Tuesday 8 January 2013

An Interview with Andy Craig: Confessions of an 'Eavy Metal Painter!

I want you to think about that first moment you discovered miniature fantasy wargaming. Those first few hours as you sat engrossed, mind open to new and exciting possibilities, creating a wish list in your head...

It might have been D&D, or White Dwarf or even Owl and Weasel, if you are really Old School.

It won't matter!

You would have had 'that thought'.

The thought when you dream that you actually paint and game as a job.

Sadly, for must of us, the thought remained just that, but the subject of Realm of Chaos 80s second interview actually put that thought into reality! He got a job at GW as a figure painter and was at the heart of 'Games Workshop' s Golden Age', working on The Lost and the Damned, the Rogue Trader Ork books and bloodbowl to name just a few...

His name? 

Andy Craig.

Andy's first White Dwarf spread- Eldar Harlequins.
I remember reading of his arrival in the pages of White Dwarf 112. A small note in Culture Shock told me that a new brush was at the studio. You see, the news pages were always my first port of call (I liked to know what was coming out next), while my second was ' Eavy Metal. And there I saw some of his work, the gorgeous harlequins above. There was much debate about this Andy Craig that month on the bus, around the paint station or and elsewhere. So it gives me great pleasure to say that I can present to you a major interview to a fellow painter who ' had the thought' and through his skill and dedication made it his profession.

But that is enough waffle fro me, I'll hand you over to Andy who will tell his remarkable story, supported by many images from his career. Its a personal, and intimate, tale of his time in ' Eavy Metal



RoC80s: How did you get into miniature painting and what led you from Lincoln Council to the GW design studio?
AC: I got into miniature painting around 1983. My friend, and still my closest friend to this day, Chris Gent told me about Dungeons & Dragons. I'd always been a fan of all things fantasy; books, art and the like, so we decided to have a game. What caught my eye was the miniatures, in particular ones that were painted to a pretty good standard. I started buying and painting miniatures within weeks. I was shown a copy of White Dwarf showcasing the work of the Godfather of miniature painting, John Blanche. It blew me away and the hooks were in!  Inspiration was high..... I just wanted so badly to be that good. 

It was then I knew this was what I wanted to do as a profession.
So, the first Golden Demon was announced of which I did not enter, as I was no where near good enough. The next year I entered the Golden Demon regional heats 1988 and was placed first. I didn't win in the finals but did get my work ( a cheerleader emerging from a cake ) in the demon year book. The next year I also came first in the regional heats, and it was then that that the Rep from Games Workshop HQ who was judging, suggested I write a letter to Phil Lewis applying for a position at the studio as a miniature painter. I sent the letter and two weeks later got a reply from Phil asking me to go see them in Nottingham. I could not believe my luck and remember well the day of my interview. Can you believe the first person I met on entering the studio was John Blanche himself? 'You the Figure painter?' were his words. The studio (in Enfield ) was like a rabbits warren, we went straight to the figure painters room where Mike McVey, Ivan Bartleet, Darren Mathews and Phil Lewis were busy doing their thing. John and Phil took me into an adjoining room to discuss my work I'd brought along. They had high praise for my painting and offered me a job at the studio right there on the spot, which of course I took. I was given a tour of the studio, met Jes Goodwin, who at the time was working on the Eldar snipers. The Perry twins, Kev Adams, all the game designers; Rick Priestley, Richard Halliwell etc. To say I was shell shocked by what was going on would be an understatement. Started working at the studio two weeks later. The first figure I was given to paint was a Blue Horror, quite difficult to paint but I pulled it off.

RoC80s: How was the studio set up and run? Could you just pick models and get on or were you directed?
AC: Good Question! Like I mentioned above, the studio was like a rabbits warren. It was hard to find your way around for the first few days. The miniature painters room was large enough for six painters and there was a very small room near the back where we primed the miniatures ... We would often emerge from that room feeling very sick due to the spray primer toxins as the extractor was so caked up with paint residue it didn't function properly.
Phil Lewis was the figure painter co-ordinator. He basically gave us the the 'Green- light' as to if the figure was good enough for White Dwarf. Most of the time when we placed a miniature in front of him that blew him away he'd say, jokingly, 'put your hands on the table', we'd say, 'Why?', Phil would say, 'because i'm going to break your hands.....nobody can be that good!'.
There wasn't that much directing as far as painting went and we were given free reign on almost all we painted apart from the obvious Codex conformity regarding Ultra-marines, Space Wolves and Orks etc. I remember been given a brat and a scavvie for the then new and up and coming Necromunda. John Blanche had just completed the cover art for the box which he brought down to me and placed on my desk to use as colour reference. He looked at me and said, 'don' t get any paint on it!'.

RoC80s: What was the working atmosphere like among the 'Eavy metal painters?
AC: Tim Prow sat at a joining table facing myself while Mike, Ivan and Darren were to the other side of us. Tim came to us as an Apprentice aged seventeen, within days he was up to our standard. Of all the miniature painters Tim and I were the closest, always having a laugh. When we were working on Waagghh the Orks, the revamped 40k and all the other Codex (Titans, Eldar etc) the board games....so much stuff, things were not so good. We were painting Orks for what seemed like months. We were asked to create colour schemes for the then new Space Marines which are still used till this day.
Atmosphere for the best part was good. We'd often listen to audio books while we worked; The Lord Of the Rings audio book always went down well when painting Warhammer Fantasy. Every day was Christmas for us, Phil would ask almost every morning 'anything you guys want from the factory', the answer would often be 'Nah'. My desk had a foot deep draw full to the top with miniatures which I sent back to the factory. We were given copies of every figure we painted plus whatever our hearts desired. You have to remember that we too were fans of the miniatures, the difference being we got to see things first hand and probably were as exited as you guys.

My favourite Andy Craig piece, I think - I spent hours trying to paint yellow like this back in the '80s. Andy has said that this was intended to be his next entry to the Golden Demons, but he got the job at the studio before the competition.
RoC80s: You mention lots of the other famous '80s figure painters, what about Colin Dixon, Sid, Steve Mussuard, Pete Taylor, Richard Wright and Steve Blunt. Did you work closely with any of these legends? 

AC: Sid had left by the time I'd started work at the studio, Colin was a figure designer and a really good guy. I was chatting to him one day in his studio at the top of the building, when all of a sudden there was blood all over his work top, he was cutting a slice of green stuff, thumb down on the blade, sharp side up! I think we all looked forward to seeing Steve Mussuard whenever he visited the studio, lovely guy, very funny, unique style, always gloss finished his figures but he used most of his work for gaming. Pete Taylor? OK, I met Pete many, many times, and still to this day I'm scratching my head as to the speed and high standard this guy could paint. Richard Wright didn't paint that many figures but when he did they were off the planet......outstanding, he applied the paint in an almost ink form, very hard to do and a very long process. Mike Beard came to work with us as a kind of holiday, one of the greatest diorama modellers there has ever been, awesome painter to boot and a very dear friend. 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. 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. 

RoC80s: When working on technique, how did the team influence and support each other? Was there any other particular painter or painters who supported/inspired you?

AC: Well, for me John Blanche was my biggest inspiration, as with many figure painters. He pushed the boundries and laid the foundations for what exists now. Just before I left GW, John took me to one side and said 'there's two figure painters I'd have paint figures for me and that's you or Mike (McVey)'. 

I was in tears, for this guy to grace me with such a honour kind of completed me as a figure painter.

Between the rest of the figure painters technique/ideas were always shared. I used to buy pots of Humbrol acrylic matt red paint from a model shop in Lincoln for Mike as it was hard to come by. the only red Mike used and probably still does. We had to be at the top of our game back then, so support for each other was always there.

RoC80s: Where you limited to 'Citadel' only products, ie: the original paint sets (colour, monster, creature, ink etc...) or were other products used too?

AC: Basically, whatever it took for us paint to the highest standard in terms of paint we got elsewhere. We just went down to petty cash, were given the money to buy whatever paint. I hated the Citadel red, awful stuff. And the ink back then wasn't up to much. Most of us used Windsor and Newton ink, but having said that most of the Citadel colour was great.

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

AC: We were just flooded by people at Games Day, couldn't walk more than ten feet without being stopped and asked to sign something, It was a great feeling. I helped take entries in one year to put in the relevant displays and this guy hands me his entry (a standard bearer) and just as he does it broke, my he was pissed, but lucky for him we fixed it and I think he got silver.

Definitive Orks by Darren Matthews (the red noble) and Andy Craig. From the collection of Bryan Ansell. 
RoC80s: Where did your career take you after you left GW?

AC: Freelance figure painter for a while and now a freelance artist with a few publishing deals under my belt. I had many jobs over the years since then, all art related. Theatre design was good fun. Now live in the country with my wife (Renee) and dog (Sparky).

More of Andy's orks, though the middle model was painted by Tim Prow. From the collection of Bryan Ansell.

RoC80s: Did you actually play any of the GW games back in the 80s, and if so which were your favourites?

AC: Talisman, loved that game. never thought I'd be working on it, Talisman City, Space Hulk, we all got photo copies of the games months before release. 

RoC80s: Still painting miniatures today?

AC: Some times, I moved way up in scale and was mostly painting 1/6 scale models for various companies around the world. and felt natural for me to make that transition. Who knows what the future holds?

Bond, Mulder and Scully. Gorgeous, gorgeous blending... From the collection of Andy Craig.

You'd think that that was a real grey jacket, wouldn't you? Phenomenal painting. From the collection of Andy Craig.
Silent Dawn - one of Andy's more recent, and more traditional, works of art.
RoC80s: Life as an 'Eavy Metal painter in the '80s seems very Rock 'n' Roll at times! Any wild stories to share?

AC: OK! Funny memories and one in particular; the studio toilet was on the next level down from us, and for some reason the light switch was outside in the corridor, so Tim and I thought it would be funny to turn the light off when someone went for a shit, the funniest thing is that I forgot to turn the light back on and all I could hear is someone shouting; 'TURN THE FUCKING LIGHT ON!' 

Kev Adams was a really funny guy, often bursting into our room, sitting on a chair and lighting his farts, or painting a figure really badly then putting it in front of Phil for approval. One thing we all loved, and still love, about Phil Lewis is that he was so proud of us all and kept our spirits high.

Brian May of Queen came to meet us with his then young son, the one day I wasn't at work. Phil gave him a painted figure and in return Brian sent him a letter of thanks. The Heavy Metal band Gwar came to meet us in full stage costume, they were big fans of ours. 

I should mention the artists. Tony Ackland, Paul Bonner, Wayne England etc, who were great guys to chat to, you had to see the work these guys did as they were doing it at the speed they did.

One question a lot of people asked us was 'how many figures we painted a day?' This was usually 1 maybe 2. I painted the elves for dungeon bowl, and had to paint them in two hours! Ivan painted the dwarfs. The one and only time I had a mental block with a figure was when we were painting the Ork clans for Warrgghh. It was a Goth with the new plastic arms, it was shit! We just couldn't make this bad boy look bad, so it was shelved.

RoC80s: You have mentioned Fraser Grey several times, and many fans are of a similar opinion to yourself that he was the greatest painter in the history of the miniature - but fandom has no idea what happened to him. Is there anymore that you could tell us about him?

AC: 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.

RoC80s: Why did you feel compelled to move on?

AC: I left GW because of the impending change (Bryan selling the company to a group of bankers) and it was a terribly sad day, lots of tears... Even Rick Priestley came down to say how sad he was I was leaving. Mike McVey handed me a fist full of paint brushes as he was, by then, figure co-ordinator.

And here the story ends. All I can say is a big thank you to Andy for his time and support of this blog. When I first approached him for interview he felt that both he, and his friend Tim Prow, contribution to classic Citadel and 'Eavy Metal had been forgotten.

I hope that this article goes a little way in remedying that injustice.


Andy today.


  1. What an absolutely fantastic interview. Thanks so much, Orlygg and Andy - I really enjoyed reading that.

  2. Top-notch interview! Thank you very much, really enjoyed reading it.

  3. Another great interview, thanks! These interviews provide an intimate picture of GW in their glory days which makes fascinating reading. I find the mystery that surrounds Mr Grey very compelling. I think that tracking him down and conducting an interview should be your next task!

  4. Another Great interview...thanks for taking the time and effort to do it.

    Sadly many of the pictures don't appear for me for some reason!? I need to see the Marauder Dwarfs! I'll try again at home and see if my work firewall is causing the problem.

    1. Keep me informed about what happens Blue... I had some reports that some of the Tony Ackland images were problematic. It might just be an url conflict. The miniatures are too good not to share so I want to make sure that everyone gets to see them.

  5. Even better than the previous interview. I really enjoyed reading this one :) Andy seems like an absolutely great guy.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it. Yeah, Andy is a really generous bloke, as well as a terrific painter - did you see those greys on the Avengers jacket?... We are working on a second article, this time focused on specific models and how he painted them, so you'll hear more from Andy in the coming weeks.

  6. Brilliant stuff Orlygg - a really enjoyable read.

    I can almost smell that priming room and the Humbrol red!

  7. Thanks for a beautiful story. What a time that must have been.

  8. I've really enjoyed this (and older Posts) walk through old and ancient Citadel miniatures - thank you for posting.


  9. Great job on this interview, enjoyed it a lot! Many thanks, to both you and Andy!

  10. Thanks for sharing! Love this blog of yours

  11. Thank you for this great interview.
    Somebody should do a film documentary about GW golden age !

  12. What a great interview, many thanks!

  13. Excellent interview, I have little interest in GW these days but I remember Andy's work back in the day and it was interesting to read how the painters worked at GW!

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  15. Thanks for that lovely interview. 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.

    4 February 2013 05:34

    1. This is what I love about articles like this...follow-ups are inevitable! These interviews speak to a time when possibilities were uncertain and the fluff hadn't been codified and legalized. The hobbyists in their pure form still have that same freedom to use any colors (even intense and bright ones) and crazy conversions, if they allow it :)


  16. Great Stuff! Brings back the memories. I had the same "Gamer thought" in the 80s but then went in the military and lost a decade of time before coming back to this wonderful hobby.

  17. I still have those dwarf Trollslayers. I remember being so inspired by that picture, and much of his other work. I can't honestly say I remembered his name, but I certainly remembered his work.