New Beginnings

I quit my job and moved across the country! I'm now a proud resident of Wisconsin and starting anew with freelance projects and... you guessed it: miniature painting :) We're all moved in and I have my new office set up. My creative space is a bit smaller and doesn't have a closet to stuff my gigantic hoard of miniatures, so I had to get creative using wall space and a shelving cabinet to store my basing materials and alarming amount of unpainted miniatures.

Using my handy dandy label maker, I sectioned out spaces and organized them by manufacturer. Anything that didn't fit in the shelving unit went into the basement (which is a thing up north, evidently). Luckily, it was only a few things: a box of Kickstarter minis from Ninja All-Stars and two fairly large plastic tubs of Reaper minis (LOL). I figure when winter comes, I'll be able to hide away with a space heater and paint miniatures until I'm forced to go outside in the frigid cold weather. 

In other news, it's time for ReaperCon 2018 in two months so I better get painting again! ReaperCon this year is August 30-September 2, 2018. I understand is the exact same weekend as DragonCon and NOVA. I'm bummed that I won't see all the regular artist peeps but I'm looking forward to seeing the folks that are able to make it this year!

I'll be teaching four classes this year (first year as a full-time instructor!): 

Multicultural Skin Tones (x2)

Have you ever tried painting a different skin tone, only to have it turn out all wrong? In this class, we'll venture outside of our creative comfort zones and explore the tricky art of painting various complexions. I'll share my methods of finding inspiration and reference material, planning overall color schemes, and applying finishing touches to help your miniatures stand out (in a good way!) During this class, we'll touch on a few different topics, including a bit of color theory, blending, and glazing techniques. Students will need to bring their own brushes.

Painting Eyes

Ready to face your fears and tackle the dreaded eye? With a bit of patience, you'll be able to paint more expressive faces in no time! In this class, I'll explain my favorite step-by-step process as students get hands-on experience painting happy little eyes. Individual guidance will be offered each step of the way. Please bring your own brushes, including a finer detail brush.

Speed Paint Scramble!

Imagine: it's almost game night and you need a last-minute mini to play with your tabletop group. What do you do? Speed paint scramble! Join me in this beginner-friendly class where I'll break down my method for painting minis quickly, using a limited color palette. Students should bring a medium-sized brush (approx. size 1-3) for base coating and a smaller brush for finishing-touch details.

Last year, I tried to cover too much material at once in my "Blending Skin & Fabric" class, and I'm narrowing it down to just skin tones. I really don't know what I was thinking trying to cover skin + blending + fabric in less than 2 hours with over 12+ students and calling it a "beginners" class. Yeesh! I'm grateful for the experience and now that I'm a bit wiser, I think pacing will be much more manageable. 

I'm still not sure what I've decided to enter in the painting competition, and I'll need to figure that out soon! Luckily, there's still time. I'm going to commit to finishing my entries before the convention, not procrastinating until the last minute like I have before in previous years, blaming my demanding work schedule for the lack of paint time. That's not an issue this year! However, I'm feeling the pressure of dwindling personal savings, so I need to get out there and paint some commissions-- more on that soon! 

Breakthrough

I gave my notice at my job on Thursday. This past month I often took the time to ask myself what would truly make me happy and, among other things, having more control over my work/life balance and consistent miniature painting was part of it. It's going to be a brand new adventure, but it's time I moved onto bigger & better things with the support of friends & family :)

While things at work have been very stressful, I was recently misdiagnosed and taking medicine that was causing some serious problems. Without going too much into the details, it's been a rough ride over the past 3 years getting to the bottom of my health issues. The good news is, my new doctor has a different theory on what's affecting my hormones and causing my adrenal fatigue. I'm hopeful that my upcoming sleep study will provide some additional insight. Fingers crossed!

In the meantime, I've been slowly starting to paint again after months of the cycle of work, eat, cry, sleep; repeat. Pathetic. I was incredibly bummed when I missed the deadline for the Miniature Monthly Darksword paint contest on Dec 31. I had "Female Ranger with Bow" all planned out and started but after weeks of working late and being emotionally and socially drained, I just couldn't pull it together in the end. I was very disappointed in myself.

Last week, I woke up and realized I'm not a victim. I'm not stuck in my job or my head– if I don't like my situation, I have the power to change it. I would often think, "If I were just [strong/disciplined/creative/healthy] enough, I'd be happy." Admittedly, the recent balacing in my medication has helped me get a grip on the self-loathing in my own head. So I sucked it up and rather than dwell on it, I've decided to finish the Miniature Monthly challenge and giveaway the miniature in a random contest– perhaps with Twitter followers– I'm not sure just yet. I'll keep you posted! Here's what I have so far:

I've also started on one of Reaper's 25th anniversary limited edition miniatures, Lysette, inspired by Erza Scarlet from the anime Fairy Tail. I haven't painted fantasy-red hair before and I figured she'd be perfect for it! I'll use Erza's Robe of Yūen (悠遠の衣 Yūen no Koromo) armor as a guide for my color scheme with purples and pinks. The other arm of the miniature (not yet attached) holds a magic wielder's staff which is consistent with Erza's armor as well :)

Last but not least, I have Reaper's Cleric of Mammon where I've taken some artistic liberties with her clothing and skintone paint choices which differs from her concept art (below right). While the Erza Scarlet-inspired mini above will have a fair skintone, I often challenge myself to experiment with darker shades. I'll be incorporating my examples into a future class at ReaperCon 2018!

Speaking of Reaper, I was in Denton, Texas last week and got to stop by and say hi to the folks at Reaper HQ. They were nice enough to take some time out of their day to visit with me and show me the upcoming projects they're working on. I'm also excited about ReaperCon 2018, which will be held at The Embassy Suites Denton Convention Center. I'm excited about the prospect of attending, this time as a full-fledged instructor, but I'll need to talk it over with my better half, since September 1 is our wedding annivesary. Eep! While I'd love to teach painting classes at ReaperCon again while he plays tabletop games on the other side of the convention area– I admit that it's not the most romantic setting, but I hope he's open to it! Wish me luck :)

ReaperCon 2017 - Part 1

I had a great experience this year at ReaperCon– my fourth ReaperCon so far! However, it's been a very different experience compared to previous years, since in the past, I've attended strictly as a con-goer and forumite. This year, I was a part-time instructor teaching two classes: "Painting Eyes" and "Blending: Fabric & Skin". I also got a chance to visit with friends and see family! Needless to say, it was a gloriously-packed five days that started out rough...

I bought a VIP ticket, which included the Wednesday night Meet & Greet, however I was struck down with a killer migraine that had me bedridden and unable to travel. If I had worn my magnifying Optivisor the day before, I wouldn't have hunched over my desk and squinted late into the night as I rushed to complete my competition miniatures. Having a stiff neck and shoulders is a recipe for misery. I have the distinct pleasure of getting "ocular migraines", which means my vision recedes into one small blindspot with shimmering edges which slowly expands to encompass my sight. When it's at its worst, I could hold my hand in front of my face and not be able to see it. It's followed by a monster of a headache that only 800mg of ibuprofen, a dark room, and restful sleep will cure. Traveling obviously isn't an option, so I lost an entire day of the con. Lesson learned! I definitely recommend an Optivisor if you don't already have one– there are several magnification options (and price points) so choose what works best for you!

I arrived at ReaperCon on Thursday afternoon, thankful I planned to drive and not fly. I arrived in time to check in, collect the miniatures for my classes, and get ready for dinner. I found my table in the open seating and parked myself next to some of my fellow con-goers and friends I've met in previous years. It's always good to meet new people and catch up with friends you've met in previous years! And maybe get a beholder balloon...

I won't lie, I was super-nervous about my classes and I spent the first night finishing my miniatures and preparing last-minute changes to my colorful "Painting Eyes" handouts and sending them to Kinko's to pick up on my way to the convention the next day. Lots of folks were hanging out downstairs and I was bummed I wasn't able to make it. However, Kevin G. said he would bring me some wine and shows up with this:

My favorite part is the "Mocha is Drunk With Power" that the little girl is writing on the front. I about died laughing. It's one of the most creative surprises ever! :) Thanks Kevin– that made my week!!

Teaching Day 1
I've attended many classes over the years and, in my experience, half the attendees want a lecture-style class; the other a hands-on approach in learning. While I enjoy lecture-type classes, I decided to attempt a hybrid class with both elements present. I'll be honest, I was incredibly exciting to see that my classes filled up just after a few minutes after the ReaperCon classes went live. It's nice to know that people want to learn about what I'm excited to teach. However, it was my first time teaching, so I was extremely nervous!

Fast forward to the convention and my first class "Painting Eyes" went very well! There were ten people in that class and about fifteen minutes into the class, I had a sudden, terrible thought– okay, three terrible thoughts:

  1. What if I can't fill the two hours of classtime with quality material?
  2. What if I can paint but I can't teach? What if I explain something that my class attendees can't replicate?
  3. I've never painted in "real time" in front of other people. What if I'm too nervous to paint tiny details?

Luckily, the class had a lot of great questions I was able to answer. Knowing that the first part of the class was lecture, we rolled into the demo part and I started to sweat a bit. I also had too much cofffee so I was a little shaky when combined with the nerves. Luckily, I was able to paint Lem the Bard at each step of the process and pass my example miniature around. I also walked around to see each person's progress and was so relieved– they looked great!! I was so pleased and proud of each of them– even the ones who swore they were terrible at painting eyes :) I was pleased to notice that each one of them was so careful, trying not to get a millimeter out of line. However, I told them, "It doesn't have to be perfect at each step. Be free with your paint at first– as long as it's thin, you can always clean it up in later steps."

Sushi Dinner

Fast forward to dinner that night and my friends Clint and Yeji were in town from Las Vegas (they hosted me when I was in town for the Las Vegas Open '15) and it was so good to see them! We went out for dinner the following night at a sushi place with Mark Maxey and his wife Lauren. We had a great time! I found the restaurant on Yelp and tried to make a reservation in advance but couldn't seem to understand the person on the other end of the phone.  They kept saying "Yes, very busy. No reservations. Very long wait. Forty five minutes. Very busy." As I drove to pick up the crew, Yeji called to try again and coincidentally enough, they both spoke Korean and she was able to communicate much more effectively. I joked that once we got there, we wouldn't have to wait because Yeji made fast friends. The hilarious part was that when we arrived, I tried to open the door and it wouldn't budge (I made sure it said pull, not push like the Far Side comic I remember) and when I looked confused, thinking the restaurant closed, Yeji stepped in and opened the door without any perceived effort. The best part: once we walked in, they said "Yeji? Are you Yeji?" and seated us immediately. So much for the forty-five minute wait! I couldn't stop laughing until our waiter came to take our order. Everything we ate was delicious, and I'm so glad we went. Moral of the story? Take Yeji with you whenever you go out to eat! That's one of my favorite memories of the con :)

Sushi Dinner.JPG

Teaching: Day 2

The next day, my "Blending: Skin & Fabric" class didn't go as well (in my opinion). Oddly enough, it's easier to teach class in a room full of strangers than it is to have friends and/or family there, and having folks I knew made it that much more intimidating. Not their fault of course! While I wanted to keep it casual and open, when you have twelve people around a U-shaped table, it's difficult to ensure everyone can hear you. You find yourself repeating things, or worse, losing the attention of the class if they can't all hear the instructions. When the demo portion started about halfway through the hybrid lecture/demo class, I realized the beginners were struggling a bit more than I expected and the more advanced painters were moving quickly through the steps. While my Painting Eyes class was listed as Intermediate/Advanced, my Blending class was Basic/Intermediate. I opted to make sure the beginners were taken care of, even if the more advanced painters "went rogue" a bit (their words) and painted on other parts of the mini until the rest of the class was caught up. Everyone hopefully still got something out of it, but next time, I will definitely reconsider pacing to make sure everyone leaves completely satisfied :)

Lessons Learned

  1. Don't try to cram too much into one class. I could take an entire class to talk about properly prepping a mini for the best blending (but not specific to skin/fabric), another class for painting different skintones, and a third class for painting fabric (with multiple examples). Yeah, overly ambitious, especially for a larger classroom of mixed skill levels. Lessons learned!
  2. Teach more classes! While first-year teachers are rarely approved to teach more than 2 classes (as listed in the Reaper teaching policies), I look forward to being invited back to possibly teach more classes next year! We'll see :) I have a lot of good ideas that I'll have to work on over the next year that I hope would catch the interest of future con-goers.
  3. Trust yourself. While I'm passionate about painting and sharing my knowledge, I tend to put too much pressure on myself to make sure everything is perfect and everyone is 100% happy and sastified with everything, all the time. Once I finally relaxed, I realized that people are there to learn and have fun! The folks at ReaperCon do a great job setting the friendly, casual tone– the more experienced instructors are still very easy to approach and everyone makes you feel welcome! The idea of being an instructor can be intimidating at first, and I'm happy to report that not only did I survive, I think I'm hooked!

[Coming Soon: ReaperCon 2017 - Part 2]

  • My Contest Entries/Awards/Feedback/Lessons Learned
  • Convention Fun with Forum Friends
  • MOAR PICTURES!!!