Artist Interview: Thomas of Welcome_to_Innswich
Hi everyone, and welcome back! I don’t know if you’ve been caught up with the Death by Wickerman competition (spearheaded by @wicker_man_miniatures and @deathbymini), but one of the entries which blew me away the most was that of Thomas or @welcome_to_innswich ‘s work, depicting a moody, Lovecraftian seaside town. Inspired by their work, I reached out for an interview detailing their inspirations and processes, which you can find below, accompanied with some of their select work!
How did you get into miniature painting & what was the first miniature you painted?
My dad collects. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting with him and painting. I was very young, so it’s hard to be specific, but one of the first miniatures I painted was certainly a metal Citadel River Troll. It had this grotesque expression and was lifting a spiked club above its head with both hands. I loved those miniatures; they were so characterful and they sent my imagination into overdrive. Whenever we’d walk the dog past a lake or river, I used to look over the side and wonder at what might be lurking beneath. Having looked back, you could say I’m still wondering the same thing today.
How did you get into painting miniatures in your distinct style?
When I approach miniature painting, I try to imagine I’m painting a picture, not a model. I’m thinking as much about how the models will look together as I am the details of a specific figure. What atmosphere will the collection create? What story will they tell? How can I paint the collection in such a way that they get across the feeling I want to incite or the narrative I want to tell? A display base is a great opportunity to define those things. For this project, I wanted to suggest a variety of moods: the uncanniness of Ulgu, the claustrophobia of a small, isolated town, a sense of dissonance between the town and the wilds at its doorstep, of cult ritual, and, of course, the sublime power of the sea.
What sources of media do you draw inspiration from? For example, specific games, books, films, art? And what (design) philosophies do you like to incorporate through these?
I don’t think it’s that unusual but I draw inspiration from all sorts! I once read a quote by Chuck Palahniuk about how everything we do is an expression of who we are. I think that’s a great metaphor for the creative process, a kind of melting pot of themes and ideas and experiences bubbling to the surface. Lovecraft has a permanent place on my bookshelf. ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’ is everything I love in a horror story — uncanny and cosmic, with themes of transformation and change, told from a single point of view. Its handling of the unknown is masterful. So is its layered approach to storytelling. There are narratives within narratives, while enough is left unexplained that even by the end, the reader is desperate to find out more. You find yourself trying to fill in the blanks, to join the dots.
Could you talk me briefly through your process of making and painting a miniature from start to finish? Any tips or tricks you use to make the process smoother? Do you paint them separately from the base, varnish them etc? How long do you take?
I’d love to say I had tips and tricks, but I think my approach to modelling and painting is pretty conventional. For me, it’s all about capturing the image I have in my head, and that largely comes at the modelling stage. My central character and the figure at the head of the Cult of the Bountiful Deep — Xtrenx, the Fish Wife — went through several iterations before I settled on a conversion that represented her suitably on the tabletop. If there’s a tip in there, it’s to know what you’re going for before you start cutting and gluing. Make sketches. List out the parts. Find other conversions or paintjobs that touch on what you’re aiming for and bring all these things together.
What are your top 3 products and or techniques for creating and or painting miniatures in a grimdark fashion?
The first one that comes to mind is limiting your palette. Find a few paints that capture the colour or shade you’re after and stick with those. For me, that was Dark Sea Blue by Vallejo. It’s helped me to create the gloomy atmosphere I strove for, as well as tying together the miniatures with their display base. Off the back of that, look for opportunities to contrast the darkness. These will actually help accentuate it. In my display base, I chose a few small light sources (or things that reflect it): lamps, the whiteness of the gulls, and the surf. This feeds the atmosphere and helps define the darkness/shadows as exactly that. The viewer can see where there is supposed to be light because it’s explicitly painted there. You can shoot for the same across your miniatures. Like I mentioned earlier, think of the whole regiment. A light source on every model would have been overkill. But by choosing a select few — the lures on my anglerfish inspired creatures, lamps carried by the acolytes of the temple, etc. — I’m helping the whole unit to pop. Thirdly, I tend to associate grimdark with a grittiness, if not a certain level of realism. For me, this meant adding water effects and varnish where I wanted to create the illusion of wetness and differentiate texture. The degree to which I’ve done this might be considered heavy-handed or to the detriment of the paint-job in another scheme, but to me, in this context, it really finishes the miniatures.
What is your favourite GW model and what types of miniatures would you like to see them produce in the future?
Great question! There’s so much to love about Games Workshop’s miniatures right now. Aside from a few curveballs, they’ve never looked better. I know a lot of people will smile when I say the Keeper of Secrets is looking stunning these days. With its long legs and crown of horns, there’s such a sense of terrible grandeur and dark majesty to it. See what Jack (@host_of_ego) has done with his. It really sings. I love the Forgeworld Merwyrm (RIP) and I’d be remiss not to call out the Fellwater Troggoths. A little over twenty years since I must have painted that first River Troll, Games Workshop has managed to produce a kit that, to my mind at least, really speaks to those original designs while bringing them up to date for the current range. Any miniatures that communicate character get a big thumbs-up from me. They’re producing some stand-out centrepieces that really embody this recently. It would be great to see it emphasised more in the rank-and-file, too. Show me the people under the helmets, the ones struggling to get by against all odds. These are the everyday people I can relate to and the ones that jump out to me.
What hobbies do you have outside of painting miniatures?
I’m a writer by trade. Commercial copy — brand articles, white papers and the like — pays the bills and puts (miniatures) food on the table, but it’s creative writing that fuels the spirit and keeps me going. I was fortunate (persistent?) enough to get noticed by a publisher several years ago. I’ve published two novels through them since. It all comes full circle, mind. Warhammer was my gateway to writing. I still have my first ever short story in a shoebox underneath my bed. I was twelve, maybe thirteen. I haven’t stopped writing since. Last year, I graduated with a doctorate examining the fallibility of language and how we can overcome it to better communicate meaning. I spent years looking at the sublime and ways to elevate the reader beyond thought or meaning, to a place where they experience a story on a different level. The journey’s never-ending and there are days when the last thing you want to do is open your laptop again and stare at a screen but when I find myself there, I always have Warhammer to go back to, and I wouldn’t give up either for the world. I’d love to place something with Black Library one day.
How large of a part does gaming play in the way you create miniatures? Do you game often?
I would love to game more. I really would. My dad is still the only person I actually know who collects, never mind plays. The hobby has always been quite private for me, in that sense. Social media has really transformed that and since joining Instagram and Reddit I’ve connected with so many great people in a community that I’ve never really felt a part of before. I know I could always have popped into my local store for a game, but I’m not a hugely sociable person and sometimes find social situations difficult. I’m really hoping to be able to meet up with some of the friends I’ve made online when it’s safe to do so again. I can’t think of a better inspiration for storytelling than some narrative games/campaigns! Just thinking about it gets me excited!
Who are some of your biggest inspirations in the community and what aspects of their styles would you be interested in adopting/ trying out?
Where to start? Kuba Sawicki’s (@picassawi) townscapes blow me away with every new post. It’s a dream to be able to create scenery and terrain that even comes close to that level. It’s digital art! I aspire to create dioramas and display bases that emulate these kinds of living, breathing images with the grimdark aesthetic, firmly entrenching them in the Mortal Realms and bringing the setting to life. I’ve already mentioned Jack (@host_of_ego) and his enthralling Slaanesh. His focus on the characters and philosophies that shape his collection really resonates with me. Another shout-out has to go to Laurie (@hellequin_paints). I’ve lost count of the number of conversations we’ve had about lore and background. We’re both story-driven and go to lengths to create worlds for our armies to inhabit, histories from which they can draw. His miniatures aren’t grimdark but I think that attention to storytelling is. What is grimdark, if not a fiction, a shorthand for every fantasy character who is lost or struggling day-by-day through a world that doesn’t even know they’re there? On that note, check out @wicker_man_miniatures. Jonas is knee-deep in the Mordheim of old, with inspirations ranging from European folklore to Ari Aster’s cutting-edge horror Midsommar. Have you seen his warband, The Innocents? With his blessing, one of his Cult of Ahalt-inspired characters has made its way into my own fiction. So has one of Laurie’s Lumineth, a child of the May Queen’s host the perfect mirror to Innswich’s shadowy folk...
What is your favourite miniature or set of miniatures you’ve made, and what would you like to improve upon going forward?
I talked about the Fish Wife earlier on, but it has to be her. She’s a complicated character, a once-noble aelf who has become twisted by her nightmarish legacy and self-imposed exile beneath Ulgu’s seas into an ichthyic horror of the blackest abyss. I went through several incarnations before I settled on a conversion that reflected her physical horror, otherworldly grace, and sense of vulnerability. There is Lady Olynder in there, Yvraine of the Triumvirate of Ynnead, and several parts from the Nighthaunt range. Where more conventional Idoneth summon the Ethersea, her magics are attuned specifically to the ocean’s depths. I played with light sources again to create the impression that she is dragging the abyss with her, contrasting the light from her lure with the shadow and the floating cape in her wake. At the same time, I’m certain I’ll be able to improve on her one day in the future. I’m a perfectionist, which can actually get pretty frustrating when you don’t have much time to spend on the hobby and you know you need to move on to the next thing! For now, I’m very happy with her, but watch this space...
Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to check out @welcome_to_innswich on Instagram!