"Sculpting: A Q&A with Rob Alderman"

An Interview by Craig Andrews


Rob Alderman, one of the sculptors for Alternative Armies, answers some questions about himself and his work.


Q. Before we start with the sculpting questions, tell us a little about yourself; where you're from, what you do for a living ? etc.

My name is Rob Alderman, I am 20 years old and have been modelling miniatures since I was very young, probably seven or eight. I didn't come from a 'wargaming' family, my mum knits a lot and my dad is obsessed with scientific Formulae. I was born in Cambridge, England on the 23rd of September 1990, which I think makes me younger than Alternative Armies (AA) itself! I was brought up in a little town called Abingdon, Oxfordshire and a fellow called Ross Bowrage can be blamed for my current obsession with Flintloque. Thanks Ross! I currently live in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, with my girlfriend Hannah, studying Fine Art at Coventry University. I am currently working while being a student.

Q. When did you first start sculpting and what led you to start ?

I started sculpting in 2006-2007, just doing head-swaps and then I began fully resculpting parts of the AA range that I wasn’t happy with. Not even that I wasn’t happy with it. I just like things to ‘match’ so I did my best to try and make parts of the newer Todoroni range match the older stuff by Mike Owen. These will never be released. The current sculpts are good and do the job nicely. I started sculpting for AA and having stuff cast up in 2009 at the mere age of 18. I met Elton Waters over one weekend in 2009 and seeing his flat, filled with sculpts, was incredibly inspiring and led me on to asking Gavin Syme at AA whether he would consider casting some conversions I had done (the Todoroni Light Company Command). He kindly gave me the chance I wanted.

Q. Is there a website where fans of the Todoroni can see your older conversions ?

I'm afraid there is no such site at the time of writing this. But I will see what I can do, maybe you can help me out. I'd like a communal site for that sort of thing, Tony's, Elton's and Steve's conversions are especially interesting and often inspire me to do what I do! Most of my conversions are on the Notables Yahoo group, in my photo-gallery. See the Notables Yahoo Group online here.

Q. Where do you do your sculpting ?

I'm very particular, I like having space to myself and quite a clean surface to work with. I sculpt at my 'hobby desk', but usually at 6am and 10pm, if I am on holiday, I will actually plan the day into 4 hour sections, i.e. wake up at 6, do some sculpting, then go have breakfast, sculpt until 10, then do something else until 2, then 6 and finally 10. This way, I get an awful lot done without the miniature looking rushed. I did this last Christmas and did lots! Hannah and I are lucky to have our own Hobby Room, and this is where I sculpt.

Q. What materials and tools do you find you use most often ?

For a sculptor, I actually only use a few tools really. Firstly, the normal ‘sculpting tool’ which I picked up from GW many years ago. It is now caked in milliput and greenstuff, but hey, it works. I generally use this to apply greenstuff and move it around. To smooth out greenstuff, I use some small artists clay shapers which I got from Heresy Miniatures , Hobbycraft also sell them now. I only use two , the Tapered one and the Flat edge one. I also use a thick sewing needle and a pin for details. It’s really just a matter of trying to find out what works for you. I’m sure there is more that I could use.

Q. A lot of Flintloque gamers regularly modify or swap heads, arms, weapons etc. but find the thought of sculpting from scratch very daunting - do you have any hints or tips to help them ?

Just try it. I do feel more in my comfort zone just doing conversions, but there is something very satisfying about doing a full sculpt. Gavin actually supplies me with lots of bits that are cast specifically for all Alternative Armies sculptors. This includes quite a few armatures, which are incredibly useful. I think once you have conversions covered, try sculpting over an armature. Basically, keep trying and it will come to you naturally. Sorry I can’t be more specific!

Q. What inspires you and have you a sculptor or a sculpting style that you try to follow ?

I am hugely inspired by the Flintloque background, but also its fans. The fact that people are buying the miniatures and using them really does something for me. Seeing one of your own sculpts painted by someone else, in colours you didn’t imagine them in whilst sculpting them is really nice. The sculptor I aim to ‘be like’ is Mike Owen. Mike Beauchamp also did some nice sculpting work, as has ‘Dagenham’ Dave Toone and the rest of the lads. I would like the sculpting style of Flintloque to continue as it is but I also like the creative nature of the design team. Also, if Edward Jackson draws something that hasn’t been sculpted and I want to sculpt it, I will try to follow his drawings as closely as possible. He has a brilliant imagination and has drawn some concepts for me that I just cannot wait to start sculpting.

Q. Of those classic sculpts which would say is your favourite ?

There is an awful lot of stuff. I have to say, the most complete range of miniatures Mike Owen did, in my opinion, were the Krautian Dwarves, especially the more stocky ones such as the Landwehr, Jagers, Guard and Kartoffelburg line. All wonderful models that really work with each other. I am incredibly jealous of his Orcs though, I struggle making their faces look like his ones. Obviously, no one can really dictate 'what an Orc looks like', but I still like them all to look similar, mine I fear, all look very different. But that's for you lot to find out at Salute 2011 if all goes as planned! All of Beauchamp's work is incredible. He is very, very talented. I have fallen in love with his Trolka models at the moment and can't wait to make some of my own. These are really worth paying for, they take a lot of expertise just to cast because of the size of them. Gavin described them to me as like a fondant chocolate egg. If you press them too hard, the inside will come pouring out from the hard shell, and with hot metal, this is very dangerous! Oh and Mike's Halflings are amazing, I haven't done any yet, but I have lots and lots of the blighters!

Q. When did you first start playing Flintloque/Slaughterloo and what attracted you to the game?

Cor, I bought my first Flintloque box from a Toyshop in Banbury, Oxfordshire in 1998 or 1999 which was the ‘Orc Camp Followers’ set. I was only 8 or 9 and I thought they were so different from the GW stuff I had always seen so the name ‘Flintloque’ was in my mind for a very long time. Then a couple of years later, I bought some Todoroni Militia at a Car boot in Abingdon, Oxfordshire and that begun my love affair with Flintloque. That mixed in with a battered copy of Orcs in the Hills and the old Catalogue. As a member of Abingdon Wargames Club, I didn’t think anyone there played it or anything, until one Sunday Ross Bowrage brought in some of his stuff that he has had since Uni. Once I had found out that he would play it regularly, I started collecting more and more stuff. This was about 4 or 5 years ago. So I haven’t been that long term really, but I do have an awful lot of kit. I seem to be quite good at finding it!

Q. What is your favourite race in Flintloque - is it the same one that you most enjoy sculpting or is that different?

My favourite race is the Todoroni. They, for me, are one of Flintloque’s brilliant and original races. You would be surprised how much emotion you can sculpt into a Toads face and this suits the stereotypical Italian nature! Painting them is a joy too. Playing them is fun, I don’t mind losing you know.

Sculpting wise, I have a few favourites. Toads, obviously, because of the character you can put into them. I also like sculpting Werewolves, not sure why, but I do. Oh and Trolkin. I like sculpting all their lumpy features.

Q. Without giving any secrets away concerning any work you may be doing for AA, have you a particular figure or range of figures that you would like to work on?

I would really like to sculpt the Southern Undead army. I am half way through sculpting one whole army, which has come along very nicely, but I can’t talk about them though the first of them will be out before Salute 2011 next year. I can however give you a glimpse of what I've been working on, I can't wait to hear people thoughts on the group...

Miniatures Sculpted by Rob Alderman, Photo by Alternative Armies

Q. What do you find most satisfying, sculpting, painting or gaming?

Sculpting. It feels like I am doing something not only for myself, but for other people too. It’s always nice to feel appreciated. I like to game, but only if it has a story or a purpose. Scenarios that are more than just ‘one side on either side of the board, march, shoot’. I enjoy painting too though, but sculpting really has taken over that. I used to read about some of the big names in sculpting, how they haven’t painted in 5 years, 6 years or whatever and it really is easy to believe!

Q. Tony Harwood, himself not a stranger to sculpting for Flintloque, listens to the radio - Five Live or Radio 7 (that's sport and spoken word to non-UK readers) whilst sculpting. Do you listen to the radio or have music in the background? If so what is your favourite music to listen to when sculpting?

Funny really, I cannot listen to the radio. I have problems with hearing and I really have to listen hard to hear what’s going on when they are talking. I grew up with deaf parents, so never listened to the radio. I don’t know whether it is just because I have attention problems or hearing problems, I don’t know! However, I will put a CD on or my Ipod on, but only when my other half isn’t there. She cannot stand my music!
I generally listen to a wide spectrum of Metal and alternative rock music. Mostly ‘underground’ stuff like Death Metal, Grindcore, Crust, Grunge... But sometimes, I just want to listen to something chilled out so I might stick on some Incubus, Red Hot Chili Peppers or Therapy. I know what I like and I know what I don’t basically.

Q. What is your favourite book and can you recommend one ?

Hmm, My favourite series of Books are the ‘Nomad of the Time Streams’ books by Michael Moorcock. I would fully recommend those. I have only really started reading more recently. I never enjoyed it as a youngster and really stood out at my old wargames club because of it. My English has suffered for it as well! I enjoy reading little bits here and there now, but really struggle to sit down and concentrate on a book for that long.

Q. Have you ever been inspired to create something only described in written form ?

I've never even thought of that! Yeah, I'd love to. If I felt like I really 'connected' with the literature, then I would love to. I have done a few character based designs for Gavin, for characters he has created in the various Flintloque books that are just descriptions. I think I've done a good job, because sometimes there is nothing more than one line of background, so you have to read between the lines! Sometimes it's very rewarding, because you are really making this character and people will continue to see that character that way.

Q. You mentioned that you are working towards an Arts Degree, where you see yourself in ten, or even twenty, years time?

In a ditch with no money. No, I am doing my Fine Art degree because I enjoy it. I like the conceptual thinking, I like odd modern art that no-one can understand, but I also like the classics. I’d like to become a teacher, or run artist’s studios and work with creative people. Or become the creative director for a wargames company that I find inspiring and that will have me. Maybe even start my own, but the thought of that is odd to me. I really enjoy working with Alternative Armies, maybe I could start a small ‘side-company’. I will ask AA sometime!

Q. Have you any 'other' interests that take up your time and if so what are they?

I do have a few ‘other’ interests. Music used to be a big one. I was in a few different bands mostly making extreme metal. I was a drummer in two of them and a vocalist in another. I gave up drumming when I moved to Warwickshire with my girlfriend and have yet to find another band locally that makes that ‘off the wall’ kind of music.

I also enjoy making Fine Art Sculptures. But I rarely do this at home, I find myself only really doing that at Uni, but that may just be because of the amazing studio space we have there.

But really, most of my spare time is dedicated to sculpting and painting wargames miniatures for and from AA. For many years wargaming has been the mainstay of my life and the only thing keeping me sane and it continues to play that part of my life. I would absoloutely love it if I could make money enough to live out of it .

Q. Thanks for taking the time out for these questions, do you have any final words for readers of OITW ?

What I'll say, is just keep on looking out. More and more stuff will come out and there really is some excellent stuff lined up. Make sure you keep Gavin on his toes with requests because that's where I come in! I love doing stuff I know people will enjoy and use that I will enjoy sculpting. I have a few bits and bobs I know Ross, in Abingdon, would love me to do lined up in my little notebook! I also want to say thankyou to Craig for running this excellent website, another source for my mass of ideas and Tony, who's blog is just excellent. It truly is. I think it's a shame he does not sculpt as often as I'd like for AA, because I would really like to work alongside him.


Webmaster's Notes

The above interview is an Orcs in the Webbe exclusive and was first published on December 7th 2010 as part of it's Countdown to Christmas Advent Calendar.

I'd like to thank Tony Harwood (Dampfpanzerwagon) for for first suggesting this interview to Rob and coming up with most of the questions. You can check out Tony's blog referenced by Rob here.