Sunday, 5 February 2012

Concerning why and the hobby drive...

Welcome to a philosophical tangent. Here you will find a total lack of actually useful information but perhaps something thought provoking, generally strange or just plain weird. It's rather like the Twilight Zone or it's successor The Scary Door...

It began with a post on the WAMP forum that asked what do we do with our painted miniatures. There's a general thing on there about display cabinets and the like as one would expect. The thread is below...

WAMP thread

It wasn't a new thought for me but it brought it fresh into my mind and I started to type a response but then I started to think that my actual answer was going to be rather atypical and perhaps a good subject for a blogpost. And here we are... after my self-psychoanalysis.

So, what's the big answer to what I do with my painted miniatures? Um... nothing. I have almost no interest in them at all. That's right, I don't have a display cabinet full of my figures. My Golden Demon winners are in several locations with my not giving much thought to them and the demon trophies are sitting in a box at my parent's place 300 odd miles away. I have a couple of painted demon winners in my flat, the Cadian Commissar and the Empire Greatsword but they're stuffed into a Citadel figure case along with some old paints and a partially assembled plastic Chaos Sorcerer.

So, the question is posed, what has happened to all the minis I've painted over the... err... decades (man I feel old)? Well, they tend to get stuffed into boxes and just hang around until they invariably get damaged and they often ended up thrown away. I've sold some over the years but honestly not that many. I just don't get attached to my figures. Hell, that's something of a general thing for me. I don't get attached to things very much at all. That old question 'what one item would you rescue if your house was burning down?' I'd probably answer with 'item? screw that I'm getting outside where I wont burn to death trying to rescue the toaster'. It's worth noting that I live alone with no pets so those 'dodge the question' answers don't really apply. If it came down to it I might rescue my laptop if it wasn't going to be a bother simply so I don't have to go through the motions of reinstalling software.

I don't have collections of action figures and geeky paraphernalia. I do have a G1 Optimus Prime but am not really that attached to it. I could always replace it if needs be. I periodically get rid of things usually in vast quantities as I dislike owning large amounts of stuff. Before I left Cornwall, I basically had an open house where I invited friends over to basically take whatever they wanted in huge quantities. Cue many looks of horror from said friends who never really understood my lack of a hoarding instinct. An unusual trait in a geek of course. Cars were filled up with my possessions and driven away. Good riddance for the most part. I took a crapload more to charity shops. I left Cornwall with a bare minimum of stuff. Everything I moved with fitted into the back of my brother in law's car. And no regrets of anything left behind...

So, I have no attachments to my minis and no wish to display them or the trophies I have won. I don't really game either. This does lead to a strange place. Given that my general drives are that I can't be bothered to spend my time doing things with no real gain to them, why the hell do I bother painting minis? On the face of it it seems insane. I don't find it incredibly relaxing as many people do and have little interest in the final product. So, what's the drive?

Process! The science of the hobby.

Yes friends, I am interested in what's possible and how it is achieved. I spend my hobby time theorising how to paint and seeing how well my ideas work. I have a particular fascination with the idea of maximum quality for minimum time spent. A lot of the time I don't even paint the mini beyond trying a technique out on a part of it. Once I know whether it works of not I often lose interest.

I like the idea of painting an army and spend a great deal of time working out plans, ideas and techniques to achieve them. I often buy some of the figures but I do wonder what would happen to said army should I actually finish it. In a box somewhere? Probably.

So, my hobby is a rather bonkers one and a rather atypical one. Only interested in the science? Is that mad, well probably but as a great man once said...

Back off man, I'm a scientist!


  1. Nice! I have been quite surprised talking to fellow gamers and finding out that they actually want to have display shelves and collections. Me, I just have tools for interesting activity. I do game, but coming from the roleplaying side, this too was a process, not that competitive.

  2. Man, I wish I could be a Zen as you! I have truckloads of stuff. As for minis, I have an old cabinet which used to house a dartboard (perhaps at a pub). I stripped out the interior and added little shelves and painted the inside entirely black. I'd love to put lights in one day...

  3. I'm with you Steve,,the thrill of thinking, planning and developing an idea is what this hobby is for me.....I got the minis that I have painted over the years in boxes or in stands in the garage gathering of this days may get some proper display cabinets......

  4. me to - no collection - no armies - no cabinets - no games - very little product and that because im hanging on to stuff that contains a bit of me and only then so i hasve something to pass on - its only recently i have begone putting a selection of illustrations together and very recently a small band of little men - i scored a victorian box to keep them in - you will love it tammy - i do have a few weapons and a few pictures on mi wall but ho do i wish i could have a studio thats blank but the job/life means a pile of papers, books and artistic crap - i do not collect but i DO create, which i think maybe is the difference - jes [ ears are burning eh ] does not game paint or collect other than a few prime pieces to mark the passage of achievement - weird ....

  5. Ms Envy, I wish I could be considerably more zen than I am. I'm pretty good with the lack of material attachment but otherwise I'm a basketcase...

    And J.B. I'll admit the idea of a cool box with minis in the way you do it does somewhat appeal. Becomes a singular item rather than a collection so to speak. But what minis would I put in such a box?

  6. I don't game - No time.

    I don't paint - No time.

    I do have a display cabinet though, mainly full of the 20/30 minis I painted 20 years ago that didn't get sold of when we started HF and all the painted HF minis we've acquired over the last eight years. All of them are covered in dust and the cabinet itself is in danger of getting turned in to another bookcase because they might as well go in boxes to keep them safe.

    Other than that, I've got about a dozen minis at the office to serve as inspiration or reference.

    My hobby revolves around creating pretty toys for other people to enjoy. Whether it be painting, gaming or chopping up and mutating.

    Reading that back I have come to the conclusion that I probably need to get a life.

  7. Kev, if all the sculptors without lives went out and got some then the industry would collapse overnight.

  8. I've moved dozen or so times in past 10 years. Really tried to keep the stuff minimum 'cos you never know when the next time is on the door - my wife is talking about moving, again, in a bigger apartment, so maybe this tiptoeing has been a good idea after all...

    I get pretty fond to my painted miniatures, the same way I get attached to what ever I do with passion. I like to get back to them, remembering what happened during those days that I painted 'em. So they work kind of like journal of my life. Cute little box with history and value is great idea to add some more weight to minis.

    I've thought about start selling my minis, but never really put my mind to it. I'm not even sure if I'd be able to...

    p.s. Great post again Steve!

  9. Well I've just got rid of a ton of stuff via ebay as there was no way I've got enough years, or the interest, to paint it. The stuff I kept I actually want to paint but I rarely game now and minis, if not for an army, once painted get photographed to perhaps be shown on Wamp and then chucked into a box to gather dust or maybe get recycled for something else. Just a couple or so end up on the shlef by my bench because I actually like how they came out.

  10. what a dysfunctional bunche we are .....

  11. I like to think in colour hues for a couple of hours on occasion, it would be as you say, Zen.

    Spending that painting a model I converted from various parts to achieve a certain look just adds to the satisfaction when I am finished. I'm aiming to finally (after five years) get a larger display case; the collection has grown enough. My hobby interest? Creating as closely as possible, what my mind conceived.

  12. Hi Steve, long time reader, yada yada - its chris from Truro. Just to say great article!

    As you know i got back into painting a little last year after about 15 years hiatus. I've discussed this very issue with dan a few times. Both of us like painting groups of figures (dan whole armies) but rarely get time or opportunity to game. We're not interested in the dedication required to compete at the GD or similar, neither of us want to have a display cabinet or show off our stuff much on a blog or similar and to be honest both of us have lost momentum. But i think you have hit the nail on the head - its about the process and that mind state of "flow" which takes over when you are entirely engaged in an activity. I'm lucky to have a job that give me much of that creative release on a nearly daily basis, but i think your words have inspired me to get my fingers painty again ! Thanks.

    And i love your ideas on "dirty" minis. To be honest the c.m.o.n. dogma had put me off getting back in for years. Even if it is sometimes breathtaking, the "perfect 10" often ends up in something feeling very cold and mannered. Its the reason a sketch so often holds so much more meaning than the labored work of art - you can read something of the artist's intention in the process which gets lost in the perfection of technique. I'd spotted a few minis in the last couple of year's that i'd have called "impressionist" - JB or migsula providing probably the most notable examples - but dirty is so much more pomo C. :-)

    And thanks for the rest of the blog - glad to see you've been able to keep it up from inside the bunker :-) And thanks to you at least i've discovered the inspiring works of many of the subscribers here - thanks everyone!

    Wow, that was long :-)


  13. Hey Chris. Good to have you here and, if I've ignited a little hobby love in you then all the better. Can't help but think about what you mention about Dan and then I think of his figures. Readers should note that Dan's Eldar are extremely meticulously painted and have been underway for many, many years. Plus he had an annoying tendency, many years ago, to borrow my squad of Wraithguard and then pummel my army to death with them...

    1. Hi steve,

      Yeah, i think dan's completing some kinda 10 year zen Eldar path with that army - soon he'll be exalted to a Exarch perfecting the ability to blend smoothly while blindfold and naked in the snow... ;-) Tho recently he has been tempted by Slannesh over to the dark side.


  14. thats impressive - mi model attention spann lasts until the primer sets ....

  15. They're pretty amazing to see. Dan's got a very old-school bright Eavy Metal style and they look ludicrously crisp...

  16. He has to stick with the style, that's when he started them ;) In fairness it suits the Eldar very well.

  17. Aye me too , no collection not even an army , the hobby enables creativity for me , like having a set of pencils and a sheet of paper its somewhere to start . rather than creating your own world , where you know every detail , jumping into 40k or wfb is like discovering something new . that lots of other people enjoy too , commonality too then i guess .

  18. I guess I'm the odd man out here, then? I've kept almost every mini I've ever painted, and I've got them all on display on my walls. I use typographer's drawers (you can get them on ebay or antique shops), which looks really nice, I think.

    So, don't worry Steve - your zombies are on display here at my place!

  19. I go through phases and often feel the need to clear or preferably giveaway stuff. I feel like I've been painting for years but I have so few physically painted things in my house!

    I tend to sell my armies when I'm done which younger me would be appalled at!

  20. me to - having teenage son and grandson creates good homes ....

  21. The act has more value than the object. Very true, completely true. Good philosophy.

  22. I tend to keep stuff for as long as possible but when I fall on hard times my miniatures are normally the first thing to go due to their value painted.

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  24. Wondering down the thoughts of others seems a bit lackluster for me. I've often wondered what drives people to ramble on about things. Honestly I think I've read maybe three blogs, including this one. I will say that having stumbled upon Steve's blog while looking for sculpting wire was a bit odd. At first it seemed like you were/he was, I'm not sure what the tact is, respond to the person or the people commenting, or just state your thoughts. Neither here or there.

    For me I suppose the sculpting allows me to create and bring things into this world, from my imagination. Drawing it, bending the wire, applying the putty/epoxy, shaping it, then casting it (yes I have the casting equipment). The whole process seems to draw me in. I can't remember what philosopher said it but he said something like "If it's digital it's not in this world and therefore not real" It was something like that. I'm not sure if I totally agree but I get it. Whether it was clay pottery, my lithographs, hard ground etchings, or painting minis... I brought things from my imagination into this world, birthed them I suppose.

    On the one hand I get the lackluster feeling of collecting the things you've made, but for me... I guess they're part of me in some way. I don't know... odd to think of it that way. Artists are defiantly an odd bunch.


  25. Totally agree with painting bits to see if things work then totally losing interest ^^ Sometimes I even try to finish em!