Hi, Dave here again. This post’s a bit different. It’s kind of a love letter to the community (hey, it is Valentine’s Day), and while I know this blog doesn’t reach too many folks, I hope it resonates for some of you.
So thanks to a new job and a longer commute, I’ve had some time to think about this hobby of ours and why I’ve felt such a strong sense of connection with it and with the community. I wanted to try and communicate a bit of what makes me tick creatively, and how I’ve found my voice and direction in recent months. The more I though about it the more I realized how far back I was influenced; so if you’ll indulge me, we’ll start around 1990.
I first got into 40K via that incredible Rogue Trader book at the dawn of the 1990s, with all the 80s hangover madness that infused it. I remember being most inspired by stuff that was only roughly defined; the warp, the Eldar (oh boy did I love me some Eldar), psykers and mutants. I didn’t care much for the UK-centric in-jokes, the odd tonal inconsistencies (I’m looking at you, Space Orks) but you could not show me enough gothic-renaissance-dark-age-inspired gloom. In particular everything Ian Miller created would go straight into my brain and lodge there all jagged-pen-and-ink.
Even if sometimes an artist’s execution was weird (3/4 views oddly orthographic, character proportions all over the place), the sense of mood, tone and place oozed from every piece and I drank it up.
It all stuck with me over the next 25 years. I went and learned to draw, and sculpt, and got a job doing that professionally, and somewhere down the line I became an art director, all the time absorbing influences left and right. I think for a while I was a bit ashamed of the hobby. My tastes changed, and broadened, and the room in my head for gothic-punk-neoclassical science fantasy grew smaller. I guess that just meant that it was under greater and greater pressure, because in late 2015 when Eric suggested I maybe just try painting one mini and see how I felt about it, that pressurized kernel of 40K saw an exit and exploded out of my brain.
Now I’ve never really played the various games that drive the miniatures industry. The draw for me is the rich lore and the myriad interpretations of that by artists, writers, hobbyists and designers that have contributed to 40K, WFB, AOS, Warmahordes, et al. The last year has been as much, for me, about finding out where the hobby has grown, watching GW discover (again) the power of their community and how to work with the fans to grow their brand, and staring wide-eyed at all the incredible models that have been released.
But by far the most exciting and inspiring aspect for me has been that of the hobbyists themselves,the users behind the user-created-content, those folks that love the setting and want to carve out their own little piece of it. Places like The Ammobunker, Iron Sleet, Ex Profundis have drawn me in and I’ve found I’m back in love with those dark places of the 41st Millennium where merchants, witches, mutants and aliens all mix, where practically anything you can imagine can fit, far from the eyes of the Emperor. And there are a lot of people who feel the same way as me.
Everyone of us uses our influences, style, abilities, taste (I’ll call this ‘voice’) to make their version of the existing lore just that little bit different. Some voices are louder, and define whole franchises, or inspire thousands to play and create; some voices only whisper but draw people in nonetheless, they kick off that one idea that you didn’t see coming. Volume doesn’t matter, as long as what’s being sung is earnest.
And for me, that’s the draw. The community is generous, funny, snarky, combative, but above all, earnest. Taking tiny plastic, resin and metal pieces and weaving a narrative around them, imbuing them with significance far greater than their size, giving them names, and purpose both crunchy and fluffy is an earnest endeavor. It’s pretty magical too, hearing all those voices every day.
And they speak to me directly; my career has always involved world-building, visual storytelling, creating fictional characters and places. This hobby allows me to do all of those things, and thanks to the scale of it, in a pretty manageable way (I do have to work for a living after all!).
So to everyone who I’ve met so far in my hobby journey: Thanks. You’re a constant source of inspiration and creativity.
To everyone I haven’t met yet: Hi. Let’s make some stuff.