the Small Things
interview with miniatures sculptor Mike McVey
by Steve Kenson
wonder how miniature artists turn their hobby into a profession? We spent
a few minutes with Mike McVey, one of the sculptors creating the new 3rd
Edition D&D miniatures, and asked him just that.
grew up in the Lake District of northwest England. His route into the
gaming industry began when he was 13 and read The Lord of the Rings
for the first time. Soon after, Mike started playing Dungeons &
Dragons with a small group of friends at school. "I was hooked,"
he recalls. "We used to play D&D pretty much every Saturday
in someone's house, or sometimes garage."
natural extension of his gaming hobby, Mike began painting miniatures
for his group. "I just really got a kick out of it," he says.
"I'd never been particularly artistic, but with miniature painting
I found something I could just completely lose myself in. Soon collecting
and painting miniatures became the main focus of my hobby, rather than
the gaming side."
attended local schools until he was 18, then went away to study for a
degree in geology -- for about a month, after which he realized that geology
wasn't really what he wanted to do with his life. What Mike really enjoyed
was his hobby of painting miniatures, but he didn't expect to make a career
out of that. At least, not at first.
used to buy Imagine (TSR's UK publication), Dragon
Dwarf, and it was through White Dwarf that I realized there
were people (not very many, mind you) who made their living painting miniatures.
Most of these people were freelance, but in 1986 Games Workshop employed
their first full-time miniature painter. After I'd quit college I was
pretty lost for what I was going to do, so I was painting miniatures for
myself just about all the time. When I found out I could make a living
at what I was doing, I decided to go for it."
Mike saw an ad in White Dwarf for a miniatures painting job at
Games Workshop. He packed up some of his painting work and sent it in.
Much to his amazement, he was invited for an interview with the company
Blanche (GW's art director) interviewed me. While he liked my work, he
thought I was a little too young. I was 18 at the time, but I probably
looked about 14. I've always looked really young for my age, no one believes
I'm much over 20 now even though I'm 32. So John ended up giving the job
to someone else. About two months later he phoned me to see if I was interested
in a couple of weeks of freelance work in the studio. I jumped at the
chance and after a week they made me full-time. I ended up staying there
and working for GW for 12 years."
his time at Games Workshop, Mike worked as a miniatures painter (part
of the original 'Eavy Metal painting team) for a few years, and ran the
miniatures painting team for a few years after that. He wrote a series
of four books about painting and converting miniatures, along with a number
of articles for White Dwarf (GW's house magazine).
fiercely proud of what I achieved as a painter," Mike says. "When
I started out at GW I set myself certain goals, and I think that I exceeded
all of them and left a legacy for future generations of painters.
for individual pieces of work, I usually find that I'm pleased with most
things when I'm finished with them but within a week or so I wish I'd
done it a different way. I think that if you're ever completely satisfied
with what you're doing you're not pushing hard enough -- there should
always be room for improvement. That's how you get better, by being your
own worst critic. I made a number of dioramas that formed a series of
Master Class articles for White Dwarf .I think they turned out
pretty well." Mike also completely redesigned Games Workshop's range
of paints, and worked on nearly every main GW product between 1987 and
Mike realized that he'd achieved pretty much everything he wanted to do
in the miniature painting world, so he changed direction and became a
miniatures designer. "It was a pretty logical step, as I'd always
done a lot of converting and modeling," he explains. "Since
then, I've concentrated on design exclusively and haven't picked up a
brush in two years. I'm just starting out in the world of miniatures sculpting
in a lot of ways, and I have a lot to achieve. I've made some pretty good
miniatures so far, but nothing that I'm really one hundred percent happy
with. The closest would be the Eldar miniatures I made for GW just before
Mike joined Wizards of the Coast's new miniatures division. Visa issues
have delayed his move to Seattle, but in the meantime hes writing
a series of painting articles for Dragon magazine
some of the new D&D miniatures. "It's great because it's
like going back to my roots, when I first started playing D&D
and painting those miniatures as a kid," he says. "There are
a lot of exciting things planned for the D&D minis and I'm
looking forward to being part of them!"
see the new 3rd Edition D&D miniatures, visit Wizards miniatures
Kenson has been a freelance writer in the RPG industry for five years
and a gamer for far longer than he'd care to admit. He's written for a
number of games including Shadowrun, Marvel Super Heroes
and Dragonlance: Fifth Age. His work appears regularly in Dragon
Steve maintains a website
with gaming articles he has written and information about his current