Just Paint

Gregbot
Gregbot. Credit: Robert "TheChirurgeon" Jones

We’ve all been there. Whether you’re an experienced warhammer user, or you’re new in town, have you considered: putting paint on some dang models?

I am not here to scold anyone, rather to offer encouragement. If you want painted models – and that is a genuine non-rhetorical if, because it’s not for everyone, and you may truly not feel like it. But, if you do, you should start by painting some models.

This may seem insultingly obvious, but I’m being serious: I’ve talked to multiple people that want to paint more, but for various reasons – which mostly boil down to different types of fear – don’t. This is distinct from that whole other class of reasons not to paint the models: the usual constraints of time, money, and space. I got no truck with those, work them out however you need to, to the best of your abilities.

The proximate causes for non-painting vary – not wanting to ruin a perfectly good half-finished model is a good one. I myself don’t weather anything because I’m worried about beefing them all the way up and I’d rather leave well enough alone. I talked to one person who was considering getting really into glazes, but hesitated because it might blow out the highlights. To this I could only offer: I dunno, try it, see what happens. What are you out if it goes badly, one 8-point scrub that you might have to paint again? Ah no, my Aspect Warrior is all messed up, I guess that dude is the first casualty to get yanked from the squad in turn 1 of every single game. Nobody’s gonna notice anyway, it’s fine.

The ultimate cause is always the same though: you don’t feel like you know how to do it right, and you don’t want to screw it up. It’s understandable to worry about trashing a model by painting it badly – I know I used to put off character models until I felt confident enough to tackle them. Know what’s better than worrying? You guessed it: painting.

Doing this will instantly make you better than 80% of Online Warhammer Posters (reddit). Don’t let yourself worry about how good it is, because at first it won’t be. You just gotta keep doing it, is the thing. It is as simple, and as difficult, as that. But it does get easier. In the words of Peloton instructor Cody Rigsby, “it’s not that deep”: you have to paint, if you want to be a painter. I mean this in both a “practice makes perfect” sense, but also, to quote notable business psychopath Steve Jobs, “real artists ship”. Incidentally, I had to google “artists ship” to remember who said that, and it returned many cool paintings of sailboats, so I highly recommend doing that.

We should also address purchasing. Buying stuff is both the easiest and most rewarding part of the hobby, but there’s two common pieces of bad guidance that new hobbyists get. In a rare instance of Horseshoe Theory being correct, the extreme ends – “just slop dollar-store paint on there with a giant brush” and “start by getting an airbrush booth and a gas mask because it’s zenithal priming time” –  are both awful advice if you’re just starting out. One is going to end in hideous failure 100% of the time, and the other sets such a high barrier to entry that you might as well be telling someone to just give up. Please, do not overthink this. It is not that deep. Buy some base paints, Nuln Oil, and a brush or two, and for god’s sake just paint a model.

This is not, by the way, to disparage anyone who mixes their own paints from artist’s acrylics or owns multiple spray booths, if that’s what they’re into. That type of thing owns a lot. But if that’s not your speed, just do what you can with what you have, either wholly within or partially within your comfort zone. Know that no one is judging your models, because they’re all busy judging their own models. The ones that they painted, which is what you should be doing.

We all deal with our own Real Salieri Shit. I’ve been on Zooms before where I knew, as a matter of objective fact, that I was the worst (least-experienced, most cautious, however else you can phrase this based on the degree of charitable you’re feeling) painter in the room. This is not to say that I’m a bad painter: I’m not. Sometimes other people are better, is all. Sometimes all the people are better. Who cares! You’re still out there, putting in the work, and that’s all that membership to the club requires.

I don’t want to turn this into a “first model”/”recent model” thing. That is not what, or at least not all, that I want to say. It can be illustrative, though, to reflect. Here’s my first go around at the Dark Vengeance Terminators, followed by my second, and third, attempts at the same models, some years later:

Progress over time, via Deathwing Terminators. One of them has different arms but that’s not the point. Credit: Greg Chiasson

I have never regretted painting that first model, and the squad to go with him. They’re obviously, ah, not great. I can see now where I made highlighting mistakes, or didn’t thin my paints, or just didn’t feel like buying more colors so there’s only like three on the whole model. None of it matters. They still look fine on the tabletop and, more to the point, I wouldn’t have been able to do the later ones without having done the earlier ones first. An attempt was made, and while 2013 Me was cranking out fairly dire work, I was also learning and improving and – this is key – had models to use in games.

I’m not posting my work to say that I’m done, I finally got good, and now I’m allowed to post. They still kinda suck ass compared to half the people we have here. I’m posting them because this is, to a small degree, my website and no one can stop me. If you had a website, or such as a twitter, you should consider yourself free to do the same. I painted them, and now I have painted models. Wouldn’t you also like to have painted models?

This isn’t about being good enough. No one is keeping score, and you don’t have to paint at a certain level to be taken seriously. By performing the act of painting, you are a painter. Pushing limits or not is entirely your call, and whatever those limits are or whether you decide to push them in the first place, none of it makes your work more or less valid. So give it a whirl. Paint a model.