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.
The Slayer Sword, the best in show award, can only go to one person. This honour went to Chris Clayton with his stunning Kraken-Eater Gargant Duel entry. Chris is a veteran of Golden Demon, having attended the first one 35 years ago!
We were fortunate enough to have a quick chat with Chris after his victory and get his thoughts on Golden Demon and understand what went into his entry.
GH: First off, congratulations! It’s amazing what you’ve done today! What’s it like to not only come back to Golden Demon after a two year break, but to win two Golden Demons and lift the Slayer Sword? How’re you feeling?
CC: Yeah. Yes, it won’t sink in now until I’m halfway down the motorway. It all feels a bit unreal actually! Firstly, it’s brilliant to come back to Golden Demon after the break. Obviously we all know why that break was there and a lot of that, you know, the anxiety of that break for a lot of people because there wasn’t anything to look forward to and knowing that there was gonna be a Golden Demon. I mean, it’s a hobby and it’s a little bit more for me – but knowing that there’s gonna be something on the other side, it was a huge motivator. You’re doing something for a reason, it has purpose, you know?
I sit at home and I paint and I sculpt and I do lots of different things, but ultimately they’re kind of for me and to know that there was something to do it for that motivation and that, you know? Golden Demon is always like that because every year it was a real motivator and I know and I can probably speak for a lot of other people in that room as well today – there’s a lot of pent up kind of excitement and creativity and people haven’t had an outlet for that for such a long time. Golden Demon is just a perfect platform for that, for people just to show just how brilliant they are. I love it, I love seeing people’s work, it’s so cool.
GH: Has what Golden Demon means to you changed over time?
CC: Well, like I said it’s this thing that you look forward to. It’s a goal, but it’s not so much, “oh, I’ve gotta win“, it’s just an opportunity to do something really cool and put it in an environment where there’s really, really cool stuff and really, really talented people and just that whole creative buzz.
When I went to my first Golden Demon in 1987 it was very new and there was no real concept of what a painting competition was, not like there is now. I mean, crikey, it’s changed so much over 35 years, it’s unrecognizable now. So back then it was kind of just something you did and it was kind of quite fun, but I think now it’s become so much more. I think that really motivates people to exercise their creativity and storytelling, and you know, people have got a lot of things that you want to say, a lot of stories they want to tell you and it’s really cool to kind of have that outlet for that.
GH: The Kraken-Eater piece is incredibly stunning. How long has that idea been in your mind? And what drove the choice of the model, what you’re trying to highlight?
CC: Right, okay, so when the gargant kit came out I thought awesome, brilliant because you’ve had giants before but this was a giant giant. I like large scale pieces of the big stuff because it suits my style of painting and my way of working. I got one of those kits and I was putting it together and the Kraken-Eater part of it was the bits that I had left over. So I built this giant and then I was looking at all these other bits and this boat and I was thinking “I’m gonna need another one of these” because I want to use all these bits.
When I started thinking about that, I was thinking “oh yeah it’s kind of like a giant, that’s you beachcombing and going to the sea”. Then there were all the little things on the kit that worked, so you’ve got the hanging corpse on there and that was cool. I like that because I love Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and I love the idea of the sailor taking out the albatross and the crew stringing him up and punishing him, so I sort of resculpted that little guy. Then he became like this undead sailor who’s just attached to this bit of stuff that this giant is wearing and he’s now telling him where really cool things are in the ocean and treasure and stuff like that, and this giant’s kind of wading through and you know, fighting different sorts of things and having different adventures and they’re like this double act.
Whenever I do something it’s got to have a reason, it’s gonna have a point. I like painting a figure for display, but I really like telling the story and having some sort of narrative and also dynamism as well, having something going on in the action.
GH: Yeah, the tale it tells is incredibly strong!
When you’ve worked on a project like that one, how do you know when to stop?
CC: I don’t want to be flippant, but when it’s finished! So that was 360 odd hours – when I work on a big project like that I break it down, so I know that I’ve got to do that bit and I can’t move on to the next bit until that one bit is finished. Because of the way it was constructed, and the water effects and all of that, there was a very, very strict process. As you just go through those processes, it comes together and just one day you go through them and it’s done. When it’s done, I’m not gonna go in and fiddle with that, but I kind of try and get each piece as resolved as possible.
Obviously there’s a little bit of tweaking them to do, but what I do is very, very process driven. Once those processes are completed, then that’s a kind of a natural conclusion to the piece.
GH: Did you suffer from Hobby Burnout? 360 hours is a long time. How did you deal with that?
CC: Not really because I do it all the time, so that’s what I do. So I approach it like going to work, so kind of no different from the, ‘Eavy Metal guys here in the studio. I go into my studio at eight o’clock in the morning, I work all day and I come out at five o’clock, you go back and do a little bit more, but I’m hyper disciplined with that. I don’t get distracted, I’m not on social media, so I don’t I don’t have those distractions, I don’t watch TV. Particularly with a big project like that, I just sort of go into like this hyper focus and just get it done. I’m never like, oh my God, I’ve still got to do this because like, because I’m building all these really little cool things into what I’m doing. So I’m kind of quite excited by it and it kind of motivates me to keep doing that bit.
GH: Almost like a positive feedback loop?
CC: Yes, absolutely. Just before I go to bed, I kind of just have another look at it. Just, just letting the subconscious work on some problems until the next morning.
GH: That’s fantastic advice for anyone that’s considering taking up competitive painting and Golden Demon. Are there any words of advice that you have for them?
CC: Yeah, don’t be too hard on yourself, take it easy. Don’t think that you’re going to be amazing straight away. I have been doing this for 40 years. It’s taken a long, long time for me to get where I am today. If you are patient, the rewards are amazing because you become very disciplined and very calm. I think the one thing is to not rush, and give yourself plenty of time. If it starts to become a chore, put it down and stop, go and do something else. I spend a lot of time walking around, looking at nature, enjoying the sun and some fresh air. Don’t think you always have to be in the studio! Don’t try and be the best straight out the gate, it takes a lot of time. It’s an amazing journey, and if you take it easy the rewards are great [Motions at Golden Demons]!
We would like to thank Chris for talking to us and congratulate him again on his well deserved win.
Cult of Paint also had a great interview with him that you can see here.