Sunday, 15 May 2011

Good habits and getting distracted

I'm going to take a quick break from talking about my battles to talk about painting. Not so much how to paint but getting into the habit of painting.

Back in my introduction I talked about how it had been years since I had done any painting and how I've not had a fully painted army since I was a kid. Now already I have about 1300pts of Lizards fully painted and the majority was completed in only a matter of weeks. There are several factors that have contributed to this and I want to talk about them today. Now I don't want to claim that this is the only, or even best way to go about getting a good painting habit but it this here is what's worked for me. Everyone is different, but if like me you have had trouble getting armies painted then you may find some of these tips will work for you

Establishing a painting area

I'd probably consider this one of the most important factors for me. I've never before had a dedicated painting/hobby area, I've always set up temporary areas on desks, coffee or kitchen tables that needed to be used for other things. Either my painting equipment would have to be packed away as soon as I was done, or the painting area would end up sharing space with empty plates, books and coursework. Either way the act of sitting down to do even an hour of painting would involve a hefty amount of tidying or packing/unpacking, and when I say hefty it might not even be that much extra effort but it would generally be enough to discourage me from sitting down to hobby at all.

Now for the first time I have a dedicated painting table:

Now the biggest hurdle here is finding a space in the house to fit a table. I know I would have had trouble in some of my former abodes, but you don't need much space. This table is only 3' by 2'. I basically found a space tucked out of everyone elses way and cut the table down to size in order for it to fit. Having the shelves makes a big difference as well, meaning I can have all of my tools and paints out in front of me and easy to hand. (Keen eyed readers will also notice the Vodka and bottle of JD close to hand also :p). The cook book stand thing is pretty handy as well, at first any notes or guides I was using were just put flat on the table, which not only took up more space but also meant they would usually get wet. The one thing I'm missing is a day light bulb, which I use to use years ago, but they're a little more difficult to get hold of these days for some reason, although admittedly I havn't really looked about all that hard.

Something to listen too

Now this one very much comes down to personal preference. I'm pretty sure everyone must have something to listen to while they're painting, even if it is just the person sat next to you, I don't know anyone who paints in silence. In the past I use to listen to music, which is OK, no real problems with it. The last time I did any painting (2 years ago) I would paint in front of a TV watching a series on I had seen before so that it wouldn't distract me too much and would be more like background noise. It didn't go entirely according to plan as I found myself taking frequent breaks as it got to a 'good' part. I think limiting yourself to audio is the best way, as painting is obviously a visual activity and so has to compete with the TV.

What I've found works best is podcasts, specifically Warhammer related podcasts. When I started up painting again I listened to a podcast for the first time, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. What I expected was a bunch of nerds sat around talking how awesome mindrazor is, you know, those gamers who take the game far too seriously. As it happens the people on these podcasts are generally a lot more rounded than I imagined, and even when there are ultra-competitive presenters on the shows they are normally balanced by more hobby and/or fluff centric presenters.

I've put links to my favourite podcasts on the right of my page if anyone is interestred. When I started listening to these I went back and started listening to their shows from around September October last year, basically from not long after 8th edition came out. It was good to listen to how more experienced gamers were handling 8th and particularly what tricks they learnt and pitfalls to avoid, as such I found this an incredibly useful tool when it came to learning the rules myself. There are lots of things I like about these podcasts and I wont list them all, needless to say I find them incredibly entertaining and informative.

As far as encouraging me to paint goes 1) I found it encouraging to listen to hobby related material, I found it kept me in the 'Warhammer mindset' and meant my mind didn't wander, and 2) episodes are a couple of hours long. I batch paint and often I'll say to myself, 'I'll get to the end of this coat and then call it a day'. Listening to podcasts I frequently find that I will continue to paint as I want to listen to the rest of the podcast or segment. I think this whole mentality is helped by the fact I only paint when listening to podcasts and I only listen to podcasts when I paint. The two go hand in hand in my mind.

One last note on this point, I've tried listening to Black Library audio books while painting as GW recommends. Admittedly they're great, and again I wasn't sure what to expect but I really like them, however, they tend to be fairly short, only an hour long. Now they're nice for a change but they're not very good if you plane to spend the better half of a day painting.

Having a goal

Now this doesn't have to be too rigid or too big. In fact I tend to have several goals at a number of levels as far as painting goes and I've touched on this before. The first is part of the overall philosophy I'm trying to implement as I've talked about previously i.e. not to buy new miniatures until the old ones are painted. I've also signed up for a tournament, the Weymouth Waaagh which is being held in July. Therefore I need to get a legal army painted by that time. Although I've only just signed up for this a couple weeks ago, I had this in mind from the start of the project, but didn't want to commit to it as I wasn't sure if I would be able to meet the target.

These are my overarching goals, I don't tend to break them down too much, for example I don't say to myself 'I will get this Saurus unit painted in the first week of April and these Skinks in the second' or anything like that, although I have sometimes made the extra effort to get models painted by our Thursday games night. The most common goals I set are more on the micro level, such as 'I will get the gold finished on these models before I go to bed' or 'I'll get the next layer of skin painted on these models before I have my next cigarette'. These types of goals I find the most important and ensure a unit gets done.

Regular gaming

This is quite a simple one really. Not only am I trying to get an army fully completed but I'm also trying to learn how to use it and learn how 8th works, as such I'm making sure I go down to the weekly games night and get at least one game of Warhammer in each week. The added benefit of this is I'm finding putting my unpainted miniatures out onto the table is another incentive to get them finished. Now a lot of people don't mind unpainted miniatures, and its never bothered me too much in the past but now I have most of the army painted the unpainted models are really bugging me.

Getting Distracted

I have to admit my paint regimen has slackened somewhat of late and it all began when I ran out of Lizards to paint. I got through them much quicker than I expected and when I was done I realised I couldn't afford to buy any more for a while. So in an attempt to keep in the painting habit I decided I would get started on painting on of my 40k armies. The problem was which one. I've also been distracted by playing Bloodbowl and Battlefleet Gothic alongside my Warhammer games. If you look again at the pictures of my work table you will notice Hormagaunts, Chaos Gothic ships, a painting guide for Deathwing and a chopped up Carnifex which is a work in progress of a Hive fleet I decided to build.

(One of the Tyranid Cruisers from the fleet I've been working on)

I also assembled, under-coated and base-coated a Word Bearers army. Without any Lizards to focus on I've found it very difficult to decide what else to focus on and as such have just constantly fluttered between project to project. 40K was particularly difficult to decide on as it soon became apparent that whatever I did finish I wouldn't be likely to use for quite a while, so this goes back to the whole point on setting goals and regular gaming. I did get one of my Chaos Ships painted in Word Bearers colours, but again I only played a couple games of Gothic so I've not been incentivised to get more done.

The main downside to this whole affair is that I've found other things to do with my time. When I was painting my Lizards every spare moment was spent painting. When I didn't know what else to paint I found myself playing computer games more for example and now I have more Lizards again I struggle to find myself painting in that 24/7 mentality again. But then that's not necessarily a bad thing and I definitely should not try to force myself to paint that much and instead let it come naturally. I will let you know how I get on.

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