Starting Small: One Space Marine at a Time

Facebook, if you’re subscribed to the right pages or people, can become a hall of positive thinking. It’s even better than those framed motivational posters you see on folks’ office walls.

There’s one quote I’ve been noticing lately, and it goes something like this:

“You’ve spent most of your life disapproving of yourself. Why not try approving of yourself and see where it gets you?”

I know the first half of it well. It’s why I manage to talk myself out a lot of things I’m otherwise keen on. I don’t think I’ll be able to do it, or I’m not worth the work or the result.

As probably mentioned before, it’s also a reason why a lot of folks close to me want to throttle me half the time.

But I’m trying to turn that around, and one of the things I’m doing is giving myself around half an hour of “me” time every evening. Just half an hour where I ask myself, “Okay, Rob: What do YOU want to do now?” And do what ever the answer is.

Ten or twelve days ago, the answer was, “Paint a Space Marine.” So I got out my paints and brushes and the sprues of Space Marine miniatures that Gav sent me up last year and got going.

SpaceMarine01Sadly, I couldn’t actually start painting until I’d assembled a miniature, so I spent a couple of days’ half-hours cutting and glueing – and wound up having to buy another tube of superglue after I managed to glue the lid of the one I was using shut. But three days later, I went from a couple of sprues of bits to a fully assembled Marine.

There was anothe rdelay of a couple of days until I got some bases from the local Games Workshop, but once I had the miniature glued to the base – I started painting.

There were another couple of days’ of delays as I discovered that my pots of primer and black paint had dried into gluey solids and the local Games Workshop wasn’t open again until Wednesday, but after a quick bit of painting while watching Silent Witness last night (Come back, Harry Cunningham! We miss you!) turned into a three-hour, “I’m gonna get this bastard done” marathon, I finally had the miniature in a state where I’d be happy to plonk him down on a table.

The (almost) finished Space Marine and lessons learned

Some of you Warhammer 40,000 nuts may be asking what chapter I meant to paint him up as. I didn’t, really; I just went with the paints I had (mostly Reaper Miniatures paints). I used Firehawk as the primary colour – probably because I’ve been fixated on the Blood Angels since I discovered Space Hulk back in the day – with Dragon Blue for the larger details. I made my own washes by mixing Firehawk and Dragon Blue with Abaddon Black and watering the mixes down. The bolt gun casing is Sunlight with a Sunlight / Firehawk wash, while the metal is Abaddon Black with Gunmetal drybrushing. The pouches and purity seal paper are Caucasian (and I want to put a wash over them to brownthem a bit more).

SpaceMarine03fBut the result as it stands is very, very satisfying, even if the high-definition photos I took made it look a lot more scruffy than it appears to the – well, okay, my – naked eye. There’s this satisfaction of being able to look at this thing and say, “I made this.”

The really great thing about getting the little guy done is the things I’ve felt I’ve learned along the way.

#1: Beneath the Light, Darkness.

There’s this rule of painting which says, always make your primer / base coat black or a dark colour. I’ve always railed against it, as I feel like colours come out stronger and brighter on a white undercoat, and the fact that missed spots stick out more is a way of keeping you honest. But now, I’m at the point where it doesn’t matter as much; after my shading washes went on, the miniature got dark enough where the undiluted primary colour was visibly lighter anyway, and fixing tiny errors is more a waste of time than anything else.

Hence my buying some dark-shaded Imperial Primer with the pot of Abaddon Black I bought on Wednesday.

#2: A Fool and his Money are Soon Parted by Rushing In

Painting this miniature has helped me see an unhealthy pattern in the way I go about doing things I think I’m going to like. I did it back in the early-to-mid nineties when I first tried getting into the Warhammer 40,000 hobby and with tabletop RPGs, especially Cyberpunk and Heavy Gear. I go whole-hog into buying the stuff for the hobby while actually putting very little time into doing the hobby. As a result I (or, in the case of 40K where my folks were buying stuff for me as presents, others) splurge heaps of cash for very little result.

That’s one of the things that I don’t want to do again, but actually taking it one miniature at a time – or one squad at a time – and not buying anything else until I’m finished and satisfied with the result will let me retain both my sanity and my budget.

SpaceMarine03e#3: Start Small, Finish and Apply to the Next Thing

There’s another reason why I tended to splurge on hobbies when I got into them – I thought I should be better out of the gate than I actually was, and was always disappointed when the reality of doing the hobby wasn’t as awesome as this feeling I was expecting to have.

I’m now realising how much better it is to start small; do one thing, finish it and learn from it so I can do the next thing better instead of trying (and failing) to Do Everything Well Now.

It reminds me of something I read recently, when Scott Kurtz of the web comic PVP was writing about how his friend Gabe of Penny Arcade didn’t keep his workign files once he’d finished his strips – it was because Gabe wanted to move on to the next thing and apply the lessons he’d learned to that instead of continuously going back and fixing the errors in his old work. Gabe talked about it himself in a later post – I can’t find it, but he said the secret to improving was to keep doing it and never being satisfied with what you’d done.

Which leads to a question:

Just what is the next thing?

As I’ve said before, I don’t want to make this web log into a series of “gonnas.” There’s no point in trying to predict your own future when there’s no way of knowing just what’s around the corner, and looking to the future all the time isn’t living (this blog is all about living curiously).

I am curious about getting better at painting. I’ve always loved those glorious pictures of painted miniatures in the White Dwarf magazines I used to collect, and I’ve been eyeing off the Infinity range ever since discovering them through On The Table, not to mention Warhammer 40,000’s lovingly-detailed Eldar (space elves).

Rather than descend down that splurging rabbit hole again, I think I’ll focus on the ten or fifteen plastic Marines I still have assemble and paint. I’ve been talking about making Deathwatch miniatures ever since getting the RPG a while back – but I like the colour scheme on this guy a whole heap.

And there are still those Mobile Infantry miniatures for Starship Troopers that have been waiting for me to get back to them for years…

Are you curious?

What would you do if you could carve out half an hour of “you” time out of your day?

What big thing in your life did you start small on?


Games Workshop

Warhammer 40,000

Reaper Miniatures

On The Table