Sunday, 22 September 2013

Fifty Shades of Enamel: The Hunt for Fraser Gray

No one leaves a greater shadow over the world of Fantasy Miniature painting than Fraser Gray. 

No one. 

His work was unique, inspiring and flawless in its presentation. The colours were so vibrant and believable that you almost expect them to suddenly burst in to life and engage in fanatic combat in front of your eyes. If I have learnt anything from the journey Realm of Chaos 80s had led me on, its two things. One: painted miniatures look SO much better in the flesh (so to speak, or should that be the lead?) as anyone who stood in awe in front of Bryan Ansell's miniature collection at the Foundry will no doubt agree with. TWO: that there is quite a considerable demand for interviews with inspirational figures of Old School British gaming, as a quick scan down this blog's most popular posts will testify. 

So what about combining the two with Fraser Gray? I have been asked many times about what I have learnt about him, where he is and if we could interview him. And in truth, I cannot say. I can understand the interest, after all, there was, and still is, no-one else like him. He appeared on the scene fully formed with those incredible painted models, was showcased in many GW publications and then promptly disappeared as suddenly as he had arrived. 

And everyone loves a mystery.

Fraser's first place winning entry at the '87 painting competition and a plethora of other painted miniatures that appeared in the first Fantasy Miniatures book.

Orcs, goblins and the undead, many of which are shown with those exquisite shields that inspire to this day. I love those faces! This page is also taken from the Fantasy Miniatures book.
Through research we have learnt several things about him and I shall share those facts with you now. I have included the source of the quote at the beginning of the extract for clarity.

Andy Craig: Fraser Gray, who I would say is in my view the greatest figure painter of all time (just my opinion) was also a regular visitor (to the design studio). The fact he used enamels and white spirit to blend while most of us used saliva! This was very tricky to apply but it didn't seem to phase him. I'm very lucky to be the owner of one of his orks, I think it was in the first Golden Demon year book, an Ork with just a loin cloth holding an axe above its head. He exchanged it for one of my figures although he didn't get the initial figure he wanted, which was my pink 'Kinky Chaosette', so settled for an Amazon limited edition I painted for him.

Andy Craig: Fraser was a lovely guy. he could make any, and I mean any figure look good. Before the days of the internet, we'd write to each other as back then he worked for a record company but can't remember his role. Fraser would only paint chaos, orks, or paint the figures to look evil- just a personal preference on his part. I tried his method of painting and failed badly. Sadly, I've not seen him for years, where ever he is, I hope he is well and painting.

Vintagephreak: Regarding Fraser Grey, he left an indelible impression on my mind when first getting started with the hobby in '88. A remarkable artist. A commission painter I used some years ago were a mate of his, and apparently he's not into fantasy anymore but has moved into painting AFVs/Military modelling, and is even writing articles for genre magazines and has been a judge at EuroMilitaire, the prestigious military modelling event. I offered him -through his painter friend- a decent sum for his Chaos Dwarf standard bearer shown in the GD 1988 book, but he respectfully declined. Apparently he's a bit reclusive and doesn't use the internet so he's hard to get hold of. I still owe him a great debt for inspiring me tremendously then as well as now.

Fraser appeared in White Dwarf many times. I remember being fascinated by this page as a youth, wondering how Fraser managed to be photographed in front of loads of skulls! The paint work on those horrors is also incredible, and for me, are some of his best work. 
It was Vintagephreak's comment that first got me thinking if it was possible to track down Fraser and interview him, if he was willing. We can assume that he still owns some of his models from the 1980s otherwise he would be unable to be in a position to decline their sale. The idea never got much further than that. Not with real life, painting and gaming, other interviews and connections leading me elsewhere. Then, last month I was flicking through magazines on the shelf in WH Smiths. I noticed the latest copy of Military Modelling had an article about a series of WW2 Russain tanks I am interested in, and lo and behold, the photographs were taken by none other than a Fraser Gray. My mind thought back to Vintagephreak's comment about him being into Military modelling now. Surely the chances of their being TWO Fraser Grays working in the wargaming/military modelling are slim, and it was very likely to be our man. 

Here's a quote and a link to the magazine.


Presenting itself as a big target, the KV-2 unsurprisingly wasn't very successful in action. However, it's large slab-sided turret made it an ideal candiadate in model form for Fraser Gray to try out the Colour Modulation Technique. Steven Andreano then provides highlights from this year's AMPS Convention held in Atlanta, Georgia. Next Peter Gillson converts Tamiya's 1:35 scale Hetzer into a 2cm FlaK 43 anti-aircraft version. John Prigent then builds the delightful 1:35 scale 18pdr Field Gun and Limber kit from Resicast and finishes it as serving with the BEF in France 1940. Ian Succamore completes our Features list by turning a Dark Eden Sudio bust into a Templar Sergeant.

Google searches under the criteria 'Fraser Gray military modelling' brought up other evidence that encouraged me. Its seems at some point a Fraser Gray set up a website detailing publications about tanks in WW2. 

Here's the link. 


An important quote lurks at the bottom of the page here. 

The books are co-authored by Fraser Gray and Richard Stickland, or Fraser Gray and Bruce Crosby.  Fraser and Bruce are active in the AFV modelling world with numerous articles to their names.  Bruce also makes masters for Cromwell Models, the world's premier resin AFV kit manufacturer.

This seemed to match our man even further. An email address was provided to contact them, but despite my efforts to use it, I had all my emails returned as undeliverable, so perhaps the link was broken or the books no longer available. There was an address for Fraser Gray, which I will not publish here too, which may, or may not, be the address our man works from. 

So snail mail may one day be an option. 

In the end, I headed over the the website for Military Modelling and found the email address of its editor, Kelvin Barbar, and sent him an email about Fraser and the possibility of it being the same chap who produced the legendary painted figures in the 1980s. This was yesterday by the way. So all we can do now is wait for a response.

Fingers crossed.

Undead, chaos and a Night Horror. The bright, vivid colours are apparent even in ranks of the living dead!
Do you have strong opinions on Fraser Gray's work? Do you agree with Andy Craig? Was he the greatest painter who ever lifted brush to lead miniature? Did you meet the man back in the day or gaze at his models during some far off Golden Demon or Games Day?

Perhaps you have links to Military Modelling and have met Fraser more recently? Do you have a contact address, be it online or snail mail?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, just email me at realmofchaos80s@yahoo.co.uk or drop a comment in the box below.

Orlygg.

21 comments:

  1. a kind of Grail quest for you !!

    Keep on !!

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  2. Shame on me, I didn't know this painter... BTW, could you give us the White Dwarf issues from which these lovely Eavy Metal pages come from?

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  3. While Fraser is not a painter I'm familiar with, I do recognise a lot of those chaos models in the third image as being the ones in The Lost and The Damned! If you do managed to get in contact with him, I wonder if Fraser will be surprised at the interest in his 80s fantasy work?!

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  4. i think it was the article on shield designs that showcased some of his brilliant work that got my notice - haven't seen those undead or a lot of the chaos minis before though.

    This is turning into a proper detective story - hope you get your man and he's willing to do an interview!

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  5. Good luck, I hope you find him. Interesting that Fraser decided to keep the sides of his bases plain black.

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  6. Wow, so many of the figures I remember from the Goblinoids combat cards- the same ones I'll be trying to emulate! Don't think I want to pursue the enamel route, I wonder if the same effect with acrylics is possible. Beautiful work. Hope you find him!

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  7. Thank you so very much Orlygg for tracking down the legendary Fraser. His work was one of the most evocative of all (and if you consider the people around him at the time, that's saying a lot).
    I actually started painting models with enamels, using my dad's because I wanted to do just like him though at the time I never managed to understand how to blend with white spirit still don't know ho to do it with water now...).
    I cannot count how many hours I spent looking at these pictures, learning every detail by heart just like if I had painted them myself.
    Fraser had that spectacular technique but also that very special "touch" like every painter at the time. His chaos warriors (especially the running one) are some of my all time favourite)

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  8. Have contacted my painter friend and he's trying to locate Fraser's (last known) email address. Fingers crossed indeed.

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  9. Hello Inspector James Taggart :) I hope you find answers to your questions. Fraser Gray is one of my favorit artist, not only for his paint job... his shields/Banners are a constant inspiration for me. I follow him on the way of the "Chaos Eye".

    Bye Nico.

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  10. I have heard back from Military Modelling. Here was the Editor's response.

    Hi there
    Afraid I don't know for sure if it's the same person. I have copied your question to Fraser Grey and if it is the same person you mention he will no doubt get in touch with you.

    Kelvin Barber
    Editor

    So we now know that the possible lead has an email address at least. Now we just have to wait, and hope he is our guy. Oh, and hope that he feels like talking to us!

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  11. Best of Luck Orlygg, he made some great models I´ve always been inspired of

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  12. Sure hope he does! Would be very interesting to see what he thinks of the interest in his older work! Good luck, and fingers crossed!

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  13. Do enamels need varnishing like acrylic?

    His work still blows me away. I'd love to see some of these in the flesh. The Nurgle Champion is boss. And the skeletal Chaos Warrior.

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    1. Yes they do. The glosses are hard-wearing but the matt colours are very soft and rub off easily with handling, also they show up fingerprints very well! I always give wargaming figures a good coat of gloss to protect the paint, followed by a spray of matt to take the shine off.

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  14. Yeah, they could need varnish

    NOTICE : the 80's enamels and the "today enamels" are not the same ; the 80's enamels were better...and more toxic ;)
    I know many veteran miniature painters and they all said the same...it is not the same chemical formula
    Today, the enamels (heller, humbrol...) are very thin and don't give a good coverage

    however, using enamels or acrylics is not important...Fraser Gray had his own style and I think it is not impossible to bring a Fraser touch on your 3rd ed minis...just a question of palette

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    1. I've been using Humbrol enamel for the past 35 years and I haven't noticed any change. It still smells the same to me. Still goes on the same way too.

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  15. It has already been mentioned above, but worth repeating.

    Fraser went on to model and paint some truly outstanding Military Models, tanks and armoured vehicles some of which have appeared in Military Modelling and Fine Scale Modeller magazines.

    I agree that his painting skills are some of the very, very best.

    Thank you for posting the images.

    Tony

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  16. Fraser Gray was - and hopefully still is - Awesome!
    I've spent hours looking at his paintwork, still beautiful today I reckons.

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  17. Holy shit. It's 2015 and i only now found this site. I've been wondering about Fraser Gray all these years. Was there any development in this "search for Fraser" adventure?
    Thanks.

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  18. Hi from an old timer. I would love to know if you ever did track him down. The guy's work was / is legendary. I tried to copy it many times back in the day but sadly he was far more talented than me!

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  19. I won a heat of the GD comp that year ( I was 12-13 ) but my mum wouldn't let me go down to the games day for the live final which of course Frazer won. I have always been fascinated by his style which was a country mile above everyone at the time. I also used to paint in enamels Never before or since has gold looked so Gold :) Great days when every issue of WD was devoured ( they used to cover other companies stuff then too )

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