Painting Competition Miniatures: No More Excuses
My key philosophy for painting miniatures quickly while staying sane is to not worry about mistakes. Painting wargames miniatures is very much about putting painted miniatures on the table. Stopping to fix a mistake, or even worse, stripping and restarting a model, is not the way to get this done. I’m much happier applying the lessons learned from my latest mistake to the next miniature I paint. In this way I improve but also build my forces so that I can actually play the games I want to play.
Painting a miniature for competition is a completely different experience for me. No longer is it possible to shrug my shoulders and say “I’ll do better next time.” If something doesn’t look right or work I must fix it, there is no excuse. This is something I knew going into to painting Bent Bristle’s “Walkin’ Boss” figure. I won it in a raffle at the Miniature Figures Ottawa Gatineau Show.
While I did very well in the show I knew that all of the miniatures I displayed were painted as wargame, and although I had used “Maximum Effort” when painting them I applied my philosophy of not fixing mistakes. If I noticed a mold line after priming that mold line was there to stay. Since the show is about improvement I thought that painting the miniature I won to a competition level would be a good way to show improvement for the next show.
For Example: Painting the Face
My first stop in painting any miniature is to begin with the flesh. I like to paint from the inside out and with few exceptions always start with the flesh. In this case I actually painting the gun handle first as he is holding it in his hand, making it a “lower level” than his flesh.
This image was taken after the first night of painting the flesh. I used my normal practice of working with opaque paints and smoothing with glazes. This isn’t really about how I painted the flesh though, or at least not the technique of it. It’s more how my approach has to change because of my intentions with this miniature. Normally I would be happy with the blending for a wargame miniature, but it didn’t look right to me so instead of moving on to the next part of the miniature I returned to the flesh again.
After a second night of painting I’m happier with the hands and how the highlights on the cheekbones look. However something about the eyes bugged me and it took an day of staring at this picture and thinking about it before I realized the problem: the darkest shadows under the lower eyelids are too stark.
I was able to fix this and improve the entire eye area the next painting session, but I’m still not 100% happy with the left (model’s right) eye. The lower eyelid isn’t visually separated enough from the eyeball and the shape and size of the iris isn’t right. Once I get that fixed I’ll be ready to move to the next section.
In the past couple of weeks I’ve noticed I am more reticent to go paint this miniature compared to wargame figures I have painted in the past. If I am completely honest I am terrified that I won’t live up to my own ego. Giving myself the permission to paint a flawed miniature means that if I ever see a better painted miniature I can tell myself: “Well yes, if I was really trying I could paint as well as or better than that.”
Now that I’m painting this miniature to the best of my abilities I will have to admit that this is the best I can do. Once I have accepted this the stress should fall away. I’m not there yet but like all my limitations I will keep on working at it.