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 caught up with Sylvapaints at Golden Demon to get her perspective as a first time entrant to the competition and thoughts on the hobby in general.
GH: Thank you so much for speaking to us. Could I get you introduce yourself and tell us what brings you to Golden Demon this weekend?
The reason I came to Golden Demon this year is because it’s the first Golden Demon where I had enough painting experience, where I thought I could actually enter.
I did a little Harlequin diorama, and entered for the first time. And I just got the results, and it’s a finalist pin!
GH: That’s amazing. Well done! How are you feeling? What was it like seeing your entry in there, in the cabinet next to everyone else’s?
Sylva: Mixed feelings, to be honest, because you obviously stare at it for so long. You get really, really familiar with it. You know exactly all the problems, the mistakes, the weaknesses.
I was very surprised how different it looked in the cabinet compared to my super bright painting lamp at home. I was like, it’s actually really dark. It could be a lot brighter. And then, obviously, the other entries were just very intimidating this year – It was an extremely high standard. So I was like “yeah, okay, fair enough. Not really standing a chance here”, but it’s really, really interesting to see everyone else’s.
Now I can position mine now as to where it is in the level, and I’ve got somewhere to go, but that is for the next few Demons.
GH: What really motivated you to enter Golden Demon, this time around?
Sylva: So I was following the last one in the US quite closely, and I saw the entries, and I was like, as you do sitting arrogantly at home, “I could do that” – let’s try with a miniature that I’m familiar with that I’ve painted before.
Let’s just see what I can do and to actually bring it to a finish, where I say, okay, this is the best I could have done at this point in time. And I wanted to experiment a little bit, and see what my chances are.
Also, just coming to the event. It’s amazing to see all these incredible painters, and hang out, and socialize together, and network, and connect – it’s been a blast.
GH: Of course. So I apologize for the stereotypical question. How did you get into the hobby? At what point did competitive painting really get on your radar?
Sylva: Of course. So, basically, when I met my partner QuipsterNerd – I knew what Warhammer was from my brothers, as they were into when they were younger. But when I met my partner, he was very enthusiastic about it and wanted to really show me. That’s when I discovered the painting side of things rather than just the playing side.
And I was thinking I have a lot of attention to detail, and I’m a very perfectionist person, so I thought that’s ideal. I used to love doing art in school and thought that’s a great thing to do at home, and then so escalated from there.
GH: That’s cool. So would you say that painting has always been the focus of your hobby, or has that changed over time?
Sylva: Well, yeah, the painting was definitely what drew me into it. And then you obviously with time get more interested in the lore, but also the playing side. I wanted to try it all in the beginning, and I did that, and the playing was fun. I just really got sucked into the painting really quickly, and it got great feedback from people, and it was just a great community. And I just stuck with that mostly now. I have to ration my hobby time now and that will go towards painting at the moment.
GH: So in terms of talking about your entry, what would you say your strength as a painter is, and what were you trying to highlight in your entry?
Sylva: So I think my strength is definitely attention to detail and blending – being quite perfectionist with it. I won’t let it go until it actually is perfectly blended. I think that’s definitely a strength. And also, what I wanted to highlight was some free-hand things on the glove and the leg. I wanted to incorporate some diamond patterns, as you do for Harlequins.
GH: Was there anything else in specific with the choice of model for your entry that you wanted to highlight?
Sylva: I think the main motivation was because I’ve painted this model before and I really, really love the model, how colourful it is, how bright you can do it and how free you are with the interpretation, and the options you can do with Harlequins, because a lot of other things have a lot more restriction in what they look like.
I really enjoyed that creative freedom with Harlequins. The Shadowseer for me was just a very magical great creature, that I could place in this fantasy environment.
I also got a bit into the sculpting side of things as well. I did a bit of a conversion on it, which was fun. And the base as well, the first time resin pouring – which was a challenge. I wasn’t brave enough to actually do it on the base right away, because I’ve never done it before. So I did a negative mould of the base and then another positive mould of that to then recreate the base, so I could practice the resin pouring a couple of times.
And then only once I was comfortable, I did it on the actual model, and I think it turned out alright for the first time. I think it was a great learning experience.
GH: I mean you got the finalist pin, so you clearly did very well! So in terms of the actual concept, as it’s your first Golden Demon – was this always in your mind, or how long did it take to come up with this piece?
Sylva: Well, I think my problem was I had too many ideas at first, and too many possibilities.
So I basically started from the base. I found some stones when I was in holiday in Germany, and had this bag of rocks at my desk. And I kind of tried to assemble them with each other, and so what looked good, and then I discovered that there was this one that had a little bit of a dent. And I was like, oh, that would actually be nice for a pond. And then a smaller one, which was a little bit of a rock, I just attached it with some super glue, and it happened to stay where it is still.
And then it just went from there, so it could use some sculpting on the back. So I did some ruins with it as well, had a bit of a glowy effect of moss everywhere else and then just thought it works well for the Shadowseer, it fits in there.
GH: While you were working on your entry, how did you deal with hobby burnout?
Sylva: That was definitely very present, and it was very challenging, because the most fun is when you can be quick and creative and can apply stuff very intuitively, but then there will be a point where you just have to really focus on details and details only, and really have to perfect things, and that’s where it gets really time-consuming.
People often say that the last 20% to 10% take 90% of the time – it was definitely like that. There were a couple of things that I’ve had to do twice or three times, because they just didn’t look right. And there were a couple of times where I was like, just leave this, throw it in the corner, try something else.
But I’m glad I stuck with it, and had some lessons, because there was a bit of pain accumulating from trying too many times. And definitely something I took away for next time, how to be cleaner and more precise from the beginning.
GH: Awesome. So did you find yourself working on anything else or was it just this, start to finish, that you found yourself working on?
Sylva: So, in the beginning, I was a little bit less strict with myself. I did grant myself some distraction on to other pieces, here and there. But after 50% of the time, roughly, I was really forcing myself to really stick to that model only and spend all my time on there, because I knew I’d never have enough time to work on it – I have to use every second I get. And with working a full-time job, there’s just not so much time left. So I just spent every second on that one.
GH: So how did you know when to stop?
Sylva: I stopped when I ran out of time! As I think as most people did.
I also stopped at some point where I was like, this is… It’s good, I know where the mistakes are, but I’m done with it now. Mentally.
It was the day before I travelled up to Nottingham, decided that I’m not going to do any more adjustments on it. I know some things could be done perfectly, but I was just done with it. This is it, deal with it.
GH: So in terms of advice for others, for those who are starting to paint, what would you say your biggest/favourite painting shortcut or cheat is, if cheats exist?
Sylva: So my favourite tip, it took myself a while to realize that it’s perfectly fine to copy what other people have done. You learn a lot from it, and not only miniature painters, but also to really take references whether it’s box art or actual – you’re trying to paint the fabric and to have a picture of that fabric right in front of you.
Try to just paint that perfectly, rather than come up with all your own concepts and ideas. And that really, really, really helps, and it makes the job a lot easier to just not be afraid to copying what other others have done. That took me a while to realize, but now I’m definitely there.
GH: Amazing. So, what technique or skills do you wish that you learned sooner when you started learning to paint?
Sylva: Probably true metallics. From the beginning, I wasted on non-metallics and which is obviously very time-consuming, but it looks just really impressive really quickly. And once you’ve got the hang of, it’s relatively straightforward. There’s just a physical way of how things work.
But now for this entry, I actually had to revert to true metallics, because I didn’t have enough time. And I tried it for the first time, and I definitely realized it’s not as easy as I thought it was. I wish I had learned a bit sooner – that’s probably the one thing I’ll put more research into and try to improve or the next time.
GH: So now that you’ve made it here, you’ve got your pin, what advice would you give to people considering entering Golden Demon, or any other painting competition for the first time?
Sylva: Well, everyone says that, but definitely paint the model you like rather than trying to please people, because you have to spend so much time on it. If you don’t like the model, you’re definitely not going to stick with it, or just do it halfheartedly, then maybe if you’re very keen on getting some results.
And maybe try several entries, because you never know how hard the competition in a category is going to be. And then maybe you’re lucky with one thing and less lucky with another – so that’s definitely something I would’ve done differently. I would’ve entered more things and more preparation. This one took me about two months – working two hours in the evening, not extensively. So if I had planned earlier and spent more time, I would definitely have prepared other entries.
And then because you learn so much in painting one model over the course of two months, you’ve already improved so much from start to finish of that model that if you then start another one, you’re going to improve even more. And you never know what the judges actually want to see. So yeah, definitely go for several entries if you really want to see results, and yeah, do a model that you’d like and enjoy.
GH: In a similar vein, did you find yourself suffering from imposter syndrome entering Golden Demon? How did you address that? What advice would you give to other people who are on the fence of about entering?
Sylva: Yeah, absolutely! Especially this year, was some intimidating people there. There was a point where I was almost embarrassed of having my things in the cabinet, because I’m like, “no one’s going to care about that one”.
But it’s a very valuable lesson. You, especially, seeing everything together in a shelf, you can really compare. Where are the differences? What really makes someone’s models step up another level, because you rarely see this level of miniature painting in real life? You always see pictures, and it looks very different on pictures. And if you see it in real life, you definitely can tell what makes the difference. And I can tell from looking at my model, I’m like, yeah, there’s definitely some imperfections that can easily be avoided.
I will have different focus points next time of being a little bit more clean, less experimental. It’s all about being clean with your painting.
GH: Lastly, where’s best for our readers to see more of your work and follow you online?
GH: Great stuff, thank you.
We’d like to thank Sylva again for taking the time to talk to us and sharing this with you all.