Will Hahn (@sik_willy_miniature_art) one of our students of the “Became a Pro” pledge appears in the Figure Mentors magazine with his last artwork, the Space Wolf bust.
And now we are going to know the atist behind this cover.
Hi Will, first of all, tell us something about you
Hey Hugo! My name is Will Hahn and I’m from Maryland in the USA. I live in a small town called Catonsville (a suburb of Baltimore, about 40 minutes north of Washington, DC) where I live with my wonderful wife and two children. During the day I work in my family’s seafood business, which has been continuously operating in Baltimore for five generations, since 1887. I got back into painting miniatures in 2017 during a fight with Chronic Lyme Disease. The illness took a very heavy toll on me both physically and mentally, and I was unable to do the more physical things that I enjoyed. It was a very difficult time in my life. I turned back to painting miniatures to help occupy my time and relieve stress, so in a way it sort of saved me and helped me through my recovery.
Do you have any other hobby than painting miniatures?
I’ve had many interest over many years, I enjoy surfing, skiing, auto racing, and off roading, but I don’t get to do those much anymore. I spent several years training in various martial arts (muay thai, jiu jitsu, and krav Maga) but physical injuries forced me to stop. I would say if I wasn’t painting I would be outdoors as I really enjoy hunting and fishing; because of that I’m also very passionate about conservation and protecting our environment and natural resources. During NFL season I participate in some fantasy leagues, as I really enjoy (American) football- Go Ravens!
Recommend us a movie, a book and a song.
These types of questions are always hard for me to answer because I can never pick just one of everything. For movie, I would say Mad Max: Fury Road is definitely one of my favorites. For a book: Banshee: A Colorful Mind because if you are into miniature painting, with any degree of seriousness, it is in my opinion a must own book and I truly mean that. For something less serious and for those that enjoy the Warhammer universe, I really enjoyed Dark Harvest by Josh Reynolds. For music I listen to a lot of different genres. Vicarious by TOOL is definitely a favorite and is on a lot of my playlists. I also love the version of Blue on Black by Five Finger Death Punch ft. Brantley Gilbert. I like FFDP a lot and Brantley is my favorite country artist, so the mashup of these two, from two of my favorite genres (that are very different), to me is really cool.
When you have started with the hobby? Can you show us a photo of your first miniature?
I started some time in the late 90’s. We had some family friends whose dad was stationed in Germany for a couple years and they were introduced to it there, and in turn introduced it to my brother and I when they came back to America. Coincidentally a local store started carrying GW stuff and my parents got us the Lizardmen vs Bretonnia WHFB starter box to split. I kept the Lizards as I’ve always loved non-human type fantasy characters. Then after a few years I was playing in a local WHFB tournament at another store, where I was introduced to 40k and started a space wolves army. My friends were more into WHFB though. We used to sneak beer and rum from our parents cabinets and have 4 way battles on weekends. It was really fun, and continued until the “girls and gasoline syndrome” hit, and we were going to parties on weekends instead of playing games with toy soldiers.
Unfortunately I don’t have my first miniature. I honestly think that it got blown up with a firecracker at some point (I did plenty of dumb things as a kid). I do however still have a few special ones from that first Lizardmen army that I had. This one was my first conversion, and my first (and only) entry ever into Golden Demon at the Baltimore Gamesday in 2000 for the Youngbloods category. He was my Kroxigor unit champion. Somehow it made finalist, the judges must have been very generous that day.
Are you still playing Wargames?
I really still like wargaming, it’s just hard to find time. With work and the kids it’s really difficult to carve out 4 hours or so for a game of 40k during the day. I can paint at any time, which is normally at night between the hours of about 10pm-2am, when most people are asleep and all of the gaming stores are closed. When everything starts getting back to normal, I think I will definitely try to get some games in though, I miss it. But I will focus more on skirmish games like Kill Team and Warcry. It’s easier to organize and make a squad that’s really unique and painted to a high level.
Who are your favourite painters? Who inspire your works? (Here you can share miniature painters or illustrators, all you want)
Oh man another favorites question… how long do you have? I take a lot of inspiration from other artists especially in the miniature community, but I also take inspiration from everywhere. Nature, old buildings, everyday objects, movies, television. I think it’s important to observe everything, even how the light reflects off of your glass of water or silverware at the dinner table. I’ve found myself awkwardly staring at peoples faces during work conversations, trying to analyze their skin tones and how the appearance of it is being affected by the directional and ambient room lighting. It can be really interesting, and is definitely a rabbit hole that’s easy to fall deep into.
For miniature painters… this is such a hard question. The easy answer would be that I’ve been inspired at some point by probably anyone you’ve ever heard of and a bunch of those that you haven’t. Good ideas aren’t necessarily skill dependent. Of course I love Masclans, Kiril, LAN, and Arnau. I think some of my personal favorite painters would probably include Aythami Alonso, Richard Gray, David Colwell, Natalia Oracz, and Alfonso. I’m a big fan of both the Spanish and Italian schools, there are just so many painters there that are incredible. Sergio, Albert, Francesco, Rusto. I really like Dmitriy Feseschko too. I’m constantly inspired by the storytelling of Chris Suhre, and the creative scratchbuilding and converting of Evgeny Kirsanov (@pax_acrylica on IG). Darren Han’s face work makes my head explode. On the American side, I love Erik Swinson and Matt DiPietro’s works. I love the unique styles of Sam Lenz and John Margiotta, and the technical ability of Steve Garcia still wows me every time. I could sit here all day and rattle off names of amazing artists all over the world. I feel like I have hundreds of favorite artists, this is not an exhaustive list by any means. I find inspiration in every style, and love seeing all works from artists anywhere and everywhere, from every country. There is value in all of them, in any medium as well.
It´s time to talk about your weapons… Which brand of paints do you prefer? And brushes?
I use a lot of different paint brands and types, and I’m always looking for more. I would probably say my most used paints are Kimera, Scale 75 (Artist and regular), Vallejo, and Daler Rowney Inks. I also use a fair amount of ProAcryl, some P3 and Citadel, and have been experimenting more recently with Liquitex heavy bodies. I really really want to experiment with the AK 3rd gens and some oils but have not yet. I think it’s important to remember that every paint brand or type will have different strengths and weaknesses, and will be more or less useful depending on the techniques used and the desired effect. There is no best all around paint in my opinion.
For brushes, I almost always default to a good old Winsor series 7. I’ve tried many different types but the Winsors always feel the best to me because of the combination of belly size, stiffness, and point. I do however really like the Raphael 8404s and the Monument igniters for different things also. I’m the kind of person that will try to paint the entire miniature with a #2, and never go below a #0. I still do about 90% of my painting with a traditional brush, but for airbrushes I mainly use a Grex Genesis and H&S Infinity.
You are in the cover of the Figure Mentors magazine, what are your feelings about?
It’s really cool. It still feels kind of surreal. It’s humbling but feels empowering at the same time. When Jay asked me if I wanted to do a feature for him I was so honored and excited, and I really wanted to do something special, as it was the first time anyone really wanted to feature my work. It’s really satisfying to see all the long hours of practice paying off, and knowing that my work is inspiring to others and brings joy to them.
The Space Wolf bust is an incredible paintjob, which part was the most challenging one to paint?
Thank you! It was fun and challenging at the same time, I think those are the best types of projects. I think a few parts were kind of difficult, the wolf logo on the shoulder pad came out really bad the first go around, but I think that was partly because I had not done that type of freehand in a while but also because I wasn’t paying attention to my references the way I should have been. I honestly think the gemstone on his chest was probably the most challenging. I find round gems very easy but faceted gemstones rather difficult, as its tough to really get the areas of pure reflection right and paint a convincing refraction depending on what the main view is.
Have you painted more or less during this pandemic year?
Honestly I think its probably about the same amount of time, maybe a little more. My daughter was born right before the pandemic, so my wife and I had the kids at home throughout the whole thing and require a lot of attention that I’m very happy to give them. So I still only get to paint when they are asleep which was pretty much the same as before. But I definitely think that I’ve pushed myself more to get better, without the distraction of gaming minis I’ve been able to focus on display painting.
The other day in “La Tostadora” with Francesco Farabi we talked about the Italian and Spanish hobby community, can you tell us something about the US painting community? Do you think the size of the US positively or negatively affect the painting community there?
This is a really interesting topic, and I think there are a lot of factors at play with the US community. I think it is a little bit of both and I’ll try to explain my thoughts the best I can. The US is much larger and more spread out geographically than Europe, which does make it difficult to get together with other painters unless it’s a large show or convention and that still takes a lot of planning. I think the US miniature painting scene is still very much dominated by gaming, especially by GW. I have several stores pretty close by to me, but to find another display painter who is either a similar level or better than me to learn from and exchange ideas or techniques would be a pretty long trip. I think the closest is my friend John Margiotta who is probably about a 3 hour drive. I think Erik Swinson is about 4 hours away. Aaron Lovejoy, now that he is on the East Coast of the US, lives about 9 hours away from me. It would take me over 40+ hours to drive to (or a 6-7 hour flight) to visit Matt DiPietro’s studio on the west coast, with all of the other great US painters sprinkled somewhere in between. So hopefully that gives our European friends an idea of the distance between so many of us. But Games Workshop is everywhere, and that is what so many people here are exposed to, so that’s how many Americans still think of miniature painting. We all know the danger of being exposed to only one style or one way of thinking. I think in Europe, it was easier for information flow and teaching when various artists started to do things differently because it was easier to gain access to other painters, both geographically and through more shows. That is how the different national “schools” arose, and the competition between those schools or teams pushed everyone to constantly improve and innovate new ideas in the art form. Constructive criticism, critical thinking, and having a community or group of friends that helps you push yourself and your skills is incredibly important to personal growth, but if I walk into a local gaming store the topic of conversation is much more likely to hinge on the next new model release for whatever army or newest META change than any sort of technical or theoretical painting discussion. On a good day I might have someone ask me how to blend better. So that is the type of challenge the US faces due to geography, but people who are passionate about anything will always find a way and I think that something really cool is starting to happen. Alfonso mentioned in the interview that one thing he noticed about the US community is how many artists will learn from European master painters and then grow. I think that concept coupled with the advent of the digital age, in social media and the online painting community, a lot of US painters have been able to bridge that geographical divide. On the positive side, in my opinion there really isn’t a “US school” of miniature painting anymore and I think this came from the distance gap between so many US painters, who were able to decide which different masters from Europe they liked the best and then apply those lessons and come up with more unique styles. I think this can be seen among a lot of the “top” American painters. Every single one has a very different style. Compare Erik Swinson’s work to Sam Lenz, or Matt DiPietro to Chris Suhre, to Steve Garcia, to John Margiotta, and every single one is so unique. And that’s my favorite thing about the American painting scene is how different the styles are. But now with the advent of things like online classes, Patreon, private coaching, and technology bridging the gap between all of us around the world, the geographical divide is becoming more and more inconsequential, and we will see even more style variation across the globe. I also think it’s exposing many wargamers to the world of higher end display painting and I think that’s a good thing, and has helped give rise to a stronger painting community both in the US and across the world. I would expect to see a lot of new names popping up from American artists that you may not be familiar with, like Josh Berman and Rhett Jenkins.
What goals have you in mind in short/long term?
I just want to continue to improve my own skills and to hopefully one day be one of the great masters who helps to shape the art as we know it. I would love to make it over Europe to compete at some shows like Monte, SMC, or World Expo at some point. My wife told me I’m allowed go to Europe to compete in shows when I can pay for the trip with my painting, so I would love to paint some box arts at some point. In the meantime I look forward to the return of some of the US shows. I would also like to teach at some point in the future as well, nothing serious but casually at conventions or workshops. My work would not be what it is without my teachers, so I would like to be able to help those that want to learn in the same way so many have helped me.
Why do you joined the “Became a Pro” pledge?
Once I was exposed to display painting, it became my goal to learn from as many different masters or great painters as possible. I’ve taken classes with Matt DiPietro, Sam Lenz, and done private coaching with Aaron Lovejoy, Richard Gray, and Sergio Calvo. However, during that time I was also always on the Miniature Art Academy Patreon as well. There was always something really special about how Alfonso taught in his videos that really resonated with me and inspired me. The approach was different, it wasn’t just about techniques or processes but geared toward teaching a student how to think and “break the mold” so to speak. Not that the others don’t or did not, because all of my mentors have been fantastic, it was just different and something that I felt was very unique and special to Alfonso. It’s sort of an intangible that’s hard to describe. But that cultivated an even deeper respect and admiration for him, and I knew that as soon as any sort of private pledge was available with him I would jump at the opportunity. I’ve found that for me, I get much more out of one on one talks and coaching than I do through videos (however good they may be), so it was really important to me to get on this pledge as soon as I had the chance, and be able to work very closely with him.
You have joined the pledge a couple of months ago, tell us something about your experience in this pledge
It has been absolutely wonderful, I don’t think I could say enough good things about it to describe how happy I am with it. I had the feeling that Alfonso and I would get along really well and I think this was definitely the right move for me to push my work to new heights. From our first meeting I was absolutely blown away by his depth of knowledge, his book “A colorful mind” is aptly named but also an understatement. I immediately saw results. I think the best way to describe it is that Alfonso will be the key to unlocking Pandora’s box in my brain.
What you can say to the newcomers to this hobby? Share with us the tip you wish someone has telled to you in the beginning of your journey
I would say that it would be to remember there isn’t only one “right” way to paint. Art doesn’t have rules, guidelines yes, but the end result is subject to the artist’s interpretation. Painting shouldn’t be a formula and a set of directions, it’s more fluid than that. Be patient, progress comes with knowledge, experience, and a lot of practice. Expose yourself to as many new ideas and inspirations as you can. Don’t obsess over blending, that will come with time on its own, understanding color and light is much more important. And get a wet palette.
Can you tell us what we can expect from you in the future? What is now in your painting desk? Tell us something about your future projects
I’m not really sure, as I tend to be kind of fickle and can be subject to very bad “hobby ADD”. I will say that I do intend to keep pushing my skills and artwork. I’ve been enjoying a lot of small academic busts recently. I would love to do some different or more unique projects coming up here soon, maybe some more conversions or work on sculpting, or something more in depth, but I don’t really know what that is yet. Often times the inspiration just kind of strikes out of nowhere for me. So I wish I had a better answer for this but I honestly don’t really know- whatever it is I hope it will be very interesting though.
Fantastic! Congratulations and well done if you are reading this Will.
Going down that rabbit hole is a great analogy. I find myself drifting too, always trying to observe .. (sometimes losing storylines in movies etc haha)
The first mini Firecracker story made made me chuckle.
And thanks for that list of names to check out. Some I’ve not heard of.
Great read thank you.
Thanks for your apreciation Colin, we try our best to give the best content and your comments helps us a lot
No worries Hugo! Cheers!
Thank you Colin!! Im really glad you enjoyed it and that it was relatable. It was a pleasure to chat about these topics. Definitely check out those other artists too!
congrats Willms! nice to read these interviews, very inspiring for the rest of the students.
Thank you Alberto!
Congratulations to Will! And this was a great interview! Interviews like this are a great kind of content for the academy!
Thanks, we plan to make more interviews and kickstarter and products deep views
Thanks Scott!! Really glad you enjoyed it, was a pleasure to do!
Hugo, thank you so much for the opportunity to do this interview, it was an absolute pleasure!!
Thanks to you and congratulations for the awards you have received!!