Recently, Kat Jackson founded a "Hobby Hangouts" Facebook group page where creative discussion and camaraderie is encouraged within the miniature gaming community. While many people have created similar hobby groups, Hobby Hangouts has created a lot of excitement and shows lots of potential due to its widespread member engagement. I imagine its popularity centers around the idea that somewhere in the world, someone's painting– why not paint together?
The group utilizes Google Hangouts, a video conferencing platform that allows people to log in with text, voice, or video chats. The entire process is made even easier since it's built into Google accounts, which many people already have. For a brief overview about getting started with Google Hangouts, click here.
The greatest thing about the Hobby Hangouts is the engagement factor. While it's a closed group, many people in the group of approximately 500 members have jumped in not only to paint together, but to share their knowledge. I do appreciate that it's not an open group– all the better to manage and organize! People are welcome to invite their painting & hobby friends, so it's definitely open to those who are interested. If you are, all you have to do is ask, and of course, not be a butthead. (That goes without saying, though the rules are clearly posted on the group page.) So far, the experience has been entirely positive!
Yesterday I listened in to Lester Bursley of lesterbusleyminiatures.com host a Google hangout where he was screen sharing his process for Photoshopping miniatures. Now, before anyone freaks out and shouts "but Photoshopping miniatures is bad!", I'll clarify that he was showing general touch-ups and color correction for miniature photos, not abusing the program to misrepresent the miniatures– there's a big difference. Lester showed us his process for cleaning up the backgrounds, removing dust specs, errant cat hair, and general noise from the photo. While it wasn't a follow-along step-by-step tutorial (that would have been nearly impossible), it was really interesting to see inside his process– he's very knowledgeable!
Later that night, I logged in to another Google Hangout posted on the page: Lyn Stahl, of metalheadminis.com, was hosting a "Getting Into Commission Painting" where she talked about her experiences as a professional miniature painter as well as shared some advice and best practices for those interested in that line of work. Lyn's also very knowledgeable and has a great no-nonsense approach when it comes to teaching. I appreciated that not only did she say what commission miniature painting was, she told us what it wasn't. Just like freelance design work, it's not necessarily glamorous, it's not steady (unless you have built up a client base over the years and have a waiting list for commissions to get you through the slow times), and it's especially not for people who don't have the time to devote to it. "If you're just getting started with commission painting, don't go and immediately quit your dayjob or anything" she warned. It takes awhile to get the hang of it and many people struggle at first setting expectations with not only their clients, but themselves. Good advice! Lyn also talked about how rewarding it can be to do something you love and be able to enjoy your personal life– balance and boundaries is key. "Your time is worth money. Don't sell yourself short." So true! I posed a few questions about contracts and whether people need to incorporate themselves depending on where they live, etc. There's so much to consider when looking to make this a full-time or even a part-time venture! Be sure to check out Lyn's Youtube channel and be on the lookout for another Commission Painting Google Hangout info session she'll be hosting on March 20.
I hope to also host a Google Hangout myself, but I'm still waiting for internet at the new house. I'm able to log into the Hangouts on my cell phone app, but the connection often cuts out and I wouldn't be able to host anything until I have reliable wi-fi. Most of the scheduled hangouts have a theme, but others don't. I'll need to come up with a few ideas of what my theme could be if I host a scheduled hangout.
In the meantime, I've been putting together my hobby room and building a wall-mounted miniature display case (with the pup's help of course!) I'm getting there, slowly but surely :) This work week will be a bit crazy– on Tuesday I have an interview for a spot on the Global Team at my company, though it would be a contractor position (no benefits, insurance, etc) so I have a lot to prepare and think about regarding the next chapter in my life! This weekend, I'll be at SXSW Gaming Expo supporting the Reaper Miniatures Paint & Take event, so I expect I'll have a lot to share next Monday. Hopefully I'll carve out some time to paint this week– if I do, I'll be sure to post any works-in-progress on Twitter. Otherwise, I'll probably pop into a few Google Hangouts through the Hobby Hangouts page. See you around!