Do any men grow up or do they only come of age?
― Stephen King, The Gunslinger
Once upon a time there was a young lad who lived in a small town in Central Ostrobothnia, Finland. The life of this boy was full of imaginative adventures. The shadows of nearby forests were teeming with goblins and trolls, shaped by the rhizomes of fallen trees, mossy stones and the boy’s vivid imagination. With self-made wooden swords and cardboard armors he conquered tree houses with the neighbor kids. Grand battles were played with small plastic toy-soldiers that harshly represented either Americans, Germans, Russians, Japanese or Vietnamese.
When the toys reached their psychical limits, paper and pencils stepped in. Those were the tools for harnessing the images storming in the head of the boy. He drew sheet after sheet of mystical and blood-thirsty beasts, fierce dragons and frightening skeleton warriors fighting against noble knights and frenzy barbarians.
One day on his way to school the boy’s good friend ran to him and told him about “a magical miniature diorama” in the display window of a local bookstore. The boy had no idea of what his friend was talking about, but with great excitement they hurried to the store. There it was, standing in the middle of nicely arranged school books, novels, art tools and pencils sets – the diorama.
A base shaped in hexagon rose up and made a form of steep grassy hill. The top of the hill hosted an old, naked and shriveled tree that stood there like a twisted body. At the foot of the hill three shiny chaotic warriors stood in their black armors waving their gruesome blades in the air as they confronted a great warrior riding on back of a mighty black dragon with murderous fangs in its mouth.
The setting had a cold and grim story written in the way that struck hard and deep in that little boy’s mind. He had never felt such an excitement before. He just stared at the magnificent miniature landscape with glazed eyes, his mind blown by the amazing terrain and the violent figures standing on it. All the small details tickled every nerve on his eyes, tunneling in to his very soul. That moment changed the boy forever.
I was 10-years-old when I had my first contact with Citadel miniatures. I still remember it like yesterday. The diorama I first saw in the window of that bookstore in my hometown made a very big impact to me, and it still works as a constant reminder of where I began my adventure in the miniature hobby. It was that very same little bookstore where I bought my first set of paints, brushes and a small blister with a set of five miniatures in it, Empire huntsmen or something like that, and started my grand journey.
For a long time I spent all of my weekly allowance – which wasn’t very much at the time, so I kind of “borrowed” some from my little sister’s piggy bank (sorry sis!) – for those tiny soldiers.
For a kiddo like me it was really challenging to learn how to paint the miniatures. Back then we didn’t have such a luxury like Internet where to search for information for how to paint miniatures or how to use different techniques. There were no White Dwarfs in our town where to read the most recent news in the hobby, at least not that I knew of. Everything was try and error, or trying to mimic the techniques only handful of other hobbyists used when painting miniatures – and they were mainly older boys with little interest in teaching us kids how to paint. I even remember washing my minis with diluted black paint to add shade to colors like skin. Yikes!
It was our local library and its fairly limited supply of books where you could find some information about scale models or even something close to it. We mainly dug out books about historical equipment and used them as a reference for painting. One day a back of a black book with a strange typography in it stuck out of the shelves. It caught our attention as it was near the place they kept the comic books. That book was RATSPIKE. You can only imagine the wonder we youngsters felt when we found such a beautiful art book featuring not only amazing fantasy and sci-fi art, but also couple of pages of miniatures painted with the most extraordinary skill. That was my first real contact with the art of John Blanche, the man who changed the way I perceive creativity and create miniatures today. But more about that in the next part…
Years passed, Warhammer Fantasy Battle rulebook editions evolved from the 3rd to 5th. Teenage years and computer games came in to my life and, well you know how the story goes. The lack of active hobby surrounding slowly killed the hobby spirit in me and the paints started to get dry in their pots.
More years passed, I grew up, studied some and put down my roots in Southern Ostrobothnia. One day (the year was 2005 if I recall correctly) I was walking in the city of Seinäjoki, doing some window shopping when I suddenly bumped into a small store that sold sci-fi/fantasy books and mags, Mangas, Magic the Gathering decks – and Games Workshop’s stuff. The open door stirred my interest and I curiously peeked in. To my surprise they were hosting a small playful painting competition where everyone had to paint a Kroot within an hour. I encourage myself, stepped in and, what the heck, sat down and started painting with shaking hands. I didn’t do that well that day, but painting for the first time in ages gave me the spark to get back in the hobby. I’m still on the same road. Too bad I don’t have any shots taken from that Kroot…
+ End of part I +