(Due to a technical glitch, this post didn’t go up Tuesday, like I planned. Enjoy it today, and I’ll have Humpday Links up later this afternoon/evening.)
I’ve had a love/hate relationship with miniatures since very early on in my RPG geekery. I loved using them, but my early attempts at painting were disastrous at best. I have since learned that was a result of the materials I was trying to use (oil Testor paints and a bulky nylon brush, not the best paints to learn on). But about fifteen years ago I started playing Games Workshop games (Necromunda ftw!), which pretty much required me to learn how to paint. This time, my FLGS set me up with the right paints and brushes, and even gave me a few lessons. Lo and behold, I actually had some talent! Amazing how being good at something makes it fun, eh?
Necromunda led to Warhammer 40K, which led to Warhammer Fantasy, which led to Games Workshop burnout, which led to other miniature skirmish games like Warzone. If I had to count the number of miniatures I painted in the four years of my Tabletop Wargame Phase, I would probably put it in the 1500+ range. And I loved it! Sometimes I loved painting the miniatures more than I loved playing the games. This led to a couple of occasions where I “Santa Claused” some kid at the FLGS with a fully painted army, because I’d finish painting it and be bored with it. After my wargame phase ended I continued painting miniatures, both for my own role-playing games and for other people. For a while one funded the other; I would often take Reaper minis (still the best on the market, in my opinion) in trade for painting someone’s 40K army.
Now, there did come a phase wherein I stopped painting minis. Wizards of the Coast began their line of collectible pre-painted plastic figs, and I admit I heeded the siren’s call. What can I say? At this point I was using miniatures strictly for table-top RPGs, and the plastic WotC figs saved me the one thing every GM needs more of: time. Time spent away from painting could be better spent preparing for the next game, so for a while I stayed with the pre-paints.
But eventually I came back to painting miniatures again. Turns out that it meant more to me than having the right figs for the next game session. Painting minis gave me a tangible creative outlet. Sure, I had that with RPGs, but as creative as running a gaming session can be, at the end of it there is nothing for me to point at and say, “There, that is what I created.” With miniatures I can show off my talent, and every mini I paint gives me a physical record of how I’ve improved or what I need to work on. Beyond that, painting minis is relaxing. Like meditation, it requires focus without tension in order to do it well.
And it is a lot easier than it might first appear. Trust me, I am no great artist. And I have managed to paint some minis that I am not only not ashamed of, but that have actually garnered compliments. Heck, people used to hand over cold, hard cash to have me paint for them, which either makes me sort of good, or them sort of crazy.
So for a great little hobby that will give you hours of fun, I can’t recommend miniatures painting enough. Your FLGS or local Games Workshop store may even run classes on it, which is a great way to learn and practice. It doesn’t cost a lot to get into it (unless you go the Games Workshop route; sorry GW, but it’s true), and if you work through your first few “masterpieces”, you’ll find yourself developing skills you never knew you had. And as useful as plastic, pre-painted minis can be, they don’t quite compare with even the simplest hand-painted miniature on the table.
And if you live in Edmonton and want to get together to paint minis sometime, drop me a line here. I’d love to get a painting group together again!
Comments? Questions? You know where they go!