Object Oriented Hobbying, but the whole creative process of figuring out what you'd like to create.
The twist is I'm not just going to talk about all this, I'm going to be building a new army and break my thought process down as I go, similar to my Postapocalyptibuggy WIP series.
There are multiple things I hope people will take away from this series...
New artists shouldn't be intimidated by the things they'll see here - you're not expected to be at this level, so enjoy what you see and perhaps get some inspiration and ideas for your later projects. I expect to be breaking out my whole arsenal of techniques over the next while, so at a minimum I should be able to write a bunch of shorter articles on tips, tricks and walkthroughs. That said, new artists should feel free to try some things they see and who knows what sort of raw talent could spill forth!
For the experienced artist, maybe you've been pondering some of these things, like I have, and you want to make the leap into creating an artful army. You'll be able to follow along the steps that I take in the creative process, then the planning, building and painting stages as my new army comes alive. In addition, hopefully learn some new techniques and ideas that you can apply to your own work.
For the hardcore gamers, I'll talk briefly about choosing an army and the initial composition of your force, however it will be slanted with an art focus. Perhaps this will inspire you to become more creative, but if you're the sort who paints three colours on your minis then dips them in floor polish, I'm afraid there won't be much you'll take away from this series.
The time you spend planning your army has various stages to the creative process. They can occur in any order, but are all connected, and tied together with some important questions that you should ask yourself before beginning this journey:
"Am I going to play this army?"
This question opens up a giant rift between creative options. The importance of playing the game vs creating and painting for the sake of enjoyment has a profound impact on just how imaginative your army can be.
The more important gaming is to you, the more you're going to need to be careful. You'll have to consider things like "Is this army going to be any good?", "Will I have fun playing this army?" and "Will this army be tournament WYSIWYG legal?" You'll find these questions will create constant speed bumps throughout your creative process as you have to keep balancing your awesome ideas with whether or not you'll be able to bring it to a competition.
The less important gaming is, the more creative freedom you'll enjoy. If this army is meant to be a show piece sitting in a display case, then worry less about how well the army plays, and pick something that you'll like the look of and enjoy creating.
"When will I play this army?"
There are a few things that can hold you back from playing your army right away. First is the cost, because buying an entire army outright is expensive. Keep in mind that the list you make with an unfamiliar army will probably change, so plan to spend more than what it costs to build a single list.
If you want to play it right away, you'll also have to assemble all your minis to a certain degree. Gluing arms in front of bodies and assembling vehicles makes it very difficult to get your paintbrush into all the nooks and crannies... but without things like weapons on the models, then you might not be able to field them at all.
If you complete this project in stages, then perhaps you'll be able to make a small "starter" list that you can build first, and play with while the rest of your army comes together.
"What is my budget?"
Starting a new army is quite expensive, especially if you're planning on playing it. Doing so artfully means spending extra on more minis for chopping up as well as extra supplies and bits to add to your figures.
If you're not planning on fielding an army, you can always buy a couple key models (HQ / Characters) and a few units / vehicles / beasts, until you have a nice looking group then call it done.
"Can I offset the costs somehow?"
Sell off an old painted army, some terrain or sell / trade off all those unpainted minis you have laying around, etc. Frugal Gaming has some great thoughts on offsetting your gaming investment. Just don't expect to get anywhere near as much as you paid for your old units, unless you're an excellent painter.
Finding unopened boxes on eBay and other online sources is another great way to offset costs. UNOPENED is key - if we're talking an artistic army, you don't want used minis you have to strip and disassemble. This leads to bits of caked on paint you can't remove and body parts cut or torn apart. Vehicles are especially terrible to disassemble.
"Will I sell it once it's done?"
Somewhat unusual question, but applicable for those who love to paint. I've seen a lot of people who take this tact. Just don't expect to get a reasonable amount of money for the time you'll invest - at best you can hope to cover the costs of your next army.
Maybe you can plan to sell it before you begin... if you love to paint and decide to hire your services out, you could make some extra money.
"Is this the right time to create it?"
This covers two things: cost and skill.
Cost, well, that's obvious. If you can't afford spending hundreds of dollars on a new army, this isn't the time. Cost also ties in with skill, because you don't want to have spent this large amount of money on an army only to finish painting it and think, "This is the best I can do??"
While I'll usually be the last person to tell you not to try something because of a lack of skill, the unfortunate reality is you're going to want to have some serious practice under your belt before investing the time it'll take to create a quality force.
"How consistent and uniform do I want to be?"
Say a squad can have 10 guys max... do you paint all 10 at once, even if you're only planning on using 6?
If you do, the whole unit will look uniform. Similar. When you're going for an overall army look, this is very important. The unit will also look better because of the practice you have painting everything at once.
However, this raises an already high cost and time to paint models you might not use and could just end up sitting on a shelf. Painting the same thing over and over also often leads to burn out.
Tip to avoid burn out: Paint models one at a time. While painting them assembly line style will get a more uniform appearance, you'll burn out faster and care less about them. One at a time will still create a uniform appearance but also allow you to give each of them a little personal flare. (What I mean by assembly line style is painting the same step on all the models in a unit before moving on to the next step, instead of painting a whole model, then the next.)
An army looks much more uniform when they all have similar bases. I strongly recommend making it look like every model is standing on the same battlefield.
"Do I have all the paints I need?"
Don't use old paints that are running out and instead buy new ones. (For primary colours) Over the years, paints get thicker, thinner, colours become bolder, finishes become shinier or matter, and so on. You don't want to get half-way through the project, have to buy a new paint, then find out it's not actually the same as you were using.
If you have to mix paints, try to do it in large batches if you need them across a lot of models. That again leads to a uniform look.
There's probably more to think of - so lets have some feedback from readers. If you were starting a project like this, what things would you consider? I'll update this list.