Blanchitsu: Why You Should Do Your Own Thing Or How I Came To Love John Blanche

I first got into the 40k hobby when I was a little kid, around 10 or so. I’ve chatted about the appeal before on this site.

When I was that old the appeal was in the models, I used to spend my £3 pocket money on an eclectic mix of little lead miniatures without any real thought towards project or army coherency. As time went on I amassed enough to field an army and wanted to learn to play – I got the second edition of 40k for a birthday or christmas.

Rather than getting hooked on the game, I got hooked on the background and artwork. At that time I really gravitated towards the super finished look of MG and the like – I hated Blanche – or rather I just didn’t get ‘it’.


Fast forward to now, I’m in my mid/late twenties and I’ve been involved with the hobby in one way or another since then. Things have changed of course, GW prices have gone up – my ten year old self wouldn’t have nearly as many models, now I collect armies and specialist games rather that buying a ‘Space Marine With Flamer’ every other weekend, less of my collection is painted… the list goes on.

What has really changed is my ‘vision’ of the hobby. When I was a nooblet I loved the super finished illustration style of art work, all I cared about was space marines – now I’ve ‘matured’ for want of a better way of putting it…

Now the appeal of the hobby is the fluff, a background dripping with grim-dark lore and what I think is the key to all this: John Blanche.

Now John Blanche can be a point of contention, it seems to be a love/hate relationship for every hobbyist. As I say, when I was younger I really disliked it – but now… his art work is a ‘truer’ vision of 40k and Fantasy.

But that’s putting too finer point on what I am trying to get across with this rant. Blanche is in himself a symbol of what I see as two sides of this hobby. There are the hobbyists who’s love is in the precision of edge highlights, applied as per the recipe they were taught at their GW in days of yore and then there are the other guys who are a bit more rough and ready, a bit more slap dash and experimental – a bit more *Blanche*.

I see this division in my own gaming group, we seem to be almost split down the middle the ‘Perfectionists’ on one side and the ‘Blanchitsus’ on the other.

The Perfectionists

One of our guys is a painting machine, he can churn out armies in the time it normally takes people to paint squads. He has a quick method to paint every colour and thats how he does it – got to paint a purple? Blam, he’ll bust out his tried and tested purple recipe and have the army painted to a very good standard over a weekend or less – but for me they’re a bit formulaic, a bit… not bland.. they’re not bland but perhaps… ‘soulless’?

In my experience these are the guys who play to win gaming wise too. This is their way, they love it, who am I to judge? But for me, for my hobby that’s just too ‘by the book’ and impersonal.

The Blanchitsus

On the other side are the more experimental of us. Our painting is a bit scrappier, a bit more rushed perhaps but in that it has more depth of character because of it’s imperfections. The sort of stuff you saw in the short lived Blanchitsu section of White Dwarf. We play for the joy of playing and paint for the joy of painting. Our purple might not be the same across the army, and we’re running an army based on fluff not on what’s ‘in’ (see my earlier Iron Hand rant).

So what’s my point? What has all this meandering rambling been in aid of?

John Blanche has been criticised for not being as ‘technical’ as say, Mark Gibbons, but for me they’re two different things. One is Illustration and one is Art (big A). I hope this illustrates my point I’m trying to make — do your own thing. Make Art not Illustration. Make it your hobby. Blaze a trail — paint purple however the fuck you want.


By day a mild mannered Web Designer from Swindon, by night a horder and shaper of bits in his mad kit bash laboratory.