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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Bolt Action - You're a Terrible Painter

You're a terrible painter Casey. I have told myself that countless times since I started painting miniatures. I truly love the game of Bolt Action and miniature wargaming, but the thought of starting a new game or army and having to paint it was not only intimidating, but I flat out refused to paint the army on my own. Making up excuses to myself would become a daily routine on why I should pay someone else to do it. "I don't have enough time", "I'm too busy at work", "Time spent painting is time away from playing", etc. Well, I am here to tell you that things have changed and I will share with you how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb..err I mean paint!

I keep these on my shelf to remind me of where I started.
In the past I would enlist the services of "Mercenary Painters" (I mean this in a good way) such as the extremely talented Mark Minghella, Apeman Artworks (Ray Gibson), and Scott Miller. These gentlemen would paint up gorgeous armies for me that I am proud to show off on Facebook and other social media sites. Now getting your armies painted is not cheap, with customers wanting to pay as little as possible while receiving near museum quality miniatures in return, and did I mention that some customers want a whole army done in a week? The statistics on how much a commission painter would have to charge per miniature to break even on an hourly minimum wage are pretty astounding but I am getting off track, the bottom line is... As gorgeous as the commissioned armies are, with a baby on the way, I had to start painting my own armies. There is also a special connection to putting your own assembled and painted miniatures on the table and pushing them to victory, or at least a minor defeat. My commissioned armies look amazing but I have this slight disconnect where I have little to no emotional attachment to them. I was Zhukov, just throwing my armies into the battle of  Berlin without any sort of emotion felt.

Ever since I got my first box of Germans some years ago, I have gone in spells where I have attempted to paint some minis or vehicles, here and there. I would use YouTube videos, Flames of War paint guides or Facebook as guides. Once I had a miniature painted, I would think it would look alright and then start looking at the pics on Facebook Bolt Action sites. I would see miniatures done up by the Van Gogh's and Picasso's of our tight-knit community. We all know the Patch Adams, Bryan Cooks, Andy Singletons, James Wappels, and so on. I would compare my mini to theirs and think it was absolute trash and get completely discouraged. Looking back on it now, it all seems so ridiculous to compare my two months of starting out to these painting demi-gods but I did it anyway. And that is one of the most important aspects I strive to share with new members of miniature wargaming. Don't heavily compare your skill and work to someone who has been doing it for ages or as a profession. Instead use their work as a guide.

And I did just that, I used the guides made by members of our community and took it in baby steps. In March 2016 I sat down with fellow BAA member Bryan Cook's "How to Paint DAK Infantry" guide and started painting. I also made sure to buy quality brushes, watch highlighting videos and learnt how to thin my paints some.  I started slow with only painting two miniatures a night and I learned so much more going at that glacial pace. After about a month I had around 35 Deutsches Afrika Korps infantrymen ready to go. Did they look like something out of a magazine? Well no, but they were mine and they looked pretty decent. What sealed the deal was taking some of the first minis I had ever painted and comparing them to the ones I just did. By asking questions, taking my time, following a proper guide, and not comparing the quality to someone else, I was finally happy with a miniature I had painted.


A few pictures of my most recent miniatures.

Are they some elite level quality? Nope, but through my eyes, they are perfect. Especially when compared to earlier work.


The online Bolt Action community can be downright venomous to each other when it comes to such controversial topics as what scale is better, 1/48 or 1/56? Which Version is better? How many rivets should there be on a Matilda? Is that the incorrect road wheel on that Panzer III conversion? But for all of our differences in opinions, I personally have never seen someone openly criticize another players painting skill. I see suggestions and constructive criticism but never have I seen someone openly insult or belittle a player after showing his painting. That makes me proud to be a part of the Bolt Action community.

More than anything I wanted to write this quick article to all of the hobbyists like me who do not like painting or are intimidated by it. I have come to enjoy painting by just slowing down and concentrating on my own work and not that of others. Take that first miniature that you think is so terrible and keep it on your desk. I promise you the next one will look better

In summary:
  • Don't forget to thin your paints!
  • Quality brushes..I am not saying you have to get the  Windsor Newton brushes, but they took my painting to another level. 
  • Use the painting guides the community has put out! Here are just a few from our site that have helped me tremendously WWPD/BAA Painting Guides.
  • Enamel washes. While intimidating at first, I have now come to use them daily in my painting for vehicles. AK Interactive Enamel Washes

Happy Holidays from all of us at Bolt Action Alliance and WWPD. May your dice be hot and your drinks cold



7 comments:

Philip Wright said...

I still get intimidated by some people's painting sometimes. Usually when it's studio quality stuff that uses techniques I don't understand.

For Second World War stuff, I just block paint, dip, skin and decal. I've decided that because of the general colour pallet of this period, it's just not worth it for me to invest all the extra time to highlight and what not when my current method of painting puts good looking (not museum quality) models on the table at a generally quick pace.

steve pelham said...

im just starting out in wargaming/bolt action at the age of 42 (trying to show my son theres more than just xbox). ive assembled and undercoated the pieces and playing the game but finding it hard to get into painting (probably because im scared of messing up the figures). i too look at all these fantastic paint jobs and feel intimidated but i know at some point ive got to 'have a go'.
your words of wisdom are a big help and you are right, i dont want to win awards but just want a good gaming figure on the table and maybe my son in time will be able to improve them.

Kastor Krieg said...

Just don't take those W&N sable brushes through the enamel washes or you will regret it :)

Birdy said...

I love those Germans with the gas masks on, they look great! As for me, I paint Flames of War and its taken me a lot of practice just to get to the level I am now so for the new painters, the main thing is to keep painting...

Karl Cassidy said...

You're judging your minatures by entirely the wrong metric IMO. When you photograph, every error leaps out at you. Instead, deploy your army on the table, as a squad/platoon and then go round to the OTHER side of the table. That's what your opponent sees. The guy on the right in the first picture? A single highlight of pale grey on him and nice basing, multiplied by thirty guys, would actually look ok. Yes, each minatures is meh. But the overall effect is good. My son has a Russian force of Plastic Soldier Company minis. Meh miniatures, meh painting but well shaded, so the overall effect on the table is superb. They look great.

Think impressionist painter versus fine art! Great article BTW, Thank you!

Lilan said...

Speaking of brushes : euro players should have a look for those Raphaël Kolinsky brushes (a basic set with 2, 1 and 0 should be great).

http://www.raphael.fr/en/Kolinsky_fiche_50.html

Tïr Eoghain Blackman said...

I've only recently (a few days ago!) decided to finish painting a late war British platoon, and it is both intimidating as all get up and something I really want to complete at the same time. I spent the better part of the late 90s painting fantasy stuff to a point that I was really proud of, but the historicals... man that's a whole other order. Your work is great, too, and something I'd love to have on my table.

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