mfxposé #4: Dark Sword Miniatures

Friday, 12 June 2009
We've had too many requests to profile a miniatures company to ignore. So get ready for our mega-article, this week in mfxposé we're featuring Dark Sword Miniatures. After getting in touch with Jim Ludwig, he was more than willing to send us endless pics of their jaw-dropping work.

Dark Sword Miniatures, Inc. is Jim's company and is located in Minnesota, USA.



DARK SWORD MINIATURES

Dark Sword Miniatures, Inc. was founded in 2002 in order to fill a gap in the miniatures industry that had moved steadily towards very stylised and sometimes over-the-top miniatures at the expense of more realistic miniatures.

Founder Jim Ludwig grew up on the classic Grenadier and Ral Partha sculpts in the 1980's and 1990's and was dismayed to lose both Grenadier and Ral Partha in the mid 1990's due to the collapse of the hobby market from the hot new card game "Magic the Gathering" dominating the hobby stores.

Jim's favorite Ral Partha license was the Larry Elmore line of miniatures they produced. Jim who had become acquaintances with Larry Elmore over the years and had begged Larry to take his license to Reaper Miniatures once Ral Partha closed up shop, but for some reason Larry did not do so as it was not at the top of his radar in those days.

So he boldly told Larry: "... heck, if you are not going to do something about this, I will start a small miniatures company as a sideline business and hire top sculptors and painters to do your artwork justice."

Larry Elmore simply responded: "OK, write up a proposal and let me review it."

Dark Sword Miniatures was born ...

Elmore Dragons Set #5

Dennis Mize and Tom Meier were at the top of the list for realistic sculptors that could pull off what was needed. Dennis had done a large amount of work on the classic Ral Partha Silver and Steel series and other Elmore miniatures. Tom had done some work on it as well.

Dennis signed on quickly and was given the Elmore Masterworks line to sculpt as Dark Sword wanted to ensure consistency across lines. Keith Parkinson and Tom Meier came on next to start the Parkinson Masterworks line.

Jim Ludwig was always very fond of the "Fab Four" from TSR which included Larry Elmore, Keith Parkinson, Jeff Easley and Clyde Caldwell. These four artists really put TSR on the map in terms of amazing artwork back in the 1980's and 1990's.

Kingsgate: The Art of Keith Parkinson

Odin Riding Forth on the Cover of "Legends and Lore" for AD&D

clyde caldwell 032

Red Dragon by Larry Elmore

Dark Sword had a plan and very soon Jeff Easley and Clyde Caldwell were signed on board along with Dave Summers to sculpt up Dragons and other assorted minis. Dave Summers had sculpted some of the best dragons ever produced for Ral Partha including the Great Red Dragon (Easley artwork) and the Golden Dragon of Chaos (Elmore artwork).

Dark Sword slowly ramped up over the next few years with a steady stream of boxed set releases from Tom, Dennis and Dave sculpting. They then offered their miniatures in single/blister pack format due to the demands of collectors and gamers. This prompted the start of their Visions in Fantasy range of player character types to fill in the gaps of the amazing artwork from the Fab Four. The sculptor Gael Goumon was brought on to add to this line.

VIF Ranger

Dark Sword's premium miniature lines were mainstays at the Origins Award's every year for Best Miniature/Miniature Line of the Year. Dark Sword took home top honors in 2005 with their Elmore Dragons Miniature Line sculpted by Dave Summers and Dennis Mize.

Dark Sword lost a couple of dear friends in October 2005 and March 2006 with the passing of Keith Parkinson and Dennis Mize. Jim tells me:

"... Their talent is still felt today and there is not a week that goes by that I do not fondly think of them and our conversations. They were both at the very top of their game in terms of skill-levels at the time of their passing ..."

The search for a top-notch sculptor brought Dark Sword to Jeff Grace who Jim had been keeping an eye on since Jeff entered back into the Freelance sculpting market after his tour of duty with WizKids. Jeff Grace had been trained by Dennis Mize and Dave Summers at Ral Partha.

Jeff also had a keen appreciation of the artwork we were working from. He was a natural choice and quickly ramped up to follow in Dennis Mize's footsteps as a key Dark Sword sculptor. Little did Jeff know that he was considered for the Caldwell Masterworks line before Dennis Mize offered to sculpt that line in addition to the Elmore Masterworks line.

Detail on sculpt GRRM Line

While all of this was happening, a surprise email from a Mr. George R.R. Martin happened to pop into their email box praising their miniatures and asking if they were of the 54mm scale (which is always a nice compliment). It turns out Mr. Martin was a huge miniature fan and really liked the realistic miniatures they were doing. George had signed on with a huge multi-million dollar company called Testors Models to bring his miniatures to market.

After a couple years of spinning their wheels, they lost the license and Dark Sword was offered the chance to add another key license to their line. Jim was a huge fan of the books and jumped at the chance. Tom Meier and Jeff Grace are heading up sculpting duties on the line with Dave Summers jumping in on certain pieces as needed. Most miniatures in the line are in the standard 28-30mm scale which is the industry norm these days, but a few of the miniatures are getting the 54mm treatment as well.

Female Summoner & Desert Wings

Dark Sword works with a very talented group of painters that paint up their studio collection - Matt Verzani has been with them since the very beginning. Susan Wachowski paints almost all of their dragons, and Marike Reimer is now painting a good deal of Dark Sword releases. Alison Scheirman, Rhonda Bender, Anne Foerster, and Jen Haley have also painted miniatures for the Dark Sword studio collection. They are a very talented bunch - no question about it.

Alfyn GRRM

Looking forward, Dark Sword wants to simply focus on their existing premium miniature lines and really fill them out. All too often, companies get eyes bigger than their wallets and spin out of control and lose focus.

Dark Sword tries to keep things really tight by only working with a limited amount of sculptors, painters and licenses. Dark Sword has over 230 miniatures in their lines thus far and that number keeps on growing and should exceed 250 miniatures by the end of 2009.

You can check out their award-winning miniature lines at: www.DarkSwordMiniatures.com

UPCOMING: More on materials, reviews and a few other overdue posts ...

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Daniel has been painting miniatures for over 18 years. "MiniatureFX.com" is his outlet for reviews, experiments and the occasional tutorial...

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