Thursday, 30 May 2019

Ratspike: John Blanche.

Back in 1989 GW published a book of artwork by two artists who had arguabley a profound influence on GW, and many gamers, during the 1970/80's: John Blanche; and Ian Miller. That book was 'Ratspike'.The first half of the book showcases John Blanches art, whilst the second half focuses on Ian Miller.
In this blog update I will focus on John Blanche, updating on Ian Miller in a few days. It is not my aim to photograph all of the artwork in the book, just some of my favourites, some of the most famous, some of the more 'safe for work', and some of the most interesting. It is also not my aim to breach any copyright, it's their talent, I just bought the book.

For those of you unaware John Blanche is an illustrator and sculptor who has been associated with GW since the 1970's. During the 1980's he provided a lot of the artwork which many people associate with that era of GW. He has continued with this association until the present day. Now I am not going to give a detailed biography, or a break down of his artistic style and influences, my aim here to show a few photographs from the book. For a more detailed look at the man himself and his work here is a link to the Wikipedia page on him (it does have other links at the bottom of the page):

Why this update? Well I used to own this book 'back in the day', but over the course of many years it had been lost. A week or so ago I saw it for sale in a bookshop in Brighton, where I live and incedently where the book was published. I purchased the book (for £30) there and then as I love the artwork inside. Also, I have since found it has given me a fresh-old perspective on my various collections of miniatures. I have a lot of plans forming for armies, converting, and painting, and have been sorting out boxes (and I mean boxes!) of stuff, as well as raiding e-bay. This is probably why I have'nt really done any painting, or blogging of late, and why this feels to me a little of a stop-gap blog update. But that is soon to change...

Enjoy :)
In the book it asks why they chose the name 'Ratspike'. The answer was "well we liked the sound of the word".
 I should add here that I don't own and printer/scanner, so all of the pictures are photographs!
Inside cover.
John Blanche and Ian Miller, December 1988.
"Being in its Entirety the Presentment, Form and Elucidation of Ratspike- a Work of malevolent Shape and deormed Intent which is hereby put before the gentle and educated Reader to further his Knowledge, Wisdom and critical Faculties in but a single Area of human Endeavour: the Study and examination of the dark Arts of Illumination".
Red sun face, looking very much John Blanche.
Some of John Blanches miniatures, a mix of conversions and others.
Close up of his Ogre conversion.
His famous Minotaur conversion with the Mona Lisa banner, which won the 'Master Painter' at Games Day 1987. 
'Warhammer 1'.
Used in on the cover of the first edition Warhammer Fantasy Battle.
What looks like the classic 'Dragon and a Damsel in distress' (although she looks more like an annoyed Banshee/Ghoul). The photograph does'nt do justice to the level of detail.
Close up of the Dragon. I am going to use that paint scheme somewhere. 
Orcs on the prowl, one with blunderbuss.
The picture reminds me of Valinor in the Silmarillion. I love the detail on the dome of the ship.
Looking very much like the early Slann artwork. John Blanche did do some concept sketches for the Slann, which the Perry Twins, and Trish Carden (formally Morrison) sculpted.
Again as with the above artwork, this gives a good impression of the inhabitants of Lustria. This art appreared in the Warhammer Armies book, in the Slann army list.
John Blanche included a many Sky Galleons in his artwork, either as focal points or background. I like the idea, and they have a very fantasy look to them with all of the baroque clutter and the sun face sails.
Another 'Untitled', but it is clearly a barbarian Mona Lisa.
A wizard of some sort. He reminds me of some of Rodney Matthews artwork.
'Good King Otto'.
I am not sure if it's meant to represent a story, but it does suggest that. For me it is a very warm, Summery artwork, with a blend of Oak King Paganism and Goodly Christian King elements to it. It also has a lot of the 1980's Warhmmer gothic which John Blanche brought to his art. And Sky Galleons again, of course. :)
Bottom panel.
Not sure if this is another of rendition of King Otto, or one of his questing Knights. I do love the details, and I plan to convert up a miniature for my Empire army in a similar vein to it.
'Amazonia Gothique'.
John Blanches famous artwork, which featured on the cover of White Dwarf #79, and in the 3rd Edition rulebook. In the introduction piece in Ratspike he states (paraphrasing) that he wanted to paint something in contrasting colours of green and red. Also he wanted to paint a female who was'nt semi-naked.
She even made it into lead form, as the 1980's Citadel LE15 Chaos Amazon. I have the miniature, which I should really get around to painting.
Close up of the shield, armour, face, and wild hair.
More inspiration for my Empire army. My plan is to assemble a regiment of Empire Knights for my 3rd Edition Empire army, loosley based on John Blanches artwork.
Slightly closer view.
'Dart of Harkness'.
Close up of the center of the picture. I took several photographs of the whole picture, but none of them would come out clear.
This was used in the McDeath scenario. It was on the cover of the scenario book, and was supplied as a seperate poster (which I have, and plan to frame). The centre shows Earl Dart of Harkness fighting King McDeath and Queen McDeath.
'Terror of the Lichemaster'.
This was used for the eponymous scenaro in the Spring 1986 Journal.
Again, I have the miniatures for this scenario, which require painting. I plan to use the Skeletons and the Lichemaster also as the basis of a 3,000 point Undead army, and for the monks to be in my Bretonnian army.
You think you're having a bad day!?
'Dwarf Lord of Chaos'.
Used as the box art for Citadels BC6 Chaos Dwarf Renegades box set. You guessed it, I have these and need to paint them too!
'Skeleton Horde'.
A lovely, evocative, piece of artwork. Used on Citadels PBS1 Skeleton Horde plastic boxset.
'Knight Panther'.
A lovely picture of an Empire Knight. This I am sure acted as the basis for the Citadels Knight Panther miniatures.
John Blanche stated in Ratspike that he based this artwork on GĂ©ricault's Napoleonic Officer, and enjoyed the cross-over from history to fantasy in his art. The piece is called 'The Charging Chasseur'. 
Close up. Citadel did actually make some Knight Panthers in 1989, and then again later.
This is a very moody looking piece of art, which draws the viewer in. The (terrible) photograph does'nt really do it justice. I might use this as a backdrop of photographing some miniatures.
'Lay Down All Hope'.
A bit of Imperial Guard 40k gothic-ness.
'Across the Styx'.
A clear allusion to the Mythological river Styx, but with a punk/gothic/post apocalpse feel to it. I love the Boatman/Death, with John Blanche details such as the checks, and the red.
I'm not sure if the woman is based on anyone he knows, but the man with the white hair look familar...
...looks to me like Tony Ackland, part of GW in the 1980's.
'Confrontation 40k'.
A very 40k piece of artwork with a punk feel to it.
Confrontation was the precurser game to Necromunda. It was published in the very late 1980's in White Dwarf, and had a small range of miniatures.
'Adeptus Mechanicus'.
The strange and esoteric techno-mages of Mars. This art was used in the 1st Edition (Rogue Trader) 40k rulebook. I always found this piece very creepy!
'Terminator Space Marines'.
The famous art from Citadels RTB9 Terminators box set, released the same year as Ratspike.
Silly, but I never released until I read Ratspike that this was by John Blanche.
 'Untitled', but clearly a Genestealer Cult.
It's used in White Dwarf #119, for the Genestealer Cult Army list.

The next blog update will be on the second half of Ratspike, concerning Ian Miller.


  1. Truly fantastic. I cannot get bored of these

  2. Thanks for posting these. So many memories.

    1. No worries, it was fun to spend time looking through the book.

  3. Great post, some awesome pictures there, really takes me back - I can see a big Durer influence in lots of his stuff.

    1. Thank you. You're right, there is a Durer influence in his work. He stated in the book that he liked to have that cross-over between History and Fantasy, so I always considered a lot of his work to be a Fantasy take on the early 16th Century, which fits into line with the Warhammer World setting.

  4. John has done a couple of podcasts. One for Stormcast and one for Voxcast. He draws an image in each of them and you get to watch it take shape. Very interesting.

    Looking forward to your Ian Miller piece. I met you when we both met him at Corridor Gallery.

    1. Cool, I'll have a look for those, they sound very interesting. It would be good to see how he creates each picture.

      We just had the Brighton Festival here, and part of the fringe events were the Artists Open Houses. It was nice to chat to the artists, and watch some of them creating.

      Alas, Ian Miller did'nt have an open house. I do remember chatting to you at te Corridor Gallery (now sadly closed), nice to meet you.

  5. The book is great! In my opinion it collects the best from both artists. Especially the art of John Blanche in the '80s was very experimental, while in later times it focused on its own 40K darker style.

    1. You're right I had'nt considered that, John Blanche was more experimental when he was younger, but now he has focused more on his more darker core 40k ideas.

      It's a great book. I would recommend picking it up if you can, although some of the prices are currently a little too much.

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