I had been thinking about this a bit while painting the Necromunda Goliath gang, and was reminded when Azazel mentioned ‘reaching a plateau’ in The Comments. I was painting along, and things were going quite nicely. Then I suddenly realized I had “figured out” the basic techniques of miniature painting. All the time I have spent, tutorial watching, all the reading, advice, and all that other crap that is in my head…and it had suddenly all clicked.
It seems odd, because I had stints of painting miniatures ever since I was a teen, and I never reached a point I felt comfortable with. Occasionally I would have a mini I felt was good/decent, but it was an uphill battle to get there.
I have a feeling it has a lot to do with the amount of hours I’ve put in as of late, dedicating a chunk of time almost every night to paint some minis. For months and months. Practice makes perfect and whatnot.
So what do I mean by the “basic techniques of miniature painting”? I’m not sure I will explain this exactly, so let me backup to a story when we were kids. My brother and I loved superheroes and comics growing up. At some point, we started drawing quite regularly. I think my brother was close to his teenage years and I already was. Just about everyday we drew something. It would take me hours to draw a simple figure, but it would still be wonky. It wasn’t so much that anatomy was tough, it’s just that translating from my brain to my fingers, never seemed to work. Meanwhile my brother quickly went from the ‘bubble method’ to drawing his own figures in seemingly no time. I kept trying, but never hit that “point” that I wanted to. To this day, I can draw better than a lot of people, but still feel like I am not a good illustrator whatsoever.
Ok, back to the “basics of painting minis”. I feel like I’ve reached that point where basic brush control is working good and I have a good feel for thickness of paint and flow from the brush. At the moment of time that this thought occurred, I was hitting all my highlights with a single stroke or two, and usually with the tip of my brush (versus the easier edge highlights with the flat of brush). It wasn’t just one of those “zen” moments either, where everything aligns for a moment, this feels like something more permanent, like I can now ride a bike. Everything was quite comfortable but…
Suddenly I thought “Anyone could do this!”. Again, a very weird feeling. As I felt like I had ‘reached the next level’, yet also felt like it wasn’t anything special. It seems like basic brush painting is more a matter of time investment than anything. For example, edge highlighting. Nearly anyone who can hold a brush, can get some paint on it and run it alongside the edge of a miniature to add some highlights. Without good motor control, they will end up slapping paint in spots they shouldn’t, but….it can be fixed! Crappy highlight lines can be fixed by applying more base color to smooth out those lines. And the highlight can be re-applied again, if that messes up. And on and on. But given an infinite amount of time, anyone could quite simply recreate the same thing I was doing.
I found this to be an interesting train of thought, as I’ve often wondered why art professionals tend to disregard the most basic advice. Perhaps they feel the same way about their art medium. Anyone can put a line on paper, paint a line, mold a shape, etc. It might take you a hundred tries, but it is doable, and with practice you will get better at it. I’m guessing it’s probably the same with other techniques I haven’t mastered, where it is just a case of finding what works for oneself and trying and trying until it “clicks”.
It’s a weird point to be at. Being a private hobby and pre-blog days (and having lost/sold most minis), most people don’t know what my old painting skills were like. But I realize I have definitely made a step forward just recently and yet at the same time I have not gone very far. Strange times indeed.