Friday, May 27, 2011

[Interview] Mathieu Fontaine - Studio Akaranseth

The next addition to our interview series is Mathieu Fontaine, an artist with several Golden Daemons on his shelf.  Having his talent for painting is one thing, but Mathieu is another person working to share what he has learned with a series of classes.  Once you've seen his work you'll know why you need to be asking your FLGS to bring him in to teach on of his Masterclass classes.

MWC: How long have you been into the gaming scene and what got you started?
It's pretty simple. The first White Dwarf I ever bought was #200 from the US. We are now at 377 so I have been in this hobby for 177 months... The first thing that brought me to my local gaming store was Magic. I was 16 at the time. I still remember every details about the first time I saw a game of Warhammer Fantasy. I had came for my weekly fix of magic when I saw two armies deployed on a table. My first impression was simply WOW! How do I get into that? I bought the WD and saw all the info on the soon to be released Warhammer Fantasy 5th edition with Bretonnians. So let just say that I spent my next few paychecks, hardly earned in the fastfood industry, on shiny knights, bowmen and men at arms. Oh and paint and brushes of course!

MWC: Do you play tabletop games? And if so, how often and what are your favorite games and armies?
I don't play as much as I would like anymore. Time as become a factor. Furthermore, I work in a gaming store so after my day I like to head home and change environment instead of staying at the store and game.

I recently built a 2000 points army of Grey Knights, composed of 16 models. So yes I might paint them. I haven't played Warhammer Fantasy in ages and although I really like the changes that 8ed brought I don't like managing blocks.

I always liked Warmachine. The issue is that I do not have the time to study every details of every single entries of my army and the one from my opponent. So I got tired of being surprised on turn 2 ;)

Spartan Games has really impressed me recently. I got hooked in Uncharted Seas with a Ralgard fleet. Now I really want to kick some ass with my British army at Dystopian Wars, just need to find opponents.

MWC: If you could meet anyone at all in the gaming industry, who would it be and why?
With all the conventions and contests I have attended I the chance to meet most people from the industry. There are three artists I have not met yet that I would love to. 1) Karl Kopinsky for giving us the most iconic scenes in the universe of GW, 2) Adrian Smith for his vibrant colors and illustrations of dwarves, orcs and chaos and finally 3) Paul Bonner, the master of colors. Looking at his illustrations and seeing how he plays with colors has always been a great inspiration.

MWC: Do you have any favorite board games?
Liberté from Martin Wallace which has recently been republished by Valley Games. Otherwise Games of Throne, Runewars and Arkham Horrors from Fantasy Flight Games are not too far behind. If I have 12 hours to spare with 5 willing gamers Republic of Rome, the old classic from Avalon Hill, is definitely an option.

MWC: When you do any type of gaming, how competitive are you?
Depends of the type of game. If it is a conquest type I'm pretty competitive. I hate seeing my plan demolished by the adversary. Otherwise it is mostly to relax so no matter what I try to keep a positive attitude. It's not like there is any money involved. As for 40k, when you play a 16 models list at 2000 points you definitely do it for the fun of it.

MWC: Do you read any hobby related fiction such as Black Library books?
I have read a few Gotrek & Felix. They were initially interesting and funny but at one point I became tired of them. It's not like Gotrek or Felix have any chance to die from their epic combat when there is 4 more books to go. I have started the first book from the Horus Heresy series and stopped after a third of it. I simply could not get interested in it.

I mostly read comic books. Both European and American. I love Hellboy and BPRD as well as most titles published by Vertigo. Watchmen is still a masterpiece of literature if you ask me. Otherwise I cannot wait for July 12th and the new George R.R. Martin novel.

MWC: What do you consider yourself primarily? Painter, modeler, gamer, general purpose dork?
I am mostly a painter. I will convert and modeled occasionally but I am not a big fan of it. I hate sculpting. I have all the tools, most of the knowledge but I simply dislike it. There is enough talented sculptors out there providing us with enough figurine that I do not need to dive into that part of the hobby.

MWC: Was there a special inspiration that got you into modeling/painting in the first place?
 The first piece I have seen that made me realize that there was more to figurine painting than basecoat, drybrush and washes was the Chaplain on bike vs. the Exodus Eldar from Mike McVeigh. I remember seeing it in a White Dwarf and being astonished. Still to this day it remains one of my favorite piece. It is now exposed at the Warhammer World Gallery.

MWC: What is your favorite project you've done?
It is hard to say. I usually like them all once they are done. I will probably say the one that mean the most to me. The ogre on rhinox that got me my first demon ever. The landspeeder storm for a gold at Games Day UK. The Tauros Venator vehicle that got me the gold at GD France last year. And probably the Khorne Lord on Juggernaut because it was my first major conversion.

MWC: Is there a specific type of modeling work you like above others? For example, do you prefer vehicle conversions over infantry based ones?
No. I paint what inspires me at the moment. I usually don't plan in advance because there is always something else coming out that is more inspiring than the initial plan. So no, I do not have a preference between infantry or vehicle.

MWC: Do you like to watch TV or listen to music while you model?
I usually "listen" to TV while painting. As long as a TV series is slightly interesting it's good enough for me. Since it is only a distraction I must say I have pretty low standards...

MWC: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Frank Frazetta has always been a major inspiration. I always loved his palette and mise en scène. Prud'hon is also a major inspiration. I always loved his white skin colors from his Enlèvement de Psyché and Impératrice Joséphine paintings. Paul Bonner also helped me redefine how to use colors.

MWC: What do you find most compelling about starting work on a new miniature or piece?
Not knowing what it would look like at the end. A lot of people assume that I know exactly what I am doing at every steps. Well no... In fact I usually have a good idea of where I am going but things will evolve as we go. A new color might be added or the entire color scheme might shift in the process.

MWC: What are your greatest challenges when working with something new?
The unknown obviously. Not knowing how it will react or combined with other techniques. But as I tell my students, the key to improve is to always push yourself outside your comfort zone. There is no other secret.

MWC: Do you have a favorite piece, or piece that you consider your "seminal work"?
The next one.

MWC: Who is someone in the modeling field whose work you admire?
Rémy Tremblay. His entry at this year GD France that won the slayer was a pure masterpiece as most of his work.

MWC: What it your favorite tip, trick or lesson to share with others?
Push yourself outside your comfort zone as said previously and as we keep repeating among french painters: "Fait péter les contrastes" which translate to using high level of contrast.

MWC: You've won several awards for your painting expertise, but are there any pieces that you look back on and wish you would have done differently?
Once a piece has been entered in a contest I do not look back. It is done, I will not retouch it even if it didn't win. I forget it and move on. The only time I did wish I had done differently was with my dreadnought entry at Chicago a few years back. I had originally planned to put a turquoise "IV" marking on the front as a unit marking. In the process I totally forgot about it and when I remembered I was too far along the weathering process to come back. Most people told me that with that the Slayer would have been mine... Well probably not but still.

MWC: What advice would you give to beginners starting out, or those who don't enjoy painting, to get them more involved or motivated in the activity?
Paint what you feel like painting. I see too many people starting in the hobby buying the army they were told is good or broken when in fact they would rather paint another one which is weaker.

There is nothing more frustrating than working on models you do not like. It is easy for us since we paint single entries so we can pick and chose. When you select an army, your style of play has to be considered but your desire to paint it should be second if not first.

MWC: What in your opinion is the most difficult painting technique to learn? (And can you teach it to us, preferably in 30 words or less.)
They all have various degrees of difficulties. Unfortunately it seems to be variable with individuals. Some will grasp the concept of zenithal lighting right away but will have a hard time blending colors and others will simply be the opposite. The technique with the highest learning curves is definitely airbrushing. Unfortunately I am afraid that 30 words will not be enough but fortunately I have written a tutorial on the basics available on my blog.

MWC: With your support of Heroes of Armageddon we are looking forward to one of the best painted Ghazghkull Thrakas ever.  Can you tell us some of what you are doing to put your mark on the model?
Eeeh... I still need to get the model itself. I am waiting for the finecast version which should arrive tomorrow. Resin will be so much easier to chop in pieces. I want to make it more dynamic, bulkier, meaner. I just want to make sure that Ghazghkull looks like he will kick Yarrick's ass!

MWC: You've been offering your Masterclass 1 and 2 series of classes for a while.  Is this something you see yourself developing?
I would love to develop it more. Unfortunately I depend entirely on local communities for their development. I need a local organizer to make it happen. I would love to have a class every other week here and there and cover the entire United States and Canada. The issue is my lack of knowledge of the local communities. I need someone on site to find a venue and publicize the event. I had several requests for a class in Pennsylvania, Seattle or the Tri-State area for example. To be honest I would have no idea where to start. Which gaming store would be the best location for the class? Where can I reach the local gaming groups and so on... I am always eager to provide the necessary information to anyone interested in hosting a class in their area and work from there but as said, I am dependent on a local organizer. So the more requests I will get the more classes will take place and it is always a pleasure to meet other hobbyists and share my knowledge with them.

I might be looking into attending more conventions like Adepticon. I passed on GENCON this year following major changes in their support to classes. I have to look into more details at Origins and DragonCon. But these conventions are a lot of work and a lot of investment so attending a new one to teach is always a big risk. Furthermore I do not like the time frame for these events. 2 or 4 hours classes are way too short to efficiently dive into the techniques. I can express the theoretical concepts covered for the class but 2 hours is usually not enough to make sure the students fully understands the practical aspect behind them. I will continue to attend Adepticon to teach because the convention is simply the best and the students are always highly motivated.

Furthermore I hope to have video tutorials available for download in fall. It is something I have been planning for a while but for various reasons it has been pushed back again and again and again.

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