Paint miniatures for the sculpt

Painter as a support role

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Painting miniatures is hard, and I'm no artist. Before miniatures, I'd painted walls, and that was my experience with paint. That was pretty intimidating, honestly, and it was a significant block for me to start painting as a hobby.

Once I started painting miniatures, I discovered something I hadn't expected. As the painter, as it turns out, you don't have to see yourself as the artist. There are other artists involved, and those are the people who designed and sculpted the miniature I was painting. All you have to do is accentuate what they've provided.

When I paint miniatures, my mission is to highlight what the scupltor has done. I'm not "painting" the way you think of an artist standing in front of a blank canvas. I'm just the make-up department.

Better than it sounds

It might sound self-deprecating to disavow yourself of artistry. After all, painting miniatures can be a legitimate art form. I've seen some amazing painting at local game stores and on glamour shots on the internet, and I absolutely believe that painting miniatures is legitimately fine art.

But it doesn't have to be. And that can be liberating if you're not aiming for a painting award.

I paint for myself, for the fun of painting. I try not to compare my results with painted models at the Warhammer store or the ones I see online. It can be hard not to see the errant splotches or the lack of texture or nuance in what I do. I know my skills will eventually improve, but part of improving is painting often. So it's quite a relief to be able to recognize the beauty of the model itself, and to accept that the miniature is a work of art already. The paint I add to it, whether it's precise, perfect, and artistic prevarication, is a filter through which the model is presented. It's a way to see past the paint, when the paint isn't perfect. And frankly, is the paint ever perfect? Award-winning painters find fault with their results, and while you might have to look harder to find those "mistakes" than you have to look at your own paint, they're always there. It's a well-known and unavoidable curse of artistry at any level.

Paint the model

For being a mostly solo hobby, painting miniatures is, strangely, a team effort. Choose models you love, and add something to it. Experiment. Have fun with it. No matter what happens, you've still got a model you love.

T'au soldiers photo by Seth Kenlon.

Creative Commons cc0.

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