NOTE: This is a digression that has nothing to do with my recent series of posts about contrast. I will return to that soon! This is a spur of the moment post because I had something on my mind. For added entertainment, I have sprinkled trivia questions into the captions of some of the pictures.
So I haven’t really talked about it much yet, but the reason the subtitle of the blog is ‘art in many forms’ is because I am also interested in more traditional forms of art. I’ve been painting miniatures for something like 14 years now. A little over three years ago, I decided to try to learn to draw and pursue more traditional forms of art. This wasn’t a completely new thing, I had long had an interest in art in my youth and took art class in high school, though I was never one of those young people who is constantly drawing and painting by any means.
Although it was not my primary intent in making the decision, studying more traditional forms of art has absolutely had an impact on my miniature painting, and also on my teaching of miniature painting. As far as my personal painting goes, I went through a few years of feeling like I was kind of stagnating and not really improving. Studying and striving to improve are two of the things I enjoyed about the hobby, so that had an impact on my interest and frequency of painting as well as making me feel I was falling behind my peers. There are times when studying traditional art takes time away from my miniature painting (there are only so many hours in a day!), but I think it has also helped me push to find new things to try and reawakened my excitement and feeling that I can still find ways to improve and get closer to where I want to be.
Hm, I don’t think that’s a miniature… Nope, it’s a drawing I did for the Inktober challenge of 2018.
The other impact that becoming a student of traditional art has had is that I don’t have to struggle to remember the difficulties of my early years in learning to paint miniatures. I’m reliving a lot of those frustrations right now! So I can very much relate to the feelings you might have of tearing your hair out trying to figure out why a paint or brush or palette or whatever doesn’t seem to be behaving for you in the way that it does so many others, and the difficulty of wrapping your head around certain concepts and pushing to learn new things. (And then also I learn more technical stuff about colour and whatnot so I can share concepts about underpainting and terms like brunaille and verdaccio as I did in my last post.)
Anyway, that’s just a preamble to explain why surprise! this post isn’t about miniature painting directly.
October is a big month for a lot of traditional artists because it is a month when a lot of us undertake challenges. A challenge is a commitment to do a certain thing a certain way, often within a particular time period. Often this takes the form of drawing/painting something every day for a certain length of time, usually a month, though there are variations like filling a sketchbook within a month or drawing 100 faces within a certain time period. One of the October challenges is Drawlloween, which is a set of daily prompt topics/themes for the month, all of which are in the spirit of Hallowe’en. Another October challenge is Inktober. For this challenge, you need to do a piece incorporating ink each day. There are also daily theme words, but the critical thing is to work in ink and work daily. There are other months with challenges, and lots of personal challenge ideas that people can set for themselves. Some time ago I participated in a challenge with some friends to do some kind of art every day for a month. And I thought it was such a great idea that I have kept going with it for almost two years now. Some days it’s two or three hours on a card for a friend or some hardcore study practice. And a lot of days it’s a five minute sketch while I’m waiting for lunch at a restaurant. And sometimes it’s even a miniature! (Though since I’m already supposed to be painting miniatures as much as possible, I only ‘count’ miniature painting as my art for the day when it’s not for work or if I’m doing whatever I’m painting for work as a practice study of a technique or something along those lines.)
I think this was my first drawing for my first Drawlloween challenge in 2015. It’s a ghost. And it’s somewhat awful. (Bonus movie trivia: the central figure is based on a still shot from a famous movie. Name that movie.)
I undertook the Drawlloween challenge the first year I started to learn traditional art, and again the next year. And I lasted maybe two weeks both times, because ReaperCon was scheduled in October both of those years and it jumped up and smacked me in the head with a giant to-do list of prep, and that’s on top of how busy I am once I’m actually at the convention. Last year I decided to do Inktober instead. Rather than following the prompts, I elected to do an ink drawing of a cat each day. I have a few of those lazy creatures around to act as live models, plus lots of pictures. That worked better. There’s a ‘Saturday night’ cat amongst the drawings that was done at the end of a long day at ReaperCon (and after a tall glass of wine), and it is pretty awful, but I completed the challenge on the terms I had set, so go team me. ;->
I did some drawings that weren’t so awful for Drawlloween 2015. (Bonus trivia – I used a piece from a miniature figure as my model to draw from. Name that figure.)
This year I was excited when ReaperCon got moved to Labour Day weekend because maybe I could finally do Drawlloween or Inktober for real! But then I looked at my long to do list of things, including working on this blog, and I thought it might be just as well to not. Except for some reason on October 1st, I looked up the prompt and did a drawing. And I’ve kept doing that up until today, October 6th. But now, while I’m waiting for what I worked on today to dry well enough to take pictures of it, I’m kind of wondering why. That long to do list still looms. There is a mountain of miniatures that I need to paint for work. I’ve got several writing projects on the go related to miniatures, including this blog. I have a laundry list of things I’m supposed to study for traditional art. We’re getting some work done our house right now that requires a lot of time spent tidying up or being unable to work on much due to meetings, noise, and distraction. The holidays loom, with their joyous and yet stressful obligations of socializing and cards and presents.
Drawlloween 2016. Still doing some less than amazing work.
I’m still wrestling with the should I or shouldn’t I a day at a time. So I must be getting something out of this challenge that I’m willing to stay up late or sacrifice what little leisure time I could be using to play my cool new game (Little Dragon Cafe!) One thing I get out of it is the creativity that gets sparked by trying to evoke the daily theme. Some days I’m not to excited about, others I think hey, here’s a nifty idea that might work, or something I’d love to draw. Today is one where I think I’m a little outside the box of what a lot of the other artists are doing and it’s a bit of a joke, and that tickles me. (Remind me to tell you all about Iron Painter some time. It’s not exactly the same, but that is a mini painting take on this challenge idea. And boy is it a challenge!)
But I also some work that wasn’t so bad. This was the Tacoctopus for Tentacle Tuesday, which also happened to be National Taco Day.
I think the other thing I’m getting out of it is making some actual art. Since I’m a student, right now what I do is a lot of boring sketches of fruit or bottles or other things intended to be for practice. The point of them is the learning, and the end results definitely aren’t very thrilling to look at. This is a chance to put all of that study into practice and see if I actually have learned anything. Which I am kind of feeling like I have, so that’s exciting.
Remember the tired and tipsy Saturday night cat I mentioned for Inktober 2017? Yeah, it’s at least as bad as I told you it was!
I have seen a few challenges related to painting miniatures from time to time on Facebook or forum groups, though I haven’t participated in any other than Iron Painter. One was a month where the challenge was to work on projects you’d previously started and then let languish. Another was just to paint or do something hobby related daily. Other challenges are based on something other than a time period. I know some people who require themselves to finish painting one miniature before they can buy another new one. Or to complete a unit/squad/board game worth of figures by a particular convention or play date. I don’t think I’ve seen it done as a group challenge, but doing a speed paint miniature a day might be an interesting challenge for mini painters.
I did several drawings I quite liked for Inktober 2017, including this one of my cat Elasund. (Bonus trivia: What is my named after?) I called the cats I drew last year #SketchyCats.
One of the reasons I went ahead and included some of the best and worst art I’ve done through these challenges is to help illustrate a situation that is a lot more universal than we often feel like it is. When you’re working to improve on something like contrast, or better blending, or whatever else your miniature painting goals are, it’s a great feeling to finally get one ‘right’ and feel like you must have learned the thing and leveled up, achievement unlocked. But then you paint a few more miniatures, and some of them don’t look that great, and some of them look almost good, and did you learn the thing or didn’t you? Most of the time learning a skill as complex as painting miniatures isn’t as linear as learning skills in a video game. It’s not at all unusual to take a leap and then slide back a bit. Or to still have to struggle through a lot more practice than getting just one right. Don’t beat yourself up about it, that’s just how it works The great thing about a challenge like Drawlloween or Inktober is that there’s no time to get too down about one bad Saturday cat, cause now it’s Sunday and it’s time to draw another cat, and maybe this one will be a step in the right direction.
If you have a lot of Reaper Bones miniatures, you might enjoy the quarterly challenges on the Facebook page Paint My Bones! Here’s a link to the current challenge: https://www.facebook.com/events/218150488850541/
Have you participated in any art or miniature painting challenges? Do you have ideas for challenges related to painting miniatures? Do you think I should keep going with Inktober or let it drop so I can write blog posts about contrast more quickly? ;-> Do you know the answers to any of my trivia questions? Let me know in the comments!