Tuesday, 8 November 2016

More Input: changing scale

- Sucking at something is the first step to becoming sorta good at something. -

In case you thought that I was pretending being so slow, I'm not.
I was merely convinced by a mischievous couple of individuals to start my first AoS army.
Yes, I've painted some 75 mm in the past, but I've never painted a whole army of 50 pieces.
My main concern was "maybe I will grow bored after the first thirty", but I never expected to find the task anything near "difficult".

I'm not a professional painter, but when it comes to vehicles and robots, modesty can kiss my glorious butt. I'm a bit more than average.
So I supposed that, similarly to my beloved mechas, my miniatures had to come out "a bit more than average".

Huge. Mistake.

"And I am the pretty one!"

Don't get me wrong, I'm quite at ease with mistakes: I'm an IT engineer for living and "try-and-error" helps me getting the fridge full and the bills payed.
There were at least 3 aborted tries on the painting scheme of the Crawler just for the first layer of rust.
But one thing is "some errors while adjusting aim", and another one is "failing miserably while following YouTube tutorials".
I started with ten generic Blood Reavers, thinking "meh, at least I'll make some practice with skin tones" and after a week I was seriously thinking of drinking a fistful of them like pills with a glass of water. I was literally wasting tons of time without getting anywhere, fearing that in the meantime, the remaining miniatures would start breeding in the box (they are all males but, you know, Chaos works in a mysterious way).

Truth is I was catapulted back to when I started my first 1/48 aircraft and I kept staring at the box art wondering "How can this be f*cking possible without a shrinking gun?"

Luckily, one of abovementioned individuals is the same that painted ten lizardmen in an afternoon, basing included.
And then we started talking.
Nothing complex. Just the very basic of "How can you f*cking paint twenty f*ckers without getting f*cking crazy?"

kinda like this...
After a couple of days, things started making sense again.
That's the very reason of this section: a thoughtful corner of tips and tricks.
Not because I think that the Internet is short on basic tutorials, but because I was able to find dozens of videos about "smooth and neat edge highlighting", but not quite as many about "why I SUCK at edge highlighting".
Telling "try to be as neat as possible" is not nearly enough.

"The first ten will suck."

Yes, I name my miniatures with hispanic names.
No matter how good you are at something, if you drastically change scale or, worst, scale and subject (like jumping from 1/35 Scifi to 30 mm. Fantasy), you won't get similar results in a short time.
It changes everything. It is like starting once more from the beginning.
That brings us to the scale model/miniature version of the first rule of the Fight Club.
If you're new at this, you won't like your first 10 pieces.
Not. A. Bit.
No matter how hard you try to make them decent.
And if you're any good on different subjects/scales, this can be even worse, since on some shelves you'll have something more than decent to constantly compare them with.

"The second ten will suck too. But differently."

Yes, all of them. Each with its own name.
Sooner or later you'll decide to pass over the first ten.
Drowning them with some detergent to start over or hiding them on the "shelf of shame" doesn't matter.
They still count.
You spent a cheeky number of hours on them, and that truth will not be washed away with some thinner.
You know what to do, you know even how to do it.
But you simply can't.
Even with tecniques you are familiar with, suddenly you feel strange and sloppy.
Tones and colors that worked perfectly on paper, onto test pieces, looks silly or boring. Everything is either too colorful or dull.
Like when you're struggling trying to make round at the gas station.
The reason is all in the contrast.
In scale modelling, getting the right contrast is the cornerstone of everything and the smaller you go, the higher you have to push it.
But, at the same time, the range between dull and silly gets smaller too, so getting "the right amount" is a fairly harder than just cutting the midtones.
How you get the "right amount"?

"Study and practice. Years of it."

"Gaze into eternal tedium!"
Sadly, in real life there's not a montage to overcome the boredom of the practice needed to getting better at something.
Yes, practicing can be ridiculously boring.
Mostly it IS ridiculously boring
No, there is no other way.
There's no particular brand of paint, brush or other tool. Clearly you can feel more confortable working with some of them, but nothing works like "rinse and repeat".
Don't worry, there's a bright side: it works.
But why was I about to build a fireplace in my kitchen and burn the little plastic bastards, while with my beloved gunpla anything "wasn't such a big deal"?
My last three mecha are blatantly better when compared one aside the other, but I didn't feel the urge to eat a panda cub as I did while practicing the Reaver's skintone...
After a while, when you've become decent at your hobby, you pass a thin line, where you keep improving. but at the same time your product isn't plain crap anymore.
You finally enjoy the process of getting a "bit better" instead of being "less displeased" by the attempts.
Like when you learn to cook for yourself and the cake finally tastes like it should.
It's still pretty ugly, crooked too, but finally it's more than just edible.

"Time is of the essence"

"My dad says I'm almost pretty"
Another thing that I totally underestimated in an army project was the importance of planning.
I normally work on single subjects.
So, even if I still need some sort of scheduling for the different phases, at the end of the day the effort is still gravitating around one thing with really minor setbacks.
Today I'm sanding, tomorrow I will be basecoating.
One thing that I coudn't understand while talking with Jonathan was the precise amount of hours that he scheduled for the various batch of the army.
Around 10 hours for these, less than 20 hour for that, and so on.
Counting hours?
I simply keep investing time until I can't see a significant improvement over my latest efforts.
For the Crawler I just know that I started at the end of July and finished it half around October.

Clearly instead of getting deeper in the subject, I started as I always did.

After the first five miserable attempts bathed in the salty waters of tears and thinner, I tried to keep a generic count of the hours, just to have some numbers to crunch,
Halfway through the second repaint I figured out that my approach was unmanageble on an army scale.
Yes, they're mostly painted with the same schema, but they are fifty subjects that are far from identical.
I started taking a much closer look to the miniatures and I figured out that I had fifteen subgroups, major difference in the materials (leather, chains, pouches, etc..), in the basecoating order, and so on.
Not a chance to use them in game, in less than 8 months of steady 3/4 hours per day.
And I already have a job, a paid one.
Suddently all the mumbo junmbo about setting an hour-limit started making sense.

"Done is better than perfect"

At least I don't feel the urge to throw you down the toilet
I'm pretty sure I head this phrase during the first lessons at the advanced programming class.
There's always space for further improvement, but at some point, enough is enough.
It's true when you are wasting hours polishing rivets with a 0000 brush and it's even more true when you would gladly clean your stove with a toothbrush, rather than painting the same f*cking Blood Reaver for the tenth time.
Repetita iuvant, but when your hobby is not a pleasure anymore, you are not getting anywhere.
It's not a matter of settling for a lower standard, but to simply accept you are not that good yet.
Even Muhamamd Ali was beated five times, so I think I can find perfectly acceptable that my first army will be way sloppier than my 70th (more or less) mecha.

"... and add a little bit of water to keep your paint smooth."

From this point of view keeping track of your job with photos can help maintaining a good vibe about the dreaded tolerance to failure.
A couple of days ago I had almost forgot about the first attempt on the first batch of bloodreavers.
I found the pictures by chance while backing up the phone.
I had the good Galtero on the shelf right near the screen and I realized that it was still not good enough, but at the same time still ten times better than the first one.

Hopefully in a week or so I'll have a decent amount of little bastards for a more technical post, but I still hope that you'll have some fun with this one.