David Soper – Sprocket – Ask the Artist

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David Soper - Sprocket - Ask The Artist - Featured

I don’t think there’s much I can say about David Soper (Sprocket) that people don’t already know. Certainly withing the Warhammer world of Miniature painters he is one of the best, if not The Best. A 5-time slayer Sword winner since his first in 1990. 30 years later, he is still delivering some of the most incredible work we have ever seen!

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David Soper - Sprocket - Ask The Artist - Profile Pic

When I got back into miniature painting after a 16-year hiatus, one of the first people I came across was David Soper.

I already knew of hiim from my earlier mini painting days, i just didn;t realise until i say his 1990 slayer sword win again, which in my teens I tried to copy…

He is big, but not “huge” on Instagram as he only started it late last year, he has no huge Facebook page following. but he does have his own site and within that, he talks you through all manner of projects he has worked on. Giving incredible details about the techniques he has used.

I had the pleasure of finally meeting David at the end of 2019 at his Troggoth masterclass in Nottingham. Not only is David one of the most incredible painters in the world, but he’s also just a super nice guy.

Personally, I think he is this nice becasue he is trying to break the deal he made with the devil in order to be this good. His skill is unnatural, magical. daemonic!

I’ll be honest, he is one of my hobby heroes, so I have no shame to admit that I was giddy with excitement just by meeting this guy!

For more on my giddiness, see my impressions of his Troggoth Masterclass.

David Soper - Sprocket - Ask The Artist - Troggoth
2020 IronSkull – Best of Show Winner – David Soper

I am so grateful to David for taking more time out of his day to answer a few of our questions and it’s great that we can share them with you.

Now since we’re in lockdown, I really hope he could take some time and perhaps write a book. I do keep pestering him to see if this is ever on the cards.

David Soper – Sprocket – Ask the Artist

Who are you / What is your place in the hobby?

I’m a hobby painter first and foremost. I am also a sometime blogger, competitive painter and tutor.

How long have you been in the hobby in general?

I started painting around about 1980 when I was 14 years old. I’ve painted on and off ever since although there is a period in the 2000s where I didn’t paint at all for about 6 years.

David Soper - Troggoth Masterclass Workshop - Nurgle Predator 2
1990 Slayer Sword Winner – Category: 40K Vehicle – Model: Nurgle Predator

What initially drew you into the hobby?

The initial spark came as a result of the Dungeons and Dragons craze going round at the time. I used to spend my lunch breaks gaming with my mates at school. That introduced me to miniatures and I very quickly shifted my interest from gaming to painting.

What do you enjoy most about the hobby?

I very much enjoy the interfacing aspects of my hobby but the thing that drives everything else is my love of painting! It really boils down to pushing paint around with a brush and playing with colour and texture to create a satisfying scheme.

How did you refine your skills?

In the early years I had some exposure to other miniature painters through the pages of White Dwarf. But for the most part I painted in splendid isolation.

I had an interest in fantasy art and the likes of Boris Vallejo, Patrick Woodroffe and Rodney Matthews have surely been an influence.

I also went through a formal design education at art college. Once I left college I worked as a graphic designer so I was dealing with colour and composition on a daily basis. There was a lot of cross-fertilisation between my design work and my miniature painting, most especially in developing my use of colour!

However, for the most part I developed my miniature painting skills with a lot of trial and error. I love to push myself to do the best I can. I try to set myself challenges and targets with every model I paint. It boils down to practise, practise and practise!

What types of models most interest you?

The models that interest me most are those I would describe as character models. That often means a single mini but it can include busts, monsters or even a diorama.

I’m most interested by models that give me the opportunity to depict an individual with a distinct identity and/or some element of narrative.

What is your favorite tabletop game?

I’m not a gamer but I would have to say Warhammer because that is the universe I most usually chose to paint in.

What advice would you give someone interested in starting the hobby?

Don’t be afraid of making mistakes.

Everyone makes mistakes and runs into difficulties. Over time you will learn far more from your mistakes than you will from your success!

What advice would you give someone struggling to find motivation to finish a project?

There are lots of ways of dealing with motivation and you need to find what works for you. I’ve found that trying to keep a regular workflow helps.

Paint every day and work through any difficult patches, even if it’s just for ten minuets. Sometimes I’ve taken a break from a big project and switched to something smaller and quicker. Then I can return to the big project with fresh enthusiasm.

David Soper - Sprocket - Ask The Artist - Project P30
Project P30 – a reimagininging of David’s first Slayer Sword win

But occasionally I need to put the brushes down and take a break – some days just aren’t painting days and you shouldn’t feel guilty about that.

What resources would you recommend for inspiration?

Again this is very individual to each painter but I’d recommend seeking inspiration from as wide a range of sources as possible.

Other painters are a great source of inspiration but try to use that as a starting point for your own ideas rather than simply copying. Going to competitions enables you to see other painters work ‘in the flesh’ and seeing a collection of miniatures together in a cabinet can really show what does and doesn’t work.

I often get inspiration from the written word. The background material from Games Workshop is a huge source of ideas and inspiration to me. But I’ve also been inspired by other types of Fantasy and SciFi literature.

David Soper - Sprocket - Ask The Artist - Kastelan Robot

Fine art and illustration can provide rich source material for ideas. Historical subjects can be a great inspiration for composition, colour palettes and techniques. For example take a look at how fine artists paint light and shade. Fine art also provides a great many examples of how to paint NMM.

Be open to new ideas I’ve found inspiration in the cinema, museums, on forest walks and even in the middle of an Egyptian desert!

What is your greatest achievement in the hobby?

The easy answer would be to say winning five Slayer Swords but I think that’s a bit too glib and misses the point. I think my greatest achievement is actually my longevity in the hobby.

Thirty years after winning my first Slayer Sword I’m still in a position to be a contender but, more importantly, I’m still pushing myself to learn and improve.

I think I come to the hobby with a painting style that reflects it’s ‘old school’ history but is never the less up-to-date and relevant to the modern hobby.

So in a nutshell my greatest hobby achievement is still being here!

What has been your most memorable obstacle?

Each and every project presents me with obstacles of one sort or another. However, the greatest obstacle I’ve faced to date was getting back into painting after I dropped out of the hobby. As I said earlier there was a period of about six years where I didn’t paint minis at all. But that followed on from a gradual slowdown where I painted less and less so in all I had a fallow period of about 10 years!

When I started to paint minis again I faced a triple challenge. First of all, I needed to re-learn my painting technique and I don’t just mean things like stippling and blending. Holding a paintbrush in my hand had become an unfamiliar sensation so I had to re-learn the fundamentals, like brush control and paint mixing!

I did this over the course of a year and a half. My progress can be seen in three projects I painted at this time.

My first ‘proper’ painting project was an entry for an online painting competition. This was run by Crocodile Games and used some of their Wargods of Aegyptus minis.

David Soper - Sprocket - Ask The Artist - Wargods of Aegyptus

I feel this reached the standard and techniques I attained in the 1990s and it looks very ‘old school’.

The next project was a Dr Who Diorama and it was while painting this that I felt I regained full control of my technique.

David Soper - Sprocket - Ask The Artist - Dr Who

Finally, I painted a Dark Eldar Hellion and it’s with this model that I consolidated my re-learning phase and got to the point from which all my ‘modern’ painting has progressed.

David Soper - Sprocket - Ask The Artist - Dark Eldar Hellion


However, it wasn’t enough for me to get back to where I was when I stopped painting. The second challenge I faced was to bring my painting style and technique up to date.

Over time mini painting has become a more diverse and sophisticated hobby. The range of techniques, materials and influences has greatly expanded and the internet has opened the hobby right up. There is now an international community of painters sharing their work and ideas online. I didn’t want to be some relic from 1990 who painted in an ‘old school’ style. I wanted my painting to be up-to-date and relevant to the modern hobby.

I took my first proper steps into the modern hobby when I painted my Dark Eldar Diorama.

David Soper - Troggoth Masterclass Workshop - Dark Eldar Scourges
2013 Slayer Sword Winner – Category: Diorama – Model: Dark Eldar Diorama

The Hellion had actually been painted for this project but after I finished it I had a change of direction. The most notable development was in my use of colour.  I attempted to create a complex palette of colours that used a range of subtle contrasts in hue and temperature. In addition, I began to develop an interest in the use of texture in my painting.

The final challenge I faced was psychological and it was the most difficult to deal with. Not least because it impeded my ability to deal with the other two challenges. When I started painting again but was unable to do so to the level I’d once been capable of, I was badly shaken. I lost confidence in my ability to paint to the standard I expected of myself. It’s quite easy to fall into a negative headspace if things don’t go well when you are painting and that can become self-destructive.

I had to re-learn some very important lessons. Everyone runs into difficulties and/or makes mistakes along the way. But an experienced painter will expect this and have the confidence to work through and resolve any issues because it’s all a part of the mini painting process. A less experienced or unconfident painter is more likely to be thrown by problems and give up!

The only person a painter should be concerned about bettering or competing against is themself.

What is something you feel you need to improve on?

Everything can be improved upon, because no one knows it all and there is always something more to learn. Painting is a journey of development and discovery and the feeling that I have more to learn is one of the things that keeps me coming back to mini painting.

What tools do you use & why?

I paint everything with a brush because I love the feeling I get from pushing paint around a model. I don’t use an airbrush at all because I prefer to have that direct contact between my hand, the brush and the mini. I’ve nothing against using an airbrush it’s just not for me.

What paints do you use & why?

I’m perfectly happy to use a mix of brands although I have two favourites. These are Citadel and Scale Colour. I started using Citadel from the moment they were first introduced and it’s the range I’m most familiar with. If I could only use one paint range it would be citadel for the colour range and overall performance.

David Soper - Troggoth Masterclass Workshop - Gutrot Spume
2016 Slayer Sword Winner – Category: Age of Sigmar Single Miniature – Model: Gutrot Spume

However, I’ve been using Scale Colour paints alongside Citadel for a few years now. They have a totally matt finish that sometimes has an almost velvety quality to it.

The two ranges intermix very well and this enables me to create a range of finishes from a soft sheen to flat matt.

Do you have a secret weapon, Tool or Technique?

To be honest I don’t believe in fancy tools and techniques! They can be useful but they won’t make you a better painter. The really important thing is to keep an open mind, try new things and most of all be patient.

What is the first thing you consider before starting a project?

Once a model has grabbed my attention and I’ve decided to paint it I like to think about the story behind the mini. Who and/or what is it, where is it and what is its history?

David Soper - Troggoth Masterclass Workshop - Eldar Farseer
2016 Slayer Sword Winner – Category: Enemies of the Imperium Open Day Single Miniature – Model: Eldar Farseer

I want to have a strong sense of the background and history behind the character I’m painting because this will inform my choices and help to shape the story I tell.

How do you keep your project(s) organized?

I prefer to work on one project at a time and give it all my attention. If I have more than one on the go I’ll have the active project out on my desk and any other projects will be on the back burner, out of sight, in my cabinet. 

David Soper - Troggoth Masterclass Workshop - Plague Marine
2017 Slayer Sword Winner – Category: Warhammer 40.000 Open Day Single Miniature – Model: Blight Stalker

Have you ever walked away from a project?

I’ve only walked away from a project once. It was a competition piece I was working on a couple of years ago. I realized I was only painting the model for the sake of the competition.

I like entering competitions but that is not my reason for painting. I paint because I love to paint and then enter the resulting models in competitions, if they are appropriate.

What is the biggest mistake you’ve made?

I can’t think of any big mistakes I’ve made. That’s not because I’m flawless but rather because my painting is a very organic process.

I start out with a plan but will adapt my ideas as the project progresses. So if something isn’t working I will work with/around it before it becomes a major issue.

That can mean a lot of extra work but the end result is often more creative for it. I tend to regard mistakes and problems as an inevitable part of the overall painting process.

How long have you been promoting your brand?

I’ve been blogging about my mini painting for nearly ten years now.

What do you feel is the next step/goal?

My next big goal is to create a proper studio space for mini painting. All my painting is done sitting on an upturned toolbox in the corner of a shared home office!

David Soper - Sprocket - Ask The Artist - Workstation

This works just fine for me but it would be nice to have a more professional painting space.

What are your social media channels?

There is my blog https://sproketsmallworld.blogspot.com/ where you will find an archive of all my mini painting projects including tutorials, work in progress reports and a general account of my mini painting trials and tribulations.

You can find me on instagram @davidr.soper

David Soper – Sprocket – Closing Comments

Thanks so much, David, I really can’t wait to see how Project P30 turns out, and it is unfortunate that I can’t get to see you again for another class any time soon (GO AWAY COVID).

But it is my hope and prayer that this lockdown has you locked away in your hobby room with brush in hand and we can see more great work from you soon.

Click this link & buy your hobby stuff from Element Games for the UK & Europe to support FauxHammer.com – Use Code “FAUX2768” at the checkout for double reward points.

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  • Self-appointed Editor in chief of FauxHammer.com - But I need to thank the team for existing and therefore enabling me to give myself role - without them, I'm just a nerd with a computer and a plastic addiction.

About FauxHammer 289 Articles
Self-appointed Editor in chief of FauxHammer.com - But I need to thank the team for existing and therefore enabling me to give myself role - without them, I'm just a nerd with a computer and a plastic addiction.

4 Comments

    • yep, just a bit. and you need to see it in person to truly appreciate just how good it is. Gutrot spume for example, is just incredible. well, in fact, they all are.

  1. I would like to get in touch with David Soper to put a business proposal to him but I won’t use Facebook or Twitter for this. Could you ask him to contact me at the email address provided please? Philip Sidnell, Commissioning Editor, Pen & Sword Books Ltd.

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