In the last days we visited Lucca Comics&Games, a big exhibition where thousands and thousands of fans struggle to enter into a medieval city built expressly to avoid that thousands and thousands of individuals have an easy access to it.
Because, yeah: there is a freaking reason if the ancient Lucchesi built huge (and magnificent) walls around their city.
- people wait to enter the Carducci Pavilion in Lucca -
However, I'm not here to complain about this event, not at all: despite my usual repulsion for very narrow places with so many undisciplined people inside, yesterday (Saturday) was a great day for me because I finally met one of my personal mentors (of course, he's not aware of it!) and one of the main reason I'm here, trying to create something: Paul Bonner.
Before going on, I want to premise that the following lines contain a high amount of fangirlism and hyperboles. Please, be patient.
I discovered our hobby almost by chance. At that time I was 12 years old and I lived in a small town in the far-west (both geographically and metaphorically speaking) of Liguria: Bordighera.
In my hometown, as you may expect by a little city of a peripheral Italian state, there wasn't much to do, apart from playing football and going to the beach.
Moreover, I think you well remember those times when the internet was still an embryonic entity, and the 56k seemed almost forefront.
In that situation, only some kind of divine intervention could bring in my life our hobby, and in fact I think that it precisely happened.
One day, in a stationery shop, while I was looking for a pencil case, I discovered a little book, with a blue cover and a great artwork on its front.
The title was essential, almost imperative: Dwarfs.
It was the 6th edition Warhammer Dwarfs armybook.
- my existence, in that moment -
I was unaware at all of what a miniature was or, even more, what a wargame was.
However, flipping through the pages of that book, it was like something hit my soul and awakened a part of me that until then had remained dormant in my unconscious.
In that precise moment I realized I also wanted to be part of that world.
"So, what does mr. Bonner have to do with all this?"
Let me briefly explain.
Since the beginning of my journey in the miniatures world, I confess I thought about myself not as a player or a painter, but as a creator.
I know, it sounds a bit assumptive, especially for a 13 years old boy, but indeed at that time I rarely played a game, I wasn't interested in that part of our hobby. I painted a lot, of course, but always with a single goal in mind: give birth to "my" world.
At that time, I spent my days voraciously reading all the books I managed to put my hands on and I started writing stories, delineating my own characters and imagining my fantasy world in all his glory. I consumed my time observing for hours the artworks of my books, trying to imagine a story behind every single character in the scene.
The first time I went to Lucca Comics&Games, in 2004, I discovered the world of Rackham Confrontation, and for me, used only to GW settings, it was a shock.
Don't get me wrong: I loved (and still love) Warhammer.
I started my journey with it, and all my dwarves obsession started with it.
The Warhammer art of John Blanche, Mark Gibbons, Adrian Smith, Paul Dainton and (obviously) Paul Bonner is deeply rooted in me but at that time, I was a bit frustrated by the "dark atmosphere at all cost" that overwhelmed that fantasy setting. I missed the old school style, the whimsical and naive world that put my imagination in motion. Suddenly, it all became dark, gritty, grim, hopeless, angry and cruel. Which has its value, don't get me wrong: but I needed a breath of fresh air.
Rackham Confrontation brought me one thing that I feared has been lost: colors.
Obviously, it's a matter of personal tastes, so don't think I'm here to start a dispute about which one is better: not at all.
But in that precise moment of my life I found something that spoke my own language, and it was like I finally found a world built as if it was imagined by me.
In that moment, also, I re-discovered Paul Bonner.
This is a little close-up I shot with my exhausted, old Iphone while visiting the Paul Bonner Gallery in Lucca (such an experience!), one of my favorite artworks ever.
To me, Paul Bonner art was like completing the circle: I was totally amazed.
The colors, the scenes, the emotions that he manages to catch on his characters are, in my opinion, unachievable.
I was amazed, above all, by the wide range of emotions that mr. Bonner brought in scene, something that I've rarely seen before: of course there are fierce warriors and fearful guys, but there is also space for doubtful individuals, smiling goblins, scared people (after all, war is not that beautiful, even for a fierce dwarf!). There is a sort of elegant humor in his works, but also a dramatic depth that has no equals, at least for me. Everything in his art is credible, it's so full of life that it's hard to believe that those subjects are fictional characters of a fictional universe.
There are plenty of incredible artists out there, but for me, Bonner represents exactly my idea of fantasy.
At that time, I sadly realized that I couldn't ever be like him (impossible, for a individual like me that isn't blessed by a creative talent), but at least I deeply wanted to be able to express my imagination, in a way or another: more than ever, I felt the urgency to be an active part of this incredible, creative world. No matter how.
So here I am, 18 years after, with my two heroes (Paul Bonner on my right and Adrian Smith) in a low-res pic that seems to pop out from the 90's, but I swear has been taken last Saturday.
I'm a shy guy, I confess, and above all I have a strong awe, concerning "famous people".
For this reason, you can imagine my mixed feelings, when I came across Paul Bonner and Adrian Smith, by chance, in the restaurant (well, kind of...) area of Carducci Pavilion.
A part of me screamed for speaking with him, but another part of me was just paralyzed by embarrassment: "What could I ever say to Paul Bonner, without boring him or, worse, bothering him?" I asked to myself.
Moreover, I brought with me one of my dwarves (the 1/24 scale Iron Crow Veteran) and I bloody wanted to give it to him as a sort of tribute, but literally my legs were as heavy as lead, in that moment.
Thanks to Odin, together with me there were also my girlfriend, Giorgia, and my friend Alessandro: they just tossed me over the edge, and suddenly I was before Paul Bonner, that clearly was like "Mmh..so...what's happening here?!"
As you may easily imagine, reading my lines, my English really sucks. And, of course, it sucks even with Google Translate.
So you may imagine how it was, for me, to speak with Paul Bonner, that Paul Bonner, in a moment of general embarrassment.
I was like a stuttering child with a mouth full of discomfort-flavored candies.
I started my halting speech telling him that I had a gift for him.
Judging by how he looked at Adrian Smith, I'm sure he thought about some kind of sexual offer.
I swear, the longest 30 seconds of my life.
Then, for Odin's sake, my dwarf helped me to solve the embarrassment: once he saw the Iron Crow Veteran, he figured out the situation and a big smile appeared on his face.
We briefly spoke (I didn't want to bother him), and even if Paul is one of the nicest and most humble person I've ever met, I was so frustrated because I had so many things to tell him, but there was before me an enormous, impassable language barrier that simply avoided me to express an argument more complex than "Me, happy. You good. *random english verbs*. Thank you".
- the area of my brain specialized in English language -
After that brief dialogue, I still had mixed feelings.
On a side, I was on top of the world: damn, I spoke to Paul Bonner and he seemed to genuinely appreciate my work!
On the other side, I was frustrated by my incapacity.
But yet, exactly that difficulty made me realize how powerful the creative language is: I'm not able (at least now) to speak with him. I struggle to express myself with words, but through my miniature and (above all) his art, we established a kind of common language that went far beyond words.
I think, or at least I hope, that seeing my Iron Crow Veteran he understood all the words that I wasn't able to directly express: my infinite esteem for him, how his art influenced my work, the importance that has, for me, giving my miniature to him.
At the same way his artworks have told me so many things that I could never understand, normally.
This, I think, it's the magic that lies in the creative world: to be able to reach other people with an universal language that bypass words and barriers and speaks directly to our souls.
Even more, after having visited the gallery with some of his original arts, this belief of mine grew up stronger than ever.
More than before, I'm motivated to do all my best.
I don't want to be like him, as I wrote before it's far beyond my ability. Not at all.
My goal is, instead, to be able to feel, at a certain point, that I created something that could really express my visions to others, and inspire them.
An ambitious goal, of course, but I'm lucky enough to share my journey with my friends Valerio and Davide (they do have a creative talent!) that are helping me so much to overcome my limits!