Are you looking for inspiration for painting miniatures? Motivation for new miniature painters comes from different places. If you dig around the internet, you’ll find a ton of miniature painting tips and techniques. But, what may be harder to discover is the “spark”, the inspiration for painting your miniatures and models.
In this article, Thor Thorenson from Creative Twilight shares admiration for Bob Ross, an American artist of canvas painting.
Keep reading to find inspiration for painting miniatures!
“Let’s get crazy.”Bob Ross
I’m a huge fan of Bob Ross.
The man is a legend in canvas painting. He helped popularize the wet-on-wet painting technique (an approach miniature painters often use on models, i.e., “wet-blending“).
Unfortunately, Bob Ross was taken from us far too soon. However, his influence persists more than 20 years after this death.
“The Joy of Painting”
“We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.”Bob Ross
The TV series that made Bob Ross a household name is “The Joy of Painting”.
The Joy of Painting was a live performance show that aired on PBS in the US from 1983 to 1994.
During the show, Bob would teach you how to paint a fantastic piece of art in under 30 minutes using the wet-on-wet painting technique.
Bob Ross was a speed painter!
The wet-on-wet technique is what it sounds like: You oil paint over a still wet canvas with other oil paint colors.
Because oil paints are slow drying, you can blend different colors easily. The effects are amazing, and super fast!
If you’ve never seen this show, then you can check it out on YouTube. Every season of The Joy of Painting is available now.
Here’s a sample video. Listen to that soothing voice…
The Teachings of Bob Ross
Bob Ross was more than just painting skill.
“I guess I’m a little weird….”Bob Ross
Nope. He was way more than a painter.
You tuned into The Joy of Painting, because Bob was an amazing teacher and inspirational beyond words.
Did you have a bad day? Listen to Bob Ross speak. You’ll feel better!
His voice was soft and soothing. Look up ASMR and you’ll find Bob Ross toping any list for it.
Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), sometimes auto sensory meridian response, is a tingling sensation that typically begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine (source).
Bob’s soft voice would guide you and instruct you all while he was creating yet another masterpiece. He encouraged you to paint along with him.
“I can’t think of anything more rewarding than being able to express yourself to others through painting….”Bob Ross
You couldn’t make a mistake with Bob Ross. He’d tell you that mistakes are “…only happy little accidents”!
Bob Ross made you feel like you could do no wrong.
Do anything, really.
What Does Bob Ross’ Teachings Mean for Miniature Painters?
What does oil painting on canvas have to do with miniature painting?
Well, technically nothing.
But, Bob Ross taught things that were universal. What he explained to you applied to more than art.
Bob Ross carried a message that was the medium.
While I watched Bob Ross paint as a kid, it wasn’t until recent years that I rediscovered him.
Years into painting miniatures, I began watching The Joy of Painting anew. I began to see the value of what Bob was saying and how it was applicable to painting miniatures. Heck, to anything in life, if I’m being honest.
Here are 5 Bob Ross “Lessons” for Miniature Painters
- This is Your World
- Just Let it Happen
- More Than One Way to Do Anything
- Step Back
- Talent is a Pursued Interest
1. This is Your World
One of the biggest take home messages I’ve learned from Bob Ross is about doing whatever you want. Painting is something you should enjoy, an activity that relaxes you, and that you have free artistic license.
“You can do anything you want. This is your world.”Bob Ross
There’s no need to adhere to standards set by others. Paint things that make you happy, or in whatever way makes you happy.
There’s nobody to please, but yourself.
This is what I struggle with…what about you?
When we try to adhere to some miniature painting standard, we are crippling our creativity. It’s our creativity and style that’s unique and personal.
Why hide and homogenize our work?
Who cares if the highlight color isn’t exactly right?
- It doesn’t matter if your NMM isn’t a perfect reflection of reality.
- Add some green shading to a blue cloak if you like.
- Shade metallic weapons with purples and blues.
- Paint only in black and white if it pleases you.
It’s your world, you get to make all the decisions, and as long as you’re happy then that’s all that matters!
This particular lesson of Bob Ross is one I routinely struggle with….
I stop and judge my work, before it’s finished.
I often question what I’m doing (while I’m doing it). For example, I’ll wonder if something I’m painting is realistic enough. I let the rules and laws of the real world invade my world. By doing so I cripple myself. What ends up happening is that I will set aside a project and spend hours only thinking about it.
Instead, I have to remind myself that I have creative freedom. In fact, I can do whatever I want.
“This is Your World”Bob Ross
2. Just Let it Happen
“Just let it happen.”Bob Ross
When Bob was painting organic foliage, like trees and grass, he’d say: “Just let it happen.”
To you and I, he’s telling us to not overthink it; don’t criticize yourself. Do whatever you’re doing, and let the results happen.
Bob is telling us to be absolutely free!
The moment I, as a painter, stop what I’m doing to analyze what I’m doing, I’ve broken the moment.
I begin to question:
- Did I highlight that correctly?
- Would the shadow really be there?
- Is that blending really good enough?
Don’t get me wrong. We all need to critique our work and evaluate progress. However, in the moments you are painting a model, self doubt and editing your work has no place. Instead, have fun. Enjoy the process and just let it happen.
I try to judge my work only after I’m done (not always successfully).
Perfection in art is a false narrative
See, I’m a big believer that a completed project is progress, no matter the result. You can’t sit and paint one model endlessly until it’s perfect. It’s never going to happen.
Another thing Bob would routinely say is: “It’s hard to know when to stop. You can piddle it to death.”
I can’t count how many times I’ve taken something that looked good, but wasn’t perfect, and kept messing with it. In the end, I ruined my effort.
Knowing when to stop and realize that your work is as good as it’s going to get is a crucial skill.
Paint a miniature, finish it, and evaluate yourself.
Take a deep breath, appreciate your work, and move on to another project where you apply what you’ve learned.
“It’s hard to know when to stop…”Bob Ross
Answer these 3 questions:
- Did you learn something?
- Is there room for improvement?
- Are there things you’re happy with even if not everything went according to plan?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, then you’ve improved and made progress. That’s all we can ask for.
3. More Than One Way to Do Anything
It is never a single technique to do something.
Something Bob Ross would routinely do was to show you how you could paint various things with different brushes, and in different ways, and still get great results.
I’ve seen Bob Ross speed paint clouds with huge 2- or 1-inch flat brushes, and a fan brush. I’ve watched him create mountains with those same three brushes.
With a palette knife, he’d add highlights and details with quick knife-like strokes. Swish!
Bob never locked you into a method. There was no formula. He never told you that you could only paint something one way.
Indeed, this is true for miniature painting, and any art form, really.
“All you need to paint is a few tools, a little instruction, and a vision in your mind.”Bob Ross
How many techniques exist for highlighting? Shading? Even better, how about blending? I can name 7 different blending techniques off the top of my head without thinking.
There’s so many ways to achieve any result in miniature painting. Don’t let someone tell you that you need an airbrush to create great blended results. You don’t have to learn to paint non-metallic metal (NMM) to show you’re a good painter. Dry brushing is just as valid a highlighting technique as anything else out there.
I can often get fixated on something, see how someone achieves their result, and feel that’s the only way to do what they do. It’s not. If you don’t like a technique, then don’t use it. If you want the result that technique gives, then odds are you can find 5 other ways to do it.
Never accept there’s only one way to do anything.
4. Step Back
You need a good perspective.
With miniature painting, we’re holding a 28mm-scaled miniature (or whatever small size) up very close so we can paint it. The problem is that every single mistake or imperfection is up-close and personal.
“It’s hard to see things when you are too close. Take a step back and look.”Bob Ross
This is true both literally and figuratively.
If you look at anything close enough and for long enough, then you’re going to see mistakes. However, nobody views and appreciates art 6-inches from their face!
We don’t play tabletop wargames with our faces inches from the models.
Instead we’re often several feet (or meters for my non-US friends) away from our models, until we move them around. For the most part, the proper viewing distance for miniature gameplay is all you need to concern yourself with (unless you’re painting for competition, but that’s a different article).
Figuratively, you have to look at what you’re working on as a whole. Maybe the power sword isn’t perfect, or the dry brushing is a bit rough, but how does the entire model look?
I’m not always happy with everything I do, but I remind myself that just because one element isn’t exactly how I want it doesn’t mean the entire piece is bad.
I hold the miniature away from me.
I view my work as a composition, not as individual components.
In doing so, I get a feel for the model and how everything works together. I’m able to let slide those single elements that I’m not completely happy with.
5. Talent is a Pursued Interest
This is a great piece of Bob Ross wisdom to end on.
Talent is a pursued interest. Anything you’re willing to practice, you can do.Bob Ross
Some people seem to be born with talent.
Still, even talented people have to put in the effort to get better. Natural talent only gets you so far.
On the other hand, most of us have to work hard from the beginning. That’s where finding inspiration and motivation for miniature painting becomes so important.
(Enter Bob Ross)
Suffice to say, talent is something you need to strive towards. You need to nurture your talent. If you want to get better at painting, then you have to put in the time and effort.
I began getting better at painting the moment I started trying.
I didn’t start painting using advanced techniques.
No. I learned how to paint just like everyone else, starting out with the basics. At some point, I decided I wanted to get better, to see just how talented I might be.
From then on I pushed myself, constantly.
- I tried new things.
- I never settled for good enough.
- My skill came from my pursuit and through practice.
To this day, I continue with this attitude. I’m not done with this pursuit and continue to want to see how far I can go.
Bob Ross didn’t teach me how to blend miniatures or how to apply washes to model. He taught me valuable lessons about life and art that made me realize that it’s about how you feel and how you see things. I learned that with patience and practice I could get better at painting and to enjoy the ride.
See, I feel that most of the hurdles we face as painters is mostly a matter of perspective. Sure. An expensive paint brush can help you with painting. Taking painting classes with world renowned painters can really push your skill. But if you aren’t in the right mindset, then those things are superficial.
I know this might be a different article than many of you usually read, but I do hope to have inspired a few of you and made you realize that miniature painting (and art in general) isn’t about the tools and techniques. It’s about you.
I have an article on my blog Creative Twilight that covers more miniature painting tips if you’re interested. You’ll find more stuff like this, as well as some actionable things you can do as well.
Also, do check out The Joy of Painting if you haven’t. The show is old, and Bob’s signature hair is a bit silly, but you will find no better art teacher anywhere.
This article was written by another inspiring hobby blogger, Thor Thorenson. Please visit Thor’s blog at Creative Twilight for great tips, reviews, and other fun write ups.