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The Tiger Roars 

Perspectives on Painting
Not too cool, eh?What follows is a work of satire. Satire, by its nature, makes fun of people, and in this piece, I'm going to take jabs at some folks, including myself. Please bear in mind that it's all just a joke. None of what you read is meant to be taken seriously (well, except the parts about the sables and the online journals, but we'll get to that). 

Nevertheless, if you’re an overly-sensitive artiste, if you take your painting “veddy seriously,” or if you just plain don’t have a sense of humor, you should stop reading now. Flock you if can’t take a joke.

Warning: crude language and some smutty, sophomoric humor ahead!

Miniature Painting Today: WTF?
When I started playing Warhammer 40K, the prevailing attitude about painting was that it was a chore. You knew you were supposed to do it eventually, so when you had some spare time and nothing else to do, you slapped some paint on your figures as quickly as possible, did a little detail work, and you were done. 

Back in the day, it was quite an accomplishment if your entire army was painted. But now—judging by what you see in White Dwarf or at Grand Tournaments—now, you’re expected to be Van Gogh. Back then, your figures were just playing pieces, the functional equivalents of pawns from a chess set. Now, each miniature is supposed to be an individual work of art. Your miniature isn’t “properly” painted until it’s been undercoated, blended, shaded, highlighted, and flocked. 

Gamers today are supposed to paint “natural skin tones” on their figures, reproduce “battle damage” on their vehicles, and “unify the appearance” of their army. God help you if you don’t “use the color wheel” and “keep a consistent lighting angle” when you paint your miniatures.

Yeah, right. I say, to hell with that noise.

“Painting the ‘Eavy Metal Way”
Just as Microsoft has brought us the insipid horrors of presentations by Powerpoint, Games Workshop has brought us “painting the ‘Eavy Metal way.” What is “painting the ‘Eavy Metal way?” For those of you new to the hobby, ‘Eavy Metal is a feature in White Dwarf magazine. ‘Eavy Metal articles show, step-by-step, how a Games Workshop artist paints a miniature to Golden Demon-level standards. What is never mentioned, of course, is that the artist:

  • Usually has more talent than 99% of the readers;
  • Is not painting an entire army; 
  • Is getting paid for this nonsense; and
  • Has no life other than painting miniatures.
When ‘Eavy Metal first came out, the rest of us gamers obligingly went “ooh” and “ahh” over each article and then we shrugged and went back to slapping thick coats of paint on our minis and reassuring ourselves that only someone who wasn’t getting laid would spend that amount of time painting toy soldiers. 

Somewhere along the line, “painting the ‘Eavy Metal way”—with all of the torturous steps that no one besides a self-loathing masochist would employ—became Games Workshop’s default way to paint miniatures. Take this example from The Complete Games Workshop Catalog and Hobby Reference, 2004-2005 Edition, on painting Tzeentch Horrors (page 67, for those of you following along at home): 

To get a nice, bright final color on your Horrors of Tzeentch, start with a Skull White undercoat. Make sure your coverage is complete.

Start by painting a basecoat of Enchanted Blue. Once this coat dries, wash the model in Blue Ink. 

Highlight the skin with Enchanted Blue and then again with Hawk Turquoise.

Blend up a 50/50 mix of Hawk Turquoise and Skull White and highlight the raised areas of the model.

Paint the Horror’s nails with Skull White. 

Paint the mouth and eyes with Chaos Black. Basecoat the gums, eyes, and tongue in Warlock Purple. Pick out the details with Tentacle Pink and add an extra Skull White highlight to the tongue. Add spots to the tongue by dipping your brush in Magenta Ink and dabbling the tip onto the tongue.

Okay, I wasn’t a math major in college, but by my count, you wind up painting the same mini six times with this method (Skull White, Enchanted Blue, Blue Ink, Enchanted Blue again, Hawk Turquoise, and mix of Hawk Turquoise/Skull White). And the tongue—sheesh! If I’m going to pay that much attention to a tongue, there better be a hottie on the other end of it. 

Did someone ask for some tongue?
Okay, baby, put that tongue away
before someone gets hurt

I admit that if you’re working on a special character or a display piece, you should use “the ‘Eavy Metal way.” But many gamers have taken Games Workshop’s technique and applied it with no sense of logic or proportion, attempting to paint entire armies this way. I wouldn’t do that, but hey, it’s a mostly free world: if you want to paint every Termagant in your army “the ‘Eavy Metal Way,” with all kinds of shading and highlighting and blending, be my guest. That’s one less “swarm” army—a painted one, anyway—that I won’t have to face across a table.

But please don’t look down your nose at those of us who don’t. I have better things to do. 

“Painting the ‘Eavy Metal way:” again, I say to hell with that noise. 

Digression #1: Gene Simmons, My Hero
Every once in a while, some gamer out there will summon up enough cajones to assume an obvious pseudonym and e-mail me about my distressing paucity of painting talent. Such missives usually read like this:

Ha ha I piss better than u can paint ur mareens look likes shit who told u u can paint asshole ur site sux
I’m always crushed—CRUSHED, I tell you—when someone who cannot correctly spell the second person singular condemns my work. No doubt, anyone who would submit such a keen critique of my painting skills is the next Degas and not just some bored mooncalf abusing their Internet privileges at the group home. 

To date, none of these correspondents has attached samples of their own work so that I may study their painting techniques and perhaps return the favor by critiquing them. I can’t imagine why.  Surely, it must be just an oversight on their part. 

On the rare occasions when I answer one of these critics, my reply is usually nothing more than: 

Yes, my painting sucks, but it sure got your attention. Notice whose army we’re NOT talking about: yours.
You see, in the face of withering criticism, I take heart in the example provided by one of my all-time heroes, Gene Simmons of the rock band KISS (that fellow there below). 

Dr. Love

Gene doesn’t play bass very well. Gene doesn’t sing well. Gene doesn’t write very good songs; while some of them are catchy, none of them have any artistic merit. Two hundred years from now, orchestras won’t be playing “Christine Sixteen” in concert halls. 

And if you were to point these facts out to Mr. Simmons, he’d probably agree with you—then inform you that he gets more cash and more women in a week than you will in your entire life. Gene figured out a long time ago that you don’t have to be great at what you do, you just have to get noticed. 

So, while some of my miniatures are flashy, I admit that none of them have any artistic merit. But hey, they get noticed. If that strategy is good enough for Gene, that’s good enough for me. 

Seven Things That Really Honk Me Off
Thinning paint. Whenever you read one of those White Dwarf articles where some pro artist discusses how to paint some figure, they’re always telling you that you need to thin the paint with some water or else it will go on too thick. You know, for what you’re paying for Citadel paints, you would think they could make it the right consistency.  “Thin the paint?” I have a better idea—stop selling thick paint!

Highlighting. Somewhere, some bunghole decided that it’s just not hard enough to paint a figure smaller than a flea’s nads. It’s not enough work to make sure, say, that the figure’s eyes look somewhat like real eyes and not like saucers with irregularly-shaped blobs of color in the middle. It’s not enough hassle to paint 30 Grots that are just going to be taken out in one turn of shooting from that cheesedick at the local gaming store who’s always fielding three Whirlwinds in his 1000-point Marine army.

No, that’s not enough. Now you’re supposed to highlight your figures too. That means you have to take decently-painted miniatures and embellish them by brushing thin streaks of a lighter shade on top of all the other colors that you’ve already put on the figures. Like you haven’t done enough work already.

Say it with me: to hell with that noise. 

I mean, really. You buy the damn figures, you put them together, you put some paint on them—haven’t you earned the right to stop there? Once I become Emperor, I will decree that highlighting shall only be performed by Rodeo Drive hairdressers servicing aging Beverly Hills socialites with obviously plastic boobs and collagen lip injections and regular botox sessions. The rest of us will be assumed to have better things to do. 

Drybrushing. The brush can only be dry if there’s no paint on it. If there’s no paint on it, how am I supposed to paint the miniature? Something is very wrong here. 

Drilling gun barrels. Technically, this is a modeling issue, not a painting issue, but work with me. Certain gamers feel compelled to use a thin drill to core out the ends of gun barrels, particularly on boltguns. Because hey, we all need more work to do with our toy soldiers in between games. 

Folks who go in for this say that drilling out the barrels looks more “realistic.” News flash: you can’t have “realistic” Space Marines, because there aren’t any “real” Space Marines. If you want “realistic” Space Marines, you first need to purchase some figures that are 7 feet tall, like those below. Then we can talk.

Real Space Marines
If you think the figures are big, wait until you see the carrying case you need for them... 

Ponder this: let’s say you’re drilling the barrels of a Marine’s bolter and the drill slips and ruins the boltgun. Then what are going to do? The only thing more pathetic than a hardcore nicotine addict searching the gutter for a used cigarette--even a filter--is a gamer stumbling around a store trying to skoach a spare bolter off someone. 

Metallics. You have a metal figure. You basecoat it Chaos Black. Then you paint it Boltgun Metal. What have you just accomplished, aside from giving GW six dollars of your hard-earned money for two pots of paint?

Non-metal metallics. To paint a figure’s sword or gun, you could just slap on some of the  aforementioned Boltgun Metal or Dwarf Bronze over it. But some people insist on painting items that should obviously be metallic in “non-metal metallics.” This involves a lot of drybrushing and blending of various shades of paint. Folks who do this are no different from the kids in high school that routinely did the extra credit problems in math class. Fornicating showoffs. 

No Chaos Black. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to a Games Workshop and they’ve been out of Chaos Black, the workhorse of painting GW minis. If Warhammer and Warhammer 40K are supposed to be “dark” and “gothic,” how the hell can GW run out of Chaos Black? Don’t they know that just about everybody primes with this stuff? It’s like McDonald’s running out of hamburgers—how can that happen?

Digression #2: Cicadas
Every 17 years, portions of the Eastern Seaboard of the United States are inundated with cicadas: big, red-eyed, winged bugs who emerge from underground, buzz around for about six weeks, mate, and die. They came earlier this year, and now that they’re gone, I’ve realized that I’ve missed my chance to create a Gargoyle-heavy Tyranid army for little more than the cost of flying stands and matt varnish. Damn it! You know how much Games Workshop wants for Gargoyles? And think of the time I could have saved on painting.

Free Gargoyle figure with every download of the Jungle!

Guess I’ll just have to wait until 2021. 

Basing: You’re Flocking Kidding Me, Right?
For years and years, I just painted my figures’ bases Chaos Black, because:

  • I think of miniatures as game pieces, not works of art;
  • Black goes with any color scheme; and
  • Painting bases is even more tedious to me than painting minis.
And for a long time, that was cool. But in the same way that the “‘Eavy Metal way” has infected painting minis, so too has a similar attitude infected basing. All Games Workshop events (and many independent stores) now require that your bases be painted. Because, you know, painting miniatures isn’t enough of a time-consuming pain in the ass. 

So I eventually submitted and painted all the bases on my Fighting Tigers Space Marines in Goblin Green. But more and more, it seems like THAT isn’t good enough either. The standard has changed again, and now it seems like bases need to be flocked, too. Because, you know, painting bases isn’t enough of a time-consuming pain in the ass. 

Because I like to be able to enter the occasional tournament, I’ll probably go back and flock all the bases on my Tigers. But while a figure on a Goblin Green base decorated with green static grass looks really cool on a green tabletop, it looks damned stupid on, say, a desert board. Or in the middle of a street on an urban table. Or perched atop a building. All-black bases don’t suffer from that problem, because the eye naturally overlooks a black base. It’s only when you decorate the base that you attract attention to it. 

A Golden Shower for the Golden Demon; or, Piss on the Whole Thing
I hate the Golden Demon competition. Please don’t think that my ire has anything to do with personal jealousy against the handful of artists who scoop up all the big awards every year. Just because the bastards are more talented, creative, and dedicated than the rest of us doesn’t mean that they’re bad people. After all, I’ve met a few of them, and I’m a good friend with one of them (at least, I hope I’m still a good friend with one of them—dude, it was crowded and my snorkel mask was fogged up and I couldn't tell who she was: I'm SORRY, okay?). 
 

Winner!
Winner!
LOSER!!!
Golden Demon Winner!
Golden Demon Winner!
Golden Demon Loser!
Winner photos © copyright Games Workshop 2001 and 2002. Used for parody purposes. 

No, my problem with the Golden Demon is that once upon a time, it was a competition of actual figures used in actual games by actual players. If you painted well, you could enter your best pieces from your army and have a shot of making at least the first cut. 

But these days, unless you’re a professional painter, you shouldn’t even bother entering. The talent level has jacked its way into the stratosphere and the Golden Demon has mutated into a frickin’ art contest. You’re naïve if you think that just because you highlighted the Marneus Calgar figure you use as your army’s commander, you have a prayer against some fellow with a Master’s of Fine Arts who’s been working all year on a conversion that:

  • Uses bits from 58 different minis, many of them out-of-production; 
  • Is embellished with green stuff sculpting; 
  • Is painted with a palette that would shame an Impressionist; and 
  • Is mounted on an elaborate base that uses actual lunar soil. 
No, you don’t have a prayer. Your figure is Rosie O’Donnell in a pageant full of Playboy Playmates, pal: you ain’t winnin’ no beauty prizes today, tomorrow, or the day after that. 

Someone else's Golden Demon entrySomeone else's Golden Demon entryYour Golden Demon entrySomeone else's Golden Demon entrySomeone else's Golden Demon entry
Guess which one is YOUR Golden Demon entry?
Playmate photos used for parody purposes. Please don't sue me, Hef!

But don’t think that the Golden Demon is much better for the Talented People. For you and me, the Golden Demon is the Annual Exercise in Futility; for them, it’s the “Can-You-Top-THIS?” Competition. Because every year, they have to push themselves just to stay in the running: more intricate conversions, more green stuff sculpting, more subtle painting, and more elaborate basing. You ever heard of one of these Uber-Artists winning a Grand Tournament? Hell no. You know why? Because to stay competitive, they have to devote all their time to painting, not gaming. 

If you want one solid piece of evidence that the Golden Demon has gone horribly out of control, look at the bases on the winning entries from this year or years past. Artists put as much—if not more—work into their bases than they do the figures. The bases get bigger and bigger and more elaborate and involve spending about five hundred bucks at Home Depot. For half of these artists, even if they wanted to use their Golden Demon entries as gaming pieces, they couldn’t, because there’d be no room on the table for the other guy’s army. No wonder some people call the Golden Demon “The ‘Best Base’ Contest.” 

Raja Khandar Madu--LOSER!Wyches--LOSER!
More losing entries from the Golden Demon: what pathetic fool thought THESE were any good?
Photo of Raja Khandar Madu courtesy of  New Wave Mail Order, Inc.

While we’re discussing the Golden Demon, let me vent for a moment about the Youngbloods, the painters age 14 and under. You know, I can accept that a grownup like Joe Orteza or Jennifer Haley can skunk me in a painting competition. But goddammit, it burns my ass that some kid who isn’t old enough to drive can paint better than me. Every year, most of the Youngblood entries, even the ones who don’t win, have been much better than my stuff, and I’ve been painting minis since literally before those little bastards were born. Man, does that honk me off. 

(Just kidding, Youngbloods. You guys rock.)

The Golden Demon: to hell with that noise.

The Following Message Should Have Been Brought to You by PETA
This is a sable, a mammal belonging to the weasel family. Cute, huh?

Awwww, iddn he cuuuuuuuute?Awwww, iddn he cuuuuuuuute?
Say it with me now: "Awwwwwwwwwww......."

The next time you paint, spare a moment to look down at your brush. Odds are, the tip of your brush is made from sable fur. 

That’s right, some innocent animal died for your worthless hobby. Now don’t you feel like crap? 

Digression #3: Pink vs. Tentacle Pink
On the left is the singer Pink. On the right is Tentacle Pink, from Citadel Paints. 
 
 

Pink
Tentacle Pink
Pink is my favorite color....

If you know all about the one on the right but know nothing about the one on the left, you may need to get out more often. 

But Seriously….
Let me close by offering something that will hopefully help you out when you paint. As I’ve mentioned several times in this rant, I hate to paint. When I get some free time from work and family, I can always find something other to do other than paint. Realizing this, I’ve come up with a way to motivate myself.

When I’m working on a painting project, I visit the Millenium Gate forum and begin an online journal. In it, I say what I’m working on and what the steps will be. Each time I paint, I enter the date and record my progress. Here’s an example of how the log might read:

PROJECT: 10-man Dark Eldar Warrior squad.
02/09/2004: Assembled figures.
02/10/2004: Primed figures in black.
02/11/2004: Applied Enchanted Blue to appropriate armor pieces.
02/11/2004: Applied Mithril Silver to appropriate armor pieces and helmets.
And so on. While it’s not exactly scintillating reading for other visitors, it does interest some other people and it goads me to work on a project. Making a public promise to do something is often a powerful motivation tool, as no one wants to look like a liar or a failure. 

If you’re tempted to do something like this on your favorite 40K forum, check with the moderators first to make sure they’re okay with this. 

Okay, I’m Done
Nevermind what the Martha Stewart wanna-be’s tell you: your army doesn’t have to be perfectly painted. Just do the best you can, with the time that you can spare, and remember that there are many more important things to do in life than painting. As I hope I’ve illustrated, the only thing sillier than painting toy soldiers is getting bent out of shape over painting toy soldiers. 
 

Posted:  July 2004. Edited for language September 2006

Top

Fighting Tigers:
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers

Other Pages:
Main <> What's New <> Site Index <> The Tiger Roars <> Themed Army Ideas
Events and Battle Reports <> Campaigns <> Terrain <> FAQ <> Beyond the Jungle