Military Miniature

Interview with Michael “Mick” Farnworth

I’ve managed to sit down with Michael Farnworth, a prolific painter and author of the informative book, Modelling and Painting World War II German Military Figures, available from Crowood Press and on Amazon (also available on Kindle). Mr. Farnworth has also authored painting guides for Artizan Designs and Crusader Miniatures and is a production designer who has designed military uniforms, backpacks, and web gear. So, it’s safe to say he has a close and personal understanding of the subject matter.  It is my pleasure to introduce him to our readers. 


So, when did the Wargaming bug bite you?

I was born in England in 1964, so I grew up in the golden age of Airfix and Britain’s. My brother and I had Britain’s knights and cowboys and lots of Airfix 1/32 WW2 figures. By 11, I was building aircraft and tank kits and painting them in the correct colors. I can remember that a friend had built the Airfix 1/24 scale Spitfire, and I painted it for him.

At school, I played Diplomacy, and at about 16, I joined the Blackburn Wargames club. They mostly played Dungeons and Dragons and WRG ancients. By about 20, I had discovered beer and women and dropped out of the hobby for about 20 years. One day in 2004, I walked into a model shop with my sons, and we saw the Games Workshop Lord of the Rings game and figures. That was the trigger to start again.


Who taught you to paint? 

I am mostly self-taught, but I used to read Military Modelling, and they had a writer called Stan Catchpole. He wrote modeling tutorials in every issue, and I read them with interest. When I was about 16, I joined the wargames club and used to paint for other people in return for figures so that I could build my own armies.


How did you develop your approach to painting?

I did a degree in Mechanical and Production Engineering and worked for many years in product development. While I was at Karrimor, we modernized the production based on Toyota principles. This approach is now called Lean Manufacturing. I spent a lot of time on projects to improve the efficiency of manufacturing so that we could keep the factory in England open. 

When I started to write painting guides, I naturally experimented with techniques so that I could do things better and faster. This addresses a key problem for many wargamers – the lead pile. Buying figures is easy but getting them on the table takes time and effort. The guides work like a cooking recipe with techniques that allow anybody to prepare an army easily and quickly to a reasonable standard. 


When was your book on painting the German Army born?

After restarting wargaming in 2004, I expanded from Lord of the Rings to World War 2 skirmishes. At the time, the internet was growing in popularity, and I realized that many small wargames manufacturers could benefit from painting guides to support their figures. I wrote to Artizan and Dylan, who did their website, and they liked the idea. Over the next few years, I wrote painting guides for their WW2 ranges and Vikings. Artizan’s production was taken over by North Star and Nick liked the guides so I wrote some for the Crusader ranges too. I also did some guides for Wargames Factory and Gorgon. 


In 2017, Crowood Press contacted me and asked if I would turn the Artizan guides into a book. After a few discussions, we agreed to focus on WW2 Germans as that is the most popular WW2 army and is extraordinarily complex with many different uniforms and camouflage patterns.

And here is a review of the German book by Dan at Wargames Illustrated.

What are your favorite periods to paint? 

That varies a lot. I have a huge collection with probably about 5,000 painted figures. I have Spartans, Romans, Celts, Vikings, Normans, Agincourt, Swiss & Burgundians, 1879 Zulus and British, World War 2, and recent Afghanistan & Africa. I am currently working on a Vietnam project, which I am enjoying. 

I do enjoy painting medieval figures such as the armies at Agincourt, where each officer is a named knight with his own heraldry. 


Do you have any good painting advice for our readers?

I wrote quite a lot about planning and purchasing in the German book. I think the best advice is to avoid impulse purchases. Instead of buying something immediately, write it down in a list. Wait a month, and if you still want it, then you can buy it. This way, you avoid buying stuff that you do not want. That gives you more money to buy fewer but better figures. If you buy figures that you really want and really like, you will be motivated to paint them and play them.


Are you more of an impressionistic or detail painter?

I try to get figures that look right on the tabletop. Ideally, they should be like a miniature photograph of the real thing. If I am doing step by step guides, I must work to a better standard as macro photographs really show every error.


What paint lines do you particularly recommend?

For historical figures, I use Vallejo Model Colour as that is available all around the world, and the range stays the same. When I started writing painting guides, I used Citadel, which offers nice paints. However, Citadel changed all their paint names and shades a few years ago, which made all my guides redundant, and I had to revise them all. For bright colors, I use Vallejo Game Colour, which is a copy of the original much-loved Citadel range.

Do you think Historical Miniature Wargaming has begun a new renaissance?

Yes, I do. I think that the internet has enabled small traders to sell world-wide. This has led to a massive surge in creativity. With companies like North Star Military FiguresEmpressPerry, and Warlord, there is a huge choice of good quality miniatures for every historical period. Even better, there are companies like Sarissa Precision, making scenery kits that enable everybody to build superb scenery for a very affordable price.


Any closing thoughts on painting, or the hobby in general?

I live in Switzerland, where there are no wargame clubs other than Warhammer & 40K. But through the internet, I am in contact with many enthusiasts and can look at other people’s projects, which inspires me to do more and better projects. 

I visit Lead Adventure Forum every day, and there are some excellent projects on there. I also have my own Facebook Group, where people can ask questions and show their own work.

I want to thank Mr. Farnworth for his time and for doing this interview with me. It was a pleasure to do, and we will be doing more interviews as soon as we can schedule them. 

Until next time! 

At SJR Research, we specialize in creating compelling narratives and provide research to give your game the kind of details that engage your players and create a resonant world they want to spend time in. If you are interested in learning more about our gaming research services, you can browse SJR Research’s service on our site at SJR Research.

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