A Solution for Miniature Painting “Burnout”

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Are you looking for a solution for miniature painting burnout? Do you ever burn out and lose motivation for painting miniatures (or other creative activities)? It’s totally normal to need a break with any “fun activity”. As humans, we often have distorted thoughts about what we should do, but actually need to do something else. When it comes to painting miniatures, you want to paint more, but find yourself doing a different activity. Why are we so easily distracted away from what we want to do? The answer usually that you’ve burned out.

In this article, I share a quick tip for overcoming the times you’ve burned the end of your candlestick for painting miniatures. How do you rekindle the hobby life again?


A word about deadlines

I recently had a conversation with a friend, in which I lamented that I was getting burned out on painting miniatures.

I paint a lot as a commissioned painter and oftentimes it’s the same model over and over. That, and deadlines. Deadlines can lead to the feeling of dread. I fear deadlines. Abhor them.

When you’re forced into meeting hard goals, my friend said, you’ll feel overwhelmed. Deadlines suck.

Instead, you want freedom, she said. A liberation from rules, especially when you’re making art and doing creative things. Miniature painting can’t be about deadlines!

(I try to work at a comfortable pace nowadays. Going fast isn’t very sustainable).

Why is focusing so hard?

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.” (source)

One of the problems that has been bothering me is the struggle to focus. Of late, it has been difficult to focus on individual projects. I can’t seem to sit still. I never had issues with attention in school or focusing while I studied for exams. But, in life, there are circumstances that just seem to get in the way. It’s exasperating!

And, now I’ve got a bit of pressure to finish a few projects. So, without solid productivity on any single task, I feel a bit worn down. It feels like I’m getting nothing done. I pick up a brush and suddenly my body seems to move in slow motion.

What is going on?

“Butter spread across too little bread, ” as Bilbo Baggins (The Hobbit) would say.

Anyway, my friend asked me an interesting question: “Are you having fun?”

Such a confusing question. I asked what she meant by it. I think she meant to inquire whether I was doing any fun leisurely activities in the middle of “working”.

(Work is anything you do when you rather be doing something else.)

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Maybe, that’s the answer!

“Are you taking time to have fun?”

She repeated the question. Maybe, she’s thinking I’m thinking too much. Hah! Probably true. Here I am writing about thinking.

Well, I did go see a movie and played some video games. That was fun. And I think that was it. I realized that I hadn’t actually painted miniatures for “fun” as a relaxing activity. Over time, I had gotten in the habit of giving myself deadlines. It was frigging work.

It realization hit me. I was an artist that had self-imposed limitations on my enjoyment of the activity. The creative juices were being funneled into a claustrophobic space with no windows.

I don’t paint my own miniatures that much. That is, I paint them when I need to before some event or league, but I never really just painted them for the sake of painting.

A solution for miniature painting burnout and life - how to regain your motivation or find ways to overcome lost motivation
Getting to this point isn’t easy

The problem is that I made my hobby into “work”

I was burned out because I turned my fun hobby time into a job. Maybe you’ve done this, too?

Perhaps this is why we’re burned out. I think this is the case for a lot of us. We over think the project and wrestle with it as though we had to meet some grade, some judging criteria, and needed to “succeed”.

Isn’t that odd we feel “judged” given that no one really watches us while we paint models? Sure, we’re in a community, but does it matter who sees our stuff. That’s our choice whether we post and share our stuff on social media, or bring those painted models to the local shop on game nights. I think we judge ourselves, too much.

Maybe, it’s human nature to judge ourselves? Did I grow up this way?

Maybe, human nature is stupid.

The triggers that lead to burnout

I mentioned to my friend that I’m somewhat uncomfortable being asked: “Why don’t you advertise more? Go to more trade conventions? Do you have a website?”

Well, the answer to the last question, duh….

These types of questions put me into some kind of panic, truly, because maybe what I’m currently working on or doing isn’t something I find worthy to be told or shared.

My day-job is super competitive, and it is there in the workplace where I will drive myself toward excellence. Not for pure ambition sake, but it’s simply my responsibility to do a good job.

Outside my real job, however, I am not competitive. In fact, I avoid competition if I can.

Here’s my solution to burnout

My friend advised me then, “If they ask that question; why you’re not doing more with your work or competing at bigger conventions with your painting, you can answer, ‘I just like painting’”.

And, that was it, the solution: I love painting miniatures. No internal or external judgement required. It’s such a simple solution to burnout because it’s true. The “enjoyment” of painting minis was what got me started in the hobby in the first place.

(Or, is the better word “love”?)

So, perhaps, when you’re feeling burned out by your hobby, all you need to do is remember the beginning. Go back to the start. That’s where the spark lives.

It’s the best solution because it’s the truest and simplest answer to fight burnout. I realized that there’s a difference between being a competitive painter and simply painting really well. A mini painter who feels pressure (internally or externally) is making a choice to feel that pressure.

Remember your enjoyment (or love) of the hobby and nurture it. Don’t drown in the hobby.

Your burnout is the result of a voluntary mindset. At least that’s what I think… I could be wrong.

Well, for me, I just have to take a break, a step back, and remind myself: hey, man, just paint for fun.

Final thoughts

Maybe it’s the same for life. There’s a difference between being alive and living. It seems to me that burnout is a kind of depression. Not the sad kind where you’re tragically negative about things, but the I-can’t-feel-pleasure kind of depressive state. Nothing is enjoyable anymore….

When you’re really down, you have to find a way to say: “I just want to live, nicely”. There’s an internal and external part to this, of course. You’ll all have to figure that one out because it’s beyond me complicated.

It’s very hard to paint model after model, or in the metaphor, living one day at a time.  My mind is always on the next task, the next project. My head is always in the future (sometimes in the past). Both?

Damnit, just paint. Just live.  I’m going to paint for fun.

What am I doing with this model? -- I'm painting it.
 WIP – 40k Imperial Guard (Shadow Sword – Super Heavy)

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