This is a guest post in Volomir's Blog. It has been written by my friend Kev Walsh from the UK, and I thought this would be a interesting read to all of you. It is basically aimed at punks from the UK but I think it is very didactic. It was originally wrote for www.corehammer.com and I bring it here for your personal enjoyment. Thanks Kev!
Once a person has their basic skills nailed, there is usually a period of transition. At least, there was for me. Your drybrushing and edge highlighting and washing is all fine, and you're ready to progress. But how to do so? Barring a few examples, White Dwarf guides have always proved inadequate, and usually only show you how to paint their own style, which very often is at odds with GD winners, and the stuff you see on CMON. So once you've made that decision, to start upping your game when it comes to painting, where do you turn? If your only hobby friends are gamers who paint to get their armies on the table, it might be difficult to break through and see how many amazing resources there are out there. So here, I present a guide for anyone looking to make that step. It is by no means comprehensive, and it is completely malleable to your own situation, but it should help you make those first few steps in to a much more colourful and well blended world.
- Locate, and utilise the resources available to you. Start light, with websites like Cool Mini Or Not, which is one of the most popular painting sites in the world. Go to the home page and use the browse feature to start sifting through the styles you like. Don't get bogged down in theory, just look for things that make you think "That. Is. AWESOME";, save the images in a folder, and start getting a feel for what kind of results you'd like to produce. Also check out the relatively new site, Putty And Paint. A similar setup to CMON, but you might find something else for you there.
- Learn the names, look them up. Once you've found some resources. Start learning the names of painters you admire. I am a massive fan of a painter called Yellow One and like to follow his updates. Have a look around. See if they have a blog. If they do, it is likely that they will do step-by-steps on the miniatures you have been drooling over. It is also likely that they will have a list of blogs worth checking out. Follow the trails, keep exploring. Remember when you bought Scratch The Surface in the 90's before everyone had the internet, and all you had to go on for finding good hardcore bands was the shirts they wore in the photos and the thanks lists in the records? This is exactly the same man. It's just like hardcore punk. It's a community of dudes who help each other out, give each other shoutouts, communicate with each other. Also like hardcore punk, it needs to be rooted out. It isn't just all there and immediately accessible, you have to do a little digging to find it. And when you do, this whole painting world will open up for you.
- Get yourself involved. Once you've found these resources, start introducing yourself to the community you've found. This is a particular problem for me, as a pretty solitary guy. Forums bring out the worst in me, as many of my mates will know. So I shy away from them these days, and it is to my determent, as there is a lot to be gained from painting forums. If you are a UK brother, then check out Platoon Britannica.This is an incredible forum where the top drawer painters from this Green And Pleasant Land give eachother tips, critique eachother, talk, arrange meetups. You will get a lot from this site if you use it properly. There is an etiquette to productive and positive forum use. Treat it like real life. Introduce yourself first. Also, you're entering a conversation that has existed for years, and while people will be happy to answer your questions,but check first to see if it has already been asked. If you're offered advice, take it on-board. These people are giving up their time to help a new guy out, don't throw it back at them. Be cool. While everyone in PB is friendly, people will give criticism of your work, take it on the chin, be a gentleman about it. If you stick to those rules then you will get a lot from that forum.
- Meet other painters. Check the meet up section on PB and use it. I know it's daunting, but until last year, I had hit a real wall with my painting. It was only when I started painting with some Liverpool guys that I really started to push myself. And this is true of a lot of people. It doesn't come from being competitive, but from just sitting with peers for hours on end, exchanging tales, painting together, and learning from each other. I would go so far as to say that if you want to up your game, this is the absolute best thing you can do.
- Go to Painting Workshops. John Harrison from Liverpool has traveled all over Europe visiting painters, learning his craft, taking advice, and applying the lessons he receives. Painting workshops are a fantastic way both to learn, and to meet new people. JOIN THIS GROUP, its a UK based workshop group that holds regular events all over the country. I have had the pleasure of painting with some incredible people as a result of this. Also check out my boys over at Master Mini's who arrange workshops in Germany, as to the Massive Voodoo crew. Don't expect your journey to be a free ride. But I can assure you that the payoff will be more than worth it.
- Throw away your latest Citadel Painting guide. Seriously, it's a piece of shit. I get the move GW have made in their attitude to painting. They want you to buy an army, paint it fast, then buy another one. If everyone listened to their few good painting guides they'd sell a million Sanguinors a month and nothing else ever. So I get it, and I'm not knocking them for wanting to make a few quid (although I would say this: The 'Eavy Metal team sell more miniatures than any rules writer has ever done. Get them back on the front lines GW!) But knowing how to batch paint 50 clan rats with the big Citadel drybrush is not going to win you a Golden Demon, so sell it to some posh mum on eBay and let Tarquin get his space marines covered in Agrax Earthshade, while you start spending your time trawling forums and meeting painters.
- Buy a colour wheel. And start reading up on some basic colour theory. You don't have to turn in to Bohun, whos grasp of colour theory surpasses my knowledge of series 1-3 of The X-Files by miles, but knowing about complimentary colours alone will boost your skills by loads. So do as you're told and get one.
- Invest in good stuff. Those GW brushes aren't going to get you anywhere mate. Get yourself a set of Windsor & Newton Series 7's. At the very least give my girl Rosemary from Rosemary & Co an order and let her hook you up with either her Series 22 or Series 33 range. They'll last years if you look after them right. You also want a good painting lamp. Not that piece of crap from Argos. A good, daylight simulation light will expose everything wrong with all your old paintjobs, and you will hate it at first. But trust me, they're what you want.
And now, it's time to get in to the nitty gritty. The actual painting. I consider myself a lower tier intermediate painter. I am able to get good results, but I lack many of the qualities I am about to list. Most notably, I don't know when to just stop and move on from an area. I lack the time to commit, my mind shifts from my many interests all the time. One day I will be all about writing riffs for a new band and recording them, another day I will be working on our Pathfinder campaign, the day after I will be all about painting my Wight King and trying to nail a new technique. It's a curse. I lack focus and always will. But here I am. These are good things to consider. I can't tell you how to achieve certain results, or how to execute certain techniques, but I can offer some broad advice on how to readjust your thinking to accommodate your new focus.
- Go slowly, but push yourself. Don't try and jump straight in with the most advanced techniques you've found straight away. It can be disheartening when you don't nail them in once fell swoop. That being said, every project you start you need to be trying to build on the foundations you laid in the last project. Always be moving forward. Swim or die. Don't be a shithouse.
- Plan ahead, but be adaptable. Take your miniature. get rid of your mould lines, do a zenithal basecoat, stare at it for a while, take a photo so you can see where the highlights naturally fall when your paintjob begins. Have a plan, have the colours you would like to use in mind. But be ready to amend your approach should you need to.
- Keep a painting diary. There will be many things you do that work really well. You'll want to remember them. Over time, as your knowledge of paint consistency, colour etc grows it will become less relevant. But at the beginning, it will save your project more than once.
- Thin your paints. You will have been told a million times. You will have ignored it a million times, and that is why your Blood Angels have those visible brush strokes because you're trying to throw Blood Red over a black basecoat. You know deep down in your heart that it's wrong, you know you shouldn't be doing it. But there you are. Doing it anyway. STOP IT.
- Take regular breaks. Once you get in the zone, in your happy tree as Marike Reimer puts it, time will fly. But your eyes need to rest, and you need to reajust your alignment from time to time in order to stay fresh. Take breaks, watch an episode or two of The Wire, listen to the new Down To Nothing record, do what you need to do to ensure that your hobby doesn't become a chore.
- Know when it's time to stop. If your head is hurting, if you're sighing, if you're wishing you were dead, time to knock it on the head for the day.
- See your projects through. This is a piece of advice that was given to me last night. I'm working on a Wight Lord and I just don't know when to stop and move on. I'm giving it a few more hours work on the armour plates, then moving on.
I hit the streets and asked some top painters for advice on how to start upping their game.
"You’ll be facing a lot of new ideas and techniques that will be initially challenging, but, regardless of your level of skill or artistry you can make that step up. To improve quickly surround yourself with people of a higher skill level, get on painting forums, get a local painting group started, be open to feedback, watch painting DVDs, attend painting workshops and travel to different painting competitions, the more information you can absorb, understand and practise, the quicker you’ll improve"; - John Harrison (Darkmessiah on CMON / P&P).
"Do not quit: keep working on a miniature until it's truly finished, never leave them in the middle. When you think it's finished, set it aside for a week, come back and check if it is really finished; and if you still think it is, then show it to someone else and repeat the process."; - Rafael García Marín - Volomir
"The only advise I could give is the one I hardly get to follow myself: Practice, practice, practice. Painting 2 hours every day is often times better with regards to learning painting than painting for 42 hours straight, the days before the competition"; - Michael 'Zaphod' Bartels, runner of www.masterminis.net and www.paintingbuddha.com.
The most important thing I would say is... keep painting. Always have your next project in mind, always be looking at how colour interacts in real life. Always have your hobby in the back of your mind.