Back then (at least for me), the creation of a miniature was one of the Great Mysteries in Life, right up there along with junior high school math and talking to girls. How did that pack of Heritage Bugbears on the Dungeon Dwellers rack at USS Enterprise in the Totem Lake Upper Mall come to be? I guess some mad alchemist or deranged toymaker coaxed them out of a large lump of lead perhaps, and then cloned them?
These days, one need only to arm themselves with one of the thousands of how-to clips on YouTube and some Greenstuff, and a miniature sculptor is born! But seriously, I was interested in picking the brain of a contemporary paid sculptor. I wanted to know what their background was, how they went about their work, things of that nature. I wanted some answers that would satisfy my curiosity about the sculpting of miniatures in today's market.
So I turned to a sculptor whose work I have come to admire, in particular his line of giants for Center Stage Miniatures. Nicolas Genovese has also sculpted for Reaper, Otherworld, and several other companies as well. Nick was kind enough to answer my questions, so without further ado, here they are!
TLD: How did you decide to sculpt miniatures? Are you a tabletop and/or RPG gamer who decided to make minis, or was it more like you are an artist/sculptor who decided it would be fun to make gaming minis?
NG: The way I got into sculpting miniatures is actually by chance and timing. My older brothers have played miniature specifically Warhammer for many years, I have not. One night I was at my oldest brother Federico's house. He had "green stuff" putty on the kitchen table and he was sculpting something. I noticed so I sat beside him and joined in on the fun. I browsed through the 3E monster manual and began to create an Eyewing type miniature later called the Optic Flyer that was sold on our Blood Moon Miniatures website for a short time. We decided to start our own range from the second we started sculpting and began to add to the Blood Moon website our own range of fantasy miniatures heavily intended for the HeroQuest fans out there. That site has been redesigned and slowly we are creeping towards reopening with new updated ranges if we ever get free time away from freelancing. I have played Warhammer maybe a handful of times in my 25 years. I never really clung to it or any other tabletop games. Sculpting however was addicting from the first piece I made. I have always been a fantasy/comic book guy growing up and sculpting allows me to present my innermost ideas in reality. It paid my way through college, and looks to be steadily growing into some kind of career. I studied Computer Science and graduated in 2011 with a Bachelors degree but I am sticking with sculpting to see where it takes me at the current time.
TLD: Do you collect miniatures yourself? If so, what do you collect?
NG: I do not collect miniatures anymore. I had a few spells when I was young where I would spend all of my money on Ral Partha miniatures at a local gaming shop called Green House Games. My favorites where the dark denizens trio. The octopus man the dragon snail and the demon bear pumpkin dude. I always liked monsters, in miniatures, in movies, in comics, I always rooted for the villains. When I was young I thought they were the coolest.
TLD: If you were transported back in time to the late 1970s and early 1980s, which company would you like to have sculpted for? Ral Partha, Grenadier, Heritage, or someone else?
NG: Grenadier hands down. They had the best variety of figures not just by character type but by sculpt, a lot of the monsters were full of character and skewed here and there to make their features show. I prefer slightly caricatured miniatures as I feel they are more original and are more presentable than perfect anatomical ones. Don't get me wrong anatomy as far as arm leg torso and head length is important no matter what but what you do to them to create something unique is where I find the most interest.
TLD: Are there any artists or art styles (any genre, any medium, but NOT directly related to miniatures) that you consider an influence on your work?
NG: I like to look at pictures of art from ancient times and from some graphic novels specifically the Conan series. I believe we all have the natural ability to create Art in some form and the only way to find it is through repetition, self discipline and self motivation. I tend to disagree with the masses who say study anatomy first, I have yet to study anatomy to the pinpoint yet my sculpts inch closer and closer to anatomically correct pieces if they have not already made it. My thought on this is it saves time in the long run. If you waste hours studying and trying to get the anatomy right you're going to burn yourself out and probably stop before you start. At least that's how I work so I chose this method for myself, I like to get my ideas out more so than focus on the little things. Anatomy comes slower this way but I believe I have a firm grasp on it now. Two years ago not so much but now that I have repeat sculpted so many times I can sculpt faster more efficient and focus on my ideas because the anatomy comes flows more natural without too much thought to mess it up and I get better results because of this.
TLD: Would you say your own personal sculpting style has been influenced by any past or contemporary sculptors?
NG: I can't really say that because I do not have any to reference by. I do have favorites in the miniature realm. Jason Weibe by far makes some of the best and most "characterful" monsters. And also I hope to be as good as Tom Meier someday. He is a god among men in clay sculpture.
TLD: Some of your preferred genres are fantasy, monsters, and undead. Do you have any favorite miniatures and/or sculptors from those genres?
NG: I think Paul Muller is creeping up as my favorite undead sculptor. He nails the creep factor every time he makes an undead sculpt. My favorites have to be the old Reaper undead lines they used to have in their Casket Works lines and late 1990's early 2000's releases. They had a certain look to them that made me want to buy them.
TLD: In addition to your work for Center Stage Miniatures, I see you have sculpted for companies such as Reaper and Otherworld. How difficult was it for you to get your work noticed by some of the bigger or well-known manufacturers?
NG: I have, and it was difficult. I sculpted for peanuts just to get my name out there in the past which I encourage new sculptors to do. I look at this as a fun thing, but it depends on how many bills you have etc. But if you can, try to sculpt for dirt at first to get your name out there. It has paid off nowadays and I wouldn't be where I'm at now if I hadn't done so.
TLD: What advice do you have for other sculptors who are trying to break into the business?
NG: My advice is stick to your own style and methods and take advice and critiques gently. I made the mistake of taking others critiques to the heart and that didn't lead to anything good as far as motivation and figuring out my own style. I believe the more you change methods, the tougher the learning curve becomes and the more burnt out you will get. In doing so you will flow like water instead of like mud and you will enjoy yourself and your pieces each sitting and get better results and more satisfaction (at least that's how it has worked best for me).
TLD: Is miniature sculpting a full-time job for you, or something you do on the side?
NG: Currently it is full time. I guess I can say I have too much on my hands right now but am grateful that I have too much work rather than not enough. I am still sculpting for peanuts comparatively speaking - I should re-assess my rates and I urge every new sculptor to slowly do so as they get better.
TLD: Can you share any news about what’s in store for Blood Moon Miniatures? (Blood Moon is a company run by Nicolas and his brothers.)
NG: Blood Moon Miniatures is currently dormant. We have too much on our plates as freelancers to really get it going. I have slowly been recreating the website and a new better storefront is in the works. It is set up I just need to add details and of course our own new releases when we get a chance to sculpt and cast them.
TLD: Do you start a project using 2D art as a reference point, or can you start a sculpt based on a text description or even an image in your mind’s eye?
NG: The mind's eye is the only method I use. Its primary for me as I develop a vision from paragraphs (of text) or art and just roll it out. I find characters come out a lot more unique when provided with the least information to follow because it's a combination of both the artists mind as well as the stakeholders ideas.
TLD: How much time does it take to produce a finished sculpt for a 25/28mm human-sized miniature, assuming it’s not a rush job? I’m sure each project is different, but perhaps you can give at least a ballpark figure.
NG: It takes me anywhere from 4-10 hours. It heavily depends on mood. Generally 5 or 6 for the average 28mm model.
TLD: Are there any “dream projects” you’d like to take on? The sky is the limit – it could be your take on Smaug the dragon, a new chapter of Space Marines, all the giants from AD&D’s classic G1-2-3 adventures – anything in particular that’s on your sculpting To-Do list?
NG: My dream project is on a much larger scale, I want to sculpt a big statue, maybe five feet tall with the base included of an ice harvester for the town I live in and submit it for contest. I also really enjoy other areas of sculpture particularly classical period sculpting with a new age twist based on my visions. I am passionate about creating relief sculptures. For miniatures I would rather help a small company grow into a large company and stick with them throughout.
TLD: My 9-year-old son would like to give sculpting a try. What kind of tips do you have for new sculptors who are just starting out? Are tools like Reaper’s Sculpting Armatures helpful in your opinion? Would you recommend drawing/sculpting lessons? And what is your sculpting material of choice – Green Stuff, Brown Stuff, or something else?
NG: That's great! First off pick a medium and stick with it. Green stuff is the best by far in my opinion if you want to create sturdy figures for production in metal. Fimo and Sculpey can be resin cast and then metal cast but it costs more in the long run to transition through to the metal molding if you use an oven bake clay. Buy clay shapers and be prepared to buy more each month or two. The number 0 extra firm tip flat chisel and taper points are my two most used tools. I use some cheapy tools I bought in a big pack with needles and such from a local store that I occasionally use. I dislike premade armatures. They are limiting. You're better off taking the time to learn using wire. I use 22 gauge steel wire and cut three equal length pieces about 50mm in length each and twist them at the center with pliers then cut the center one off between the legs and form a skeleton. tutorials may help I have never looked for them I prefer to self learn though trial and error. I will be creating my own set of tutorials soon once I get my video camera and they will be available on my sculpting website. Thank you for the interview! And good luck to your son! If he runs into any enigmas just send me an email I will gladly help.
Great stuff! Huge thanks to Nick for taking the time to answer my questions. If you enjoy Nick's work and would like to keep current on his various projects, make sure to Like him on Facebook.