This blog post has been a few weeks in the making. This topic is very personal to me, and I wasn't sure how (or if) I should even go about sharing it. Recently, I've put a lot of thought into how I approach painting and established some best practices to ensure I keep painting. Personally, I find it difficult to find time for my hobby as most people do. That's why it's a hobby and not a career. Balance is my biggest challenge.
I admit my work-life balance up until now has been crap. I was quick to take on new projects & challenges with a "Sure, I can do that!", worked through most weekends, didn't complain, and projected positivity even when I felt anything but positive-- all in the name of career development. Fast forward two years and the potential promotion that I was focused on earning was suddenly dissolved and a good portion of the responsibilities were added to my already-ambitious workload. I blamed myself. After a week or two of angry self-pity and resentment, I woke up and changed my outlook. I started working on my "creative self" and signed up for a miniature painting convention, the first thing I've truly done for myself in the last four years. It totally changed my perspective. Looking back, that frustrating wake-up call ended up being a blessing in disguise.
After a few wonderful days of vacation at ReaperCon 2014 doing the thing I loved but hadn't made time for in the past year, I knew I couldn't happily function in my previous mindset. I truly realized the value of not confusing one's professional worth with personal worth. The rabid, over-achieving-blind-ambition part of me died and was replaced with a love for patience within my craft. That's why I started this blog. This blog is a way for me to refocus and channel my creative energy and hold myself accountable for respecting my time & personal happiness. If I'm not protecting myself from the pressures & expectations of life, who will?
Everyone approaches their craft differently. Some make time when they can, others (like me) have to schedule it in. I like structure so I post blogs every Monday & Thursday. I'm active within a miniature painting forum and I post Works In Progress at least three times a week. I have learned so much from that particular community already and I've found their encouragement very motivating.
When I approach painting, I choose to develop one technique at a time. I remind myself that I'm trying to become more familiar with developing certain painting skills and I don't want to set myself up for failure by expecting too much of myself. Don't get me wrong, my expectations of myself are very high, though I'm able to feel rewarded when I succeed in meeting them. While a beginning painter may feel ambitious & think, "I'm going to tackle painting non-metallic metals, expressive eyes, and perfect my blending on this next mini!", being overly zealous doesn't necessarily equal success.
Currently, when I select a miniature to paint, I find minis that may be a bit banged up, have a few pieces missing, or the ones that would otherwise never see the light of day. If they start flawed, I won't expect perfection in the end. It sounds silly, but it's how I keep my perfectionism in check. After that, I'll choose sculpts that have the elements I'm looking for-- for example, I'll choose a miniature with a flowing robe if I'm practicing shading and highlights on cloth folds. If I'm looking to practice Non-Metallic Metals, I'll choose a miniature with heavy armor. I never paint a miniature I don't like. I learned that lesson the hard way and it's part of the issues I addressed in my "How Not To Paint" blog post.
When I paint, I listen to audio books or music that I enjoy. I set myself up with proper lighting and I find "the zone" where creativity and patience flow freely. I give myself time; I acknowledge my current level of skill. I tell myself I'm practicing the painting techniques-- not perfecting them. This frees me from the frustration I used to experience when I was painting under a time crunch and expecting close-to-perfect results when I hadn't painted in months. I make sure I paint almost every day. One hour. I switch between a few miniatures, though I choose to focus on one at a time and give myself a deadline-- that's where the forums are particularly helpful. Knowing there's a community that says they're looking forward to seeing what I create next makes my I-want-to-please-everyone-nature work for me, not against me.
All in all, find out what works for you. I found out what I didn't like and knowing myself well helped me use my quirks to my advantage. Without the structure I've established, I know I wouldn't be growing my love and abilities for this hobby. One day, maybe it'll be more than just a hobby. Until then, I'll enjoy every pre-planned minute of it!