Painting Wargaming Collections Part One: Inspiration

November 1, 2017 by crew

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Big Projects - What Inspires You? Dave Taylor begins 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.

Painting Wargaming Collections Part One: Inspiration

See the Painting Wargaming Collections Article Series written by Dave

Most often that’s been an army, occasionally it has been a huge model (like my Warlord Titan) or a terrain project. 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. Article Image #1 Let’s start at the very beginning (that’s a very good place to start)…


It’s the thing that sparks your imagination, fuels your creative drive, and gets you started on the road to building a mighty collection of miniature soldiers, but where can you find it? Miniature wargaming is a very tactile hobby. We are always using our hands in some way, be it assembling models, thumbing through rulebooks, and rolling dice (or flipping cards). The hobby is very visual. Knowing where your opponent’s models are on the tabletop, spotting mould lines on a new kit, and gazing at the beautiful artwork in the latest faction book, are all things we need to see. Our hobby is also very cerebral. We are constantly calculating the best odds and most sound army lists, speculating on the origins of fictional species and working on comprehending new painting techniques. Given these points, it is no real surprise that the things that inspire us to purchase new models and stride into the adventure of a new army generally fit into the following categories...

The Models/Sculpts

It could be the dynamic posing, the intricate detail, the characterful faces, the ease of assembly, or simply the way the models capture the essence of their background, but there’s just something that grabs you. Article Image #2 When you are planning out a large army project, enjoying the look of the models can be really important as you could be assembling and painting 100+ models. If you are a very visual hobbyist (as I tend to be) you certainly want to make sure you love looking at that many models and all of their bits as you put them together. The Salt Flat Nomad models you see above were the models that dragged me into the game Dark Age. Before I knew it, I had painted up over 1,500 points (a standard game is 500 points) even though their playstyle doesn’t really match mine. Since then I have painted up close to 10,000 points of various factions and sub-factions, as well as building and painting three tables worth of terrain.

A Colour Scheme

By the time you have painted a few big projects you’ll understand which colour schemes you are “good at”, i.e. the schemes that you are comfortable painting and can replicate en masse. Article Image #3 Personally, I love schemes that are primarily red, black, grey, green, or brown. I’m very comfortable painting them and have particular sets of go-to paints for those. This means that I’m really predisposed to be attracted to colour schemes that focus on these colours, and many hobbyists are in a similar boat (although their favourite colours no doubt vary). Sometimes, therefore, we find ourselves attracted to a particular colour scheme we see presented in a rulebook, in a piece of artwork, or from another hobbyist’s work. Seeing a cool, exciting scheme can be enough to get us started on a new project. It’s not even that you need to paint that scheme on the same models as those that inspired you. You can definitely transfer it to models from another unit, faction, or even game system. The models above were painted purely because I really wanted to improve my skills with painting yellow. The Contemptor Dreadnought had just been released and was crying out to be painted bright yellow!

The Background/History Of An Army

One of the things that many of us love is the background of the worlds in which we play our games. From the pages of Dan Abnett’s Gaunt’s Ghosts series to learning about the parallel march across Spain by the British and French forces in 1812, finding the right inspirational hook for me is usually a matter of reading a book and being ready for the inspiration to strike. Article Image #4 It is very pleasing to see that more game companies like Warlord Games (with Beyond the Gates of Antares) and Warcradle Studios (with Wild West Exodus) are working with publishers like Winged Hussar Publishing to put the more exciting background out into the world. Of course, if you are looking for inspiration for a historical project, there are many places to discover that reality has often been more crazy and inspiring than fiction. For me, a great deal of inspiration has come from the Gaunt’s Ghosts novels. I’ve painted two different Tanith armies, a large Blood Pact army, as well as forces from the Jantine Patricians, the Vitrian Dragoons, and even over 300 models for a Shriven horde.

The Gameplay

For those of us who prefer the clash of arms to the tink-tink of paintbrushes against our painting mugs, coming across a new or unique strategy or tactic can be all it takes to really grab our attention. Article Image #5 While I personally fall into the painterly aspect of the larger hobby, I have spoken with a lot of hobbyists who really enjoy the clever manipulation of the odds that they can squeeze out of various rules and combinations. Many of these hobbyists also enjoy battling it out with fully-painted armies in hard-fought tournaments, so being able to take that idea from inspiration to the tabletop is a crucial thing. The Dark Age Warband shown above was a direct result of playing against a Forsaken – St Mark Warband at a local tournament. My opponent was very skilled with his force and quickly carved up my Outcasts. Shortly after I ordered a very similar warband and started painting. Some of you might be wondering “Dave, is it really that important to understand WHAT inspired us to start our armies? Surely the spark is all we need?” Well, in my humble opinion, that spark is great for getting you going on a project, and can certainly sustain you all the way through those smaller ones, but understanding the WHAT can be very helpful should you stumble and fall. You can often reignite your passion for a project by revisiting your inspiration. Read that book again, play another game, assemble and paint a special character. Remembering WHAT started you on the journey can get you back on track. Do you find that you are typically inspired by one particular thing all the time, or does your source of inspiration change from project to project? Models, painting, gaming, the background? Is there anything I’ve missed?

What Inspires You?

Addendum – I chose the great John Blanche artwork at the start so that I could show a direct example of artwork inspiring extensive modelling. After spotting this in the pages of a Warhammer 40,000 rulebook, I knew I had to build something that mimicked the art fairly closely. Article Image #6 It took a few weeks to gather all the parts and determine where they would go, and then a few more to paint it, but I’m very pleased with it all and it fits nicely into my Mechanicum/Adeptus Mechanicus collection. Dave-Taylor What inspires you to get started with an army?

"I’ve always derived the most joy from working on and, eventually, completing a big project..."

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"Do you find that you are typically inspired by one particular thing all the time, or does your source of inspiration change from project to project?"

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