(Groups, people, and products mentioned in this post are linked at the end.)
The fact that painting is an activity you can do on your own in your own home is a big plus for most of us. You’re not at the mercy of someone else’s schedule – you can paint at 3pm or 3am or whenever else works for you. You don’t need a particular type of weather or time of year. It’s a great activity for recharging your introvert battery. You just need some brushes, paint, a miniature and a bit of time.
But as true as all of that is, it can also be a ton of fun to paint with other people. One of the fun activities at my favourite conventions is the opportunity to sit and paint with others. I enjoy the rare chance to meet up with friends in a more intimate setting, too. Yesterday I had the good fortune to spend a day painting with friends, and we had a great time!
I’m on the left. Across from me is Elizabeth Beckley-Bradford, a renowned miniature painter. Our local friend and miniature enthusiast Susana is sitting next to her. Liz Hunt, a great painter who works with Elizabeth on Miniature Monthly, is taking the picture.
Entertaining conversation with friends makes it a lot easier to sit and paint for a long period of time without getting bored or noticing that your back is hurting. You have someone to bounce ideas off of or get colour scheme suggestions from. There is the occasional danger of a brush stroke going awry as your friends send you into peals of laughter, but I think it’s well worth the risk. It’s also a great opportunity to show friends your work in person (it’s hard to take good pictures of miniatures!) and give and receive feedback. Looking at other people’s figures with a critical eye helps improve your ability to see strengths and weaknesses in your own painting. Having other people look at your miniatures and tell you what they think is the best opportunity you have to see your work through someone else’s eyes.
Getting together with friends to share tips and tricks is also very valuable. Elizabeth showed us how to use lightweight spackle to make quick and easy groundwork on bases. I shared some tips for painting shiny hair. Pooling resources to share materials is also very helpful. There are a number of products you can buy related to other hobbies that come in larger quantities than you need for miniature basing and scene creating purposes. For example, static grass is often sold only in giant containers of a single colour. If you get together with friends and each buy a different colour and divide each container up amongst the group, you’ll have a much larger variety of materials for a smaller cost. Susana and Liz shared out some cool things they found at the big box the hobby stores, including plant pods that look exactly like tiny pumpkins. And Elizabeth shared a treasure trove of beach wood and plant materials that she finds on trips to Lake Michigan.
These treasures will make for some nifty bases and scenes!
If you don’t have any friends who paint miniatures, you might try asking at your local game store whether they run any events for miniature painters, or if they know of any. If they don’t and they’re interested in the idea, you could consider starting a regular miniature painting event. Some years back I started such a group in Knoxville. It took a fair while to get going (remember people can paint at home of they want, so sometimes you have to be a little patient and keep a regular schedule before they’ll be lured out to join you), but eventually we had a good group of people coming out to each meeting. In the past few years I have been too busy with preparing for and attending conventions to come out to the events, but Cera (front left in the picture below) took over the group. And she’s doing a better job than I ever did. There are now bi-monthly sessions and more than a dozen people come out to each one!
The early days of the Knoxville Area Miniature Painters group.
I’d love to hear more about your experiences painting with other people in the comments. Do you paint with friends? Is that something you’d like to try? Have you ever had a tools/materials swap with friends? Tell me more about it!
Miniature Monthly is a Patreon-based painting tutorial service. Elizabeth Beckley-Bradford, Aaron Lovejoy, and Matt DiPietro regularly post video tutorials of a wide variety of subjects related to miniature painting, including brush painting and airbrushing. https://www.patreon.com/miniaturemonthly
Knoxville Area Miniature Painters coordinates events via a Facebook group. Note that this is a closed group and membership is limited to people who are close enough to the area to physically attend events. https://www.facebook.com/groups/425292220862477/
The Hobby Hangout is an open Facebook group that is a great place to ask questions and chat about miniature painting. They also have online real-time hangouts. Liz Hunt is the main coordinator of this great group. https://www.facebook.com/groups/thehobbyhangout/
If you’re looking for a place to get great basing materials that you can swap with friends, check if you have a model train supply store in your area, like HobbyTown. If you don’t, Scenic Express online has an almost bewildering array of cool stuff like grass tufts, trees, flowers, crops, etc. I’m not sponsored by them or affiliated in any way, I’ve just spend too much time drooling on their catalog and making the occasional purchase. With train items, O scale is the closest in scale to modern gaming miniatures. HO is a little smaller and probably more appropriate for original 25mm scale figures. For natural materials a range of scales works, but the train scale equivalents are useful to know if you want to pick up a mailbox or trash can or something like that for a diorama. http://scenicexpress.com