UK Golden Demon 2022 – Interview with GD Veteran Pete Allison

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.

Pete Allison @runebrush

GH: First of all, could I get you to introduce yourself for anyone who’s not familiar with competitive painting and tell us what brings you to Golden Demon this weekend?

Pete: I’m Pete, aka @runebrush, on all the social media gubbins. I’ve been painting miniatures for over 30 years now in one form or another.

Golden Demon is one of those things that’s a really good opportunity to push yourself. It’s nice to be able to put your model alongside other people’s models, who are of varying skill levels, from amazing to about your own level and whatnot, and just compare, and just see how things go.

GH: How are you feeling? What’s it like being back at Golden Demon after the break?

Pete: I’m just going to say very strange. It’s weird. This is the first time I’ve been back to Warhammer World since the New Year Open Day in 2020. So it’s been quite a long gap. But you feel like you’ve come home, don’t you? Wherever you live in the country, or the world, come to Warhammer World, and you get to ask, “Are my fellow geeks with me?”

GH: It’s your people!

Pete: That’s the one. So, it’s been good, very good. The competition is brutally tough this year. I think there must have been between 700 and 900 entries put in, and they’ve been phenomenally good quality.

Looking through the cabinets, you’re going along, and going “I think that one might be it. Oh, yeah, that could be a contender.” And then a couple of cabinets along, you see another model, and you go, “Oh, no, actually, I think that could be the contender.” So, like I said, it’s good. It’s nice to be back.

The Red Gobbo. Credit – Pete Allison @runebrush

GH: What motivates or what has motivated you to enter Golden Demon? And has that changed over time?

Pete: Yes, I think every time you set your own little personal goals. I can remember the my first entry which, I look back now and it was awful. No, it wasn’t awful. That’s doing myself a disservice. It wasn’t good enough to make anything. And you put it in and you think, “Oh, I might get a sticker.” -because, at that point, you didn’t get pin badges.

And I think, as the years have gone on, you do something and you look and work out what you can do a bit better. What can I improve? What can I see? At one point, the cabinet lights were yellow. So you go, “Well, actually, I need to make sure that my model looks half decent if I shine a yellow torch on it.” It’s those little silly little things, that you can go, “Well, that’s something I can achieve myself.”

And I think every time it’s increased. I won a Demon in 2018. For 2019, I put a couple of entries in, but nothing was serious. And I kind of was like, “I do want another… I want to prove that my win wasn’t a fluke.” And then this one came along, and I thought, “Oh, this is a good opportunity,” not realizing that basically it was going to be such an unbelievably tough contest. Once you realize that, and you go, “Okay, I’ll be happy with a pin. If I can come up with a pin badge, I’m more than happy.”

So that’s been the motivation – can I do as well as I have in the past, perhaps a little bit better? Have I still got this? Have I? So I still haven’t worked out whether I have or not, but who knows?

GH: I apologize for the stereotypical question. When did you first get into the hobby? And at what point did competitive painting really get on your radar?

Pete: Many years ago, I must have been probably seven or eight – an aunt took me and my brother to Devon for a holiday in a little holiday home. And the people next door, I think they must have took pity on us- being with my aunt, bless her.

And they took us into their little house, and they did Warhammer. They had orcs and goblins. We got given a few lead models, some shields and some White Dwarf magazines. And then I had probably had a couple of years where I wasn’t really into it. At seven years old, you probably aren’t. And I got to 9, 10 and I found Lord of the Rings and Tolkien and Hobbit and and whatnot, and I found those White Dwarves. And I’m like, “Oh, this is quite good.”

And, to be honest, I’ve been in the hobby probably ever since. I’ve not been one of those people who’s had a gap. From the hobby perspective, I was always more painting focused, because I didn’t know many people who played. But I didn’t really properly get into what I would term tournament type painting until probably about five or six years ago. Which is when I went, “Actually, I’m a grown up now. I can actually get into Golden Demon under my own steam, or whatever with friends, etc. I can put a model in without fear of it being broken, damaged, crushed, etc.”

Of course, it ties in with the increase in stuff on YouTube. So you suddenly go, “How do you do X? Well, I can find that out.” I don’t have to look in my ‘Eavy Metal book, where it’s draw an owl, and you’ve got ta-da! So I think very much that was when I properly looked at doing painting from a more serious perspective. But I do try and temper it with a bit of gaming and things like that. I enjoy the entire hobby.

Pete Allison’s Golden Demon winning Porphyrion @runebrush

GH: As a former Golden Demon winner, what was it like getting the recognition of your first win?

Pete: Absolutely bizarre, really strange. Because, like I said, this was 2018 and I’d put my Porphyrion in. So it was a big model – It was always a gaming piece. I’d always painted it to play with. And it was only a friend of mine who kind of went, “Pete, you should be entering that into Golden Demon.” But I managed to toe punt half of it across the floor, and chip it, and all sorts of stuff at one point. And he went “Pete, sort it out and put it in.”

So I entered it – it was the first year they did commended cards. And we went along on the Sunday to look at the cabinets and went “what the hell is a commended card?” I’ve never heard of it. Well, it means you’ve potentially got a shot at winning a demon. So it’s ludicrous, what, your name comes over the channel. And it’s literally like that scene in Blackadder where you’ve got Baldrick with the horse’s head. It’s kind of, “Am I dreaming? What’s going on here? This is bizarre.”

And they then started reading through people’s names, and it went by as such and such. And I kind of went, “Well, I only entered one model. And we’re in the vehicle category. And they’ve just read the silver.” And I picked up the gold. And it was just bizarre. I think you go through all the waves of imposter syndrome, “Oh no, was I lucky” and whatnot.

It’s been phenomenal, to be honest. It’s really strange when people, “Oh, yeah, I recognize that model.” Really? Okay. Because you live down in Wiltshire, you’re in in a little bubble, disconnected from everything almost. But, yeah, it’s really strange to have that, people recognizing your model, and what you post on Instagram, and on Twitter, and things like that. So I still find it very, very bizarre, to be honest.

GH: So after that win, how do you come back the next time? How do you up your game?

Pete: Oh, with difficulty, I must say. Certainly for this event, I wanted to prove that I had the potential to do that. A lot of my Porphyrion was done with airbrushing. And, yes, there was a lot of trim and edge highlights and stuff, but it was an airbrushing project, basically, with lots of different layers of candy colors and stuff like that.

But I think, to come back from that, like I said, 2019, I didn’t put anything seriously. I deliberately went, “No, I need to take a break, because I don’t know what I want to do.” And the last thing you want to do is to put something in that’s rushed, and then get nothing for it. I think that would be probably a massive, massive disappointment.

I just kind of went, “Well, what do I fancy painting?” I started painting one entry, which was a converted zombie dragon. Got into the dragon and went, “This isn’t going to work. I know that I’m going to do a disservice for this as a competition piece.” So I then picked up my T’au Battlesuit and started painting that.

For me,the focus on the T’au Battlesuit has very much been sharp edge highlights, getting really crisp and clean. And that was what I focused on, because I knew that was something I wasn’t quite as strong at, certainly on my Porphyrion .

I think you just need to sometimes realise, “Well, actually, there’s only three Demons given out. It is the best in show.” And though I’m not going to say it’s all down to luck, there is a certain element of luck involved. Because if you enter a category where you’ve got three phenomenal painters, unless yours is better than one of those, you’re not going to pick a Demon up.

My attitude is you always go into a Demon, and you go, “Actually, I’d like a pin badge. I feel my model is good enough for a pin badge. If I get more than that, fantastic. If I can get a Demon, even better.” But, actually, if I can achieve my pin badge, that means I’ve done well enough that somebody looked at my model, and gone, “Yes, this is good.”

GH: With such a heavy focus on painting, do you still find you have time to play any games or systems?

Pete: Yeah, I try to do a lot. I haven’t gained much hobby time over the past few years as many people have… But, no, I’m very fortunate. I’ve got a gaming group. It’s very much a case of I try not to just do high level painting stuff all the time. So my next piece is to start my Death Guard Heresy army off, which I’ve been talking about doing for 10 years.

I do try and get different things. So the Neromunda gang that I’m playing with in a few weeks time is in the cabinet. Because whenever I do a Golden Demon, I work on one piece, and then I do a shelf grab -because there’s no reason not to put anything in, You don’t pay per entry. So I’ve put in a number of different things that I’ve painted. And, generally, I’ll try and paint something like my Necromunda gang to a reasonable standard. But it’s a gaming thing.

Orlock Ganger. Credit – Pete Allison @runebrush

Necromunda’s been the big love for a number of years. It came out not many years after I really got into the hobby properly. And we’ve played it over the course of many, many years. So, yeah, I was going to say we’ve done six year campaigns and all sorts of lunacy.

GH: Wow. That’s impressive.

Pete: Yeah. It used to be a regular one, because it was short. You knew you could get a game in on a Thursday evening, it used to be. Thursday evening, went round to a mate’s house. And there’d be four of us, and we’d have a game. And it was all good fun type of thing. And now that they’ve reimagined it, and you’ve got new models, and got plastic, it’s great fun really. So yeah.

GH: So talking about your entries, could you talk us through them? What would you say your strength as a painter is? And what were you trying to highlight with your entries?

Pete: So my main entry was my T’au Battlesuit, which is a Ghost Keel. It was very much the case of I don’t collect T’au. I’ve never painted a T’au in my life. But for me, I looked at it, I want to do something using a brush rather than an air brush, just to prove that actually I have pushed my brush skills on a little bit.

I enjoyed painting in red. I don’t mind painting in black. So literally that was two of my colors paint. And then I found a really nice off gray scheme, which had a bit of Ibcubi Darkeness in, which I use to highlight the black with and I was using to shade the red. So it all harmonized quite neatly. That was the main drive, – how crisp can I get these highlights, so that it looks good at a distance, and smooth up close.

Tau Ghostkeel. Credit – Pete Allison @runebrush

I gave myself a bit of a pallet cleanser halfway through with the base. With that I fell back on doing the airbrush with oil, or enamel washes, and a little bit of brushwork on the Chaos Armiger Carapace. I was a nice bit of a break and it was a good contrast.

GH: How long did it take you to come up with the concept of your piece, the model choice? Was it something that you’ve always had in mind?

Pete: No, I just got the model and started playing with it. I thought the ghost keel had had more moveable knees, but I quickly realised that the knees are quite fixed. So you’ve got lots of movement in the ankles, and the hips and the arms, and a bit in the torso. So it literally was a matter of gluing all the bits together that you can, and then just using lots of blue tack.

When I saw that you can get a sloped plinth, I thought it could be quite interesting and different – Because I think you need something to identify your model visually from a distance. So, I got the plinth, and I just basically played around with it. I took two or three weeks messing around with various bits and bobs. I photographed it, turned it into grayscale and worked out the rough color scheme. I think from the point I picked it up, and actually started gluing stuff, it was about two and a half months in total.

GH: When you were working on your entries either this year, or past years, how do you personally deal with hobby burnout?

Pete: It depends. The Porphyrion is a good example actually, because I would do a couple of months or six weeks, and then I’d go put it on a shelf. And I wouldn’t touch it for two months. I’d literally have a big gap in between.

For the T’au, because I knew timescale was much shorter, I deliberately worked in little palette cleansers. So the base was a palette cleanser. And because it lent itself into the actual overall model, you don’t feel like you’re wasting time. I always think if I have a painting project, I like a modeling project as well. I think the worst one I had was the really hot weekend, where literally I just couldn’t do anything. It was just too hot. You couldn’t paint. You couldn’t glue anything. So, yeah, it was a weekend where I just sat there. I put some Lego together and watched some rubbish on tele.

From a burnout perspective, I didn’t really have it from the T’au. And I was conscious of it for my knight, that you can’t do this in one hit. Because I use candy colors on my knight, they benefit from being left for 48 hours plus to cure, so they’re actually firm. So when you do something, you’re not going to scratch or scuff it.

But, generally, I put the model to one side, and I find something small. The worst thing you can do, in my view, is find a big project to do, because then you lose interest. As well as burnout, you lose interest, and then it never gets finished. If you have something small, or you just go, “Well, actually, I just wanted to sort out the legs on this model,” and then you go back to it, it just reinvigorates you a little bit.

Flesh Tearers Inceptor. Credit – Pete Allison @runebrush

GH: When working on these big projects, how do you know when to stop?

Pete: Generally because the event’s coming up! I was working on the last bits Friday morning. So that was when I knew I had to stop really. *chuckles*

I try and plan a lot of my projects with contingency. The contingency, without fail, gets used up – you get problems like that very hot weekend, or suddendly have something to do or something family comes up or whatever, and family is more important than hobby. It’s always important to remember.

If you said, “I got 24 hours extra to do this,” you will use 23 of them, without a shadow of a doubt. Because I think most people I’ve spoken to, like myself, are very self critical of their own model. I can pick out all the flaws in my T’au Battlesuit, and somebody else will say, “Look, I can’t see anything.” So you’re always tweaking. And so if you’ve got five minutes, you’ll tweak for five minutes. – tweak for six, really.

GH: In terms of general advice for others, not for Golden Demon, but for people that are getting into the hobby, what would you say is your painting shortcut or cheat, if they exist?

Pete: I would say, firstly, don’t ever get tied into one way of painting. When I got into the hobby, the paint range was largely rubbish. Yellow was the equivalent of an ink. White was just horrific. There was a whole range of colors that were just nasty. Now, you’ve got the benefit of contrast. You’ve got the benefit of washes, and all these new clever, phenomenally good techniques. But don’t ever just focus on one way of doing it. Ask around. If there’s something you want to do, that’s fine.

And also, for me, the biggest one is never compare your models to somebody else. If you’re just getting into the hobby, only compare your models with your last model. Providing you’ve improved a bit, you can’t compare your model to somebody who spends their day painting, and their evening painting, and puts 10,000 hours a year into painting.

You look at some of the ‘Eavy Metal guys – Let’s be honest, we’ve all done it. We’ve all looked at one of the ‘Eavy Metal paint jobs, and gone, “Oh, my goodness, that’s amazing. I’d like to paint like that.” But, these guys, you talk to some of them. They’ve got 10 years working at games workshop. That’s probably tens of thousands of hours they’ve got of practice. If you’ve only got 20 hours, you’re not going to be that level, for some time.

But never lose sight of what you want to do. But also, if something doesn’t work very well, that’s fine. It happens to everywhere. Most people will go vastly rubbish. On my T’au, I ended up completely stripping the head last Friday. I looked at it and thought, “This is rubbish.” I sent a picture to a couple of friends, and they went, “Well, it’s not the best.” So I just got the paint stripper and I stripped it down.

So all setbacks teach you things. I know what I did wrong. I then corrected, and it came out much better. So never be afraid to go, “I think that looks awful. I’m going to redo it.” Don’t slow down. Carry on. There’s so many nice models out there now. It’s just absolutely great. You can’t keep up with them all. But just paint the ones you want to paint.

GH: Is there any particular technique or skill that you wish you picked up sooner, way back when you started painting?

Pete: Ironically, if I say thinning paint, I think the term thinning paints is incorrect. If you are putting a base layer on, you’re slackening the paint – Because you put a thick blob of your base paint on. So let’s say Mephiston Red, it’s quite thick, chunky. You don’t have to paint that on neat. You just use a little bit of water, just to slacken it down, so it runs off the brush.

Thinning it isn’t a real term. That’s what you’ll do. You’re just putting water on it. And there’s loads of different thinning elements: You thin it so you do a glaze. You thin it so you do an edge highlight. And different paint consistencies do different things. So that would probably be probably the biggest one, I’d say.

I wish I could go back in time and tell myself, “This is how you slacken the paint off just for your base color. This is the consistency you’re after for an edge highlight. And you’re doing some shading by glazing. This is the consistency you’re after.” I think that’s probably it. Everything else you learn by trial and experimentation.

Victrix Honour Guard. Credit – Pete Allison @runebrush

GH: Talking specifically to Golden Demon, do you feel that there’s any techniques or approaches that newer competitors over fixate on with the first entries?

Pete: I think you get trends, would be the way I’d put it. At the moment, I would say there’s quite a high trend on, say, non-metallic effects. To say I’m not a fan of non-metallic is not true. I think, in the right application, it’s phenomenal. I’m not as good at it. So I wouldn’t ever attempt it on a Demon, because I think you have to nail it.

But I think, as time goes on, people will look at it and go, “I saw that last year. I’m bored with it.” There was a trend where you had bigger and bigger plinths, especially on the duel category. The duel category was the one that always made me chuckle. They changed the rules now, but people used to go up and outwards.

So I do think you get trends. I wouldn’t have said there was anything that was overly fixated on… Looking at the cabinets this weekend, I would say there was a nice mixture of trends. The only thing I would say – as I enjoy playing with varnishes (that’s one of my “things”). What I would say is I think one common trend at the moment is to matte everything down. And though it makes a really good photograph, I think it makes the model flat, whereas I do find some people who have used a mixture of things…

I think Dave Soper’s entry this year is a great example, where you’ve got really glossy bits next to really matte things. And it’s what I did in my Porphyrion as well. I think mixing textures up a little bit, and don’t be afraid of leaving it as a paint finish.

GH: Is there any other general advice you’d give to anyone considering entering Golden Demon, or any other painting competition for the first time?

Pete: Just do it. Absolutely just do it. Take a model you want to paint, and it’s not going to be a chore. Perhaps even one that you’ve had on the shelf, because there’s been no reason to paint it. Yeah, do that.

There’s no stigma attached to putting an entry in and not getting a pin. There’s no stigma attached to putting something in and, well, it should have won. Just do it. See how your model looks in comparison to everyone else’s. And you will naturally notice things that you go, “Well, I really like that model over there. They did that. If I’d done that, that would’ve better.”

I’d also say, “Don’t repaint the same model for next year. Pick something different.” So I’d done a T’au this time. The next time I decided to do a Demon entry, it probably won’t be a T’au. It will be something different. So give yourself a bit of variety, really. You’re meant to enjoy it. That’s the key. Even though it’s a competition, you’re meant to enjoy it. It’s the same as if you’re gaming. If you’re not enjoying it, why are you doing it?

Ambot. Credit – Pete Allison @runebrush

GH: Tying into some of that, do you still suffer from imposter syndrome?

Pete: Oh, at times, yeah.

GH: And do you have any thoughts on how to address it?

Pete: The imposter syndrome thing I think is always going to be there, because generally most hobbyists and painters have that at the back of their brain. You always question, “Am I good enough to be here? Oh, I’m not sure. Oh no, was that a fluke?” You can’t change that. You just have to look, and you go, “Well, this is what I’ve done. It’s as good as I can.” If you win something, fine. You might get a little bit of, “Oh my goodness, how have I won and that person didn’t?” Let the judges do their job. The judges look at different things to us mere mortals then, I think.

But I don’t think there is a good way over it. If you really suffer badly, talk to other people. Don’t ever suffer in silence. And if somebody gives you a compliment, as difficult as it is, take the compliment. They’re not just saying it to boost your ego. They’re saying it because they genuinely like what you’ve painted. And, yes, you can be a little bit of coy and awkward. But, oh, okay, yeah, actually they did like that. It’s cool. This is what I do it for. So actually take it as a little personal success, that you’ve achieved probably what you were aiming to do.

And there is something really nice about seeing your model in the cabinet, regardless of whether there’s stickers and stuff, and somebody taking their phone and going *click*. Because you go, “Actually, they’ve liked it enough, without prompting, to get their camera out, and actually take the effort to take a photo.” And I think if you can keep that in the back of your mind, you can keep your little gremlins at bay a little bit.

GH: Agreed! Where is the best place for our readers to find you and your work online?

Pete: Generally, Twitter would be the easiest one, because I forget Instagram exists a large portion of the time! I’m not going to lie. I am trying to post a little bit more on Instagram, because you can do more pictures. But, yeah, Twitter’s your best bet.

I do try not to post nonsense, if that makes sense. So if you want to just follow somebody who does hobbying, feel free to have a gander.

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

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