Did I take leave of my senses? Perhaps I have just been spending too many hours hunched over a keyboard. I know it was not a decision made during a drunken bender. Whatever the reason, something possessed me to sign up for a 2 day master class in painting miniatures. Yes, miniatures. Lead figures. Those things geeks, nerds, dweebs, play with, for hours. Rolling dice, pretending they are what the miniature is. Those things. Did I mention that being a good painter is actually a pretty decent way to make a little extra money? If you are a very good painter and can teach, well, you are in a different class. Such was the opportunity I had. And I took it. Along with fifteen other like minded, slightly odd individuals. We got along famously.
I will admit it has been a few years since I had even handled a lead figure…sorry, miniature. More than twenty years, since I stopped playing Dungeons and Dragons on a regular basis. But if you are not in the crowd, you might think that those sorts of things have fallen out of favour. You would be wrong. Dead wrong. The miniature business is a multimillion dollar business. Or perhaps I should say the gaming business. We are not talking here about the games played on a screen, but those games that require two or more people to gather in one location, set up their armies, and battle each other to the death. Think chess, with very expensive chess pieces, lovingly cared for, and in multiple dimensions and you have a good idea of the fanaticism that these people play with. And having witnessed some of the battles, I have to admit that the minds behind those stoney faces are vibrant.
But this was a class in how to paint them. To make your miniatures even more intimidating, and lifelike when they took the field of battle. Giving you just that little bit of an edge. And besides, they look cool when they are painted. Our instructor was the award winning painter, Meg Maples. Now I have known Meg and her family for years. Who knew there was such a passion in such a diminutive package? She put us all to shame. And that was before she taught us how to do eyes. That brought us all to tears. And with a number 2 brush to boot! Forget what you know. Forget the techniques you think you have mastered. If you have not been subjected to 16 hours of torture…er…instruction at Meg’s hands, you are likely doing it wrong. And even if you thought you were a good painter, a quick review of how to do hair will leave you questioning your skills and seeking professional help for the nervous tick that you just developed in your painting hand. And did I mention that P3 paints do not have a fresh, minty aftertaste? You will discover this, as your tongue takes on interesting colour palette while you do two brush blending using a number 2 and a number 3 brush. And did I mention there is more than one colour of black? Who knew? And the most useful tint is actually blue?
Our mission, paint a viking warrior. A female viking warrior. After cleaning, sanding, filing, and unbending, we were ready to start priming it. Yes, there are certain techniques to priming a figure correctly. One of the first things we learned was not to prime near cars, in a heavy wind. (And to the owner of the grey economy car, sorry about that…you can hardly see it unless you know where to look….really). Two brush blending brings out the shimmer in the cloak and the pink of her body. And eyes. Oh how we cursed doing eyes! And that was the first day. We might have done some other things, but really, my brain refuses to recall all of it. It basically gave up after eyes.. Day two was hair, fur, and metallics. All useful, all important, all frustrating as heck! And all put to shame by Meg’s deft strokes with a brush. It was witchcraft. We are all convinced of this. And if we had not seen her actually do it, we would have said she had another miniature tucked away and pulled it out to show us “the finished results.”
In the end, I have a figure that I certainly am proud of, but one that will not be winning any major awards. I have a new appreciation for the skill that goes into painting miniatures and I stand in awe of those with both the patience and the ability. I will get better, if and when I have time to practice, which I plan to do. As a complete beginner, I enjoyed Meg’s teaching style. And those that had more experience seemed to blossom under her tutelage. Which is why I would take this class again. Once I get a a few more practice models under my belt. Ones with eyes…and not just helmets.