Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Basing in Berlin.. with Matt Cexwish!

This write up took a while for me to process here in order to make sense of what I learned, and how I felt of the workshop. Kinda ominous eh? Read on to know why....

So to kick things off.. I spent the last weekend of January in Berlin to attend Matt Cexwish's basing workshop. Which is pretty cool considering the kind of bases that he has been building and how he goes about to make them.

All four of these bases are also rumored to be in the Season 1.3 Base Alchemy DVD coming from Painting Buddha soon.. I have pre-ordered it as well prior to this class, and look forward to see the differences between Matt live vs Matt on Camera! No pressure Matt!

Anyways.. so yeah.. a weekend of learning another method of doing up bases, and the techniques that Matt employs here.

Honestly I was not sure what to expect here, but was hoping to learn some new techniques and walk away with some interesting ideas for future sockets or bases. We all spoke about why we came to the workshop, and honestly I think most of the people were in the same boat. Trying to improve upon their base level of basing.

Though I do also have to say that there were some disappointment in the class and that this centered around the time management and focus aspects of the class. I will also talk more about this throughout the article, but it was the biggest pain point to me. I have to point out though, that this is probably more of my professional life merging into my hobby life that causes some of these complaints, but they are still there.

Day 1 was spent with theory. This is normal enough, and Matt did a great job at trying to merge the German explanation with the English. It is unfortunate that he didn't have a "beamer" or projector available, but his laptop's screen is quite large and I was sitting at the front so no problems :)

Only complaint I can have for this though is that we all set up our desks to be ready to do some basing work or prep, but it never came! IT NEVER CAME!!!! Instead we talked about how to push an idea forward, and to begin to draw up some pieces for our ideas.

Matt's idea here was to get us out of our comfort zone, and to stop thinking in the size of boxes. Have to say that it is easier said than done really. Especially for myself, I kept looking at the base instead of going to a thought. So with that, I was really struggling to move forward. Though a quick chat with Matt, and although he tried to get me to move forward in this style, he admitted that I am more of a tinkerer styled modeler. That and my drawing is shite. :) But I gave it the old collage try, and did my best on this.

We talked about layering of cork, and that we would look at creating stones with plaster or milliput, and to try to think outside of the box! Something that would interesting to see how the progress of this goes and how I can make it work out for me. I say this, as I seem to not be able to think out of the box without the box first in front of me. Really liked this though as it was a challenge an a half for me to try to adapt my thinking here.

Matt then gave us all homework to then put what we were working on for thoughts into a 1 to 1 scale on paper. Cannot say that I really did this, but my buddy whom I stayed with did do his 1 to 1 scale model.. in DUBLO! His daughter was going to be pissed that we were playing with her Dublo while she was asleep! Am sure he will pay for that in the future!

Honestly.. this is awesome on so many ways. And what is more awesome is that he actually got really close to making his socket like this as well! It actually shows that you can use a lot of different mediums to create a template for your final works. Kudos The Count, Kudos indeed!

Only missing the column/door section, but will talk about why more below.

So on wards to day 2 with nothing made so far, but lots of inspiration for how to move forward on a base. Although I did not do the 1 to 1 sectional on paper, I did have a great sleep and thus lots of ideas flowed through me! Came to class with a great idea on what to do and how to tackle it with one of the first ideas he came to us with which was layering Cork. Not a new idea, but something to think of all the same.

He then threw his first curve ball at us, which was part of his plan. To de-rail us and make us rethink somethings for our design. Though I have to say that this wasn't just a de-railment, but a full on train smash, rethink, and rebuild the idea fully. And after a morning of drawing up some of our sketches for the 1 to 1 of our idea from the previous day.

I have to say that this is probably the first part that I would rethink of the class. This is where the focus aspect began to fall apart in my opinion. As people either went forward with the new re-railment ( me me me!!! ) while others continued on with the original plan. So now we had 2 types of bases being built in the same class, and some confusion began. I cannot say that it did not fully work, as you can see later on with some of the outcomes, but it did separate the class a bit, and pull focus or time away.

Anyways.. the re-railment was a good one for me, and the real trick or technique that I want to talk about is the main one that would be what I work on throughout the class.. and this is how to create really smooth sides to a socket or steeped landscape.

So it was to take a dice cube, and using a dremal, cut out an opening to it! Then when you put it back into the base for it, you have a water tight base, and completely flat sides for a nice socket! Brilliant, really! Never really thought of this before and the ideas that immediately came out of that were everywhere.

Though I also have to note that using the dremel ( or at least while Gus and I used it ) was incredibly loud and annoying. I want to apologize to everyone in the class for this noise, but I won't cause it was part of the class curriculum. Only thing to note is in the future bring safety goggles and noise cancelling headphones. Yes, it was that loud!

In the end, I settled on an idea that the other English speaker was drawing up. Gus, the man with the massive artbook, sketch book and a hellava guy with a pencil.

Even if he was trying to hide his work, and sketches, I snuck in, and "borrowed" some of it for my own base. What is create about this hobby though is that although 2 people see the same sketch ( and one of them made it! ) they can interpret it differently or go down different paths. Mine turned more into a cave.. whereas his went a completely different path, and had a house, and a forest, and a footpath, and and and... well.. you get the idea.. simple vs complex ;)

You can see how they took off in different paths.. I want to say that both are good.. but we all know one is better.. ( the left one in case your wondering! :) )

But what is really cool here is that we could just work inside the dice box, and really build up quite a "world" within.

Again, it is just layering of cork, and then putting in dirt, roots, twigs, and milliput rocks, but still the ideas that came from this ( in a tinkering mindset ) were immense. Matt allowed me to take a few more dice cubes so that I can do a few more in the future. Expect a more step by step process of that there also.

There was one technique that Matt showed that I honestly did not even try. Not cause I did not think it was cool or interesting to see, but because it had no bearing on my base design whatsoever. Actually, to be completely honest, it had little bearing on almost everyone's bases. This would be another piece that I would say, nice technique, but poor implementation to this class. Could have skipped it, spent more time on the core techniques and moved further along in the class.

Main problem here of course was that we were casting up stone columns or doorways. And how Matt goes about it, and to chisel out the stone work aftewards is very cool. Do not get me wrong on this, this was a great thing to learn... but not something that was really required for this class.

As I said, pretty cool. And, though I did not use it in the class, I might try it afterwards if I can find some plaster of paris in the UK. Again, my only complaint is that this took the better part of a day to work on, and in the end no one was able to implement it into their base. :( Very sad on that point.

I have to say that although it was a very productive day, and there were a lot of things learned, there was also a lot of spare time throughout the day. And no painting or priming done either.. this was done on Day 3...

But we had a really nice dinner, and lots of chats over Italian Pizza and beers! Not sure how I was able to order as well as I did, but I got what I wanted so win/win there for food! I had an especially great chat with Matt who told me a lot about how he got into miniatures and his adventures within. Honestly.. that should be a blog post from him over at cause some of them are really insane. If you can ever get him to have a few drinks and then spill his miniature life history.. wow is all I can say!

Many good laughs had here... Though the trip back via Subway was interesting. Something I would suggest at least to all that are brave enough to do it.. take the subway in a foreign city, at or around midnight, and see what "life" in that city really is like :) Berlin is quite "active" it seems. Maybe a bit too active for my tastes in parts :)

Day 3 came far too early though, and again we were off to the class. Slight headache, but another great sleep ( I swear I will "borrow" this couch and take it home with me one day.. I get the best sleeps on it! ).

So to kick things off, we finish off sanding down our sockets, and then lined them up for priming. Cannot say that this was smart to leave until Sunday morning as from 10-1230 we all waited for the sockets to get primed or dry. It probably didn't help much that Matt did all the priming for everyone. He suffered in the cold while lots of discussions happened with others at this time, and purchases from Battlefield Berlin ( they got me again! argh.. but more paint and reviews forthcoming! ). Though Gus did pick up a couple of cool things.. hope to see progress of them in the future!

I can't say that this was the best time management for the class. As Matt is really known for his great ideas and out of the box thinking but is also a really talented painter! To now only have less than half a day to learn and implement what we learned from him was a bit of a let down. But in the few demos that we got, you could see that we were just scratching the surface to what we could learn from him on color theory, and tricks on the bases. We were able to get some paint on the bases, but not as far along as I would have liked.

I do like the outcome of the piece in the end. Especially the layers I was able to create with the twigs etc. I am more used to creating depth from the top down, or in layers with color on a model, but this was the first time I was able to create something more front to back.

Last real trick that I saw, that I want to replicate still, was how to create a waterfall. I won't give the steps out here, as I hope to include a small one with water effects on this base, but will see how it goes. I am hoping that I don't completely bung this base up when I get around to doing water effects.

Ok.. so that's it really.. at this point it was a mad dash to clean up my stuff, pack everything up, say my goodbyes, do a big group photo, before running off to catch my plane home.

Some great techniques made throughout the class, and the potential for a really impact driven class if time management and focus on topics were done a bit better. Too many techniques that ultimately de-railed the core of the class.

But in the end, did I have a good time? Yes. Did I learn something new? Yes. Was it worth it to me, even with the travel from another country? Of course.. it is always worth it going over to Germany.. the classes are usually just an added bonus ;)

I do hope to have more chats with Matt about the class, and future classes also, as there is so much more that I think I could learn from him and would like to learn as well. It just needs to be focused and timed better :) So there is the fact that although I might speak a bit down on the class in regards to a few points, I would definitely go back to it or another class if those points are addressed.

Keep your eyes peeled here though.. as in the coming months there will be more class news and reviews coming up! The schedules are being printed, and my travel agent ( aka Mrs Lee ) is quite busy in helping me plan everything out!

Below are a couple more photos of the work of others and the participants! Cheers


  1. Wow again a nice trip on your quest to get a painting/basing god! :)
    Thanks for posting this, I really enjoyed the reading.

    1. Cheers Paradox0n.. it was a good trip and expect another trip in April now also!

  2. Good article. nice comparison between Lego base and real base :-)

    1. I thought this was a good one to have ;) No idea who was smart enough to come up with it though... ;) Must have been a real genius of a man!

  3. Have a good time in Berlin , ;) nice pics .
    Greetings .

  4. I had the pleasure to be there on Sunday for a few hours and I have to say that I was really impressed with the bases! Seems like you all had a good time ;)

    1. Was good to see you there.. and although this is a very late response, will be good to see you in UK tomorrow!

  5. This was a very nice article, thank you for this inspiration.

    I'm going to have to give this a go at some point soon.

    1. Always give it a go.. only fear can hold one back here! Matt spoke of train derailments for a reason.. and it is quite right! Link back and updates or trials you make in the comments here!

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  7. Those bases are very impressive. Would love to attend one of those events.


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