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.
We were sat down with Mamikon, 9x Golden Demon Winner, to talk about Golden Demon and the world of competitive painting.
GH: Thank you so much for speaking to us! To start things off – for people who aren’t familiar with the painting scene, Could I get you introduce yourself?
Mamikon: Hi all! My name is Mamikon, I’m a miniature painter. I’ve been painting miniatures for nearly 20 years and managed to win a few awards along the way. I now live in London but originally I am from the US.
GH: How are you feeling being here after such a long break? What’s it like to be back at Golden Demon?
Mamikon: Well, it’s always a wonderful feeling to come to a competition like this because I always tell this to everyone – We, as miniature painters and especially competition painters, usually paint for a year in our rooms alone. And then we have just the two most amazing days when we show our work. So it’s actually very nice this time that we have four days when we are able to showcase and display our pieces.
So I’m very happy that, again, we have this possibility. I’m very happy and lucky to be able to have a ticket because the number of tickets has been limited. But I still think that the organization part of this is still pretty good, the cabinets looking amazing, the staff is great. So very, very happy to be here, to see old friends, to make some new friendships and talk to you guys as well. So that’s great.
GH: What would you say motivates you to do Golden Demon and has that changed over time?
Mamikon: So my first connection to Golden Demon was in 2003 when I was a little kid and my older brother brought a White Dwarf that had this edition to it, The White Journal, with only Golden Demon winners from 2003. And I was just blown away and I thought, “This is the most amazing thing. I have to win one day.” And then I was terrible at painting 15 years after that – everyone was telling me exactly how bad I am. So I thought I will prove everyone wrong and try to win something.
So the first ones were just because, again, I had this connection to my childhood, and sometimes I gained out of spite to people who just write me off and then think I’m not good enough. Well, that was in the past. So that has changed a lot.
Now I paint because…. well, many people say that they really enjoy painting – I don’t like painting. I like the final effect. I like to have a finished piece, at least the detail to my best standard. So for me, it’s just a massive pleasure to be able to share my pieces with everyone, to see everyone else’s work. I’m just ecstatic to be here.
GH: When would you say that competitive painting really got on your radar?
Mamikon: Well, my first competition was just a local store, tiny competition, and I won Golden Young Bloods kind of thing for the youngsters – but the entry was terrible, of course. I used to live in Poland back then because my family moved around a lot, – I’m originally from the US. But I lived in Poland, and there was a Golden Demon in 2008 in Poland. I went, got a silver in Young Bloods. I was over the moon. I thought I’m the best painter now. I wasn’t.
On the serious senior level, I started to go around 2014 and then won my first one in 2018. So it’s been a long wait.
GH: It’s worth the journey,! Would you say that painting was always a focus of your hobby or is that something that you grew into over time?
Mamikon: That was definitely something I enjoyed most because I was terrible at playing. I had armies. I’ve painted them and everything, but I always rolled ones when I had to roll sixes. I always rolled sixes when I had to roll ones!
So I thought, okay, I’ll try to stick to this painting thing. So yeah, the painting part always was the bigger thing for me.
GH: I get that. As a former Golden Demon winner, what was it like getting the recognition of your first trophy?
Mamikon: When I was a kid, of course it was just incredible. But when you’re winning at a more senior level, you start to appreciate it even more. It was a dream come true to be honest, because, when you’re thinking about something for 15 years almost nonstop – when I was a kid, I knew every Golden Demon winner. I knew every piece. I knew every stat, how many golden demons per each person.
And to be able to become a part of this history was just wonderful. I would even say life changing at some point because I started to like my painting a lot more. And when you spend so much time, and I spend a ton of time on my hobby to be recognized, is also very satisfying.
GH: After attaining, hitting that peak, how do you push it further for the next time? How do you prepare for the next competition?
Mamikon: Well, to be honest, the first senior Golden Demon was for me – my worst entry on that day, I would feel, because I only spent two days on 10 miniatures. So they were not great, but I was lucky to get the gold. So I thought, no, I have to have some pieces that won but are a lot better because if I say, “Oh, I won a Golden Demon,” and someone asked me to show it to them, I would be embarrassed to say that this is my only winning piece.
So I thought I have to have something better, win, to be able to brag about it. *chuckles* That’s kind of a joke, but I just wanted to reach the next level, reach the next level again and again because there’s always someone better. You can look up to just the top heavy hitters like David Soper, like Albert Moretó Font, who have won Slayer Swords at the Golden Demon. And at the end of the day, I think for every participant at Golden Demon who has been in the hobby for a long time, you want to get the Sword at some point. And sometimes I think about that and I know there’s still a long way to go, but one day I have to raise that Sword.
GH: I’m sure you will! So are there any armies or systems that you still like to play or is it all about the painting? You mentioned earlier that you don’t have the biggest love of it at times and more the finished product.
Mamikon: No, I mean I love the gaming part, and I think it’s crucial to this hobby. And I have an army almost entirely painted, army of Space Wolves, but I just don’t find the time for that because at this moment in time, as I would rather spend time on another entry than to go play because I know I will be terrible at playing again. So I want to make sure I have the maximum amount of amazing entries and maybe after this Demon I’ll play a game, but I haven’t played one in eight years so it’s about time *chuckles*
GH: Speaking of additional entries, could you talk us through your entries, what you’ve got for this weekend?
Mamikon: It will not be easy because I have 11! But I’ll quickly go through them.
For Warhammer 40K single, I have Drazhar – probably my best entry quality wise because I’ve spent like 200 plus hours on it. And before this competition, I only entered it once to Golden Demon in the US – I got a commended card, which is probably a fourth kind of place. So I was pretty close to the podium and I thought I have to improve something. So I sought advice from people and just improved a few parts, and now I’m much more happy with it and more confident about it.
And then I have a squad of Black Templars with a nice backdrop to look like the John Blanche legendary Black Templar artwork.
I also have a Black Templar Xiphon Interceptor in vehicle.
In AoS single I have a Barbarian, it’s a pretty cool entry with some storytelling – it has been inspired by Max Faleij’s winning entry from 2016. I have a Saruman, which I’m very happy with – even though that there’s many amazing entries in the category, I think it still holds up pretty well.
I’ve also built a diorama with two Space Wolf bikers, and it’s based on an old Space Wolves artwork from the Space Wolf products. And I’m very happy with it. That was the first time I’ve created a backdrop on a piece. So I’ve free handed some Northern Lights fitting for Fenris probably.
And probably my two favorite pieces are my AoS unit, which is a squad of Deadwalker Zombies with a backdrop with the moon and some swamp situation happening.
And also a custom bust of Darkoath Chieftain in Open, which has been sculpted for me by my friend Timur Goryuk. I think because I really enjoy the ‘Eavy Metal style, and I paint mostly in that clean box art stylistic, I get a lot of comments saying, “This is great, but you probably can’t do anything else.” So sometimes I want to silence the haters and create something completely different with just this non-metallic all around with some shiny bits that wouldn’t be usually displayed on ‘Eavy Metal kind of paint jobs. So very happy about that one and hoping it would grab a trophy of some sort sooner or later.
GH: So I know you’ve got many entries, but speaking as your strength as a painter, what are you trying to highlight? What do you focus on with your entries?
Mamikon: I really love the feeling when I cannot spot a single mistake on my miniature. That’s the best feeling because this is, I think, how Golden Demon has been judged for ages. They look for mistakes, and when you make sure you have a good clean paint job, it’s fitting well with the IP and also it doesn’t have any mistakes, you have a pretty good chance at winning. And I became this obsessive perfectionist at painting. So when I see something, so for example, when I see other pieces by other artists, when I find a hardcore mistake, some glue or a mold line or something like that, even if it’s an amazing paint job, I’m like, “Ugh, this is awful,” for me. Because I think when you spend 50 or 100 hours on something, just use some Milliput or green stuff to cover the gap or whatever. So I think being a clean painter is my strongest trait.
GH: That’s cool. So with each of your entries, how long does it normally take you to come up with the concepts? Is it something that you’ve always generally had in mind or…
Mamikon: Yes, I do. I probably usually have two, three ideas for every single category, and I just don’t have the time to bring them all to life. So it was very nice back in 2015, ’16, ’17, when we had so many Golden Demons, you could bring all of them to life and you would have competitions all the time. And now I have to choose the best idea and only bring this entry. So you can only bring one entry per category. But to be honest, I really like duel and diorama category – I have 10 diorama ideas, which I want to bring to life. So hopefully next year there will be something interesting for me.
GH: That’s awesome and I look forward to seeing them. When you’re working on your entries, how do you deal with hobby burnout?
Mamikon: I just push through usually because I remember distinctly the awful feeling when you go to a Golden Demon and you think, “Oh, I could have painted easily an entry for this category and I probably would’ve won. And I have nothing because I’m a lazy bastard.” *chuckles* So I think I always have this in mind, and I think I only have two days of this massive pleasure of being at a competition. And I’m just laying around, no, I’ll just go paint. That’s why I have 11 entries. So yeah, I just slap myself in the face when I think of being lazy. And I remember that the competitions are very rare, so I have to make the most of it.
GH: That’s some solid determination! Do you tend to work on anything else or because you’ve got so many… Are your entries being worked on in parallel?
Mamikon: Usually when I start a project, I have to finish it, so I never put it down and start something else. And if I do, rarely do that, I will never go back and finish it because I tend to think that I progress a lot in my painting all the time. So if I go back to something that I’ve started painting two years ago, the overall level will be a lot lower. So I would have to repaint the whole thing. That doesn’t really make sense. So I like to start and finish the same piece that I’m working on.
GH: That makes sense. How do you deal with mistakes and mishaps, like resin pours or what have you?
Mamikon: I had this awful situation with my Deadwalker Zombies entry for AoS unit where everything was perfect. I thought the sides of the resin were sealed well, and then when I finished the entry, I noticed that there was a big leakage on both of the sides of the base.
So I was devastated because I thought, “Okay, I have to throw this away because two of the zombies, two out of five of the zombies are gone because they’re underneath some of the resin.” And then I just again, power through it. I just removed all of the spillage. I sanded it like 10 times, sand, paint, sand, paint, sand, paint till it’s absolutely perfect. But that was a four hour marathon of horror, finished with a good result!
Well, I would say that they look great. I know it’s very not modest, but I’m always very harsh on my pieces. And with this one, especially considering the amount of time I’m spent on it, I think it’s pretty good. So yeah, I was very happy to fix it.
But to answer your question quickly, I would say I never give up.
I just had to fix it and I found a way.
GH: Damn. When you’re working on your entries, how do you know when to stop?
Mamikon: When I know that there’s nothing I can improve – because again, we only have one or two competitions a year. I love this competition. I love Golden Demon more than many things in life, not maybe many people, but many things in life for sure.
And then to think that I haven’t improved something, because again, I’m a lazy bastard, would be awful. And I would spot it when I see it in the cabinets. I would try to do something to myself. So I cannot live with an entry or a piece that isn’t perfect in my head. So if it’s just something for tabletop, I can live with it being okay. But if it’s something for a competition, I have to make sure it’s the best I can do.
GH: That’s awesome. In terms of advice for others, what’s your biggest painting shortcut or cheat and do they exist?
Mamikon: They definitely do exist. I only paint with shortcuts. I’m an extremely lazy person, and I think it’s hard to tell because I spend hundreds and thousands of hours on my entries – but I’m extremely lazy. So I find the shortest way to do everything.
For example, if I were to have to do a pour of resin, which isn’t UV resin, I would kill myself because I would have to wait 24 hours at least for it to be dry. So I use UV resin that dries in seconds.
I would say my biggest kind of piece of advice, the best thing you can do is be honest with yourself, never lie to yourself about painting.
When you’re going to a competition. You have to be honest with yourself because if you like yourself and say, “Oh, I don’t see any mistakes,” but actually there is something you’ve seen, you only bring harm on yourself because you won’t win probably if you have a mistake.
And technique wise, I would say if you can master glazing and edge highlights, I would say you have a very good basic skill set. That is easily expandable to different things. Stippling is also something I really enjoy lately, and I’ve done plenty of that on almost all of my entries. So I would say stippling is something that is promoted as something extremely complicated, but it actually isn’t in my opinion. So I would encourage people to try it.
GH: Speaking of techniques, is there any technique that you feel that newer competitors to Golden Demon might over fixate on when they’re wanting to enter their first Golden Demon?
Mamikon: I think people tend to gravitate to some myths that are out there. And I would say just don’t believe what you hear, believe what you see, and just look at the results and you will see that every style wins.
At every Golden Demon you can see some Eavy Metal paint jobs. You also see some expressive stuff that is as far as possible from Eavy Metal. So I would say people think that you have to paint in a certain style, and it’s not true. Just paint something well.
Don’t have any mistakes and paint as Max Faleij used to say, meticulously. It will show and you can win.
GH: Do you have any further words of advice for anyone considering their first attempt at Golden Demon or competitive painting?
Mamikon: Yes, I would say find the courage and enter, and then after you don’t win, go to the judges and ask what to improve and then improve it, come next time. And if you do it enough times, you will win because they give the most amazing advice.
It’s like you have a life-hack. You can go to the person that is judging, ask exactly what they need, do it, and you have a very good chance of winning. You are not guaranteed because there might be someone that spent three years on an entry and is a five time Slayer Sword winner, AKA David Soper. But just find the courage and don’t get discouraged.
GH: Related to do that – do you still suffer from imposter syndrome? And what words of advice would you give to people? Sorry, screwed that up. Do you still suffer from imposter syndrome? And what words of advice would you give to new entries, how to overcome their own?
Mamikon: Again, this is pretty much what I said before. You can just make sure you have the best possible piece. Don’t finish a piece until it’s perfect, until you can spot nothing bad about it. There might be something bad about it that you didn’t see, and the judges will tell you and then you can improve it. It’s nothing bad. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s nothing that you should be worried about. Just make sure that you think it’s perfect.
Try to level up, listen to the advice that other more experienced people give you, and pick a miniature that you enjoy because you will have to spend a ton of time on it.
Just pick something you feel, “Oh, I want to paint this,” and then the results will come.
GH: That’s great advice. Where’s the best place for us to find your pieces and follow you more online?
GH: Awesome, thank you so much and all the best for for the rest of the weekend.
We’d like to thank Mamikon for his time and sharing this with you all.