Sunday, 18 October 2015

An 'Eavy Metal Die-hard: An interview with Tim Prow


A close up detail of a Space Hulk diorama Tim began in the late '80s. It is still not finished!
If you were anything like me, the day that White Dwarf was published in the 1980s was like D-Day. The preparations had been completed, the task force (well, my bike) was prepped and ready and the ammunition loaded (okay, my pocket money was safely in my wallet) and ready to go. I am sure that you had your own route to travel. My journey was to the rather unsavoury newsagents not far from my house. The one that doubled as a video shop, sold penny sweets and cassette tape computer games. My friend Ben said that the infamous doorway (blocked with those plastic dangling strips shops used to boast back then) housed a 'porn alcove' but I was never brave enough to slip through and goggle at the racks of Razzle and Mayfair. 

Not that I had any need, as I had White Dwarf. 

The magazine felt different back then. It was more adult and grown up, with hyper-violent artwork and gurning photographs of the motorcycling (and spectacularly leatherclad) staff. The shelving in the newsagents also suggested who it was 'for' - in the eyes of the suspicious old lady who ran that place anyway. For White Dwarf inhabited the singular 'middle shelf' alongside such grown up publications as Judge Dredd, the Punisher and Gardener's Weekly.

It felt great buying a copy. Despite the owner's misgivings, no doubt inspired by the diatribe of the Daily Mail, that the magazine wasn't suitable for a young 'un like me - money would change hands and that delightful ride home would ensure. With my copy dangling from my handle bars in its plastic bag, I'd make the journey home all the while wondering what mind-blowing images, miniatures and ideas I would find within. 

THAT idea would buzz around your head. What must it be like to work there? What must it be like to be a Games Workshopper?

Well, the subject of this latest interview knows the answer to that question, and a fair more besides, as he was once just like us. A common fan of old school Citadel. Only, he made that awesome transition - and got to ACTUALLY work there. To contribute to that wonderful period in British fantasy gaming. 

Tim Prow. 
I love the art. It looks modern but has obvious links back to the Golden Age - those icons for each of the factions are brilliant!
And now, Mr Prow is at it again. Only going and getting a group of highly talented miniature professional together to work on a rather interesting project. Diehard Miniatures - an Oldhammer inspired range launching via Kickstarter.
And the Kickstarter is now LIVE!


In celelbration of this, I tracked Tim down to the fetid gym where he resides and forced him to document the story of his time at GW, his subsequent international career in miniature design and, of course, his plans for Diehard Miniatures.

RoC80s: So how did all begin for you Tim? Fantasy gaming? Games Workshop? If I remember correctly, you were employed as an apprentice painter. How did it all come about?


TP: I think in much the same way as many others back in the day. I must have been around 13 years old, a friend had gotten a couple of figures from the local GW store in town (the old golden dragon, and some fighters, I seem to remember). That is where it all started. I still have the first figure I ever painted, a dwarf fighter with a round shield and raised sword. Good old Humbrol paints! Think I was more into the collecting at first, but I did play Warhammer Fantasy Battle and WFRP. Oh, not forgetting the Fighting Fantasy books! When I was about 15, I went to GW and painted during my Christmas school holidays for a week or so - a great honour and eye opener for sure and I still have the letter from John Blanche asking me to come in! I worked in the same room as Colin Dixon, Dave Andrews, Sid and Tony Ackland (think there was more guys there, but I cannot remember their names). I used to hang out with Phil Lewis upstairs in the photography room. He really nice bloke. I painted an early Eldar command group and some chaos thugs, they were not that good a paint job but it was the early years. Back then, you were allowed to smoke at work and the room was full of cigarette smoke, I can remember coming home smelling like a chimney! After that I kept in touch with GW. I left school at 16, had a couple of jobs, and at the age of 17 managed to get a full time job with GW as a figure painter. I was taken on for the kingly sum of £4000 a year! The figure painting room was the same, but in those two years the people had changed - now GW had Mike McVey, Ivan Bartlet, Dale Hurst and Andy Craig. Phil Lewis and Dave Andrews were in the adjoining room, and Kev Adams off in the alcove room.


A shot of some of the old school Citadel models that reside in Tim's collection.

RoC80s: What were the first few projects that you remember working on?


TP: Well it was a long time back, and I blame eating green stuff on my dodgy memory now. From what I can remember I was too late to work on the first book for Realms of Chaos, but I managed to contribute to the second book. A lot of the Nurgle stuff was from my private collection. We’d play test in our lunch breaks with small warbands, I remember coming across Adrian Smith's forces on one such break (let’s just say Nurgle was not watching over his chosen that day) I can also recall the first lot of Ork books for Rogue Trader/Warhammer 40,000. I loved that stuff, and ended up painting a lot of Orks for those early books.



RoC80s: How was the studio set up and run? Could you just pick models and get on or were you directed?

TP: It depended. Some paint jobs were looser than others but anything new that had to have a strict paint scheme would go through with either Jez (if it was Eldar/marines related) or Alan Merritt. Occasionally, we also had our say on the development of colour schemes so it could be symbiotic too. Once the colour scheme had been set, we were free to do the figure in our own way and use our own imagination. Later on in the 90s, the colour schemes got stricter but then you always had your own time to paint a figure how you liked if you wished. I still have a large collection of my own stuff from the time, many of which have 'unofficial' colour schemes.

A closer shot of that gorgeous Eldar titan.
RoC80s: What was the working atmosphere like among the 'Eavy Metal painters?


TP: I think for the most part it was a happy crew. While we worked at Enfield Chambers we had our own section away from the rest of the company, so we could work how we liked, listen to what we like, and have a laugh without the bosses hearing what we said. A lot of the time you’d have people like John Blanche coming over to work in our room as it was a better atmosphere. As the youngest, I’d get what was given to me but as time went on I’d was more able to choose what I painted. I remember thinking how honoured I was to paint the Eldar Reapers after Mike had done the first figure from each of the (then new) range Jez had done. To be thought good enough to follow the technique of Mike was pretty cool. I went on to do a set of Scorpions and I think some Banshees as well.



RoC80s: How did the team influence and support each other? Was there any other particular painter or painters who inspired you the most?


TP: We all had our separate way of doing things. I think as I was young and ready to soak up ideas and techniques I was best placed to learn and develop. Others were set in their ways or were happy to do what they were told. Ivan was very earthy and natural in his painting, Dale had a similar approach but added more colour in there. Dale was also colour blind (not something he mentioned while applying for the job) and I can remember all his paint lids had the colours written on them. Andy liked his bright colours, but it was Mike that influenced me the most, his use of colour and his natural blending was never equalled.



RoC80s: You attended Games Day as part of the 'Eavy Metal display team, as well as a punter. Any juicy memories of those events?


TP: I remember attending the factory open days before I believe there was a Games day or Golden Demon I just remember them being very happy days. We really worked hard putting up the stands and sorting all the display cases. The countdown to opening the doors, and the sudden rush of people entering. It was a mad day for sure. And nothing amazed me more than the enthusiasm of the crowd, to talk and show them techniques, and to see them appreciate it was the ultimate reward. We’d always have a laugh signing autographs, making our signatures more and more outrageous (and taking the piss out of the fancy signatures of the higher ups). People would rip down sign boards and get them signed!



RoC80s: Life as an 'Eavy Metal painter in the '80s seems very Rock 'n' Roll at times! Any wild stories to share?


TP: I think because I was so young at the time and the fact I joined at the end of the 80’s most of the ‘Roll’ had left, still plenty of ‘Rock’ though. I remember getting back stage passes to see Megadeth from Gary Sharp Young, I also met them at a press only function in London, I was over the moon By the time we moved to Castle Boulevard the company was becoming a lot more strict. Dale, Ivan, and Phil were gone, leaving only myself and Mike. All the painted figures had been given to Bryan as part of the deal when he sold the company, so we had a hell of a job repopulating the shelves with painted stuff.

Dark Angel diorama close up. 
RoC80s: You've mention painters like Ivan Bartlett and Dale Hurst several times now. These are people of great interest to us, anything further you can share about them?

TP: They were great characters and we used to game at their apartment - mostly using Rolemaster rules in the Warhammer world They were really fun nights. I once made the mistake of challenging them to a drinking competition…. not the smartest moves as they were, let's say, well built for drinking! I ended up on the last bus home and all I can remember is waking up at the bus station in Alfreton (a town I’d never been to) and my dad was not pleased to have to come pick me up! Did I ever mention I was young and naive?

RoC80s: How did GW change and develop during you time there?


TP: I was lucky in a way, I got to see the changes but didn’t end up seeing the final fall. I started in 1989 and we were still in Enfield Chambers, A very cool rabbit warren of a building. I worked with people I looked up to and thought myself very lucky. Once Byran Ansell had sold the company things began to change. Soon after Dale, Ivan and Phil were ‘let go’, and it all started feeling a lot more restrictive and corporate. The move to Castle Boulevard was another sign. We now worked in an open plan office with Rick Priestley and Alan Merrit sat within controlling distance Don’t get me wrong, it was still a fun time to be there and we were producing so many cool games at the time. I was able to play test many of those great titles during my lunch break too. We took on several new painters, and a new 'Eavy Metal crew formed.


Tim Prow on tour. Love the shorts but what on earth was the toilet roll for?

RoC80s: What can you recall about the 'Eavy Metal tours you used to do?


TP: I think I got to see more of the UK than I had so far in my teens. It was a bit daunting for me at first, but then I really got into it. I regularly did the Nottingham shop, but remember doing Luton, Hammersmith, Plymouth, Manchester, and Glasgow (and I am sure there were more). I remember the Glasgow one vividly as it started off with the train breaking down and being stuck in God knows where before finally arriving late to the station. The ext day, I got to the shop okay, but one of the first guys to ask me a question, well I had no idea what he was saying! I recognise most accents, but this one was beyond even me. I asked him to repeat himself several times with no luck, and in the end I just gave him an answer I thought he’d want.

More from Tim's collection.
RoC80s: Apart from Mike McVey, you seem to be the only original 'Eavy Metal painter still in business. How did you make the transition from painting to sculpting?



TP: I think like most people who dabble, it all started with wanting to convert figures. With our ability to get figures by the weight price we had no end of opportunity to mess around to our heart's content. From converting and filling gaps, it was a short jump to sculpting heads, items or figures. Kev White and I started to sculpt in our lunch breaks and we were helped by the sculptors. With the advice we gleamed sitting by their desks watching how they did stuff, we were able to progress quite quickly. Rick Priestley was very gracious, and let us have castings of these first attempts. We learnt what would cast and got to see what worked and what didn’t on the sculpt once in metal. But I couldn't really go anywhere despite developing these skills. It was made clear that GW didn't have the resources to take either Kev or myself on as sculptors, and I’d hit the very low pay ceiling for a painter, so it seemed if I wanted to take this further as a career I’d have to move on! During a week off, I sculpted my first test piece for Heartbreaker Miniatures. By the time I was back at work I knew I was ready to leave. Rick asked what I’d do once I'd left and I said 'sculpt', I remember him saying somethig like ‘it’s a cottage industry out there, you won’t make as much as you did for us’. Well the first year of self-employed sculpting I made twice as much as I had as a GW painter I think these words were the best spur I ever could have had in starting up and making a go of it! So I'd like to thank Rick Priestley for giving me my determination to prove I could make a success of it. So I moved on to Heartbreaker Miniatures. Phil Lewis had been there for just over a year I think. Bob Watts gave me a trial piece to work on, and by the end of the week he offered me a job working freelance for Heartbreaker. The old team was back, Phil Lewis, Chaz Elliott, me and soon after, Kev Adams joined us. Heartbreaker produced figures for many different companies during the 90s, but the main one was Target Games sculpting Mutant Chronicles. Paul Bonner had left GW and was producing brilliant artwork (as ever) too. 


By 2000 I was going through a divorce, I was offered a full time job at Ral Partha by my very good friend, Kevin Bledsoe. He had previously worked with Bob, and when Bob moved to Ral Partha, Kev came with him. It was the obvious choice for someone suddenly free of all attachments, so I took up the offer and America was a great ride, I loved every minute of being there! I started in Cincinnati with Partha, but after just 6 months they were bought out by Wizkids. I was working with Dave Summers, Jeff Grace, Steve Saunders, and Jeff Wilhelm. Really nice crew of guys with great talent. There was a lot of skills and techniques being passed back and forth, it was an amazing melting pot. 
Later in 2001 during GenCon, Jordan Weisman asked Jeff Grace and myself to come join them in Seattle, and the adventure continued A new team was formed, one of which was Brian Dugas. I was there till the end of 2003, before returning to the UK. The company had been taken over, and as much as the new parent company says they are a family company and look after their employees… well they didn't! It was, however, a blessing in disguise as I got to spend the last month or so with my father before he died in Nottingham.
Since then, I restarted my freelance career and have been a freelance ever since. I could reel off possibly 40 or 50 companies I’ve worked for (I really need to go back through my books and find out!). Most recently I’ve worked on stuff for Mantic, Mierce, Fenris Games, Reaper Miniatures, Avatars of War. I’ve also worked on many Kickstarters, I’ve worked on Marvel and DC collectable magazines, and even a short stint at Pinewood Studios!


The chaotic faction from Diehard Miniatures - including the Son of Slomn in the centre. 

RoC80s: So we are right up to the present day and with your new project. And an Oldhammer inspired one to boot! Why Diehard Miniatures?


TP: Why not?
I think it is an idea that has been bandied around for a while now. We sculptors sometimes chat about getting a company together and working as a collective. Ideas bounce around, nothing gets done, and we go off on our own ways. It wasn’t until around this time last year that something came together and stuck. The idea that we could cut the middleman out as it were, and be that much closer to the customer was very appealing. Together we have control over what we do and where we go, giving us a flexibility and strength not many companies have. The initial idea was to sculpt just a handful of figures and float a KickStarter and just see where it went. From there, the project has grown into 9 factions, 6 pieces each, ending with dragons and giants! We do love a challenge

Eru-Kin miniatures from the Diehard kickstarter. Painted by Mr Prow if I recall correctly. 

The team that’s come together fits surprisingly well, and despite being in three different time zones, it works. Apart from myself, we have Chaz Elliott on the Isle of Lewis - renowned from the GW glory days, Drew Williams is based in San Francisco and is a very natural talent and with great knowledge. Finally, our linchpin is Richard Luong in Texas. His art has surprised us all with its ability to merge the 'Oldhammer' style we were after with a new updated look. With our Oldhammer inspired guidance in the art briefs, Rich has given us delightful concepts to work from. We've all picked races that we are passionate about too.


Undead faction Diehard miniatures. I love that skeleton model. 
My first choice was the Eru-Kin. As some of my earliest collection were Space Frogs and I loved those figures. No-one has really ever taken took those figures much farther. My goal is to take the Eru-Kin where their ancestors should have gone; I’ve lots of ideas for these guys! Undead and Chaos I also love to sculpt for the project, as if I’m ever given a choice or asked to sculpt them I smile. Hopefully if we do well, I’d like to see the next project as a Sci-Fi one - can you imagine Eru-Kin in full power armour?

Here is a useful comparison shot between a period '80s Citadel miniature orc and a Diehard equivalent. 
I have written about Diehard Miniatures before here at Realm of Chaos 80s and if you are interested in reading my thoughts on the subject just click this handy link here for all that I shave shared. If you have enjoyed this interview and appreciate the Diehard models that you have seen then please do support Tim's project. 

Just click the link below to pledge a few quid and make this range a possibility. 


Before I go, I would just like to thank Tim from his time on this as it can take a while to extract these memories from warp shattered minds such as his.  Always end on a song they say, well I am going to ignore that advice and end with a video inside. Enjoy!

Orlygg

video


8 comments:

  1. Awesome to see the Space Hulk diorama!

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    1. Hopefully Tim will complete it this decade! (;

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  2. The hulk dio is awesome, but these interviews are even better! I don't know how you manage to wrangle team into doing them but great job, really fun to read

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    1. They take a great deal of work to finish, but they are very rewarding to put together and publish. I hope to do more in the future.

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  3. The Dark Angels diorama and the Tzeentch champion with the fungoid body are two of my favorite things I've ever seen painted. I use to have the white dwarf they were featured in, but I cannot find those images anywhere on the internet. My painting goal when I was a kid was to be able to paint something like them.

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    1. The colours are so vibrant and I have worked for a while to get that close. Apparently the trick is to add ink to the initial base colour. If that is the case I still haven't worked out the 'knack' of doing it!

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  4. great stuff :) anymore interviews coming up?

    Cheers
    George

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    1. Hopefully... The wind is blowing in the right direction!

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