Friday, 9 November 2012 : A really quick guide

One website that is a must for anyone interested in miniature art is coolminiornot.  It is probably the largest online collection of painted / sculpted minis ever, and a driving force in the hobby.

However, it can be a little daunting to some, due to it's massive content.  I have to say, most of my visits to CMoN (as it's often abreviated) is a quick check of the top rated submissions of the last 7 days, and perhaps a peek at what's new in the forums / articles / store.  However, anyone really passionate about the hobby can really lose track of time here... there's that much stuff to check out.

Of course, you people are probably just as busy as I am these days (taking care of the kid / kids, running errands, working multiple jobs, making time for friends and family, completing every console game ever made, and painting the occasional model), so I'll give you the quick rundown on the highlights of the site:

Browsing the top models:
The "meat" of the site is the premise that users can submit pics of their latest works, and have other users and visitors to the site rate and comment on their submissions.  This is what Coolminiornot was all about when it first launched, and this is what really separates it from every other miniature forum and online store out there.

On the menu bar near the top, pick out "Browse Gallery" and pick out whatever option you'd like.  I tend to go for "Top Last 7 Days", and start from there.  These are the top rated entries going back a week, and they are almost all jaw-droppingly amazing works of art.  You can really get inspired within a few minutes of checking these out.

Of course, if you're looking for something specific to guide your latest project, I like to just hit "Browse Gallery".  After that, you are shown a number of the most recent entries, and lots of drop down menus and fields where you can enter your search criteria.  For example, if I was starting work on a Sisters of Battle army, I might enter "Games Workshop" under Manufacturer, "Science Fiction" under Catagory, and select "Rating (Descending)" under Order By (I like to start with the highest rated entries first, and go down the list from there... the more original concepts tend to be more highly rated).

Oh wow... there's some of my entries from almost a decade ago still in there.   Not bad for oldskool, eh?

Of course, if your ego ever needs deflating, and your jaw likes sitting on the floor, check out "Top Artists".  The entries featured here are likely to make you want to throw away all your paints and models in despair.  The thing to remember is that all these artists started off as beginners, like everyone else.  With enough practice and dedication, there's nothing they have done that you can't accomplish yourself one day.  At least, that's what I keep telling myself...

Now, those are the features that really set CMoN apart from other web destinations.  However, there is also a thriving forum on there as well (go ahead and ask your questions... there are some extremely helpful and accomplished artists on there that will answer them), and a well stocked online store (where you can find all sorts of hard to find models and art supplies).

Overall, CMoN is a worthy site that will consume much too much of your spare time.  That being said, none of the new techniques, inspiring pics, helpful advice, etc., are of any use if you don't actually put them into practice.  So go paint, and check out CMoN whenever you're feeling painting burnout, and you need a quick "recharge".

Friday, 2 November 2012

Painting in the 90s and Now: What Changed?

Thoughts on weathering and quick links

Back in the day (pre-2000's), miniature painters didn't do a heck of a lot of weathering to their models.  The fashion at the time was bright, vibrant colours, candy-like finishes, and as clean a look as possible... just about everything looked like it had just come out of a car wash with a coat of Turtle Wax.

There were many reasons for this.  Like many trends in miniature painting, painting fashion was set by the Eavy Metal team (Games Workshop's in-house studio of professional miniature painters).  Their painting style was determined by the photo and printing technology of the time... it was often difficult to make out fine detail and subtle shades in a picture of a model once it was printed on the cardboard stock of a package, or in the pages of White Dwarf magazine, especially when the model was only barely over an inch in height.  Therefore, it was best to go bright, clean, and simple with your paint scheme.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about... Chris Borer's Golden Demon winning Ultramarines dreadnought from US Games Day 1999:

I have to admit, I was also a slave to fashion, well past it's fashionable time.  Here's an example of my Salamander's dreadnought done for a client in 2002:

Salamanders Dreadnought (Draco)
Notice that the emphasis is on smooth, clean highlights, each part is easily defined, and details are discernable even from a distance.  As most models were painted for the express purpose of looking good on the tabletop (where they would be admired from an arm's length), this was the height of miniature fashion for over a decade.

However, photo technology improved, miniature magazines were now printed on high quality glossy paper, and most miniature companies were now promoting their products on the Net (where a 32mm model would be blown up into a picture the size of a 20"+ monitor).

Also, an upstart French company called Rackham started producing miniatures with really really fine details, and their studio painters used painting techniques borrowed from 2 dimensional canvas and european comic book art.  Heavily stylized stuff, and very impressive.  They really popularized non-metallic metallic effects (ie using a wide palatte of flat colours to convey the impression of metallic shines and reflections, rather than using paints with real metal flakes / pigments), chipping, wear, and rust effects.

Once that happened, people started looking outside the hobby for all kinds of painting techniques that could be incorporated into their miniature art.  One such area was historical modelling.  Previously, fantasy and sci-fi gaming miniature painting was very much a separate discipline from historical modelling.  We did up all sorts of pretty garish looking stuff (but meticulously highlighted and detailed), and they did grungy, beat up (by historically accurate) models.  We painted dragons and multi-turreted flying tanks, and they did mud covered drab looking Sherman tanks.  Both sides really didn't value what the other side did much, and while our "gamer funk" smelled the same, we never ventured deep enough into each other's territory to figure out what the other side was doing.

Well, at some point, both sides started stealing tricks from each other... although we fantasy / sci-fi painters probably had more to learn from the historical guys (which makes sense... they've been around longer than us). 

One guy, Miguel Jimenez (a historical guy), had some pretty radical ideas, and started doing what he called, "Colour Modulation".  He describes the process in the following blog article:

Colour Modulation is basically a different approach to deciding what direction your highlights and shades should go in, and if done well, creates amazing contrast.

Over this, all sorts of weathering techniques are applied, and tones down the model into something much more realistic looking.  Here's an example of a model he's painted with Colour Modulation, and weathered only one side.  It's really easy to see how much of an impact the weathering makes:

With careful use of washes, pigments, an airbrush, and oil paints (all done in separate stages, and not necessarily in that order), the model is turned from something that looks like a digital model for a computer game, into something that looks like a full size real tank as seen from a distance.

Sorry for using Mathieu Fontaine as an example yet again, but he describes the process pretty well in the following tutorial, as used on a Games Workshop Valkyrie flyer:

Soon, I'll post some pics of a few of my latest attempts to experiment in this style, but for now, let's just say that I spent some quality time tinkering around with oil paints and white spirits purchased from my local art supply shops (Opus and Loomis, if you're in my neck of the woods), and some dry pigments direct from Secret Weapon Miniatures in combination with MIG pigment fixer (the company Mig Jimenez founded and owned, until he lost control of the company some time back... he's afiliated with a competing company called AK Interactive now).  After a few less than satisfactory attempts, I'm finally getting the hang of things.  In fact, I just won 2 awards in a local painting competition with a small diorama and an armoured personnel carrier.

I sincerely think this is the direction miniature painting is taking now (well, it's been going this way for awhile... I just haven't been paying much attention until recently), and very few miniature painting competitions will go to models painted in the "old-skool" style any more.  Old school still has it's place though... but it's best appreciated on the gaming table, with mass-ranked troops and entire armoured battle groups.  Up close with the macro-lens or the good old Mark I eyeball, weathering is adding a whole new dimension and depth to miniature painting.

Added notes (5 Nov 2012): Having just re-read the above entry, I realized that perhaps I'm selling the "clean" look a bit short.  Perhaps I frothed at the mouth a bit too much about the importance of weathering... I SHOULD say that it's really just another tool in your toolkit of painting skills, and should be treated as such.  It's great vehicles, armour, etc., but it should be used in context... if your subject matter doesn't require it, don't use it.

I just finished playing "Mass Effect 3", and had to say that the visuals really blew me away.  Part of the reason why was the subtle, and not overstated, use of weathering.  Armour was worn, scratched, and beaten.  However, it was not overdone... it wasn't as if everything was covered in rust, gouged down to the bare metal, etc.  Excessive weathering may have detracted from the high-tech look the artists were going for... perhaps distracted the eye a bit.  I'll have to keep this in mind when painting.  I don't want people to look at my models and only see the weathering and not the work that went into shading, blending, and highlighting.  Gotta make sure everything's in balance.

Oh, and I noticed Jarrett Lee's name in the game credits.  For anyone who's not familiar with his work, he's an Alberta Canadian miniature artist of considerable talent.  Check out his blog here.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Sources of Inspiration

So far, I'm proving to be very bad at posting new stuff up on my blog on a regular basis.  My problem is that I tend to overthink my writing, treating each entry like I'm trying to earn an "A" on an English Lit essay (take a guess at what my major was in University...).

To remedy this, and just to build up and maintain some writing momentum, I've decided to write the occasional "quickie" post.  Topics will vary, but all will (hopefully) be of some interest to the miniature artist, and possibly a source of some inspiration and food for thought.

To that end, here are a few places that I've found to be great sources of inspiration as an artist... places where I could easily lose hours in.  These are not necessarily miniature art specific, but seeing as all miniatures / dioramas / etc usually start as a concept, then a sketch, I'm a strong believer in taking in art from as many different sources as possible:

deviantART : This is like an online art book for me, and I LOVE art books.  I haven't browsed it in quite some time... but I remember this site fondly.  Users post samples of their art here, and I never fail to find some really inspiring pieces... often I will see something that absolutely needs to be incorporated into some project of mine, and translated somehow into a 3D miniature format.

Spectrum Fantastic Art : Every year or so, Arnie and Cathy Fenner run a competition of fantastic art (mostly fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and comic book themed), judged by a panel of very well known and established artists, and publish an art book that's well worth the money.  They are up to number 18 now, I believe, and I've got almost every single one in my collection.  Every time I pick up a new one, I spend days poring over the beautiful art within, and placing Post-It note bookmarks on any page with any art work that gets my creative juices percolating.  So far, only one gaming miniature has ever graced it's pages (a Cryx warjack painted by Alison McVey), but hopefully we will see more miniature art in the future.

Brom Art: One of my favourite fantasy artists of all time has to be Gerald Brom.  I've had the pleasure of meeting him years ago at V-Con (a modest Vancouver sci-fi convention), and have a signed Brom print hanging on the wall of my hobby room.  I own most of his art books, and while my own method of colour selection tends to be much more saturated in colour than his, I cannot help but lose myself in each and every one of his works.  Check his site out... you'll likely recognize much of his work if you're any sort of old-school gamer.  If you're interested in painting miniatures based on his artwork, then check out Dark-Age Games.

That's it for now.  I plan on posting more whenever I come across something that I think will be of interest.  If you come across anything that I definately need to check out, please comment.  Thanks!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Thoughts on the Importance of Blending

 I've often tried to define the differences between a decent paintjob, and an amazing paintjob.  There are, in fact, many different elements that go into elevating one person's painting over another's.  One of those aspects that stands out for me is how well the blending has been done.

The ability to achieve seamless blending is what I consider the foundation to your painting skillset.  I don't care if you can freehand a replica of the Mona Lisa on a grain of rice if the transitions in shading / highlighting are rough, choppy, and sloppy.  If you don't care enough to work on your blending, that means you haven't worked on your fundamentals enough.

One of the basic tenets of miniature painting is the idea that these are miniature scale representations of a full scale person / tank / monster / whatever.  As such, exaggerating the contrasts in lighting are essential to maintaining the illusion that this model is larger than it really is.  Smooth colour transitions help trick the eye into believing that the 10 - 20 shades of red on a miniature's cloak is really one shade of red, with the natural lighting creating all those different tones.

It's like this... imagine a computer image of your model.  If you used 40 different tones / saturations of red on your model's cloak instead of just 2, you could achieve a much smoother, richer, and realistic illusion of how light falls on a full scale model.  Now, I'm not saying that you need 40 different pots of every colour in your paint collections (although I've heard that that's exactly what Slayer Sword winner Bobby Wong used to do), but with a few pots of paint and the proper application of various painting techniques and tools (wet blending, feathering, progressive glazing, airbrushing, etc.), you can achieve pretty much the same effect.

If you have a look at some of top miniature painting artists (this link is a pretty good place to start checking them out), one thing they pretty much all have in common is the strength of their blending skills.  Now, from my research, each artist has their preferred method for achieving this, but whatever your style, you need to practice like crazy, patiently accept your failures, and keep working on improving this skill.  No one nails perfectly seamless blending on their first try, and part of the reason I'm in awe of buttery smooth blends is that it represents just how hard the artist worked at getting better.  It's something I consider myself reasonably skilled at, but acknowledge that I'm nowhere near as good as I could be.

To that end, I'm currently experimenting with wet blending, two brush blending (somewhat the same thing), airbrushes, feathering, progressive glazing, and a few other techniques.  Each one has it's challenges, and I'm starting to come to the conclusion that eventually, my preferred technique will be a fusion of all of the above.  One recent breakthrough for me was when I came across someone's blog, stating that they observed the Massive Voodoo team "blocking-in" rough shading with some sort of feathered / wet blended techniques, followed by progressive glazes to smooth it all out.  I tried it out, and it seems to be working great so far.

I could go on and on about blending, but right now I've got to go.  I hope this has sparked something in your mind about painting, and perhaps lit the fire of inspiration.  Let me know your thoughts on the subject, and I'll put more stuff up about it later.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Pushing Out of Your Comfort Zone

I mentioned in my last post that I am currently trying to expand my painting experience by trying new techniques, tools, and thinking.  It’s a fairly difficult process… I’ve been painting minis for a very long time (back when I started almost all miniatures were made of lead, Mike McVey was a junior Eavy Metal team member, White Dwarf ran adventures for AD&D and Judge Dredd the RPG, and I listened to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” on my parent’s turntable), and have a comfortable repertoire of painting techniques and habits that I have a hard time leaving behind.  In many ways, I think it’s much easier for a brand new painter to learn various painting techniques than an old experienced dog like myself.

How so?  Well, a new painter is open-minded, with no pre-conceptions, not operating under any “rules”, and willing to try anything.  Their minds are like a fresh blank primed canvas, ready to take any colour, any technique, and accept any result.

By contrast, experienced painters are like an old painting.  For them, learning a new technique forces them to discard old ones that they are comfortable with.  When they hold a brush, muscle memory makes them unconsciously reach for the old standby colours for shades and highlights, apply lighting effects in the same way they’ve done for years, and fill in details the same way they know how.  It’s like changing course on a ship the size of the Titanic, or applying paint over a previously painted canvas.

For me, shading light blue with red instead of a darker “Regal Blue” or black is a conscious effort.  To push / pull paint around for blending requires a tremendous amount of willpower and concentration, whereas layering with thinned down paints is near autopilot for me.  Testing the consistency of the paint on my brush by giving it a quick swipe on the back of my left thumb (a trick I learned recently) is something I have to remind myself to do.  In fact, I often start painting a model with every intention of using all new techniques, only to finish off the model with all my old techniques.  Sometimes I just lose patience and without thinking about it, slip back into all my old habits.

On the other hand, someone who is new to painting miniatures has nothing to unconsciously fall back on.  They push on with the new technique, simply because they know no other way.  They are forced to learn, and tend to stay focused for much longer.

So, if you’re relatively new to painting miniatures, take heart!  There are countless painters out there with only a few years of experience who produce models many times nicer than anything I could ever produce.  Heck, I believe it was Vincent Hudon who won a Slayer Sword (probably the most coveted award in our hobby) at a Canadian Games Day with only one year worth of painting experience!

That being said, it’s really fun to try new approaches to painting.  One of the things I’ve been doing is exactly what I used to do when I first started out: I pick up every painting article I can get my hands on, and try and follow along as best I can.  Each writer has their own techniques and quirks that come through in their painting articles, and the challenge is to try and figure out what they were thinking when they picked a certain tool or technique, and try and work the same way they worked.  By trying to be a different painter than yourself, you push yourself out of your old comfort zone, and experience new perspectives.

Just prior to taking Mathieu Fontaine’s class, I picked up a copy of Eavy Metal Masterclass by Games Workshop.  For anyone who doesn’t already know this, Games Workshop’s in-house professional painters are collectively known as the “Eavy Metal” team.  Chock full of painting articles, with excellent full colour step by step pics, this book is like owning a fantastic cookbook of other people’s recipes.  By following along, step by step, on your own models, you get a feel for their techniques.

YouTube is another rich source of demonstrated techniques.  Now, not all the videos are astounding in video quality, but often there’s just enough there for you to try tackling a new approach to painting.

Of course, in terms of video quality, there are a number of professionally produced miniature painting DVD’s out there.  I recently picked up the Miniature Painting Secrets DVDs featuring Natalya Melnik and Jennifer Haley.  While most YouTube videos are visually very grainy, poorly lit, out of focus, and badly narrated, these are very easy to follow with the eye.  Not perfect, by any means (I found them unnecessarily long, with less narration and verbal explanation by the painters during the painting than I would have liked, and Natalya’s DVD didn’t show what she was doing on her palate when loading her brush), but I really do appreciate the extra work that went into the production values… it’s probably as close to seeing the artist paint in person as you could get.

Speaking of seeing work in person, in my opinion nothing beats actually getting the chance to look over the shoulder of an artist you admire.  Many top miniature painters offer classes, and some even tutor one-on-one!  There are very few jobs out there that pay worse than miniature painting professionally.  Honestly, I barely scraped by back when I was a “pro-painter”, and I know I did much better financially than most.  Things are probably better now for them than they were years ago, but I still bet that most professional miniature painters would be thrilled if you offered them a decent hourly wage for tutoring them in painting techniques, and it will definitely stoke their ego to be asked (we’re a praise-seeking bunch).  Also, getting real-time feedback on your painting techniques and corrections is definitely worth the coin.

However, if you’re even more broke than the pro-painters, I would strongly suggest getting a bunch of buddies together for a social painting session.  All that’s required is a big table, lots of lights, paints, models, and some good beer (okay, beer is optional, but I find it’s a good social solvent, and people are more likely to show up if there’s the promise of a decent micro-brew).  Your painting buddies don’t necessarily have to be better at painting than you are… they just have to have slightly different styles and experiences for you to share tips and tricks, and to improve as a group.  It’s a pleasant way to spend an evening, and I find I focus on the painting more, and improve my skills faster, than I do when painting by myself.  Not everyone enjoys painting this way (anti-social freaks…), but it works for me.

Blogs are another useful source of painting tutorials.  Many painters write about their latest projects, show “work in progress” shots, and best of all, answer questions if you email them or post to their blog.  On the sidebar of my blog, SableandSpray, are some links to the many blogs I like to follow.

Lastly (for now), I should mention that there are many excellent painting forums out there.  Coolminiornot is a good one, but WAMP, OzPainters, and a few others are almost exclusively geared towards miniature painting artists.  Heck, even more gaming-focused forums like Warseer or DakkaDakka have decent miniature painting threads, although I’ve found the users more concerned with getting decent looking results across a whole army.

Whether you’re new or old to painting, take it from me… there are so many more sources of inspiration and instruction than there were back when I started.  Back then, all we had to go on were pics in Dragon and White Dwarf magazine, and we would have to guess and reverse engineer the paint jobs we admired.  Nowadays you can spend a few minutes reading a book, watching a DVD, or surf the web, and get enough material to work on for weeks.  Best of all, you can even get in touch with those artists you admire and get tips directly from them!

The trick is to keep pushing yourself, and trying new things.  If you continue to use the techniques you already know, you won’t grow as an artist.  You might get faster, you might get a bit more polished, but you won’t be expanding your “toolbox” of tricks, so to speak.  It’s much more challenging and frustrating to try something out of your comfort zone, but nothing beats that “eureka!” moment you get when you successfully replicate someone else’s results.  At that moment, you start adapting it to your own style, mixing it with your own techniques, and come up with something new and uniquely yours.

Recently, I spent a stupid amount of time trying to feather and wet blend true metallics on a sword… took me the entire afternoon just to do one side, and my jaw was sore from gritting my teeth in frustration.  The finished result was amazing though… much more depth than I’m used to seeing in my metallic paintings, although it was looking a bit grainier and rougher than I would like.  Still… I can see where this is all going, and I learned more in that one afternoon than I have in many months previously.  If I keep at it, I may get the effects to be much smoother and seamless, in less time, and I’ll really be proud of what I’ve done.

So long as I don’t lose my patience and revert back to my old habits, that is.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Well, it looks like I've finally gone over to the dark side, and started a blog of my very own.

I guess it was inevitable.  I've never really been able to shake the writing bug that started back when I was a kid, and manifested itself fully while in University.  Same goes for the fantasy / sci-fi artist wannabe side of me.  Together, along with my introduction to gaming that served as the catalyst between the two all those years ago (lets see... it was either Gamma World the RPG or Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader back in the mid eighties), and I was condemned to be a miniature painting geek and blogger from an early age.

Well, at least I've got a modest set of credentials behind me.  Nothing like some of my mini-geek heroes (many of whom have been blogging for quite some time already... check out the "Blogs of Interest" listed on the right side of my blog), but I used to write a regular column for a website / community forum called, "Portent" way back in the day.  It was the first big site to publish all sorts of rumours and sneak peek pics regarding Games Workshop games and models back in the '90s. 

It started off when I joined a team of professional painters under the banner of "Brushworks" that was loosely affiliated with Portent.  I had worked for a local GW retail store for about two years prior to that, gotten myself fired from that job, and then went on to win a few minor painting awards (runner up Best Army in the Toronto GT, Best Army in Seattle, etc.).  I did some photo coverage for the Toronto GT for a major online retailer called Newwave Games (the owner, David Doust, is one of the people behind now).  While all that was going on, I managed to join one of the pre-eminent painting studios of the time, Brushworks, whose ranks contained the likes of Jason Richards (multi Golden Demon award winner and fellow Canadian), Mike Butcher (multi Best Army GW Grand Tournament winner), David Dresch (American with 4 GDs), Leigh Carpenter (Aussie with 2 Slayer Swords and well over 20 GDs), Tom Schadle (American with 1 Slayer Sword and over 20 GDs), and Jeff Wilson (American with 3 Slayer Swords and around 20 GDs), and ended up painting for a living (not a great living, mind you, but it paid my half of the rent).

The rest of my memory from that time is a bit fuzzy, but I think I noticed that many of Portent's regular editorial columnists weren't all that productive with regular posts.  My writing bug kicked in, and I approached the owner / moderator, Pete Closs, and pitched a few articles.  A short time later, I was posting all sorts of gaming and modelling related musings on a weekly basis (much like a modern blog, only hosted by a major hub of a website).  I had quite the following, and spent much of my time responding to emails, which I loved (as it was a nice break from all that painting).

In the end, Brushworks folded when the owner ditched the business (for understandable reasons that had nothing to do with BW), and while the rest of us valiantly tried to keep the whole thing afloat (including a great Yahoo group where we swapped ideas and critiques of each other's work, thus improving each other's skills immeasureably), it just lost too much focus and slowly split at the seams.  Portent followed suit shortly, which opened an Internet void that sites like DakkaDakka and Warseer quickly filled, and I found myself no longer painting for a living, and no longer writing for fun.

After a yearlong stint in the film industry (as an assistant casting agent... and no, there were no couches involved...), I found myself looking for a new direction once again.  My buddy Chad Lascelles was in a similar situation, having ridden out the big Internet bubble (when web developing businesses were going boom and bust on a near daily basis), and we were sitting on a small dock  at a mutual friend's cabin, tossing back beers, talking about how we both loved painting miniatures so much.  Somehow that led to us forming a professional painting studio called Sorcerer Studios, and I was back to painting for a living once again.

Sorcerer Studios was everything Brushworks wasn't... the only thing they had in common was a decent amount of success (we were booked solid, and ran with a 3-4 month waiting list for projects), and a good chunk of the same clients.  Brushworks artists worked alone, and corresponded and collaborated on projects only by email and by courier.  We were scattered all over the globe.  In contrast, Sorcerer Studios was two artists, working on either end of a used dining table in a spare room that was completely converted over to a dedicated studio.  We got to work at 9am, and worked straight through till 5pm each day, 5 days a week (minimum).  We freely passed projects back and forth between the two of us, and collectively came up with time estimates and price quotes.  We did our best to run the thing like a serious business, and it was.  Only it was a ton of fun too.

During the 4 years that Sorcerer Studios ran for, I got to work on all sorts of amazing projects.  From individual character models for role playing games, to massive armies (I nearly went nuts doing 130 Mordor Orcs for one client), to giant Forgeworld models and terrain (super heavy tanks, mammoths, greater daemons, titans, etc.), to pre-release models for fledgling miniature lines (like Dark Age and IK-Warmachine), I practically painted every model ever released during that time.  And we did it to as high a standard as we could... if it couldn't at least fit in to a "Best Painted" award winning army, it wouldn't get shipped until it could. 

In the end, the business was still going strong, but we couldn't.  It completely burned us out (well, it burned ME out at least... Chad was a painting machine).  There were also some real life issues that proved to be bigger than our business, and so it was time to move on.

In the years that followed, I dabbled a bit here and there, teaching the occasional painting class, writing the occasional painting article and review (many for my friend Zac Belado, who was getting a website called, "Tabletop Gaming News" off the ground), and half-heartedly following what was going on in the miniature painting world.  Overall though, I had a hard time dredging up the motivation to paint much.

Then, at the beginning of 2012, I took some classes taught by the incomparable Mathieu Fontaine.  Some local gamers (organized by my friend Jason "Doc" Dyer) had flown him out to Vancouver from his home province of Quebec, and I found myself challenged in ways I hadn't forseen.  His painting style and techniques, heck, his whole approach to painting was completely different from what I had done before.  His painting philosophy was different.  His vision of painting was different.  In fact, even his accent was different (for one thing, he never pronounces the letter "h"... ever).

The whole "European painting style" was something that Eavy-Metal style traditionalists like myself just didn't get, but now I had an inkling about how they did it.  I would force myself to abandon my tried-and-true techniques, and get out of my comfort zone.

And it inspired me to seek out every technique, product, or approach out there that I hadn't tried out yet.  The resources available to the aspiring master painter were endless, unlike when I had first started out.  I would tackle new things with every model I touched from here on out, with varying levels of success.  Some things I would happily incorporate into my painting arsenal, others I would modify to suit my own personal tastes.  It won't be like the French artists, or the English ones. It won't be like quite like Jennifer Haley's style, or Matheiu's, or John Blanche's, or anyone elses. It will have elements of all the artists I admire, but it won't pass for one of their works.  In the end, I suspect I'll end up with a style that's not entirely like anyone elses, but I hope it'll make ME happy, at least. 

So why "Sable and Spray" as a blog title?

Those are the two tools that I use most often to get paint on to models.  The finest miniature painting brushes are made of hair from the Kolinsky Sable (a kind of Siberian Mink).  The other tool that's making waves in this hobby is the airbrush, which has been a staple in military and large figurine modelling for quite some time, but is a relative newcomer to our teeny tiny models.  Between the two, I came up with the title, "Sable and Spray"... it sounded good at the time, anyway.

So welcome to Sable and Spray.  Here you will read about my misadventures in miniature painting, my thoughts regarding it, and the people and styles I currently admire and try and live up to.  As a father and working man (no longer employed painting minis, thankfully), my actual painting time is limited, but my thoughts on the subject are endless.

Please enjoy and comment.