Five Hints to Help You Keep Going in the Face of Perfection

Have you ever started a project based on a clear-cut, well-defned goal, only to have that goal begin to mock you as you toiled away, despairing of ever reaching it?

Go browse the Infinity web site. Take a look at the pictures of those lovingly-detailed miniatures of sci-fi action heroes. I can almost guarantee you that the paint job is the work of Angel Giraldez, Corvus Belli’s in house miniatures artist. They all look fantastic, don’t they?

So fantastic that.as I’ve already documented, I couldn’t resist getting my hands on a starter pack for the ALEPH faction and some paints.

I discovered the problem when I got my hands on those miniatures and started in on painting. I had the box cover with Angel’s work on hand at all times for reference, except that as I progressed it was as though Angel himself was mocking me with his God-given skill with sable and acrylic.

Take a look at my results after a few months of on-and-off painting:

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These folks mean business. Scruffy business, maybe…

From a distance the work isn’t bad. A little scruffy, a little messy, but the squad is “tabletop-ready”, painted to a standard that makes them easy to tell apart and distinctive on a chipboard, paint and cardboard battlefield.

But they’re still so far away from…

I still hate you, Giraldez…

The glasses Vickie gave me have helped with the detail work, but in another way they’re a curse: I get so see all my little mistakes up close and in horrid detail.

Yet I still want to keep painting. I still intend to order that Ekdromos and the Support Pack I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.

So what can I do to spare myself the agony of that ideal? Hell, what can all of us do to ensure our visions of perfection don’t become rods for our backs?

Well, here are five things I intend to do differently next time, and I hope they help you:

1: Let your inspiration do its job, then set it aside.

While it’s easy to let endless comparisons with your inspiration ride you into the ground, it’s also just as easy to let the inner voice that says, “oh, I could never do anything as good as that” talk you into dropping the whole endeavour before it’s even begun.

There’s a reason why your shiny thing caught your eye in the first place. Hold onto that for as long as you need in order to get moving, then place it somewhere out of sight but where you know you can find it later.

Corollary: Do some research. Find out a little more about exactly how the person who created your inspiration did it. While there may be a lot that’s simply above your current skill level, there might also be a trick or two you can apply as you take your initial steps.

2: Accept your own tastes as you discover them.

As I painted the Asura (the female operative having the Wella moment while checking her comm) and the three Dakini Tactbots, I began to realise that I didn’t really dig the straight up bone-white and black colour scheme of the ALEPH faction. I liked the white, sure, but one of the things I liked was the strong purple colour of the Rebots and the Yudbots.

Yeah, kind of ugly, but nice colours nonetheless…

Do they match the advertised colours? No. But damn it, these are MY miniatures now!

So I went back and painted over some of the black patches on the robots and stripped all the paint off the Asura with a bath of pure acetone (which meant all the glue went as well, so I had to reassemble her). It took a bit of time, but I’m a lot happier with the result, especially with the Naga (the dude crouching down)’s body armour – the purple ink makes the detailing look sharp, even if I don’t have that glow effect in the middle that the Ghiraldez version has.

3: Improvise within your limitations.

One of the things that’s bothering me about the miniatures as I’ve done them so far is that I don’t have quite the dark grey colour that some of their surfaces – especially the guns – have. Sure, I have the paints to mix, but it’s easier having a colour ready straight out of the bottle.

So when it came to the darker grey surfaces, I stuck with what I had, a colour called Cold Grey by Vallejo, which gives a base a few shades lighter than the box models. It’s meant I’ve not yet had the confidence to highlight, but the colour as it stands really shows up the detail, which I brought out using a black ink wash.

4: Acknowledge the advice you seek out.

One part paint to one part water. That’s what everyone has told me since I got back into painting. Stick to that ratio and you’ll get good results.

Well, I let myself rush when it came to repainting the Asura. I was keen to get some obvious highlights on her, and I was getting a bit miffed at how thin the colour seems when you apply it at the standard ratio, so I wound up using a two to one ratio of paint to water in some spots.

Okay, this is an earlier photo, but you can see the splodginess in the bone-white on her thighs, right?

You can see the resulting lumpy spots in the paint, especially in the purple body armour on her back and the front of her bone-white jumpsuit. Yuck.

Which brings me to…

5: Know when to do something else.

There are times when grinding away only leads to exhaustion and sloppy work, especially when you’ve placed your ideal of perfection where you can see it all the time, pushing you to rush to get to it, which results in mistakes, which result in that little voice saying, “See? How ever did you think you were good enough?”

Remember that there’s a difference between taking a break from a project and abandoning it, and that sometimes, doing something different can give you a fresh perspective on your on-hold challenge. You might even learn a new skill that you can apply.

That’s why, for now, I’m going to shift my painting attentions from Infinity to WarMachine. I found myself with a new ideal of perfection recently; the art on the Retribution of Scyrah Battlegroup box on the shelf at The Wicked Goblin kept catching my eye.

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While I love their white and blue colour scheme (especially the way it looks like magic is shining through the fine details), though, I intend to put the box away somewhere once I start the painting process and just see what strikes me as I go. (I’ve even been thinking about going with purple instead of white, but something keeps telling me to quit painting until I start painting.)

But overall, relax.

Okay, okay. Easy for me to tell you what to do when I’m still having some trouble applying it myself. But hey, while we might not be Angel Giraldez – or Carlos Santana or Jenny Lawson – yet, that doesn’t mean we won’t find our own, equivalent level of awesome in our thing (or things) sooner or later.

Let’s love our inspirations, but set them aside while we paint our own miniatures, make our own guitar sing or tickle people’s funny bones with our blog posts. Before we know it, we’ll have worked out our own way of learning from our failures and refining our successes.

And if you dig Infinity at all, don’t look at this. You’ll just wanna cry.

Are you stressing about producing?

Tell me about an ideal of perfection that short-circuited your work. What attracted to it? What made you think your work wasn’t good enough, and how did you keep moving?

Links

Infinity

Studio Giraldez, Angel’s web log.

WarMachine