Painting Wargaming Collections Part Five: Motivation

January 3, 2018 by crew

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Big Projects – Staying Motivated

Dave Taylor continues his article series on building and painting your armies, explaining his thoughts on the process from beginning to end

Over the decades that I’ve been involved in the hobby, I’ve always derived the most joy from working on and, eventually, completing a big project. Most often that’s been an army, occasionally it has been a huge model (like my Warlord Titan) or a terrain project.


See The Painting Wargaming Collections Article Series By Dave

I’ve spent a lot of time talking with other hobbyists about their big projects too, and I’m always interested in hearing about the kinds of things that inspire them, help them get organized, and keep them motivated through the “dark times” that can befall any lengthy project.

In this series of articles on “big projects,” I hope to provide little nuggets of wisdom, gathered during my journeys.

mo·ti·va·tion [mōdəˈvāSH(ə)n/] – noun

  • The reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way - Synonyms: motivating force, incentive, stimulus, inducement, incitement
  • The general desire or willingness of someone to do something - Synonyms: enthusiasm, drive, ambition, initiative, determination

Being excited about a new army is, let’s face it, pretty easy. Writing several different lists and doing a bit of “math-hammering” at lunchtime is also not too taxing. Even the act of buying the models for your brand new and shiny force isn’t tough and comes with that built-in joy of acquisition. It’s when the plastic, resin, and/or metal minis hit the painting table that we are faced with the cold, hard reality of it all. We have quite a bit of work ahead of us. There’s assembly, priming, and painting, as well as basing and the chore of storing these minis in between painting sessions. So many things to think about and actually get done!


Staying motivated is the key to completing your project. Looking back to the definition of the word “motivation” is important, as it will show you the things you need to understand about yourself. What drives you, makes you enthusiastic, stimulates you, and/or is your primary incentive? If you know these things about yourself and your journey through this wonderful hobby, you’ll be able to stay positive and put aside distractions (to get this article written, I had to spend the morning at a local coffee shop to avoid the distractions of my painting table).

I recently quizzed a bunch of wargamers to see if I could find some patterns in the devices they use to stay on task and motivated. Here are the primary groupings I noticed:

Creating A Comfortable Environment

For many people who paint large armies, or lots of models at once in a production line style, painting becomes a very automatic action. By that I mean that when you are painting black boots on 100 Astra Militarum conscripts, you don’t have to think about it, you just have to do it. To keep their brains distracted by something else, these hobbyists generally have their favourite music or podcasts playing in the background, or their favourite movies and TV shows on a nearby screen. (This can be very helpful because you can look up from your painting and let your eyes refocus on something distant every fifteen to twenty minutes or so, scientifically proven to help your eyes).


A lot of people noted that they give their painting areas a thorough clean-up before every major project so that they are ready to go and know where everything is. A few also mentioned having a relaxing adult beverage of their choice on the painting table. For some, this was about creating a comfortable and relaxed environment, and for the rest, it was as a reward for completing particularly gruelling tasks (did I mention the black boots?) but more about that later.

Guilt, Shame & Deadlines

I’m not going to call it an outright “fear of failure” because I don’t think that’s it, but quite a few respondents to my questions certainly didn’t like disappointing folks. If you are good with deadlines and don’t like letting people down, it seems the best way to motivate yourself is to publicly announce your plans.


Letting people know that you are committed to finishing your project (or a certain part of it) by a particular date can have a great effect on your drive to complete that project. To be honest, this is one of my primary drivers. I have developed a reputation for it over the years, and it certainly helps when I take on commission painting jobs. However, if you aren’t really into the guilt and shame that can come from not hitting the deadline, you’ll need to be careful trying out this motivation tool.


This category was an interesting one. I’ve noticed hobbyists using this method for a long time, most commonly using a character or centrepiece model as the reward for grinding through what many feels is the drudgery of painting a unit of ten, twenty or thirty models.


The idea is that you split your painting schedule into two elements: those you really enjoy painting, and those that you don’t. Once you know which is which and you have things plotted out, you can feel a great sense of accomplishment by finishing up a unit (typically) and reward yourself by relaxing with a nice tank or commander model. Some people, as I mentioned earlier, relax by sitting back with a good quality scotch instead.

Encouragement & Education From Peers

While I use variations of the previous methods all the time, my favourite motivating force comes from the encouragement of my peers. Back in the grim, dark days before the Internet - and our ready access to thousands of different ways to connect with complete strangers – it could be tough to find those who could teach us more about our painting in a positive way.


Thankfully, we don’t have to go through that anymore. It’s very easy for us to post photos of our work and ask for feedback. If we’ve asked in the right places (like the BOW forums), we’ll typically receive some great ideas and encouragement. Over time, we’ll develop a great core of trusted confidantes and mentors, and it is to them we’ll turn first when we start to struggle and feel that motivation slipping. If you are lucky, this group are local, and you can engage in regular “paint nights” together, feedback is immediate and encouragement abounds.


However, these folks perhaps don’t live nearby. I that case you can turn to tools like Skype and Google Hangouts to connect with other enthusiastic hobbyists all over the world. Groups like The Hobby Hangout on Facebook mean that you can almost always jump in on a conversation about modelling and painting from anywhere in the world.

There you have it. These appear to be the most common methods that people use to stay motivated and keep their big projects rolling along, setting themselves up for success.


What other methods do you use to keep you on track to complete a big project?

"For many people who paint large armies, or lots of models at once in a production line style, painting becomes a very automatic action..."

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"Some people, as I mentioned earlier, relax by sitting back with a good quality scotch instead..."

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