Today we'll be interviewing one of the more unique minds of the blogging community; Mark from Musings of a Metal Mind. Creator of the Tyracrons, the Warden of Sovereignty and numerous other completely unique conversions; Mark's work is always breathtaking and worthy of some drooling. So let's get to it!
MWC: How long have you been into the 40k scene?
Mark: I started collecting miniatures in general back around 1989-90, although generally it was mostly Battletech with 40k/fantasy as kind of a peripheral. I used to pick up White Dwarf every so often because back then it was a pretty good indie-gaming mag (as opposed to the overpriced sales rag it is now). I got into playing WHF around ’99-’00, and from there it was a short hop into 40k. The whole time my interest has been more from a miniatures standpoint, and I sort of backed into to the tabletop gaming aspect of it. As for blogging, well, that’s more recent. Like a having a hologram of a dead bunkmate, (any Red Dwarf fans out there?) it’s also sort of a tool for maintaining my sanity.
MWC: I'm always seeing your amazing conversion work, but do you actually play 40k on the tabletop and if so, how often?
Mark: I’m more of a casual gamer, although I’m trying to get more games in to have a better feel for the rules and how the units work together in the game (not to mention having a valid reason to build an army). I’m not heavily into the tournament scene because I get turned off by stories of what goes on there. I used to go to the odd Battletech tournament, and those were a mecca for poor sports, cheaters, and people with poor hygiene habits. I’d kind of like to try a 40k one like NoVA, but more to meet some of the folks from the blogosphere than to actually compete.
MWC: Your conversion work involves not only 40k, but the Gundam universes, Ghost in the Shell, Final Fantasy and more. Is there a particular selection you enjoy doing conversions for more than the others?
Mark: Not really. It’s more a question of what’s cool, or interesting, or just a bizarre idea that occurred to me sometime during the day. To me, it’s really more about the whole process of converting, and the act of making a cool model. For my samurai Dwarf army, I made a neat little oriental shrine out of balsa wood to stand in for an Anvil of Doom, complete with a little statue and offerings inside.
MWC: What is your favorite project you've done for 40k? And your favorite project out of all selections?
Mark: Wow, there are so many it’s really hard to say. I love the heavy industrial feel of my GunHED models, and I’m kinda glad the Dreadknight came out, because now I can base them properly and use them in game. I initially made them to stand in for Dreadnoughts and Penitent engines, but the Dreadknight is so much closer to what they embody. My runner-up would have to be the General Grievous Hive Tyrant, because the model just came out so much better than I thought it would.
MWC: Is there a specific type of conversion you like above others? For example, do you prefer vehicle conversions over infantry based ones?
Mark: My conversions lately have been partly based on need; for example, I wanted a Marbo for my AdMech-themed guard, so I dug through my bits boxes and found a Tau Pathfinder that had kind of a cool pose. Generally I like working on each project as it comes, be it a tank, monster or a single character mini. It’s important to me that they have some kind of character, and that it’s not just some generic thing. I guess that’s why even though I like the stock kits, I kind of prefer my scratchbuilds more, because they’re made more to a theme.
MWC: Where do you get your inspiration for your projects from?
Mark: TV, movies, comics, anime, wherever. It depends on the model. Sometimes I just see parts that seem to go together, and a particular model will come from that. That’s kinda how the Tyracrons came about as an idea.
MWC: Was there a special inspiration that got you into designing in the first place?
Mark: I’ve just always liked models and miniatures; they’ve always fascinated me. I enjoy the act of creating something as well; all the parts searching, the drilling, shaping and boring. In the end, it’s not about the end result, but the process of getting there that I find most enjoyable. Getting a model to put on a shelf afterwards is just kind of a perk.
MWC: Do you like to watch TV or listen to music while you model? Maybe something else?
Mark: Generally I like to listen to music; usually something with a narrative, like a movie soundtrack. (my current favorite is from the recent Sherlock Holmes movie) I find that it makes the whole experience very energetic, but at the same time very peaceful and zen.
MWC: As a designer, most of the conversions you post for yourself or for clients are completely unique. How do these ideas start?
Mark: For client driven stuff it’s a matter of what they’re looking for and what they like. Right now I’m working a model of Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII that a client wanted to use as an Inquisitor for his army, and it’s been challenging because of scale and thematic issues. The end result is a model that’s like Lightning, but at the same time is unique because of the pose, base model, and the parts used. I apply that same logic to conversion I work on for myself; I find that as long as you’re getting the idea of something across, it’s less important for that thing to be a carbon-copy. I find that as long as I have a certain thing in mind, ie “this is an assassin” or “this thing’s a tank-buster”, then I can sort of work towards that end and and let myself have fun with it as I go, and that results in some really neat looks.
MWC: How long have you been doing work for clients in the hobby?
Mark: I’ve been painting things for friends for a while. I only really started doing work for strangers recently, like in the past few months. I find that people ask me about things they really can’t find anywhere else. It’s important to me, though, to have a crystal-clear idea of what they want, otherwise I’m not going to take their money. I had a guy email me about Tyranid conversions, and I tried to get him to be as specific as possible, but there was a language barrier there and I couldn’t get him to be specific. I kind of got the idea he didn’t know what he wanted, either, so I ended up turning him down. It’s not that I would have minded doing the conversions, but he just didn’t give me enough of an idea of what he wanted.
MWC: In a recent post you mentioned that you had a chance to actually sit down and talk with Stan Lee. Tell us some about that.
Mark: It was back when I was working in the comics industry, and happened completely by chance. It took me a minute or two to realize who I was sharing an elevator with, but he warmed up right away and we really hit it off. He had a panel that started in a few hours, so he had time to kill and we ended up talking about writing, the comics industry, and how things were in the golden days when comics were just getting off the ground. He’s a really amazing guy.
MWC: If you could meet anyone at all in the GW industry, who would it be and why?
Mark: John Blanche. He seems like the most interesting one of the entire bunch, and his work is absolutely amazing. I understand he’s a bit of a recluse, though. I sort of would like to meet Matt Ward, but only to find out which of two evils he actually is. He’s talented, sure, but I think he’s either a fanboy that takes himself too seriously, which explains why he turns out hammy garbage that people hate, or he’s incredibly unpolished and in need of some mentoring from a writing program to help him mature as a writer. I hope it’s the latter, because it implies there’s some hope there. Unfortunately, I’m inclined to believe it’s the former. He probably doesn't take constructive criticism well at all.
Mark: The whole thing stemmed from the exposed-ribcage design that the Tyranids and Necrons have in common. The Necrons are such an old, dead-end codex and really don’t have that many interesting units anyway, so from that angle I figured it’d cool to expand them a bit and give them some new monstrous war machines, not to mention a few characters. At the same time, the Tyranid codex was new and pretty powerful (well, pre-FAQ, anyway) that I wanted to give it a try, but didn’t want to buy any of the bug-models. So, I hit on the idea of using Necron Warriors as Gaunts and sort of expanded their aesthetic into other units of the new ‘Nid book. Each of the "named" Tyranids became a high-ranking Necron of some kind, and I just mapped over rank-and-file Necrons accordingly. I slowed down the development of the army due to monetary concerns, plus, there's a whole new slate of models on the horizon, so it'll be interesting to see how things evolve.
MWC: Your Knight Warden is amazing, do you have plans to make more?
Mark: I’d love to, but I don’t have the space for them, and I have yet to play Apocalypse, so he’s really this model I made just to have. I was going to use the toy I incorporated into the torso as the basis for a Storm Raven, but then this Titan-build off came along on the Adeptus Mechanicus forum. Everybody had made Knight Paladins to death, and no one had ever done a Knight Warden so I decided to. He’s probably bigger than he should be for a Knight, but oh well. I’d really love to try one of Big Daddy’s custom-made Knight kits, but they’re a little out of my price range, and to justify one, I’d have to use it in-game too, which I probably might never do. Still, I might, sometime in the future, so you never can tell.
MWC: Have you ever considered casting some of your conversions for personal use?
Mark: I have, but it seems easier to simply tailor my style towards mass-production by using easily re-acquired parts. Resin-casting seems like a hassle, and I’m kinda lazy that way. I’m also not that great of a sculptor in the first place, so I’d actually have to scratch-build something in pieces, then send the bits to a caster for limited production. With all the monetary costs involved, it’d be cheaper just to buy all the parts I need and make them as I go.
MWC: What about for sale? ;)
Mark: Not something I’d mind doing, if I could suss out a process for making it happen. I’m really excited about how far rapid prototyping has come, and would like to try my hand at sculpting something in a 3D program and sending it to be printed. The downside to that is I’d have to resurrect the PC I was using for 3D modeling in 2003 (the video card is toast) or find a program that gives me the control I want on my Macbook Pro. Either way, it’s also a matter of time, and I just started a new f/t job (knock on wood). I think I’d really be able to turn out some nice stuff that way, though, because I wouldn’t be limited by having to buy parts and materials.