The Wonderful Secret Origin of Marc van Holst

Welcome to Wargamer Secret Origins. We’re going to discover the origins of our hobby’s greatest heroes and villains. Which is which? That’s for you to decide …

What age did you get into painting and what started it off?
I think my first interest in painting models was sparked by my Dad. When I was very young he was injured badly and wasn’t able to move around for a while. During his recovery he received two model tall ships. I can vividly remember sitting with him as he cut the pieces off the sprue and removed all the mould lines. The pieces were infinitesimal. He painted all of these tiny cannons before installing them and explained that he would not be able to reach them with the brush otherwise. I said that nobody would see what he had painted, and he said “that is not the point; I will know they are painted. If something is worth doing, it is worth doing properly”. The whole painstaking process seemed very special to me. When I as old enough he bought me my first aircraft model (an AV-8B Harrier II) and helped me build it. I learned some hard lessons about how polystyrene cement works and the importance of using it sparingly (“use enough, but no more” was how he described it). While I was asleep he painted it and added the decals so that I could take it to show-and-tell in the morning. I would have been about 8 years old and painted all of my own models after that, using enamels. The responsibility of working with thinners and solvents, as well as making permanent marks to models you really care about (with little scope for second chances) shaped me quite a bit as a person, I think.

After playing a demonstration game at Games Workshop Miranda (Australia), when I was about 14, I sold some Magic: The Gathering cards and bought a few 40K models. I sat in my room shivering under a desk lamp, in the middle of winter, painting my first model. Mum couldn’t understand it and thought it was a complete waste of money, but Dad understood. I caught him in my room looking at them one day and he said that, as a kid, he had always wanted toy soldiers.

What was the first model you ever bought/painted?
The first model I ever bought with my own money and painted was a Space Marine Terminator Librarian and a Terminator with Lightning Claws. I immediately swapped the arms to create my own custom Chapter Master and painted him in a Legion of the Damned scheme. My gaming buddies said it was cheesy, as the Legion didn’t have Terminators, or Chapter Masters, but I had already subscribed to the rule of cool. I found this model when I was packing earlier this year, stripped and armless. I’ll do something with him when I get a chance! Below is one of the first marines I painted, in the same scheme.

marc van holst warhammer 40k battle report legion damned space marines

What is your favourite aspect of painting?
There is something about the process of painting a blank figure so that it has depth, contrast, vibrancy and character, that is deeply satisfying to me. I don’t quite know how to describe it, but it centres on the effective application of technique. I get the same feeling practising kata, teaching and sailing (below, on Sydney harbour). I think that at an even deeper level, it stems from my love of learning/knowing how things work.

marc van holst sailing sydney harbour

What are you working on right now?
Tonight I added the finishing touches to my Pathfinder character, the half-orc witch hunter Imrijka. I inherited the character from my best mate when he passed away this year, so painting it has been tugging on my heart-strings. I am busy finishing my Tyranid collection, which has a paint scheme that matches a snake we have here in Australia. More specifically, I have three Zoanthropes and six Ripper bases to go.

marc van holst warhammer 40k battle report painted zoanthrope tyranids

I have a couple of old school Dark Angels figures that I am working on for my 2nd Edition army, Ezekiel and Azrael, after finishing Sapphon recently.

marc van holst warhammer 40k battle report dark angel painted space marines

I also have a squad of Iron Snakes Centurions that I have been trying to get finished for two years now, but I keep getting distracted (is it ok to call Chapter Master Seydon of the Iron Snakes a “distraction”?).

marc van holst warhammer 40k battle report space marines captain painted

For Infinity, I am working on an Ariadna army, having settled on a SWAT team/police theme. For Battletech I am busy painting two lances of 8th Sword of Light mechs and a lance of Genyosha. During the Christmas break I will be working on two Veritech models from Macross Plus, as well as the new starter set models for Battletech in my own mercenary scheme; Foxfire Company (below).

marc van holst warhammer 40k battle report battletech mechs

When you are not conquering the tabletop, what do you do?
I am a father of two little cherubs, which keeps me very busy indeed! My son has just started playing X-wing with me and my daughter is cooking up her own set of rules for a game using Sylvaneth models; the fruit has not fallen far from the tree. I am the Head of the Science faculty at a local High School. I have been teaching for about ten years now, having lectured previously at University whilst conducting cancer research.

marc van holst warhammer 40k battle report drama llama

Which of your armies is your favourite?
That’s such a hard question, because I have specifically chosen each for very different reasons. My Iron Snakes are very special though, and kept in a cabinet in the bedroom (thanks Wifey!).

marc van holst warhammer 40k battle report space marines

Secret painter or loud and proud?
Twelve months ago I would have said a bit of both, but now I am loud and proud. Everyone at work knows about my hobby and you can’t walk in the house now without seeing the whopping great big cabinets full of figures. I’m too old to care about the haters anymore.

Any hobby tips or cheats to share?
I would suggest to anybody just starting up that they get involved in a hobby community, online or otherwise. You can learn a lot from other people and many communities are very welcoming. I am constantly inspired by the work of my fellow bloggers, who openly share the techniques that they develop and practise freely. As for my own tips, based on my experience; it’s ok to be afraid to give things a try, but make sure you do them anyway. You can use that artistic anxiety to do incredible things. If you keep looking at something, wondering whether you are happy with it or not; you are not happy with it. For this reason, learn good ways to strip the paint off your models. Even better, weathering covers a multitude of sins. Also, a great idea isn’t great if you don’t finish it.

Why do I blog?
Thinking back, when we were kids, my friends were always inspired by the White Dwarf battle reports. I would often take their notes at the end of a game and compile them for everyone to read. Thanks to my earlier experiences painting aircraft models, I was also the go-to guy when it came to painting things and modelling. I would teach them techniques and share what I had learned painting on the weekend. Blogging is just an extension of that, I think. “My friends” just happen to include a bunch of amazing people all over the world now 🙂 You can catch me at

marc van holst warhammer 40k battle report tyranids

Who’s the next super hero or villain that the #Spruegrey Nation should talk to? Let me know by email ( or in the comments below.