Do you ever feel like you’re just not good enough? That no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to achieve your goals? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, this is a feeling that nearly everyone experiences at some point in their lives. The key to overcoming this feeling is to learn from your failures. And what better way to learn than by painting miniatures?
In this article post, I take a brief detour into the vascular twists and turns of what failure teaches in the miniature painting hobby.
Failure is a Dish Best Served Cold
Ever hear the saying “revenge is a dish best served cold”? Well, it’s a cliche that basically means you may want to return a bad favor later rather than sooner.
Allow the heat of the moment to simmer down. Cool off. It’s a word of wisdom, I guess, for plotting your form justice carefully.
Well, when it comes to experiencing life’s failures. I am one of those people who has a tendency to knee-jerk a response. I’m an all-or-nothing thinker. And when it comes to reacting to a failure, I want to give up and move on as quickly as possible.
Though, I’ve learned through pain and suffering that this leads to worse consequences, often failure to achieve the better end result. For example, I remember the first time I tried writing an academic paper on a really hard subject and later being told by an authority figure that my writing sucked….”what is this crap? My 12 year old writes better than you!”
Indeed, not a very nice person. But their words burned into my brain. And thankfully, I ignored my first reaction (to quit) and went with the–really? I’ll show you.
Hundreds of hours later, with reams of drafts, and studying sentence construction, I turned the process of writing into a game.
There was no joy in succeeding to finish writing that paper up to that high standard, expected in that class. It was an anti-climatic finish. The finality of winning was COLD.
Painting Miniatures is One Failure After Another
That is how 99% of you learn how to paint well. Little failures added up make a big success.
What do I mean?
Here’s an example: You want to paint a Warhammer 40k space marine. You’ve seen some really great pictures of them online, and you’re feeling pumped to get started. But when you actually start painting, it doesn’t look anything like the pictures you saw. It looks like a hot mess.
Your brush has a mind of its own, slipping this way and that. Paint slops everywhere! And its not even a wash… gravity works against you, and your fingers hurt.
When will it end….no one knows. Not even you.
Behold, World! I Suck at This, Thing.
When you wake up in the morning, you pop 800mg of ibuprofen just to take the edge off of your back and neck pain. (Wow, did you really paint this hard? Kudos.)
You feel deflated and want to give up.
But you don’t. You push through and keep painting. And after you’re done with the first model paint job, you extend you arm to take a look…
And it still looks like crap!
But then something inside you whispers. Do it again. Make it hurt again.
Oh pretty please, more pain and failure. Give me more suckage.
The Thing About Brick Walls
And there it is. Your life is a series of “oh, crap, not again” moments. You question why you keep walking yourself into brick walls.
The thing about brick walls is that they show you how badly you want something.
It’s a lot easier to give up than it is to keep trying. But if you really want something, you’ll keep going no matter how many times you hit a brick wall. Sure, your body and mind may break (which I mean metaphorically; please don’t go hurting yourself), but you’ll become a new person.
You win through trouble, not despite it.
Painting miniatures is one of those things that will keep showing you how badly you want it. And each new failure is another brick wall that will make you better, if you let it.
Slowly but surely, your space marines start to look more and more like the ones in the pictures. Maybe not. In fact, really, your work begins to take on a style all their own. Your style. And you embrace it.
And eventually, with enough practice, you might even become one of those painters whose work looks like the pictures you saw in the beginning. But they are YOURS.
Bloody Fingers Makes for Good Technique
I’ve shredded my fingers with hobby razor blades. Slip up and it’s a bloody mess, a few profanity words I shall not mention. Yes, but human biology is amazing. Blood coagulates along with your leaking ego.
Then you awaken to something, a lightbulb lights up your darkness.
Lesson learned: Stop using blunt hobby knives and putting your forefinger in the path of sharp moving objects.
You get the point, right?
Failure is a bloody business.
The thing about blood though is that has magical properties. It carries life giving oxygen and the machinery to fix things when YOU or LIFE messes up.
Blood is a reminder that you’re alive and when you see it come out of your body (hopefully, in small quantities), it is a lesson unto itself.
And that’s the thing, my sideways story, is saying that assembling or painting miniatures or whatever hobby you’re into is a readout, a safe proxy for enjoying the ups and downs of life. It is a to keep going: A kind of practicing faith really.
The pain is real, but so is the satisfaction of having accomplished something, in spite of all the failures along the way. There is hope in the continuance.
Final words are always empty if you don’t remember them.
I’ll end with this:
Painting miniatures is a great way to really learn what YOU ARE MADE OF. What are you made of? Blood, bone, and sinew. Okay. That’s not what I mean.
You are given the ability to hope, bear faith in the future, and granted the ability to grow through adversity.
Painting miniatures is more than an action. It is servitude to your human condition. Embrace the bloody failures and may be live for it.
Did you enjoy this article? I’m always looking for more thoughts (silly ones, too!) and maybe you can help. Leave a comment below and let me know what you think!