On a June day in 1987, the quiet of Nottingham city centre was disrupted by the hustle and bustle of red shirts and a crowd of people descending on the Victoria Leisure Centre. It was the day of the first national figure painting competition and what would start the longest running miniature painting competition on the face of the planet!
It all started in the spring of 1987. In WD issue #87 a full page advert appeared. “Golden Demon Award”, the First National Figure Painting Championships! Organised by John Blanche and Andy Jones, it set out to show who was the best of the best in miniature painting while celebrating the miniatures of Games Workshop.
In the early days of Golden Demon, it worked slightly differently to how we know it today. The Golden Demon Awards were the finals. First you had to compete in regional heats, and the top three were invited to the grand finals and be in with a chance to claim a Golden Demon Award in their respective categories (in the 80s there were few brick and mortar Games Workshops; many of these regional heats were held in independent stores).
The top three also won a £10 voucher redeemable at the final and an exclusive Master Painter t-shirt! A special Dwarf cast was also presented to the winners to be painted and entered into a Special Category at the finals.
The finals were a day filled with the best miniatures painters from across the country. Access to talk to the Citadel Designers, ‘Eavy Metal painters would be on hand to talk to, trade stands, demonstrations of Warhammer, you could watch your favourite artist doodle live and more! (it sounds very much like the first iteration of Games Day/Warhammer Fest to me!)
Categories for the Finals were: Single Character Figure, Single Conversion, Monster, Dragon, Single Mounted Figure, Diorama and Warhammer Battle Regiment. You could enter once in each in the hope of being crowned a Golden Demon winner!
The stage was set and at 10am on Saturday 27th June 1987 the door opened and the first Golden Demon awards commenced.
The judging began at 2:30pm by John Blanche and Byran Ansell. Not an easy task, and after much deliberating the Golden Demon winners were announced and presented with their trophies (and even cash up to £250 in some cases!) And that was it; the day had ended, and to the victors the spoils.
35 years later, and the thrill, exhilaration and excitement of winning a Golden Demon trophy is no less. The competition has spanned, 171 events, 4 continents, 10 countries. Over 6,000 trophies of the most coveted painting prize have been awarded across over 2,000 people, and 109 lucky few have lofted the Slayer Sword.
What Golden Demon does best is bring like-minded people together; it creates a community and friends for life. The events of Golden Demon are second to none; the camaraderie between painters can be incredible. The high of placing, the lows of not. Golden Demon is a competition, but your only opponent is yourself and it makes you always strive to better yourself as a painter.
I asked painters to jot down some thoughts in their own words about what Golden Demon is to them.
I discovered Golden Demon when I received Heroquest for Christmas, I think in 1989. I sent off for the free how to paint miniatures from Games Workshop and I was hooked.
I never realised I was embarking on a 25 year quest of literally blood, sweat and tears! Blood from nearly cutting the end of my finger off with a scalpel, sweat from the hundreds and hundreds of hours put in, and tears from the constant defeats.
Back in the good old days you entered golden demon by taking your miniature to the local Games Workshop, and the judges came around and selected the finalists to be entered into the main event.
I remember at the age of 13, going on the bus with my proud miniature in a jam jar, handing it over to the man in the shop; he looked at it and handed it back to me and said ‘forget it !’ I cried all the way home.
Forward to 2014, a battle-scarred veteran of Golden Demon walks into the Arena at Coventry UK and walks out with a trophy; at last I got one. But I realise now not only was I missing out on winning trophies years ago, but I was missing out on meeting new friends.
I started painting better when I started to get involved with my fellow painters and making friends, learning and improving from them. Nowadays I enjoy the competitions more for meeting my friends than for winning. Nearly!
Winning my Golden Demon was something which I never thought would happen to me. I entered a few times before and managed to get finalist pins, which I was over the moon about. Finally winning one was a combination of luck and my mates who had all won, pushing me on with my painting and practice.
Golden Demon for me is a journey of improvement, whether you place or not, winning a trophy is great but it shouldn’t take away from the process or the real virtue, which is the learning you go through as a painter. Its not about whether you have one trophy or many; its about all the other benefits of mastering your craft while entering!
David Rodríguez García
I remember buying back in 1993 some White Dwarfs containing pictures of the winners of the Golden Demon, and for me those painting skills were beyond my imagination. I was also thrilled and jealous of the whole idea of an event of such characteristics.
In Spain we did not have those kind of painting competitions or even a community of painters to learn from (bear in mind that this is the “pre-internet era”). I could only learn by following the step-by-step guides created by Mike McVey and by studying the pictures of the painted new releases appearing in the White Dwarf.
I still remember the moment I saw in the Spain WD version the announcement that in the year 2000 the Spain Golden Demon was going to take place. I HAD to be there… And during that event was when I realized how much I loved painting miniatures, and that I was not the only one. I made very good friends that are still by my side.
A few years later the Spanish Team was born and the painting community in Spain started to grow, expand and improve. 22 years have passed since that first Golden Demon, and although I have not entered any other since 2013, I keep enjoying painting miniatures as the first day. I think it is time to go back…
My brother and I first entered Golden Demon in 1992. We’d been painting for barely a year then, but were thrilled when our Sea Elf army was selected as a finalist. The next year we went one better, and made the pages of White Dwarf with our Forest Goblins army. I don’t know if there have been other joint entries in the history of Golden Demon. But we were identical twins, and most people thought of us as a single entity, so it never occurred to anyone that we might enter separately.
We were also fairly well known to the Games Workshop hierarchy around that time, and had been taken to the Design Studio to meet Jes Goodwin, Mike McVey and others there. For very awkward and geeky 13-year-old boys, we were treated with a great deal of kindness. Our Forest Goblin command group made the finals again in 1994. That year the live finals were held at Games Day at the Birmingham NEC. We scoured the cabinets for our entry but couldn’t find it, until we found the figures separated out in a smaller cabinet near the stage.
We mentioned that to Mike McVey, who casually told us that was the winners cabinet. Thinking we must have got a commended entry, we were thrilled. We were even more surprised when Chris Bone called us to the podium and told us we’d won the Best Warhammer Commanders category. Our pubescent awkwardness was captured for posterity in the pages of White Dwarf 174, with the (always lovely) Mike McVey shaking both our hands at once to congratulate us. I gave up painting later that year, to concentrate on doing other teenage things instead.
I didn’t think much about the hobby at all for nearly twenty five years, until my kidneys failed in the spring of 2018. To cheer me up, a close friend bought me a Stormcast Eternals starter paint set, partly as a joke. Since I wasn’t good for much except sitting and sleeping, I opened it and tried painting again. I’d forgotten the feeling of zen that came with painting, and was happy to pick it up again. It was the perfect hobby for a year of illness and recovery from a kidney transplant, followed by another two years of Covid lockdowns.
The standard of painting increased immeasurably between 1994 and 2018. My painting has improved a lot since I picked up a brush again, but I’m not talented enough to win a Golden Demon again. The painters now are real artists. I’m glad to have been around in the early years, though. Having won a Golden Demon feels like an even bigger achievement given the standards now, and at every competition they set a new bar for the rest of us to pursue.
When I started painting in the mid 1990s, the Golden Demons were an amazing example of the artistic skill present in the wargaming hobby. When I finally gathered the courage to begin competing in the early 2000s, I found so much more than that.
I found a close-knit community of amazing artists who pushed each other to achieve things we likely wouldn’t have done without each other to motivate and cheer each other on. My skills and confidence as an artist skyrocketed from peers reviewing my work, pushing me to excel, and celebrating in each others success.
One of my fondest memories was entering the Speed Demon competition at Games Day with fellow artists. The awards pool at that table alone was likely over 50 demons and several slayer swords but everyone was jovial, hilarious, and competitive as people who normally spend hundreds of hours on a piece tried desperately to paint a space marine in 45 minutes.
For me, Golden Demons started from the pages of the white dwarf. In the early 2000s. Something fascinated me about the level of the miniatures at Golden Demons, and I’d wanted to achieve that as well. So I set out on that journey and it led me down a rabbit hole.
During that time national teams were a thing, and I soon wound up in the German team, something that pushed my painting level immensely due to influences like Ben Komets, Stefan Rath, Georg Damm and many more – but more importantly, it formed friendships that last till today. That’s probably one, if not the most important part of Golden Demons for me.
Swords, Demons, beautifully painted minis all contribute to the attraction of the event, but what created some of the best memories and led to repeated visits to Golden Demons where the people, the friends there and the socialising!
And that is what holds the most attraction of Golden Demons in my mind!
I was a closet nerd in the 80’s. The cool kids didn’t know, but I had a secret hellfire club where one summers day I was passed a psychedelic painted dark angel captain. You know, the one whose all hand on hips and sword in ground? I was hooked and became obsessed with the bone, black and green of the unforgiven legion. I had my secret hobby with my secret beloved chapter. Something about this and the wider Warhammer worlds pulled me in like nothing before and since really. I saw the Golden Demon as a particularly unreachable and perfect realm of special talented people and was happy to pour over the glossy palettes in white dwarf and printed compendiums.
Like most of us, the hobby faded out when other obsessions took hold until 20 years later, I wandered into a Games Workshop and someone offered me an intro game of 40K. I pulled out my dusty metal terminators for a small game and spectators told me they were really well painted. Not believing that for a second, but in hope, I began to paint again.
I entered Golden Demon with some army bits and then the bug bit. In 2014 my Horus took a silver award in the large scale category and one of the most glorious moments for my inner child was realised. It was the fulfillment of a child’s dream and the birth of an adults obsession was born. I began flying, driving and swimming around to various competitions, attending classes, and even became a painting judge for a few years. It has all been hugely enriching and an honour to be part of this art form as well as all the lovely people who have made Games Workshop a part of my life.
Now 8 years on its defiantly still a love deep in my heart but its more enjoyable and less obsessive. But when I see that Golden Grinning Demon or a gorgeous new mini i dive right back in! One awesome memory was at Gd space Marines. I’d taken a silver in the duel category so was already high on life.
I was in the GW HQ parking lot preparing to leave. A certain Gareth Nicholas who had just won the slayer sword for his deliciously impeccable Blood Angels diorama, just then came out in his bike leathers. He jumped up on his bike and swung his slayer sword, clipping it over his back. He nodded and smiled at me before lowering his bike helm and rode off as the sun was going down. I just smiled and said.
What a dude.
As a kid Golden Demon blew me away, but I never managed to get to one until I was about 13. Instead, I used to collect and love the winner booklets that used to come in White Dwarfs, and it blew my mind.
At 13 my dad took me, as he got us free tickets to games day (he invented, made, and sold the first paint stations to Games Workshop), so I worked my ass off on an orc burner boy diorama, and it got no where lol. I didn’t even know Young Bloods were a category!!
I returned at 27 to a Horus Heresy weekender, and entered squad and single, but had to withdraw the night before judging as my son was ill. At this point I knew no one in the hobby either, so it was quite a lonely event. After that I attended some painting courses to up my game; they made the difference. I also decided to get a strategy. And that strategy was “loads of people are better painters than you, Ryan, so do your best on something unique that has never been seen before.” That strategy has served me well, which is why most of my wins have been in duels.
Over time and many Cult of Paint courses, my Golden Demon experience has changed. I now have friends in the hobby to enjoy events with, bounce ideas off, and keep me sane during covid.
Special thanks to the wizards, and all the kind people who have either inspired me, or complemented my work. I can’t wait to go to the one in October, to just meet everyone and share the hobby!
I attended my first Games Day in Baltimore, MD (USA) in 1995 or 1996 at the suggestion of a friend who worked at the local games store. I didn’t enter anything in Golden Demon that year, despite always having preferred building and painting models to playing the games.
I mostly remember having a ton of fun on a Space Hulk table where you could bring one of your own minis kitted out to try and make it to the center of the board. I made it purely by camouflage. The staff were playing Khorne Berzerkers, which was also what I’d brought, so I mostly just had to remind them not to move my model and walked to the center. I do remember being inspired by all of the fabulous entries on display and committing to enter something the following year.
Making the pilgrimage to Games Day became an annual thing after that, and I regularly traveled to Baltimore or Atlanta with friends over the next 15 or 16 years, the last being Golden Demon Chicago in 2012. I entered something every time after that first, and managed to win my first demon in 1999. We had a really great group of local painters who were constantly motivated to develop and improve by communal painting sessions where we shared tips and tricks, and by an annual local store contest that always brought out some great work.
Three of us went on to become multiple demon winners, myself, Chad Patrick, and Jeff Wilson, with Jeff winning multiple Slayer Swords. Most years I would spend the year putting together 3-5 entries, and if I was lucky one or two might place. I always felt that the most important thing was to do the best you could with each entry. If they were most all making it through to the finals, you knew you were doing good work and it was something to be proud of.
Placings were usually difficult to predict; you never knew for certain what the judges may see that would put one model ahead of another, so it was best not to get too hung up on the final result. I think one of the things that helped me improve was just being consistently exposed to a high level of work, both from seeing Jeff and Chad’s miniatures every week, and from going to Games Day most every year and seeing the amazing stuff that was being done by the likes of Chris Borer, Brian Shaw, Brett Dewald, Victor Hardy, and the many other great painters that attended the US Games Days.
Back then our references were usually memory and a stack of White Dwarfs, and that exposure was invaluable. Even today, where there are a ton of great artists on social media and inspiration is easy to find, there is no substitute for seeing great work in person.
I know it’s a cliché, but the photos just don’t do them justice. Every year the contest was inspirational. My best ideas usually came on the 6 hour car trip back home afterward. Best memories?: The first trophy I ever won because nothing can really beat the excitement of winning that first demon after several years of trying. The last one, in 2012, was pretty special to me. Life was changing, I was finding it more difficult to find time to paint, plus the level of competition in Chicago that year was really high.
Of course, I’ve also made a ton of great friends in this hobby as a result of all those trips to Games Day. Lows?: Breaking something the morning of the contest always sucked. Super glue plus nervous shaky hands was a bad combination. Worst case was when I kicked an Empire Elector Count across the outside terrace of the Baltimore Convention Center immediately after spraying him with clear-coat. I sprayed him, turned around to put the cap on the can, then forgot where he was, and immediately gave him a good kick as I walked back over to my case.
The damage wasn’t too bad, though, at least I didn’t step directly on him. I had to trim and re-sharpen the spike coming out of the horse’s forehead, plus some touch-ups. Still got him entered, but nerves made it tough.
My first brush with Citadel Miniatures came when I ordered a copy of their A5 blue catalogue back in about 1980 or 81 – I think it was from a small advert at the back of Military Modelling. I can remember studying that catalogue avidly in my student bedsit. I bought several SciFi minis but then lost touch with the brand as I focused on painting two sizeable 15mm ACW armies. It was the chance discovery of issue 92 of White Dwarf that brought me back to the fold when I was visiting my Nan in Wellington (Somerset) in August 1987. I’d popped into WH-Smiths to see if they had the latest Military Modelling magazine – I can’t remember if they did – but White Dwarf hooked me in, although only to the extent that I then wanted to build orc and goblin armies.
My first notion of entering a Games Workshop competition was actually to try to win a best painted army trophy, but, despite building quite a sizeable green-skin army, I never had anyone to learn to play the game with. So, as I started to paint a more random collection of single minis, Golden Demon caught my eye. Having won through the initial in-store round that was required in 1994, I confidently strode into the Golden Demon arena expecting to do rather well, only to quickly realise that my painting was way behind the standard required. Don’t forget that in those days we didn’t have the internet to benchmark our efforts against, and the print in magazines was not what it is today.
I spent a good few hours that day staring at models in the cabinets as I resolved to return next year. 1995 brought me a finalist pin and more hours of staring into cabinets working out what I needed to do. 1996 was a year that I shall never forget for 2 reasons. Firstly, I’d been paintin ntil 3am and was so tired driving to GD that, after stops at 3 or 4 consecutive junctions / service stations, I had to give in and take a nap.
I fell asleep within seconds and just hoped I would wake up in time (no mobile phones with handy alarms back in those days). Secondly, I did wake up in time and, after the obligatory shaky handing over models ‘ceremony’, went on to bag a silver and bronze – what a buzz. I can still vividly remember wondering around the venue with a huge grin on my face and a trophy in each hand. And so began my long-term addiction to Golden Demon… the constant planning and plotting, the creative joy of converting models and building duels, plus my total inability to finish entries before the eve of the big day.
Golden Demon has provided me with the deadlines I require to get me to finish projects … even to start them. It has also provided me with a wonderful community to be part of and a great bunch of mates to talk hobby and have plenty of banter with. I have certainly had more than my fair share of good fortune over the years, as well as an occasional bit of bad luck, but hopefully I’m not quite done yet.
There have been many awards throughout the three decades Golden Demon has been running. From the Gold, Silver, Bronzes of the Categories, the converted Slayer Sword, finalist badges, Commended, Forge World Best of Show award, Fanatic Morning Star and the Spirit of Warhammer award.
Gold, Silver and Bronze. Awarded to the top three in each category! Originally designed and sculpted by Nick Bibby during the 1987 awards, these were electro-plated in Gold, Silver and Bronze!
Finalist Pins & Commended
Awarded to finalists who make it through the first round of cuts to the final selection.
Commended entry is a newish return to the Golden Demon awards. Acting as a joint 4th place in a way, it is another level to aim for on your road to becoming a demon winner.
The Slayer Sword has also been through multiple variations and is the highest award in the Golden Demon painting competition. 171 have been awarded throughout the 3 decades the competition has been running, but only 109 people have lofted the sword above their heads (David Soper and Todd Swanson have won 5 times each!)
Brian Moore lofts the first Slayer Sword from the 1987 awards.
Forged by the Undead, Mind-Flaying Greater Balrog Demons of the Fiery Inner Sanctum of the Lords of the 26 Furies of the Lesser Stench, or, as they prefer to be known in the phone book, Pendragon Armourers of Chesterfield.
Azaroth appeared, bearing the Demon Sword!White Dwarf #93
During the late 90s/early 00s the sword were forged by Raven Armoury based in Thaxted, Essex. The swords cost a whopping £3,000/4,000 and were hand forged! (the swords given out now are no longer hand forged though)
The infamous Slayer Sword winning photo! You have to strike a pose!
Demons 1987 – 2022
A selection of Demon Winning entries throughout the years.