After a great conversation with a friend of mine I decided it would be nice to spend some time thinking about my history with this hobby. Since every interview with painters seems to cover this topic, I figure it should make for a good blog post. At the moment there have been three clear turning points in my journey as a painter and hobbyist, though I expect there will be more!
From the very start my parents did a great job of encouraging my creativity, so I have been doing art in some form or another for my entire life. In my elementary school years my father introduced me to one of his childhood hobbies, painting model airplanes and automobiles. I remember visiting my grandfather at his childhood home and he would show me models he’d painted up in the attic, from back “When I was your age”. It was a fun father & son bonding activity, but not a huge part of my life in the way that toys such as Legos were. I struggled so much with the clear glass panes of cockpits and windshields, getting glue all over them and my fingers, but I loved bringing a bunch of little bits together and turning them into neat model. Painting them wasn’t nearly as appealing to me then, I just had the grey plastic vehicles all over my shelves. Looking back now, I think it was because I wasn’t able to make them look the way I wanted and the frustration of failure was far more unpleasant than just using my imagination.
As nearly everyone in this hobby has, I took a longer break from models in my teenage years. There were girls to think about, and video games! During that time I remained engaged in creative outlets, but I skipped around trying out various activities and didn’t focus on anything in particular.
At the age of 18 I stumbled into a Games Workshop for the first time, having previously only been to shops devoted to historical and scale modelling. I was in Edinburgh, Scotland, nearing the end of an extraordinarily exhausting 3-month backpacking trip around Western Europe. Something in the window might have caught my eye, but honestly I was just aimlessly wandering High Street and going into all sorts of shops just to kill time. It was a dark and lonely time in my life for a variety of reasons, so when I was approached by a friendly employee who offered to let me sit down and paint a mini for free I took him up on the offer. I couldn’t say for sure what the first thing I painted was, it was either a night goblin, high elf, or wood elf. Didn’t matter because I was hooked by the pleasant, vaguely encouraging atmosphere of the store and the mental escape that focusing entirely on painting brought me. Of the two weeks I spent in Scotland, I spent the majority of my time in that store. When I think back on that time it is as though I was unhealthily self-medicating, only my drug of choice was painting tiny things. I say that because I do not remember hardly anything about my time there. I didn’t care what I was painting, I had no desire to learn about the games, I didn’t engage in any sort of real conversations with the people around me. I showed up, dumped out my box of miniatures, and painted all day to quiet my mind.
It helped, though. Enough that I looked for a shop later in Ireland, and then in my new hometown in Colorado. Over time things got better, and my relationship with painting improved as well. I didn’t have a Games Workshop near me in Colorado, but there was a hobby store and the people there played Warmachine/Hordes. I actually paid attention to the models and became invested in what I was doing, read the lore, played the game, made friends. I found out about Cool Mini or Not and seeing what people were painting there made me want to get better myself. However, I was far too confident in my own ability to teach myself and did not ask for help often. When I did, I didn’t take the feedback very well, so I learned very slowly and reached a sort of plateau. I could do the basics for sure – basecoats, washes, layering highlights, drybrushing, edge-highlighting – and I had decent brush control, but I did not branch out much from that. I got a little bit better at basing after the first year or so, and my blends got smoother for sure, but the rate of progress slowed way way down over the years.
In the middle of 2018 I upended my life and moved to Munich, Germany on my own. I had made friends through the hobby before, so I prepared to do so again by picking up the Dark Imperium box and the basic Warhammer 40k rulebook. At first I wasn’t even remotely interested in space marines, having always been more of a fantasy nerd, so I decided Death Guard would be my faction with their clunky armour and demonic appearance. It was through reading the Death Guard codex that I found myself sucked into the lore of the 40k universe. I began reading more online, and I found the incredible Iron Sleet blog. I was massively inspired by what they were doing together. Never having seen the grimdark style used for entire armies before, I knew I wanted to do something similar and I knew that I had no clue where to even start.
That realization is what finally got me past the painting plateau I was on. I began searching for all sorts of tutorials online, analyzing photos on instagram, and most importantly trying new things. The results I was able to achieve motivated me to keep practicing and learning, bringing me to where I am now. Still trying to learn as much as I can, following along with masterclasses online, going to painting workshops, and enjoying the process.