The Finest of Details

February 13, 2018

Things I’ve Learned Painting Miniatures

Part I: Details Keep Getting Finer

Way back in 1996 when I started painting, I was 16 and timid. Having very little artistic ability, I couldn’t imagine myself painting miniatures on a regular basis, let alone doing them well. Still, I persisted, and flourished into the mediocre painter I am today. I think I was smart by choosing minis that appeared to be quick, simple paint jobs.

All my friends decided to get into Warhammer 40K. I had always liked the look and feel of it, and was definitely interested in tabletop wargaming. Still, I picked what looked to be the easiest army to paint—the Tyranids. To be honest, I slopped through that army, but yeah, they were much less detailed than all the others.

Throughout the years, as Games Workshop released new editions of 40K, they would redo a lot of the miniatures as well. While older models are always welcome on the battlefield, players are encouraged to give them more and more money keep up with the most recent releases and constantly evolve their battle forces. In addition to a constantly growing price tag, something else changes: the quality of sculpting.

Compare any miniature from 1994 with something that came out last week. You’ll see a major change in the level of quality and detail. Some of the microscopic angles and lines that are included now would cause a massive table flip 20+ years ago, but it’s commonplace now.

I’ve noticed that painting has become a larger hobby on its own. I mean, it always was, but given the growth of the internet, there are tons of “how to paint X” videos, in addition to galleries and bragging posts all over the place. One thing I see is that a lot of people log their hours working on something, and very rarely do you see “badly” painted minis. Let’s be honest, sometimes you see absolute shit on the battlefield and display cases.

This has given rise to commissioned painting, or simply unpainted armies. Two friends at the game store a few weeks ago, for instance, had their 40K armies out, having fun, but were literally basecoated. No detail, no highlighting, nothing. Both admitted they had no time and no talent to do it, but they were in fact on waiting lists for local pro painters to do their figures for them.

As for myself, I’m spending a lot more time on each figure in my Shadespire army. While I want it to look good, I keep noticing little, fine details that can only be done in a certain way. I hate having sloppy miniatures (I’m not 16 anymore, guys!), and I take pride in my work.

I keep finding all these parallels to writing with this. “Rules” and “standards” in literature are always growing and changing. You look at a published novel from 100 years ago, and you’ll see a sloppier, totally different style of writing as compared to something that just came out. While a lot of today’s novels still tell instead of showing, use lots of passive voice, and use highly unrealistic dialog, it’s a completely different way of writing than it used to be.

Fine detail might not be everyone’s forte, but the quality not only of writing and storytelling has grown, so has the control over this quality (editing, beta readers, etc.). Yes, I know there are a lot of books with major plot holes and unrealistic plot points, but the point is, it’s a lot different.

Not to say that writing from 100 years ago (or 50 years, 20 years, even 10 years ago…) is bad or sloppy. They had their place, and did what they set out to achieve. As Citadel and Games Workshop tighten their storylines and universes, moving from a tongue-in-cheek semi-RPG to a grimdark, uber-serious galaxy of constant war, the figures they create reflect that. Naturally, other companies follow suit and up the ante on the caliber of sculpt with their miniatures.

I’ll keep focusing on the fine details and do no less than by best. With painting my figures, and writing my stories.

 

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