Saturday, 28 January 2012

My thoughts on painting

A comment on my last post got me thinking a little about my philosophy towards painting, so I thought I'd post a little entry exploring this. Now to begin with I want to clear up a couple of points:

Firstly, I would class my painting as 'adequate'. This post is not the place to come if you are looking to learn any funky new techniques or a masterclass. But if you want to know how a struggling painter has dealt with his situation, then carry on!

Secondly, although it is sometimes pleasant to retire to the man-cave and not worry about anything in the world except for painting little metal men, as a general rule I very much find painting a tedious process, a means to an end which is an unavoidable part of the hobby.  That said, I do still find it satisfying when I complete what I am working on.

So, with those points in mind, I thought about my painting process and decided it comes down to two broad elements which I will explore in turn: 1) WHY do I do it? 2) HOW do I do it?

Why do I do it?

I think that people lie somewhere on a continuum between gaming and painting. On one extreme are the folk who don't game, or game very little, and derive most of their pleasure from the painting process. On the other extreme are those who only really want to game and wind up with a load of unpainted or undercoated figures on the table (I have been guilty of this sin on occasion myself!).

I fall somewhere to the gaming side of the scale. I definitely paint in order to game with the figures and would not paint something that will never see action on the table. On the other hand, I really dislike using unpainted figures as I do enjoy the visual aspect of the hobby a lot.

So this really needs to inform my painting process. The longer it takes or the more detail I need to use, the less interest I will be able to maintain as to me it is a barrier to actually getting the figures on the table. I don't paint to satisfy anyone else or to garner praise for my work. I think in the past I have been a little too perfectionist for my own good and have learnt to scale that down.

So identifying where I am on this scale really allows me to get a handle on what I am painting for and what is important to me.

How do I do it?

After having considered the 'why', I can now think about the best methods for going about the process. In truth my process has been the same for a while, probably since I started painting my WW1 figures. Frankly there is nothing more dull than painting dozens of figures in the same browns, greens, greys etc... The route I have chosen will likely make the more expert painters among you despair, but the truth is that, after undercoating, I block paint the main colours on a figure and then apply a brown wash. There, I have confessed! I am not one for painting all the details when I will only be looking at them from a distance and especially if they are going to be formed in regiments. It also helps to speed up the process a great deal.

The other issue I have is the struggle to maintain interest in painting the same colour on a whole regiment. Faced with painting grey uniforms on a platoon of German soldiers I find myself making excuses and flicking through rulebooks at what 'could be' if I was actually any good at this painting lark. To answer this problem I have reduced the figures I paint a colour on at any one time to a manageable number. Alas, this number has turned out to be 3... I did try 5 once, but the burden was too great... 3 figures allows me to constantly change what I am doing and work up a decent production line, thereby maintaining interest in what I am doing.

So there you have it... the truth laid bare before you. Without this, I would not have been able to paint even the small armies pictured in my last post. I would have painted maybe 5 and then got distracted by the next project I have not touched for years. The vicious circle would have continued...

I have the greatest respect for the blogs I see adorned with pictures of wonderfully painted figures. I am somewhat envious of the talent on display. But ultimately, what it comes down to is me having to figure out how to get around my own limitations when it comes to the painting process and really start to enjoy the hobby more. I think I am on the right track to achieving this.

Thanks for reading this outpouring... normal service will be resumed shortly!

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