Saturday 17 September 2016

The Art of "It'll Do"

... or How I Stopped Procrastinating And Started Finishing Figures

I'm not a great painter. No false modesty there, it's a fact - and while I strive to improve, currently my painting isn't much above average - or perhaps a decent quality tabletop level. This is fine. Where I have struggled the most is completing projects and moving to the next, and stop to think about how to rework something. But ... what is happening is that my projects are being finished and in reasonable time.

No magic tricks involved, but some simple techniques and a recent change of mindset. So I thought it might be nice to share how this has happened for the benefit of anyone else in the same position.

I'm getting quicker at the bigger tasks

After taking a recent painting course with the excellent Siege Studios (more on that in the future), they kept reminding us that half the battle of painting is the art of repetition. Doing the same task, time and time again, until you're better at it. Simple, right?

So the last week for me has been a focus on painting faces and adding shading and highlighting. As a result, the time it takes me to complete a face has sped up significantly. Okay, it's not amazing (yet!) but the same task is taking a good hour or two less than it did a month ago. Practice and practice again and suddenly there's all this extra time in my evening that wasn't there before.

I accept my projects won't be perfect

This is really hard for me as by and large, in most things I'm a completionist, mildly obsessive about everything being released to the same quality, and projects being at a high level of polish. While laudable as a work trait, it carried through into my hobby and has had a tendency to let me massively procrastinate slow me down significantly and needs to be unlearned for painting.

There's an old software development adage that the first 90% of a job takes 90% of the time, and the last 10% of the job takes 90% of the time. (source) But here's the nice part, and you may already know this ... by stopping at that 90% (okay, sometimes 91%) it means I can move on to the next project in the same year.

Very few painters will ever say "yep, this was perfect - there's nothing I'd change" ... it's a continually evolving and improving process, but when you're picking up the brush ask one question at the start "what's the reason for painting this?".

My latest project, Morticians from Guild Ball, are a good example of this - I want them on the table and being played.

Are they perfect? Not by a long chalk. There's a shonky left eye on Silence, Graves' gloves need another highlight or two, Obulus' straps could get an edge highlight, Silence's robes need more glazing. Could I spend infinite time sitting there trying to get them perfect? Certainly. Would I improve them enough to warrant that extra time spent? Probably not.

But in addition I got to play with new techniques. From the motley crew above, in order, I've played with: painting white shirts, glowing effects, adding blood, texture on robes, leather, stone and wet blending on fabric.

If these were competition pieces, then I would happily agonise over the final important steps to lift them up beyond my normal level, pushing to reach for the elusive next step up. If they were practice pieces designed to improve technique then it needs that extra 10% to boost my skill levels - but in most cases ... they're not! The purpose of these figures, for the most part, is to be used and played with; having them sitting unpainted on a box or unfinished my desk does them no justice at all.

Getting through this mental barrier has easily been the trickiest part of the hobby for me in the last year.

I will be okay with errors

Ideally you should finish a project, examine your handiwork and say "that was good, but next time I'll do this differently". Feel free to make errors - but try and make new and exciting errors each time (source) rather than retreading the same well worn ground every time.

Sure, if you look at my figures up close on the photographs then there are mistakes aplenty. My blending and layering is a slow work in progress, sometimes I miss clearly sculpted details that are evident to everyone but me, occasionally my brush overpaints something it shouldn't.

In short - it'll do. I'm okay with that.