Create Your Own Wet Palette (Oz & NZ edition)

I have previously written a blog, Wet vs Dry Palettes: What Are They and When To Use Them , after getting many questions, both in class and online. However, there are still questions on how to make your wet palette and how to keep it from drying out. This is crucial for Aussies or anyone living in a warmer and drier climate. 

The reason this is labelled the Oz and NZ edition (Australia and New Zealand) is because all of the items I will be showing in this blog are easily found at most grocery stores in both countries. You can find equivalents in your home country pretty easily just by looking at your options available.

 

Supplies

1 LARGE Sistema Container
1 Roll of Multix Baking Paper/Baking Parchment
2 European Cloth Sponges/Compressed Cellulose Sponge Sheet
 

The reason I stipulate that you need a LARGE wet palette is because, inevitably, when I don't stipulate, people find the smallest container in the shop and then get frustrated when the sponge and paper dry out quickly or when they run out of room after mixing three colors. Find a big palette. I promise you, you will use the space. The larger wet palettes also hold more water which means your sponge will stay wet longer. 

In order to construct your palette, you need to take the Sistema container and flip it upside down so the lid is the bottom of the palette. This is where your sponge will sit. The reason we want to use a container like the Sistema is so that we can use the bottom of the container as the wet palette lid. This means that when you are not using your palette, you can put the lid on it, close it up and your paint will stay wet for days, weeks even. 

This is a 3.5L Sistema. This is the smallest I would suggest using for a wet palette. I use a 7L one. 

Depending on the size of your Sistema you may need to cut and arrange your sponges to fit. You will need to wet the sponge first then measure and cut as the sponge will expand when it gets wet. A few notes on sponges quickly, I recommend using ONLY Compressed Cellulose Sponge Sheet in your wet palette. This is after watching other people's palette constructions and how they perform. So far, the way I put my palette together seems to stay wet the longest out of any configuration. 

The sponge sheet lays low in the palette tray. That means that the water stays soaked in the sponge. If you get a larger cellulose sponge that actually rises above the top line of the Sistema Lid, your sponge will dry out faster as it has more air exposure and the faster your sponge dries, the faster your paper dries which means the faster your paint dries. I see people getting frustrated as their palettes start drying out within an hour of using it. My palette configuration stays wet for days, even in the hot Australian Summer heat. 

You will also see people suggesting to use paper towels layered up instead of a sponge. It will work but it does dry out faster. And the paper towel will eventually disintegrate or get moldy. I tried this method once upon a time and it definitely isn't the best. It also increases waste by having to change the towels frequently. 

I have also seen palettes that use packing foam, not a sponge. The packing foam doesn't actually hold water, it just sits in the water. So it does nothing for keeping your paper wet. You need a sponge as it soaks up the water which means the water is up against your baking paper which keeps the paint wet. 

 

This is two sponges, one full sponge and the second is cut up to fit as much space in the palette as possible. Use a sponge that lays flat within the dimensions of the tray instead of sitting above the top edge of the lid. 

Once you have your sponge fitted in your Sistema Lid, you need to add more water. The line of the water should be at the top line of the sponge. You should see a sheet of water sitting on top of the sponge but your parchment shouldn't float around when you place it on your palette. 

The sponge is saturated with water and I can see a thin sheet of water over the sponge. However, the entire plane isn't flooded. 

Then you need to add your baking paper. I actually cut mine just a little smaller than the lid as it will relax and expand as it gets wet. I belive it is important to cut the paper so it fits instead of leaving any edges that dangle over. Again, this has to do with keeping the palette wet longer. I don't have issues with my paper drying out or edges curling at all as all of my parchment lays flat against a wet sponge. Keeping all of the materials flush against each other, helps to trap the water which means you have less evaporation, which keeps your whole palette wet longer. 

Once I cut it, I lay it down on the sponge and smooth it with my fingers. Then I flip it over and do the same on the other side. This way, both sides of the paper get saturated with water which allows the paper to expand, relax and keep more moisture closer to your paint. 

Then you just add your paint, about 1cm away from the edge of the paper. I lay my paint out so it is around the edges of the palette which leaves the middle as my mixing area. 

 

Ta Da! We have a Wet Palette that is ready to use. But wait, how will I keep it clean, you ask? 

Well, firstly, I recommend rinsing the sponge out after every project and changing the paper every project. That will go a long way. That said, Mark and I add just a tiny spritz of Ammonia Free Windex to our palettes. The Windex acts as a detergent which keeps mold at bay but not away forever. It will also make your palette smell nice and fresh. 

When you notice your sponge is starting to go grey then it is probably time to throw it out and find a new one. Keeping a dirty palette increases your chances of getting sick. In order to take care of yourself, you need to take care of your tools. 

One Last Tidbit . . .

Something that is NEVER discussed but I've been playing with lately is the color of your sponge. If you use a sponge that is not white, it will affect the tones you are mixing. This is called Color Relativity. Any time you have multiple colors in proximity to each other, they bounce off one another and it affects the way we perceive all the colors combined in a composition. This is what we mean when we say a color scheme harmonizes. When all of the colors work well together and don't clash, it is because once they all reflect off each other, they look like a cohesive scheme and it produces harmony. 

This is something we always think about when we are painting the model and trying to choose a color scheme but we rarely, if ever, think about how the color in our palette will affect our overall tone of painting. 

The easy break down is this: 
Using a yellow sponge will mean your colors will likely shift slightly towards yellow in overall tone. 
Using a pink sponge will mean your colors will likely shift more towards red. 
Using a blue sponge will get provide a cooler color scheme overall. 
And so on and so forth. 

So, if you want a true representation of your color, find a white sponge. I also paint swatches in my white paper sketchbook to check what I'm seeing is accurate for the tone I want. Currently, I'm switching around my sponges depending on what I want my overall color scheme to be. I'm currently painting a ranger set in the forest which is a very green ambient color, so using the green sponge means I need to mix a slight amount of green in all of my colors to have them appear correct against the green sponge. That means I will have a slightly green tone to my colors suggesting green is present in the environment. 

I hope this has provided some insight as well as some food for thought. If you guys have any questions feel free to message me. 

Happy Friday from Oz

The Gap

When I was a kid, I was encouraged to be artistic. To draw or color. To experience and experiment with my environment. To create with abandon and never look back. To engage with objects and colors with no rules. My teachers praised my work and submitted my work in National Competitions in Washington DC (my home) and I placed in all of them. I was told to enroll in the AP art classes in High School. I was encouraged by other artists I knew growing up. I was told art was a noble pursuit. 

Yet, there was a secret. A secret no one told me when I was a child because to be creative in your youth is to experience childhood. We should sing, dance, paint, sculpt, whenever we can. But . . . 


As I got older, expectations were set out for me. People said, "Art school is impractical. You'll never make any money. You'll be a starving artist!" People said, "You should put your art away. It isn't okay to pursue any more. You need to focus on sports for a financial scholarship and take classes that will get you into Ivy league schools." People said, "You are talented. But not talented ENOUGH to be an artist". 

In the next breath I was told to follow my dreams, as long as that dream isn't art. Art is a dirty word.  

I tried the "practical" route. I went to University and got a Bachelor's in "something not art". I then went and got a Master's Degree in "anything but art". I graduated and got a job in "not the art field". Guess what? I was fucking miserable! 

I lost my job in the 2008 Financial Crash in the US and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I just didn't really see it at the time. I lost my job. I cashed out my little savings to live off of while I tried to find ANYTHING else. I ran out of money. I nearly lost my house, my car and almost defaulted on my student loans. It was still the best thing that ever happened to me. 

I got to see what I was made of. I had to be creative to find a solution. I had adult responsibilities. I had bills to pay and a dog to feed. Life was bleak. What I did have was a steady stream of part time commissions as a budding miniature painter. It was the only income source I had. I made that shit WORK! 

I started finishing commissions ahead of schedule. Then I painted nearly everything I had in my stash and started to ebay pieces off. Usually for a pittance of about $25. It was frustrating but it quickly snowballed into me doing commission work regularly and even some freelance work for Reaper Miniatures from whom I lived 2 miles down the road. I was seeing success. ACTUALLY SEEING IT. And yet, I hated my work. It was okay. It wasn't great. I looked up to Marike Reimer, Jen Haley, Anne Forester and many others who were already the Greats of the early 2000s. I wanted to be one of them but struggled to get there. I had so many ideas and didn't have the skills to reach those goals. I thought I'd never get there. 

I experienced bouts of depression followed by manic periods of creation and seeing improvement. Then I'd plateau and hit a slump again. I got frustrated. I got down on myself. I listened to the haters. But I never gave up despite feeling pretty frustrated at times. 

This is called "The Gap". Where you want to be an artist or a writer. You want to create beautiful works of art. You want to do a number of things but your skills just aren't up to snuff. You hate you work. And you have a hard time overcoming that disappointment in your own lack of skills. You compare your work to that of others. You think they must be born with some crazy amount of innate talent. 

Those of us Making This Shit Work in the art world have all been there. Yet, we do our fans and our admirers a disservice. We never talk about our struggles. We don't want to be seen as weak. We don't want to discuss the difficulties we may have faced or our frustrations we may still experience. We make everything look easy because we've painted eyes thousands of times and can whip them out in 5 seconds. We know how to paint textures now after struggling to get nothing but smooth surfaces on an entire piece and realizing it looks weird. We have been through all of the hurdles the Up&Comers are experiencing but we don't discuss it. 

Well, Let's talk about it! 

I started painting when I was 21. After many years of denying myself ANY creative outlet. I didn't even draw in the margins of my notes any more. I had completely given it up because "it wasn't practical" and I was told "you can't make money arting". And yes, this includes my parents. They were pretty staunchly against their child becoming a professional artist. However, my dad was incredibly proud of my accomplishments before he passed. He realized he did me a disservice by trying to make me follow HIS path, instead of letting me follow my own. My mom seems to be pretty impressed with what I have forged on my own too. The fact that I paint for collectors, I teach students regularly and I've traveled the world to engage in artistic endeavors shows I am now successful. So, despite their warnings time and again, they have seen that everything turned out okay. 

After about 5 years away from art all together, I started dating a guy who was into Dungeons and Dragons. I was introduced to the world of Roleplaying Games and Miniatures. He taught me how to clean mold lines, prime my miniatures black ALWAYS because it makes Drybrushing WAY easier. Then you pick at most 4 colors, drybrush it all on and bam! You got painted minis baby! 

My first miniatures ever. 

I have struggled to learn over the last 12 years of my life. I've pestered other artists and was probably pretty annoying at times. I took classes when I could at Conventions. I went in search of the Silver Bullet that would make my work look gorgeous with minimal effort. I asked for recipes to help. And I've learned the secret. Yes, that's right! There's a secret! It's a pretty good one too. It's the one thing those of us who know it never share, right? If we did, then everyone would know it by now!

Sit down. Buckle up. I'm about to tell you. 

Are you ready? 

Like really ready? 

For sure ready? 

Okay, here it is. 

Yup. That's it. The secret is PRACTICE! And OFTEN! You wouldn't expect to have a hot body after a single 5 hour session in the gym and never have to go again. Seems pretty obvious. In fact, you'll probably just cripple yourself if you did that. Well, art is pretty much the same. You need to practice in short bursts frequently over the course of the week. You will start to see improvement more rapidly in your skill, how quickly you can knock out a sketch, your color choices will be more natural, you will be get better. 

Here's what it looks like when you spend 12 years practicing and learning from others: 

I want YOU, the reader, to know, that I too struggled to get where I am today. And my journey is not over. There is always more to learn. And yes, even I get a little discouraged sometimes when I see the amazing work coming from others. But you know what? That means you have someone you can go to with questions. You have people you can learn from. You have new and exciting aspects of your craft or art to discover and it will be amazing! 

I struggled to learn on my own. I definitely wouldn't be where I am today with the help of Jeremie Bonamant Teboul, Roman Lappat, Matt DiPietro, Ron Kruzie, Marike Reimer and the many others who've given me advice and encouragement over the years. However, if I hadn't practiced what I learned from them, I wouldn't have advanced.

The best advice I could give to anyone would be: 
There is no silver bullet. You won't be able to create stunning masterpieces overnight. It will take time and take practice, frequent practice. And that is okay. Your journey is your own. Compare your current work with your previous work. Never compare your work to that of others. Take the compliments to heart and shrug off the haters. Your journey is your own. It is personal. It is private yet on public display. We bare our souls to the world constantly. Keeping that in mind, we should all be kind to each other and we should encourage one. Your journey is your own.  

The End.

Artist Tube Acrylic vs Game Paints

I recently decided to thin my stash of P3 Paints and replace them with artist tube acrylics. My main concern was financial. Everything is more expensive in Australia and it hurts buying a pot of paint for $6 or more dollars when artist acrylic is the same price or a little more expensive for vastly more quantity and potentially better quality. 

I had heard a lot of people in Europe discussing the use of Jo Sonja paints and Schminke Acrylics so I asked people for their thoughts. The general review of the Jo Sonja paint was that they were noticeably cheaper than the Schminke, they dried very matte and have a velvety finish. Meanwhile, the Schminke had a nice body, strong pigmentation but dried very glossy. Both paints had pros and cons to them. Before I jumped into buying anything I wanted a chance to use them. Roman from Massive Voodoo knew of my curiosity so when I had my private lesson with him we used only 13 Schminke Color. I really enjoyed using them and the colors I was able to mix.

So, here's the thing . . .

By limiting yourself to a max of 13 colors out of the tube, you have to mix everything else. That is the beauty of using tube acrylics. You don't get stuck in a rut using only your favorite premix pot of paint, you have to custom mix everything and you have to do it repeatedly and constantly through a project. 

This means you've got to have a handle on color theory and observational color deconstructions. What's that, you ask? Deconstructing Color is having the ability to look at a local color of an object and replicate it in order to create the color in your painting. Not all yellows are created equal. Some have more blue in them and some have more orange in them. Some have black in them to desaturate them. This rings true for all colors. If you are not already comfortable with color theory, you may find yourself struggling to use only 13 colors. 

For instance, how would you create a skin tone color if you don't have one already pre-mixed? Is creating brown a simple or complicated process? How do I make a dark blue on the reddish side without it going purple? These are the sorts of things you need to know how to do, or have a basic understanding of how to get there in order to use such a limited premix selection. 

Roman helped me get set up in Germany by taking me to the most amazing art store I've ever set foot in, Boesner. Here's the list: 

Titanium White
Ivory Black
Carmine
Quincridone Magenta
Cadmium Orange
Titanium Yellow
Olive Green
Cobalt Turquoise
Aquamarine
Ultramarine Blue
Light Ochre
Burnt Sienna
Natural Burnt Umber

I really enjoy these paints. Their pigmentation and strength make them very easy to mix and they stay wet in your palette for days (if you have a wet palette). The cons are that they do dry very shiny. So shiny that every couple of layers you have to apply some matte varnish to get more paint to stick. For me, this is something to adjust to. I like to paint in thin layers but that means using lots of matte varnish. If you apply the paint a bit thicker then you can get more done before having to matte varnish. I have been mixing the matte varnish directly into the paint on my palette to try to thin the pigments as well as kill the shine on them. 

Now on the flipside . . .

The reason for my interest in Jo Sonja is that they are SUPER easy to find in Australia and that is saying a lot. Seriously, the things the art community doesn't have access to here is staggering. I think the European, American and even Asian communities would be floored to find how difficult things are to track down here. Jo Sonja is everywhere though. Easily available and not expensive, either. Again, another bonus for the Aussie community.

I went out and bought a smattering of Jo Sonja as well. Same list as above as well as the Fluoro green for glow effects. I've been mixing them with the Schminke which has neutralized the extreme finishes of both to give me something a bit more satiny, which is what I prefer because of the P3 range I've worked with for so long. 

I did also find that the Jo Sonjas can be used completely on their own but you have to get the Jo Sonja Glaze Medium to make them easier to use. It dilutes the paint and allows for more glazing. It doesn't take much to dilute them as they are already a fluid acrylic in a tube. Unlike the Schminke which are heavy body paint, which is the fansy pants art way of say they are thick like paste as opposed to fluid paint. 

I sat down and painted an entire project with nothing but my new tube acrylics. It was a little bit of a challenge trying to reliably mix new batches of colors in between painting sessions but it gets easier the more you do it. 

Here are my results. 

 

I really enjoyed using both and I am glad to have a much less cluttered desk with only the colors I absolutely need to mix anything and everything. It also means it's cheaper for me as 1 tube of Jo Sonja (75 ml) is the same price of the game paints such as P3 (17 ml). I did keep my metallics from the P3 range and some from Vallejo as well. That is one area where tube acrylic lines fail is producing a good metallic paint. Otherwise, I'm pretty pleased to have made the switch.  

My Visit to Massive Voodoo 2016

The end of 2016 culminated in a three month long tour through Europe. For the most part, I was teaching others but I did set aside one week while I was in Germany to spend some time with the crew from Massive Voodoo.

For those who don't know, Massive Voodoo was started by Roman Lappat about 10 years ago. He later brought on Sculptor and Painter, Raffaele Picca. They are the front men for Massive Voodoo creating blog content, teaching classes and taking on commission work. If you don't already follow their blog and FB page, I highly recommend doing so. The content they put out is inspiring for any painter out there. 

Roman and Raffa both teach Private Coachings at their studio in Augsburg. While I stayed there, they made sure to recommend many yummy foods and things to see. It is a gorgeous city. Definitely check out the Golden Hall (their Town Hall). It is massive and all decorated in the Baroque style. 

I was attempting to capture the awesome doors on the Town Hall in Augsburg. This guy was just so happy to pose for my photo, how could I say no?! Dude looks like he was enjoying his day. :) 

I was attempting to capture the awesome doors on the Town Hall in Augsburg. This guy was just so happy to pose for my photo, how could I say no?! Dude looks like he was enjoying his day. :) 

Back to the class time . . . 

I booked 2 days with Roman to cover Atmosphere. I felt like my painting had stalled out after doing my time at Privateer Press as a studio painter. While working for them, I got to focus on my technique and painting for print work but that's a very different approach than painting for "art". I had lost my way a bit and hoped that Roman would help inspire me and guide me through the murky haze I'd found myself trying to wade through. 

When I first booked my time with Roman, he was very curious what it would be like to teach a Teacher! He kept wondering how it was going to go. I think I surprised him a few times. We first sat down and had a tea and discussion about background and painting philosophies. When he realized that we were very similar in our thought processes, he then embarked down the road of discussing Atmosphere. 

So, what is Atmosphere? I'm sure some of you are sitting there scratching your heads. Atmosphere is including the color of your light source and your environment in your artwork. 

Let's look at a couple of examples of stills from Lord of the Rings. We can see with these three examples side by side that there are predominant colors to set the mood and tone of the scene. This is atmosphere. At the Council of Elrond on the far left, the tone is a very serene sort of grey-brown tone. It's not menacing but it's not joyous. It's slightly tense but mostly neutral in tone (a word we use to describe brown and grey is neutral because it doesn't provide us with strong emotion either way). 

Bilbo running through Hobbiton is a scene bursting with frantic and excited energy. The tones are mainly green and yellow to indicate an upbeat and boisterous feeling. 

In the Mines of Moria the scene is tense, the Fellowship is waiting for the horde of Orcs, Goblins and Trolls to break down the door and annihilate them! It's a serious part of the movie. The grey blue light in the image helps to convey that feeling. They are cold, they are alone and they are pitted against the evil hordes of Sauron. 

Everything I described above, I totally understood the concept of before my visit with Roman. I understood the color theory and color psychology part. What I struggled with, was how do I incorporate that into my mini. Where do I put these colors? On the base? Directly on the mini? But what if I want a red skirt on a model in a cool scene?! HOW DO I DO THAT?! 

What Roman explained to me was simple. Essentially, I realized I was thinking TOO MUCH about the process and not just doing. The KISS principle totally needed to be applied and I wasn't doing it. (KISS Principle is Keep It Simple, Stupid!). 


Once he explained how to tackle atmosphere - using some very nicely drawn PowerPoint slides - he then set me to a task. He broke out a photo of a wolf and a piece of paper that had a line drawing of that very wolf. "I want you to paint the colors you see. I need to understand what level you are," Roman said. 
 

The infamous wolf! Roman uses this image every time he teaches Atmosphere. It allows him to see how a student interprets the placement of color and gives him, as a teacher, a benchmark on where the student is. Essentially, it's a teaching tool to understand how evolved the student's understanding is.  It's a brilliant idea. I'm probably going to steal this idea using my own photo of choice. The Massive Voodoo Wolf is Sacred! 

The infamous wolf! Roman uses this image every time he teaches Atmosphere. It allows him to see how a student interprets the placement of color and gives him, as a teacher, a benchmark on where the student is. Essentially, it's a teaching tool to understand how evolved the student's understanding is. 

It's a brilliant idea. I'm probably going to steal this idea using my own photo of choice. The Massive Voodoo Wolf is Sacred! 

Roman gave me about 15-20 minutes to reproduce the wolf as I saw him. It felt like being back at art school. I loved this sort of work and Roman pointed out that I was really happy when I talked about my time in art school and then when he gave me tasks like this. And he was right. I miss art school so much and would like to finish my art degree some day. At the very least, I need to start drawing and doing 2D painting again as well. Something I want to get back into this year. That is my goal for 2017! 

Anyway, back to the wolf. This is the result of my effort. 

Roman watched the evolution of this painting the entire time. Not like a hawk over my shoulder but he kept checking back to see how I was going. He gave me the thumbs up and said it was great and that he wasn't worried about my understanding of how to read color I observe. So, we went back over to the couch and discussed more about Atmosphere. He pulled out photos this time of different examples of atmoshpere and he wanted me to choose one. The idea was, that whatever environmental colors you were seeing in the image, you had to then apply to the wolf. He pulled out the hardest examples he had and put them off to the side. I immediately grabbed one of them because it's one of my favorite pieces of art. Then I set about applying it to my wolf. 

Pretty pleased with myself after completing this task I was eager to apply it to a model! Roman and I had decided weeks before that we would paint Spira Miribalis's Garfio Pirate Bust together. He asked what I had in mind for my atmosphere. I explained that I wanted to keep on trying the hard stuff. No reason to be pussy-footing around, it's balls to the wall! YEAH, BABY! 

I told him my idea is that Garfio has found a treasure chest and is carrying it back to the ship while one of his crewman holds a torch over his shoulder. I showed him where I wanted the torchlight placed and we discussed how to tackle it. And then . . . we were OFF! 

I should have stated earlier - it probably seemed like the beginning with the Wolf Painting exercise like that would take a day, right? We did that in a couple of hours. It went so quickly because I already had a good understanding of what was meant to be happening, it was really just applying the technical aspect with some guidance that I needed. Roman even remarked on how quickly I got through painting sections. 

We started by applying my environment color -blue for the night time - to every single color on the model as a basecoat. Then for the Orange torchlight, we added orange directly into the colors I'd mixed for my basecoat. This meant at the outset, my pirate totally looked like a troll. I was a bit unsure, because it's not how I typically work, but I trusted in my Jedi Painting Master. I did exactly as he instructed. 

Through the rest of the two days Roman kept asking if I had any questions. He said he's used to students asking a lot more questions but he'd give me a set of instructions and I would sit and do as he said. I suspect it's because we think similarly and teach similarly so my understanding of what he was directing me to do was clear. If I had a question, I asked. I mean, that's why you pay for lessons! To ask as many questions as you can fit into the time you've got! 

Roman also remarked on my speed. He would tell me when he was about to go on break or apply a layer of AK Interactive Ultra Matte to his model. That's when I'd hand him mine and ask for a hit of the Matte finish as well and he'd take a look and realize I was keeping up with him. I think this was a first for him. Between his clear instructions, my understanding of atmosphere and my color theory, I was able to get a lot done on this guy. Garfio is almost complete. I just have his hat and little mouse companion to paint and he will be finished. 

I got more than I could have hoped for from this lesson with Roman. I didn't really know Roman previously. I mean, all the professionals out there seem to be connected on social media and we know "of" each other without really "knowing" each other. I had met him, Raffa and the gang at Scale Model Challenge a few weeks before and had a chance to chat with him a bit then. But we didn't really get to sit down and talk and get to know each other until I was in Augsburg. 

I left the studio feeling exhilirated! I got my motivation back and I'm really looking forward to digging into painting over the next year. I want to get back to painting for myself and advancing my own craft instead of continuing to produce "clean" models. I want to get more story, more life, into my pieces and I can't wait to try my hand at it. I'm sure I will fail a few times along the way but that's how you learn. 

I also feel like I've made a life long friend. The welcome from everyone I met, but particularly Roman, Raffa, Phil, Roman Gruba and his wife, they are amazing artists and the nicest of people. I get warm fuzzies thinking about the awesome times we had together while I was in Augsburg or when we were able to visit at Scale Model Challenge and Monte San Savino. I had an amazing time with them. 

If you will be in Germany and want to take lessons, hit up Roman and Raffa. If you live elsewhere in the world and would like to take lessons with either of them but know you won't be going to Germany any time soon - contact them. They do what I do, accept requests to go teach all over the world. It never hurts to ask! 
 

Is Social Media Killing Painting?

*****CLICKBAIT!!!!!*****

Just kidding about the clickbait of course. This is actually a serious question. I talk to painters all over the globe frequently and the same theme is coming up in conversations across the board: "I feel like Facebook has ruined the community and I miss the days of the forum!"

I'll be honest, I've felt this way for a while. I've wondered if social media, in general, has done more harm than good to our little community. From my point of view, I've seen the evolution of our community from the beginning of the Golden Era of Forums to now, where Facebook is King! Let me describe for you what I've observed. 

Forums were a great place to go. You had an entire global community at your fingertips that wasn't easily accessible before. Forums are also great repositories of information. Someone asked a question about how to paint leather, for instance, and if someone came on later to ask the same, they could do a forum search first and find ALL THE ADVICE! It was a great repository of knowledge. 

Also, you could post your photos, leave the thread for a day, go to class or work or whatever, then come back and have a heap of information that you could always find. It never got buried because it was in your notifications as well as listed in your current threads. Easy to go back and reference and you could save thread topics as favorites. 

I made so many friends on the Reaper and CoolMiniOrNot forums. Friends that I still have 10 years later. Friends I've now met face to face or will be meeting in a few days time in Europe! The forums changed my life in a very positive way. They also helped me get through a really dark time in my life by friends really being there for me when I needed it. 

I felt that the community was really friendly and people were more invested in work, not the person producing the work. 

Fast forward to where we are today. Forums are dead. Revivals have been tried but I think we won't go back to forums until the coding changes for them a bit to make them easier to use. Let's face it, that's one of the pluses of Facebook! It's super easy to upload a photo and get instantaneous feedback. 

But is that a good thing?

I'm not entirely sold. I've had my Facebook pages for a few years now. Over the last few years in particular, it seems to be the attitudes across the community are very negative in general. Where once, you posted in the forums and people would give kudos AND constructive criticism and that was the expectation for behavior. Now, people post things up and because all of us are able to be inundated with beautiful work all the time, comments aren't left, you get thumbs up and if anyone tries to give constructive criticism, someone usually gets their knickers in a twist and you get accused of being mean. It's happened to me and I've seen it happen to other painters as well. 

Unfortunately, it seems like criticism of any kid other than "hey, that looks great" is not appropriate on social media. WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN?! And how are we supposed to grow as artists? The reason miniature painting has changed so drastically in 10 years is because more artists being drawn to the artform and applying classical techniques and sharing the works as well as advice on forums. That's where the growing happened: Forums!

Facebook also allows painters, such as myself, gather a following which essentially turns you into a celebrity. This is my first time in Folkestone at Euromilitaire, meeting people I've never met before and people knew who I was because of my exposure on social media. It's great and I love meeting new people. At the same time, it's suuuuuuuper weird! I have zero anonymity in our community. And that puts me and others like me at the fore and others have certain, a lot of times, unfair, expectations of us. 

I've seen it happen with so many artists too where social media jetisons their exposure through follows and allows more exposure in the community at greater speed. So people end up having epic rises in the ranks, but it means equally epic falls when something may happen or politicking gets involved in the scene. 

I actively follow a handful of artists, those who inspire me with their painting as well as their attitude. Facebook has made it difficult to get a good spread of everyone's work though, without having an overwhelming and cluttered feed. Everyone has their own studio page now which means you have to follow, like, a bazillion pages to find the great work out there. Once upon a time, you logged into one spot, looked at the new posts and saw everyone's work. And had pages advertising upcoming events all over the world. No more! Now you open Facebook on your phone and it's a PAINTSPLOSION!

I find it overwhelming and many I've talked to, including my husband, have said that it actually kills their motivation to paint because they see TOO MUCH painted stuff. By seeing too much, they see cool models but then they see 20 copies painted and think, "Well, it's already been done. Why do I need to paint it?! So n So Famous Name has painted it so well. Mine will look like crap!" I fall into this trap! Mark and I are making the conscious decision to unplug and turn painting back into a For Fun hobby activity again. As opposed to trying to produce the next coolest thing the fastest way possible because you have to market yourself. It's exhausting and demoralizing. Facebook has killed my motivation so much. Additionally, it's hard to make actual friends on Social Media any more. Everyone is just concerned with being The Next Big Thing (tm) as opposed to just being real. 

I miss the feeling I had when I was a part of the forums. I feel like I actually got to know people more personally because sharing a part of your private life was more meaningful. You didn't have a constant window into someone's life and what they were doing. Today, it's like everyone has to be a Reality TV Star. They are "on" all the time and they don't ever shut the public persona off. It's one of the reasons I've actually gotten a bit more private in the last year. My life doesn't need to be an open book. If people ask questions, I'll answer them truthfully, but it doesn't need to be broadcast all over the place. 

Instead, I want to focus on publishing my professional exploits: working with Steam Forged Games, going to awesome shows, teaching events and producing great looking minis. Because I am an artist publicly. That's what people should see. I should be judged on my work. Nothing else. 

Painting shouldn't be a popularity contest and unfortunately, it's turned into that. It's about who has the biggest and best name a lot of the time, not the substance. And we are doing ourselves a disservice by continuning that falacy. 

I'd love to see the forums come back. I miss the forums. I miss the friendships. I miss the professionalism that came with them. We need to hold ourselves and our community to a higher standard and perhaps, take our painting and community building BACK to the forums and ditch the facebook groups.