Parties & Podcasts

I hope everyone had a lovely Labor Day weekend! It was a busy one for me-- I helped entertain visiting friends, watched the Acquisitions Incorporated D&D from PAX Prime, drove 7 hours roundtrip to attend a best friend's wedding shower, and dipped my toes into the world of podcasting! Last week, @SnickernackS reached out to me about my bummer-of-an-experience on a local game store (seriously, I have the worst luck!). We chatted about it and thought it would be a great idea for a podcast-- what to do/not to do, how to act, what to bring, etc. She put me in contact with Larry over at Models Workshop who also runs their podcast and they asked me to be a guest on the upcoming episode. Excellent! We're all in different time zones, so we originally decided to record fairly late (10pm-12am midnight on Saturday night my time). However, I had an epic adventure trying to get home in time to record. Here's what happened... 

On Saturday morning, I loaded up the car and drove to another city to attend a party-- a wedding shower to be specific. It was a lovely shower with friends and family, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world, even if it did take me over 4 hours navigating a horrible storm along the way that made me an entire hour late! After the party, I headed home knowing that if I ran into more storms, I would barely make it in time to eat and prepare for the podcast that night. By the time I made it home over 10 hours after I'd left, I was glad I'd acquired my "Podcast Loot" well beforehand. Check it out!

As luck would have it, the crew was ready to record early and I still needed to familiarize myself with the recording program and calibrate the settings on my Snowball microphone. Whoops! Luckily they were patient enough to walk me through it before we recorded and I scanned over the notes fairly quickly. During my personal disorganized scramble, I had completely forgotten that I hadn't anything that day besides two deviled eggs, a miniature lobster-topped cracker thingy, and a mini chocolate mousse dessert cube (which was delicious by the way). I had a long, socially-taxing day and being super-nervous about my first podcast, I decided to pour a glass of wine(Lesson learned: don't drink on an empty stomach, especially during a podcast) Looking back, we definitely lived up to the "After Hours" aspect-- more party than podcast toward the end! 

Our podcast started off with a bang and it was like going to a pub party with a bunch of your fun mates who love to laugh and joke about inappropriate things. Yeji, Clint, and Larry are a freaking riot! Their podcasts are generally 1.5 hours long, but we just kept having fun and kept the tapes rolling- we ended up recording over 2 hours and 15 minutes! It was casual and fun and hopefully I didn't embarrass myself too much. What did we talk about? Oh right! Our main topic revolved around Painting Classes. I popped in to talk a little bit about my Troll Night experience but more importantly, reflect on what I think makes a successful class. 

  1. Set Clear Expectations
    • Is this a Paint Night with friends that get together and paint casually?
    • Is this a Class where instruction will be given. Is it for beginners?
    • What should people bring? (Palette, water cup, miniature, etc 
  2. Plan Thoughtfully
    • What topics will you cover?
    • Will there be materials/miniatures provided? Outline of technique(s) you'll cover?
    • What style of class is this? Instructor demos or guided paint-along?
  3. Be Social Aware & Compassionate
    • Be welcoming (especially to those new to painting!)
    • Make people feel comfortable-- have an ice breaker and/or help introduce others
    • Be patient. Give constructive feedback appropriate to each individual's skill level

We go into more detail in the podcast along with some less-helpful-but-more-hilarious drunken rambling later on. If you're interested in either, have a listen here and don't forget to follow Models Workshop on Twitter!

Other than the epic podcast, I've been playing with the idea of streaming on Twitch. One year ago, I discovered Twitch and had future daydream of buying a webcam and streaming live online as I painted. I finally bought one! Since we've been talking so much about online painting hang-outs, it may become a reality in the near future now that I've made my own account. Getting set up on Twitch seems fairly daunting, but I think it'd be fun to interact with people online and grow both my skills and the community at the same time! Here's Dannin Deepaxe looking sassy and limbless as I play with camera settings-- don't worry, her arm's almost done and soon to be attached! 

What do you think? Would you tune in to watch and interact with a miniature painter on Twitch?

Local Painting Class (aka "Troll Night")

Tonight I'll be attending a painting class at a local game shop (aka "LGS"). I've never been to a Paint Night before and I'm really looking forward to it! Since I haven't been to this game store before, I called ahead to ask what I can expect and what I should bring to be best prepared. I was told by a kind and patient woman that the teacher is a super-nice guy and it's a casual environment where the instructor offers helpful painting tips and all skill levels can paint together. I'll be posting about my experience-- can't wait!

••• UPDATE •••

Tonight was extremely disappointing. Surely, I attended the wrong class. I signed up for a painting class at my friendly local gaming store when in fact, I attended Troll Night. Seriously, I should have brought a fire-imbued weapon for all the toxic nasties present. Looking back on it, I wish I had live-tweeted the whole thing-- but let me start from the beginning.

After fighting the back-to-school traffic to my LGS, I was 20 minutes after the listed class start time. While I was assured by one of the employees earlier that people are welcome to come-and-go starting at 7pm, I was still anxious since, as a rule, it's rude to be late. I walked in the front door for the very first time and was surprised at how busy it was! People shopping, groups talking and gaming on three long tables, and a line of 4+ people waiting to check out-- I loved the energy at this place! Since they were busy at the register, I found someone who wasn't currently helping customers and said, "Excuse me, I'm sorry, it's my first time here-- where's the painting class being held?". He stopped what he was doing and said "Welcome! It's over by the... y'know what, I'll walk you there. Right this way please!". He graciously ushered me into a room of four round tables and pointed out the instructor. I sat down at the nearest table in between a gentleman on his laptop and a young college fellow. I sat down, waited for a pause in the conversation, greeted the instructor and introduced myself. "Nice to meet you, it's my first time here-- I'm really sorry I'm late". He shrugged and told me it was a casual painting thing and said there's paint in the cabinets on the far wall and some miniatures if I wanted to use them. (I'd brought my own paints, brushes, water cups... I like to be prepared). Cool beans! I'm just happy I didn't interrupt a teaching demo or something. 

I unpacked my wet palette, 5 paints and my 3 miniatures I'd brought. I greeted Mr. Laptop next to me and he looked at me, promptly picked up his laptop, and changed tables. Ooookay? (I swear I showered this morning!) I asked Mr. College Student to my right where the paint water was. He just looked at me. "Uh, I don't think anyone's using any" ... "Oh, alright, that's cool. I'll go fill my cup up in the bathroom. Be right back" At this point, three things are going through my head:

  1. They list it as a Painting Class "Covering basic painting techniques and giving you great starting points for learning to paint". The instructor isn't very friendly and seems kind of distracted. 
  2. Why don't people have paint water? I assumed water and cups are pretty basic (but I try to be over-prepared so maybe it's not too big of a deal)
  3. Is it weird that I feel uncomfortable already? Should I just leave and go home?

Knowing that it was probably just me being nervous, I decided to stay for at least another 45 minutes to give it a fair chance. After all, I hadn't even tried to join the table conversation and I didn't want to leave as soon as I arrived. I returned from the bathroom with my water cup, offered to share my water with Shy College Kid, and listened to what the instructor was discussing-- maybe offering painting tips & tricks? Asking others about what their goals were for painting? Nope. Two of the guys had their primed Warhammer armies proudly displayed around them on the table. Impressive! However, I was quickly disenchanted when I endured the hateful bile from the duo next to the instructor who passed their negativity back and forth across the table. Several times, I attempted to make polite conversation. I was promptly ignored. Even when other people joined the table, I quickly realized that Paint Night conversation topics were limited to: 

  1. How badly that other guy's Warhammer army sucks and how much better their army was. "That guy thinks he's God's gift to Warhammer but that loser can't even paint his army the right colors. Hah!" 
  2. "My b**** ex-wife... I just don't understand why my kids would choose to stay with her" (I did learn something through this uncomfortable "over-sharing session": during a divorce in this U.S. state, children as young as 13 can choose for themselves which parent to live with. See? I'm here to learn things!)
  3. Ways that they've been "mistreated" at game stores by being asked to come up with their own groups after being told they complained too much. Then, how they planned to take advantage of those smaller local game store owners by winning "easy prizes" in Warhammer tournaments and choosing the most expensive items (blah, blah, F.A.T. Mats, etc.). "Yeah, that'll show them alright!"

I silently dubbed them the "Toxic Trolls". I felt like I was in 5th grade all over again. These adult men were spewing hate and negativity and gossiping like little brats! About 40 minutes later, a woman and two teenagers came in and said "Hi, we RSVP'd to the painting class". The people at the table just stared at them. They received the same cold greeting from the instructor who was too busy agreeing with Toxic Trolls to welcome them and help them get settled. One of the teenagers asked, "So what models are you painting?" No response from any of them. I smiled and piped up, "I'm painting a Reaper mini here... and this one's an Infinity miniature. I brought these from home, but I hear they have a few in the cabinet you can practice on!" The instructor stayed seated. At this point, I was ready to leave. I was disgusted with this "class"-- not only at the negative behavior allowed and practically encouraged by the instructor, but by the sheer lack of courtesy shown for newcomers-- and I'm not just talking about myself! I'm glad the instructor and his trolls didn't ask me a single question or offer to help me in any way. I'm happy no one paid attention to what I was painting. I made it a point not to tell anyone I'd painted before or about my blog because then I wouldn't be able to write this anonymous and honest review.

In the end, I packed up and said my polite goodbye to the shy college student next to me, thanked the instructor (he didn't even look up, though I spoke up loud enough) and on my way out waved to the nice employee who had greeted & walked me to the classroom when I arrived. I drove home saddened but determined. There will always be bile-spewing trolls. Don't be discouraged when you meet them. Instead, learn from them and imagine what you would do differently. When people show genuine interest in your craft, acknowledge them. Courtesy costs nothing. Be kind and welcoming. This is a community, which involves growing the hobby and positively shaping that community. I can't control other people's actions. However, I can control my own actions and how I treat others. I may disagree with how this particular Paint Night was run, and I'm sure others have had much better painting class experiences at their LGS. In the end, maybe I'll just start my own Paint Night-- I'd be extra-welcoming to newcomers and you better believe I'd bring be water, cups, and paper towels for everyone. Can't wait to see you there!

My ReaperCon 2015 Classes

Hats off to the artists who teach classes at ReaperCon! One of the things I like the most about this convention is the opportunity to interact with the guest painters and sculptors who share their knowledge and take the extra time to give people requested feedback on their work. The Con-goers are encouraged to approach them in between their classes and ask questions or just watch them paint and/or sculpt. Most are only scheduled to teach one class per day so there's plenty of time to meet with them.  

I attended a maximum of eight classes at ReaperCon this year. I challenged myself with taking classes on topics that were "out of my comfort zone". I enjoy painting the figure as they're seen ideally-- with perfect smooth blending, beautiful face features (no scars, etc), and squeaky-clean line quality. What I have not applied is weathering techniques, advanced sculpted-from-scratch diorama basing, conversion sculpting of any kind or airbrush techniques. Those were the classes I focused on since I have so much more to learn!

My first class was Aaron Lovejoy's "Airbrush Basics" class. Aaron shared his knowledge about which airbrush models he enjoys using, how using airbrushes can speed up the initial painting process, and most importantly, how to keep your airbrush in good, clean working condition (fight the clog!). He gave a tutorial on a large Bones miniature that we passed around the room in between each step as he explained what he was achieving through layering airbrush colors. Prior to this class, I was not ready to invest in an airbrush (they can be very expensive!), but after Aaron's suggestion of starting with the cheapest model and just trying it out to see if you like it, I think I'll give it a shot! He recommended using an airbrush only in the beginning stages to block out interesting lighting effects before you pick up the paint brush for detailing "cause you still have to paint it. An airbrush is a tool but it shouldn't be the only tool". I definitely recommend this class if you're a beginner to airbrushing!

Weathering Techniques - Brice did a nice job teaching this class. Attempting to cover a myriad of weathering techniques (and fielding on-the-spot requests) is quite a challenge! Although the projector was set up to capture the tutorial details, it wasn't as successful as we'd hoped. While the cameras and TVs were a great idea, it was the first year they were used and were bound to run into a few quirks. We ended up passing around the miniature as Brice demonstrated different techniques-- we made it work! I've avoided weathering until now, and I notice it's significantly limited the variety of miniatures I can paint. For example, an orc wouldn't have a pristine shield with polished, expensive  metal, so I avoid painting them. As I struggled to paint my Troll Axer, I realized: there's no such thing as a pretty orc! The idea of taking a sponge or dry pigment and applying paint in random patterns to make a miniature purposely sloppy or messy makes me cringe. However, this is exactly why I wanted to take this class! Brice's competition entries are proof that weathering can be beautiful and add lots of personality and character to your miniatures (and his cloak freehand-- wow!)

Crafting Terrain & Diorama Bases - Bob is awesome. I can't say that enough. He's a nice guy with an endless supply of funny stories and a wealth of knowledge that can only come from decades of industry experience. I took one of his classes at the Reaper Artist Conference back in October and knew going to this class, I'd learn quite a bit about what to use and, sometimes more importantly, what not to use, especially if you're clumsy like me (MEK glue - Methyl Ethyl Ketone. It's super-toxic!). We watched him put together a base and work his magic with styrofoam, styrene, cork and kitty litter (yes you read that right, unused litter of course!). It was really useful for me to see which order he puts things down in and how he applies it with his special mix of watery wood glue paste. And now I have a nice, long list of cheap-and-effective basing supplies to collect! I love the bases he sculpted out of styrene and plastic or metal cogs-- "They're easy!"

Intro to Competitive & Display Painting - My brain overloaded in this class-- it blew my mind (in a really, really good way!). Justin McCoy, founder and President of Secret Weapon Miniatures, spewed rapid-fire brilliance at us and covered an array of intermediate-to-advanced topics that turned everything I thought I knew upside-down and made me more passionate about this hobby (though I didn't think it possible). It was like taking a college-level art course (and not that "Art Appreciation for Non-Art Majors" bullsh*t). What'd we cover? Lots. Too much to list here. He covered everything from dissecting individual design elements of classical paintings, re-evaluating the color wheel concept we think we know, explaining what-makes-this-awesome examples from his slideshow and applying these concepts to our miniatures. Of the few classes I took that incorporated a TV and visual references, this one was executed the best. Justin's energy is contagious (think Philip DeFranco) and while the concepts are serious, his style of teaching is fun and casual. I could go on, but you'll just have to take the class yourself-- I hope he teaches it again next year! 

Painting Fur, Scales, & Feathers - Derek Schubert, you make this look easy. Studying miniature painting with Derek will show you a more intellectual side of painting. He's articulate, methodical in his painting, and he does a mean Monty Python impression! Oh and his painting is stupid-good. While some people take his classes thinking they'll be able to paint just like Derek after only 2 hours, we have to remember that he's been honing his talent for many years. Last year I was lucky enough to see the very first miniature he ever painted in person. He may have painted it when he was 11 years old, but it was encouraging to realize that it looked a lot like my very own first miniature. During this class we each painted a Reaper wolf mini (which he sculpted for Reaper) while he shared with us tips & tricks to painting more natural textures. Derek created a great piece awhile back titled "Liriel Unplugged" which included many well-painted critters gathering for a musical show under the forest canopy. He encouraged us to do our research and find various pictures of these animals to reference while we paint (he brought us each different wolf references to use during the class). He also demonstrated his techniques for feathers and scales and passed around previously-painted examples of his, including the Lamia I love so much!

"Sculpting Accessories for Conversions and Bases" with Bob Ridolfi. I'm new to sculpting, but I've been curious about conversions and adding more interesting custom elements to a base. Many times I've thought "if only I could fix ____" (maybe a funky hand that didn't quite translate from the original mold) or "I wish I could add a ___ detail on this base" when working with a mini. Of course, there's always the "Oh @$&# I just cut off part of her foot with the clippers, how can I salvage this?!" (trust me, it happened). One of the things I really like about Bob's classes is that he keeps it a fairly open format. He's so knowledgeable that he's able to say "Ok, what do you want to see? What do you want to know?" and you make requests and his hands go to work while he makes it on the spot, all the while talking about what he's doing and how. We passed around a few examples, including some "Captain Goodhair" fun when we wanted to see how he applied & sculpted hair. Love it!

Advanced Basing with Michael Proctor

Michael's work is a whimsical mix of color and texture. Many of his pieces incorporate natural elements-- dried leaves, mushrooms, interesting pieces of bark, and whatever else he finds interesting on his nature adventures (he lives in the beautiful state of Colorado). In this class, we passed around a few examples of his work that have won multiple awards at different conventions. One of my favorites is his "Toad King" GenCon entry. Michael explains how he creates bases to enhance the story and character of his miniature. While he's painting, he's inspired to craft a base specifically for the miniature, rather than building a base first and hoping it matches a future painted mini. 

NMM Special Effects with Derek Schubert

Derek used examples of his past work to explain how he approaches Non Metallic Metals-- in both traditional metals (i.e. a Paladin with bright silver armor) and fantasy metals (i.e. an elf in purple armor). The most important part of the process, he explained, "is visualizing how the light will interact with a reflective surface". He painted a sphere, cylinder, cone, and cube on a piece of paper to show us where the highlights, shadows, and other values would fall. My struggle with NMM is just that-- while I could study individual metals in different shapes, I never quite seem to know where to paint them when combined as interacting shapes in sculpted armor. Taking them more than one section at a time while paying attention to the overall light source is my new goal. I'll incorporate a shaded base coat technique so I don't get bogged down in details and look up only to realize I've skewed my intended light source. Derek's class helped me "see" details that I previously not been able to process. For example, I'd see an NMM sword and think, "That sword looks amazing!" Why? "Well it's just painted really well" But why? Now I'm able to identify that great NMM will contain color reflections in the surface, appropriately placed values with high contrast. The idea of "putting the darkest color next to the lightest color" is not a realistic, universal technique. This class really made me think!

I have a lot to work on in the next year. I practiced the techniques I learned in my 2014 classes last year over many months, and I'm happy to report that I've seen a lot of improvement in my own painting! I'll be creating more "Work in Progress" blog posts where I attempt to recreate some of these new techniques and I can't wait to see what I discover-- many of the lessons I've learned have been the result of trial-and-error, or as I like to call them, "happy accidents". I still have a long way to go, and I have plenty to keep me fueled in my continued miniature painting journey!