Lately I've felt like I'm in a bit of a rut with my painting. I've got a piece I'm painting, but seems like each section I do I find I'm not happy with and wind up redoing it. So it feels like I'm not getting much done. The other day I decided it might be best to put that piece on hold for a bit and start something new to hopefully recharge my mojo.
I've been searching through my collection of kits to see what sparks my interest. There's a lot of neat figures but these days I look for a couple things in any new project...
1) What can I do that hasn't been done before? With the forums, Facebook groups, instagram, etc you've likely already seen several versions of any commercial kit. And often you'll find some really amazing versions painted by some of the pros. So how do I make my work stand out from the rest? How do I make it memorable? Well, I try to find a way to do something new with the figure. It could be as simple as a new color, but I typically aim for a bit more. Perhaps I can interpret the figure in a different way. I think of the fallen angel piece I did a while back. The figure was intended as a 'good' angel. But with a different color scheme and setting, it became more of a demonic entity.
Another way to do something different is to pair two or more figures together. A lot of people may have painted figure A, but has anyone ever paired it with figure B? That helps to create a unique scene when you pair two figures that weren't initially designed to go together. Of course the figures have to work together for the piece to be successful.
Tied into all of that is the story behind the piece. These days I try to come up with some story, some setting for the figure beyond just 'hey, here's a neat figure standing in a field.' I've done my fair share of figures on ground, but if you can make the scene something more that too helps it stand out. The stronger the story, the more memorable the piece will be.
2) What can I learn from this piece? No matter how good you are, there's always room for improvement. Since I first got into display and competition painting, I've had a mental list of topics I wanted to work on. On that list has been painting textures (leather, etc), TMM, weathering, base work, greater contrast, color variation, etc. I usually pick one or two topics and attempt to improve those with whatever project I have planned. At the moment, high on my list is working with light. That includes aiming for more interesting and complex lighting conditions (like I did with my recent Hera Models orc bust) and introducing ambient light and how light reflecting off one object can influence the color of another. Other topics on my current list are color schemes, composition, compelling base work, more multi-figure scenes, and probably more if I continue to think about it.
3) Does it spark joy? Okay, I'm not really a follower of Marie Kondo, but I do what a project to be fun. So, simply put, am I excited to paint it? While the first two topics are things I hope to be able to work on with any project, this last one is a must!
For the near future I'm not able to travel to any shows/competitions. But, if there was a show I planned to attend in the next 6 months or so, I'll also weigh whether or not that new project could be entered there.
And there you have my general thought process as I look for new projects. I will say, as of late, I feel like I've been putting more pressure on myself with my new pieces. I've always tried to make each piece better than the last because that's how I continue to improve. But lately I feel like I have a standard that I have to live up to. So when a project isn't as good as I want it to be, it can be very discouraging. While I do want to continue to grow and improve, painting is also an outlet and a way for me to relax and enjoy myself. At the moment I feel like those two aren't quite in balance. I'm not exactly sure how to fix that, but I'm hoping a new project will help.
So... what's next on my to paint list? I've been digging through my collection this past weekend and I think I've finally settled on Onitsukaji from Big Child Creatives. It's a fantastic sculpt with a lot of character. And I also really enjoyed painting Redghar from their first kickstarter, so I'm hoping this will feel similar. To address some of my questions for any new project... what can I do with Onitsukaji that hasn't been done before? One thing that came to mind is to put him in a multi-figure scene (which also hits one of the topics on my list from #2). I've been sitting on Bocanegra since the first kickstarter, knowing that I wanted to use him in some scene. I think he could work with Onitsukaji and I really like the size juxtaposition between these two.
I did a mock up of how the two might look together and took a few pictures:
At this point I'm starting to brainstorm a story for them. Why are they together? What are they doing? Bocanegra clearly has a pirate look, so the story should have something to do with that. Onitsukaji to be about to shoot someone or launch that goblin at something. That certainly gives me stuff to work with. And it doesn't need to be the most intricate and detailed story. But are they standing on the edge of a ship about to shoot at a ship they're planning to raid? Maybe they've come off the ship and are at the gates of a town, threatening to blow their way in. I'm still coming up with ideas. But, when I finally settle on the one I like the best, that will help me figure out how the scene should look, what elements I should include in the base to help convey that story. I also need to come up with a color scheme for the pair and what sort of lighting conditions I want to use in the scene. Knowing the story and setting might also help me figure out those details.
I should say that I don't always do so much planning. Sometimes it's good to just grab a figure, start painting, and figure out everything else later. But, more often than not, this is how I will approach any new project. Hopefully it provides some helpful insights!