In our second Master Crafted feature, our attentions are drawn to the shores of the United States, the home of the industrious GMM Studios.
Some time ago, while James was seeking inspiration for his own Tzeentch boys, he e-mailed a link to my inbox which directed me to one of the coolest Thousand Sons armies I’d ever seen. Painted in lavish golds and vivid blues, the hobbyist in question had expertly converted the force using a plethora of bits from the Tomb Kings range, and, by doing so, had succeeded in perfectly encapsulating the unique flavour of the Legion’s background. The most notable feature throughout this army, for me, however, was the hobbyist’s clever use of realistic sand effects. Indeed it was this small, yet entirely evocative detail which helped forge a rare narrative, and proceeded to relay an enchanting story concerning a band of long-dead ancient warriors, imaginably buried for millennia beneath the sandy wastes of a forgotten world, and how they became bound by the will of a sorcerer’s dark, necromantic spell.
And so it was, when I spoke to James about who he wanted me to approach for the latest MC article, it was no surprise when he drew me again to the talents of one Brandon Palmer.
To witness the scale at which GMM Studios turns out its armies and enormous dioramas, you would likely presume that Brandon is merely a cog in a well-oiled hobby machine comprised of, say, five or more highly skilled and prolific minutes painters. You’d be wrong, of course, but instantly forgiven for thinking such. Astoundingly, Brandon Palmer IS the well-oiled hobby machine at GMM Studios… And you’re about find out how he does it!
John: Hey, Brandon. What time is it in the States?
Brandon: “Hi, John! It’s currently 2am. I’m definitely a night owl.”
John: Me, too. Can you tell us what projects you’ve got on the go right now?
Brandon: “I’ve got a ton in the queue, but I like to stay focused and work on one project at a time. Up next, I’ve got a big *Deadpool-themed Imperial Guard army to do. I’m really looking forward to it. Lots of freehand and silliness. Breaking the `fourth wall’ of the hobby is always enjoyable when I get the chance, so this is a huge opportunity for that.
“I also like to mess around with terrain for photography to get some sun and fresh air at times. Right now I’m working on a big backdrop that recreates the `Overpass’ map from ‘Counter Strike’. It will be quite large and very similar to the game, with some slight changes to make it better for photographing armies. Also, I’m working on a big backdrop for fantasy and steampunk-style games inspired by the video game Bloodborne. It’ll be a massive, multi-layered piece with Gothic windows and I’ve designed it to incorporate terrain by Ironheart Artisans. I’m looking forward to working on both of those projects.”
* For those who don’t know, Deadpool is a popular character from the Marvel Comics universe.
John: The scale on which you work is obviously enormous. In fact, It bewilders me how one guy can produce so many figures to such a high standard. Tell me, how on earth do you manage to pull it off?
Brandon: “My biggest strength, and what I believe makes me unique, is that I never burn out. I’ve done armies so large that small steps such as dotting eyes takes a whole day or more, but I still enjoy it. Often, before Adepticon, I will work for six-plus weeks, fourteen hours a-day, non stop. When it’s over, and some breathing space returns, I want to do it all again. I just enjoy pressure; it gives me purpose in life more than most other things – that’s how I’m wired. I believe a man’s happiness and sense of purpose in life are in direct proportion. That old office space question comes to mind: ‘What would you do if you didn’t have to work a day job?’”
John: Let’s say you were asked to do a bog-standard, 2000 points Space Marines army – Ultramarines, if you like. From removing the mouldlines to finishing the bases, roughly how long would that take you?
Brandon: “Probably a week or two. Depends on the scheme. It isn’t so much that I use quick techniques and blow through stuff, more I paint for many hours and I’ve had so much practice. I don’t have the apprehension of beginners, which takes away a massive chunk of the slow painting process.”
John: I’d imagine everybody’s got a favourite army. What’s yours, and do you ever get the time to game?
Brandon: “My personal favourite armies would likely be Space Marines for 40k and Empire for Fantasy. Marines are just always fun to paint, doesn’t matter what colour. I have gone on record many times saying I would gladly paint Ultramarines forever, and be perfectly happy. Empire… because for me war-gaming is a mix of toy soldiers, grand battles and bright colours in large formations. Empire scratches that historical itch because I live in an area that has a lack of historical war-gamers.
“I do play very casually locally with a group of close friends. Often times, I enjoy just going and watching them try out a new game as well as playing massive Fantasy games, which we often do.”
John: Looking at your one-off diorama pieces, you must have to draw inspiration from somewhere. What are your main influences when it comes to these wonderful works of art?
Brandon: “Oh, definitely! Those are extra enjoyable because I can bring in so many influences that I love and which have shaped me. To do that is almost impossible in regular miniature painting. It allows me to sketch and also write about them, which I did extensively for Golden Throne and other competitions. As I’ve said before, vacation for a workaholic is more about work that is spontaneous. They are often about improvisation and drawing from live influences as I see fit, then writing about them when I sit down at night. It’s possible for me to ramble on, but the process is so huge and important in my life that I’ll spare your readers. It’s just all about having fun and an opportunity to be creative.”
John: As you may already know, we set up this blog to help fight our lowly motivation. It’s worked – to a degree, I suppose – but what advice can you give to readers in regards to keeping themselves motivated to get their models painted?
Brandon: “The older I get, the more of a realist I become. I used to think motivation was all about setting small goals, taking one step a-day, and planning well. My motivation – outside of paying the bills – is just loving to get stuff done, mercilessly. Even I have days on occasion where I would rather lay in bed and relax, reading something than getting out of bed. But then I think about how good it will feel to blow some expectations out the water; do today what I could put off, and do my best!
“I understand that I’m different from most people. I enjoy painting like one might enjoy sipping scotch. If you’re not like me, don’t worry about efficiency or motivation. If your not in the mood, it won’t taste as good anyway. Many of my clients are these sorts of folk. Great painters in their own right, but they’d happily just paint a figure or two. Put simply, they don’t enjoy the grind of painting an army constantly and in one batch. Especially, 20 or 30,000 points…”
John: And are there any short-cuts or processes to which you adhere to getting the best results out of your time?
Brandon: “Absolutely. I tend to do most things all at once, separated by infantry and vehicles for 40k style armies. For other games, such as Infinity or Fantasy, I might separate them by colour arrangement or size. There’s a fine line between the most efficient way and actually making it harder because the models are so different that your brain is jarred by the differences. When I paint the metallics on the guns of twenty-one Elysian Droptroops, then pick up a Chimera turret, although it has a metallic gun barrel, the difference will throw me out of autopilot mode.”
John: If you were to describe your style in three words, what would they be?
Brandon: “Painterly. Vivid.`Kapow!’; you know, that bubble you see when someone gets thwacked in a comic book!”
John: “Brandon, I’ve got to admit, I’m under strict instructions to ask how you did those Thousand Sons. James would never forgive me if I didn’t. Can you give us a run-down of the colours you used, and what inspired such an individual take on popular army?”
Brandon: “It’s actually just Enchanted Blue. Which doesn’t exist anymore. But it was that simple. The dusting effect is Hammerfall Khaki by P3. But that army really was painted using very simple techniques, and, unlike most of my other work, had very little colour mixing. Sometimes simple just works!”
John: You’re clearly very passionate about the hobby. What advice would you give to somebody starting out?
Brandon: “It is important for new people to understand that there are many ways to come at the hobby. I have met so many people and most of them do Warhammer in a slightly different way. I paint for people who have several 30,000 point armies, play casually and do not paint. I know folks who buy a unit box every other week. If they feel like it, they paint it, and play in friendly but competitive games. Do exactly what you want to do, at any moment, and don’t be sorry about it. I would say that goes for many things in life, but it’s especially true with Warhammer.”
John: It’s been a pleasure, Brandon. Thank you!
Brandon: “Thank you, John! I don’t get to write often, so it feels good to reflect on the hobby in earnest. The pleasure was all mine!”
John: You’re too kind, sir!