For those unfortunate Warmachine players, like myself, who were unable to attend GenCon2016, the internet was the next best thing. I poured through twitter feeds looking for updates and cheered for each champion like I would cheer for an Olympian representing my country. Jake Van Meter won the Iron Gauntlet with Legion and Ryan McDermot took down Masters with Khador. GenCon 2016 was Ryan’s first convention gold but JVM is a repeat winner and his continued success has made him a fan favorite.
There was another repeat winner at GenCon but you may not have heard of her, Kat Martin. Kat is a painter and she took 1st in the P3 Grandmaster painting competition for best warrior model and took home the coveted title of Grandmaster Painter for her Skarre bust. Like her co-champion, this wasn’t her first victory—it was Kat’s 8th gold and 18th overall top 3 finish.
Kat Martin is an artist living and working in Missouri. She is still relatively new to the miniature-painting scene but in just a few years Kat has been a dominant presence in the Midwest Convention circuit.
- GenCon Open category for new competitors, 1st place
- Wyrd Miniatures’ manufacturer’s awards, 1st place
- GenCon Dark bust competition, 3rd place
- GenCon Dark Sword manufacturer’s award, 3rd place
- Crystal Brush, Fantasy Single Figure, 3rd place
- Crystal Brush, Sci Fi Single Figure, 3rd place
- Crystal Brush, Sci Fi Unit, 3rd place
- Dark Age manufacturer’s award, 3rd place
- P3 Grandmaster competition, warrior model, 3rd place
- P3 Grandmaster competition, unit, 2nd place
- Warmachine Weekend: Best in show, 1st place
- Warmachine Weekend: Single figure, 1st place
- Warmachine Weekend, 90 day challenge, 1st place
- GenCon, Large Figure, Individual Gold
- GenCon, Single Figure, Individual Silver
- P3 Grandmaster competition, warrior model, 1st place
- P3 Grandmaster competition, Best in show, 1st place
Before she moved to Missouri, Kat was a regular at my FLGS in Iowa City. Back then, her seamless blends, use of glazes and ability to paint realistic faces inspired many novice painters, including myself, to continue painting. She showed us what was possible with enough practice and we yearned to one day replicate her work. I was very sad when our painting-prodigy moved to Missouri but was delighted when she agreed to this interview.
Kat, before you were crushing painting competitions at national conventions you were just another college student who played games and painted miniatures for fun. Can you describe what prompted you to change gears from hobbyist to professional?
Well, I can only very recently be described as anything like a professional! Lamely enough, the motivation there was necessity–about a year ago I was fresh out of college with an art degree that I had no idea what to do with, living with friends in a new city, and feeling pretty lost. I reached out to Dark Sword Miniatures and was challenged to impress at GenCon, so I spent a month doing nothing but painting in preparation. It went well enough that I now do freelance work for Dark Sword, but I’m not a full-time painter.
I think the transition from painting tabletop miniatures to amuse myself to competing in painting competitions was maybe a more important shift. It took me a few years to build up the confidence to enter GenCon’s painting competition, but once I did, I was hooked. You get to see so much incredible work up close and sort of wallow in your own inadequacy…but, like, in an educational way.
What obstacles, if any, did you have to overcome to pursue a career in this niche’ industry?
As far as obstacles go, I think anytime you turn your creativity towards profit you have to understand that it isn’t a hobby anymore. You can’t leave it on your desk unfinished for months, you can’t ignore it when you get bored with it. It can still be hugely enjoyable, but it’s definitely not the same.
I see a lot of decent miniature painters try to take that step from hobby to professional by jumping straight into commission-painting. What made you reach out to Dark Sword Miniatures versus trying to be freelance?
I actually have done a small number of personal commissions over the years (still do!), but I figured pushing myself to paint for an established company that some of my favorite painters have done work for–people like Jessica Rich, Jen Haley, and Marike Reimer–would be a big step up for me, as well as some confirmation that my work is worth paying for. Having a predictable schedule is awfully nice, too.
Were there any other companies you reached out too?
I sent messages off to a number of miniatures companies and heard back from exceedingly few of them. Putting yourself out there like that, especially if you’re not a well-established painter, is basically yelling into a void and hoping someone’s interested enough to give you a chance. Having a bigger portfolio of commission work probably would have been helpful!
Artist’s can sometimes be their own biggest critics and can get discouraged when they see other’s accomplishments. However, you saw your favorite painters’ works and that pushed you to work alongside them, despite recognizing that your portfolio wasn’t as large as it could have been. You took a chance and it paid off.
Does that willingness to take chances and risk failure lend itself to you at all when painting? Do you find yourself trying new techniques more often or sticking to what you know and perfecting those skills?
Yeah, I think being willing to take risks definitely pays off. I can’t say I feel like I’ve perfected anything, but if you stay in your comfort zone–which is very easy to do!–you stagnate. I know for many competitions don’t seem the place to try something new, but a couple of times I’ve had that competitive edge be the thing that pushes me to try something difficult or unfamiliar. So far, it’s paid off.
You mentioned a few of your favorite painters, Jessica Rich, Jen Haley, Marike Reimer; before you were hired by Dark Sword Miniatures did you ever reach out to these painters or other painters for advice?
I’ve always been pretty shy when it comes to approaching other painters, but taking classes from them and getting to talk at conventions is so helpful, and pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to has been very generous with their time (something that is, as I understand it, very precious to full-time painters!).
These days, a painter could find a myriad of tutorials on YouTube and blogs, do you think painting-mentors are necessary?
A lot of wonderful people have sunk an extraordinary amount of time into free tutorials on almost any subject you can think of, but for me, nothing quite replaces hands-on learning. A lot of things that I struggled with on my own suddenly clicked when I was able to see another person do it right in front of me.
Is there anything else that you think would be very helpful for painters who have stagnated?
For painters who have stagnated, I’m not sure I have any better advice than to look at artists who do very different work from you. Most of us have pretty strong preferences as far as style, and while it’s perfectly fine to be pursuing a narrow goal (the smoothest blends, the most precise freehand, etc.), sometimes it takes something kind of jarring to wake your brain up and get you over the next hurdle.
The most valuable advice I can give probably doesn’t apply to everyone, but to slow, fiddly painters like myself: abandon perfection. If you’re too afraid of screwing up, you get conservative with your technique and you never finish anything. I don’t think I finished a single project in my first two years of painting! Better to see your mistakes, accept them, and know you’ll do better next time.
Thanks Kat, where can people follow you? And if someone wanted to hire you for a personal commission are you currently taking on new projects? If so, what’s the best way for them to reach you about a commission?
Anybody who wants to can find me on my art facebook page. I have pictures of old works there, and I even remember to update it sometimes…! I have a website in the works, but it’s not active yet.
Anyone interested in talking about potential projects should feel free to email me at email@example.com or contact me through facebook @kmartinstudio.
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