I’ve been sick. Covid. 5/10 would not recommend. It’s had an unusual effect on me, swelling my feet and turning my joints into twigs. Covid toe I was told, has mild symptoms, but longer-lasting. The joy of going into my 6th week of discomfort has meant I’ve had to take time off work and fumble my way around correspondences, keeping up to date as much as possible between bouts of lethargy.
But, that’s not why I wanted to write this article. How stimulating is it to read about someone’s griping? NONE! That’s how much. My forced convalescence has drawn my attention to some rather bad habits I fell into, which I think you suffer from too.
Buying is not painting.
Lockdown is coming up, I’ll be bored. I may as well buy that gang/squad/team/bust to work on.
The act of buying something new is therapeutic. Mentally you have a few minutes of dreaming up a scheme, settling in for a paint session, and making progress. You get that rush or engaging in an artistic pursuit, even if imagined. And that’s the problem right there. The brain has a hard time telling the difference between reality and fiction. By mapping out that project, you’ve lived the moment. The rush has been and gone, and when the new thing arrives it’s so easy to throw it on the pile of resin and chase that next mental high.
Since becoming ill I have bought a Van Saar Gang, 30 Dawn-Breakers, 2 DragonHead Busts and a 3-D printed female bust. I’ve also bought the superlative FAQ by Kiril Kanaev. With all these resources surely I am now a better painter than I was before. Aren’t I?
Buying a tutorial is not studying a tutorial.
Some of my biggest breakthroughs as a painter have been through online tuition and careful study of how other painters handle their equipment. Basic colour theory and implementation, recipes, and brands can all be learned by rote, but the energy of application must be considered.
I purchased the wonderful Abel NMM masterclass by Lan Pisarski but I’ve only found 30 mins to watch. Why? Time commitment. In the few hours of a personal hobby, I get per week, finding time to study this means I need to plan ahead. Time management is not something I really want to commit to in my downtime, so it slides. besides, I’ve already had the mental rush of owning the series. I’ve fooled myself into thinking I’ve improved.
The same goes for buying paints. Don’t be too hard on yourself here I tell myself because I’m just as guilty. We’re all magpies. We see something work and we want to replicate it as closely as possible.
Ice Yellow creates amazing NMM – having bought it I am now a better painter.
Ohhh, look what that painter is doing with white ink. I must buy it. I am now a better painter.
All the gear no idea.
I have bought myself an airbrush. I’ve watched 5 minutes of a tutorial to get the general twist of a scheme and I’ve bought the ENTIRE Vallejo range. I’m ready.
The issue you quickly run into is that the work you produce does not match the tutorials you’ve viewed. It does not match the idea you have in your head of what the model should be. Why? You haven’t earned the experience, you haven’t spent that time painting.
There’s a good reason why play is so important for human beings. We experiment, change, manipulate our environment to match our needs. The same rules apply to painting. You have all the theory and tools at your disposal but not the muscle memory. Unfortunately, there are no cheat codes. Painting is a long format skill that is nurtured over time which can be curbed with proper guidance and tuition.
Your precious 3-4 hours you scratch together per week is seemingly squandered creating something that does not live up to the models you see on Instagram. Is it any wonder you get discouraged?
Social media. My gift, my curse.
Whoah, look at what X has painted. Look at this miniature! There are new miniatures! Look at this Kickstarter! You must get this, everyone is getting it.
This certainly feels like they’ve sped up. Miniature companies have developed sophisticated business strategies to sell you their product. And good! I want to buy more stuff, I want options, I want to see more 3-rd party producers and Kickstarters do well. This is the time of plenty as a miniature painter!
But all this choice is overwhelming. I’ve bought too much and can’t focus on a single thing. And the things I do want to paint have been painted waaaay better than I can ever manage by professionals who do nothing else. Instagram is a wonderful hunting ground for inspiration but by golly can it be dispiriting. This can dissipate focus and ultimately cost momentum.
My biggest bad habit is not writing down paint schemes though for projects I know I’ll be spacing out over a period of timeMichael
No man steps in the same river twice….
I’ve long ago come to terms that what keeps me engaged in the hobby stems from nostalgia. By collecting Blood Angels I rekindle the same neural pathways I created as a kid, giving me that warm fuzzy feeling of security. When you start a project it’s exciting. You’ve planned a scheme, may be done a few tests, then the painting begins. Very few people are able to complete a project in a tight time frame. We’re all busy, and bringing a project management-style mindset to our past time doesn’t sound appealing. We paint for fun!
A year may pass, or two before we round out a collection to our satisfaction. But, oh lord how we have changed in that time. We’re better painters now than at the start of the journey, but we still have 2,000 points left to paint all still in the box.
Do we paint the force coherently, or do we let ourselves grow?
Do we strip everything, or sell it and start again?
We get trapped in the cycle of trying to recreate something we have already achieved. This is fine, no one has a gun to your head screaming “YOU MUST BE BETTER.” but part of the enjoyment we can gain from this hobby is the development of a skill.
My worst habbit is Buying models and sometimes not getting to the project.Ben
YOU CAN CHANGE. BUT CHANGE IS HARD.
I’ve sat on my judgment cloud, throwing down lightning bolts of condemnation so far in this article. So, Mr perfect, how do you do things? I’m guilty of so many of these sins, but I manage to leap over them with one simple trick – if I don’t paint, I don’t eat.
Commission painting has had a very positive effect on my miniature painting. I’ve had to get over the fears of inadequacy to complete jobs and rid myself of a perfectionist complex. You don’t need to be as strict, but recognizing that change is hard and willing to meet that challenge will yield positive results.
1. Create a Schedule
Writing down your goals means you are 1.2 – 1.4 times more likely to complete them. This needn’t be a huge monument to your mountain of grey plastic failure, but smaller, more achievable tasks.
For example, a the start of the year I wanted to complete the Return to Isstvan force.
GOAL: Compelte Return to Isstvan Force
How do I achieve it? I break my overarching goal into tasks.
- Clean and assemble 25 Justaerin, Abaddon, and Banner.
- Airbrush armour tones.
- Brush to complete.
And finally, we can schedule these tasks into a diary.
- Clean and assemble 25 Justaerin.
This way you do not have to belabor yourself to a herculean task. Painting an army in 48 hours makes for a somewhat entertaining Youtube video, but it also puts needless stress on yourself. Take the night off and play a co-op game with your buddies. Go outside for a walk. Find a puppy and play with it. All is in hand with your schedule.
2. Shut off your senses, turn off your phone.
Are you constantly scrolling Instagram when reading a book? NO!
Are you always answering e-mails, responding to DM’s? Get off the damn thing, turn it off, stop watching tutorials and implement the things you’ve learned, no matter how imperfectly! People can wait for your response, I promise. Take the time to yourself and invest your full attention in the miniature you are painting.
1 goal, 1 project.
Project paralysis is very real. Working on multiple projects at the same time bottlenecks your progress, leading to months of misplaced effort with very little to show for it. Chasing the high of the new purchase will be replaced by the high of project completion. At any one time only have the models you are painting on your desk. Tidy the rest away, out of sight, out of mind, until you have the time to finish them.
Fully paint a miniature, even if it sucks.
Perfection is impossible, there are always flaws. Many times these are flaws only you will see, pressing your face against the miniature so closely that you can’t see the gem you’ve created. Others will look at your ‘failure’ with envy, so make sure you don’t allow that little devil pouring poison in your ear to finish a project. You learn far, far more about miniature painting by finishing projects than leaving them half done and forever perfect in your mind.
Your mind is wrong. Paint the damn miniature to completion!
Paint with purpose.
Are you painting toward an army or a competition? These are two very different skill sets. painting 100 Imperial Guard to competition standard would look cool, but would also take over 10 years. Choose techniques that give you the greatest return in the time you have.
20 Minute Traitor: The Art of Compromise has been an unexpected hit, as it details very clearly that this model will not look great at the end! It’s there to punch out 80 of these suckers quickly. The Lion Masterclass however is an in-depth look at lighting effects, advanced painting techniques, and the theory that underpins it all.
Paint with purpose, don’t meander to a standstill.
My biggest bad habit is my seeming inability to not realise that I can have different standard of painting and every model doesn’t have to take hours and be the best I can paint. It’s for an ARMY for playing! You do not have the time to spend hours on each model! – I shout at myself whilst looking at each blend.Jonathan
I’ve been awfully judgemental in this article. But it’s not a judgment of you – these were the habits I found I was forming when I was unable to paint. My parting wish is for you to be less harsh on yourself. Miniature painting is storytelling in a different format. We can gain just as much satisfaction setting in wi the good book as we can with a nice miniature. As long as we a clear-headed with our intentions, have a direction and a good soundtrack/movie to play in the background all is well with the world.
This should be your chance to disengage from the world. Not to compete, not to measure against our peers on social media, but to give ourselves an oasis of bliss to discover something new.
I asked a few friends what their worst habits were in the hobby, and here is the house of shame we have built together, as a community. Only the first names were used (but you know who you are!)
What is your number 1 worst habit in the hobby?
For me, painting too many Ultramarine armies but still wanting to paint more ?Adam
I have plenty of bad habits. Probably my worse is is never being satisfied with a project and instead of showing my progression as a painter I will strip them and start all over again.Keith
Not being consistent with hobby. A little every day and you get a lot done. I tend to drop off for weeks and come back and find I have so much to do.Anuj
Impulsively starting new projects without thinking it through ?Dom
Moving onto other projects without finishing ones you’ve startedJoshua
All the gear, no idea – (all the kit and full of shit – Myles), decision paralysis & distractionSam
For me moving on (at least mentally) well before I’ve finished current project, let alone played a game with it. I’m really getting into the Stillmania approach, where you pick your 2000 pts, buy, make, paint and (eventually) play.Robert
My biggest bad habbit is stripping minitures when i felt i havent lived up to my own standards/expectations.Jan
Start an army around a certain idea, make good progress over a couple of months, buy loads more stuff, lose interest (because the initial idea was realized long ago) and go over to the next one, leaving a pile of things I’ll most likely never come back to… Happened with White Scars, EC, Word Bearers, Dark Angels. The only army I’d consider truly done is my Mechanicum.Hauke
Self motivation – this is my hobby not my work.Mathew
Procrastinating when I get to a difficult part or a bit I don’t enjoy doing (DROP PODS – Myles)Chris
Finishing up an airbrushing session and not doing a good enough clean up.Benn
Cutting corners or generally just being bone idle. Nat taking the extra time something needs just to get to the next step or trying to get it finished. Thinks like, that little bit more time on gap filling rather than just stuck a blob of super glue in there and sand it down when it’s dry. Then at the other end of the spectrum. trying to do to much. Always going over the top. Sometimes less is more.Mike
Not finishing my backlog…thinking of cool projects that require small portions from other expensive models. I’m pretty sure my dread cost me 100 pounds plus a trip to cornwall to build!Joshua
One of my bad habits is being afraid to try out new techniques and skills etc. I nearly always surprise myself and things generally turn out much better than I expected. I need to trust my abilities a bit more. Weathering, airbrushing and greenstuff sculpting were all things that I put off trying because I didn’t trust myself to be successful with them, but when I did try them they turned out better than I could have hoped for.Kieran
Probably judging myself against standards in the community. If I’m not as good as someone or don’t finish models fast enough I feel like I’ve failed. Really I need just enjoy what I’m doing. Also I start too many projects without finishing them so I need to stop thinking that a project is not a success unless I have a full army for instanceAndrew
I would say humming and hawing and changing my recipe for a project 42 times before starting because I want to have the perfect plan to execute before I start anythingAlex
But seriously I dont really know…I think I sometimes spent way to much time painting random details or highlight things that won’t even be visible on the finished model…>.<Christopher