I often receive questions about various aspects of my hobby and I thought it was time I put down on paper, my thoughts on what my hobby means to me.
Once upon a time…
When I was growing up, I used to love Plasticine and Lego. These two products were able to keep the artistic and practical traits of my character entertained. As I moved through school, I was introduced to Meccano, various other building materials and eventually metal/wood working; all of which developed my technical/practical abilities. While this was going on, art classes introduced me to various media but my favourite was clay and I ended up doing a course in ceramics.
When I was 15, I was introduced to wargaming miniatures and played various wargames (Golden Heroes, MERP, Judge Dredd, D & D, Warhammer, WH40k etc…) but my main interest was directed towards the miniatures… so I managed to find Milliput and started sculpting. At the time, there were no real tutorials around so I learned by trial and error (the best way).
Then I moved away from home and became an aircraft technician.
What does my hobby mean to me?
I have an obsessive character. I need to have busy fingers and an active mind. My work deals with my technical side and my hobby deals with my need to express myself and be artistic. I have a rather annoying mix of a logical mind with artistic tendencies.
There are times when I look at my mountain of hobby stuff and question how I could have let things get into such a situation but I am wholeheartedly aware that, if I didn’t have this particular hobby, I would have another one that would be dealt with in exactly the same, obsessive way. I also understand that I stick with my hobby due to habit. It is familiar. There are also certain aspects that I really enjoy.
Difference is the whole point to me. I enjoy creating something different; sometimes by making from scratch and other times by taking something that can be bought ‘off the shelf’ and changing it so that it looks unique. Sometimes I will choose a paint scheme that is unusual but normally I will convert the ‘off the shelf’ miniature. It is at this point where people get confused about my motivation. As people will be aware, I am an army builder. I enjoy amassing troops and creating order from chaos. This does not mean that I am building them to play a wargame with because I don’t play wargames. I build armies for the sake of satisfying my artistic and logical nature and what better way to do that, than to convert as many parts of the army as possible but still keep a uniform theme? The beauty of doing this is that because I don’t wargame, I don’t need to set timescales and deadlines and I can create something unique. Why reproduce something over and over again when you can make each one completely individual?
Seeing unconverted Ultra Marine armies just fills me with emptiness, no matter how well they are painted, because there are just so many out there and they all look the same.
There are times when I wish that I had the ability to cast my work. I would love to be able to reproduce identical items that I can use because of their uniformity. This does not mean that I want countless copies of completed miniatures that I have sculpted; it would simply mean that I would have the ability to cast components that need to be identical (weapons, armoured plates, helmets etc) for use in sculpts and conversions. It would also give me the option of sculpting body blanks and casting them up to have different equipment and character added to them. Casting components would simply be a means to an end… a unique miniature.
Why don’t I have my own range of miniatures?
Occasionally, I create a miniature that I am really proud of; a miniature that has all of the style I wanted to achieve with a level of craftsmanship that I am happy with. It doesn’t happen very often but usually, it will be when I have decided that it will be for a charitable concern. It makes me happy to see that the miniature is out there, knowing that it is of a standard I am happy with. In order for me to repeat this process on a regular basis, I would need to spend more time on each miniature in order for me to be happy that a good standard was achieved and, at the moment, I cannot justify the time. I am also a very fickle person who relies heavily on various muses. When I have a sculpting muse with me, I cannot stop sculpting but when it moves on, I hate sculpting with a passion and am completely unable to do it. That means that I could commit to sculpting something, only to be completely unable to do it; which would not be the best thing to happen when you want to sculpt a range of miniatures. I also see ranges of miniatures out there that look ‘rushed’ and of a standard that I wouldn’t be happy with. When I am ready to create a range, it will not be put up for sale unless I am completely happy with the standard. I do not want to be selling stuff that I 'm not happy with… my conscience won’t allow it (even if that standard is better than some other ranges out there already).
Add to that the fact that my hobby is supposed to distract me from real life and turning it into a job would defeat the purpose.
Very rarely, I am commissioned to sculpt or convert something and I thoroughly enjoy doing it. If I enjoy the commission, I am able to complete it; sometimes quite quickly too. More commonly, I am asked to sculpt or convert something that doesn’t sit within my comfort zone and I don’t enjoy it. This often leads to me being unable to complete and having to make excuses. I really dislike having to tell people that I am unable to finish their commission.
Unfortunately, I am a nice person and I allow myself to be badgered into doing things with the best intentions but quickly realise I should have just turned down the request. It doesn’t do my ‘reputation’ any good but that is just the way it is. That is one of the reasons I will offer to ‘give it a go’ and then worry about payment later. Fortunately, I have never had to return payments (because I have taken the risk of being paid when the commission is finished).
Timescales for commissions vary wildly… after all, you can’t fence creativity in. If I enjoy something, it will take less time. If I don’t, it will drag on and on and on.
I have a number of commissions that are currently on-going. There are some that I am enjoying and some that I am not. I am not in a position to accept any more at the moment.
I am going through a period of change at the moment. I have no idea how long it will take but it means that I will be buying a house, moving to a new part of the country, will be leaving the military and getting to grips with being a civilian again. I will also have to find a new job. It will take time to achieve but once I have settled, I will be able to get back to my hobby.
In the short term, I will continue to tick along with the general stuff whenever the opportunity arises; whether it is random stuff when time is short or army related stuff when there is more time.
In the longer term, I have a number of projects that will be incredibly time consuming and these include personal projects (one of which is an army of custom cast and built VOTOMs that will be styled with Grymn / Dwarf proportions) and projects which may have a more retail vent (I will be putting together a range of Space Dwarfs amongst other things).
That means that I will need to build up information and supplies for casting, looking into sales/avenues for sales (maybe getting an existing company in on the action) and deciding how far I want to reduce the hobby aspect and increase the work aspect.
I have many things to think about.
Other aspects of the hobby
I have pretty much stuck to writing about sculpting and converting but there are other aspects of the hobby that I enjoy and, like sculpting, they rely on the related muse being nearby in order for them to be worked on.
Obviously, the next step from sculpting miniatures is painting them. I do not enjoy painting nearly as much as sculpting and treat it as a necessity, rather than feeling the need to spend ages getting the paint perfect. I rely on neatness and simple techniques to get a reasonable table-top standard on my miniatures. I view basing in exactly the same way so I will spend as little time as possible gluing sand on a base and then painting/dry-brushing it. That may sound a bit lazy but that is just the way it is. I am in the business of building armies and that means an overall look rather than an individual one.
In addition to sculpting miniatures, I often embark on scratch-building projects where I use plasticard and model kit components to build vehicles. Scratch-building is something that I start often but finish rarely. There are times where I despair at the sight of plasticard because I always worry that the time I put into a project will be wasted… yet another failed project. However, it is still something I enjoy and occasionally, I manage to finish something that looks suitable.
Sometimes, something I have read or thought about forms the basis for a sculpture or project. Sometimes a simple idea can manifest itself in such a way that I am inspired to write a story or some background information. I have written many short stories and even three little novels that have been inspired by some of the hobby stuff that I have been working on or that is available out there. Sometimes the story leads on to hobby projects and this just amplifies the fact that the best projects are those that have a reason to exist and have a colourful background that can be called upon to inspire creation. Writing is something that I really enjoy and it is a very important part of the hobby for me. It may also manifest itself in the future as published work but I am not going to be driven by such thoughts.
Being an army builder is something that my logic loves. Part of army building is list building and in order to do that, it is often easier to use an existing rule-set than to come up with your own organisation. Another option is to crib from real life and use existing organisations to build an army. I tend to use a variety of ideas from using GW WH40k codices, to British Army organisation in order to build an army but occasionally, I just go with the flow and make things up as I go along. As long as there is a leadership structure, designated unit sizes and uniformity, then I am happy. Because I don’t actually wargame with my armies, I am free to stick to what I like the look of, rather than what is more effective on the table-top. Having a detailed army structure means that it is easier to come up with insignia and unit designations and it also enables you to personalise certain units which can lead to flavourful, written backgrounds and even stories to back them up.
… and that, as they say, is that.
To cut a long story short, I am involved with this hobby partly out of habit, partly out of enjoyment and partly because I need something to obsess about. As long as it remains my hobby, I will be able to enjoy it but I must be careful not to turn it into a job because that would scare off my muses and it would stop being an escape from the real world… and that means that I would need another hobby. I enjoy this hobby because there are many aspects that appeal to my various mind-sets and there is enough variety to keep me entertained. It also means that when I am unable to do one aspect, I can switch to another.
Hopefully, this explains what it’s like in Inso’s World and why I make some of the decisions I do.
I often wonder what I might have achieved if I hadn’t poured so many thousands of man-hours into my hobby but I guess that is something to explore in another rambling post.
See you from the print room!