Slow grow/Journeyman battleboxes!

Hitting a plateau with my painting…

On the eve of starting on my Tohaa from Infinity, the end of the most recent Journeyman League, and the anniversary of two years since I began this hobby and blog, I find myself at a crossroads…

Tohaa, Primed and ready!
Primed and ready!

I’ve been wrestling with myself for a while now and I think I’m just going to have to admit it…

I’m stuck.

I feel like my painting skills and quality have hit a metaphorical wall.  This is after much reflection on my methods, my results, and brought about while trying to get busy on my Tohaa test model.

If my game hit a plateau or wall, I could switch up my lists, faction, or heck, even gaming system.  But I’m not sure what to do to handle this painting plateau I find myself dangling from.

I feel I’m ready for the next level…

First a retrospective. Since 2011, I’ve graduated to mixing colors, drybrushing, making my own washes, airbrushing, and WN Series 7 brushes. Prior to starting Warmachine, I never painted a miniature in my life.  I rarely painted a picture outside of high school art classes.  So I’ve made some definite and measurable strides in painting.  My problem, I feel, is stagnation.  I’ve always been the one to dive into the deep end when trying and learning new things.  But somewhere along the way, maybe I’ve lost that spirit…

Where I started in 2011...
Where I started in 2011…

This stagnation I can’t help but feel may be stemming in part from the inclusion of the airbrush into my arsenal. While my airbrushing skills have improved (and continue to do so), perhaps it has led to the detriment of my brush skills.  I tend to feel like I must use the airbrush on a model.  While that necessarily isn’t a bad thing, it has become a habit I find hard to break. And short of my airbrush breaking apart, I don’t see its grasp loosening on me anytime soon.

And I’m not so sure I want it to…

Slow grow/Journeyman battleboxes!
To this in 2012…

But where does that leave my brush skills?  I’ve steadily come to the realization that I may be doing it wrong.  It being a couple of painting basics.  Things like thinning my paints and blending.

THIN YO PAINTS is a common criticism leveled to just about anyone who asks for C & C on their minis.  So much so, it’s pretty much a meme at this point.  I’ve been using a wet pallete since attending a class with Meg Maples and I always thought that handled it for me.  However, the more and more I look online and watch videos, the more I seem to think that that isn’t enough or I’m just plain using it wrong (much more likely).  Recently I watched these videos from Studo McVey and noticed my paint is nothing like his is on the palette.  While I never thought that my paint was thick, I also never think it’s particularly thin (excluding airbrush work).  This makes it stand out where I use brush and where I use airbrush.  And that always bothers me.

That series of videos also brings me to my second issue…blending.

Blending has always been an arch-nemesis of mine, not just in miniatures painting, but also in my other artistic endeavors (hence why my drawings tend to never make it out of the black and white line art stage).  Maybe it’s time to finally suck it up and mess up a couple of models, but I’m notoriously hard on myself when things don’t look the way I want them to, so I may get in my own way in terms of progress.

Rhyas - The Rearguard Theme Force, Tier 4
To this in 2013.  Decent progress I think…

As you can see from the three pictures above and if you’ve been a follower of my site for some time, the progress I’ve made in 2 short years is phenomenal in my opinion.  I’m not bemoaning that at all.  And I haven’t exactly stumbled upon it as I paint most nights out of the week.  In fact, I’m probably one of the most prolific painters in my meta.  So the progress has been born out of a ton of practice.

But it’s time for the next step in my evolution.  I feel like part of my personal stagnation is that I’ve become too set in my ways.  Base coat with airbrush, minor highlighting with airbrush (often zenithal, although I’m starting to break away from that habit).  Clean up with brush, a wash, a drybrush here or there, and a final minor line/edge highlight…

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s a process that works for the most part.  But I’m looking for more out of my painting.  I enjoy painting models that are above the average.

This.  This is what I want.  SKill-wise.
This. This is what I want to achieve.

These models are from Angel Giraldez, Infinity‘s studio painter.  I follow him on facebook where he often posts step-by-steps of some models.  On his models you can’t tell where the airbrush ends and the brush begins.  I want this.  I’m just not sure where to begin.

Maybe it is time to go back to basics. And I think the model that started me down this road is going to be the place to start…

Thanks for reading my ramblings.

We’ll see what happens after the Nova Open this weekend…

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13 thoughts on “Hitting a plateau with my painting…”

  1. I feel like I’m in that same place minus the airbrushing, which I’m just now begining to use. I also feel like I’ve been working on “projects” for such a long time that I haven’t really stopped to grab a mini and start from the ground up and work on technique. While I can’t quit my current projects, I brush primed a Rex from my Super Dungeon Explore set to paint. I think the model has enough areas to allow me to practice my wetblending on the skin/muscles and the club. I may try some tattoos as well. Well see. In any case, good luck!

    1. That’s actually a great way to put it: I’ve been working on ‘projects’. My priority was to get them done and painted, so much so that maybe learning new techniques fell by the wayside, although I did always start with the best intentions. With my Legion for example, I wanted them to be a very high display quality from the get go since it was only going to be those 50 points worth of models. I did try new airbrushing techniques which paid off on the skin for sure, and also a ‘refined’ process on the silver-ish metals that I was happy with. But the rest fell into the same trap I talked about. It was nothing new. In hindsight, the J-Man League may have not been the best avenue for technique practice as the time crunch certainly played a part in the final product. But on the other side of the coin, it *did *help actually getting the force fully painted to the degree it was because of the motivating (and at times, de-motivating) time crunch.

      As excited as I am for painting my Tohaa, I want them to be a (very) high quality. So I think I am really going to do like you said, and take a step back. Pick up some other figure and just practice, practice, practice. Hmmm…I *do* have those 6 Malifaux models that I may end up selling off at some point…

      1. That was actually my main reason for getting in on the Reaper KS – so that I’d have a plethora of different models to practice with/on and not feel bad if they didn’t get finished or force myself to finish them as often happens with wargaming models, especially during leagues.

        I finished painting an old Ral Partha model last month that I’m happy with, but mainly because I *finally* got to try out painting wood grain patterning and two-brush blending, which I’d been wanting to try for some time now. The model’s not going to win any awards, but it turned out well and I got to work on some techniques, which made me more satisfied in the end.

  2. You know what. You are not alone… Obviously…
    I recommend these steps to get out of the rut because I assure you you haven;t peaked.

    1) Start a paint club.. Meet at your FLGS take a mini and advertise to others that you will be up there to paint your own minis. Get your favorite beverage and sit around with friends. and [aint. You’ll pick up a few things from beginners and p[ainters better than yourself.

    2) find a master painter whose style you like and take a class from them.. Meg Mables a former PP staffer and now freelancer is visiting cons.and offering classes. I’ll drop you a hint as well she is from your area. She usually visits home at Christmas new years and I know for a fact if you ask she will organize a paint class.

    3) attend reaper con.. and take some of thier classes..

    4) take a water color class as at a local art hobby story or community center.

  3. Hey there Ron I hear you on this. While I haven’t been [painting as much of late I am feeling the same thing to. It is funny you mention the airbrush as I think my airbrush is impacting me as well. I find I only have interest in getting better with the airbrush at the moment and brush painting doesn’t have the same appeal. I am taking a class with M. Maples in Canada in October so hopefully this gets me back in gear.

    On a side note you planning on hitting Templecon ’14?

    1. Yes indeed! I should be at Templecon ’14!

      It’s a really odd thing with the airbrush…You’d swear I’d have never picked up a brush before! For now, I guess it’s up to watching youtube videos and applying what I learn.

      I took a class with Meg awhile ago and it was a great time! If she comes back around, I’d see about doing it again myself.

  4. Try thinning your acrylics not with water but with Actual Thinning Medium; it makes quite a difference. A good idea for blending is to add a drop of Drying retardant (sold in art stores) to the base color and then work your way with a wet blend using the wet palette. Have you tried NMM (Non metallic Metal techniques) ? As of late, I’ve been abandoning the metallic paints on my models since it’s more of a challenge with NMM and since most of my models have bright color schemes; it works wonders.

    Have you tried your hand at Pigments? They also come in handy. Just make sure to buy cheap art pigments or Mate makeup pigments; not expensive Hobby ones. They’re pretty much the same thing.

    Another great idea is to try your hand at something different. Customization; sculpting; and maybe even diorama work. It really depends if you’re in it just for the strategy and what comes with it or also because of just the hobby aspect of it.

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