Chicago Painter Retrospective: John Stachura
Occasionally we cross paths with old-school painters and gamers from the early days of the hobby. Last year I bought some unpainted miniatures from John Stachura, and as part of the deal he included a small batch of painted medieval figures that I eventually put to good use in our skirmish games. You can see them in the photo above. The classic styling and detail prompted me to get back in touch with John to learn a little bit more about his involvement in the hobby, both historically and today. Hope you enjoy this interview retrospective!
CSW Karl: When did you get started gaming? Were you a painter from day one?
John Stachura: I started gaming back in the early 1970s and originally used Humbrol enamels as my choice of paints. To put it in perspective a little better, I think my 5-year-old grandson could have done better. At this stage of painting, I still didn’t have a clue on even how to get paint to flow smoothly from my brush to the figure. I eventually figured it all out and started to experiment with the enamels.
Karl: I hear you won some awards as you were just getting started...
John: Yes, these are part of my 25mm Napoleonics that earned me “Best of Show” at a convention back in 1979, as I finally started to figure it all out on how to paint.
I also won the Wargame Award from Military Miniature Society of Illinois show the same year.
I pretty much cleaned up for the next few years in all the painting competitions, so I retired from entering any figures at the local conventions and ended up judging most of the painting competitions during this time.
The only other competition I did enter was the Armory National painting competition, which was judged at the 1985 Gen Con convention.
The rules were simple. First, the figures had to be painted utilizing Armory acrylic paints, and second, you had to paint a knight from the assortment of knights currently available from Grenadier Miniatures. You could do some conversions to the figures, which I did by adding in different crests to their helms, wine bottle lead to the back of their helms, and some reanimation of the arms. I thought this shouldn’t be too hard, right?!
Karl: But up until now, you had only used enamels, right?
John: Yes. This was to be my first foray into using acrylics. There was enough of a learning curve to make me rethink why am I doing this.
I didn’t attend Gen Con that year because of some family commitments, and Jeff and Rich from Games Plus took my entry up with them to Gen Con for the competition. I saw Jeff the next weekend after Gen Con, and I think he was more excited than I was. I ended up winning the Masters Vignette category in the competition and with it came a gold medal and a $500 gift certificate to Games Plus! Below are the images of my winning entry.
Karl: That's amazing, considering that this was all converted from stock metal Grenadier sculpts. What came next?
John: Over the years I’ve painted up plenty of stuff:
- Medieval armies in 15mm and 25mm
- 15mm Starship trooper company (yes, we did this back in the 80s)
- 25mm French Revolutionary Army (currently part of the collection of one of my friends from the West Coast)
- 15mm Napoleonic Naval (no pics, but still part of my collection)
- Warhammer 40,000 figures for Space Crusade and Space Hulk (currently in the collection of one of my best friends)
- 25 mm Minifig French Napoleonic Army (mostly in the collection of a dear friend from Canada)
- 18mm Napoleonic French and Prussian armies for 1806 (images below ... this is what I’m currently working on)
- And assorted minis from Thunderbolt Mountain's Arthurian range
If you been a reader of Wargames Illustrated, I think images of some of my Thunderbolt Mountain figures are in issue #123. My daughters have already threatened me with bodily harm if I sell any of them off, and they've already divided them up on who gets what. I also have a good size group of Dragon 1/6 scale figures that I play skirmish games in the backyard with my grandson, Will.
Here are the 18mm Napoleonics.
Here's my stuff from Thunderbolt Mountain.
Karl: Very impressive! You know, you've got the makings of a nice warband for Song of Blades & Heroes! They would be welcome on our game table anytime.
John: Thanks! I don’t really consider myself an artist, though my two daughters are. One majored in arts and the other studied illustration as a minor alongside her nursing degree. They are both very talented artists. My claim to fame is I’ve formulated a technique that I’ve refined over the years I’ve been painting, so I pretty much experiment while getting the figures to look a certain way. My daughters have told me that I have a great eye for colors, which has probably helped me the most.
Karl: It definitely shows in these photos. Thanks a lot for sharing them with us. Any parting advice for long-suffering painters?
John: Just soldier on, gents, and keep experimenting with your painting techniques! Sometimes you’ll surprise yourself with your own accomplishments!
-- Karl, Chicago Skirmish Wargames club member
-- Photos by John Stachura