I had the unique opportunity today to paint up a model that I had previously painted, quite a few years ago.
This is perhaps not quite a unique event in itself, as I have cycled through every faction except Mercs at least twice now, but what made this experience special was 1) I painted this model four years ago, at the dawn of my Warmachine career and 2) I had good pictures of it.
That model was Mohsar, the Desertwalker, and I first painted him in the Summer of 2013 (Click to Enbiggen).
I picked up Mohsar again a few weeks ago, as he was the last Circle warlock that I did not own, but after assembling him, I dropped him into some battlefoam and let him sit there.
With the Celestial Fulcrum CID happening right now, I was already thinking pretty hard about taking him out and painting him up so I could play with him, and then Dan had to go and win Kingdom Con with him, so out of the foam he came and onto the painting desk, leap frogging a commission and Kaya 2.
I spent probably 8 hours on him, which I feel is about double the time I spent on the last one, but I also know a lot more now, and with knowledge comes the need to use it.
I think we can all agree that this one looks a lot better (although he still needs basing, I know). Sure there are things I'd like to be getting better at (glow effects, the frustration!), but it is very gratifying to see progress between then and now.
I was originally going to critique the two pieces and talk about what specifically makes the second one a better model than the first, but instead I think I'd just like to address a couple of specific things I have learned in the last four years.
By no means do I intend for this to be a preachy article, nor do I claim to have excessive authority on the subject. I am still learning, still struggling to be better, and always looking to improve.
1) Use good brushes and paints.
I think I was still using Acrylic Canvas Paints for part of that first Mohsar, and it shows. The paint is gloppier, it's not smooth, and it looks messy. I was also using Hobby Lobby brushes, and that, while it probably doesn't show quite as stark, is also a problem.
I highly recommend getting proper miniature painting paints, whether they be Vallejo, P3, or Citadel, or any of the other brands out there. These paints are designed with higher pigment levels in mind, and are much more suitable for painting detailed models than any other type of paint.
A good paint brush ( I recommend Windsor and Newton Series 7 sizes 1 and 2 ) will last six to eight months depending on usage, and then spend another year or two as a very serviceable blending brush.
An inferior brush will only last a few weeks of steady painting, and many will lose their point after just a few days.
To those of you that say you cannot afford a nicer brush, I offer this argument. I buy one Windsor and Newton Size 1 and 2 every six months or so, for a total of $40 plus shipping per six month period, or about $90 a year.
Were I to buy a new $5 Hobby Lobby brush whenever they ceased to be useful, I'd be getting a new one every week. About $5 a week, say 40 weeks of painting a year or so, and that's $200 a year.
Quality tools are always worth the investment.
2) Copy other people's work.
I've been dabbling with the game Infinity by Corvus Belli, and their studio painter is a genius, absolutely phenomenal at Non-Metallic Metals and painting super fine detail.
As I work through my models, I've been doing my best to copy him, and I've noticed that I am getting better as I do. Here is my attempt at a studio scheme Umbra Samaritan:
And here is the actual Studio Model:
Mine is definitely not as smooth, not as polished, and not even in the same league, but it's getting closer than I was beforehand and it is extremely gratifying to see myself improve.
Ask people how they do things. Ask them to show you. Look at people who are better than you and try and copy what they are doing. Every great artist and musician builds their abilities on the backs of other people, don't limit yourself to what you can come up with on your own.
3) Paint a lot, and paint lots of different things.
I love, love, love painting cloth. It's my favorite thing to paint. I like trying to get the highlights in the right place, I enjoy how shadows play in it, I just love painting cloth.
I hate painting metal, and I've had to force myself to learn how to do it over the last few years in order to keep the metallic parts of my models from looking like total and utter garbage compared to the rest of them.
Paint models from lots of armies, paint models from lots of games. Try new techniques and practice them. Don't try them once, fail, and give up. Try it again, and again, and again. Give it 30 tries and then look back at your first one. There will definitely be improvement.
I guess the long and short of this is here - don't get discouraged if you feel like you're not moving forward, because you probably are. It was quite a shock to look back at that 2013 Mohsar, because I hadn't thought I had really improved all that much since then. Keep at it :)