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Speak Out: Bill Paints Minis

Posted on September 13, 2011 by Billzilla

Warhammer Fantasy Battles Miniatures, paint job and crappy photography both courtesy of the author.

Among other things, I’m a gamer. One of my favorite aspects of gaming is painting miniatures. Whether it be an army of Dwarves or Goblins for Warhammer Fantasy Battles, or the Austrian 18th Regiment of infantry from the 1809 Campaign against Napoleon, painting miniatures is sub-culture of gaming I particularly enjoy.

People – non gamers especially – often marvel at how tiny the miniatures are (some no bigger than a dime) and express amazement that I can paint such a small thing so precisely. The truth is, there are numerous tricks to painting miniatures that help make even paint jobs done by a shaky hand like mine look splendid. To be fair, I can think of a dozen people off the top of my head who are vastly better miniatures painters than I. Having figures on the table that you’ve painted yourself can give one a sense of accomplishment and be a source of pride regardless of one’s relative level of skill. The process of painting is very zen-like; I find it calming and peaceful. Generally, slow and steady is the best method for me to achieve desirable results. It forces me to be patient, which is a quality I lack all too often. Sometimes I slip, and have to paint over a spot and start again – another thing that enforces calm and caution.

My back won’t allow me to paint for more than an hour at a time, and my schedule won’t permit me time to paint more often than three or four times a month. As a consequence I am slow at finishing any serious quantity of miniatures for a game, which frustrates my gaming buddies a fair bit – and reasonably so. Still, the pride I feel when lining up my finished, painted army on the gaming table is delightful.

Curiously, painting miniatures is a solitary hobby that leads to a more gregarious one – gaming. In this I find satisfaction as well; I am by nature reserved and introspective, yet the company of my peers is desirable at times too. With this type of pursuit I can enjoy both aspects of my social life as the two elements of miniatures gaming dovetail together nicely.

Miniatures by Old Glory (left, center) and Battle Honors (right); paint job and crapy photography by the author

Sweethearts of my past had expressed some concern at the time over me keeping up such a “childish hobby;” they didn’t understand that this is not only painting toy soldiers, it’s a creative act. I turn a molded lump of metal into a spearman of the Empire, bright scarlet and yellow livery blazing in the sun, helmet and shield shining, ready to conquer the enemies of the Emperor or die trying. Is what I do any worse than constantly shopping for that perfect, 30th pair of shoes, or being glued to the television on game day? Age is forcing me to make adaptations – my eyesight requires that I take off my glasses to see better close-up, and there’s the aforementioned back issue – but it’s still one of the most enjoyable hobbies I’ve tried, and my wife has no qualms at all about it.

In this pastime I find common ground with famed author and noted pacifist H.G. Wells, who is believed to have devised the first recorded rules for “floor” battles using toy soldiers. He hoped that such pastimes would help curb the human animal’s more warlike tendencies, by extension creating a better world. I can only speculate whether or not he was correct in his hope, but I cannot question the validity of his motive. The fact that I and my gaming brethren find ourselves in such august company as the author of The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine wouldn’t make me more of less interested in miniatures. The enjoyment I take from it is reason enough for me to continue with this hobby that provides me a nearly endless source of pleasure and keeps me off the streets.

Bill Bodden

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