Greetings once more fellow wargamers.
Despite the title of this second Sprue Cutters Union post (#spruecutters), I do not in any way laim claim to the possession of 'wisdom'. Any accomplishments that have been attributed to me are either hearsay, the subject of urban legends or sheer fluke.
Now that's out of the way, I have to say that this is actually a difficult question to answer, when I consider all of the things that have impacted my hobby over the two decades I have been collecting, painting and gaming. Even as I type this, different ideas keep dropping into my neural Inbox. You see, there are just so many things that have had an impact on my modelling, so many things I have attempted, so many models I have collected that I can't even remember them all and can't fathom (no matter how I try) what actually happened to some of them. There are a great many things to consider...
As far as the modelling side of the hobby is concerned, the nitty gritty of assembly and painting, I think I have managed to identify the three factors which I believe have contributed the most towards getting me to the modest level of ability I have attained today. Before I commence, another quickie disclaimer. I don't make the assumption that these three nuggets or tips are things that gamers and modellers the world over aren't already well aware of, but though I may be preaching to the converted, it never hurts to get what could be a slightly different slant on a topic you are already familiar with. Now, onward...
Nugget of wisdom #1: Glue
The first thing I would like to mention is glue; the kind you use, the quantity, and the preparation.
I'm guessing all of us use glue in our hobby, be it plastic cements, instant adhesives, art glues and hot guns. I only use two types of glue in my modelling these days: PVA craft glue for basing and terrain building, and 'super glue' or an equivalent liquid instant adhesive for everything else.
I never use poly cement anymore. Why? Well, yeah, poly cement may be designed for use with plastics, and essentially creates a pretty permanent bond, but that's the problem. Remembering that I am speaking as a tabletop wargamer, models get transported, and invariably some will break in transit or in use (see my much earlier article, 'Wargaming Triage'), and when it comes to carrying out repairs or refurbishments, taking apart a miniature or part of a miniature is much easier when glued with super glue than when the components are permanently bonded with poly cement. Sometimes entire units of models must be re-equipped to keep up with changes to army books and lists. When super-glued in place, you can snap bits off whole, but cemented bits pretty much have to be sawn off.
Also, I have bad memories of using cements when I was a much younger and less experienced modeller than I am today: tubes of cement splurged all over the shop, no flow control etc...it was awful. These days you can get much better quality stuff with brush application and everything, but I still choose the versatility of super glue every time. Saves hassle and heartache in many situations.
for the type of super glue I favour, I like Loctite Brush On. It's a good quality glue, and the brush allows great control over how much glue is applied and where. It has been recommended that I try their gel tube, which is meant to give the same control, but without the eventual clogging up of the brush and neck.
Still with glue, I would also say that you cannot underestimate the importance of proper preparation of the bits to be glued. Whether initially assembling a miniature or repairing/refurbing an older model, it pays to ensure that you have a clean and flush fit, by filing the contact areas. This allows a much better fix with even less glue, which in turn makes repairs and refurbishment easier still.
Final point about glue, more relevant to gamers than non-gamers. I am what I would describe as a Gamer-Painter, rather than a Painter-Gamer. With super glue I can get my miniatures assembled and on the battlefield fighting quick smart, and when I come to painting them (eventually), I can disassemble where necessary easily enough to allow for painting those hard to reach areas.
Ok, I've covered a 'tool', now I'm going to talk about a method. If there is one thing I have realised over the years, having seen some amazing miniatures, it's the importance of neatness. Some of us can paint to a mind bogglingly high standard, others of us can just about scrape 'battlefield quality' paint jobs, but even the least experienced painter can get perfectly acceptable results if their painting is neat.
There are innumerable styles of painting, techniques and processes that painters can apply to achieve the best result they can, be it layering, washes and glazes, non-metallic metals and zenithal highlights (to use the currently trending buzz term), but the key to getting a paint job you are happy with, regardless of how advanced the techniques you use are, is to paint neatly. This can be achieved by practising brush control, being sure to use a size and quality of brush that allows the level of control you need, as well as simple tricks like watering down the paint a little, again allowing better control so that you don't end up with thick paint obscuring the detail on your model and ending up invading areas of the model that you didn't intend. Many painters will say that multiple thin layers of paint give a better, cleaner finish than a single thick layer.
And for heaven's sake take your time when painting. It isn't a race (well, sometimes it is), and speed may come with time and practice. Armies that are painted really fast are more likely to be painted simply and neatly using tricks that speed the job up, rather than painting everything to the same high standard. Complicated paint work is saved for character and centrepiece models, while rank and file may be three colours (or less) and a wash. We probably all have those early models we painted when first entering the hobby, but I bet the ones that make you cringe are simply the ones that aren't neatly painted. Too much paint, and in places it shouldn't be. Neatness is the bedrock of painting skill, and everything else, all the advanced highlights and blending, all the stuff that wins trophies, is all built on top of that foundation.
Finally, I have decided to talk about the single factor that all the other areas of the hobby rely on, at least in my world: motivation. I did wonder if this was a bit of a Micky Mouse point to be making, a cop out, but the more I think about it, the more important it seems. Quite simply, the difference between a one time hobbyist that consigns their handful of miniatures to their cupboard of 'tried that and it didn't work out' and the hoary old veterans still playing after decades in the trenches, between the Grand Grey Armies of bare plastic and those that battle in glorious technicolour, is motivation.
I know it's obvious, but it's also significant. I myself am now experiencing a flush of motivation to paint my many (many) unpainted gaming miniatures, and this motivation has come from two sources.
Firstly, I am playing regular games at a local club again, against (some) painted armies, which makes me want to be able to put painted models on the table and contribute to the spectacle of a wargame in full flow, rather than detract from it with my unpainted warriors. Secondly, I am motivated by the community of #wargamers and #warmongers (and dare I say #spruecutters?!) out there who are constantly posting pictures and videos of painted miniatures of every description and skill level, from a dozen genres.
It's inspiring. Inspiration begets action, models get painted, we learn new things from our fellows, and then, all that action begets achievement. We become better painters, and more accomplished modellers, even better generals with all the games we are able to play with our painted armies. We gain satisfaction from our hard work. If you want more of an idea of what I mean, have a read of my Painting Survivor Series article.
I have decided on motivation as my third point, because I know what it is to almost lose touch with the hobby, to have been without a game for so long with no end to the drought in sight that I wondered what the hell I was doing keeping all these old models. Being a part of the community, feeling like our collections of miniatures have a purpose, that we can achieve something cool and worthwhile, is the motivation we need to do more painting and modelling. All the skill and tools in the world won't matter if you just can't muster the enthusiasm to pick up a model and...well, the world is your oyster. In miniature of course.
To read more articles on this topic, check out some of these blogs, all members of the Sprue Cutters Union.
Perhaps you might like to join the Union?
Finally, for a chance to catch all of the member articles on the Sprue Cutters Union #1: Your First Model, The Combat Workshop has conveniently collected the links here. Well worth a read.
Thanks for reading...