Have you ever had this question asked? “Why do you paint miniatures?“ I’ve had this question asked to me many times by many people. It’s a profound question at its core. For many hobbyists, it’s a question that comes up over and over again.
Why paint? Why build or make things?
The answers are always cliche. Always the same and boring. Overused and rote responses.
What’s my unique take?
Read on. My answer may surprise you.
The miniature you.
Before I had children, my answer to “why do you paint miniatures and models?” Was always the same. It was cliche: I like working with my hands. It’s therapeutic. I get paid a commission (for some of it).
After having children, it all changed. And, I was surprised by the tension this new responsibility brought into my life. This living human bean (as Roald Dahl used to describe people; see his novel, “BFG”or Big Friendly Giant, or his other children’s’ book, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”).
Watching a young child changes you. Never mind that this one was mine.
My daughter is a miniature me.
The small make you feel smaller.
Thousands of hours painting and all of my life’s experience until now have focused my philosophy on this. The smallest of us can make the rest of us even smaller. They shrink us down, when we really watch them, and try to see from their perspective.
More than humbling is when you’re trying to figure out why this new person is doing this or that. Or, what is happening in their minds, you’re puzzled, intrigued.
“Put the phone down, Daddy.”
She says it with a commanding voice that only just squeaks.
The miniature hobby is for control freaks
I want to see the World, differently. More than this, I want to control this World.
But, my daughter doesn’t want any of that. She refuses.
As a two year old, she accepts her reality! You would think that toddlers are the control freaks.
The very young of us don’t throw tantrums because they want to control the world. They are throwing tantrums, because you’re controlling how they see the world. That’s the difference.
Here’s where I’m going with this.
This chaos that is Life, the unknown and the uncertain, is never a straight line. I have a doctorate, and to get my degree I had to theorize and strategize. But, at the end, I was successful because many variables came together on a spreadsheet that said “you’re done!”
No spreadsheet can calculate the things you must do to “make it” in Life.
How I see it.
The miniatures hobby is a reflection of how I see the World. In my hands are proxy realities. And, the paint merely pulls them from another place into the one I live in.
This is the view of this hobby that I’ve learned, as I’ve watched my child experience the tangible things around her. As she interacts with things, they are not as I would see them; things to control. To her, they are her “friends”, objects that come into her view and speak.
This is where I see there might be more to the plastic and pewter figures. There is more to learn in the why paint them, than the action of doing it. Technical approaches such as loaded-brush blending, or speed painting, are just that, strategies and methods. After they’re learnt, you move on. You are still you.
The why changes how you see things. And, as I think about the hobby on a different level, I find this to be way more important…and interesting.
Do you ask yourself why you do anything fun? Beyond merely the feeling or pleasure?
What is pure joy?
I think the purest joy in life is discovery. That discovery thrill of a child is all I want from any endeavor. I’m looking for the things that teach me who I am and provide me with a sense that I’ve earned that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
An iota is a small idea.
Actually, iota is a Greek letter with a connotation of small-ness.
The small idea that objects in the world are more than they seem is a viewpoint of a child.
To them all things are large.
She’s playing with her toys, the Playmobils, the Legos (see an article on Freedom), and the wooden trains. Such things aren’t too far off from my miniatures—the “man-dolls” as some of my friends would call them (see my gallery for painted man-dolls).
There is something I see in her playing, this magic that is no longer in me. Time has robbed me of this way of seeing things. But, when I obey her request to “put your phone, Daddy”, I slowly awake to her senses.
Watching my daughter play, observing how she talks to these inanimate objects at first confuses me. It disrupts my sense of reality. Then, as I ask her why she is telling her Playmobile mailman to rescue the small bear, I see what she has done.
Ripped from the fabric of space-time.
She has gone into a different dimension. She has whittled away physics and placed her own rules on top of our World. And, I am just a sojourner.
She has welcomed me into this space between space. How can I say no?
Life isn’t always what you see, touch, smell, or taste. There’s an unseen realm; I believe that, and as I observe this little one, I am convinced this is True.
How the little children destroy the lines we create as adults. This thin veil that hides what we really need to be at peace.
Why paint miniatures?
The old cliche answers still stand.
But, I know there’s more now. I paint miniatures to see differently. To experience the awe of a child and quietly cherish those short moments with a paint brush. They are floating times where I’m fully awake.
The imagination runs wild in this hobby. Colors are mine to command. There are rules, but they bend to my desire. And, I can rebel without repercussion.
As my daughter speaks to her toys, I speak to my own thoughts (which if you think about it, aren’t real material either).
Do you speak to yourself?
I often do, and I used to think it was odd. But, when my daughter asks me to play with her in the garden (our backyard), and I’m busy working on an project, I’m able to respond without hesitation—
“Can my robot come and play, too?” I’m holding a Games Workshop Space Marine Dreadnought.
“Yes!” She squeals.
Conclusion: Why I Paint Miniatures.
To the question of “why paint miniatures?”, my answer is absurd. But, it is the answer a two year old daughter of a hobbyist father would say.
“The miniatures are your friends—You should paint them, Daddy.”
The miniatures are my friends.
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I hope you enjoyed this read. Do you have any thoughts on why you do the fun things you do?
Let me know in a comment below! I’d love to hear from you.