Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Portable Painting Setup : Perfect for Lunch Breaks!

It's been three weeks since my last blog post, and for that, I apologize.  However, rather than go into details, how about I give you guys a quick write-up on how to fit more painting into your busy lives.

We're all getting busier and busier as we "grow-up"... we take on more responsibilities at work, at home, at school, and with the family.  Heck, we even spend more time on various hobbies other than painting!  All this cuts into our precious painting time, and that means we either get less painting done, or we start speeding up our work (and letting the level of quality slide as a result).

Personally, I've got two jobs, a wife, a kid, and various other committments that usually come first before painting.  I've been forced to look for little blocks of time where I can shoehorn a good painting session in (usually for parents, it's "The Golden Hour"... the hour just after your kid falls asleep for the night, and you furiously get as much done as you can before exhaustion overtakes you and you fall asleep yourself).  Weekends often present the odd bit of time to yourself as well.  However, I've found that sometimes these short blocks of time often happen OUTSIDE the home.

For example, my work place gives me a generous full hour for lunch.  If I'm quick, I can scarf down a bagged lunch in about 5 minutes (or I can quickly grab something hot from the cafeteria in 15), leaving me with ample time to work on some models.  I've also got a quiet little space all to myself where I can set up, paint (or build / convert), and then tear down before I have to return to work.

So, how can you do the same?  By putting together a small portable painting setup.

First of all, you have to have reasonable expectations.  Unless you're The Flash, you're not likely to get a ton of painting done in that kind of time.  And I'm not the kind of person willing to cut corners on my paintjobs... I try and get every model done to competition level (otherwise I'm not pushing my skills to their limits and beyond).  Therefore, I usually set a short, easy goal for myself.  Usually blending just one area of a model, or perhaps a basecoat over several models at once.

I also have to budget some time for the setup and tear down of my painting, because when I'm done with my break, I still have to do my regular job in that space (the one I get paid to do).  That means you can't afford to do things like set up lights, lay out your whole paint and tool collection, and unpack an  airbrush / compressor too.

So you need something minimal.  Just a few pots of paint, two or three brushes at most, something for your wash water, a few sheets of paper towel, a palatte of some kind, something to carry your model in, and a compact light.  Something like this:

This is a small pistol case (you can find them at any firearms store, or even in the hunting section of an outdoors or hardware store).  Inside, I pack my miniature(s), a few pots of paint, 2 or 3 brushes (with caps on to keep the bristles from being bent out of shape), some medium (for blending), a little bit of brush soap (gotta keep those expensive brushes in top shape), an LED lamp that I got at an outdoor supplies store (if it's bright enough for camping, it's usually bright enough for painting), my wet palatte (this is the Privateer Press one, but notice that I replaced the crap packing foam for a proper art store wet palatte sponge), and a leftover cottage cheese tub that I can use for my wash water.

I have access to plenty of paper towels at work, so I didn't need to pack any sheets inside my kit.  I also carry a bike water bottle with me most of the time, which carries enough water for wetting my palatte and filling my wash tub.  If you're particularly paranoid about leaving a mess, you can lay out a few newspapers over your painting area first.

Packed up for travel, it all looks like this:

A small assemble that can fit inside a backpack or other bag quite easily.  And I would highly recommend you put that pistol case in a bag before carrying it around... I'm quite fortunate that I work in a police station, where two thirds of my co-workers walk around packing heat anyway, but your work place might not be so understanding.  And if you plan on flying with this, I'd replace the gun case with something else entirely...

I also recommend you label everything.  If you're travelling with kit, it's much more likely you're going to misplace or lose something.  It's very possible that your missing stuff will make it's way back to you if your name and contact info is on it.

Not bad, is it?  I've taken this little bit of kit everywhere... to my parent's place, to my buddies homes, to the local game shop, on road trips, and even on holidays.  I might take more paints and models with me sometimes, in which case I bring a separate box for them, but that's only if I think I'll have plenty of time to work on my models.

I'll often pack something similar if I only plan on building or prepping some models for painting.  In that case, instead of paints, brushes, etc., I'll bring needle files, clippers, glue, zip kick (a glue accelerator), hobby knife, etc.

Again, this is a small kit, suitable for rather short sessions.  If you're the type of person who would rather work on some models than read a newspaper or surf the Net on your iPhone, then this kind of setup might just work for you too.  Even if you only get 30 minutes of painting in, over time that adds up to quite a bit of work accomplished.  And, of course, we all know that the more painting we get done, the more practice we get under our belt, and the better we get.  Not everyone gets to paint for a living and do it 40 or more hours a week (been there, done that)... some of us get paid to do something entirely different (along with benefits and a pension), and have to fit our painting in wherever and whenever we can...

Now that I've put my paints away, I guess it's time to get back to work :

I love my job.


  1. Heh...I do something similar for my combat tours. I even have pre-packed boxed of minis for my wife to mail me as I work through them.

    You confiscated all those in Vancouver??? Damn, the city's really changed since I've been gone.

  2. From what I've read, there can be some very long stretches of down time in Kandahar or on some of the FOBs, with little to do. Plenty of time for painting, I guess. I can't imagine the heat and the dust would present all sorts of challenges though.

    You have my thanks for your service. I've read just about everything I can get my hands on regarding the war in the Middle East (just finished "Sniper One" by Sgt. Dan Mills of the U.K., but I would happily recommend "15 Days" by Christine Blatchford, and "FOB Doc" by Captain Ray Wiss for a Canadian perspective in Afghanistan), and while I think I have some idea of how difficult things are there, it's still very much at arm's length. I have personally never had mortar shells land anywhere near where I bunk.

    As for the shopping cart of guns... I think most of those came from a gun amnesty. On that particular day, a deceased gun collector's brother dropped off a trunk full of assorted firearms... it was a shocking amount, and I recognized weapons from just about every Cold War conflict represented in that collection. The Tommy Gun was a stunning suprise. According to the director of our police museum, it was worth about $10,000 due to the fact that the wooden furniture had been replaced at some point in the past. Otherwise it might have been worth almost $40,000 to some collectors. The Mac 10 was a gun fished out of a local river... Forensic Firearms was going to double check to see if it could have been potentially used in any crimes of note.

    Yup, I may have missed out on military service, but I think I found someplace almost as interesting to work. The crazy thing is that I'm pretty sure all those guns were headed off to be melted down and turned into rebar. The Police Department can't risk any weapons making their way to the streets somehow, so eventually everything gets destroyed. Considering we've seen countless WWII relics (tons of Lee-Enfields, and even one bazooka someone found under their porch while renovating!), it breaks the heart of a military history enthusiast like myself. I understand the necessity though.

  3. Damn, they should be sold legally at auction. It'll help supplement the coffee fund!

    I don't think anyone will do any masterclass paintjobs on a FOB, but its a great way to grind out rank-and-file while you watch $1 bootleg DVDs from the local market for yet another night.

    The closest I've ever read anyone come to getting modern combat (at least the Iraq-istan version) is called "The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell". I forget who wrote it and I'm not at home to check. If my sons ever enlist, I'm giving them a copy on their way out the door. Its no bullshit, just the good, bad, sad, and funny from a low-level guy caught up in a bunch of crap beyond his control. I highly recommend it.

  4. I've read that. By John Crawford (someone I know has the exact same name), some unlucky guy who ended up in Iraq for MUCH longer than he was told his tour was for. It's been quite some time since I read that, so I'm a bit hazy on the details, but I recall it being one of those, "Why you should never believe the recruiter when you sign up" stories. I'll have to dig my copy out of storage and have another read.

    Does anyone play much over there? I remember some story of people coming up with a diceless and map driven version of 40K to pass the time.

  5. I'll take being a soldier over being a cop, at least I get to shoot at people being a fucktard. You guys have to play nice and bite your tongue, that sucks! On the plus side, you don't get blown up.

    I dig the colored-in middle finger on the door. Almost missed that.

    1. Policing is a great career for those who have the right stuff. Definately not for everyone though... And possibly not for me either... I am enjoy being part of the civilian support staff. I am proud to support those who serve, make great friends, hear interesting stories, but still get to have weekends and holidays off, not work rotating shifts, and not have to take nausea inducing drug cocktails whenever some diseased junkie spits directly in my eyes.

      Funny you said that though. One of the ERT (Canadian term for SWAT) Sergeants once told me how sorry he felt for the soldiers in Iraq / Afghanistan. According to him, ERT breachers had all the toys, tricks, and training in their favour, and said he actually felt relatively safe breaching a door. "Not like those poor bastards in the military. They just boot the door down and rush in."

      As for the graffiti, It helps to have a dark sense of humour in that place. We used it as a loading bay for supplies, but once upon a time, it was where paddy wagons would unload suspects. They would be taken up that very elevator to the jail cells on the upper floors. We've since left that building, but it was a neat place to work if you were into police history.

  6. I'm off the bases too much for any gaming longer than a poker night, but a few guys have. Most people get pretty antisocial after being cooped up with the same people for so long, myself included, so I've never looked for one. Id rather put headphones on and pretend im anywhere but there. That and being a game nerd in the army is like fight club, you don't talk about it lol...the armorer in my unit is a green beret weapons sergeant and he hid his gotrek & Felix book REAL FAST when I walked in today. I had to bust on him a bit, turns out he has an empire army and some 40k stuff. Looks like a got a new gamer buddy!

    Yeah that's the book. A great read, always brings back memories even though its about someone else.

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