the atmosphere of each game. Some, like Batman: Gotham City Chronicles, are under license: the predefined color codes must be respected.
I always start with the illustrations. I try to translate the atmosphere and the colors that I find there onto the miniature. The goal is to keep the coherence, from the illustrations to painted miniatures.
Illustrators have struggled to create colors; it is, therefore, respecting their work to pay attention to them.
How did you come to know and start working with Monolith?
I met Erwan at Rackham, where he was a miniature painter.
My girlfriend also works at Asmodée and knows Erwan Hascoët and Frédéric Henry. The latter had heard I was painting and asked if I would do a trial for Monolith, at the time of the Conan game. It has not stopped since!
What are you working on right now?
I just finished the Claustrophobia 1643 miniatures for Monolith.
I will follow this up with paintings for the next Batman Gotham City Chronicles material and for Mythic Battles: Ragnarök.
Which painting job are you most satisfied with?
For an eternally dissatisfied painter, it's complicated! But I would say Batman: Gotham City Chronicles. I put an enormous pressure on myself. That setting and those characters have been around for a long time and the fans know that world by heart. It would be out of the question to screw up the colors. Even though it could seem simple, it really wasn’t. This is the project that has struck me the most.
It’s also the project I liked to work on the most. I love the game’s miniatures, which represent a transition, with their very specific style in line with the comics. And the minis are a little larger and have a great ‘movement’ to them.
Which of your counterparts’ work do you admire?
I have a lot of admiration for the Games Workshop painters. Whether you like the style or not, their technique is very complicated, and it must be quite testing.
I also love the work of Robert Karlsson, a great painter and a nice person.
I would also quote Sébastien Picque and another friend who paints statuettes from Japanese animation licenses: Guillaume Hémery. He always amazes me.
And finally, Allan Carrasco, who does a great job.
The work of what sculptors do you like most, as a painter but also as a player?
I would mention my old sidekick Stéphane Simon. He is the sculptor for whom I painted the most miniatures, because we were often hired on a lot of the same projects. I also paint a part of his personal range.
Besides, I love to paint the work of Arnaud Boudoiron. His volumes, especially on Batman, are complex. It's an art to be able to access the back of the capes!
A tip for those newcomers?
Don’t be afraid! Take the plunge.
It's a hobby, pleasure is king, relax, clear your head. It doesn’t matter if you miss: you try and at worst, you start again.
Is there a trap you shouldn’t fall into when painting?
Believing you’ve been crowned king! It's a small environment where you can quickly let it go to your head. I keep on being a fan… but only of the work!
What have you learned / mastered recently?
This job often leads to repetition. We reuse old recipes. The most difficult thing is to reinvent oneself, especially in the face of everyday reality.
I also learned that working alone is not easy! It's different from studio life.
What do you do when you are not painting?
I take care of the house! And I paint for myself too.
Which kind of gamer are you?
I'm just happy to play with painted figurines and throw dice!
Which paints tastes better 😉 ?
Prince August! They are the most neutral ones.
Thanks again Martin! Check out his work on his Facebook.
And for your viewing pleasure, a few more minis from Mythic Battles: Pantheon:
Wow deep respect for the beautifull art of this man! Nice to read the interview. It really inspires me to pick up painting again.
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