Hi Jake, thanks for taking the time to speak with me. Let's dive right in. Do you remember your very first miniature? Do you still have it?
Heroquest and Space Crusade were my introduction to Games Workshop (GW) and the first things I painted were either the Heroquest figures or a friend’s RTB01 Space Marines, back in the early 90s. After that I bought a little of everything, starting with some of the fantastic Kev Adams Night Goblins and Jes Goodwin High Elves – I remember the Silver Helms in particular really got me hooked. After a few happy years of buying all the miniatures, I sold off my collection. And then inevitably about five years ago I proceeded to buy it all back at grossly inflated prices when some friends put together a Necromunda game out of the blue. I tend not to do things by half measures, and so things have since escalated.
Clearly you are hugely inspired by the modelling and painting side of the hobby, and you mentioned Necromunda, but do you play other games too?
I have played Inq28/Inquisimunda a lot in the last few years but nothing much recently. I’m nostalgic for the classic rulesets – the 40K 2nd Edition/Necromunda style, but also Epic and the various Specialist Games – that I used to play as a kid, but I’m also pretty much exhausted by giant rulebooks. I have been working on a few armies for Age of Sigmar that I hope to get some games with soon, plus I have several Epic armies and I’m certainly going to need at least one Blood Bowl team.
What Age of Sigmar armies have caught your attention? And how will you imbue them with the Ex Profundis style?
Pretty much every army has my attention now, with the exception of Fyreslayers. I like Fyreslayers more than traditional dwarves, but it’s like the Emperor’s new clothes: they are still just little hairy dudes, except now they are naked. I think being able to put a new spin on each faction is really cool, and GW has done a good job themselves – with their background for factions like the Flesh Eater Courts really demonstrating how moving from the Old World setting has allowed imagination to run riot. My primary interest is in creating a different take on factions that have potential, but where I have not liked the studio version – usually because it is too brightly coloured and too clean. My Stormcast were my first attempt at providing a darker alternative – Chaos and Aelves are next.
|Stormcasts of the Immortal Tribunal and their distinctive porcelain enamelled armour|
Is it true the other model makers and artists involved with Ex Profundis are not all friends from back home and that you’ve never physically met some of them?
The site is a joint venture between me and Rob (Meade). We noticed each other’s work on the Dakkadakka forum and decided we shared a similar aesthetic and mindset. Recently we have added new people to the site like Julian Bayliss, who was one of my biggest inspirations when I decided to take up my paintbrushes again, and Isaac (Weirdingway).
The Ex Profundis aesthetic is quite different to most of the standard miniature lines. But it has similarities with John Blanche’s Blanchitsu look. Have you met him?
I’ve been lucky enough to play a few games with John. Some of my earlier models were in Visions. I don’t try to copy John’s Blanchitsu style, but I try to imitate his mindset as far as I am able – most miniature painting is primarily concerned with painting inside the lines and being technically impressive: competition style or ‘Eavy Metal painting. I think Blanchitsu is more about being creative. Personally I also like to try and use a lot of texture, and darker tones.
|The hereteks of House Sinekai with their gholams and chimerics|
What was it like having your models appear in, arguably, the world’s most famous miniature-based gaming magazine?I don’t think I have ever been happy with a finished miniature, and seeing them enlarged in photographs highlighted their flaws. It was exciting – and a great honour – but embarrassing. Mostly it motivated me to want to make better models.
I’ve not seen anything for you to be embarrassed about. How did the Ex Profundis look and feel start to develop?
As a kid it seemed to me that considering the 41st Millenium was mostly about war, the models are often pretty cheerful looking. I used to have a Mordian Iron Guard army that I painted to look like Great War trench soldiers - covered in mud and blood: this seemed far more appropriate than the bellhop uniforms they wore on the box. I think I am just doing the same sort of thing now.
The website name comes from the phrase ‘creatio ex profundis’ which means 'creation from the depths' or 'creation out of chaos'. It is intended to be evocative of Lovecraftian gods of the deep and the Chaos gods in the Aether. This sort of horror aesthetic is what I am most interested in communicating in my models – dark and creepy, and suitable denizens of a universe that is pretty keen on war.
|Dissimbre, the Immortal Sword, Lord of Slaanesh|
Was there an initial project that made you go ‘yeah, that’s the aesthetic I’m after’? Were there failed attempts before that?
My first Pit Slave gang worked out well: they were sort of a cross between Spartacus and Silent Hill. I tried to use more unusual kits as the base, and I tried painting them using more muted tones – oh and I discovered Tamiya Clear Red blood effects. I suppose this is when I started figuring out how to paint in a way I was happy with, rather than trying to emulate ‘Eavy Metal. Shortly after this, John Blanche got in touch to say he liked them, which I think really convinced me I was on the right track!
|Models from Jake's second Pit Slave gang|
A lot of the Torva Tenebris blog is about finding inspiration to start painting. Where does your inspiration come from?
I get inspired by all sorts of things and then I try to introduce them into the Warhammer setting in a sympathetic way – like Lovecraftian horror for example. I think a lot of hobbyists base their projects entirely on the (excellent) background ideas found in Games Workshop books, but I try to steer clear of that and find ideas elsewhere. I don’t want to do things that other people have already done, particularly if they have done them better than I could! Painting something like an Ultramarine sounds incredibily daunting to me – have you seen some of the Ultramarines out there? I would have nothing interesting to contribute.
Recently – with Age of Sigmar – I have been trying to introduce elements from my favourite fantasy: the manga Berserk, the art of Mike Mignola and some classic Adrian Smith barbarian style. There is a real shortage of dark fantasy fiction out there, but I get inspired by lots of authors from all sorts of genres: Thomas Ligotti, Laird Barron, Steven Erickson… too many to mention. Silent Hill is a constant source of ideas.
You mentioned Hellboy and the manga Berserk. Are there other comics and graphic novels that have inspired you?
There are too many to really do them justice talking about them here. For ideas, Grant Morrison is my favourite, he throws out ideas that just warp my perception of reality, and with such frequency. I love Junji Ito too.
A quick Google image search on the manga artist Junji Ito has just freaked me out, but I'll try to continue. I ask a film question in every interview, so let's run with the manga theme. Which movie is best, Akira or the original Ghost in the Shell?
Probably Akira. But in terms of classic animé, you can’t beat Neon Genesis Evangelion.
Big robots! Maybe some of that inspiration is coming through in your latest project, the Verminlord? How do you plan out a model? Do you start with an accurate idea of what you want to achieve, and work to a plan, or are you experimenting wildly throughout the creation of a new piece?
Sometimes inspiration will hit me when I see a new kit, or take another look through the Forgeworld website. I don’t work to a plan except for a pretty strong idea in my mind’s eye about what the finished thing ought to look like. I have a pretty extensive bits collection, so I get all the relevant parts out in front of me, and then spend a really long time trying things out with blu-tack until it clicks.
|One of Jake's most recent creations: Rattendaemon, the mechanical Verminlord|
Got any tips you can share?
Well my main goal is to make models that look different to anyone else’s. So I try to find unusual base models and donor kits, or I try to adapt a model in a way that hasn’t been done before – a good one is taking a 40K kit and changing it to a Fantasy model. The quality of the components you use is also really important – starting with something like a plastic Catachan is going to be an uphill struggle.
My best tip is to use lots of blu-tack and spend a long time getting the right pose. The pose is the most important thing in a conversion in my opinion, I often think about how to pose characters in the Marvel Comic style – oh and glue the head last – even a slight adjustment or tilt can totally change the feel of the figure. If the pose is weak then it doesn’t matter how good the bits you’ve chosen are, or how good the paint is, it will be an underwhelming model.
I’m with you on the pose thing, and your models always seem particularly expressive. Ex Profundis feels like a very polished brand. Well put together, clearly defined, occupying its own space within the hobby etc. It’s a strong platform. Do you have any plans to take it elsewhere? Ever thought about releasing your own miniatures?
Yeah maybe. I mean, at the moment it's all tied in to the Games Workshop IP so there is no question of releasing miniatures or anything like that. I’d love to develop it further though. I think there is increasing awareness of this sort of Lovecraftian horror – and I don’t mean all the cheesy Cthulhu stuff that has popped up everywhere, I mean things that evoke what Lovecraft called existential horror or dread. Kingdom Death tapped into this vein and that did pretty well.
At the moment we welcome contributions from anyone that thinks their work fits this horror theme or offers something unusual: miniatures, fiction, art, whatever. And I am sure we would welcome another contributor if their style fit.
That’s very exciting for all the horror-inspired modellers out there. I’m sure there are lots of people who would love their work to appear on your site, or to own some twisted Ex Profundis creatures or characters.
Jake, thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts and insights, and good luck with all your forthcoming projects.
And to keep an eye out for Jake's forthcoming projects, or check out his and the other contributors' existing ones, including the mechanical Verminlord and all their other dark and disturbing creations, have a look at Ex Profundis here.