Learning to Paint Volume I, Issue I: A Preamble On the Origins and Purpose of This Column

Hey everyone. This column is going to be a sporadically occurring one on my entry into the world of miniatures painting. I can’t guarantee a regular date for this unlike previous columns that I’ve written simply because hey, you never know how long something will take to paint.

I decided to take up miniatures painting for a few reasons. The first is that quite simply, I haven’t been all that entertained with video games for a while. In fact, I’ve been really bored with most of the offerings this year. Even games I do like I’ve played for maybe an hour or two unless I had to review them. It’s not the first time. I went for nearly all of 2002 with barely playing any games save Pokemon titles. After a while, I need to do something different, and after 475 reviews, video game burnout has reared its ugly head again.

The second reason that I no longer have time for things. The three types of games I like the most are 2D fighters, RPGs and shoot ’em ups. Fighters and shooters don’t take very long to play through, but I’m used to being crazy good at them, and that doesn’t happen if you only have thirty minutes or so a day to play a video game. With RPGs, the lack of time issue should be apparently obvious. Can you imagine trying to keep track of a thirty to seventy hour story when you’re playing in half an hour to one hour increments? Christ, it’d take me a week to get through the prologue of one of those. Don’t even get me started on Square-Enix cut scenes…

The final reason is that I’m under insane amounts of stress right now and it’s no longer possible for me to meditate it away. The time I would normally spend finding inner peace and exorcising my rage is now spent bottle feeding my pet who has developed severe anorexia due to a bad esophagus and ulcer combination. So instead of trying to “zen” I’m instead fighting constantly with my beloved pet who doesn’t understand that not eating = slow and horrible death and is otherwise completely healthy in every other respect. Dealing with mental illness in an animal is so frustrating I can’t even begin to explain it. So I needed an outlet. Some way to relax and channel all of life’s stress in a way that I can actually release it positively. So I chose painting.

Why painting? Well honestly – Bob Ross. I always liked his art show on PBS as a kid and it was eerily calming. So I was hoping I could achieve something similar by painting on my own. The catch is that I can’t paint. At all. Hell, I can barely write with a pen or pencil. See, I don’t have a sense of touch in my finger tips or in either of my pinkies at all. Years of typing at 100+ words per minute, wrestling, kendo, three different martial arts, swimming, and playing video games that require to jam a button more times in a second than should be physically possible (#1 in the world at one point at Star Soldier R – a video game based solely around how fast you can push a single button) has left me with no feeling in my finger tips. Staff members here at DHGF can all attest to the fact my handwriting makes a doctor’s look like calligraphy. If you’ve ever seen me hold a writing implement, it’s like I’m wielding a knife or learned penmanship from watching Bob Dole.

So this creates a conundrum, I know. I obviously have no physical skill for art such as painting, drawing, pottery and what have you because of I don’t have a sense of touch in areas where it is needed the most. So why would I take up something that I will obviously not be very good at and, more importantly, think that this will reduce my stress level instead of actually increase it. Again, it comes back to that state of calm I’ve been missing over the past year. A painter who cannot paint is like a fisherman who does not actually catch fish. There’s something inherently Zen in the idea and it felt right. More importantly as a perfectionist, it was refreshing to go into something I knew I would never be truly great at and that, at best, my work would be passable. To even make something mediocre in this field of choice would be a more impressive accomplishment for me than other things I’ve done. Perfect Galactus on either version of Marvel Vs. Capcom 3? Not a problem. Holding a tiny paint brush steady or staying inside the lines of something. THAT’S a real challenge – at least for me. The goal here was never to create a work of art or even impress anyone. The goal here is to improve myself and recapture my inner peace. At 35, re-learning patience and constantly giving myself a humbling reminder that I will never be great, much less better than average at EVERYTHING I put my mind to, seems a more valuable experience than FINALLY playing Dragon Age: Origins.

So I chose miniatures to paint rather than scenery, still life or the like. I loved playing skirmish minis games when I was younger, especially D&D Minis and Heroclix. However the former no longer exists and the latter has turned into a pile of suck, so both of those options were out. That pretty much left me Warhammer as my go to choice for this. So not only would I get to paint, but I’d be able to do something with the end product that I’ve always enjoyed doing…which is wargaming. At precisely the moment I decided to do this, Games Workshop announced a new Warhammer 40,000 starter set entitled Dark Vengeance. Now I always found the armies of Warhammer Fantasy more interesting than Warhammer 40K. Lizardmen, Tomb Kings, Bretonnia, Vampire Counts, Dwarves and Dark Elves always looked interesting to me while 40K only had the Space Marines that really caught my eye. Still, the only form of Warhammer I’ve ever played was via various video games and I found Kill Team, Space Marine and the like to be far more interesting than Dark Omen or Curse of the Horned Rat. Plus the timing was perfect with Dark Vengeance and it had two different Space Marine armies (Chaos Vs Dark Angels) and so I decided to go that route. Besides it’s not like I was going to be buying several thousand points of extras for each army and then moving on to say, collecting Tau, Necrons and Tyranids (Races in 40K). DV gave me a chance to try my hand at painting and trying the actual tabletop version of Warhammer 40K for the first time. Two new things at once seemed like a great fit to me. Plus it was easier and cheaper than figuring out a Warhammer Fantasy army or two to start with. Island of Blood with its ratfolk and elves just didn’t do it for me. Maybe down the road though…

Now this doesn’t mean the only thing you’ll see in this column are figures from Warhammer 40K. I took part in the massive Reaper Kickstarter which net me 240+ figures for $100. Those will be here around March of 2013. I have a small Skirmish game about underwater Cthulhoid combat entitled DeepWars coming in November/December. I have a set of various dwarves by Stonehaven Miniatures coming that should be here in November as well. There were minis for Call of Cthulhu in the Horror on Orient Express remake that will be here in August of 2013 and a set of minis from the film Gamers: Dorkness Rising coming in September of 2013. Sheesh. As you can see, I have enough figures coming for the forseeable future to paint. Hell, I even told a friend of mine about this new hobby I was picking up and he send me, for free, a massive army of old late 90s Games Workshop Lizardmen (including several things unopened and due to the era, it means metal instead of plastic or resin!) that he purchased but never painted. That’s another 100+ figures sitting here looking to be painted. Crazy, but more material for the column and my new hobby. This means you’ll get to see a wide range of miniatures being painted in this column, although to start it WILL mostly be Games Workshop figures, simply because that’s what’s available to me right now. Reptile people and Space Marines.

Now that I’ve explained why I’m taking up this hobby, I want to explain why I’m doing this COLUMN. Contrary to what you might think it’s not me saying, “Look what I can do. Tell me I’m awesome!” which tend to be what a lot of painting columns are about, especially ones on painting minis. Rather this column has the exact opposite agenda. It’s me saying, “Look. I know I’m not good at this and that I’ll NEVER be good at this, but here’s what I’ve done. Let me know what you think and more importantly, for those that ARE good at this, I’d love to hear from you in the comments telling me how to improve, along with any tips, tricks, and techniques you wish to impart on me and we’ll see if I can make any of them work in spite of that lack of touch throughout my fingers.” The only way I’ll learn or get better is by making this an interactive column and that’s where all of you come in. I have several friends that are well versed in painting minis, several friends that have been playing Warhammer for years (or even decades!) and I’m sure a lot of readers that do one of both of the above as well. So by all means, join me with each rendition of this column. We’ll watch me make newbie blunders and first-timer mistakes, but in the end hopefully we’ll see become decent at this endeavor and most importantly, find some of that inner peace I’ve lost over the past year.

Next issue – We look at my first two Space Marines. Hope you’ll be there for that one as it’ll be my first attempt at painting these very tiny and VERY DETAILED little pieces of plastic. Hopefully we’ll all have fun with this one. See you then.



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7 responses to “Learning to Paint Volume I, Issue I: A Preamble On the Origins and Purpose of This Column”

  1. John Hall Avatar

    Cant wait to see your work in progress alex. Ive never painted or played but ive seen, literally, millions of these painted by friends and people at game cons ive been to over the years and always been amazed by them. I may have feeling in my hands but i cant even paint a flat wall correctly.

    1. Alexander Lucard Avatar

      I’m sure you could do a better job than me dude. ;-)

  2. Degenx Avatar

    Some of my friends recently have taken up Warhammer Fantasy, a game I’ve always avoided because of the painting aspect. However since my right hand is kind mangled right now post surgery, (I had a completely severed flexor tendon and cut through 60% of my ulner nerve in my hand, leaving me with a right hand as function as a T-Rex claw)), I’ve been thinking of taking up mini painting as a rehab activity once I get out of a splint. So mix that with now having friends to play with, I foresee some Warhammer Fantasy in my future. So as a total painting newbie, I”ll be looking forward to reading about your experiences and hopefully learning from them.

    And I agree Heroclix has gone to suck. I’m annoyed with product consistently selling out at the distributor level before it’s even released. Mix that with them releasing too much product causing the collector in me to throw my hands up and give up on that aspect, I’m kinda in the market for a new miniature game any way.

    1. Alexander Lucard Avatar

      Yeah, both my ulnar nerves are pretty shot although I don’t have the tendon problem. Sucks to hear the hand is THAT damaged. I can’t believe a broken glass did all that.

      What Fantasy armies are you looking at? I need a second for my Lizardmen for my Wife to play with. I’m looking at either Tomb Kings, Vampire Counts, Dark Elves, Bretonnia or High Elves. Man, so many choices compared to 40K where I have the only two that interest me besides maybe the Tyranids.

      1. Degenx Avatar

        I know. The people in the ER thought it was an industrial accident. Nope. Just a guy doing dishes.

        I’m not sure what army I want yet. My friends play Empire, Wood Elves, Dwarves, Vampire Counts and Chaos. So I may go with something evil so we have a balanace. Right now I’m bidding on an old starter box at a super cheap price on Ebay. It comes with Orcs and Empire. If I get that I may go Orcs. Really I haven’t looked at a the different armies that much. I’m still in the process of reading up on the rules. I’m about a month or so from getting my splint off and that’s the soonest I’d be able to paint anyway, so I’ve got plenty of time to research.

        1. Alexander Lucard Avatar

          One of the things I love about Warhammer Fantasy is how conventions are kind of thrown to the wind. The most “Lawful Good” army are the Lizardmen. The Empire comes off kind of evil to me. Neither the Tomb Kings or Vampire Counts are actually evil compared to the Orcs, Skaven or Chaos (perhaps they’re even tweeners).

          For some reason I’d have pictured you with Skaven, Beastmen or Ogres.

  3. […] in the first issue of this series, I talked about why I had decided to start trying to paint miniatures and the inherent problems […]

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