In the first six to seven months since our daughter was born, I managed to paint only one miniature.
Obviously, part of the reason for this appalingly low output were of course the demands that having a small, needy human being thrust into your care place on your free time. This blog entry is not about that, however — the real reason behind this low output is due to a lack of motivation on my part. I did have (and still have) free time available, it’s just that I used it for other things than painting little tin men.
Recently, I seem to have recovered however, having painted for at least an hour every day over the last week. I think I figured out what motivates me to paint miniatures, and modified my painting behaviour accordingly. The result is the mentioned increase in output.
So, what are my main motivational pushes that set me painting? There’s two: playing games and seeing good games played, and actually finishing figures. Of the two, this last is probably the most important, and changing a painting habit that affects this directly has produced the desired effect.
Let’s look at these two factors individually.
Each year after Crisis, Tin Soldiers of Antwerp’s convention, my painting output rises dramatically (only to drop off again slowly but inexorably). The same effect is produced, although on a smaller scale, by playing games, the best of which in this regard are the Schild en Vriend revival games.
So, in order to stimulate this effect, I’ve put some life into the SnV Revival project again, announcing game number three, Exploring the Congo, for sometime in September. Organising and playing this game should get me painting again.
This is the big one. I realised only recently that my biggest oomph in painting motivation is simply finishing a figure. When I admire the latest (more or less) beautifully painted miniature, I feel an urge to grab my brushes and paint another miniature, immediately.
With that in mind, I looked over my painting habits, which turned out to be completely antagonistic to promoting this effect. The last couple of years, in an effort to — paradoxically enough — get more miniatures painted so I could have a couple of decent armies, I had switched to an assembly line painting style. I would take a number of figures intended for the same unit, e.g. 8 Arthurian spearmen, and paint them at the same time, going in stages: prime, basecoat, faces, … The classic assembly line painting, in other words, and the one method that is mentioned in every army painting guide out there on the net as the way to get your army painted in anything resembling a decent amount of time.
Unfortunately, the also widely stated disadvantage of this method is that it is a tad, well … boring. My typical painting session these days is about an hour long. In an hour, you do not paint a lot of things if you’re painting 8 figures at the same time. If you’re lucky, you can get all the base colours blocked in, or all the tunics finished, or something like that. That means that, on average, you need around 6 to 8 sessions to finish a figure, or 8 figures, in this case. Unfortunately, the fact that you have finished 8 figures at the same time, does not compensate for the fact that it takes that many painting sessions to actually finish a figure. I find that as often as not, my motivation lags halfway through the painting when using this method.
I have now switched back to a different modus operandi. Instead of 8 figures in assembly line, I now work on maximum three figures at the same time. Those three figures are of different types (e.g. now I have a musketeer (of three of them fame), a Darkest Africa askari and an Early Medieval British archer on my painting table), and are in different stages of finishing (the musketeer has all base colours blocked in, as has the askari, and the archer has some colours finished). This way, I am reasonably certain to finish a figure every other painting session or so, with the result of keeping up my motivation for painting.
So far, it works a charm — I have finished four figures in 7 painting sessions of not more than an hour each. Let’s hope I can keep this up for a while.