Artist Interview: Nicky Grillet

"Witch" by Nicky Grillet

Hi everyone! For today's artist interview, I reached out to a well-known member of the community, known for her art and the creation of the Grillet box, Nicky Grillet, asking her all sorts of questions about her creative pursuits, history with the hobby, and what she learnt from her time working at GW. Enjoy!


How did you get into miniature painting & what was the first miniature you painted?


When I was 13, a kid from school arrived in class with a leaflet about Warhammer 40k. He showed it around, and it was like nothing I’ve ever seen. I asked if he could give the leaflet to me, and I spent weeks looking at it! I have a super fond memory of this time!

It was for the 3rd edition of 40k, the Black Templars by John Blanche were on the cover, and I remember a full page of Space Marines chapters and a double page of ultramarines versus Eldar.

    For my next birthday I asked my parents if I could have a couple of these miniatures. It must have been quite a thing, because some time later they would have “a talk” with me, a serious one like we had with cigarettes and stuff! They were worried that I would loose the sense of reality, like they probably heard stories about DnD in their time. I assured them that it would not be the case, and I couldn’t know at the time that it was a lie!

    So my first miniatures were a couple of metal Space Marines, a metal Terminator and a plastic Eldar Vyper! Lucky!

    At that time, I thought all painting was like watercolour, so I would splash huge amounts of paint on the mini thinking it would shrink down. So my first minis were blobs of paint mostly!..

 

How did you get into painting miniatures in your distinct style?

 

Years later, I got back into miniatures after spending too much time on video games. I decided to repaint my mismatched Eldar, and tried a trick from an old white dwarf I read at the time. That was before we could buy washes and contrast and such. They advised to put a bit of pva glue in your wash/diluted paint, so it would spread nicer on the miniature. I tried this on my Eldar, and never looked back. I realized that you could add water on the miniature or use a wet brush or my fingers to “erase” some of the thick wash, and it would make nice transition on its own! And I just started playing from there.

    The rest was after discovering the inq28 community on blogs and forums, I tried to emulate the grittiness I felt was a part of Warhammer, but never thought of actually putting it on miniatures before seeing theirs.

    I owe a lot to the people that worked on the Yggdrassilumme and the blogs like Tears of Istvaan, Ex Profundis and the Ammobunker community for helping me realise that making miniatures for the sake of making them was enough, I didn’t need to make sure they had rules and were “legal”!

Nicky's Servitors


Was there a specific element or theme of the Warhammer setting that you wanted to capture that perhaps hadn't been covered much before?

 

To me, the Adeptus Mechanicus are still kind of a new faction, so I’ve tried for a long time to use miniatures as count as before that, or played factions that were linked to the Admech in some way.

    Fanatic people that cannot understand technology and science to the point of making a dogmatic religion around it, I love it!

    But outside of that, (and I know people have different opinion about the subject) I was very curious about the daily life of ordinary people in 40k. I want to think that not everyone is a fighter, and wondered what a busy street of a hive city would look like. We focus a lot on the military elements, but I imagine aspect of madness and religious fanatism would probably be seen, black markets, construction workers/servitors, heretical agitators? 1984 and Brave New World and Philip k Dick and Lovecraft and I haven’t read Dune yet but I hear it’s a bit inspiration? A cool mix of all that!

"The Mantis" by Nicky Grillet

How large of a part does gaming play in the way you create miniatures? Do you game often?


Very much not a big part!

    I was never a very social human, and I simply enjoyed making up stories and characters alongside the miniatures, and imagining army lists. Gaming was often too overwhelming or boring for me!

    We had a time with a friend when we would play often though, my Necrons against his Blood Angels, and it was nice to adapt the list every-time to get better.

    But I’ve loved what I played of Warcry; I’d love to experience the slow rise to power of a Chaos Champion! And the cooperative aspects of Warhammer Quest.

    I also like the absurd stories that can happen during a game, like a lucky Wraithcanon shooting through a window and sending a big Tyranid in the warp, or an Ork succeeding an impossible jump from a bridge on a Terminator and missing all of his attacks!


"Holy Corpse" by Nicky Grillet



What did you learn from your time at GW and how does it compare to your work/ time as a more independent artist?


I learned so much there! 

    It was my first real full time experience doing a job in art, so there really was a lot to    learn!

    As I was working on the concepts, I realized that I was flexing the same brain muscles I usually used when kitbashing miniatures, so it had this familiar aspect of trying to bring new shapes to an existing visual language. I had to learn to power through it for a long time though. I sometimes stayed on the same project for several months, and had to find ways to keep having ideas even when I felt that I could not think of anything new. It was super challenging, but also rewarding to see that I could do it, and that sometimes the effort paid off and something cooler resulted!

    The first thing I learned though is maybe a bit odd to say, but it was to add aggression to my drawings. Strangely, and it feels obvious now, the aggressive aspect of the miniatures were never the important thing about them to me. It makes sense though, because it’s a war game, and people have to express some kind of anger to wiggle a chainsaw at someone else’s face. 

    My interest was in quieter atmosphere though, and I had to learn to make dynamic, expressive and aggressive drawings.

    I also learned to receive feedback, which I really enjoy, and to give feedback, which is a bit more complicated for me. My colleagues were so good I could just say most of the time that I loved their work, not a useful feedback!


Being freelance now, I can work most of the time at my own pace, which is slower and quieter too, and I really like that! I’m lucky at the moment to be able to work on a few non-lucrative projects by passionate people, and I get to draw cool things for them. I have more time to work on my own things and develop a few things that I could not while working full time! I have less financial stability, but way more freedom with how to use my time, and after trying both extremes between freedom and stability, I think that a balance closer to freedom works best for me!


 

What is a Grillet Box? And how do you go about making them?


A Grillet box is a name a few people starting to give to a kind of atmospheric scene or diorama that fits in a box, when others starting to make their own and citing me as their inspiration!

    I’m always in awe to see that the idea is still out there and people are making their own things, and feel super privileged to have this thing with my name kind of attached to it!

My own inspiration for them came first from John Blanche! When I was planing my first trip to the Warhammer World in 2017, I wanted to carry a few miniatures with me in a cool way. I’ve seen how John carries them in old wooden boxes with old dices, dry lavender bags and an illustration fitted in the lid. 

    I wondered about making something similar, and I reused a few old ideas.

    I loved the illustrations of the characters from the rule books that were fitted in gothic arches. I first wanted to draw banners for the board like that myself, and though I could instead fit “real” characters into “real” arches. I’ve been making weird assemblage sculptures for a while, of sad rusty robot characters stuck in walls, and tried to do the same but in 28mm.

    From this comes my obsession with servitors stuck in a gothic walls!

    I used the same idea in the first boxes, like instead adding a drawing I to the box, why not built an architecture inside it directly?

    It evolved with the next one, and I put the two ideas together: a servitor stuck in a wall in a box. And it has been evolving, since, until I made a board for Mordheim fitted in a small carry case. I now feel that a full on diorama in a box might be the other logical end to the project aside from the folding table idea.

    With the Mordheim box, I was able to play with multiple layers by folding and unfolding parts, and really enjoyed my time on it, even if it took me a long time!

    I now have dozens of empty boxes at home that I can’t wait to build into weird scenes!

I’m very slowly making tutorials for them; the first very general one is on my website (You can find it here).


The Mordheim Grillet Box



How did you get into traditional drawing and painting?

 

I went to a traditional art school, which was a the time maybe a bit reactionary to digital drawing? It felt also just easier to just grab a pencil and a piece of paper and start drawing, instead of having a piece of hardware, a software, and learn how to use them to start drawing! But before that I was just drawing as a kid, and never really stopped. I remember drawing undead at school because I could not bring my miniatures in class! It felt like I was doing something - studying was very much not my thing! I also had a complicated time during my teenage years and high school, and I spent a lot of my time in class drawing to put my raw feelings on paper. It had a kind of therapeutic effect, I guess.


Who are some of your biggest artistic inspirations?


    I’m super inspired by music, and a lot of different type of it! It really helps me focus and get in a specific atmosphere! Listening to dark ambiance is great to immerse one's self into a grim, creative mood, although I've tended to go to less oppressive music lately.

    Visually, the obvious ones are Mr Blanche, of course, and all the GW illustrators, Beszinski, Bosh, Giger! I also love Schiele, Magritte, Eischer. Mostly artists of which we had the art books when I was a kid and spent a lot of time looking at! More contemporary ones include Elly Smallwood, Dave McKean, Joanna Folivéli, Axelle Lenoir.. so many good artists out there!

    I love movies and shows of all kind, either visually pleasing or mind bending ones. Obvious ones being the Alien movies, Blade Runner, The Lord of the Rings, Mad Max and such. I love David Lynch, David Fincher, Jean-Pierre Jeunet.. I should make a list at some point..

    I’m a big lover of video games, and even if I’m not a good gamer, I’m an enthusiast one! Zelda and Pokémon had a big impact on me growing up, and later I spent a lot of time on World of Warcraft and Diablo. More recently, the From Soft games have been my biggest fascination, as well as others like Life is Strange, Nier Automata and Hollow Knight.

    Because I love video games, I also love the art books released with them, and seeing the work the concept artists made for them. Seeing the process from an idea to a finish result fascinates me, and I feel really privileged that I had a glimpse of this process in the Citadel studio!



What other passions and hobbies do you have outside of wargaming and art? To what extent do these influence your work?

 

    I play guitar and a little bit of piano, and try to assemble noises into tracks sometimes, with varying results.

    I already said that I love video games, and lately I’ve grown fond of cooking cakes or biscuits, and growing plants on the side of my window.

    I don’t read as much as I used to, I feel that social media wrecked my ability to focus long enough, but I usually enjoy reading science fiction, thrillers or essays on social topics.

    A book on procrastination helped me figure a few things about how I work!


What are your favourite works you’ve made so far, and what would you like to explore next in these mediums?


I’m still proud of the two "box boards" I’ve build for the moment, and I really hope I can explore this more! I have two big travel cases that are waiting for the good time to be chopped up and repurposed!

    Music is always a bitter sweet thing for me, because I love making it but rarely enjoy the result. I’d love to learn more about mixing to help get out of the impression that I make audio puddles of mud.. and I’d love to dive into modular synths too, but it seems costly!

    I’ve also been trying to learn how to code video games, but I don’t really enjoy the process as much as I do the result!

"Resting Knight" by Nicky Grillet

Are there any messages you’d like people to take away from your work?


A thing I like about industrial music is the idea that you don’t need an instrument nor do you need to know music to actually make music. And I think this is a great advice for anything!

    I try to keep this in mind when I do my things, and it’s a reason why I enjoy making things from scratch as often as possible, or to use trash or things we would not consider useful at first sight.

    As much as I love this hobby, it’s not always an environmentally friendly one, so I try to ease my conscience with this kind of DIY spirit, between two plastic sprues!..



Thanks for reading! Check out Nicky's website here! And find her on Instagram @nickygrillet


"Quiet" by Nicky Grillet





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