Friday, January 1, 2021

Part 1: A Journey into a Commission

Behold, the power of directional lighting. Gravehammer Miniatures.

This has been a long, hard year for many people. Not just our hobby, but for millions of people around the world experiencing the effects of the pandemic. While some of you might know me for my writing of strategy articles, I want to bring you something slightly different from my usual and into something a bit more personal. This will be the start of the 4-part series of my journey through getting an entire army commissioned.

I am one of the lucky ones that was not as adversely affected by the pandemic that affected many others. Since I was able to work from home, I was not only lucky enough to keep my job, but save throughout the year to buy myself in the hopes of buying a new computer. My gaming computer has needed an upgrade for quite some time now and I committed myself at the start of the year to save up and buy a new one. However, just as new-gen offerings were coming online, the global stock for some of these items have been completed wiped out. With most of the parts from my computer unavailable, I knew my chances for getting a new gaming rig was slim.

Gaming, and more specifically Tabletop has been a very important thing to me growing up. It is a chance for me to get together with friends, socialize and enjoy a fantasy world where I can think of other things outside of school, work and general hardship. While I can go on about the mental effects of quarantine and prolonged social distancing, it is still one of our best defenses against a global pandemic. However, this meant that I haven't been able to play a single game of 9th Ed. 40K as most of the launch parties in my areas were canceled, and most of my friends share the same mindset of staying at home to protect their families. Most of the tabletop clubs in my areas have been closed for months now with little signs of reopening. While some players have tried going online with Tabletop Simulator, I can tell you right now that it's just not the same. Nothing beats interacting in-person and talking smack with your best mates over beer and pretzels.

With tabletop taking a backseat in my life, it was out of complete chance that I stumbled upon an army being sold on Facebook. My jaw dropped. Not just a little, but to the floor.

The Magnificence of Tzeentch. Gravehammer Miniatures.

Even without looking at the price, I couldn't help but notice that this wasn't your regular Tzeentch army. There was no vibrant blues or outlandish greens, no crazy saturation of colors or shocking hues. Instead, this army was painted in a way that I've never seen Tzeentch interpreted before. It was painted with dark grey with subtle shades of other colors that are dull at first, if not for the burning representation of Tzeentch's sacred pink fire. However, on closer inspection, even the fire looked.. different. These weren't just layers of paint that have been masterfully airbrushed, but rather the representation of fire and flame given life through directional lighting. The colors themselves demonstrated that light and temperature shared a mutual respect, not that Tzeentch cares about such mortal constraints. This wasn't just a beautifully painted army, this was artistic expression and to have such signature colors work in contrast with the darker vision of what Tzeentch is was nothing less than sublime. Forget (a harsher word was used) the gaming computer I thought to myself, I needed this piece of history in my life. In the 20 years that I've been in this hobby, I don't think I've ever acted this hastily.

Gaunt Summoner on Disc. Gravehammer Miniatures.

I immediately contacted the artist and asked about the army. Unfortunately for me, I was not the first and I can only imagine the bid the army eventually went for. Part of me was insanely jealous imagining the delight of person who won it, but another part of me was happy that the army went to a happy home. However, I was unsatisfied at the outcome and loss and was thirsty to know more about the artist. I needed to ask about his other works and other opportunities if there were any. To my surprise, the artist was quick to respond and after some friendly banter, was able to talk to me more about the Tzeentch army he just sold and what techniques he used to achieve such magnificent results. When talking with the artist, he defines the technique he employs as the "Grimdark style" of painting Warhammer. While we all know "Grimdark" to be the tagline of Warhammer's lore and universe, I never thought it was captured in the painting in terms of both look and atmosphere. The artist describes the method as "Dark realism with fantastical elements." When expressed artistically, it is in the form of darker greys with vigorous displays of color that accents each model's significance. Emotionally, it is the sound of eerie silence playing harmoniously with Viking Death Metal . That is truly something I can get behind.

Necron Doomstalker. Gravehammer Miniatures.

After a few nights of back and forth conversation, I discovered more and more about the artist. I found out that the artist sold the army to help fund his new commission paint studio lovingly called Gravehammer Miniatures to represent his style of painting. His name is Teemu Sihvonen and he wanted to turn his hobby into a new career. I also found out that Teemu wanted this change after working on the frontlines as a nurse in Finland when COVID hit. He was one the first to respond and care for sick like many of the first responders around the world. After months of mentally and physically exhausting work; treating those dying of the disease with minimal PPE while having a scarcity of supplies, it started to wear on him. He wanted to work on something that was more uplifting, and what was a great hobby of his. While I greatly admire this man's dedication and devotion to the heathcare of many, I'm also wondering if this grim experience in life is what gives him so much power and emotion behind his painted miniatures. After all, art is just another expression of one's self.

Teemu Sihvonen, Owner of Gravehammer Miniatures

This year, like I said when I opened has been difficult for many. However, Teemu has remained positive throughout all that he experienced and started building an online portfolio based on his love to paint as a form of escape. It helped him de-stress with work, just like I have with gaming, and like many of you who share in this great hobby together. He set goals, and every day, he painted something just to improve on his technique and mastery over the grimdark style of painting, as well as OSL (Object Source Lighting), color dissonance, and other advanced skills. Over time, this gave him the confidence to take on a few commissions and even managed to win Best Painted at his local shop for his Nurgle army before the pandemic got too real. If you guys want a peek at what pestilence really looks like, just check out his Great Unclean One here on his Instagram.

Chaos Lord on Karkadrak. Gravehammer Miniatures.

Needless to say, hard work does pay off. After I browsed through more of his work, and after I wiped off the drool from my mouth, I was sold. We talked for a few more nights (well, for me in California vs. his morning in Finland) and I decided that the gaming computer can wait indefinitely. I wanted to personally work with Teemu on creating an army that would take advantage of my strategic mind and list building prowess, and have him bring it to life with his grimdark style of masterful painting. We struck up a deal and in my next article, we will dive into the army that I have chosen, the details behind the commission itself (painting grades..etc) and some tutorial videos from Teemu himself on how to paint in the Grimdark style.

We would be thrilled for you all to join us in this adventure together. Until next time!

For more updates of Teemu's work, his tutorials or for any commission questions, please follow him on:

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