UK Golden Demon 2022 – An Interview with Gonders on his Golden Demon Debut

October’s Golden Demon held in the UK was special for two reasons: it was the first held in the country for a few years due to the pandemic and marked the 35th anniversary of the competition. 

Soggy and Bair were on the ground and are here with a series of articles and interviews showing different aspects and perspectives of the event. For a bit of history or context, click here.


GH: To start things off, could I get you to introduce yourself and tell us what’s brought you to Golden Demon this weekend?

Gonders: Sure. I’m known as @Gonders on Twitter – Glen is my real name.

I’ve been in the hobby since ’93,  I never had the traditional break – You know when people have that break for university and girls and all the rest of it? I didn’t have that. I just carried on.

In 2020, I said that was the year I was going to Golden Demon. Hyped myself right up for it. I was like, “Right, this is the year.” Do a really cool thing, go to Golden Demon. Pandemic.

While I’m not utterly, utterly focused on trying to win a Golden Demon – I’m not 150 hours a miniature kind of person, it’s been nice to try and push it, and I’ve learned a lot.

Because competition painting, as I’ve learned, is very different to just blasting out Iron Warriors with give it a wash and a dry brush. It’s a very different mindset. That’s the thing that threw me out. It’s not only the technical side of it, some of that I can do, it’s the mindset. It’s going, “Right, I need that to be perfect.”

Legio Infernus Warhound. Credit – @gonders (Twitter)

I got a bit of feedback on one of my entries from one of the ‘Eavy Metal guys – he was very, very nice about it, but he was like, “Strip that and start again, and this is what you need to do.”

GH:  How are you feeling? What’s it like arriving with your completed piece, seeing it there with everyone else’s in the cabinet?

Gonders: It’s a really interesting experience. I’ve been to a lot of Games Days and now you’re sort on the other side of the cabinet. It’s not so much nerve wracking for me because I was never going to be up there [on the podium]. I can understand that people get very nervy – At one point I was a tournament player, I played a lot of Warmachine Hordes, and I understand the nerves associated with this hobby. If you’re at a high stakes tournament, then you get nervous about stuff, and it becomes important, so I get painters that do that. But for me, that’s not the case today or this weekend because I know that I’m not on a competitive level, which is fine.

We sort of have results now, I’ve got three pins out of my four entries, which I’m over the moon with. There’s no other way of putting it, really. Brilliant.

GH: What motivated you to take the next step up and come to Golden Demon first time?

Gonders: I think part of it was that when the pandemic hit, painting changed for me. That’s a very big statement, isn’t it? *chuckles* But painting changed for me, because all of a sudden you weren’t painting to get those models on the table anymore and I’m one of those people who can turn armies out.

People go, “I’m never going to be an ork player, never going to be an imperial guard player because you need for 400 men.” I’m like, “I’ll paint 400 men. That’s fine.” I’ve painted a batch of 50 odd models before. I can blast through it if I need to.

But the pandemic hit, and suddenly nobody’s playing games. It was the moment that we’d all been training for, right? We were locking ourselves in our houses and just sit there with paint brushes, so it changed.

But all of a sudden you’re not doing it for gaming anymore, so then it started to turn into, “Now I’m doing it to learn,” and I started picking up stuff that was very non-gamey as well, like started to do bust painting and larger scale painting, and some of it was, especially at the start of the pandemic, it was like, “Ooh, I can clear a bit of backlog and get some armies ready for in three months time when this whole thing is over….”

The more it went on, the more it’s like, “Okay, now I’m not crashing armies out. Now painting is going to twist into a display thing for me, a learning process.” So, I guess that the combination of two years of doing that, having hyped myself up for it anyway, and then when this one hit, I was like, “Well, now’s the time to go do it.”

GH: That’s true, it happened for a lot of us. Again, I apologize for the stereotypical question, when did you really get into the hobby?

Gonders: The hobby as a whole, like I mentioned, circa ’93 for me. I was in primary school – one of my friends had been introduced to it by his cousin. He was in primary school with a DIY version of Bloodbowl. It was a piece of paper with a grid on it and some models, and there’s a bunch of people crowded around. I can remember the day, there’s a bunch of people crowded around it. I was like, “Ooh, got to see what this is.”

I think I’d been reading the Redwall books, Brian Jacques at the time. That’s a classic, isn’t it? My first army was Skaven. Whoever says that? Everyone’s like, “No, no Ultramarines, mate.” No, no, Skaven for me. But I’ve almost not looked back. It’s just a part of who I am now, this hobby.

Khornate Knight. Credit – @gonders (Twitter)

GH: Would you say that painting’s always been the focus of your hobby, or has it more been gaming? Has that changed over time?

Gonders: You could plot a graph and it would go up and down. I’ve been a competitive tournament player, I’ve been a kid who doesn’t know what they’re doing and just painting models for the fun of it. Now apparently I’ve started competitive painting, but that is so recent.

Since I’ve grown up and settled down, had a wife and a child and a real job, painting for me is you get home, put the child to sleep at seven o’clock, and then I can have two or three hours of not not scrolling through my phone and just concentrating on that thing and just going headphones on, put some music on, put an audio book on, whatever it be, and it’s your relaxation. It does not stress me out.

Some people get really stressed about painting, like, “I’ve got to get this right, got to get this right.” It does not stress me out at all. It’s my zone. It’s just going in and do it. No stress, no worries, just do it. I don’t panic if I get anything wrong, because generally you can just scrub it out and start again. That’s the worst that can happen, isn’t it? That’s the way I look at it.

GH: Could you talk us through your entries that you’ve got this weekend?

Gonders: I brought four. When they announced Golden Demon off the back of Chicago, I was like, “Right, I will try a competitive piece and see how I get on,” because obviously the big thing that everyone talks about is prep. You can’t have a mould line on it. It’s got to be done. It’s a grind and it’s horrible because everybody hates that bit. I had good think for a while, I wondered what to do for my first competitive piece, and I settled on Commander Shadowsun.

Comander Shadowsun. Credit – @gonders (Twitter)

She’s not springing off the imperial aquila that she normally is. I’ve sculpted some rocks around the bottom of it, put it on a bit of a backdrop. The idea was that Tau are a bit of a new… well, they’re not so much now, they were when they came out, a bit of a new hope in the galaxy, in the lore. They were a bit of a new dawn and that’s what I went for with the backdrop. I went for very deserty, very bright blue, sky blue, almost she’s leading a dawn assault style, jumping over some rocks, probably an ambush, not too much story in there, but it was an experiment to see if I could do competitive painting. That’s the only one that didn’t place. Oh, not place, that didn’t get a pin. So, there’s a lesson learned in that. That was the first one.

Last Stand. Credit – @gonders (Twitter)

The second one was another, “I’m going to throw this in the cabinet and see how I’ve got on,” was a diorama that I did for #MarchforMacragge on Twitter. When I did that, I didn’t want to do just go, “Well, there’s some Ultramarines” so I made a diorama. It’s five heavy intercessors and a primaris standard bearer hosting a flag against a bunch of hermagaunts. My aim for that was a peak 40K story – You have a banner, it’s the focus at the back, and it’s the tallest thing. It’s on the hill because it’s a classic last stand. There’s some Space Marines with bolters blowing stuff up, and there’s a swarm of Nids, as many Nids as I can paint before I get annoyed with painting Nids – It was 24.

That wasn’t even meant to be a competitive piece, but I took it with me to see what happens, and I got a pin. Can’t argue with that!

Legio Infernus Warhound. Credit – @gonders (Twitter)

So, those were the first see how they get on, and then the other two were actual, “Now I have a ticket. I need to do something good, as good as I can.” the first one was a Legio Infernus Warhound that I mentioned with freehand that I should have stripped and start again. I chose Infernus because I’m all right at freehand. It’s something I enjoy doing.

I thought I’m going to have to have something with a bit of free hand on it. I’ll be honest with you, I wasn’t confident enough to paint a competition fleshy face, so I was like, “Right, let’s look at something I know and love,” because you’ve got to know and love it – whatever it is.

I love Titans, one of the best bits of 40K lore for me. I was originally going to do a Reaver, then I had a different idea that involved two Reaver Titans, which I’ll get to in a minute. Instead I went with the Warhound because it’s a bit smaller and because I wanted to channel a bit of peak 40K with the hot rod flame design.

The rumour is that they like it when you stick to their lore, so it had to be a Legio that was canon. I gave it as much as I could. I went for some classic old school modelling as well. The sticks that make the trees on its base were from my garden. They weren’t a bought product. So, I thought that would be cool. Also, the setting of that, almost every Titan you see is either crushing a building, standing on a building, standing on something from Epic, or in a desert. Those are your options. So, I was like, “Right, let’s take Titanicus out of those settings, because that’s a point of interest.”

Originally, my plan was to do a much denser forest behind it and then have half it burned down because it has an inferno canon, so it’s bursting out the trees, setting fire to stuff. Started doing that. Too hard, couldn’t do it, but I was quite happy with it. You can tell I was serious about it because I banged it on a plinth. The other ones weren’t on the proper plinth.

Then the other one came about because I wanted to do a duel that was two Reaver Titans. One of the coolest things in Titanicus for me is the cinematic behind the rule Concussive. You can punch a Titan into a building in Titanicus and there are rules to tell you what happens to that building, what happens to that Titan, and why it’s a bad day for that guy!

I wanted to capture that in a duel, like full on a haymaker into the side of a building, and shards of glass flying everywhere. I’ve got it in my head that I was going to make this work. If you ever try to make a Reaver Titan punch something with a good swing on a haymaker, the heads jut out a long way and their fists don’t go far -I just couldn’t get the swing on it. I ruined two Reaver Titan kits trying to do this.

“All right, okay. I’ve got rethink this thing. I’ll stick with small things.” I was listening to Cult of Paint did some live streams leading up to Demon, and one of them was interviewing the king of duels – Mark Lifton.

One of the Cult of Paint guys said, “We should get some duels in the other scales” I was like, “Ooh, I’m thinking about doing that anyway,” because I was thinking about the Reaver thing, and then he said “It would be cool to have some Aeronautica planes duelling.” Yes. Yes it would. I started thinking through Aeronautica. Never played Aeronautica in my life, planes were never really my thing, but I knew this idea had legs – then I remembered Sulphur River.

I don’t if you remember, there was a board game called Bommerz over the Sulphur River. The idea was that it was a big old canyon, and you had the models from Epic as they chased each through the canyon in a dog fight. There was a river at the bottom of the canyon, Sulphur River. That’s as much as I knew about it. Never played it!

But I was like, that is a concept that will, A, have nostalgia, because everybody likes nostalgia. B, you could make that interesting because planes duelling, dog fighting, I’ve never seen in a Golden Demon or in any competition or online, really. I was googling Aeronautica duels and there was nothing. I was on to something…

Sulphur River. Credit – @gonders (Twitter)

So, that’s how it came about. The idea is that is a bit of MiG Alley as well, if you remember the game. If you look at it from one way, you can sort of see the arc of two planes chasing each other across, but then you turn around and look the other way and they’re both trying to avoid these rock formations that would clearly be a terrible day if they hit it.

The Thunderbolt pilot that’s doing the chasing is held up by streams of its own auto cannon fire, which is a nightmare. That was 0.4 millimetre brass rod. So, you know when people say drill your barrels? That was fun! I had to drill those out to the degree of it’s going to support a model as well, so it wasn’t just nicking it so it looks like it’s got a hole in it. It was drilling it deep enough to get a brass rod in that will hold it up.

I ordered this brass rod, then one of my mates said “I’ve used brass rod of that thick before. It’s really flexible.” And well, it went all over the place. It only works because the four of them put enough tension in it that it holds the plane up. Then the ork fighter one is a bit easier because you have that big black trailer of oily smoke coming out the back of it that you can just use. There’s a paper clip in just to support it. It’s just made out of foliage and a lot of super glue.

Mordaxis Warlord. Credit – @gonders (Twitter)

GH: You mentioned your freehand earlier on the Warhound, but what would you say is a particular skill or technique that you wanted to highlight throughout your entries?

Gonders: I think weirdly and this is not normally a thing I do,  was the technical side of the build – especially with the Aeronautica one, getting those planes supporting the right way to get that momentum to make them look like they were going quick and not just sitting on a runway. That was something I was trying to capture – I don’t know if I got it. If you look at from the right angle, the Imperial on the offensive looks like he’s just about to crash into a rock and he doesn’t know it.

On the technique side, I might have said the free hand was definitely a thing with the Infernus Warhound. To be honest, I saw Darren Latham’s Legion of the Damned , and he put up a nine step step-by-step, “This is how you did the flames,” and I  thought  “I can do that.” Started doing it and realised, “I can’t do that!” But that was sort of the inspiration, because not just the classic templated hot rod flames. I wanted a bit more glow behind it as well. Obviously I didn’t get to Latham’s level, as that would be ridiculous, but I got as far as I could on it.

GH: While you were working on your entries, how did you deal with hobby burnout?

Gonders: Hobby burnout isn’t really a thing I get is the honest answer to that. As I mentioned before, I can plow through armies and just do it. It takes a lot for me to go, “I am fed up with this.” I can’t remember the last time it happened. It’s almost as simple as that. I really just do have a passion for it. Also, I think one of the things that helps with that is that I have a nine to five job and I have a wife and kid, so I don’t often get 12 hours, eight hours, six hours to sit down and do it, so I don’t do long hobby sessions because I just don’t have the time.

I’m not a night owl as well. I’m in bed for half 10. You know these guys who are like, “Oh, yeah, I was up till 4:00 AM, then I have my breakfast and then I just carried on with my day.” I’d die. Doesn’t work for me. I don’t have long sessions, so that probably helps with the fact that I just don’t get burned out in that sense.

GH: That makes sense. While you were working on your entries, did you find yourself working on anything else, or were you focused on each entry start to finish?

Gonders: Well, I’m not one who jumps about. I will pick something up, finish it, pick the next model, finish it, pick the next model. It’s rare that I go… “I’ll do half of that, leave it over there, do half of that, leave it over there, do half of that.” I just don’t, because I know that I’ll never pick it up again.

One of the weirdest things about me, as people have told me, is that I barely have a pile of shame. I buy a model, paint it, next one. Buy a model, paint it. Sometimes its buy an army, paint it, next one. But my pile of shame at the moment is a Kratos assault tank, a Perturabo, and 10 Iron Warriors. That’s about it. People say pile of potential, I say waste of money. I’m sorry, I’m going to do it. I’m going to say it.

GH: Especially these days [in the UK], most definitely. While you were working on your entries, when did you know how to stop?

Gonders: Because one of them was an experiment, that was the real question on that one, as that was one where I thought that I’m going to try and almost hit slow down as much as I can – take as much time as I can. I think I got to a point with that, and probably why it didn’t do very well is because it is 80% green armour. I put a lot of time into that green armour, by the end of that I was starting to get a little bit wound up with it, because it was the same part of it, and it was probably about 40, 50 hours worth. At that point Golden Demon tickets hadn’t been released yet, so it might not have been for nothing! So that was as much effort as I was willing to put into that.

One thing that I don’t understand with competition painters is how they can go over the same thing over and over and over again without ruining it. This is probably why I’m never going to win anything seriously, but I do kind of go, “Right, let’s get that to a level,” and then that’s done. I.

With the Infernus War Hound, I could have done more with it. If I was going to put loads of effort in, I probably could have tried to do the more dense trees and a bit more fire and all that sort of stuff, but I guess… maybe I do sometimes burn out and I just don’t know it. *chuckles*

GH: That’s entirely possible. So, in terms of advice for others, so for newer painters, what would you say is your best or favourite painting shortcut or cheat, if they exist?

Gonders: Oh, that’s a good question. I guess one thing that… I’m going to twist this question a little bit.

One thing that I always see a lot of is people using air brushes and saying that it’s a fast way to do things, and I don’t necessarily agree with that – because some things you can look at it and it clearly looks airbrushed. A lot of people go, “I’ve airbrushed that. It’s just finished.” For me, an airbrush is about getting your light volumes and getting what people call pre-shades, under shades, all that sort of stuff. Getting those basics in quickly, maybe. It’s a tool, not a lifestyle. Don’t use it for everything. Don’t blast everything with airbrushing and just call it done.

But if you’re going to flip that onto full army painting, then cheat away. If you’ve got 400 guardsmen to go through, find a way of cheating it. If you’re smashing out a whole model with a wash or a dip, it’s not an issue at all, as long as you’re happy with it and you get it done. It’s cool.

Iron Warriors. Credit – @gonders (Twitter)

GH: Again, another stereotypical question, what technique or approach do you wish that you learned sooner when you first got into the hobby?

Gonders: I think one thing that I’ve learned quite recently, I learned this doing bigger scale stuff like bust painting, is properly glazing in shadows. I think the reason is because GW as a company don’t teach that in painting guides, they will say, “Use a base paint, use a wash, highlight,” which is cool, because then you’ve got some natural shadows in there. But with bust painting because washes just don’t work. The things are too big – you need to start with a mid tone rather than a base tone.

You’re looking for texture, and because the areas are big and smooth, you put a wash on that, it doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t work. So, when you paint a bust, you’re looking at actively putting shadows in other people’s chins and other people’s eyelids and stuff like that, and that’s where I learned to do it. That makes a big difference because it’s contrast. Actual light to dark contrast is something I wish I’d learned about a long time ago.

GH: For anyone considering entering Golden Demon for the first time, do you have any general words of advice now that you’ve been here?

Gonders: Pick a model that you absolutely love. That’s it. Pick a model that you love the lore, you love the sculpt, you love the paint scheme, you love something they said in the Black Library novel. Whatever it is, that model that you have the absolute passion for, pick that and give it berries on that one – because Shadowsun, I don’t know who Shadowsun is, and it shows because I didn’t get a pin out of it. Peak 40K diorama, I have passion for that. Warhound Titan, I have passion for that. Just choose something you absolutely love.

Ahriman. Credit – @gonders (Twitter)

GH: That’s really cool. Do you suffer from imposter syndrome, and is that something you had to overcome with your entry, and what would you say to other people considering entering?

Gonders: To sound a tad big headed, I do not suffer from imposter syndrome. *chuckles* I don’t know if it’s because I just haven’t stopped in this hobby for nearly 30 years. It might be, like I said, when I used to go to tournaments, I would get quite a few best army nominations, especially when I used play War Machine, because nobody used to paint that stuff, so it was only me. *chuckles*.

I guess that maybe it’s that I know when I paint something I’m happy with it. What I don’t connect with, and I’m not saying it’s wrong at all, but what I don’t understand is when people look at a model and go, “I’m just not happy with it.”

Most of the things I paint I go, “I’m happy with that,” and I think it’s about knowing what you want from a particular model. This sounds like it’s going to get a lot deeper than it is. But I’ve been battering through 30K Iron Warriors and it’s basically base tone wash, GW style. All right, there’s a bit more sponging involved than you would imagine, but I know that I’m not going to win any prizes for those, not Golden Demon prizes anyway. But I know what that army needs to be because I want to get it on the table and I want it to look smart. Each one I paint, I’m like, “That’s done its job. But paint job is correct for what I want.”

Now, if I was aiming for a Golden Demon, then I’d start suffering from imposter syndrome. I knew going into this weekend, that it wasn’t going to happen. I’m not that big headed to go, “Yeah, I can walk into the first one and win it.”

The three pins don’t give me imposter syndrome because it feels that people who win local level paint competitions could come to Golden Demon and get a pin out of it – that matches up with my experience to my way of thinking. Maybe that’s pig headed. I don’t know.

GH: It’s well deserved and a great first showing! Lastly, where is best for our readers to see more of your work and follow you online.

Gonders: Twitter is the way for me. That’s pretty much it.

GH: Awesome, thank you so much and all the best for for the rest of the weekend.

We’d like to thank Gonders for his time and sharing this with you all.