Seyni Ndiaye is an inspiringly original, deeply personal, and utterly fearless French miniature painter who has burst onto the international scene in recent years and garnered attention from anyone who’s paying attention. He’s also a super nice and funny guy, and agreed to submit to some questions regarding his journey as an artist and the powerful palette that always marks his style.
Ok, let’s start with a little personal biography. Who is Nebriuson, where do you live, etc.
So first of all my real name is Seyni Ndiaye, I’m 30 years old. I live in the city of Lyon, France with my wife and cats.
“Nebriuson” is the name of my Carcharodon space marine army commander. Its actually the name of a kind of shark species whose name I found cool. Haha. I wanted something original and I was making my shark army at the time. I’m a lore addict, hehe.
How about a little mini painting background? How did you get into the hobby, who/what helped you learn most, when did you feel you had a clear picture of what you wanted your models to look like?
I’ve been in the hobby since I was 12 and I turned toward display painting roughly 3 years ago. Before that I was all about tabletop models for my gaming collections. Many things helped me progress, starting from looking at the work and seeking feedback of painters I admire (some of which I could even meet in real life). These included Dimitri Peyrard, Maxime Pastourel, or more recently Jeremie Bonamant. As I looked at those painters and added some others to my reference, such as Roman Lappat and David Arroba, it became clear to me that I wanted to be able to work with vivid colors and a really striking paint scheme. From that the main goal for me was to do better on every model until I took the leap in 2019 for my first official painting competition at Warhammer Fest. This was a means to see how close I could get to the podium with a real challenge, and I was lucky enough to put a toe on it. Since then I’ve started working on busts, which bring me a lot of fun as well as a lot of opportunities to better my game, be it by reinforcing and correcting my own style or working to aquire all the things I still lack, such as several technical skills and better light placement.
What is the role of color in your work? It is usually the first thing people notice when they see your models, but is it your primary aesthetic consideration when executing a figure? Is the impact you’re trying to make on the viewer delivered by your color choices?
Exactly! There are a lot of awesome painters out there, technically unreachable. But when I was talking about the painters that inspire me, they have created a style of their own. They have put a little bit of themselves on their model and any of their work is easily recognizable as their own. They might not be the most technicaly advanced models you will see in an ocean of awesome painters but each miniature has a soul and a hallmark everybody could recognize instinctively and that inspires others to invest themeselves.
A way of saying that everybody has something to bring to the table and a creativity of his own that may not depend on techniques alone.
Thats what I aim at with my painting. My color choices are my way of doing it, kinda what I bring to the table. Originality is the essence for me. I don’t paint to reproduce other people’s work but to express my own feeling and imagination.
Do you paint primarily to satisfy your own taste, or do you imagine the effect you want to have upon someone who sees your work? What reaction do you hope your work gets from a viewer?
Yes I paint primarily to satisfy my own taste. I have an idea of where I want to take my painting. The main goal is to have a collection I am personaly proud of. And the reaction I hope I get from viewers is ‘well this is Seyni’s work’. As simple as that. Not counting on exceptional skills or “wahooo” effects but simply to touch the spirit with storytelling and originality. I want the viewer to feel the personal touch I put on every model, whichever color I use. Thats the hope.
How much of the color palette and actual placement of the colors on your models do you plan out in advance? Or are the color choices we see the result of exploration with the brush? Is the process analytical or intuitive?
For color placement I don’t plan anything out in advance. Either I have a full vision of the mini I want to do (as I did for my Cyberpink bust) and find my way instinctivly toward that goal or I don’t have a clue of where I’m going, as in the case of my Ballsaurus bust. I work with colors as it flows. That being said, I’m working with a lot of little key tricks that permit me to blend the intuitive mess together and that work for me.
How do you approach color composition? What guides your decision making in the application of colors?
The tricks I mentioned above are complementary colors, temperature contrast, triads and saturation level.
I started slowly to organise my color work first with triads and complementary colors. Then when it came to me as a habit I tried to push toward the goal of creating as much contrast as I could in an area as small as I could. For that I implemented temperature contrast and textures in my color work. Finally I realised thanks to feedback I was receiving that I was missing a lot of details and creating blurry areas on my models. I found the start of the solution with Ballsaurus: adding saturation shifts in my habits and use them to get better definition, more contrast possibilities and nice midtones for micropainting. That’s a lot to work on, haha!
Do you favor certain colors, or certain color combinations? Are there colors that somehow reflect what you’re ‘saying’? I’d say your recent works feature a lot of yellow greens against rust reds. Go back a little farther and one finds a lot of turquoise tones. Does your exploration of color have ‘phases’, or do these trends just represent your choices for each particular model?
Haha, yeah I fell in love with emerald green from the Prince August range (Vallejo related I think) and use it a lot and on every model I guess, haha ! But as you said I work more with phases. Exploring new colors and finding my approach with those. Lately it was all about acid yellow mixed with fluo green against warm brown. I try to use that color more or less depending on if it fits my vision of my actual model. It is permitted to play around and find new ways of using those tones, along with (and for) triads, temperature contrasts, focal points, etc.
Ok, let’s say I wanted to try to get on your wavelength on a piece I was painting. Tap into the Seyni way. Not imitate your style, exactly, but embrace the bold, free approach that characterizes your work. What advice can you give me? Technical, conceptual, motivational, anything.
Okay It would be a good start for the most shy of those painters to start adding colors to the shadows. Pick a color for your model and then use the complementary in the shadows for example. Thats where it all started for me and it is there I embraced the idea of using color differently. For the most brave I would advise to try and make a chaotic sketch only using vivid colors (on a zenithal white on black preshade). Whatever gets in your mind, taint those preshaded zones. And then using one desaturated color (like flesh for example) try to play with those earlier colors to gradualy create lights and details on your model with desaturated tones. This is an exercise that bring toward a very intuitive way of painting that let you express a lot of things at first. Control will came later, with the refinement and harmony provided by the desaturated tones.
Next I want to ask you about where you want to take your painting next. Do you have any sense of how your painting is evolving? You mentioned earlier that you’re striving to achieve greater definition in your painting. What else do you hope to achieve stylistically in the years ahead?
For the next step I would like to add more definition to my work and better my light placements in particular. Also, I see that my work might benefit from a sketching stage that I usualy don’t do. In the years to come I’ll try to refine my style by using always more colors but with the idea of ending with a more balanced overall result. I also crave to work more on little scenes that play on storytelling and more intricate basing in the future. Time will tell how far I will go with those objectives.
Let’s take a look at a few works of which you’re particularly proud. I’d like you to indicate what you think works well, what represents a new level or breakthrough moment in your painting, what you might do differently now. Basically walk us through a couple of your works, indicating compositional or other details that characterize your style and approach.
- Carcharodon Captain Nebriuson (GW conversion)
Works well : While Nebriuson is a ‘gaming figure’, this was the first time I really tried to work colors into shadows properly. Adding these blurry red hues into the greys and contrasting them with the crisp blue tint for the tattoos in particular.
Breakthrough moments : My love for colors in shadows and playing with complementaries is born there I think.
Do differently : I would try to get a better focus on the head using light more. Trying to create a real light gradiant. Darker at the feet and brighter on the head. It would help it pop even more on the tabletop.
- Papa Jambo from Bigchild Creatives
Works well : I think this is when I started to achieve balance in my color use for it to include as many colors as possible for a truly vivid look without it being too much.
Breakthrough moments : Papa Jambo was painted in 9-10 hours straight. It showed me that I could really let go and paint as it comes. It helped me trust in my instinctive way of approaching painting in general. Before tackling this bust I was looking at a lot of Roman Lappat works and those acidic greens that he uses really influenced me on this bust. I grew more confident in tackling this really popular bust and ending with a version that got the interest of several painters that I admire, including Roman himself.
Do differently : I would use a lot more micropainting to ‘respect’ the sculpt more. My way of painting tends to end up with something ‘blurry’ so to speak, and I learned thanks to great advice from great painters that I need to balance that with more detailing and better handling of the volumes. On this particular bust you can see how I ignored a lot of those volumes on the face for example.
- Híspalis from Perdro Fernandez work
Works well : I’m particulary proud of this one as at this point on my painting journey I’d worked only on busts with deeply marked faces and features. Lot of detail, recesses, and volumes. On Híspalis there was nothing for me to use to help me place light and shadows or the many colors I used usually. On this one I tackled smoothness which is not my forté and I’m really happy with how it turned out.
Breakthrough moments : Light placement was paramount on this one and I learned how to be more accurate with lights. Also I learned that I could do something smooth and controled if I tried hard to. Finally the eyes: I found that bright orange and fuchsia made for a very intense combination that I still use often to this day.
Do differently : My first encounter with the nightmare called ‘hairs’. I’m still in a struggle to have those right and I hate to paint those. Also I think that even if the base is cool it could have been a lot better.
- ‘Shit Happens’ (Cormac from Black Crow)
Works well : Being one of my more recent works I used all the stuff I learned with the previous models I walked you through and this is really a milestone for me. The skin in particular I’m proud of, where I really enjoyed working those liver dots and age marks.
Breakthrough moments : It came to my attention thank to my friend and awesome painter David Colwell that I used essentially cold colors and that it could help to learn how to work with warmer ones too. So I took his suggestion and tried going warmer on this one.
Also, I finally understood the importance of storytelling. It could help you give an entirely different approach or understanding of a piece. Adding some poop on Cormac’s hand changes the whole scene and gives a new meaning to the eyes of the the old sorcerer and his birds.
Do differently : I’m still struggling with hairs! 🤣