Artist Interview with Matt Barker

There are many reasons people play Warhammer, and I guarantee each player will have an almost unique opinion on the best aspect of the game. There are people who are in it strictly for the gameplay, those like myself that enjoy bringing an army to life through building, painting, and playing, and there are those who don’t even know how to play the game, but build and paint almost professionally. No matter the reason, Warhammer has a good niche for most people.

I was able to interview one of our players who are up and coming in the painting scene, having some awesome accomplishments, and today we’re going to talk about it. Without further ado, here’s the interview with Matt Barker.

What made you first get into model painting?

“I’d always had a cursory interest in the miniature painting hobby. Growing up it was things like model airplanes, tanks or cars. None of these captured my attention enough to actually pursue the hobby, but, as I got older, I became aware of miniature war-gaming. Warhammer 40k had existed on the peripheral of my gaming groups, but I never really thought about committing myself to painting up the minis to play the game until I was given the chance to try out Age of Sigmar. 

Fast forward, and I’m dropping more money than any sane person should on a new hobby. I want to say this was because I found the game to be a fun playing experience, but more than anything it was seeing the models up close and getting to handle them. Some of the sculpts that Games Workshop has available are genuine works of art.”

What is your favorite step in the painting process?

“It has to be the final varnish. It’s final. Done. C’est fini. You did it, champ, go clean off that brush and get your brand new miniature out there on the table or up on your shelf under some tasteful museum lighting. Painting miniatures is like any other productive endeavor; you’re constantly chasing that fulfilling dopamine hit and, in my mind, there’s no part of the process where you get that biggest rush than when you’ve put the final sealant on the model. It may not look the way you thought it would, but you saw something through until the end. You can be proud of that.”

What is the most difficult step in your painting process?

“Deciding on a color scheme. My background is in art, so I’ve got a fairly competent handle on color theory and how to make something that doesn’t look like a hot mess; but it’s still the tyranny of the blank page. A bare model has nearly infinite directions that you can take it, so it’s hard to not get paralyzed by choice. Thankfully, if worse comes to worse, you can always fall back on the box art. There’s no shame in that. The box schemes look great. Sometimes you do have to let go of all your creative pretenses and let the professional designers guide you. Alternatively, you can stare at your collection of gray plastic until your eyes glaze over and brain fluid leaks from your ears. Whatever works for you.”

What model are you most proud of?

 “Even though it looks like absolute trash, I’m  still proud of my very first model. I’ll admit this is a bit of a cop-out answer, “well of course the first model that you ever painted is the one that you take the most pride in; it showed you that you do have the discipline and patience to see a project through to the end.” says the pedantic man that lives in my head, smugly crossing his arms. My reply to this entirely fictitious creation? I agree.”

What model gave you the most frustration?

“Whichever is the first metal model that I’ll paint when I inevitably go mad from all the spray paint fumes. Aside from that, Lady Olynder. This was another one of the early models that I painted, and oh boy is she fragile. It’s a gorgeous sculpt, and my hat goes off to whichever sculptor created her because it’s my favorite model in the entire non-Forge World Age of Sigmar range, but her point of contact with the base is so flimsy that she bounces around like a spring whenever anything stronger than a sparrow’s fart gets near her.”

What are some tips you would give to someone just starting to paint?

“I’ve got three tips. First off, thin your paints. Nothing will level up your painting faster than properly thinning your paints. Being able to apply your paint smoothly is going to make a world of difference on your final model, and it also gives you more brush control. 

Second, keep your painting station as clean as possible. You don’t have to put everything away every single time you end a painting session, but you’ll get a lot more done if you at least tidy up a bit. It’s very easy for our brains to see a messy table and use that as a rationale for why we aren’t going to paint today. On top of this, a clean table is an organized table. An organized table is a faster and smoother painting process. Instead of having to break your pace to dig out a brush that you swear was underneath the empty Cheetos bag you’ve had sitting out since January, you can keep your workflow efficient by having whatever you’re going to need in a dedicated spot. I can switch between brushes on muscle memory alone, because I keep them in a specific order in a specific spot on my table. 

Thirdly, paint for yourself first. These are your models. They’re either going on your shelf or into your army. It’s far too easy to hook yourself into the infinite IV drip of professional quality models that exists online and never get anything done because your models don’t look like theirs. Not to say that you shouldn’t observe the content that’s out there, in fact one of the best ways that you can learn quickly is to take careful observation of works done by painters at a higher skill level than yourself. However, what you shouldn’t do is set up the self-fulfilling prophecy of failing because you’re holding yourself to an impossible standard. You have to constantly move forward, and you do that by painting for yourself. Paint the model until you’re happy with it. You’ll avoid getting burned out and you’ll avoid getting discouraged. You’ll also find that you develop your own personal style which is going to pay dividends as you keep climbing the skill ladder. Make what you want to see in the hobby, and you’ll find an audience as well as keep yourself sane.”

How do you want to grow as a painter?

“Speaking from the perspective of someone who is a painter before a gamer when it comes to this hobby, I’d have to say experimentation. Sometimes it won’t work out, and that’s fine. You learn more from failure than you do success. With every model, I want to try something a little different because overtime that’ll build up a repertoire of skills that I can pick and choose from as I please. It doesn’t even need to be dramatic experiments either. Even just riffing on techniques that I’ve already had experience doing is better than going into an assembly line mindset.”

How can people find your work online?

“If you want to follow me, or request commissions, you can check me out on Instagram at @admiralminiatures.”

 

Those were all the questions I had prepped for Matt, really cool stuff that I actually learned from. I want to thank Matt again for giving me his time for this, I would highly recommend checking out some of his work, below are a few pictures he provided with me on the progress he has made, and I look forward to seeing more from him.

The first Warhammer model Matt painted:

 

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