Ask The Artist: Alex, from 52 Miniatures
When one finds themselves at the Youtube search bar, they are generally forced to decide whether their focus is on quality of content or visual enjoyment. It's not often these two principles meet. That's why when you find creators like Miniac, Goobertown, Squidmar, Black Magic Craft and eBay Miniature Rescues, they stand out. You cherish them and the beautiful synergy between education and enjoyment.
I thought I had seen it all. I believed the bar had been set and it could go no higher. I felt this way until Scott from Miniac released a video where he mentioned an up and coming YouTuber by the channel name 52 Miniatures as a source of inspiration. I thought I might as well check him out and I have been an avid fan ever since.
"What makes him special?" I can hear you say. Well, as I said earlier, we are often forced to choose between education or enjoyment. Let me tell you, with 52 Miniatures, you can have your cake and eat it too! The topics of his videos are exceptionally relevant, and often tackle big questions in the hobby sphere. On top of that, his comedic timing and delivery is hilarious!
Alex comes from a background in photography. His prior experience elevates his content, and is expertly employed to deliver truly enjoyable content. The masterful use of B-roll, slowmotion and interest-grabbing lighting and angles both keep and hold the viewer's attention as they are lovingly spoon-fed the information they seek. Watching a 52 Miniatures video is an experience. I make sure I save the videos for when I can sit-down, get in comfortable clothes and absorb the spectacle in its entirety. Not to say they're ubnoxiously long, or overly complicated and require your undivided attention to grasp the concept. I simply know I'm going to learn a lesson, see trial and error processes, and maybe pick up a few videography tricks too!
Now, I've prattled on long enough....let's hear from the man himself!
How long have you been involved in the hobby in general? I thoroughly enjoyed this hobby as a kid, but slowly grew out of it at the same rate as I was discovering things like adult beverages, nicotine and the other sex. Not that the two aren't compatible, I mainly just lost interest I guess. As an adult I have longingly viewed miniatures at a distance, at one point buying a couple of scale model tanks... that never got done. And then a couple of years back, I just couldn't stop myself from getting the Soul Wars box, the then starter set for Games Workshop's fantasy wargame Age of Sigmar. Since that dip of a toe, I've pretty much plunged for the deep dive.
How long have you been actively promoting your content on social media? From one topic to the other! I'm not sure I promote my content all that well on social media. I do have an instagram, mainly as a platform to publish still images of my otherwise moving pictures content. And to share a more personal side of the hobby. What I'm painting and so on. Like anyones "hobby related" Instagram really. What initially drew you to the miniature model hobby realm? Miniatures have always had a magnetic effect on me. Anything from Lego, to scale model railways, scale model kits, and museum dioramas. I remember this scale model store I used to visit religiously as a kid. They displayed a load of dioramas, you know, propper scale model dioramas that people spend utter ages of work on. Planting every grass straw by hand, kind of a thing. There's probably still staining on that store floor as a result of my involuntary drooling. Well, there would be if it didn't have to shut down a few years back. Anyway. The magnetism was there. I have also been quite absorbed in the middle ages and that. What kid doesn't want to play with swords and wear full body armour. All the kids that don't like cowboys... oh and all this is before the time of Nerf guns, the internett and well computers even. Calculators just didn't have the same appeal. I guess it was just a matter of time, also with some help from my dad, Tolkien and a friend's older brother that the world of Warhammer Fantasy opened before me.
What tabletop game would you say is your favorite? What particular faction within that game is your favorite and why? I solely play Age of Sigmar. And so choosing a favourite game would appear apparently biased, as there is only one. I am on a journey to start playing Stargrave from Osprey Publishing, wanting a sci-fi skirmish game in my life but I'm still working on the models. In AoS I play Stormcast, mainly Vanguard. I think, because of my subliminal infatuation with the medieval, I wanted to play knights. The slight hints towards ancient roman and greek aesthetics agree with me as well. Exaggerated shoulder pads I just have to live with... Now as you can notice, the underlying army choice is based on miniature aesthetics. I believe that if one is going to get through painting an entire miniature army, it needs to be fun. And personally I don't enjoy painting miniatures I don't like the look of.
What is more enjoyable for you personally: painting or playing the game? I spend way more time painting than I do gaming. In the end I think they are two entirely different beasts that require and give entirely different things to our lives. But they are also perfect companions. Gaming brings immediate excitement, friendship, and brain heating whereas painting brings craft, meditation and sometimes very needed solitude.
If money or time weren’t a consideration, what single purchase/upgrade/expansion would you make to further your hobby enjoyment? A Squig-powered Zeppelin game room.
Where do you get the inspiration for your particular army theme or painting style? For me inspiration is probably best described as a subconscious drop by drop filling of a cup. Doing stuff - reading, walking in the woods, watching videos on YouTube, talking to friends... well honestly all things in life... are small drops that mix with the other little drops. All of a sudden, the cup flows over and ideas are hatched. I seldom look at other painted minis, and say, "I want to copy that". But I can look at painted mini's and say "green is a nice colour" or "I want mine rusty too". That mixes with totally irrelevant drops of information in my head and becomes a general scheme or style.. that then usually changes or gets altered while painting. My Stormcast army for example was inspired by modern warfare colours and camouflage, mixed with "sneaky" ninja vibes. That later on occasionally changed into "confused" camouflage, like the one excentric hero that has an "autumn inspired" suit of armour. It's bright orange. Bright orange really isn't the best camouflage colour you know. Or the other hero that didn't have time to get out of his winter fatigues, so he's like this beacon of white on the otherwise muddy battlefield. So yeah.. fun is also an inspiration. What tips or advice would you give someone just starting out in the hobby? This is a hobby, your hobby. Do what inspires you and have fun. The fun bit is a keeper.
How would you say your experience with photography/videography has impacted or directed your hobby journey?
The way my videos look now, obviously my prior experience and gear availability plays a major role. But it didn't start out that way, even though my knowledge was available at that point in time as well. I think at some point I just decided I wanted to tell a little visual story, add a narrative. Filming is something I enjoy, and so the process of how I make the videos now is entirely self centered. I wanted to have fun. The "traditional", talking into the camera and then switching to "mini view" was becoming less and less inspiring. I needed to change things to keep having fun. And so I brought forth some of the guns so to speak. But it was not something I intended when starting out. I think getting to know YouTube a little better played a part as well. We don't all have to make the same style videos over and over. What was the moment you decided to share your hobby with the world? Well, when starting out on YouTube, it's not like you are sharing your hobby with the world. It's about sharing your hobby with ten people. So I had no grand intentions starting out. I kind of just started on impuls. Somewhere in my head was the sensation of not really being drawn to all that much content that was being created. I didn't necessarily feel that I had a niche to fill, rather that maybe there are more similarly inclined as myself, and if I would make videos that appeal to me, others might want to view them. What was the most difficult obstacle you had to overcome on your path to becoming a painting content creator? I don't think there has been any specifically difficult obstacles. It's more like riding a bike slightly uphill and every now and again the wind changes. It can blow in your face or on your back. But it's only wind. What can get to you is the hill. What has been the most rewarding experience you’ve had since starting your YouTube journey? The continued, let's call it "blooming" revelation of the wonderful "mini" community. Displayed not only more close and personal on my Patreon, Patreon Discord and through video comments. But in the hobby in general. We have a wonderful thing going If you could do anything to expand your company/studio/hobby footprint, what would it be? Bigger shoes? No seriously, I don't think these types of thoughts cross my mind. I'm essentially doing my hobby, I react to it and it reacts to me. I do one video at a time and I'm very grateful for all the people that enjoy sharing my journey.
What product line do you endorse and what about their products do you feel sets them above their competitors? On the whole, I think this hobby would benefit from less "gear talk". On the other hand, I love to try new things. On the whole, we could do with just a set of base paints. On the other hand, having lots of different shades of paint inspires me. So it's a bit of a conundrum. In the end, I use the products I enjoy using and that's the ones you see in my videos. And I continually change my mind about things. Something that makes my last statement rather a bit of a conundrum as well. But if we are going to talk shop. Right now I enjoy Redgrass Games brushes, they do three types and they suit all my needs. Also their new reusable wet palette membranes are the best thing since sliced bread. I enjoy Scalecolor paints because they seem to suit my style of painting. I enjoy Green Stuff World because they keep on putting out all the products no one else is putting out. In the end, what I enjoy the most, is my wonderful local friendly game store Alphaspel and their staff, who enable me to enjoy all of the above mentioned things and most probably other future favourites. If you could earn a sponsorship or endorsement from your dream company, who would it be and why? Honestly, some rad cinema camera company. And that's not really being serious. But you know, most of the stuff we use in this hobby is reasonably priced, even the overpriced things are manageable. An Arri isn't. What advice would you give to someone interested in taking the plunge to becoming a painting content creator? Well, you remember that uphill bike ride I was talking about earlier? Just keep pushing them pedals. Don't forget to paint your bike whatever colour you like and try to just have fun, regardless of how the wind blows. And maybe a personal reflection... but behind every comment is an actual person that is most probably enjoying what you are creating. How often does that happen? People walking up to you in the street saying "that mini you painted is just lovely!"? That's some pretty fabulous stuff.
For those (like myself) that struggle with the photography/videography aspect, what resources would you recommend to help improve? If one seriously wants to get better at anything there is only practice. This sounds like the most lame answer. And it kind of is. But this is unfortunately the case with all things. How do people get good at stuff? Like let's say miniature painting? Usually they paint a lot of miniatures, learn from others, practice brush yoga... all that stuff. The same goes for photography or videography. It's yet another craft that does not automatically come with an inherited dna skill boost. The skill only gets boosted by hours put in. And so, if we want to make this simple yet complicated, with photography, a lot is about understanding light. We photographers talk about a lot of gear and that. But this is only valid if one can actually use the gear. Light is what is paramount. The best thing to start with, in my opinion, is trying to figure out the light thing. If it comes to photographing miniatures. Well, what happens if the mini is next to a window, or under a light bulb, is there a difference, why is that? All that stuff. Or just get a light box thingy and be done. With videography, there's a multitude of things that matter and don't matter. One can win Canne prizes with stuff filmed on an Iphone and have box office flops with stuff that has a larger budget than the yearly bnp of a small country. So... My personal advice would be to try and tell a story, visually. And see what happens. None of this is anywhere near a "hack". But I just can't think of one. Alex, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions! I absolutely love your work and I've even taken quite a few notes about how to make my content more interesting based upon your example. Your sense of humor and peerless videographical execution are truly defining characteristics of your brand and I cannot wait to see how far you go!
Readers, if you are looking for someone to follow that will indisputably help you find your own style, 52 Miniatures is a must! You can find him on Instagram, Youtube, and you can send some support his way via a Patreon. Thank you all for your support, and have an awesome day!