Help! I'm Frightened of Painting Miniatures!

I've always enjoyed painting miniatures. So much so that I would consider myself to be a painter who games, rather than a gamer who paints.  By this, I mean that my entry into this hobby came about as a result of my love of making and painting models.

But recently I've become aware of a hidden truth: I'm frightened of painting.

Sounds crazy, right?  Whether it is or it isn't though, it's definitely the truth.  To understand all this, we need to do a fair bit of flitting back and forth across the time space continuum of the last thirty years of this hobby of ours. 

So, having strapped ourselves into Well's Time Machine we head back to the late seventies to the decade I never reached double digits in.  This is when I was first introduced to model kits. I don't know exactly when I had been given my first Airfix Spitfire, but I do know that by the time I was seven, I had progressed onto the more detailed Tornado.  Of course, my poor Mum had to help with some of the fiddly bits like the really cool variable sweep wing.  Now, I loved making models, and painting them.  But the problem with painting them wasn't so much the smell of the turps and Humbrol paints.  No, it was the realisation that the only thing I could do with them afterwards was to put them on a shelf or suspend them from the ceiling courtesy of some thread, a drawing pin and those lovely safe polystyrene ceiling tiles that became popular in the eighties.  

Now let's fast forward a few years through the arrival of Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone's Fighting Fantasy to the discovery of a company by the name of Games Workshop.  Not only was my imagination sparked by fantastical realms, but this came with the realisation that I could paint and then play games with!  

Unfortunately they weren't exactly cheap.

And then, just a few years later, I discovered Derby World's as we call it now. Which is strange, because I don't even think they held it in Derby recently.  But back then it was Derby World Wargaming Championships.  Stepping into the Assembly Rooms became an annual thing for me. And what I saw blew my mind every time. You have to remember this was the mid to late eighties. No internet. It was my only chance of discovering the world of wargaming. 

But it came at a price. Huge armies were laid out on custom built terrain. I spent hours looking at the spectacle of each layout. But I knew I couldn't afford big armies.  I also struggled at those events. Teenagers weren't a common sight at these gatherings.  And I have to say, this one in particular didn't get the best of receptions at many of the tables.  Being what Shakespeare would describe as "my cousin lack-beard" meant I was subject to much suspicion.  One coupled with the expectation that I either didn't or couldn't possibly understand what the hobby was all about.

Which, frankly, was an incredibly narrow-minded and stupid attitude.

It's perhaps no wonder then that I retreated from the world of historical wargaming.  Which was a crying shame, I have to say.  I went instead to where I was much more welcome.  My passion for Napoleonics, for the ACW, ECW, Medieval and Ancients was put to one side as I plunged into The Old World of the Warhammer universe and later into the emerging 40k universe of Rogue Trader.  And I also got into RPG's in a big way, pretty much to the excusion of all else.  

This is perfectly understandable.  There were no army lists for Warhammer at the time.  Blood Bath at Orc's Drift, Terror of the Lichemaster and The Tragedy of McDeath were the closest we got to such things.  

Now, for many years I've had a very limited budget (which is the polite way of saying I was skint and barely breaking even, let alone managing to provide for my family.)  In all those years, I wished I could build armies, both historical and fantastical.  And when funds allowed, I was able to get the odd box of Perry Miniatures.  

Over the years, through ups and downs, I've had the love and support of my family (which is priceless). And every now and again I've been able to get a few miniatures.  Wargaming became skirmishing, as I could afford to do that.  Of course, if you want a good skirmish game to work, you need specific scenery.  And as this blog will testify, I went to town making that scenery on a very tight budget.  Those projects led me to start this blog up in the first place.  Scenery is the backbone this whole blog is built upon.

And I clearly got more interested in making scenery than painting miniatures.  As times got harder (which they did for many years) I would take off cuts of foamcore and cereal packets and make terrain while my friends would buy and paint models to fight over it all.  Sure, I got myself some models, but not much.

And then the time machine plants us in the present.  Financially, I'm on a much better footing. I've been able to purchase what I need to make a lot of projects happen.  I've so much stuff now, it's frankly unbelievable.  Well it is to me at least. I've not gone mad.  Or at least not too much.  Okay, I might have done so in the realms of Age of Sigmar and 40K, but I've tried not to go for too many historical theatres, and I'm working towards large scale skirmish games by TooFatLardies rather than anything as wonderful but impossible as Waterloo.

So it should all be happening, right?


I appear to be frightened to get to work.  

When I could be painting, I find myself assembling models.  When I'm not assembling models, I find myself designing scenery.  And when I design scenery I start looking into the next project.  Anything but pick up a paintbrush.  

Yes, I do want to do a good job.  I won't compromise my painting.  Now, I'm very much aware that I'm no Hazoutopolus George or Sascha Herm.  Not by a long shot.  But if I don't get painting, then I won't get to game so much.  I'm not going to let the brilliance of other's painting skills stop me from painting.  If I was only willing to paint if I could be at Golden Daemon standard, I'd have given up and taken a new hobby a long time ago.  

I think it boils down to not wanting to ruin what I have.  And I think you have to have had so little for so long to appreciate something like this.  

Excuses will come thick and fast if you are afraid of ruining what little you have.  Too tired.  Not sure of the paint scheme.  Will I be criticised for using the wrong blue on my Infanterie de Ligne? Needing to reset the paint station with colours for a new model when you're tired will also lead to hesitation and procrastination in equal measure.  So too will working long hours.  Tiredness is a valid excuse.  But getting out of the habit is even worse.  Going from owning nothing to having lots normally means you also don't know what to work on first, because, as the great prophets Queen would be quick to tell us, "I Want It All"

I'm not going to give up, or give in.  I will get my models painted.  I'll fear and falter at times.  I'll be frightened to have a go.  But I will give it a go.  I'll continue to develop my own style.  I'll only settle for a result I'm happy with.  And I'll work on what I want to paint.  If I do bits of this army and then some of that, go from the historical to the grimdark and bounce to something else entirely, then so what.  The more I paint, the more comfortable I'll become.  And then, hopefully, I'll gain in confidence.  And as the confidence grows, hopefully the fear will subside.  And then, when the time comes to game, boy will the results be incredibly satisfying.

And then, that kid from the seventies with models aplenty and nothing to game, will no longer be the bloke with rules aplenty and not enough models, painted or otherwise.  

I'll keep posting as I go.  And I'll keep using this blog to remind me what can be achieved.  It might not be much, but to myself at least, these worlds in miniature I'm creating are a great source of joy and delight.  If hobby doesn't create that joy and delight, it's a chore.  

Please feel free to comment on your own hobby experiences in the comments below.  And please share any good painting advice!  Let's encourage one another to replace fear with joy.  

As always, thanks so much for stopping by!


  1. I had more luck that you when I first encountered historical wargamers in the late 60s. The ones I fell in with were most welcoming to my 13 year old self and I became the 15th member of the newly formed South East Scotland Wargames Club. I've had a few breaks in periods when I was living away from Edinburgh, but I'm still there.

    1. SESWC are clearly a bunch of gamers I would have dearly liked to have met in my teenage years. It'll explain why I was so delighted to make it to Deep Fried Lard though!

    2. I felt embarrassment for many years with my efforts at painting. The comparisons with others frustrated me. I've improved but not by a great margin. I am happier though.
      And my lead pile is almost nil after 2 years of dedicated painting, good and not so good.
      Keep trying.

    3. Thank you for your encouragement Khusru!

  2. I would also admit that I never tried making my own terrain until last year. Which is why my terrain choices are limited.
    It was simple card Mesopotamian walled city (probably an exaggeration!). I actually felt good about it. It isn't Tony Horwood or your calibre, much like my painting compared to Kevin Dallimore's. But it's the best I can do for now.

    1. The key thing there Khusru is feeling good about it. There have been plenty of items of scenery I've built that I've been very unhappy with. In fact, I made some walls recently in a hurry for some gaming. Never was happy with them. Put them in the bin today. I know where I went wrong, so I can do better next time. To quote Edison, "Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time."


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