4 years a painter: a retrospective.

WALL OF TEXT INCOMING! But it could be worth it!

Hey there ladies and gentlemen, dear painters! This month it is now four years that i paint miniatures in a higher standard. I painted gaming armys for some years before but until 2010 i never diluted or mixed paints. So my stuff looked really crappy.

Then in 2010 i found Cool Mini or Not and was stunned by the variety and insanely painted minis. Some more brosing brought me to some painting tutorials and i thought: well, i could try do do that on my own.

And there my journey began.

What i want to do today: I want to take you on a journey through 4 years of miniature painting and i want to show you my „milestones“ where i did something new, improved on a subject or struggled with a topic. Also i want to deal with a sentence i hear often when i get feedback for my work: „i could never do this“ or „i will never be that good“. I want to erase these thoughts from your mind because i had the same mindset when i began.

I want to show you my way of learning, adapting and developing new skills, maybe it helps some of you a bit.

On every bigger project (big means not physicly big, it means a project i take very serious) i try to do something i THINK, i can not achieve. If you THINK you can not paint a complete freehand banner: Just do it! You will be surprised how successfull you can be! In the following retrospective i will also tell you the things i have achieved with the mindset „i cant do that“.
I will not go into smaller projects and comission works here.

So lets begin in mid-2010. I was browsing through CMON and found this awesome Landraider, painted by Gimiak:

On the BrushBrothers blog i found this tutorial,  that explained  how he painted the parts and i decided to copy his work. I wanted to redo his Landraider and try to get as close as possible. This is a pretty good method for beginning painters: try to copy your favourite minis. Wether this may be by a great painter, a box art or a miniature your friend painted, try to copy it. You will learn a LOT!

There is another trick for you: If you are wondering how „Painter X“ did this or that: ask them! Nearly every painter i have ever asked for help, feedback or how things were done, they were always willing to answer my questions. And so am i when i get asked. Our hobby has not the biggest community in the world of hobbies, so it is all about sharing your knowledge with other painters. You have heard of these Massive Voodoo guys? They are KILLER in sharing knowledge! For free!

Let´s come back to my Landraider. Remember the „i cant do that“ midset? I had this thought for the entire model. I thought i would get an insanely bad result that has nothing to do with the tutorial or original work. Let us see how it turned out:

I finished him October 2010

Surprised how close it comes to the tutorial? Believe me, i was surprised too! And that kicked my motivation into new dimensions. But there is still not a single blending on this model. That should become my next, big topic.

Bretty quick in a painters life you realize that making a color gradient or „blending“ ist the key techinque and stepstone for more advanced techniques. I read much about it and was pretty confused with so many different blending techniques that even had different names like blending, glazing, feathering, layering and so on. And everyone iterprets the names in a different way.

So as there were no blending videos available to me (i did´nt know miniature mentor these days) i struggled a lot and some day in February it happened nearly by itself on one of my black templar marines. Here you can see his powerfist:

I finished him in February 2011

I was absolutely stunned! I achieved my first blending. And on a Terminator Marine i tried a first NMM a few days later. It took me ages to accomplish but i managed to do the gradients. Here you can see it in the golden cross:

i finished him around April 2011

So i wanted do do my next big thing. A chaos terminator lord. The thing i thought i can never do: Make all his armor details in silver NMM. So, yea f*** it and do it.

It tokk an insane amount of time, it has way too low contrast but in the end i worked out my goal to do these Silver-NMM parts. That was the result:

I finished him in June 2011

At this point i was returning to copying works of other painters and i was pretty dazzled when Bohun made his appearence in a miniature mentor tutorial about his nurgle cybot. So i bought it and followed the tutorial, thinking i will never achieve a good result with this tutorial.

The result:

I finished him in July 2012

The next big project that would take me a lot of time were the Undead Black Knights. I wanted to paint them as a unit entry fot the Golden Demon Contest. So i wanted to do something, i had never done before in this dimension: freehands. So i made a banner for one oft hem and there should be an sceleton face and on the other side some gothic-tribals and the Carstein „C“. I thought i coud never do this and it will look crappy in the end. But i sat down with my banner, some inspirations and then i painted. And yet again i was surprised that this was n obig deal. It is still miniature painting.

A lot more challenging was to find a good color fort he bones. And my bone colors did´nt cover really well. That was really frustrating. But this is how they turned out:

I finished them in May 2013

Catched by the freehand achievement i wanted to take this topic a lot further and make a model with a really big banner, completely painted with freehands. So i chose a space marine standart bearer and chose 2 motives for each side oft he banner. The pictures were so complex that i was by my „i can never do that“ thinking. But after you scethed the outlines and proportions with a pencil, it became pretty doable to make this banner. There will be a Video Tutorial by Painting Buddha „Freehands with Stefan „Derwish“ Rath“. This will help you a lot and take away your fear from complex freehands! Ceep your eyes open for that!

I also painted Freehands on the cloak, on the knee and his shoulder (which i personally like more than the banner itself). The Cloak is my favourite part on this mini.

Here the result:

I finished him in August 2013

My next „big thing“ was a not so big thing as it tourned out. I wanted to do the awesome Painting Buddha diorama in a much less comical way as my style was till this time. And i wanted to create a believable environment for the miniatures. And this was my first experience in 54mm scale. And on this project you see what happens when you coose miniatures that you REALLY like. That project was painted on two weekends. The colors just went crazy with me and i had not tot hink about a single step in this mini. It just happened. And that was one of the greatest experiences i had while painting. And since this is happening a lot to me. The greatest joy.

This is how they turned out:

I finished the Scene in September 2013

Next big project should become a contest piece for diorama categories and also a scene i always dreamed of: Dinosaurs. I loved Dinosaurs as a kid and do until today. So a Scene with these Lizard men Models was great! Did i have any „i can not do that thoughts“ on this one? Of course i had: I can not achieve a realistic environment that big. I can not make the lizardmen and the dinosaurs „with character“. But i did. If a model don´t brings much details, e.g. in the face like the rider of this model (all surfaces are pretty flat), then start modeling with paint. I just gave texture to his face, his hands and so on. This enhances the model itsself, gives him charakter and brings him to life.

The result:

I finished the diorama in April 2014

So there we go with my latest project, the scale 75 barbarian. I will not describe him too much here as i did in the last post and you will see the pictures oft he finished models soon(ish). Just let you tell my that on this one i was in a pure crisis of confidence. I absolutely had no idea how i can do the skin and the face in 75mm. No clue. But then i got the advice to just friggin paint it. And so i did and yes, it was one of the most challenging things i have ever painted. But i had also the most fun doing him!

I will finish him in July 2014
Again i was amazed how it turned out. Every one of my big projects gave me a houge motivational boost for going on and taking my skills further. But believe me one thing: even today, on every new big project, there will be a „i can´t do that“ thought. But maybe this is what drives me and lets me learn in the best way.

This is what i want to share with you: Just paint what you like, even if you think you can never achieve it. Ask other painters how they did things, learn from other painter´s mistakes if you can. And do what YOU want, not what other people want you to do.

In the end, i want to give you a little Q&A with questions that i asked myself a lot. And how they got answered by myself or other painters:

FAQM: Frequently asked questions to myself. Or: The inner uncertainty.

Q: Everyone is painting (subject/material) like this. But in reality it does not look like this! Can i do it different than all the other painters?
A: You are very welcome to do things different! Just experiment für yourself and make things different. Often you get pretty cool and unique results.

Q: How can i paint a miniature so everyone likes it?
A: Impossible! Everyone likes different things. And as our main publishing channel is the internet there is one fact that you have to realize: haters gonna hate. If YOU like your work, you will get the best results. You have to differ from technicly and artisitc criticism (wich is good, like „these shadows could be deeper“ or „this or that color would have matched your base/mini/atmosphere better“) from the personal taste-criticism, the mostly bad one („your mini is blue. I hate blue. Your mini is shit!“). I had a lot of trouble with people claiming my chaos models are to clean because chaos has to look dirty. That is complete nonsense. You can make your minis look like YOU want! Clean orks? Cool. Grungy Eldar? Nice! Paint what you like!

Q: What minis should i paint?
A: This question is not as simple as it sounds. There is a „dark side“ where you choose minis for the wrong reasons. Like painting the newest GW release mini to have better chances at a competition like Golden Demon. Or painting a mini because everyone paints it. Or choosing space marines because they get a higher rating at CMON. I was at this dark side. Don´t believe me? Here are examples:

I painted the undead riders as a unit because they were the latest release before the GD i entered them. Till today i dont like these minis by heart. They look cool in the end, but are not my favourites.

My Standart bearer is a space marine because space marines might have better chances at a contest than a Tau standart bearer. So i made a Marine.

This is the dark side when you paint for ratings and prices. Dont. Do. That! Paint whatever the heck you want! I am painting the things because i want to have them in my display case. Because i think they look cool. Thats also a reason i do very less comissions at the time. Because i choose if i really want to paint that. If you do miniature painting for living, well you have to paint for likes, ratings and prizes. But that shall not be the topic today.

Finally i want to give you the best advices i personally got by other people (these people will know when they read) forward to YOU guys. Learn from them:

„Haters gonna hate“

„Lässt du mal deine Unsicherheit und malst einfach hin?“
(„Stop being uncertain and just paint!)

„Don´t let somebody say that your painting or style is wrong. There is no such thing in mini painting. Sure you will do something different, offend people. But the guy who first painted NMM offended a lot.“

With these words of wisdom we will stop with this wall of text here. I hope it can be a bit helpful for some of you.

Keep on happy painting!

Regards, Daniel aka Solmar

12 Responses to 4 years a painter: a retrospective.

  1. Awesome post - shared and enjoyed!

  2. Terry C says:

    Thank you, as you have intended, this post has certainly inspired me. It's also one of those post that reminds us that we really are the best family, can't wait to see your latest project brought to life.

  3. Anonym says:

    A very impressive article about your thoughts and much points where I could finf myself.

    Thanks for that!

    best Siggi

  4. Solmar says:

    Thank you guys. :) I am glad to hear that you could take something with you from this article. :)

  5. G'day, Ich komme aus Australia, verzeihen Sie bitte meine schlechte Deutsch. Dieser Artikel ist ausgezeichnet. Sehr gute Arbeit. Das ist so ziemlich alle meine schlechte Grammatik... so back to English. I am curious, what would you call the defining moment, the point you really thought you were onto something? Did you ever have a conscious moment where you sat there and weighed up your progress, and took a step back, or to the side and tried something else?

    I apologize for my poor German, but I am self taught and have to check my spelling all the time, but I think it's a sign of respect to try and talk to someone in their own tongue.

  6. Solmar says:

    Hey James. :) Your german is pretty good!

    So to your question: There are some times where things doesnt work or it does not look like that i want to achieve, then i do something different for that evening. Sometimes i redo some parts (somach and throat of my carnosaurus was made 3 times until i had a satisfying result).

    And then there are these days or eveneings where you can not stop because everything works and looks great. And the longer you paint and the less you are worried about making mistakes, the more often you have these situations. :)

    I hope i could answer your question a bit!

    Regards, Daniel

  7. Thanks for the quick response Daniel! I have to note that you seem to have really picked up your game in painting so fast over such a small period, that I wonder if you just found your 'mojo'? I can perfectly understand as I have had similar experiences, but I always worry about ruining what I already have. I suppose in time I will be more comfortable with it, and your response seems to reaffirm this.

    Thanks mate, and my Deutsch is so-so, once you get past nice words and into conversation, my grammar turns into a steaming mess haha

  8. Solmar says:

    Ah now i see what you mean. I improved a lot in a short time maybe because of my main goal: to become as skillful as the best painters. Painting is not a hobby for me it is something that gives me greatest joy, something that i LIVE. :)

    And maybe that high main goal and my unsertainty might be a quite good combination. :)

  9. I think it's a great combination, drive and lack of fear to try new things. Means that you will put your all in, and if you don't succeed, you will keep trying until you do. Sehr gut!

    I enjoy hobbying in general, as opposed to the best painting possible, I want a bit of realism and I don't like the extreme contrast and highlighting which is so prevalent in competition painting, so I doubt I will ever reach those lofty heights ever again.

  10. Solmar says:

    Hehe, you don´t need to get into the maximum contrasts to be "good" (see, good is relative). In historic painting there is often a lot less contrast. so why not do it with the fantasy or sci-fi sector? As i said, paint what YOU like. And then you will easily reach the lofty heights. :)

  11. MG says:

    Nice to hear that my tutorial helped you. :)

  12. I found myself being in the same spot you have described in the beginning, a time where you were willing to take the step to the next level and developing higher painting skills. I hope I will manage my way with the same passion you did. Thanks for this great article, it motivates me a lot!

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