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Slatejunco

Advice Appreciated: Mixing Things Up to Get Out of a Rut

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(Wasn't sure where to post this -- if it belongs in a different forum, please let me know!)

 

So, with January come New Year's resolutions. One of my resolutions this year (aside from the Big Three: being kinder, handsomer, and richer) is to break out of some of my longstanding painting ruts and, hopefully, discover some new things. The question for y'all is: What approaches have worked for you to reawaken your sense of painting adventure and expand your skillset?

Some things I'm considering:

  • Posting more work on this forum, even if it's just a running tally of the stuff I've done. This is #1.
  • Starting a painting blog. I've never blogged before.
  • Creating a smaller "core" paintset from my sprawling collection, and working just from that. But good lord, I love ALL THE COLORS.
  • Moving on from humanoid figures. This is a big one; I haven't completed many monsters, and fur, feathers, and scales intimidate me.
  • Working on more simple figures to practice technique and color choice. Modern minis often have this wonderful, Wayne Reynolds-level of detail and fiddly bits, but sometimes that's a rabbit hole that distracts me from practicing composition.
  • Finding a way to value finishing over fiddling. This is a big one; I want to sling some lead and get practice-by-repitition. It's time to give up on the idea of getting each mini perfect. But for someone like me, it is a tough mindgame to win.

 

Have any of these worked for you? What other tricks, tips, or fun distractions have changed your mindset and opened up new possibilities for you?

 

Thanks in advance!

 

-slate


 

Edited by Slatejunco
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-- cleaning, organizing or setting up the paint station.  Start looking through stuff and ideas will flow.

-- setting aside minis you are frustrated with, to look at later with fresh eyes

-- pulling out something just for fun: chibis, mouslings, holiday figures, whatever 

-- planning for a game, tabletop skirmish or rpg

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28 minutes ago, Slatejunco said:

aside from the Big Three: being kinder, handsomer, and richer

 

Kinder is easy enough but if you figure out how to do the other 2 especially #3 let me know! I have stalled for long periods of time in the past. The last couple of years has seen a level of productivity for me that I've never had before. Some of it I can't really explain but there are a few things that obviously helped me.

 

#1 Sharing my work. Just posting my finished work on here has helped keep me going. Even when there isn't a lot of discussion going on it's nice to have that contact with people with the same interests. I've never tried a blog because my work is often sporadic. Even when I try a WIP thread it's almost guaranteed to stall and when it's going good I forget to document things. So mostly finished jobs from me.

 

#2 Using the finished minis in games. Most of my life I've played with crappy terrain and partially painted minis. Even though I'm not playing that much nowadays compared to years ago I just decided to try my best to have good looking games. Took the better part of the last couple of years but I'm finally feeling like I'm over the hump where I have enough terrain and minis finished to do that. Now that I'm over the hump as I put it it just feels easier to keep on rolling. Tons of minis to paint and always more terrain ideas popping up but it doesn't feel as overwhelming or intimidating as before.

 

#3 I like to mix up the projects so that I don't burn out on any of them. Sometimes I work on higher quality and detail, sometimes I just pop out a bunch of tabletop quality. Sometimes I do a bunch of terrain, sometimes minis. If any of it starts to frustrate me I just put it away for awhile and work on something else. I've had minis that I really wanted to paint but just nothing seemed to work out. Left them for awhile (even a year or more for a couple) and when I came back to them things just flowed and I finished without the headaches. If I try to force it I tend to make a mess so I try to find something that holds my attention for that day. I'm trying to do a little every day but some days I just can't handle small details so I go drybrush some terrain. If it ain't fun what's the point?

 

#4 Every so often I pick a semi random mini and say let's try this colour or this technique. Depending on how confident I feel about my chances I'll pick minis I like more or less. I've got enough variety stockpiled now because of the Bones Kickstarters. One I did not long ago was a mini I didn't really have any feelings about and once I got working on her I really liked what I was doing and how she turned out. Now she's one of my favourite minis and maybe the best overall quality I painted. Right after that I did another that the colours and mini didn't grab me and the best I can say is that she's painted.

 

I've found that I'm not a big fan of highly detailed, cluttered minis. Trying to pick out the little details and not being able to do much with them other than a quick base colour gets frustrating. I enjoy painting simpler minis where I can play around with various shades and tones a lot more. I'm not real comfortable doing the big monsters either. I've done a bunch now but much prefer ogre sized and smaller. I find it hard to put a lot of effort into individual small details on really big minis and they often devolve into fast drybrush and wash jobs just to get as much area done as quick as possible.

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When I can't get myself to paint, I try to make up a backstory for a nice mini, seek inspiration in books/comics/movies.

Start prepping a mini, maybe make some terrain.

 

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Hmm, I'm going to try reverse psychology on myself and say: "For 2019, I will *stay* in a rut!"

 

That way, if I stay in a rut, I can say I kept my resolution. If not, then I painted minis!

 

WIN-WIN!

 

More seriously, I need to cut down on distractions (a web connected 47" TV in front of me is awfully tempting), and improve the lighting in the room. If it's brighter, my brain feels like it wants to be active. Whereas when it's dark, my brain just wants to rest and let the TV/internet do the thinking.

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2 hours ago, Slatejunco said:

What approaches have worked for you to reawaken your sense of painting adventure and expand your skillset?

 

Taking classes, and actually taking time to practice the tips and techniques learned. I can't count how many videos I've "watched" compared to practicing the techniques demonstrated.

 

Posting work is helpful, as it provides a log of your work and something to go back through to catalog your progress. I've tried to put in enough details for "future me" to look back on and understand what I was thinking and what my processes were. Maybe they will be the same in the future, maybe they will change. Who knows. It also provides the readers with some rough guides if I manage to execute something well.

 

I would also say to establish goals and deadlines, and having a definition of what "done" is. Endlessly tweaking a mini is likely the answer for competition, but if you are painting for a board game, there has to be an acceptable level that you must yield to.

 

For what it is worth, I have been on a temporary painting hiatus as I am working on building a gaming dining table...so my cycles are all in the woodshop at the moment, but I will be back at posting my own progress soon...ish. So other advice would be: don't have too many hobbies taking up your precious time! :lol:

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I am very much in a similar state as you, and trying to address some identical concerns/issues, Slate. So, while I cannot state what has worked for me, I CAN state what I am attempting & results, and hopefully it may give you some ideas/insight?

 

*As a disclaimer, on a scale of 0 to 10, with a 10 being "I paint as well as Marike Reimer" and 0 being "I paint my mini with Crayola Markers", I rate my current skill as a solid 3... maybe a near 4 at times.

 

1) Biggest issue for me is finishing models vs. perfecting them. This has held me back for many years. I'm addressing this by trying to find one thing on each mini to devote the bulk of my effort on, or to use as a learning task. Usually it's a large focal point on the mini, i.e. the cloak or armor or flesh; rather than making the whole mini look perfect, I try to improve that one item, and use more basic techniques on the other bits. If I get to the point where I can't get that cloak to look any better, then I've got a mini practically done, instead of having to worry about fiddling to get that skin or sword to the same quality. It's ok to tell myself "it's not perfect, but that's the best I've got right now" and move on.

 

2) I also have many paints, to the point where I don't think I've ever used some of them. I get in a rut using the same colors over and over. To that end, I just finished a figure that had lots of different leather (armor, pouches, skirt/kilt, pants, etc). I had all these shades of brown that I didn't know what they looked like, so I pulled out 3 or 4 dissimilar shades of them for base colors, and said this figure is going to be a study in browns. I'm really pleased with how it turned out. The point being, rather than dumb-down my core paint set, I just grabbed some new colors that looked suitable for the mini, and now I have a reference for what they look like if I want to use them later. I am going to do the same with another color on the next mini, probably using blues.

 

3) I also don't use my best, most detailed minis right now. I'm working through the original Bones 1 Kickstarter set (yep, those never got finished, I told you perfection-seeking had been holding me back, lol), and most of those are fairly straightforward minis to paint. It's helping me not get bogged down over fiddling with what color to make the details so everything stands out as different from the previous one.

 

4) I tend to surf places like Artstation to look at 2-D art, usually fantasy, and typically find color schemes within them that inspire me to try new colors. For example, for orc skin I'd generally make some shade of green or greenish brown. But I found a piece where the artist had made the skin using these wonderful shades of yellows and brownish-yellows, and I want to try to replicate it. Things like that are challenging me to push out of my comfort zone, and be a bit more adventurous. And it also helps me solve the bottleneck question "what color do I make this"? I just have to try to replicate what I've seen.

 

These are the things I've been trying out, and it seems to be working for me, because I'm finishing models, I'm excited to be painting, and hopefully I'm improving.

 

Good luck to you. Hope my journey can benefit yours in some way, and I am always up for comparing notes if you'd like.

 

-MvM

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1.  Definitely post more of your work.  It's motivating. Check out the Show Off regularly.  I like seeing what other people have done with the same minis I have and getting inspired by what they've done. Post your goals for each month in Generic Fighter's monthly goals thread under Speed/Army/Tabletop.  I have found that really helps me keep track of what I want to do.

 

2.  There's a lot to be said for simpler minis.  They give you a chance to experiment with colors and techniques without getting bogged down in the fiddly bits. I love detailed minis, but those fiddly bits can be a distraction, as well as frustrating.  Use the same mini, but paint it in different colors.  I've painted my favorite dwarf mini three times, and could easily do him three more times!

 

3.  I, too, used to hesitate about painting the minis I really liked because I was afraid to mess them up.  But if you don't like the way it turned out, remember you can always strip it and paint it again.  Simple Green is your friend!

 

4.  Remember, too, that at some point you just have to call it done.  I am definitely a fiddler and tweaker, but the two-foot rule always applies.

 

 

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Some excellent thoughts here.

 

My addition is this: consolidate your workstation!

 

The fact that my workstation at my office only requires 30 seconds of prep to go from "I've been working on spreadsheets all day" to "now I'm painting miniatures on my lunch break" and another 45 seconds to put away has meant that I actually spend time painting (even if I have been terrible about updating my Lunch Sessions WiP thread). If I have to do too much before I can actually pick up a brush, I won't.

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Thank you all for the great advice and for sharing your experiences. It's always heartening to hear that I'm not the only one with these sorts of struggles.

 

I've started paying more attention to the WIP board, and I find it particularly inspiring to see the variety of ways people manage to turn chaos into art. My hope is to come up with some sort of simple photo station and share more of my stuff. Maybe not any proper WIP threads -- my method doesn't lend itself well to the awesomely detailed writeups many people do -- but at least getting my work out there in the name of charting progress and asking for some C&C.

 

I'd also like to respond to some of the specific advice ya'll have given, but perhaps a bit later; it's late here and I'm not focused enough to dive in too deeply. But I wanted to express my gratitude for all the feedback!

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Honestly, you don't need a detailed WIP. Just posting pictures is okay, and perhaps a "I did this part in these photos, whatcha think?" 

The forums are good for figuring things out. 

Today I got working on a figure that I'd been stuck on. I am largely done with her, but didn't have her weapons, or hair done. The weapons were giving me trouble. So she sat for a few months. Today she has her hair and horns done! 

I'm looking forward to seeing your work ::):

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On 1/8/2019 at 12:45 PM, Slatejunco said:

What approaches have worked for you to reawaken your sense of painting adventure and expand your skillset?

Some things I'm considering:

  • Posting more work on this forum, even if it's just a running tally of the stuff I've done. This is #1.
  • Starting a painting blog. I've never blogged before.
  • Creating a smaller "core" paintset from my sprawling collection, and working just from that. But good lord, I love ALL THE COLORS.
  • Moving on from humanoid figures. This is a big one; I haven't completed many monsters, and fur, feathers, and scales intimidate me.
  • Working on more simple figures to practice technique and color choice. Modern minis often have this wonderful, Wayne Reynolds-level of detail and fiddly bits, but sometimes that's a rabbit hole that distracts me from practicing composition.
  • Finding a way to value finishing over fiddling. This is a big one; I want to sling some lead and get practice-by-repitition. It's time to give up on the idea of getting each mini perfect. But for someone like me, it is a tough mindgame to win.

 

Have any of these worked for you? What other tricks, tips, or fun distractions have changed your mindset and opened up new possibilities for you?


 

 

Slate,

 

I've tried several of those ideas.

 

1) Posting work here is a good one. As far as running tallies go, I also enter all the painting completions in a log book, a habit I've cultivated since 1995.  

 

2) Personally, I would find the blog to be a disincentive; I'm having a hard time motivating myself to keep my gaming and painting blog updated, but perhaps I'll give it another shot in the new year.  It does seem to work well for my friend (and fellow Forumite) Chris Palmer: http://allbonesabout.blogspot.com

 

3) My version of this is the travel painting kit: http://forum.reapermini.com/index.php?/topic/72131-travel-paint-kit/&tab=comments#comment-1478628  As you can see, I'm restricted to about 20 bottles in that context.  I have a bigger paint set at the office for the occasional quiet lunch, along the same lines as Sanael as he mentions above.  My son, my brother, and I have also spent some time speed painting things at Gencon.  They give you 12 colors for that AND put 45 minutes on a timer. I did these guys last year: http://forum.reapermini.com/index.php?/topic/80857-gencon-the-loomining/&do=findComment&comment=1743073

 

4) and 5) Both of those sound like really good ideas to me.  I've been combining them lately, with some Oathsworn Burrows and Badgers figures.  They usually have some of the fur covered up, so you don't have to do whole animal patterns, and the clothing and equipment is relatively simple.  http://forum.reapermini.com/index.php?/tags/burrows and badgers/  Overall, they have been a lot of fun to paint, and much easier and more relaxing than I expected, given that I have some trepidation about trying to match animal colors.  I've been starting with a search of Google Images...

 

6) As several other people have mentioned, playing games with the figures helps to keep me motivated.  It helps that everyone I play with has a cultural expectation that only finished miniatures belong on the table.  Old table shots and battle reports here: http://sharpbrush.blogspot.com and here: http://forum.reapermini.com/index.php?/topic/64666-house-tabletop-opens-the-gameroom-come-on-in-and-talk-gaming-and-paint/

 

I don't now that I have any other good ideas; your list seems pretty good. ::D:

 

 

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26 minutes ago, Rob Dean said:

2) Personally, I would find the blog to be a disincentive; I'm having a hard time motivating myself to keep my gaming and painting blog updated, but perhaps I'll give it another shot in the new year.  It does seem to work well for my friend (and fellow Forumite) Chris Palmer: http://allbonesabout.blogspot.com

 

 

 

     Yes, as Rob says, my blogging has really kept me on task painting Bones.  I started the Blog by challenging myself to paint every figure I received in the Bones 1 Kickstarter; and though it was quite a hurdle, I'm so glad I did it as it forced me to paint a lot of figures that I wouldn't have necessarily chosen on my own.  It also gave me the opportunity to try out a bunch of different techniques and skills; and I think it's fair to say I'm a better painter for it.  

 

Given all that, my number one motivator is gaming.  Nothing promotes finishing a figure like wanting (or needing) to use it in a game.   It really boosts my excitement for painting when I'm planning a new character/unit/warband.

 

 

Edited by Chris Palmer
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A little late to the party but some of the things that help me.

 

Picking one "focal point" per mini has helped me to increase my paining volume.  I used to fall into the same cycle of either never starting a particular mini or starting and not finishing because the task seemed impossible.  There were to many things that needed to be just right.  Instead the compromise I've made is to work on speeding up my personal "table top standard" on the majority of each mini but then choosing the cloth or the metallics or a tatoo or whatever technique you want to really "go after".  It kind of scratches both itches of getting things done but at the same time "perfecting" at least a part.

 

Next, I try to keep several different styles of minis (wizard, martial class, beast, monster, skeleton, etc.) basecoated and available at all times.   With a little one running around and dance and drums and gymnastics and etc., my hobby time is usually short and random.  As such I never know when I'll get a chance or what I'll actually feel like painting.  This way when the time comes there's usually something I'm happy to paint ready to go.

 

Just to reiterate @Chris Palmer 's point, a gaming deadline is probably the best focus and motivation I can find these days.  If I know I've got a week to paint 6 goblins, 12 zombies, 3 bugbears and an evil wizard, good enough gets good enough real quick with the henchmen.  That way I can spend a little extra time with the BBEG.

 

Also give yourself the chance to step away sometimes.  There are times ya just get burned out on the hobby and it's okay.  Other times you just can't get a technique to work and it can drive you crazy.  I've found those periods last much longer when I actively try to force myself to paint or beat my head against a wall on a technique.  I've always found my way back and it usually didn't take much effort on my part.   

 

Finally, catastrophic leg injuries.  Best to keep them below the hip so you can still sit up.  When you've got full days for several weeks and you can't really move much outside a 10ft  radius or so, your miniature productivity will skyrocket.  (not really recommended but I think I knocked out 3/4 of bones 1 in couple of months)

 

 

 

 

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