It’s crazy how things from the deep past can boomerang back into your present. For me, it’s the hobby of miniatures painting. WAY back in the mid-70s, I was just starting to get into what I’ll call “deep gaming” – war-games and miniatures battle rule sets.
In those days, you could build and paint an army of warriors in 28mm scale. The miniatures were molded out of some sort of lead/pot-metal base, and you’d often have to use epoxy to glue them together. I remember my dad helping me with some Greek hoplite warriors – you had to glue on the shields, one of their arms and their spear. It was the first time I’d ever worked with epoxy and it was amazing to me how you’d mix two chemicals together to get this goopy, viscous glue that could stick anything together (those were the days before cyanoacrylate super glues).
I tried my hand at painting those little guys, and yowza, was I terrible at it! But in my defense, that was back in 1974, and I was just eleven years old. I still have one of those original hoplites – I have no idea how I haven’t lost him over the last 45+ years.
Fast forward a few years into high school and a number of my friends and I get semi-serious about miniatures painting. All the paints were oil-based enamels and ninja-skills with a 000 brush were essential.
So fast forward to late last year and I started to become interested in miniatures again – maybe it was unpacking my old D&D rule books after we moved or the fact that the hobby is getting pretty mainstream with YouTube channels and stores out there selling miniatures (we’ve got one up in Lincoln City).
I was also looking for a “creativity-lite” sort of hobby – something that would let me gently flex my creative muscles but would also be relaxing and peaceful – a calming activity after a crazy week of work. I bought myself a starter paint kit, some brushes and a few miniatures and resolved to give it a try. Within moments, I was hooked!
So things have changed over the years. Now, the miniatures are plastic (some limited run ones are 3D printed) and WAY more detailed. Now, hobbyists use the term “nice sculpt” to compliment the design of the miniature. Paints are now acrylic and come in a zillion colors (they are different from normal acrylic art paints in that their pigments are mixed much finer so they can work on a super-small scale). And “back in the day,” washes and advanced techniques were beyond us as high schoolers. Now, with YouTube tutorials and some creative problem solving there are a number of techniques that make the little dudes look awesome – SO much better than what we did in high school.
These days, I can’t see as well as I once did, so I use an LED-lit magnifying glass on a gooseneck. What is still essential is a steady hand, and I’ve found myself growing steadier and steadier over the weeks I’ve been painting. And it still amazes me that a human being has enough fine motor control to paint an eye and an iris on a little 28mm face!
So now it’s my go-to weekend hobby. On Saturday, I’ll lay down a few base costs on a miniature and then do the washes, dry brushing and detail work on Sunday. What fun! I feel like a kid again!