As lockdown winds to a close in the UK (I can actually go for a pint tomorrow!) I find myself in an odd and strange place in my life. I’m not going to give you a run-down of all my personal stuff that I’ve got going on (none of your beeswax) but in hobby-terms, I’m kind of in heaven right now. And yet, I find my angelic ideal with its wings clipped through only my own devilish shortcomings. And that’s what I want to talk about right now. A bit of hobby darkness that I find myself falling victim to too often – the pressure of painting, and everything that goes with the hobby these days. It might only be for me, but I’d be shocked (shocked I tell you) if it didn’t apply to you at least a little bit. Let me set the scene.
This blog is a testament to my progress when it comes to painting. Despite the 3 year gap when I was working for GW, it’s tracked a lot of my painting progress. And I have progressed – something I’m very happy with. When I started this, I wasn’t even edge-highlighting, and now, with some of the pieces I’m most proud of, I’m not even edge highlighting (that makes sense in my head). I’m actually at a state now where the miniatures I paint when i put my all into it, often surpass, one after the other, the best thing I’ve painted. That’s something of which I am very proud.
But I have fallen into the trap of late, mainly due to my own perception of how the hobby is perceived on social media, of trying to fart out basic stuff because i want the likes and adoration and attention. That being said, I find myself sat here disgusted at myself for trying to “keep up’ with the people who rely on this to give themselves a sense of value in the hobby. And that’s not a knock – if you’re having fun, and it works for you, it’s cool, but it ain’t for me. So, that beggars the question, what is for me?
Well, I make no bones about it, that I want to win a Golden Demon. When that competition returns, I will be throwing everything I have at it. And that may still not be enough. I may yet need to go back to the drawing board, especially after a year in which so many talented painters have had all the time in the world to master their future entries, but even if I get knocked down, I will get up again. You are never gonna keep me down *plays Chumbawumba on iTunes to psyche myself up*.
However, pushing myself to that extent hurts my love for painting toy soldiers. Last weekend, I spent 3 days pouring everything i had into painting a Titan Head, and it sucked the life from me. People think I’m being lazy because it’s taken me years to paint even a fraction of that huge model, but what I’m trying to do saps the life out of me. After a spell like that, I sit at my desk, look at my miniatures and I just think “No. I don’t give a shit about this. I don’t care one bit. Fuck it”. At which point, I walk away. To keep my brush hands going, I spent a week messing around with an old restoration project that I’ve since given up on, and while I’m moving on to the next thing now, there were points in the last week that I could have thrown my paints and brushes away. Hell, if that room wasn’t my hobby room, I could rent it out and make my mortgage payments from it. Sounds handy right?
That’s not really what I want though. But ain’t that the trick. What do I want? Why the hell am I painting toy soldiers? What’s the damn point of it all? These are important questions that need answering. Am I doing it to “get fans”? Am I doing it to make other people in the hobby think I’m better or best? No. Down that route fragile self-worth lies. That ain’t me.If it’s you, more power to you, but it’s not me. So why am I doing this?
And that’s when it hit me. I asked myself that question, stared in the mirror and the face in the mirror replied “because you like doing it”. And mirror-me was right. I love painting toy soldiers. Through all my 37 years, it’s the thing that has consistently brought me the most pleasure. Through everything that life has thrown at me, it’s been a peaceful and pleasing constant. What’s more, now that I’m in a good place and able to paint to a standard I’m happy with, and that I can use as a springboard, I can feel myself getting closer to my dream. It may still take me many years, but if I’m 65 and picking up my first Golden Demon I’ll be happy. I never stop trying because when I commit to doing something, I do it, even if it breaks me. I guess I can be stubborn like that.
So the pressure is there, but I don’t care anymore. There’ll always be that pressure to try and get more likes, and subscribes and followers, but I don’t care. I am in a ridiculously privileged position in that i don’t intend to buy a new mini for the rest of the year because my unpainted pool of opportunity (read ‘grey tide”) that i own is so wide and full. That may sound like a humble brag, but I want to type out, for my own benefit, what I’m happy about, and honestly, having all these minis to work on…
…feels great. I am lucky. And I need to enjoy that. And the only pressure that I’m going to feel is from myself. Make that blend smoother, make that contrast deeper, make that edge brighter, etc. I need to be my own hobbyist, and while I’ll always continue to encourage good hobby, I won’t ever compare myself to someone else’s efforts again. That’s for Golden Demon judges to do.
That’s my little rant fo the day. I actually have had a pretty rough time over lockdown, and while I have helped a lot of my friends through their own personal hells, I’ve compartmentalised a lot of the pain and horror that i’ve been going through, so now it’s time to let that out and deal with it as best I can. Which means I’m going to be pretty quiet on social media for a while. I think. I’ll be back, but I do find the whole thing massively unhealthy for me – it’s my nature to see it as a competition and I like winning and, well, there is no winning . Remember, if you’re going through shit, reach out to your friends and lean on them as you would allow them to lean on you – they won’t blank you and run away if they’re real friends. And if they aren’t, you won’t ever need them in your life. There are therapists, trained individuals who can help, or, if you’re like me, you can always fall back on alcoholism and self loathing. 😉 (that was a joke obvs).
But until we’re all back drinking in the bars and hugging each other again, I just want to remind you that you’re awesome and you deserve the very best because you are the very best. And I’m going to try and be the best me too. Onwards.
Great to see you set some goals and understand why you’re in the hobby. With a hobby this wide it’s the breadth of the hobby that often draws me in. Everyone enjoys it in different ways and that’s great. Sorry to hear you’ve been struggling. Hope you feel better soon.
I agree with so much of what you’ve said, the only difference being my goal would be a Golden Demon participation badge, winning an award is beyond me and I’m fine with that. Painting can be such an introspective activity and balancing that pursuit of excellence is part of the challenge. I also know how overwhelming it can become and regardless of the aspirations even just tabletop ready can feel too much to cope with. Yet we keep coming back to it and it might not even be because ‘we enjoy it’ but we’re are compelled to do it, or like me, addicted even! Keep strong, keep painting if it makes you happy and keep being your own hobbyist.