Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Miniatures as Art

Among my hobbies I include miniature painting, and have done so since 1995. I have always had some interest in art, and my first foray into miniature wargames was not to actually play the game, but to paint the figures. Some of my early work was also, in some ways, my best. They were Warhammer Fantasy miniatures, the simple plastic high elf spearmen that came in the boxed set. I used techniques I learned from painting and from various crafts I had dabbled in over the years. My style was not the usual however, and certainly not the 'Eavy Metal style of Games Workshop. Since then I have improved in many ways, incorporating some of the 'Eavy Metal style into my own techniques. Every time I pick up the brush though is a new experience, and I am far from a master of the craft.

1995 is kind of a middle ages of sorts for miniatures. Games Workshop, or Citadel as their miniature line was called, was really coming into their own, Ral Partha was creating much better sculpts than they had in the past, and there were numerous contenders creating fantasy and sci-fi lines for gaming, such as Grenadier. In comparison to the early sculpts of the 70's and 80's these new miniatures were significant improvements. The quality of these miniatures would only increase as companies like Reaper began to produce en mass, impacting the sales of the previous generations giants.

In the past decade miniatures have nearly become art, and the number of companies making quality product has drastically increased from a mere handful to dozens. Some of the most engaging, interesting, and well crafted sculpts aren't coming from Citadel or Reaper but much smaller studios in limited numbers.

The miniatures that really intrigue me are not those created for use in game, but those created for the sake of art itself. I have been aware of Altar Modelling for some time, and have long been impressed with their skill and the unique creations they have presented. As yet, unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to buy any of their pieces, much less paint one. My time and money has simply been spent elsewhere. They took it upon themselves to create a miniature based on art from the late Ottoman Empire, and it is stunning. This miniature, pictured below, is not just a game piece, it is a work of art unto itself and created such that devotees of the craft may render their own sensibilities onto it. Miniature painting can be just a hobby, but in this instance I believe the hobby may be elevated to an art, shared by sculptor and the multitudes of painters around the world who attempt to elevate this supine resin woman into something beautiful.

You can see the progress of the paint job and the untouched sculpt at the Altar site, linked above. They also have a selection of paintings from the same Ottoman artist. I did not realize until today that Altar was a Turkish company that focused their efforts on Turkish art and culture, and the promotion of miniature gaming and the hobby in Turkey. That's pretty damn cool. Up to this point I had merely seen their miniatures on occasion and been impressed with the level of detail and the unusual subject matter.

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