Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Scaling Lead Mountain - Eight Tips For Reaching the Peak

I thought about an appropriate title for this post for a bit. It's hard to encapsulate the topic, and right now the title field is empty, but I'm sure I'll come up with something.

So. All those projects. There's nothing new about folks bemoaning the lack of time/willpower/skill/extra arms required to complete all the projects they have in their head to satisfaction. Tons of hobbyists tell you about the list of incredible projects they have coming up that just never materialize. There's even the cheery notion that a hobbyist can't die until he's painted all his miniatures. This is not true. Unpainted lead does not bestow immortality. In fact, it may even cause a health hazard as it teeters on the point of collapse, threatening the pulverize those below into marmalade.

I've been doing this a while now, almost 30 years, and I've had some conversations over the years on how the lead pile might be tackled. There are many suggestions. Good suggestions that I often ignore completely, but I'll list them here for ye to take on or ignore at your pleasure. If even one child is saved from a wardrobe full of unassembled, unpainted models, I'll go to my grave happy. Well, not happy as such, more trying to suck in one more bitter, ragged breath while railing against the unfairness of it all while I soil myself all over the nurses, but let's go with happy.

Before I get into the tips on salving this situation, let me put things in context on a personal level. I have a TON of projects I really, really want to work on. (Deep beath) Theeeerree's: the rest of my undead (I have at least two thousand undead models, most of them metal) the chaos dwarf army, the rest of the fimir army, the Genestealer Cult, The Martian and human factions for All Quiet on the Martian Front, the Realm of Chaos army, the Chaos Renegade warband, undead BlooBowl team, Scavvy gang, and that's just the ones I really want to do and can remember. I'd also like to work on my Chinese and Japanese undead, Orc army, 2000ad Torquemada and his terminators Pulp Alley league, etc, etc etc.

As you can see, it's enough to keep me going for some years without ever buying another model. Will I then not buy any more models? I think the clip below delivers the response to that question perfectly.

Right now, I'm getting excited over the new undead releases from Games Workshop and the new dark eldar plastic wracks, so let's assume an ongoing amount of new models are adding the pile on a regular basis. There's probably an equation somewhere for this. New stuff over old stuff divided by time plus inclination equals painted models or something. Anyway.With that in mind, here we go.

1. Accept you'll never get it all done.
Let go. Take a deep, cleansing breath and exhale. Repeat after me: 'I will NEVER get everything painted. Were I to live for a thousand years, there would still be a box of stuff in the cabinet I meant to get to someday.' Now, with that acceptance of inevitable failure, the piles of blisters and boxes will seem less oppressive. After all, this isn't a job, it's a bleedin' hobby.

Just own it.

2. Decide what kind of painter you are.
Are you an individual model painter? An army painter? What kind of army? Big hordes of gobbos? A small skirmish force? A bit of each? Approach each project with that consideration in mind. If you want to win the golden demon, crystal brush and so on, great. Pouring hours into one model leads to often beautiful results, but don't paint a skaven horde like that. You often see folks on the internets that can crack out amazing armies of individually astounding miniatures in jig time. IGNORE THAT. These are often from studios where folks have learned all the tricks for painting models fast and to a high standard, and they do it all day, every day. It's the painters version of looking at pictures of photoshopped supermodels and comparing their ass to yours. Admire yes, but find your own pace and standard.

3. Stop Being Precious
This is really more of 2, but fmeh. Don't endlessly tinker with already painted models. It is the road to madness. Paint a model. If there's something you don't like, tinker away, but don't expect to get loads painted. It's super frustrating, as lack of progression is a killer for painting mojo. Paint the model. Paint the next model. Especially if you're doing an army. Stick that dude with the chalky layering in the middle rank. I say this, but I have 4 fianna fimm awaiting stripping so I can redo them. Sigh.

Don't do what I do kids.
4. Cheat
Not in the games. That is the realm of the douche. For painting, yes? Find techniques that speed things up. Shaded basecoat, drybrushing, zenithal highlighting, glazing, dip, precision washes, the list goes on. There's so much more out there than layering. Don't ignore any technique, try stuff. I keep looking at getting an airbrush. Those things are time saving magical paint shooting wands, so they are.

Also, it's not cheating. If your miniature looks good when you're done, it doesn't matter what awful things you did to it to get it there. One great question I read on Massive Voodoo, I believe it was, went: 'What do you use to get the great earth effect on your model's bases?' The answer was actual earth. Dried out and so on, but just real dirt. If it works, it works.

5. Keep Moving
The way to keep the hobby exciting is similar to the reason a shark keeps swimming. To stop is to die. Keep at it. Even if it's ten minutes every day, paint for ten minutes. They all add up, those ten minutes. There will always be demands on your time. It's amazing how you can get a regiment painted in those little snatches of hobby time. If you can, keep a place where you can leave models, paints and such, out. Unpacking everything every time you want to paint is another barrier to your finished miniature. I have a nice permanent paint station in the man cave, but I bought the Games Workshop painting tray thing a few years ago. It's one of the best items I ever bought for the hobby. I can leave models and paints on it, bring them up the living room, paint in front of the fire, chat and half watch tv. I can pop it back down to the cave when I get too dru...I mean tired, and not have to pack stuff away. I can just pick up where I left off. One recommends it.

Turns out this is as handy as a small pot.

6. Follow Your Muse
This is a tricky one. Especially when it comes to army painting. To keep the motivation levels up, don't paint 40 skeletons in one go. Batch painting is another trick one can use, but even so, keep each batch to between five and ten models. But as you paint that new army, slowly, every other model you're not painting seems like way more fun than the one you are painting. This gets to crisis levels if you don't deal with it. The so called hobby butterfly kicks in and voila, another half finished project. A way to deal with this is to give in early. Say you're painting 50 skeletons. Paint ten. Then do the movement tray. Paint another 10. Then paint a necromancer. Paint another 10. Then paint something totally different. That Bloodbowl referee, that Necromunda special character etc. The break gives you a bit of a palette cleanser and keeps your painting stamina high for getting those 50 skeletons done. We're doing this for fun, after all, so if you really want to paint something different while you're slogging through a large group of models, do it, and use the change to reinvigorate your determination to go back to the bigger project.

7. Stay Focused & Have a Plan
'But you just said paint whatever you want!' I hear you cry. Yes. I did. But. Also, when you're not taking a break from the squad of orcs to paint that fairy, paint the orcs. If you're painting a squad, decide the make-up of the squad before you start. How many troopers, special weapons, etc. If it's an army, make a list. Each regiment, squad or even individual will add to your total, and as you see units complete, it'll spur you on to paint more.

8. Play Games
I don't play anywhere near as much as I'd like, but few things get the creative juices flowing like playing some actual games with your minis. Every time I come back from a good game I want to expand the army I just played, or add some new terrain or whatever. If you're lucky enough to have a good, regular group or club, all the better. Whittering on about how your 30k space marines are made from eighteen different kits to someone who is listening AND interested does wonders for your painting enthusiasm. it's a social hobby too, after all.

I'm sure I'm forgetting some things, but for now, there you go. I hope this helps anybody out there who's scaling the lead (also plastic, resin restic, playdoh...) mountain. Aha! I think I just found my title.


  1. Excellent text Mr Saturday. I think that the most important advice is to keep painting every day - 5 minutes every day counts too, 10 is better, one hour daily, even just before midnight, is great for your miniatures:)

    1. It all adds up. Something is always better than nothing.

  2. Agree with most of what you say. Having several projects on the go is counter intuitive, but it works for me. I have painted in batches of 30+, it works on simple subjects like skeletons, but not recommended for complex things like elves. Finally, I have an airbrush and it's alright for bigger things, but I seem to spend more time cursing it and cleaning it than I save by using a brush. It's not a magic wand, sorry to say.

    1. That's probably what's kept me from getting an airbrush, to be honest. The maintenance and cleaning. I think several projects is probably a good way to keep going, getting tired of one and doing a bit of the next one. Takes discipline to keep them all on the rails though, I'd imagine.

  3. You know me mate, I was never much of an army painter- more for something nice for my D&D sessions. A big crate of prepainted plastics for the bizarre and unusual, hand painted for Characters and important NPCs. The Kickstarter Bones from Reaper have given me enough to be going on with for at least the next decade, and unless you try pick them up, there's no telling the difference. Are the castings a bit soft? Sure, but you can paint in detail and in any case, most of them will be encounters and such: look great for my table, not intended for judging.

    1. No, you're a roleplayer through and through son. You can crack out a fantastic mini though, which is even more impressive considering how infrequently you paint the wee fellows. Speaking of bones, did that big worm ever get sent out for the KS?

    2. Not yet- here's a gander at their flyover of the whole range- he's hard to miss. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etP6_Ukj6AM&feature=youtu.be
      From what I've gathered, they're finishing manufacturing, and are sending out the sets in phases between now and January- I was a bit later, so I don't get them until December...

    3. Groovy. I've heard they can be a little pliable, but I've not handled one myself, (fnar) so I can't say for sure.

  4. A series of meritorious notions indeed.

    I've had a bit of a Revelation while reading this, too; the point at which I became sick of painting Warmachine squads is the point at which they started to be sold in units of ten rather than six, and the point at which I started to give a toss about the members of a unit looking the same. If I'd bought six two years back and six now it didn't chew me up so much that they didn't match, but if I buy a new unit of ten I feel I have to force myself to paint them all at once so that they actually look like a UNIT.

    That probably doesn't make much sense; I'm not sure that it's even logical.

    1. It makes all kinds of sense. Strange how there things work. Even numbers imply some manner of organisation, so we apply that to the models. 9 goblins is raggedy group, 10 goblins is a unit.

  5. Is it really lame to suggest 'stop buying things' as a top way of getting through the leadpile?

    I'm skint, right, that's the only reason I stopped buying things (and even then, not that I really did). But it's amazing how not having a flow of shiny new stuff, most of which I didn't really need or use, made me re-evaluate what I already had. When it came down to it, painting a bunch of elderly 90s plastics was just as fun as any new kit, and I'd really thought about what I wanted to do with it.

    1. No, it's a valid strategy. I don't personally buy a lot of models myself, just the ones I really can't resist, but I do trade a fair bit, so there's always a trickle of new stuff coming in.

      As to it being fun painting old models, I can only agree. A lot of my models are 20+ years old, and I can't wait to paint them.

  6. How long did typing that lot keep you away from the painting table? ; )

    Actually I find blogging and forming and general internetting is a huge time sink, which was the reason for my near total radio silence in the months preceding BOYL 2014!

    That and many cheaty methods like ink washes over zenithal undercoats and army painter quick shade meant I was able to more than double the size of my Orc Horde!

    Lots of other sage advice here - definitely agree about the playing games bit.

    1. True enough now. Actually, I find the motivation I get from blogging more than makes up for the time spent on it, which is a lot less than you might think!

      Your horde is looking very splendid indeed, I must say. It really is getting rather enormous.Your gobbo wolf riders are a personal favourite.

  7. Replies
    1. Cheers Steve, hopefully you found something of use in there.

  8. That's a great post. I especially enjoyed the "what type of painter you are". That one took me a while to figure out. For a long time I wanted to be an individual figure painter, but I just don't have the talent. However what I lack in talent I make up in discipline. Once I accepted that I'm an army painter first, and that there is quality in quantity, I became a much happier wargamer ;-)

    Great blog btw

    1. Thanks Iannick. Finding your level as a painter, while still being willing to try new things is the happy medium I think. It's amazing how much more fulfilling painting is once you decide what kind of painter you are and what you want from the hobby.


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