Hands on How To with Paint Resolutions

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We’re a few days into the new year, and I imagine the reality that resolutions are a lot easier to make than they are to keep is coming clear for a lot of us. (I certainly have not been a brand new me…) So as promised in the last post, I want to discuss some concrete strategies for how to put resolutions like ‘paint more’ into place amidst the reality of busy lives and crowded homes. Many thanks to the people who posted ideas and experiences on my Facebook posts to help contribute to this post. If some of the issues you’re having or some successful strategies you have tried aren’t mentioned below, I hope you’ll share them in the comments and continue the discussion!

My New Year's photoHey, it’s the photo I’ve been using at New Year’s since 2017! In my last post I promised to share what happened with these figures. Read through the comments on photos in this post to find out. I have to admit that sharing this photo and realizing how long some of these had been mouldering did push me to do some work in Januarys past.

Time Constraints

It’s easy to feel like you need a block of several hours to sit down and paint or it’s just not worth the bother. But with work, school, family, friends, and other demands on our time, it can end up pretty hard to find blocks of several free hours. If you’ve been waiting and waiting to paint until you have some free time like that, you might want to try painting in shorter blocks of time. If you can get an hour to yourself every few days, or even 30 minutes every day, you might be able to get more done than you think. It might not be the way you want to do it, it might not be ideal, but it might also beat the alternative of not getting in any paint time at all. So if this is your issue, give shorter sessions a shot! Maybe it’s a perfect time to try speed painting, or work on grunt type figures for your game. I recommend some speed painting practice even to those who primarily paint display. I found that working this way really did end up helping my painting in general. Partly in terms of time, and partly just to help me loosen up a little and discover that a lot of things can be corrected or improved later. You don’t have to get every step right along the way or it’s all doomed.

If you are able to set up a painting area in your home, that will help a lot. Try to create a system of logical (to you) storage for your materials, as well. If you keep your paints jumbled up loose in a box, you’ll lose a lot of time searching for particular colours. Store paints and other tools in a more systematic way. Put a drop of paint on the lid of each bottle and/or paint a swatch of paint onto the label to help you find colours more quickly. Have a drawer for brushes and paper towels, and another for basing materials, etc. I’m not saying you have to be a super organized neat freak. That would be very hypocritical of me as my painting area is generally pretty messy. :-> But it’s a chaos organized in a way that my brain understands. Every paint has its place, and I can usually find my commonly used paints and tools very quickly. (Finding the less commonly used stuff can be a bit more of a trick, granted.)

Tillie, Fighter PilotTillie, Fighter Pilot by Bombshell figures was the first of the miniatures in the New Year’s photo that I finished painting. She was awarded a silver medal at the Atlanta Model Figure Show 2018, and first place Bombshell Babe at ReaperCon 2017. I had a lot of fun making her leather suit look well-worn but still army tiptop.

Even just storing the paints and tools for your current project on a tray you can safely store on top of a bookshelf can help speed things up. If keeping things out of the way of others isn’t an issue, fit setting up and putting things away in around other tasks (while cooking or doing laundry, say), so that when you’re ready to sit down for your 30-60 minutes you can spend the whole time actually painting (or prepping or basing.) Another thing that is helpful with this approach is to try to map out your next session before your last has ended. While you’re working, try to identify one or two things to work on next time, so you will be able to just sit down and get started. Write down your ideas if you’re a forgetful person. It is also helpful to be working on two or three figures at a time. Then if a wash is drying on one, you can pick up another and work on it while you wait. A hairdryer is a useful tool to speed paint drying. 

Space Constraints

It is very helpful to have a dedicated area of your home set up for you to paint in. As outlined above, this makes it easier to keep your tools tidy and to-hand, and to jump in and get to work on projects and then stop as needed. Unfortunately that kind of space is not a luxury that everyone will have. But there are definitely ways to manage with less space, or even to make a portable painting kit that you can travel with to paint wherever you find yourself.

This is an area where I don’t have a lot of personal experience to offer, but I have seen discussions with many creative answers to the problem in forum discussions and Facebook groups. So if you need more ideas, try starting a conversation in a venue like that. If you aren’t currently a member of a group like this, two I can recommend as helpful and lively discussion areas are the forums at Reaper Miniatures (http://forum.reapermini.com/) and the Hobby Hangout group on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/thehobbyhangout/).

Portable Paint StationThis portable paint station was part of a Kickstarter and is available for preorder. I have no experience with the company or the product. The Kickstarter page with pre-order link is here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/695455704/portable-paint-station-take-paints-minis-and-tools/comments

Start by trying to condense your tools and materials down to just what you need for your current project. Pick out a small selection of paints and brushes. Find a container with a watertight lid to keep your water in. You will also need to find a palette solution that works for the way you paint. This could be as simple as a plastic plate, or a low profile food storage container if you like to use a wet palette. Include a small box with bubble wrap or other method to secure your miniature(s) while your hobby supplies container is in storage or transit. You can buy small brush holders to protect your brushes, or try using poster tac to stick them to the inside lid of your storage box. If lighting is an issue, you can buy small and inexpensive LED lamps off Amazon. For a storage box you can consider solutions as diverse as craft organizer tubs, large gun cases or brief cases, and many other options. I have seen some very creative solutions that people have built for themselves if you happen to be handy. There’s a link to some great pictures on this Pinterest collection: https://www.pinterest.com/captainfatnasty/portable-paint-stations/. For more commercially available options and inspiration ideas, try doing a Google search for ‘portable paint station’.

Mental Constraints

I’m going to discuss some dilemmas that are purely of the mind, but I think a lot of issues like the space and time constraints also have a mental component. If you feel like you don’t have enough time and/or space to paint, there’s no way around the fact that it is going to take some shifts of thought as well as process to make it happen, and that’s uncomfortable. You’re going to have to identify issues and come up with solutions, and you’re going to have to accept that these solutions might not look like what you want or how you think things should be. I think sometimes it can be helpful to be very mindful about your alternatives. Is it better for you to not paint at all if you can’t do it the way you want, or is painting an activity that you get enough out of that it’s worth pursuing some alternatives to see if you can make it work after all?

For example, you might be someone who likes to have a collection of 100 or 200 paints. Maybe you find mixing paint to be time consuming and inconvenient, or maybe you just aren’t very confident about colour. But if you just don’t have space to keep out that amount of paint right now, or if all your paint dried up and you can’t afford to replace that many, you just can’t paint the way you prefer. So why not try the idea of putting together a small set of paints and mixing? It’s a pretty great way to learn a lot more about colour. It might take more time to mix, but at least it’s time spent at an activity you enjoy. Or maybe you try it for a while and you learn that you just cannot handle painting that way, and you choose not to pursue this hobby at this time. That is you making an active choice then, not feeling like life is keeping you from what you want to do.

Burgundy Wine MageThe second time I posted the New Years photo I figured I really needed to finish up this figure. It was just so close to done, needing only some gold NMM and to paint up the pages of the book, plus a few touch-ups. Seeing the photo again pushed me to finally get those parts finished! It’s not the best mini ever but it was a fun test of unifying colours. (Every area of the figure incorporates the dark pink seen on her boots, including shadows of hair and skin.)

For some of us, the main issues holding us back in our pursuit of our hobby right now might be primarily mental. Perfectionism is one that several people mentioned in our discussions on Facebook. I think there are a few different varieties of that – avoiding doing anything cause if you don’t try you can’t fail; spending a lot of time and/or stress on something trying to get it just right; starting off with the intention of trying freehand or another technique/effect but then wimping out because the figure is going well so far and you don’t want to ‘ruin’ it, and many, many other scripts that our brains recite that knock us off track.

Unfortunately there are not quick or simple solutions for this like swatching your paint or finding a storage container, or even better time management. You’re going to have to spend some time trying to dig into your mind scripts and figure out root causes and ways to soothe or sidetrack your mind. 

One suggestion I’ll make is to have a conversation with yourself about the alternatives and consequences. What’s the worst thing that happens if you try something and you fail? You don’t even have to show it to anyone else! You can paint over it, or strip it and paint over it. Or just call it done, figure out what you’ve learned, and move on to the next figure. And on the other side of the equation, what’s the worst thing that happens if you keep not painting at all? You’re just as guaranteed not to succeed as you are not to fail if you don’t do anything. It’s also a great way to make sure you never learn anything and never improve at all. And most of all, it’s a way to deprive yourself of the enjoyment you get from painting.

Along those lines, it might also be helpful to figure out what you enjoy about the process of painting miniatures. What do you get out of it apart from the figure at the end? Make sure to include those things regularly in your painting process. If you need to, write the list of benefits down so that when you start roadblocking yourself, you can remind yourself that it doesn’t matter if what you paint ‘sucks’, you will still have gotten to relax/play with colour/whatever your personal joys of painting are. 

Consider adopting the goal of ‘finished not perfect’, at least for a while. Most of the time it’s better to finish something that’s just good or okay or even not amazing than it is to never complete something that might be awesome. There’s a sense of accomplishment that comes just from completing a project, and never finishing things can be very discouraging. We don’t only learn from striving for perfection. In fact if you’re working on a particular skill, you are likely to learn more by challenging yourself to work on it to a competent level repeatedly rather than trying to render it perfectly once. You’ll gain experience using it on different shaped surfaces, with different colours, for different moods, etc. I recommend following the artist page of Jessica Bathory if you want a great example of someone who practices finished not perfect, and who has also forged ahead with her own style of painting miniatures when she found attempts to conform to the more generally practiced styles frustrating. (https://www.facebook.com/Blood-Busts-Booze-the-painted-miniatures-of-Jessica-Bathory-329890724470632/)

A far as ‘ruining’ a figure that is going well, which was certainly a fear of mine for many years, and one that held me back considerably… Getting something that looks great can be a fluke, but if you’re really learning, success starts to become repeatable. One of my big fears was freehand. Looking back at it, I had reached the point where I was pretty competent at blending. So if my freehand sucked and I had to paint the blends back over the cloak, I would be able to paint it back to pretty much the same standard. So it was silly of me to be afraid to do that.

I was also over concerned about ‘wasting time’ in this same time period. I was (and still am, really) a pretty slow painter. So the idea of having to repaint that cloak from a time point of view was not appealing. Looking back, that also seems sort of silly. Yeah, sometimes I was on a deadline to enter a contest or for some other reason. But overall, I think I would have learned more, and more quickly, if I had paid the price in time of taking risks and failing. I think I would also have learned a lot more if I’d done more speed painting or half-assed areas that weren’t the focus of that figure. Being super persnickety and perfectionist about figure painting has had some benefits, but there are things definitely have regrets about, and I know I’ve held myself back in several ways.

Victorian Lady - contrast shiftI’ve got a blog post about this Victorian Lady, who had been sitting on my desk for upwards of three years before I put brush to her again earlier this year. She ended up being a great example of what more and less contrast look like. I’ve since repainted her handbag. She’s still not quite done, but largely this is because I have four of these Victorians that are all on similar bases so I figure it’ll be quicker and easier to paint all the bases at once. I might give up on this notion just to get the three that are almost done to be truly done. (Blog post on this figure here: https://birdwithabrush.com/2018/09/27/compare-and-contrast/.)

Roadblock: Burnout

If you paint because you’re trying to fill your table (particularly on a deadline), paint for commission, or constantly paint to enter contests, chances are good you’ve experienced burnout. You’ll reach a point where you drag your feet and avoid sitting down to do hobby stuff because it feels like all of it is just work and you’re just plain tired of it. Sometimes taking a break and not painting is the correct answer. But if painting is something you love and you don’t want to stop forever, try to reconnect with what it is about it that you love. Sometimes just shaking things up is enough – painting something just for you or a friend, painting a different subject matter/scale/colour than you usually do just because you want to, not because you have to.

If you’ve been suffering with burnout for a while or find that too often your painting sessions are mired in negative feelings, it might take a little more work. You’ll have to do some detective work to reconstruct or rediscover things you find fun about the process and develop ways to fit those into doing your work. Some of the tips in the next session might also be helpful for that. You might also do some work to identify which aspects are most stressful and if there are ways you can ameliorate those.

Roadblock: Boredom and/or Discomfort

Sometimes the problem isn’t getting yourself into the painting chair, it’s keeping yourself there. It’s all too easy to take a five minute break to check Facebook that turns into an hour. Or get up for a drink and forget to go sit back down. As fun as painting miniatures can be, there are likely to be parts of the process you find tedious, like painting basecoats or cleaning mouldlines. 

My first tip is to minimize discomfort. For years I painted on a chair with no back. I lean forward to paint, so why not just use the broken chair instead of wasting money on a new one? Because yeah, I lean forward to do most of my painting, but it’s also good to be able to lean back to take a break and generally shift position. My back was a lot happier once my husband forced me to buy a better chair. In a similar vein, having a desk at a good height for you, good lighting, magnification if you need it, an insulated cup to keep a drink cold/hot, whatever simple things that add to your comfort and ease – why not figure out what they are and do them so simple discomfort isn’t making you want to stop painting? 

Noir detective front 450I’ll be honest – this is not the same figure as in the photo. I painted this one years ago. The one in my New Year’s photo was from a class on painting in monochrome. And for subsequent sessions of that class, I think it’s useful to have a WIP figure to show various stages of work, so I don’t really plan on finishing the other.

The second issue I would have is that many painting tasks do not really occupy my mind that much, so I would get bored. And then I’d notice how much my back hurt on my bad chair, and then I’d definitely not want to paint for too long. My painting area was in a different room than my computer. Once tablets became a thing and I got one, that was a whole new world for me. I could put TV shows or YouTube videos on in the background! I could listen to audiobooks! Likely you’re already doing something like that, but my suggestion would be to use something like that as a lure to get you into your paint chair. Have a TV series or an audiobook that you only consume while you’re painting, and make it something really engaging. Then even if you aren’t excited to sit down and paint, you might head for your chair because you’re excited to watch the next episode and find out what happens.

Many of us are introverts who are happy to enjoy our peaceful alone time painting and listening to audiobooks. But not every geek and painter is, and even introverts need some human contact sometimes. Sharing our hobby frustrations and triumphs, having people to ask for opinions, those are very helpful things. For some it may be enough to visit hobby forums or discussion groups online, or to form a small critique circle with some friends in email or message. Others might benefit by having friends to paint with. There are people who use technology like Twitch and other chat channels to gather to paint with others. Check the Hobby Hangout group linked above for people who do this, or ask on your favourite forums or groups if people have suggestions for how to meet up with others to paint. I know a lot of pro painters and sculptors who ‘get together’ with other friends and colleagues via digital applications like this to keep their workdays from being so lonely.

I hope you’ve found some of these suggestions helpful! If you’re running into different roadblocks or you’ve been successful with other strategies, I hope you’ll share in the comments so others can benefit from them. Thanks for reading!

Links to Figures and People Mentioned in this Post

Tillie the Fighter Pilot by Bombshell Miniatures – http://store.bombshellminis.com/10024-tillie-fighter-pilot/
Victorian Lady (metal) by Reaper Miniatures – https://www.reapermini.com/search/victorian/latest/50327
Victorian Lady (plastic) by Reaper Miniatures – https://www.reapermini.com/search/victorian/latest/80068
Female Mage by Dark Sword Miniatures – https://www.darkswordminiatures.com/shop/index.php/miniatures/visions-in-fantasy/female-mage.html
Noir Occult Detective (plastic) by Reaper Miniatures – https://www.reapermini.com/search/occult%20detective/latest/91013
Noir Occult Detective (metal) by Reaper Miniatures – https://www.reapermini.com/search/occult%20detective/latest/59039
Reaper Miniatures forums – http://forum.reapermini.com
Hobby Hangout Facebook group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/thehobbyhangout/
Jessica Bathory artist page – https://www.facebook.com/Blood-Busts-Booze-the-painted-miniatures-of-Jessica-Bathory-329890724470632/

Resolution Revolution

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Tis the season for resolutions! As I mentioned in my last post, it’s a time of year when we tend to look back on what’s come before, and think about how to improve ourselves and our lives as we look ahead. But at the same time, January first as the beginning of a new year is just a made up date on a made up calendar. It’s not even tied to a particular solar or similar phenomenon. So if you don’t feel like reflecting or making changes right now, don’t! Goals for change are just as valid on a Tuesday night in August as they are on a Monday or January first. More of my most successful life changes have come on random Tuesday nights than from start of the year convictions.

Happy New Year photo by crazy nanaPhoto by Crazy Nana on Unsplash.

If you are in the mood to make some changes in your life, I think prioritizing your hobby and artistic pursuits is a very valid avenue to pursue. It’s also a rare area where we can resolve to do MORE rather than less. Instead of (or along with) eat less, spend less, work less, etc., consider resolving to paint more and share the hobby more. I have some suggestions for specific goals, but before I get to that I want to talk about a more general approach to resolutions and self-improvement goals.

We tend to concentrate on the end result when we make goals – lose X pounds/kilos, paint a mini a week, save $50 a month. It can seem sensible to focus on the ultimate goal of the action/change you’re undertaking. But with a lot of these, we don’t control enough factors to guarantee constant success in the end result. If you have a month where your car needs service and your sink explodes and it’s just plain impossible to find $50 to put into savings, you ‘fail’ at your goal, even though the events that occurred were beyond your control. Instead I recommend framing resolutions around the element you can control – your behaviour. If you make an eating plan and exercise schedule your goal and you follow those, you are successfully meeting your goal even if you don’t lose exactly the amount of weight that you think you should have. You are building healthy habits and also a healthier frame of mind.

On the hobby front, an example would be instead of resolving to paint X figures per week/month/year, resolve to paint for a certain amount of time each day/week/month. This gives you the flexibility to work on something more complex, experiment with new techniques, or take as long as you want to paint a high level diorama for a gift or contest. As long as you get your butt in your chair and paint, you are succeeding at meeting your goal. DaveKay suggested this in the comments on my last post, and says his productivity dramatically increased when he reframed his goal from an end result goal to an activity based goal.

I had a similar experience with working on traditional art. I was working on it in fits and starts, but was unfocused and often had days where I wouldn’t feel ‘inspired’ or I decided I was just too tired and it was easier to just go browse Facebook. Inspired by a ‘deer’ friend, Morihalda Silversage, I joined a challenged to do some kind of artwork every day for a month. I kept going after that initial month, and have now been doing art on a daily basis for over two years. I have missed only two days in that entire span. There have been plenty of days where I only manage a few minutes worth of sketching, and others where I’ve drawn or painted for hours. But I always do something. It’s been helpful in building discipline, and making me much more accepting of failure. There are a few nice paintings or drawings that have come out of it, but there is plenty of dreck. I’m still very proud of myself for doing it. The activity itself has merit, and the discipline of doing it has merit, and both those things would make it worthwhile even if nothing I had drawn or painted was worth the paper I did it on.

Marking days off a calendarIf you do make an activity based goal, it can be helpful to record the activity to confirm that you’re staying on track. This is how I know for a certainty that I’ve done art daily for the past 25 months and that I have missed only two days. I use an activity tracker chart in my bullet journal, but there are also lots of app options and different sorts of planners. Or you can go old school like in this picture. (Photo by rawpixel from Unsplash.)

With that out of the way, here are some suggestions for positive hobby goals for 2019.

Paint More!

You can get more done painting for 30 minutes a day than you will get done if you wait and wait for a day when you have a good few hours to sit down.

Watching videos and reading forums and Facebook tips is a great way to learn about new materials and techniques, but you will never really learn and improve until you sit down with some brushes and paint and practice.

Be More Daring!

Try something that scares you a little – a more advanced technique, a more complex colour scheme, a different genre of figure than your usual, or a fancy basing element or technique. This is a great way to mix things up when you feel in a rut. 

I’m not sure why, but a lot of us are scared to paint the ‘good’ figures in our collection until we can paint really well. We hesitate to try new things so we don’t ‘ruin’ what we’re working on. Maybe you don’t want to experiment on rare collector’s items, but a great many good quality figures are easily available at a reasonable price. Don’t punish yourself painting old lumps of lead or green army men – practice on high quality figures you like that stay in catalog, like figures from Reaper Miniatures or Dark Sword Miniatures. Also an acrylic paint job on a figure is easily added to, painted over completely, or stripped off if you want to adjust a paint job from the past or start over from scratch. Apart from conversions and the like, little we do in the hobby is irrevocable. You will learn more and more quickly by taking risks and failing than you will by only painting with the techniques and colours you feel are ‘safe’. Playing it too safe is one of my biggest regrets from the period of time when I was first learning to paint.

Enter a contest! Even if you feel you have no hope of winning, pushing yourself to paint at your highest quality can be a spur to try new things and get better at deadlines.

New Year's hobby photoI’ve been sharing this photo since New Years 2017 on my Facebook artist page. Next post I’ll give an update on where I am with the figures in the photo.

Share Your Hobby More!

Miniature painting can be a solitary activity. That’s one of its strengths, but it can also make it easy to lose enthusiasm. Connecting with other fans helps rebuild your excitement, and is a great way to learn and contribute.

Volunteer for miniature related events or companies at a convention. Convention event staff and miniature companies can always use more help running games, doing demos, with painting activities, and in lots of other ways. This is just as true, or more so, for small local conventions as it is for big national ones. 

Talk to your local hobby store about doing a demo or starting a regular painters’ meet up night.

Offer feedback to your fellow painters on Facebook groups, site forums, CMON, etc. Honest critique is hard to come by and very valuable. There are always new people coming into the hobby with questions about brushes, paints, all kinds of stuff that you might have answers to.

Have More Fun with Your Hobby!

It’s good to push yourself to learn more and do more, but it’s also important to remember what you find fun about this hobby and make sure you do that on a regular basis. Don’t get trapped in a cycle of perfectionism or escalating deadlines. 

Happy New Year to you all, and thank you for your visits to this blog and interest in my thoughts. I appreciate it more than I can express. 

In my next post I’m hoping to discuss some specific strategies for trying to paint more in the coming year, and ideas for how to address some roadblocks that might prevent someone from being able to do that. I would love to hear more about what has held you back from achieving your hobby goals, and strategies you’ve tried in the comments. This is definitely an area where we can all pool information and help each other!

Links to Figures and People Mentioned in this Post

Previous post with comment by DaveKay with more on how he improved his productivity – https://birdwithabrush.com/2018/12/21/looking-behind-planning-ahead/
Morihalda Silversage’s Facebook artist page: https://www.facebook.com/Morihalda/
Unsplash photo resource – https://unsplash.com/
Tillie the Fighter Pilot by Bombshell Miniatures – http://store.bombshellminis.com/10024-tillie-fighter-pilot/
Victorian Lady (metal) by Reaper Miniatures – https://www.reapermini.com/search/victorian/latest/50327
Victorian Lady (plastic) by Reaper Miniatures – https://www.reapermini.com/search/victorian/latest/80068
Female Mage by Dark Sword Miniatures – https://www.darkswordminiatures.com/shop/index.php/miniatures/visions-in-fantasy/female-mage.html
Noir Occult Detective (plastic) by Reaper Miniatures – https://www.reapermini.com/search/occult%20detective/latest/91013
Noir Occult Detective (metal) by Reaper Miniatures – https://www.reapermini.com/search/occult%20detective/latest/59039

Looking Behind, Planning Ahead

Today marks the end of the solar year, and we’re in the lead-up to the end of the calendar year. It’s a good time for reflection on the year gone past, and doing some thinking about the year next to come. And this is just as relevant for our hobby interests as anything else in our lives! On this darkest day of the year (in northern climes), I’d love a little cheering up or food for thought by hearing about your hobby year.

What moments stand out to you from the past year? Did you experience revelations of learning? Did you find tools, processes, or techniques that helped you out? What did you make? What treasures did you add to your collection?

What are some of the less positive moments of your hobby life over the past year? And most importantly, are there lessons you can draw on from those to work on a plan to improve your hobby life next year? Resolutions are nice pithy proclamations, but I think it’s probably more helpful to reflect on your experiences and work to create more of a plan of action for how you might accomplish more of your hobby goals and avoid more of your hobby pitfalls in the year to come.

Painting… with Friends!

(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! 

42207932 638893582016 5814045006087847936 oI’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.

IMG 4258These 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! 

Kamp 0824The 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