How to Teach Miniature Painting Classes – Why, Who, What, and Where

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As the popularity of the miniature hobby expands, so does interest in taking and teaching classes on painting and sculpting figures, as well as related topics like basing and 3D printing. I’ve put together this series of articles to help prospective teachers. This first part explores whether you might enjoy teaching classes, and if so, what topics, and in which venues. Later articles will explore how and what to prepare in advance, and tips for the actual class experience.

I’m not the most well-known or accoladed painter in terms of winning awards and painting high profile figures, but over the years I have gained a reputation as a skilled teacher, and my classes sell out quickly in most venues. I’ve been taking classes for all of the 17 years I’ve been painting miniatures, and teaching them for at least 13 years. These suggestions are drawn from my experience as both a student and a teacher in this hobby. 

Because it’s based on my experience, the content of this guide focuses on the areas I’ve explored most thoroughly – teaching adults, painting classes specifically, and convention classes of 90-180 minutes in length. I’ve tried to provide information that will also be useful to teaching sculpting and other related topics, and to teaching in a longer workshop format, or even online teaching, but your mileage may vary. 

DISCLAIMER: I am not a professional teacher and make no claim to that level of expertise! I also don’t think that the way I teach is the only successful method. I hope that other teachers and students will share thoughts and ideas in the comments section.

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PART 1: WHAT TO TEACH, WHERE TO TEACH, AND ADMINISTRATIVE DETAILS

Why Teach Classes?

Share the Fun!
I think the best teachers are those who find teaching enjoyable or fulfilling in some way. That doesn’t mean they’re never anxious about public speaking or that they enjoy every single aspect of the process. Rather what I mean is that good teachers are people who get something out of sharing the enthusiasm of their hobby with others, who genuinely want to exchange information with their students, and who challenge themselves to become better teachers as well as better hobbyists.

Experience Conventions
Attending conventions is a great way to meet fellow hobby enthusiasts, make industry contacts, pick up cool new supplies, and take classes to develop your own skills. Payments for classes allow many painters to attend a wider selection of conventions than they would otherwise. Note that while class fees offset convention costs, or if you’re very careful you can break even, very few people actually ‘make money’ teaching convention classes. When you are considering whether something is affordable to you, remember to consider ALL of your costs: travel, luggage and related fees, transportation at the venue, housing, food, and cost of supplies. Don’t forget to factor in whatever money you won’t be making during the time you spend preparing for, traveling to, and attending the convention. (And considering con crud and exhaustion, maybe add a few more lost days after the con!)

Promotion of Services
Teaching classes and attending conventions can expose you to a wider audience and help you promote other services you may offer – Twitch streams, Patreons and other online courses, etc. Since the bulk of the hobby class audience is made up of people trying to learn to paint for themselves, teaching is probably not a great avenue to find new clients for commission painting services. It’s possible that you may make industry contacts at a convention who might be interested in commission painting, but I wouldn’t rely on or expect that to happen.

Learn More
One of the things I love about teaching is how much I learn. Figuring out how to explain concepts to other people makes me explore and understand them much better for myself. To really get the most value out of this you need to review your class content every few years, not just teach exactly the same thing every time.

Help the Hobby
Interest in miniature painting is ever-growing, and thus so is the need for people to teach it. If this is a key motivation for you, don’t forget there are options other than classes in established venues. Your local store and small local conventions looking to expand their slate of offerings might need you the most! I’ll talk about that a bit more below.

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Who Should Teach Hobby Classes?

People sometimes think that only really well-known artists who work in the industry or have a lot of awards to their credit should teach classes. Certain topics are more advanced and do require expertise and experience to explain well. But there is room for teachers with a variety of experience levels and interests. Many display level painters who spend hours painting a single figure are not the right fit to teach classes on quick painting armies. An intermediate level painter or sculptor is capable of doing a great job teaching the basics to new hobbyists. They may even do a better job than an expert, who might inadvertently overwhelm students with too much information too quickly. (I’m guilty of that!)

The key thing that you need to do is be realistic and honest with yourself, the venue, and your students about your skill level and the level of your class! There are lots of people just starting out or just beginning to expand their horizons of techniques and effects. Where you will run into issues is if you pitch your class to an incompatible level of students, or if you make it sound as if your class appeals equally to beginners and experts and it does not. If the content of your class is fairly basic but you attract some students who are more expert than you are, they will resent having wasted their time and money. You will also risk losing some of your potential audience who are at a more appropriate level but assume the class is too advanced for them and don’t even buy a ticket.

Here’s an example with the technique of non-metallic metal. There is an audience for a class of quick tips to paint NMM that looks okay and that can be painted fairly quickly, and plenty of mid-level painters would be able to provide class content that audience would enjoy. There is also an audience for an NMM class that includes a review of the physics of how light reflects on metal and how to portray that in the most accurate way on a figure, but that audience requires a more expert teacher to meet their needs.

Beginner, intermediate, and advanced are somewhat nebulous concepts – classes that might be considered advanced in at a smaller convention might be only intermediate at a large hobby-focused one. Just aim to be realistic about what your own level is and provide as much information as you can about what you’ll be teaching so people can make an informed decision.

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Where to Teach Hobby Classes?

Conventions with established hobby classes tend to in instructors in one of two ways – as guest instructors or as event instructors. Though there are several conventions with elements of both. There are also lots of exciting possibilities for teaching at local conventions and non-convention venues.

Guest Instructors
Some conventions work with instructors using a ‘guest’ system. In the guest system, the convention and the instructor agree to an exchange of services. The convention offers some combination of travel expenses, housing, and/or per diem in exchange for the instructor running a set number of classes. The convention has a lot of input into some key elements of your events: how much they cost, how many people can attend, what the topics are, length of classes, and when they occur. Usually you will work with the convention on some of those elements, but you may have little to no say into others. You may also be asked to fulfill other commitments like judging a painting contest or taking part in a panel discussion.You may be reimbursed for travel expenses and costs before or some time after the convention, or a mixture of both.

Event Instructors
Other conventions treat hobby classes as an independently run event. These conventions allow instructors to submit their events just as a game runner would. Instructors pick the topic, number of students, length of classes, and other elements. Sometimes you can pick the times of your events, sometimes you can just indicate when you are or aren’t available. In this system, you also choose the cost of your class. Usually the convention adds a small fee on top of yours to pay for the space your event uses. At some point after the convention you receive payment. All travel, housing, and arrangements are your responsibility and expense.

Local Conventions and Game Stores
If you want to ease into teaching or help grow the hobby, don’t overlook options in your local area. If you have a local game or hobby store, talk to them about running a demo or a basic how to paint class. Find out what you can about conventions within comfortable driving range. Some may not have space to add additional events. Others may not currently have any miniature focused events only because they don’t have any volunteers interested in organizing and running those, and might be eager for your help! For these types of events you’ll likely want to focus on beginner friendly topics. It has also been my experience that the prices need to be low to entice people to try a new activity. (And also because many regional convention attendees don’t have a lot of cash to spare.) I have charged as little as $5 for a local class at a charity fund-raising convention and as much as $50 for classes at a miniature-focused convention. The length, content, and take-home supplies varied with each of these, of course, but they varied a lot less than you would think!

ReaperCon
ReaperCon uses an invited instructor list for their hobby classes. If they have additional classroom spaces available, they may open up class submission to other interested instructors. If you’re interested in teaching at ReaperCon, I recommend joining the Reaper forums and monitoring the ReaperCon subforum for requests for new instructors. You can also follow the ReaperCon Facebook group. ReaperCon uses a guest instructor format. Depending on the number of classes you teach, you may receive a free pass to the convention, a swag bag, or even travel expenses and a shared room at the venue. ReaperCon instructors pick their class topics and can request a general day and time of day to teach, but the available options become more limited as the schedule fills up. The class submission process usually starts in March or April and runs for a few weeks in different waves of invites. (My info on ReaperCon page. The official ReaperCon page.)

AdeptiCon
AdeptiCon also uses an invited instructor list for their hobby classes. I’m not entirely sure how to get on the list. Monitoring the AdeptiCon Facebook group is a good place to start. Invitations to teach for the next year often go out in August, with class submission starting soon after. Instructors submit their subject preferences for a few different classes. AdeptiCon assigns each instructor from one to four class time slots, and completely determines the schedule (though I believe you can let them know you’re not available certain days.) Apart from that AdeptiCon uses the event instructor format – you choose the subject and format of your class, how many students you’ll take, and what the cost per student is. You receive a cheque from AdeptiCon a few months after the event, and must provide them with tax filing information. Instructors receive a free badge to the convention, but take care of booking and payment for their travel and housing. (My info on AdeptiCon page. The official AdeptiCon page.)

Gen Con
NOTE: I have not attended Gen Con since 2014. Some of this process may have changed since then. I recommend contacting Lyn Stahl of MetalHead Minis for more current information. Gen Con uses the event instructor format. You must collect and submit tickets, and receive payment several months after the convention. Instructors pick out their class subjects and formats, number of students, and cost of tickets. The last time I submitted classes to Gen Con you could request a preferred date and time to give your class, but it was not guaranteed. During the later years that I was teaching at Gen Con it was required that you bring all of the supplies that you needed for your classes, including water cups, palette plates, paints, brushes, etc. I have heard that Gen Con may no longer allow ticket fees for lecture and demo classes, and that instructors should provide all materials that a person would need to take the class, but this is the kind of thing that evolves back and forth at a convention like this, so it’s worth checking with Lyn or other Gen Con instructors about how things work currently. Depending on the number of hours of events you provide, you may be eligible to be reimbursed for your badge. I believe hotel room shares are only provided to volunteers (in the hobby events or other areas) and must be arranged through a volunteer coordinator. (The official Gen Con page. Check the Host drop down for a number of topics for event runners.)

General Convention Guidelines
It is very helpful to have previously attended and participated in hobby events at any convention you’re interested in teaching at. This ensures you have an idea of how the hobby area works and what kind of classes they provide and so on. It is also helpful to participate in online social activity related to the convention – join the Reaper or Gen Con forums, participate on the AdeptiCon Facebook page, etc. And participation in the general hobby community, as well. Participation in the community and being known to attendees makes artists much more attractive as instructors. 

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Coordinate with the Coordinator

Many conventions have a coordinator for miniature hobby classes. That is not an easy job! It is definitely to your advantage to help the coordinator by following instructions and meeting deadlines promptly. People who are difficult to deal with or who consistently fail to meet deadlines are the last to be considered for benefits like extra class slots and first choice of teaching times. Or they may even find themselves dropped off of invitation lists. Someone who is pleasant to work with and follows instructions is much more desirable to a convention coordinator in the long run than a ‘big name’. 

Your usual responsibilities to the convention coordinator include:

Answer Communications Promptly
You might be asked to confirm attendance at the convention, fill out a tax form, what topics you want to teach, asked to read guidelines for instructors, other things along those lines. Some conventions coordinate flight and hotel through the events organizer, so you may also have instructions to follow for booking flights and choosing a roommate. There is almost always a date by which you must complete these tasks. Complete them all, and do it before the deadline. 

Know the Guidelines
AdeptiCon has a handbook for instructors. So does Gen Con. Gen Con’s is quite long and detailed, in fact. If you’re asked to read something like that, you’re expected to actually read it, to ask questions if there’s something you don’t understand, and to follow the guidelines and procedures it lays out.

Submit Detailed Class Information
Class information is often submitted via an online form. Occasionally you’ll email it directly to the convention coordinator. I’ll get into more detail below about how to write class descriptions and submissions. This is more of a note to remind you to make sure you know what you need to know from the coordinator on how what what to submit. If you have questions or are confused about something, contact the coordinator. A good coordinator would rather you ‘bug’ them in email ahead of time than have to work with you on fixing something after a deadline has passed.

Follow Onsite Instructions
The coordinator may ask teachers to check in at a particular time and place. There may be an orientation session or a meet-and-greet. You should be given some information about what supplies are provided onsite, so you can make sure you bring anything you need that won’t be available. Usually there are guidelines for wrapping up your class in a timely fashion so you have enough time to clean everything up and leave the room is ready for the next class to begin promptly.

Behave Responsibly
You are entirely responsible for yourself at a convention. Your primary job is to get yourself to where you need to be at the right times and teach a good class. Keep yourself as well-fed and as well-rested as you need to be to do that. Everyone wants to have fun at a convention, but you need to balance the fun with your responsibilities. You also need to follow the code of conduct for the event and comport yourself in a way that won’t reflect poorly on the coordinator or the event as a whole. There is no downside to as being pleasant and helpful as possible with all of the convention staff and your fellow instructors.

Continue to Answer Communications Promptly after the Convention
Occasionally there is some post-convention paperwork. This might include a survey to help the coordinator plan better for the future, information on where to send cheques, etc.

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What Should You Teach?

The big question for every teacher at every event! Here are some ideas for how to decide:

Nature of the Convention
Are you teaching at a local gaming convention adding miniature events for the first time? Classes that focus on foundational techniques, ways to paint quickly, and perennial problem areas (skin, faces, metallics, basic basing, simple conversions and assembly) will likely garner the most interest. There is room for more involved techniques and more specialized topics at an event with established hobby classes – faces or female skin, problem colours like white, black, red, yellow – lots of options for a variety of levels.

Your Strengths
Are there elements you regularly receive compliments or inquiries about? How did you paint that skin, how did you get those cool looking plans on your base??

Other Classes
Sometimes you don’t have any advance information about what other classes will be available. Where you do have information (some of the schedule is already set or you know the other instructors and their usual topics), you can use that information to your advantage. Are there topics that are missing or have only one or two classes? Is there a way you could provide a different perspective than is represented in the current slate?

Student Requests
One reason to be active in discussion groups for the convention is to look for suggestions for classes that people would like to see. There are at least a few discussions a year on this topic on the ReaperCon forum.

Nature of Class – Hands-On or Lecture/Demo
Hands-on classes are always most desirable to the most people. There are certain topics best suited to a lecture or demo format, and if you feel that is how they are best taught, you should teach them that way, but you if you are concerned about tickets for your class selling well, I recommend that you focus on hands-on classes until you are more established in the hobby overall or at that particular venue.

Number of Classes
If you’re teaching three classes, don’t feel as if you need three different topics. People often appreciate it when you teach the same subject on different days and at different times of day since they are scheduling around the other events that interest them. However, you may want to do only one or two sessions of a more specialized topic, like say transparent cloth, or resin-poured bases.

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How Many Students?

You will have to decide early on how many people you can accommodate in your class. The class coordinator or venue may set minimum numbers for a class in order for them best use limited space. They will also likely have maximum numbers based on table and chair availability in the space. But what should you take into consideration apart from that?

Class Format
Large class sizes work well for a lecture/discussion format. Depending on the equipment available, larger class sizes may also work for demo classes. For hands-on classes, remember that a primary appeal for attendees is the opportunity for them to receive your feedback on their work. You need enough time to look at, assess, and comment on each student’s work several times, in addition to the time it takes you to explain and demonstrate the topic to the class as a whole and answer questions.

Topic Complexity
You’ll find you can be more efficient to teach simpler topics that you’re very familiar with and so can handle larger class sizes here. You’ll probably need to leave more time for questions and expanding on explanations with more complex topics and so will benefit from a smaller class size.

Organization Level
The more advance work you’re willing to do and the more you can organize your supplies and class format, the less time you’ll spend on those functions in class, which gives you time to work with more students. Making notes for your lecture or figuring out how to hand out supplies quickly and efficiently are examples of what I mean. I’ll make more suggestions for this in the second part of this series.

Ticket Sales Appeal
A lot of students are aware that a teacher will have more time to spend with them in a small size class. Keeping your class size on the smaller side is a good way to add appeal to your tickets while you’re still getting established as a ‘name’ in the hobby. 

As a general guideline, 6-10 students is probably a good class size for your first time teaching a hands-on class. As you become more comfortable teaching and more familiar with the common questions and issues students will have, you may find you can handle as many as 14-16, but I strongly suggest starting on the lower end and using your personal experiences as a guide as you decide to increase the number. 

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How Much Should You Charge for Classes?

If the fee for your class is up to you, how much should you charge? This is a difficult question to answer! There are several factors to consider:

Event Guidelines and Custom
The event may have guidelines for appropriate ticket prices. Even if it doesn’t, you can get an idea of the range that is customary for that event from prices for tickets in the past year or two, and/or consult with the class coordinator or other instructors you may know who are attending the event.

Name Recognition Factor
Instructors who have won prominent awards, who work with well-known companies, or who have significant social media followings are able to successfully charge higher fees for their classes. Keep this in mind when scanning prices for previous years!  Note that name recognition can vary with venue, and it can change over time in a venue. I paint Reaper studio models and wrote their latest learn to paint kit series. I am well-known to attendees of ReaperCon and my classes there always sell well. AdeptiCon’s focus is Games Workshop and other competitive miniatures games. The first time I instructed at AdeptiCon, I assumed that few people would know who I was, and I priced and pitched my classes accordingly. People that attended enjoy my classes, and with years of word of mouth and repeat students they sell out quickly now.

Attendees are Price Sensitive
There are always people who won’t pay more than a certain amount for a class regardless of who is teaching it. They will be interested in a class on the same topic that costs less even if they don’t know the instructor.

Your Costs
Remember to factor in all of your costs, and aim to have the ticket prices cover as much of those as you need them to. Costs include travel expenses (parking, baggage fees, etc. as well as ticket/gas), housing, and food. But also the costs of any supplies you need to buy. You may need to provide your own figures, or buy a few brushes for students to use. Don’t forget the costs of printing out a handout. 

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Information About Your Class

Once you decide what you’re teaching and how much to charge, you will need to provide more information about your classes. This information will appear in the online event purchasing systems and event catalog books. Prospective students review this information to decide which events they would like to attend.  This is your students’ first encounter with you and your class. What can you share with them to help them decide if this class is for them?

If you aren’t a skilled writer (and lots of visual artists are not), then I recommend that you ask a friend or two who is read over your class information to see whether everything makes sense and sounds appealing to prospective students. 

Keep a Copy
Whether you submit information to an event coordinator or submit it via an online form – keep a copy for yourself! Making a copy of your class descriptions gives you a starting point to write new ones or customize the class to various conventions, and saves you time in the long run.

But it is also a good idea to make notes of the other information you submitted about your class – how many students, the cost, what figure/supplies you’ll provide, anything you might need to reference later to plan what you need to bring or be able to answer questions from prospective students. 

When you submit through online forms you usually receive an acknowledgement of your entry, but this often does NOT include all information you submitted, and some of the information you provide may not be included in event catalogs or other material for you to reference. I have forgotten to note everything down in the past and made things difficult for myself had to bother an event coordinator. (For example, your class might list the total number of tickets that is available, but this number will change as people buy tickets, so you need to have a note of the maximum for students you submitted to be able to plan supplies.)

Scheduling Tips
As mentioned previously, you may not get a lot of input into the scheduling of your classes. If you do, here are some observations I’ve made. People get more exhausted later in the day and the further into the convention. Schedule lecture/discussion classes or those that are complex for earlier in the day and earlier in the convention. Sundays and early morning classes are great time for fun hands-on classes.

Title
From conversations with event coordinators and other instructors, I can confirm that a snappy name for a class can be as effective a method of marketing a class as having a big name teaching it. However, my personal approach is to take the nature of the venue and events listings into consideration as well.

For a miniature hobby focused convention like ReaperCon and AdeptiCon, I will happily use a catchy title if I can think of one. The majority of the audience are familiar with the hobby classes and what they are, even if they aren’t personally interested. Examples I’ve used in the past include Hair’s the Thing and Amazing Glazing

I prefer to use duller, but more descriptive titles for conventions that are huge and/or have a vast array of activities, like Gen Con. These kinds of conventions encompass lots of different crafts, hobbies, and types of gaming, and attendees may peruse thousands of different events. Similarly, if a convention is just adding hobby classes to their event offerings, I’d probably err on the side of boring but descriptive. My titles for the above class topics in this situation would be Painting Hair on Miniature Figures and Glazing: A Versatile Miniature Painting Technique.

About the Instructor
You may be asked to provide information about yourself as part of your class submission. This might be for a separate instructor biography area of a website or convention guide. It is also useful to add a little information of this nature to your class descriptions. The more information attendees have about you and your work, the better able they are to decide if your class is for them. I sometimes take the trouble to do a general web search to find examples of someone’s painting to see if I’m interested in taking their class, but lots of students won’t go to that effort.

Include the following if possible:

* Your nom de brush on online discussion forums and galleries.
* Major awards and accolades.
* Significant working relationships with hobby companies.
* Link to a website/blog/gallery – somewhere people can look at your work.

Level of Your Class
Class submission forms usually ask you to indicate the appropriate skill level for attendees of your class. The trouble with this is that there is not really a universal definition of terms like beginner, intermediate, and advanced. People use and understand these in different ways. I tend to think of beginner techniques as washing and drybrushing, and thus assume that knowledge of blending is understood by the term intermediate. Someone who has been painting tabletop for 15 years and is the best painter at their game store is likely to figure they are at the very least intermediate in level, even if they have no knowledge of the skills I think of as intermediate. Both definitions are reasonable!

After I experienced a few issues due to a mismatch between the level of some attendees and the level of the material in a class, I adopted the strategy of including key prerequisite skills or knowledge in the descriptions for my classes instead of relying solely on class level indicators like beginner/intermediate/advanced. An example of a prerequisite skill would be whether students need to know a form of blending (layering, wet blending, etc.) to be able to execute the effect that you’re teaching. 

Giving some idea of the required skill level is particularly important for hands-on classes. Time is short enough for getting through your main topic overview and then giving critiques to people as they make hands-on attempts. You do not really have time to also teach one or two people the foundational technique needed to execute the subject of your class. People who don’t have the skills to practice hands-on will be very frustrated that they aren’t getting it, and the rest of the class will be frustrated if too much of your time gets used up trying to help just one or two people in the class.

Class Content Description
The description for your class is the only way you have to communicate with all of the students who take your class prior to the class. Snappy titles get people to read the description, but descriptions should provide clear, useful information. If I am very interested in a class topic that has a very brief and uninformative description, I will occasionally take the trouble to look up the instructor’s work to help me decide whether to take the class. But generally speaking, if the instructor couldn’t be bothered to write out clear and descriptive information, I lose confidence in their ability to provide that kind of information in a class environment. (I do make allowances for people offering classes in a second language!) 

Information your class description should include:

* Specific details on what people will learn. Not just ‘how to paint hair’, but information that includes specific details, like ‘where to place highlights and shadows to make hair look shiny, colour recipes for specific colours of hair, and, how to use glazing to shift the colour’.

* Any skill prerequisites people need to have to get full value from your class (and keep them from derailing the class for others.)

* List items they take home from the class (free mini, handout, paint samples, etc.)

* List any materials they need to bring themselves to the class (brushes, etc.) I’ll expand on this in the next section.

Student Supplied Supplies
If you’re traveling and need to prep a class for a lot of people, it seems reasonable to ask the students to bring their own supplies. That works well for a day or weekend workshop where people are packing and traveling primarily for that experience. It typically does not work well for convention classes. People will see the requirements in the class description when they pre-register months before the convention, but forget to refer back to that when packing. Or they’ll remember to pack their supplies, but leave them in their room that morning. People attending a beginner class or a very specialized topic might not even own the necessary supplies, and may be taking the class in part to decide whether they want to spend money to acquire them.

The main supply I ask people to bring is a good brush. Even then, I know that at least one person will forget, and at least one other will bring poor brushes. So I have kept any brush I’ve had that had a goodish point but I just didn’t like or considered worn out for some other reason to use as a class brush. If I were starting out from scratch teaching I would try to find some decent and not too expensive brushes to buy to use for that purpose. I can’t provide one for an entire class, but it has saved a lot of people’s class experiences for me to bring the handful I have. (Do an Amazon search for ‘bulk round brush size 0’ and you should find a reasonably priced option for smaller size synthetic brushes.)

For sculpting/conversion classes, you will likely need to bring tools for every student. People often take sculpting classes to dip their toe into it and thus may not have any tools to bring. Even if they do, the tools are likely to be all over the map in terms of shape and size, and may not fit what you need people to have in order to execute the techniques you demonstrate. I have attended sculpting classes where the teacher purchased tools to make up small tool kits and incorporated the cost of those into the class ticket price. I’ve attended others where the instructor provided handmade tools for each student to use during the class, but kept these to reuse in future classes.

Lately I have also started suggesting that people bring a visor or other magnifying aid, and a battery LED lamp. Some conventions provide a lamp in the class room for the instructor to do demos, but it isn’t practical for them to provide lamps to all students. Convention room lighting can be indifferent, at best. I have been finding that at least one and often two or three people in my classes struggle at times due to feeling like they can’t see what they’re doing. I can’t make people bring those things, but I can recommend it in my class descriptions so they’ll at least think about it. I bring one to class to hand around with sample miniatures, and if someone is really struggling I loan it out to them during the hands-on portion of the class.

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Advertising Your Classes

The area where being a big name is most helpful is in advertising. People quickly snap up tickets for classes with well-known painters at almost any price. When they are considering classes from unknown teachers, they need more information to make a decision to attend, and they are far more sensitive to price and the value of free materials included with the class. 

Note that ‘well-known’ and ‘unknown’ are contextual on a variety of levels. I have seen amazingly talented European painters who had slow-selling classes at AdeptiCon because the audience was not immediately familiar with their real names, and their class descriptions were sparse. My name sells a lot of tickets at ReaperCon where I am well known, but prospective students of classes I teach at local events are far more interested in cheap ticket prices and getting as much take-home stuff as they can for the price than they are in who I am as a painter or a teacher.

A lot of the advertising for your classes will come through the convention’s website and calendar and so on, but you can also further both your own classes and the convention by spreading the world through whatever social media channels you regularly frequent.

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If you made it this far – thank you! And stay tuned for future articles with information about how to prepare for your classes in advance, and tips for teaching a great class.

Display Painting versus Tabletop Painting

If you like the work I do on this blog, please consider supporting it via my Patreon.

I’m still working on a bit more of an overview post of my experience painting the hydra I showed in my last post. In the meantime, I was thinking about the conversations I had with people about painting at the countdown party. 

Hydra side viewLate pledges are available if you missed the Kickstarter campaign.

I was very happy to talk with people about painting and try to share some tips. My painting knowledge is built on a foundation of generosity of other artists taking time to share what they know, and I want to give back to the community in the same way. I also genuinely enjoy geeking out about one of my favourite things with other fans! But there were times when I felt like the information I shared was disappointing to people since a lot of it summed up to the big ‘trick’ in painting this was time and patience.

When you’re learning a new skill, you tend to assume that as you get better at it, you’ll be able to do things in a similar amount of time and with similar techniques, just better and quicker. Certainly there are skills or areas in which this may be true. I’m not a great cook. I could follow a recipe to make a pie crust, but it would take me a lot more time and effort than a professional baker or even a practiced and enthusiastic home cook. And my results would likely neither look nor taste as good as theirs. They have a lot more experience and possibly access to better tools than I do. However, there are also areas where neither expertise nor tools are the limiting factor. My pie is going to take about as long to cook as the expert’s, and there’s not much either of us can do about that.

Cmon speed paints - frontA group of pro painters including myself, Jen Haley, Elizabeth Beckley-Bradford, and Clay Williams painted these Robb Stark models in a 90 minute speed painting challenge at CMON Expo 2018. The figures benefit from our painting expertise, but display models they are not.

Now I’m going to look at a more art based example. Someone who is in the earlier stages of learning to draw can produce an accurate and realistic drawing, whether through use of tools like grid drawing or just sheer effort. I did some decent drawings in my early days of starting my learning traditional art journey. But just like my attempt to make a pie crust, they took a lot of time and effort on my part. And they weren’t the norm. There were a lot more terrible drawings than decent ones. That stands in stark contrast with the work of a skilled artist, who can do quick sketches that look attractive and realistic in a few minutes. That is the value of practice and repetition, but also a lot of knowledge and experience that the artist draws upon.

I think people look at something I’ve painted like the hydra and parallel it to the example of the two artists above. They assume it’s the ‘pro’ version of their tabletop or speed painted miniatures. But it’s not really an apples to apples comparison. It’s more like comparing a pencil sketch to a high rendered photo realistic drawing. There’s a foundation of knowledge that applies to both, and there are some similar tools and techniques. But one is not the evolution of the other. It’s more like siblings or cousins.

Cmon speed paints - back viewMy figure is the second from the right, and is the weakest of the bunch. The painters who are more successful at balancing speed and end result than I am picked colour schemes with much more contrast, and enhanced those with painting techniques that enhanced the pop of the figure, and then sprinkled a dash of an extra like weathering and/or freehand on top. I spent too much time worrying about blending.

A professional painter, particularly one who paints armies or other tabletop figures regularly for commission, is like the professional baker making the pie crust. They have good tools and materials, but also a wealth of experience to draw on to create a great looking result in less time than a beginner or casual painter. Something they speed paint might be to a standard a beginner is aspiring to do as a display painted piece. But a lot of high level display painting techniques we use are more like the baking time in the oven for the pie, or the time it takes to render a quick sketch into a fully painted picture – there’s no quick trick or tool that does the job for you, it just takes time and patience.

Hydra - pre scale liningA work-in-progress picture of the hydra before I painted in the lining between the scales.

The lining between the scales of my hydra is a good example. Using quick painting techniques, most people would line between the scales by using a wash of a darker colour. Or maybe they would start by painting a dark coat of paint and then drybrush or sidebrush lighter colours on top of the scales, leaving the lines in between them dark. This figure is sculpted with a lot of great definition, and those techniques should work well to paint it. But that’s not how I painted mine, and I don’t think you could use those techniques and get a result that looks like what I got.

Hydra - after scale liningThe same view of the hydra with the lining painted between the scales. It adds a lot of impact and texture!

The way I painted the lines between the scales of the hydra was… to paint the lines between the scales of the hydra. I used a fine tipped brush, patience, and a little over two hours of my life. The only ‘tip’ type thing I did that might not be obvious to the viewers is something that made the process even more fiddly, not less! I did not use a single colour of lining over the whole figure. If you compare the value (lightness/darkness) of an area of scales to the lining around it, you’ll see that it’s fairly constant over the whole figure. It looks that way because I used a lighter brown colour to line between the lightest colour scales, a blue-black to line between the darkest colour scales, and a couple of mixes in between. In total I used five values of lining. Possibly I could have gotten a similar effect with four or perhaps even three value mixes, but in for a penny, in for a pound is how I tend to paint. ;->

Hydra scale lining paletteThe dried liner mixes in my welled palette.

My analogies are to an extent a simplification. There is a gray area between tabletop painting and high level display painting. High tabletop, basic level display painting, I’m not sure what you’d call it, but the basic gist is something both fast and good. There are some limits to how fast you can paint like this, and just how good of a result you can get with this. It uses techniques from both ends of the spectrum, so if this kind of painting is your goal, it is worth studying information from display level painters. Most people who paint miniatures for a living probably paint to this level as much as they can – as good as you can get it to look, in the least time possible. But when they paint a very high level commission piece or a contest entry that pulls out all the stops, they use techniques that take a lot of time and skill, like individually lining every scale on the hydra.

That balancing act between end result and time commitment is one of the ways I am not very good at my job. I’m working at getting a little better at it, but through my entire miniature painting experience I have tended to use time and brute force and focused on the quality of end result, and done a poor job of learning increased efficiency and good planning to improve on time. Or even just learned to accept that a lot of the time 80% of the best I can do is good enough.

As a result, those who are seeking information on how to better balance high quality result and speed are probably better off consulting other painters. :-> Two of the best painters I know for this both share their experience on Patreon if you’d like to learn a lot more tips and tricks than you could from a quick convention conversation. (And they also teach full classes at conventions.) Look up James Wappel and Aaron Lovejoy.

Lessons Learned from 2D Art: Part Two

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Recently I took a two day workshop on portrait painting in oils. With only four students, it was an intimate and intensive class. It was also an opportunity to make some observations about teaching, learning, and various types of students that are relevant to miniature painters, too.

Knowing is only HALF the Battle

Those of us who are more left-brain learners tend to overemphasize the value of study type learning. We figure if we just watch enough videos and read enough tutorials, we’ll grasp the concept and understand the techniques needed to execute it, and then we should be able to sit down and just get ‘er done. So when we feel nervous or doubtful about trying the new thing, we may tend to seek out more and more videos and tutorials and forum posts in an attempt to feel we’ve mentally mastered the topic. Or if we sit down and try the new thing and the attempt goes poorly, we get very frustrated and beat ourselves up for not learning well.

A study approach might work pretty well for learning history or science or other fact-based subjects, but when you’re learning a skill that has a physical component, intellectual study can only get you so far. And where it gets you probably isn’t even fully half of the battle. There’s no substitute for hands on practice. There is no way to avoid the fact that you are going to make mistakes and it’s going to be slow going working on something new. You will get further and get there faster the better you are able to accept that reality.

Desk area 800Step 1: Apply butt to chair.
Step 2: Learn

Watching videos and reading about painting is great fun when you’re not in a position to sit down and paint. If you’re in a situation where you have a choice between sitting down to practice and watching another video, push yourself to sit down and paint. You will learn a lot more from the butt in the chair practice. Even if the attempt goes very poorly, it gives you experience to draw on the next time you do study a video or text tutorial.

That’s not to say that your left brain analytical skills can’t help you learn something artistic like miniature painting! Put those skills to work analyzing and comparing your work to examples of the technique or effect that you’re trying to master. Figure out the differences between them, and you’ll have a map to follow to try to get closer to where you want to be Look at work you like and figure out what about it you like. Look at more intermediate level work and try to identify specific flaws and successes. The more you train your eye in this way, the better you’ll become at analyzing your own work for issues and potential solutions.

I’ve been watching videos and studying art related topics for three years now, but I learned more about oil painting in those two days of hands-on guided experience than I have from any video. My general art study was a great foundation, but I had to struggle with mixing the paint and goofing up the brushstrokes to start learning those skills on a physical level. And I had to be patient and kind with myself and accept that I was going to be a lot slower than instructor OR the students who were more familiar with the materials.

Portraits combo3These pictures were not drawn in the order you imagine. I didn’t just figure out how to draw a face a bit better and never goof up again.

Knowing is only half the battle in another way, as well. You might intellectually know you need to paint with more contrast, or maybe you’re trying to improve your ability to do smooth blending. Sometimes you’ll finish a miniature and see that you’ve made progress towards your goal. Then the very next figure you paint might feel like a big step backwards. Remember that your hand and your eye have to learn how to do the thing as well as your brain. And you have to stay very conscious about it when you’re working on something new or trying to change a habitual way of painting. If you zone out listening to a movie or talking to friends, you will more likely than not slip back into your comfortable old painting habits. You can’t expect to paint one miniature ‘right’ and then you’ve just gotten it and you can go into auto-pilot mode and get those same results.

Multipass… er Multitask

Trying to do a bunch of new things at once is hard! Trying to do a bunch of anything at the same time is hard. If you can find ways to split something up into separate tasks, it can be very helpful to increasing your chance of success. On the first day of the workshop, we did something similar to what I discuss in my hands-on how to paint contrast post – we used a limited palette of colours and concentrated on blocking in the main areas of light and dark, and then refining from there. We started with a series of quick lighting exercises in the morning, and then working on one longer pose painting in the afternoon. I’m new to oil painting, so I was still juggling a few things as well as trying to deal with painting slower, but for the most part I felt like I had a handle on things and was grasping the idea.

Value exerciseThe quick lighting exercise from day one of the oil painting workshop. It was challenging but manageable. (Though because I was concentrating on a number of things at the same time, I repeated a common error of make of the nose/center of the face being too long.)

On the second day, we repeated the quick lighting exercises in the morning, but with the addition of trying to see and incorporate as much colour into our painting as possible. I’m still working to see the kind of subtle colour variations practiced artists can see in surfaces. I’m still working on colour mixing on the fly, and on how best to apply a lot of colour to a canvas. Trying to do all of that at speed and while still maintaining the light/dark value system we worked on the day before, and having a completely new angle of the model… that was a lot going on at the same time, and I had moments of feeling like I was drowning. (I flashed back a little to the workshop I took with Alfonso “Banshee” Giraldes, and what I learned there was an additional resource to draw on for these colour studies.)

Colour studyWait, now I have to do the same thing but with lots of colours I can barely see?! The quick lighting exercise on day two was much more challenging for me.

As we started working on the long pose in the afternoon, I made the conscious choice to narrow my focus. I decided to concentrate on the ‘drawing’ (getting the shapes and proportions correct) and the values while I had an experienced instructor available to correct me. Colour is something that can be layered over a value scale painting. There are ways to do this on miniatures, and it’s an even more accessible approach in oil painting on canvas. Colour and mixing it better is something I could work on learning later.

My point in mentioning that is that sometimes when you take a class or workshop, you may not be at a level or mindset to incorporate all of the information being presented. Try to make note of what you can for future use, but it’s okay to focus on the parts that are clicking and sparking your interest. It’s probably better to do that than to try to do everything and barely learn anything.

Colour longMy long pose painting from day two is not very colourful. I chose to continue concentrating on value and drawing.

The Challenge of Experience

In addition to learning more about oil painting, the class was also an opportunity to observe different types of students and learning methods, and to reflect on some approaches that might make it easier to learn a skill. Each of the four students, myself included, represented a different level of knowledge and approach to study.

Student A was quite expert, both in general and in this instructor’s method, having studied with him extensively. Their results were very similar to the instructor’s, and the feedback and guidance they needed was much more nuanced and refined. Some people might have wondered how much value they could get from receiving more instruction, but as I recently opined, there’s always something to learn, regardless of your level!

Student B had not painted in decades, and my guess would be that they did not receive extensive art training at that time. But they were very open to diving in and trying things out, and were very willing to follow the guidance offered by the instructor.

Student C was clearly an accomplished artist with a good deal of training. I suspect they also practice their art frequently. So frequently, in fact, that their issue was that their usual approach and technique was so ingrained that they very easily went into autopilot and did what they always do. Student C’s paintings were well-executed and demonstrated a pleasing style. But at the same time, they also diverged from the method used in the workshop, and they frequently jumped ahead of where the instructor was guiding us. It was clear that Student C wasn’’t really following the instruction all of the time, and thus they probably did not get the full value out of taking the workshop.

Sergio Calvo Rubio teachingBeing a good teacher means doing your best to reach students with different learning styles. Picture from workshop with Sergio Calvo Rubio in Denton, Texas.

I have taken and taught miniature classes with students like Student C pretty frequently. Once some people have a miniature in hand and paint on the palette, they jump in painting just as they would at home. They’ll often be two or three steps ahead of where the instructor has directed. And if the technique or effect of the class is different from their usual method, that causes problems. They end up confused about why they aren’t getting the same results as others, or fall behind as they scramble to redo things.

The tendency of people to jump in and start painting at the first opportunity has affected the way I teach classes. There are some steps where I do not pass paint around to the class until after I have both explained and demonstrated the technique. One example is glazing. I explain it as just enough paint to make coloured water, and then I make a glaze to show the exact consistency. And walk around and show the class. If people have access to the paints, there will be at least one person who will start mixing their own glaze while I’m explaining, they’ll mix it too thick, and they’ll paint over all their hard work from the last hour before I can go through all the information they need to prevent that from happening.

If you’ve been attending classes or trying video/text tutorials with this kind of approach, I recommend you reconsider. Don’t worry about losing your style, and don’t stress about it being uncomfortable. As you continue to practice with it at home, you’ll either get more comfortable with the new methods/tools/approach, or you’ll figure out how to incorporate the bits that work for you into how you usually work. And in the same way, you’ll incorporate the new approach into your style.

A Better Way to Learn

So how should you approach study in a class or workshop, or when you’re trying to learn from an online video or text tutorial? Here are some tips to get into the right mindset and get the most value from your effort.

Ready to learnBeing a good student sometimes means being willing to put aside what you already know and being open to trying new things in new ways. Photo from Fernando Ruiz workshop in Atlanta.

Like a Virgin
No matter how skilled you are, you are working on learning something new. You need to approach it as a new thing. There’s a saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. You can’t expect to do things the way you normally do AND learn something new.

Try as much as possible to put aside your current methods and habits. If the tutorial says X brush, get something as close to X brush as possible, don’t use your usual. If it says paint highlights first, paint highlights first, even if you usually paint shadows first.

Slow Hand
One of the challenges I have found as an intermediate/advanced miniature painter is expecting myself to pick something up quickly. I know how to paint, I should be able to get up and running with a new technique pretty quickly, right? If anything it’s the opposite, because my usual way of doing things is so ingrained. I haven’t even spent a full 50 hours oil painting yet. I don’t have muscle memory for handling the brush or mixing the paint or anything else. So it was easy-peasy for me to shift to do something the way the instructor suggested. It was much, much more difficult for Student C to do the same.

Slow is important for another reason. When you’re learning, the best kind of practice is focused, deliberate practice. The auto-pilot of how you usually paint teaches you nothing. You need to slow down, and be very conscious and focused on the task at hand when trying something new to get the full benefit from it. When I’m doing my everyday commission painting, I need to have YouTube videos or an audiobook running. When I’m learning and practicing something new, I need to NOT have those things distracting me so that I stay focused on doing the thing the new way rather than fall back into my usual habits.

Value long comboStep by step pictures from the long value pose on day one of the workshop. This is the same sort of thing people talk about with sketching or blocking in on miniatures. First you work on the correct placement for the broad areas of light and shadow. Then you refine those and working blending. And only as a last step work on details.

Forgive Me
Learning and trying is going to mean failing. No matter how well you focus and follow instructions, there are going to be times where you misunderstand an element or need time to train your hand to paint that way. That’s how learning works! Keep your expectations for yourself realistic. Congratulate yourself for the hard work and effort – it really is as much about the process as the result.

I was very results focused when learning to paint miniatures, and as a result I experienced a lot of mental turmoil if I didn’t do well. This was discouraging and sometimes kept me away from practicing. (Who wants to do something that makes them feel bad about themselves?!) When I started to learn 2D art, I initially had a similar approach. It was frustrating, and I was not learning consistently. Eventually I came to a realization – I enjoyed being in the moment and drawing and painting, even if I hated what the picture looked like at the end of it. I was happier overall when I was drawing and painting regularly than when I wasn’t because of the zen moments of the process. I got value, even from the ‘failures’. I redefined success to be regular practice and sincere attempts to learn rather than what I thought of the end results on the paper. I have been able to study much more regularly and with a lot more pleasure than the results-focused approach I took to miniature painting. 

Take a Look at Me Now
During your study, pause to periodically look closely at what you’re doing. This is best done after taking a brief break where you leave your desk and then return to it. Does your work on the whole look like the example you’re following at this stage of the process? Likewise, once you finish your practice, put it aside for a few days and come back and look at it with fresh eyes. Do you feel like you successfully executed the technique or effect you were attempting?

Value long pose finalIt’s far from perfect, or done, but I’m pretty happy with the result considering my current knowledge and experience level!

If the answer is no, the correct response is not despair! Do not just paint everything over, or start again immediately on another practice piece. Instead, stop and analyze your work and compare it to the example you were following. Try to identify what exactly is different about your work. THIS is where you really start to learn and build your skills. This type of ‘failure’ might ultimately be more instructive than getting it right your first go out of the gate, because it will give you a much more conscious understanding of how to execute the technique/effect.

Key elements to consider are the contrast range (the darkest value compared to the lightest value); where the dark, mid, and light values are placed on the figure; the proportion and size of the dark, mid, and light values; the texture of the surface (clean smooth blending vs large patchy strokes vs fine stipple and/or dash strokes, etc.).

Elements of colour can play into some techniques/effects, but on the whole try not to get too caught up in worrying about colour. If your version is much more vivid or dull in colour than the example, that’s not as important as did you manage smooth blending or creating the illusion of reflected light, or whatever technique/effect you were practicing.

It is unfortunately quite difficult to perform this kind of analysis on our own work. Our hobby in general does not emphasize training of critique skills, and even with those skills it is always easier to critique work by someone else that you have no emotional attachment to or knowledge of. But the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it, and it remains the best way to practice and study.

Here are some tips to help you see your work differently:

Take a photo of it. For best comparison, manipulate a photo of your example in the same ways described below.
Convert your photo to black and white.
Shrink your photo down until it’s the size of a miniature on your screen.
Flip your photo (or look at your miniature in a mirror).

Dds sorceress mirroredIt’s not a whole new view, but it can jog your brain into seeing your miniature a bit differently. The figure is Andriessa, also available in Bones.

I hope that some of you will share your tips for successful learning in the comments! The better we can get at learning, the better we can get at painting!

Lessons Learned from 2D Art: Part One

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If you look at the home page of this website, you’ll see a subtitle of ‘Art in many forms’. My wonderful husband wrote that when he was helping me set up the page. Our expectation was that I was going to be talking about my adventures trying to learn traditional art forms as well as miniature painting. In practice I’ve only talked about traditional art a couple of times. One was a post about measuring your progress at learning a skill by more than just your end result. The other was about artist challenges and prompts.

Random Encounter bust face viewIf you need a miniature fix right now, I posted additional photos of the first bust I ever painted over on my Facebook page.

I have wrestled with whether to include more information about my traditional art study in my blog. I was concerned that it would disinterest people primarily interested in miniature painting. But the reality is that my study of traditional art is having a lot of impact in both how I paint miniatures,  and in how I teach others about miniature painting. Experiencing the struggles of a student again is very helpful to me in learning to be a better teacher. And reflecting on my journey through miniature painting is helping me become a better student of both traditional art and miniature painting.

A week ago I attended an afternoon workshop for alla prima oil painting. Alla prima means to paint all in one go while all the paint is wet, rather than painting in layers or stages. Wetblending vs layering/glazing in miniature terms I guess. ;-> 

Photo by Clemens Schmillen courtesy of Wikimedia CommonsPhoto of a cave painting by Clemens Schmillen courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Early humans used ochres as pigments, and we still do today.

But first the class started with learning a bit more about the paints we were using, and some general colour theory information to help us mix the colours we would need to paint the subjects of our paintings. We used a split primary palette, with some additional earth tone colours. Earth tones are reds, yellows, and browns that were originally mixed from minerals and were the first paints. 

Split Primary Palette

The split primary palette we used in the workshop is shown above. On the top row are the primary colours, with a cool version of each on the left, and a warm version of each on the right. Down the left hand side are the three earth tones we had on our palette. You can match earth tones by mixing from primaries, but many artists find it convenient to include a few in their palettes for various reasons. Our palette also included white, but we mixed our own black rather than using a pigment black paint. You can see the mix on the right edge of the paper – ultramarine blue and burnt umber (or burnt Sienna) make a great chromatic black. (A chromatic black is something that mostly looks black or can function as black but is made from colour pigments and might have some colour undertones to it when thinned down. They are less dull than true pigment blacks, but may behave differently in mixes.)

You can experiment with painting miniatures with a similar palette by picking out colours like these from your paint collection. They won’t mix exactly the same way these single pigment artist colours would, but you can do more with them than you might realize. (I’ve written an article with a lot of information about paint and pigments for miniature painters.)

Split primary palette used to paint PromenadeThis is a split primary palette (plus a few extras) that I used to paint the award winning figure Promenade. My very scientific method of colour selection was to pull a warm and cool version of each primary colour from a box full of convention paints. 

I will confess that I got a little impatient with this segment of the workshop. I have been studying colour theory for years. I’ve got a ways to go in mastering the application of the knowledge, but my understanding of the key terms and basic theory is pretty solid at this point. I would far rather have had more time painting, and chafed a bit when student questions caused this segment to go longer than the instructor had planned. 

And yet at the same time, I did learn something – I learned that I really have learned a lot about colour theory! I mention this to give any of you struggling out there some hope. In the early days of study, I struggled to keep terms like hue and value straight in my mind. I had trouble deciding whether a colour was warmer or cooler. It was very difficult for me to determine whether a given brown was really more orange or green or what. I still have plenty of struggles with colours, and more struggles will come in the future, I’m sure. But I was stoked to realize just how much I have learned, and that I am beginning to be able to apply that knowledge in practice. (When we got down to mixing, I had fewer difficulties getting the colours I wanted than I had with my first attempts!)

This moment goes back to stuff I mentioned in that measuring progress post. We have a tendency to focus on what we’re struggling with and what we feel we have not yet learned. We tend to minimize or completely overlook moments of mastery in things that we have successfully learned. If you’ve been painting for more than a few months, I guarantee that there are things you do with ease or even unconsciously now that were a struggle or required immense concentration for you when you first started. You have learned, and you have succeeded. Give yourself credit for that!

Colour wheelThere is a lot of useful colour theory reference material on a simple Pocket Color Wheel!

I also learned something that will be useful to trying to teach people about colour in the future. The instructor had a simple and effective way to think about which primary colours to use to mix the most vivid secondary colours. When using a split primary system, you have a cool and a warm version of each of the primaries. So you have a greenish yellow and an orangish yellow, an oranger red and one that’s more violet/magenta, and a warmer blue that has a touch of yellow in it, and one that is more purple and has a touch of red in it. To mix the most saturated version of each secondary, choose the primary closest to it on the colour wheel. So for orange, you would want your warm red rather than one which is more magenta/violet, and your warm yellow rather than one that has a hint of green.

Finally we got down to painting! And then I was fully a student, struggling to learn and apply each of the stages in a very short amount of time. I think we had maybe an hour and a half of painting time. That’s not a lot of time to mix colours, draw out the subject, and slap paint on everything. Though plenty of the people in the workshop got further along than I did, so I guess I’m just as slow in other forms of painting as I am at miniature painting! A lot of the issue is that I’m still learning to draw, so getting things remotely in proportion and correctly placed and so on takes time and concentration on top of the issue of learning to manipulate paint. Things go slower when you’re learning and when you’re focused. But you learn more when you slow down enough to focus and really concentrate on what you’re doing. So take it easy on yourself if you find that’s what you need to do with new miniature painting skills.

Painting from alla prima workshop with Heather Hartman FolksThis is as much of the painting as I was able to complete during the workshop. Thanks to the miracles of science, this painting was made with water-soluble oils, which were applied onto paper treated to accept oil paints. Science so fun it’s magic!

This experience has also given me a renewed sympathy for students of my miniature painting classes who are racing to get through the hands on portion in 45 minutes while I’m continuing to spew more information in the background. :->

I really enjoyed the approach, and I hope that I’ll have the time (and more importantly the focus) to sit down and practice with it. I’m debating finishing up the painting since I took a reference photo. I’m okay if I don’t do that, though. It’s okay to do some things for practice. We don’t have to make a finished piece out of every single thing we work on to get value out of the piece and the time we put into it.

Frantic Preparations!

No matter how many conventions I go to, how many lists I make, or how far I try to start in advance, I always seem to spend the night before I leave for a convention frantically running around trying to do more things than there is time to do! Preparing for ReaperCon 2018 has been no exception. In some ways I’m decently prepped, but there are several things I would very much liked to have done that I didn’t manage, and it’s all been a bit more annoying than usual because I have an issue with my hip that flared up on the weekend.

Those who’ve seen the giant duffle bag I pack for shows often comment on how excessive it is. But have a look at what I’m bringing just for classes that I’m teaching, and I think you’ll get an idea of why I need such a big piece of luggage! And this pile doesn’t even include the class handouts, since Reaper is kind enough to print those for us. (And I appreciate the savings of luggage weight every bit as much as the savings in printer toner and paper!) And since all the classes I am teaching this year use the same paint colours, it’s less paint than I would normally bring as well. This is only for three classes. I normally teach four (or five or six at some conventions), but with the extra duties of judging and other activities at ReaperCon this year, I thought I’d better go a little lighter.

Photo Aug 28 4 53 43 PM

Many of the artists I know have spent the past couple of weeks frantically painting entries to enter in the contest. I will have to content myself with entering the ReaperCon 2018 Sophie that I featured in my last post and something painted earlier this year. I have been spending my time writing a handout for my newest class topic – Painted Ladies. I’ve also painted several demonstration figures to help people who attend the class see points more quickly and easily. My other class topic is something I’ve taught before, but as part of a longer workshop style class, so I’ve had to spend some time condensing down the information to just the topic of faces and expressions, and I painted a few more example figures for that, as well. So my travel case and my display area of artist row are going to look a little paltry next to the treasures most of the artists will have, but that’s usually how I roll. :-> 

Photo Aug 28 4 56 12 PM

I am really looking forward to the convention this year! I’m excited about the new venue. It’s a lot more fun to have the convention areas directly attached to the hotel, and both are spiffy and new. But mostly what I’m excited about is the opportunity to spend time with good friends. My most consistent regret about conventions is that there just isn’t enough time to spend with everyone that I’d like to! But I will try to be at my spot in artist alley as much as I can when not busy with other duties, so please feel welcome to stop by and say hi or ask me some painting questions.

Photo Aug 28 2 46 04 PM

The down side of traveling to conventions is that I’ll miss these three crazies, my cats. Except it’s sort of an upside, too, because they are troublesome creatures and sometimes I get more peaceful sleep away from home than at home! ;->