Wargaming Tradecraft: Painting from the Heart


Painting from the Heart

This is a more specific follow to my previous post on Bringing a New Style to the Hobby than my first follow up earlier this week. From the moment you begin thinking about painting, the most important thing is that you paint for yourself - No matter how many people will view your final works. Without really putting yourself into what you're creating, the final product will be lacking.

Have you worked on models before and hated what you were doing? Do these end up looking as good as the rest of your work? If they do, how do you feel after the project? Have you reached a mini burn-out? I have only ever approached painting in an assembly line style twice. (paint 1 colour across a whole squad, then the next colour, and so on) Never again will I do this because it literally feels like an assembly line - I was not bringing models to life, I was just applying colour to them.

For someone to really excel in the art world, they need to be creative... emulation will only get you so far. If there's one thing I've learned over the years, I'm only truly creative when I'm working on something that's interesting, appealing and most of all, I enjoy. I'm sure many of you would agree with this - not just when you're painting, but when you're doing anything. You've got to enjoy what you're doing if you want to flourish at it.

"I think that the purpose of all of this is not to create a style but a way to express what's inside our heart, a feeling, hot, cold, happiness or sadness." - Gimnir (His blog, translated to English)

Gimnir left this comment in response to my first article on all of this and he's exactly right. While I was focusing specifically on trying to get people to stop emulating what they see and branch out into their own styles, I totally missed mentioning this very important aspect of approaching painting. If more of us would just paint what we feel, there would already be a stronger diversity out there. Yes, it takes longer and more practice to find yourself in your art rather than copy someone else, but by the time you find your own groove, you will have a strong grasp of what you're doing and everything will flow naturally. TheWife also points out that there will be different areas you pour yourself into - for example, she enjoys modding much more than painting.

Painting / modding isn't the only thing that draws us to this hobby, but for those of us who aren't just trying to get a basic army painted, it's a big part of it. I've said it before, I don't get a chance to game as often as I'd like to - but that's alright. Over the years, the tradecraft has turned into more of a hobby to me than gaming. I enjoy it, it relaxes me, I like talking about it and sharing my experience. When I paint, I just let the colours flow. I've been doing so many tutorials lately that on my Halloween Project (which I'll get around to finishing soon, delays aside) I had to just paint some parts, rather than taking pictures at every step. I do paint in a way that's fluid and I can't really say "step 1 - this, step 2 - that, etc" so it's been interesting doing all these Back to Basics posts and having to be more analytical about painting. (though it's easier to define simpler methods) I also think that being more analytical has been good for me as I try to expand my skills.

I also want to point out some posts from a user called "Orki" in a post on WAMP forum that was discussing my original post. To paraphrase what he talks about, he basically says that to truly paint freely, you need to learn many styles and then paint in the moment with whatever works right then. He continues to suggest that if you find yourself a specific style that works for you, it's time to move on and start learning again. This will all allow you to paint from the heart, using aspects of all the styles you learn as "tools". He also says:
"there is no destination. It is an illusion that gives us something to aim for. The journey is where the subjective truth is found, infinitesimal and unlimited in it's scope and bounds. Whether we realise it or not, we have already 'arrived' and what little remains is just expansion within ourselves, within each moment."
I just love the way he talks about learning is a constant process and he's absolutely right - none of us should ever think we're at a point where we have nothing else to learn. We should instead constantly strive to learn new skills, especially if we find ourselves at a point where we're stuck repeating a single method.

Additionally, Massive Voodoo in constantly posting about their own inspiration. If you're not already following this blog, you need to - they're guys who really paint from the heart. They do have a label specfically for inspirational info.

While you do need to start with basic steps to learn the hobby, experiment. If you're curious about how something might turn out, try it. Buy up a bunch of used models at your local store or online and use them for practice. Most importantly, be creative and paint from your heart.

If you look back at some of your older models, either those that look terrible or just look nothing like your current ones, do you at least smile and recognize it's been a good journey?


  1. Yet again it's like you're talking right to me...

    I have an inspirational stuff file for my scrapbooking. I don't know why I never thought to have one for painting....

  2. Brilliant article. I have found myself in burnout before because iwas painting an army for myself, but with the intent of retaining resale value by painting it a codex set of colors. Nothing I painted in that army spoke to me as a result and my painting motivation plummeted sharply. I have since learned my lesson, but you frame it so well here that I may just have to bookmark it as a reminder for myself.

  3. I missed the original part of this post so i had to read back but something that doesn't seem to get mentioned is the fact that everyone who is starting out with the hobby paints their models the way they seem fit but because of the lack of experience and knowledge those first models don't look anything like the stuff on sites like www.Coolminiornot.com. Then they will search the internet for painting tutorials and techniques and start to try out these techniques and paintingstyles instead of developing their own style. (life was so different before the WWW kicked in). Because a lot of people follow the same tutorials and techniques the end product will all look very simular. I myself am guilty of that too, first looking for tut's and now posting my own tutorials.

    Instead of calling them "Tutorials" we should call them "this is how I do it 's"

    If we would raise every child on the globe and teach it to speak english with an texan(for example) accent then in a couple of years we would all sound the same.

    I miss all those bright 80's mini's although it's not my style. Another reason for mini's to look more grim and dark these days is the use of washes and dip these days..


  4. Well said.

    I admit that I do assembly line paint. I believe the reason you're painting is a big part of how you approach it. For example, when I'm painting my rank and file stuff I'll batch paint them. I won't hold myself to my highest standards as I just want to get them game ready. However, when I approach that Sergeant or Captain then it's all fun and I enjoy myself. That's where I get creative. It's those rare times when I paint for enjoyment. It's not to say I don't enjoy painting normally but I often approach it as a requirement because I enjoy gaming and I do get to play often, so I want a painted army to play with.

  5. I haven't, historically, been inclined to keep my old models. Too much of a tactical butterfly to stick with an army for long, and since new projects need liquid assets, old models tend to be sold to make way for new.

    I do still have my original Cryx models from when I took up Warmachine, and while other factions have come and gone, I'm determined not to sell off any more Cryxians, just so I have something with some continuity to it.

    My favourite projects have been the ones I've been able to stick with for years, but I think something's shifted in my head and is barring me from settling properly.


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