Whoever said don’t meet your heroes wasn’t right all of the time. I just spent the whole weekend with one of mine and was blown away. Sprocket’s (David Soper’s) Troggoth Workshop was an absolute blast and I’m really excited to share my impressions of the course with you below. (Fanboy Warning)
As a somewhat established miniature painter myself, it’s easy to understand the legendary status of Mr Soper. I say Mr with the level of respect that I would accord a postgraduate UK surgeon. That analogy is evermore appropriate when compared to the level of surgical precision Mr Soper applies to his miniatures.
Am I too obviously gushing? ok, I’ll stop, for a bit…
Sprocket (David Soper)
For those who aren’t aware of him, David’s award-winning miniatures are as old as Golden Demon itself. David was a miniature painter during his formative years and was told by numerous friends that he was a good painter.
David Soper’s (Sprocket’s) Slayer Sword Wins
|1990||40K Vehicle||Nurgle Predator|
|2013||Diorama||Dark Eldar Diorama|
|2016||Age of Sigmar Single Miniature||Gutrot Spume|
|2016||Enemies of the Imperium Open Day |
|2017||Warhammer 40.000 Open Day |
He proved this point to himself in 1988 when entering the second-ever Golden Demon he bagged 2 golds! In 1989 he decided to push himself further and aim for the Slayer Sword.
In 1990 he won with his Nurgle predator.
David painted throughout the ’90s. However, as life, work and other commitments came flooding in David painted miniatures less & less. It was the mid-to later 2000’s when David properly came back to miniature painting. In only a few short years, entering more competitions, David bagged his second Slayer Sword win in 2013 with his jaw-dropping Dark Eldar Scourges diorama.
David’s Third Slayer Sword was in 2016, the year after I was getting back into miniature painting myself.
I had been searching online for some miniatures and happened across Sprocket’s Small World (David’s Blog), and was enthralled in watching him build up his Gutrot Spume miniature. When this won the Sword it was incredible, I felt like I was part of that journey and was so happy for him. I can’t imagine how he felt!
It was, at the time, the best miniature I had ever seen. Everything from the effects and colour palette to the custom details just screamed wow.
I was so in love with this model, when I found out it was in Warhammer World exhibition I drove there and paid the exhibition fee just to see this it in person. (even though I had just been to the exhibition the week before).
Yesterday, I held it in my hand…! Sorry, I’m gushing again.
David’s fourth Slayer Sword arrived later that same year at the Enemies of the Imperium Open Day.
This is my personal favourite of all his models. It truly shows you don’t need a super-detailed character model to achieve a great result. His Nurgle Plague Marine Blight Stalker took the Slayer Sword in 2017 at the Warhammer 40.000 Open Day.
Having seen David’s recent work on his blog, I’m pretty certain that his next Slayer Sword won’t be far off.
Ok, enough fanboy time, let’s talk about the Troggoth Course.
Stippling Troggoth Workshop
I’ve been going on a few miniature painting courses, this was my third this year. I’ve found that nothing accelerated my painting progress quicker than a live course. Thousands of hours of youtube videos doesn’t compare to a weekend in a room with someone who paints better than you, showing you directly how to perform techniques.
Troggoth Workshop – pre-requisites
I’ll say straight off, this is not a course for absolute beginners. If you know “of” little more than a Base, Shade, Layer, Edge method of painting models, I’d familiarise yourself with techniques like Drybrushing and Glazing before diving into this. The course outline itself said “Suitable for any regular painter looking to improve”.
You don’t need to be completely proficient in these techniques though, you just need to understand what the techniques are and have some experience in using them, even if that’s basic. You’ll be guided through them closely.
I for one was very thankful that I attended the Siege Studios Essentials Masterclass earlier in the year to get tuition in these (and more) techniques.
Troggoth Workshop – Materials
- Your built and primered (if you like to prime your miniatures) Troggoth
- A suitable painting lamp
- A portable hairdryer
- Palette/wet palette (whichever you prefer to use)
- Paintbrushes – David recommends using good quality sable brushes. The brush size you use depends upon your personal preference but for the size of mini you will be working on sizes 0,1 & 2 would be appropriate.
- Games Workshop: Bugman’s Glow (Base), Rakarth Flesh (Base), Mechanicus Standard Grey (Base), Deepkin Flesh (layer)
- Scalecolour: Black Leather, Field Grey, Bering Blue, Decay Black, Purity White
- P3: Skorne Red
(although looking back now, I never used Deepkin Flesh, but I have an idea where it was used on David’s model)
To see the general skill range of the painters on this course, please check out everyone’s Instagram profile below. These were the people on this course. In no particular order. (well, it’s the order they filled out the sheet in).
- Jansen (who unfortunately didn’t have an Instagram page)
Troggoth Workshop – Course Outline
Not surprisingly, we painted Troggoths. This was absolutely the best model to paint. Not a model I would have chosen to buy as I’m not a huge fantasy guy, but the more I paint in that genre the more my respect for it grows.
The Troggoth is a medium-sized miniature and the set which is configurable into several variants. This was great as it had a good amount of surface area to work on and no two people had the same model. This was sent to us a couple of weeks before the course with randomly selected components. We only needed to build and (optionally) prime the miniature before attending.
This is an interesting model for building as I found there were a few gaps and creases after putting him together. I used Mr Hobby Dissolved putty to fill my gaps and then sand them back smooth. On the course, other participants just used plastic glue and (some) gap filled them in different ways.
On the course, we covered the following techniques across two days.
And all of this was just the physical practises we performed. The teaching also contained lighting, colour theory, reflections competition entries, special effects, finishes. metal-work and so much more.
Troggoth Workshop – Course Venue
I’m just going to do a little shout out to Lead belt Studio.
Lead Belt Studio is the only (as far as I know) public miniature painting studio operating out of Nottingham. It’s was a great little venue based near Nottingham’s main Town Centre (where we went for lunch each day).
James, who runs the studio, is an excellent host, and he relegated himself during the course to fetching Tea/Coffee, freshwater and during breaks, schooling me on Hearthstone.
As a Nottingham local myself I think it’s great that we have a facility such as this and I would really like to help support its growth.
Nottingham is a Mecca for miniature painters, not just for Warhammer World but there are numerous wargaming and board-gaming venues around. Other miniature companies have spawned from Nottingham and there are some great places to eat and drink too. I know James is eager to share more details so you can get more out of your Miniature Hobby weekends. For now, please check Lead Belt Studio out on their Instagram and their Website.
Lead Belt Studio will be hosting many more pro Miniature Painting Workshops. They offer weekend painting courses themselves (see my impressions here) and even run a weekly painting hang-out in the evening (which I go to). Why not come along and join us?
Sprocket’s Troggoth Workshop – Day 1
The doors were open from 9:30 am for the course starting at 10:00 am. Four of us were queued outside from 9:05 am.
Day One opened with a brief introduction and welcome from Lead Belt Studio. David gave us his background in miniature painting and more. (The section I wrote above on David was mostly from the notes I made here). It was more than just an outline of his accomplishments and a summary of the stops he made on his journey through life so far.
He explained why he paints, his motivations along with the time and effort he puts into his miniatures.
I’m going to run you through what we did over the two days, however, this is just an outline. The most important things you learn on this course will come from David’s reasoning behind taking specific steps and the one-to-one tuition he gives. You can see and potentially copy the stages below (if you can work out the colour mixes). But like any YouTube video, you will just end up with a similar miniature. The course itself teaches how you can go about creating your own models and colour schemes from scratch.
Sprocket’s Troggoth Workshop – Basecoating
Within a couple of hours, we were straight into painting. David had explained to us in details his preferred method of applying basecoats and why. Although throughout the course he was quick to mention that nothing he teaches is to be considered “the right way”. This is David’s way, it works for him. he stressed many times, you need to find what works for you.
As I hadn’t bought the right type of brush with me, I couldn’t try David’s approach on the course. But I’m happy I did well enough in getting down a smooth base layer down using the Raphael 8404 #2 I had with me (and wanted to try using for a while).
David had schooled us on his approach to lighting his models and what considerations to make. The approach David take came across to me as 90% thinking and 10% applying paint to a model. You’ll see by the end of this article the results I was able to get, results I am proud of. But this was just by following David’s steps and tuition.
We did not select or even consider these colours for ourselves. The value of this course comes from the delivery of knowledge and choices you should make when coming up with your own schemes.
The initial base colour was a mix. something I’ve never been too comfortable with. I am inconsistent at best when having to re-mix colours later on. But David gave us the rationale behind mixing, why it was so important and throughout the course, the confidence to do it.
Sprocket’s Troggoth Workshop – Shading
As part of the morning introduction. David gave us his abroach to lighting a miniature. this is generally more than I would have considered before. While the normal approach to painting nowadays is somewhere between zenithal shading, and at best, finding the golden angle. Now I consider light direction, colour reflection, how hard or soft the light is, all whilst considering how that light compliments the miniature and its mood.
For my model, as I had the squinting eye head. I decided I wanted a very harsh light from the direction of his squinting eye, as though he is squinting from the light. It adds more of a narrative to the model itself. This was one consideration I made. David, before this point, would have made thousands. But the point wasn’t to get us to consider this on the course, or we’d have sat in a room for 3 weeks just looking at the model and scratching our heads. The point was to teach us how.
Blocking in shadows, which we have done here, is relatively a well-known technique. Even David advised how this doesn’t need to be the neatest step, it’s all still part of the initial base coating.
Stippling Stippling Stippling
If you’ve seen any of David’s miniatures, chances are you’ve seen how naturally textured they look. This is mostly achieved by Stippling. Mostly.
I’ve tried stippling before, David has a guide to the process on his blog. Appropriately titled Spots Before Your Eyes. This was a very time-consuming process. The aim was not to finish the model, it was to practise the technique. After all, I can go home and keep at this for as long as
I want my wife allows. Whilst on the course, I wanted to soak up as much Sprocket Knowledge as I could.
Stippling is a great process to add texture to relatively flat surfaces. It’s a technique known in fine art known as pointillism. I was trying to cite an example of where I had seen stippling used in fine art from my school studies. I just came out with words like; “It’s that guy who does paintings with dots… he did a park!”. Well, it turns out that David has cited the exact example I meant already on his blog in the article I linked above. It’s “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat.
The more you practise stippling, the better you get. My initial dots came out more like dashes as the brush splayed due to my deep depressions. Within a few (at least 30) minutes, I got the hang of it. The dotting anyway.
My initial pass shown above was more of a general outline, After feedback from David I went in for more dots.
And I can add more still, David would, a lot more.
This is very much a practice of stages. I had numerous paint mixes on the go at this point and was jumping between at least 3 different colours regularly. Bringing in some lighter colour here, mid-tone there, stippling back to some dark. I can keep playing with this until my heart’s content as it’s such a refinable process.
At the end of day one, I showed David my result. His comments were, “yeah, you’ve got it, just keep doing what you are doing to get the highlights and shadows right”. This was the highlight of my weekend. You can keep your White Dwarf featured models, your Everchosen commendation and your Golden Demon wins…
I got a thumb’s up from David Soper!
Top 10 tips and Glazing
The course ended at 5 pm. Though few of us realised and kept dotting away. As part of this course, David also gave us an evening talk of his top 10 tips tricks and techniques. Unfortunately, I only witnessed 7 of the 10 as I had to leave by 8:30 pm (hope those last 3 weren’t the most important!).
This talk covered a wide variety of David’s approaches to modelling, the tools he uses and why. Some other secret techniques he applies and even covered Stippling.
Whilst listening in the evening I also used the time to get some glazes down on my model and warm up some of those shadows. Forgive the image quality here, I was very tired.
Sprocket’s Troggoth Workshop – Day 2
The second day of the course was much more relaxed, for most. I was getting over some self-inflicted trauma from that morning.
I was speaking with David’s partner during the previous day and it was mentioned that they had booked a hotel in Nottingham between the course venue and Warhammer World.
However, Sunday was the day of Nottingham’s Robin Hood Half Marathon. Meaning most of the roads would be closed. I had offered to pick them up from the hotel and bring them to the venue. So that morning consisted of me swearing at closed roads which had not been announced as closed and Driving David and his partner 20 minutes outside of Nottingham, just to come back in from another direction. All the while trying to not look like a foolish fanboy in -front of one of my painting heroes. And also making sure he was not late!
45 minutes it took to do what should be, at most, a 12-minute drive.
Due to this traumatic experience, I forgot to take photos throughout the morning. But the morning was immediately just opened up to, carry on from yesterday, warm-up and get back into the flow of painting. David carried on his rounds inspecting and giving feedback on everyone’s progress.
I added in some blue to the shadows as David has instructed us to. I think it’s this which really makes his model pop. I love how it has changed mine too.
Drybrushing & Other Details
The next practice was adding skin markings and drybrushing. The approach to skin markings was equal parts, reasoning, placement and technique. Quite in-pattern for the practices on this course.
I really messed up the skin markings at first. I’ve never been good at random placement. I was evenly spacing my markings between the rocks. I then had to go back and cover-up lots of areas with 2 or 3 small spots, by applying a larger one over then in places. I didn’t realise this on my own, it was David who showed me a way out.
The drybrushing was great and it was fantastic to be shown and try out a lot of Davids method here. Although on his own Troggoth he did much of this with stippling. I just glazed it
Sprocket’s Troggoth Workshop – Complete
As Sunday was much more of an open day than the first, this is where the value really came in. As we painted the venue lent itself perfectly to some open conversation amongst the group. What products are good to use, brush preference, competition entries and even a hilarious discussion about the importance of knowing where your eyebrows are.
A lot of the discussion echoed much of what I say on this blog, there is no best X or best Y. The best tools are what works for you. The importance of painting, number 1 point, is that you enjoy what you are doing.
As David walked around and critiqued the class, we had personal one-to-one time with an acclaimed master. Talking about all the techniques you had practised and any you had tried yourself. Getting direct guidance on the changes you could make and approach you could take, is absolutely invaluable.
Above, I’ve shared an interactive picture of my Troggoth from the weekend. Whilst he isn’t complete, this isn’t what we set out to do. What I have instead is a model I am proud of. If you had shown me this 2 days earlier and told me I had painted it. I wouldn’t have believed you.
Sprocket’s Troggoth Workshop – Final Thoughts
As I have said a few times, you aren’t going to come away from this course with a completed model. But learning to paint 1 model is not the point of the course. The point is picking up knowledge from a world-renowned Miniature Painter.
Now, when I look at a model I’m not deciding what colour I want to paint it. I’m deciding what story it is going to tell. Where the light is coming from. How I can improve or even just tweak the base sculpt. I’m looking at a colour wheel. I’m considering texture. I’m considering reflections and whether the colours complement or contrast. And if it all doesn’t work together, I’m making tweaks to that plan or even starting again.
I’m now armed with so many additional techniques I can use.
We all had the same training, but approached it from our own perspectives. It was still great that after the two days, we were all pretty much at the same place with or models.
If painting great miniatures matters to you, I would say you should take any opportunity you can to go on this course. It’s rare when they happen as this was only the second Troggoth Course David has run so far.
With so much covered, the course was excellently balanced and perfectly timed. Getting on this course truly is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and one which I am glad I didn’t pass up.
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