This is going to be a wall of text, but there are TL;DR parts. Just use your browser search in this page to find them.
You probably have been wondering what I was up to during the last months, and I mentioned here and there that I am suffereing a bit of a simulation burnout, with too many of my favourite sims/modules being in some beta/alpha/unfinished states that I don’t want to bother with, less overall time to put into sim studying (turns out that having two kids does not exactly help having uninterrupted hours for flying and/or learning planes the way I like to do it), and general discontent with how some things are evolving.
So I decided that I should take a small break (I still fly now and then, but only short hops of half an hour or so to keep halfway current) and do something else again.
Now, doing something else for me means: Either pick up (or intensify) another one of my dozen hobbies of the past, or pick up another one.
A good friend of mine - completely by chance - helped me with that.
“If you’re referring to the incident with the Dragon, I was barely involved. All I did was give your uncle a little nudge out of the door.”
Ok, I am not anyone’s uncle - as far as I know - but the rest of that quote would fit pretty well if someone asked him what happened.
We were doing some running together and talked about hobbies, and he said: “You know, I’m thinking about starting a Warhammer army. I’ve been wanting to do that for years now”.
In fact I remembered that we had been talking about that in the past (must have been 15 years ago or so), we contemplated starting that tabletop game together, but never did, with my main arguments being “too expensive”, “too time-consuming” “I can’t paint”, “too complex and beginner-unfriendly rules” and “silly lore”.
This time I said: F*** this. I have enough money for a small army, if I screw up the painting I will find somebody who helps me to reach a decent paint job, and there was this new edition lately (called Age of Sigmar) which reportedly makes things much more accessible for new players, and also those miniatures look much better than in the past and the rules are free now, which (among other things) makes that stuff much cheaper. I also decided to just ignore the lore for now.
So we started buying those plastic models and painting them.
In October 2016 a friend and I started collecting/painting/playing a tabletop game named “Warhammer Age of Sigmar”. Read the next paragraph, then skip to the next TL;DR
Anyone still reading this? Ok, this is where the interesting part starts, since I am going to talk about art for a bit. But since it is me who writes this post I am going to write another wall of text explaining my world view before saying anything remotely interesting. Feel free to skip to the next TL;DR now.
Back when I was a child (yes, the story starts THAT far in the past) I did what children do: Try a lot of stuff to try and determine what I was good in and what I wasn’t good in. It turned out I am exceptionally BAD at painting.
I cannot remember a single time when I painted something and liked the result. If I halfway liked the result (which rarely happened) people around me told me that what I painted was crap that a three year old, marginally talented child could do better. I always had bad results in school, always just managing to get a ‘D’ grade. It doesn’t matter what the medium was, whether it would be water colors on paper, chalk, oil or just pencil drawing, whether it was re-creating something from the mind, from a picture, or just painting some object with colors, the best I could barely reach was something like XKCD art style, just less pretty, and if I painted an object (made of clay or something) the colors were all over it. I could never follow the lines, everything was either dripping with paint or not following the lines correctly. Jsut awful.
I knew it and hated it, and I remember one particular moment when I was 12 years old or so (funny how the brain works, isn’t it) when I showed some painting to my mother and she just looked at it and said “well, you were never good at painting” and turned away.
The result of all this: Not only did I notice nobody liked what I painted (it wasn’t about style but about quality), but for me it was reality that I just could not paint. There was not a single hint of a doubt about that in my brain. People had tried to teach me, and it just wouldn’t work. Everything related to holding a pencil or a brush and using paint was flagged as a big fat “NOPE”.
So my brain said: This is about talent, that’s OK, you cannot do something about that, but it isn’t severe either. It is not important to be able to paint. Nevermind. You just can’t paint, it has been proven. You can do other things. I just settled for it and didn’t even attempt to paint something for years. I did draw, but only technical stuff. Now and then I doodled a cat or something, knowing the results would be bad (and they were). Again, an expected result, talent isn’t something that suddenly develops.
During my studies I learned about some basics about color theory and such stuff, and I learned to create vector graphics on the PC. But again, those were maps mostly (I studied Cartography and Geoinformatics, and people can read maps better when the Cartographer knows about color combinations, line thicknesses and stuff, which is why we learned that). I noticed that - at least on a PC - I could do slightly better stuff. Most-valuable key combo: Ctrl+Z for undo.
My hand drawings were still awful, and not made better by a constant tremor in both of my thumbs that I developed at some point.
TL;DR: I was never good at painting. Feel free to skip to the next TL;DR now.
Ok, back to the not-so-recent past, October 2016:
As you can imagine that is no good news when starting a game in which all the army units consist of 30mm tall miniatures made of detailed plastic, some details being half a millimeter in size. For some reason my friend had me nudged over though and I had already bought models worth 80 bucks or so.
I thought: I cannot change my lack of talent, but at least I can gather all the knowledge that I can get.
There is a thing called “The Internet” and I spent HOURS reading and watching painting tutorials on blogs, forums, and Youtube. I still was pretty sure the results would turn out dire, but I was certain that if I at least did all the stuff with the right techniques I could probably cover up for my lack of talent and produce something I wouldn’t be ashamed of too much.
I was nervous as hell when my (all in all worth 200 bucks or so) box of models, paints, and brushes finally arrived and I started to assemble the models. They are made of the same material as my plastic model planes (which reminds me of unfinished 1/48 scale F-4 and A-10C I had in my basement for years because I can’t paint…) so there was at least something I knew. I glued them together halfway nicely and started painting them.
Everyone I told about it (including me) had their doubts, so I was expecting nothing at all. I started replicating the exact same techniques, (down to the angle the brush was held) that I had seen online, handling everything exactly like the guys that paint awesome models, just a bit more sloppy, not confident at all, and avoiding the really small stuff up to a certain point.
The result was… not as I had expected at all. The model I painted looked pretty good actually.
TL;DR: I painted something, it didn’t look too dire. Feel free to skip to the next TL;DR after looking at the picture.
Here it is, it is member of the proud species called “Seraphon”, also called “Lizardmen” in earlier editions of the game. You can think of them as Aztec lizard people riding on dinosaurs, led by big hyper-intelligent frogs who are very powerful wizards. They are the mortal enemies (well, not really mortal nowadays, it is complex) of the Chaos demons, and they are one of the mightiest forces of Order in the universe.
Not too impressive, I know, but damn good for somebody like me. And I managed to get better in the meantime.
I even joined a forum (as if I didn’t have enough forums accounts already) to get help, talk about the game, and to post my stuff to get critique to improve it. Turns out there is a friendly Lizardmen-centered community out there, which quickly earned itself a spot on my “most visited” screen, right next to Mudspike and the ED forums.
When I registered there and introduced myself the guys and gals there urged me to post pictures. I wasn’t confident at all. But then I thought “hey, why not, they know I have just started the hobby, and how bad can it be?” Their reactions were very positive and helpful, which was great and really encouraged me to paint more.
TL;DR: I learned how to paint miniatures. I still can’t draw a duck on a paper, but I like painting those small plastic guys.
This is the last TL;DR.
The things about painting those, and the errors I had in my thinking are:
There are different kinds of painting. Drawing and painting something on a piece of paper or a canvas, creating a piece of art, that’s still not my cup of tea. My drawings still look ugly and things like our friend @komemiute does are still far out of reach for me.
But if there is already something that I can follow the lines of, and I already have at least an idea how it should look in the end, that helps a lot. And I can create things that I like.
Knowing the techniques and constant practice can help to improve the results far more than you might expect, even if you are absolutely sure you suck at painting.
Over the last six months I continously got better in painting those models. Still not an expert, but I learned something about art there:
Talent is important, but knowing the techniques and practicing them can (up to a certain point) make up for lack of talent and vice versa.
There are people who can just grab a brush and paint, and create something that looks great. They just do it. They don’t know much about all the colors and which ones should fit together, and why. They just look at something and feel that it will look good.
They don’t need to watch hours of tutorials. If they do they become even better but they don’t need to. Their talent makes up for their lack of knowledge.
I am not one of those persons. I am a 33 year old guy without talent for painting and a tremor in his thumbs, but it turns out that I can paint those Warhammer models well enough that I am not too ashamed to post them here.
In the past nobody taught me the techniques properly, I ended up using only my talent (not much apparently) when I should have used my brain and learn something. I spent those hours learning the techniques and practicing them, and now my knowledge makes up for my lack of talent.
Having that happen to me opened my eyes. I admit it blew my mind to a certain degree.
You can always learn something, and if you have something that you think you cannot to, think about it again. Perhaps there is a different approach to the topic that helps you overcome your problem, at least to a certain degree. As a software developer I should have known. As an open minded person I should have known. As somebody who has had lectures about learning theory, I should have known. I didn’t.
You need to constantly re-evaluate what you can do and what you cannot do. Try stuff you know you cannot do. You might be in for a surprise.
Here’s another of my models that I painted lately:
If you like to take a look at all my painting progress, check out this thread, I post there a few times a week:
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day!