My hobby resolutions for 2018

And now we get to the important part of the new year’s festivities: seeing how far I’ve come in hobbying over the past year, and figuring out where to go from here.

Last year was a good year for me. I’ve put a lot of work into learning how to properly highlight a miniature, wet blending, colour theory, freehand, weathering, and true metallic metals, and I think it really shows. Take a look at the difference between my two Grolars, and you can really see the difference, especially on the metallics and weathering.

I made a few resolutions last year; of course, I didn’t write them down, so I’m going by memory. From what I recall, my goals were:

Use a wet palette
img_2206.jpgHonestly, I don’t know why I needed to make a resolution in order to motivate myself to do this. It takes like five minutes to make one out of stuff you probably have at home, and it is a tool that very quickly made for a measurable improvement in my painting. Being able to keep my paints hydrated throughout a painting session has enabled me to really work with techniques such as wet blending and painting faces.

Paint something completely different

This one took me until November; after going to CapCon 2017 and hanging out with some of the people from the local IPMS group, I was motivated to finally finish a PZL P.11 that had been kicking around on my to do pile for a while. It felt good to finish something, and I have a P.23 in 1/72 and a P-40E in 1/144 scale on deck for the next time I need a little palate cleanser from figures.

Paint a display piece

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At least I got the plinth done…

Most of my pieces so far have been primarily for gaming. Even if they aren’t something that I’m going to bring to the game store very often, I’ve been using the proper, round-lipped Privateer Press bases with arc markings. This has been in part motivated by a desire to both play it painted and keep up with the Joneses, so while it has been good to build up my skills on my army, I haven’t yet done much which is purely a demonstration of my painting skills. However, I did do a couple miniatures as Christmas presents this year, and I do have something in progress, so I will say I’m about halfway there.

So, two and a half out of three isn’t bad for last year’s resolutions.

Resolutions for 2018

This year, I’m going to make some rules for my resolutions. Like with any goal, it is best if it is specific and measurable. If the goal is something too simple like “get better at X,” then it’s practically meaningless. Also, when it comes to hobbying, I feel like your skills tend to grow in spurts, with each spurt coinciding with when you go out of your comfort zone and focus on learning new techniques.

Also, I feel that resolutions should not be competitive. I could make a resolution to win a best painted award, but I feel that a lot of the time, a first place ribbon tells you just as much about who else showed up that day than it does your hobby skills on display. Though, in the case of an open system judging, it would be nice to take home a silver this year for something.

So, with that said, here are my resolutions:

Do a diorama

I have a couple diorama ideas floating around in my head, but with all the army painting I’ve been doing to build my skills and get painted models on the table, I hadn’t gotten around to them yet. Again, I’ve been focusing a lot on painting my army, and while I am painting it up to a very high standard and using it to build my skills, that means that I haven’t really put aside the time to hop into a diorama. I got a lot of tips at the Ottawa Figure Show this year on composition and groundwork, so I am looking forward to trying my hand at that.

Do a piece in non-metallic metal

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Look carefully… that’s not chrome paint

Non-metallic metal, the practice of rendering metallic objects with the use of non-metallic paints, carefully rendered to show the interaction of the light with the metallic reflections, is a technique that I really want to make a good effort at in 2018. I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress on my metals by applying true metallic metal techniques to my work. While I may end up sticking to TMM in the end, I feel like learning how to do NMM will help me understand light and how to capture the interactions between light, shadow and reflection in a smaller scale.

Try out glazes and sketch style

“Sketch style,” the technique of doing zenithal priming and a value sketch then applying glazes in a sort of paint-by-numbers technique seemed to blow up in the first half of this year. It seemed like I couldn’t browse through any painting group on facebook without people asking questions about or showing off their sketch style creations. This was a technique I hadn’t really tried, partly because of inertia and partly out of concern that it might be hard to get either vibrant, saturated colours or really apply colour theory to the shadows and highlights.

Anyways, I’ve played around with inks a fair bit recently, and I think it’s about time I start doing so in a bit more deliberate of a manner. I’ve got plenty of beasts and minions and other organic creatures that I think would be a lot easier to do with a sketch style approach than traditional painting, so I’m sure some of those are going to end up being guinea pigs for these experiments.

End the year with fewer unpainted miniatures than I started with

This might be trickiest one. There is something about buying more plasticrack that offers the purchaser a quick rush of endorphines. Unfortunately, that means that I tend to accumulate minitures as fast as I can paint them, if not faster. My stash isn’t completely out of control, but I would like to reduce both the number of models in my stash and the number of assembled, unpainted miniatures on my shelf of shame.

Post an average of once a week

When I started this blog, the idea behind it was to catalogue my progress and use it as a tool for sharing my knowledge. I’m probably not going to end up being one of those minor internet celebrities like Menoth John or the guy from Tabletop Minions. Especially not if I stick to the written word rather than get into the world of podcasting or video. But I would still like to keep it going, and keep putting out semi-regular content, if only to keep this catalogue going and hopefully help some people with their painting progress.

Final thoughts

When it comes to miniature painting, one of the best ways to get better is to set goals and practice towards them. There is a wealth of information and guides out there on the internet, and with some study, practice, and a bit of luck, 2018 is going to be a good year for my progression as a painter.

So, what’s your goals for your hobby progression in 2018? Let me know in the comments!

CapCon 2017 — Craftsmanship on display

This past weekend I went to CapCon 2017, hosted by IPMS Ottawa, and held at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.  CapCon 2017 was a great collection of scale modellers, figure painters, and diorama builders.  There were categories and subcategories for pretty much everything, including cars, planes, tanks, ships and figures, and each entry was examined and judged by experts.

Since my PZL P.11 remains half-finished on the shelf, and I haven’t actually finished a scale model kit since I used to build model airplanes with all the enthusiasm and skill of my twelve year old self, I figured there might be some categories that my gaming pieces might be appropriate for.  Fantasy Figures (under 54mm) would be good for my infantry, and there was a category for Mecha & Robots, which I figured that a steam-powered warjack would fit quite nicely under.

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Uhlan Kovnik Markov

So, I decided to pack my figure case with five entries: three in fantasy figures (my headswapped version of the Greylord Forge Seer, Uhlan Kovnik Markov, and Olga Strakhov & her Kommandos), and two in Mecha & Robots (my Black Dragon Spriggan, as well as my Victor).  I went more with the intention of seeing what I could learn than trying to compete with others, as while it is nice to win, miniature painting and scale modelling are the sort of hobbies where the primary rewards are intrinsic — that little rush of endorphins you get when you finish up a model and place it on your shelf, the joy you get from levelling up your skills, and the pride you take in your own craftsmanship when you show them off are all more important than any plaque or trophy that you may receive for the final result.

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That’s MR. Some Space Marine Guy to you!

That said, I did pretty well for myself when it came to awards — In the Mecha & Robots category, Victor got 1st place and the Black Dragon Spriggan came in 3rd, despite being physically dwarfed by some of the much larger mechs on the table.  The fantasy figures category had some very stiff competition, including a very nice… some Space Marine guy, I don’t know, I don’t play Warhammer… on a plinth with a stained glass window behind him, and I was pleasantly surprised to bring home 3rd place with my Lady Forge Seer.

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Lady Forge Seer — my take on the Greylord Forge Seer

The venue was perfect.  Being held in the War Museum, it was possible to look at a model tank on the table, and literally turn around to see the 1:1 scale version.  Also, it provided attendees with an opportunity to take a break from the showroom floor and take a look at the museum, which was full of inspiration.  Things like pictures of trenchwork, nose art, and all the military vehicles on display really made the day complete.

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Seriously, dude, you should learn to use an airbrush to apply camo… that brushwork just looks sloppy.

There was also a great silent auction with something like 180 prizes.  Though I put in some bids on a Blohm + Voss BV141 and a Hanriot HD.1 (because I’m too much of a hipster to assemble and paint something normal like a P-51) as well as a couple of books, I didn’t come away with anything.  Which was probably for the best, given my current backlog.

Some of the other highlights for me were:

The craftsmanship in general.  The level of competition in some of these categories was pretty fierce, and there were many highly detailed models that just blew my mind.  Particularly in the naval section; all the little details and the rigging on those ships was very impressive.

IMG_2023.JPGThe Diorama section was great, and I found myself staring at them a lot, trying to see how they did certain things and what I can pick up from them for my basing or my future diorama projects.  In particular, there was one titled “Last Stand in Berlin” that showed a lot of figures engaged in very dynamic poses, shooting each other, whacking each other with shovels, that sort of thing.  As well, a Marder II in front of a half-collapsed Belgian building was incredibly detailed and gave me some ideas for rubble bases.  As well, some of the scale trenchwork was pretty nice, and since messing up Cygnaran trenchers is a theme of my army, some of the stuff on display gave me a lot of ideas.

IMG_2038.JPGThere was a very well-done P-51 with all the access panels open and plenty of weathering.  All the dirt and smoke and grime tarnishing the silver and covering the markings on this model made for a very realistic piece with a lot of visual interest.  It was my candidate for the people’s choice award, as I felt the visual interest generated by the all the soot and grime really went a long way in making it look less like a model and more like the real thing.

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The Irish Hurricane IIC

A couple of aircraft with unusual markings also stood out for me.  Because we’ve all seen the American Mustangs and the German -109s, I like seeing aircraft of that era either produced by relatively minor powers such as Poland or Romania, or marked in roundels that make you go “hmmmm, now what country is that?” (because again, I’m kind of a hipster).  There was an Irish Hawker Hurricane that was very well done, as well as a Latvian fighter (I think it was a Junkers D.I) from the immediate post-WWI era.

The weathering on the armour was also something that I can take some inspiration from.  I’m starting to do more and more weathering on my pieces, and one of the goals for me was to learn to get better at it, and I do think I got some ideas from staring at all the Panzers and Shermans on display.

And of course, figures.  As someone who is primarily a figure painter, and who is looking at getting into busts and larger scales, there were some pretty fine figures to take inspiration from.

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Did someone say “busts”?  Or “fine figures”?

But seriously, there were some amazing pieces on display, both fantasy and historical, and at some points, I had to remind myself that my stuff, while maybe not up to their level, is good enough to be on the table beside theirs.

All in all, CapCon 2017 was a blast.  I am going to try to get out to some more IPMS events locally, even if they require waking up early on weekends and heading to places with not-so-great bus access, something I’m typically loath to do.  I think there are things that miniature painters, gamers, and scale modellers can learn from each other, and it’s a pity that there isn’t that much crossover between these groups.  And maybe by the time CapCon 2019 rolls around, I will have finally finished that P.11… or maybe not, considering the kit is decades-old, was missing parts when I bought it, and I already bungled a few things on the assembly…