Monday, 13 August 2012

Painting Doubts? Give it a go!

Obligatory Stock Photo
I never liked painting. Actually that's not true. I never used to like the idea painting. It really has nothing to do with act of painting itself, but something else completely. I'm sure many people have that Friend. That Regular-Opponent-That-Paints-Too-Bloody-Well. Someone who's army and miniatures you look at and think “I could never do that.”

When I first started as a wee young whipper snapper in the decade before last, that friend was our Eldar player. He was our group of friends' Resident Artist. At the time I thought “I could never do that” and it has long been this train of thought that has made me wary of picking up a paintbrush. I'm looking at their superb army across the table and I know they're looking across at mine, which in my mind is nowhere near as good.

The truth of the matter is, I can now paint far better miniatures than were in that Eldar army. Now I'm definitely not saying I'm a good painter, far from it. I am just in fact Better Than I Used To Be. As I know my Eldar-painting friend would be if he still played. If you worry that your army doesn't look as your opponent's, don't! You will get better, and of course the only way to really get better at painting is to paint. The more you paint the more able you are to look at amazing miniatures and at least see how they were able to achieve certain effects – and recognising is the first to to being able to create the same or similar effects yourself. I think that applies to any artistic endeavour.

The first models I painted were done with little desire to improve, I essentially tried to chuck paint of vaguely the right colour in vaguely the right places. My Black Legion Chaos Space Marines were black and yellow and little else. The first miniature I remember actively trying to improve my painting on is the Battlefleet Gothic Blackstone Fortress for the Chaos fleet. I tried my first proper attempt at this mystical skill known as “drybrusing” to pick the detail out. I used far too much paint and looking back at it now, it really wasn't great at all (I'm being kind). But at the time I was really pleased with my results, and even though my drybrushing didn't go well it was evidently an improvement in brush control. Something good came out of the attempt even if result wasn't quite what it could have been.

In the last 10+ years since that Blackstone fortress I've probably painted as many miniatures (and maybe slightly less) as the total number of years I've been involved in wargaming. That would be 17. It's pitiful, I know. But looking back, every miniature has been a marked improvement over the last. I was eventually able to pick up dry brushing with a reasonable degree of success.

A bad experience (well, not that harrowing) with inks years ago put me off using them for a long time, and a semi-break from the hobby meant that I missed out on the apparently brilliant Devlan Mud. The Scouts I posted yesterday are the first time that I've used washes since then. And they worked in the way I wanted them to (more or less).

It's a continual learning curve and continual improvement. I'm definitely not saying I think I'm a a good painter, I don't, but I'd like to think I can now say I'm Not Bad. And being Not Bad with a desire to improve, can't be a bad place to start.

There's always going to be That Friend, or That Guy who is the Awesome Painter. It's fine, maybe you won't ever quite be able to paint like that, but I can guarantee you will always get better and you can get to a standard that you maybe thought impossible. The more I paint the more I enjoy it, as I realise that I have actually got better I feel a little more confident at trying new things

When painting in the past, I always had an idea of how the model should look, the things I should be doing, but could never quite bring all the elements together. I've finally started being able to do that – and if I can do it, you can too! To get better at painting – you have to paint. I know for most, this is stating the obvious. But for those out there that suffer from Unintentional Painting Reluctance that I am just getting over, I hope this is a welcomed post from one of your own.

Having a blog as definitely been an encouragement to take the plunge and push myself to get painting, even if I have dragged my heels a little. I also need the fluff to give me the motivation, as I said previously, to make me do something that allows me to bring all that fluff to life as it were. Would I have done so if I was just painting Blood Angels? Probably not. If you're newish to the hobby and find yourself in a similar boat and haven't tried creating your own fluff – give it a try you might find it really helps.

I had similar reservations about blogging, why on earth would anyone want to read my ramblings? I'm still not sure, but I guess I must be doing something vaguely right; I have more regular commenters, more visitors and more followers than I ever expected – and as sappy is it sounds, I am continually grateful that you all keep coming back and hopefully get some enjoyment out my posts and nonsense.

The same applies to your painting, if you think that no one will ever be impressed in the slightest by your painting, you're wrong. So what are you doing, stop reading and get the paints and brushes out.

*Photo courtesy of


  1. Great article! Painting is probably the most daunting aspect of the hobby - I shudder thinking about that first box set of beakies I painted with testors enamel way back when! Having a desire to improve is key, I had a similar experience back in the day, one of our group was (and still is) a superb painter and I despaired of ever having anything that looked half as good. I spent many, many hours picking his brain for tips and tricks and managed to show marked improvement year over year. With the blogosphere being chock full of painters sharing their techniques, it's easier than ever for people to take advantage of others experience.

    Practice makes perfect!

    1. Thanks very much, everything you say is spot on I think, and that's very true about the blogosphere - there's so much advice out there now and people willing to help - but as you say it's practice that makes perfect :)

  2. Yup, good article. I like your positive vibes sir - One thing an hobbiest needs to maintain in a very Jedi-like format, positivity. As soon as the slightest taint of negativity creeps into one's outlook on our hobby, then that's when we all too readily take the convenient options (video games, tv, etc) instead of painting. (FIFA12 I hate you.) Reading this has made me want to head home early from work to go paint! :)

    1. Ta very much. Couldn't agree with you more, especially about the likes of FIFA.... Negativity leads to lack of motivation, lack of motivation leads to unpainted miniatures. Can just imagine Yoda saying something like that...

    2. Exactly the thought that went through my mind as I typed my original response. Silly little croaky midget...

  3. Excellent post. I am going to recommend this to my fellow club members.

    1. Thank you, glad you enjoyed it, hope your fellow club members find it useful and enjoyable too :)

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. This is getting embarrassing lol, checking comments on the dashboard through my iPhone I've deleted your comment again :( I didn't check anything or press delete so I have no idea what's happening. I always enjoy your comments so it's definitely not personal lol. Managed to screenshot your comment so I'll type it out again here and go nowhere near the blogger dashboard on here again:

      "I enjoyed this post. This and your other post has me thinking about my own painting...
      For me it's becoming almost a spiritual practice- quiet free time away from the worries of the world :)" - Col. Ackland

      Definitely agree there, there's something very meditative about painting, it's very "zen"

    2. Bahahahaha! that's funny as!

  5. Replies
    1. Thanks very much Mike, much appreciated as ever


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