Follow Your Heart, Follow It Through – Punk Art and You

Punk: a style or movement characterized by the adoption of aggressively unconventional and often bizarre or shocking clothing, hairstyles, makeup, etc., and the defiance of social norms of behavior, usually associated with punk rock musicians and fans.

Of course, we all knew that around here, didn’t we?

A few years back, hobby blogger and all-round thoughtful bloke Dave G posted a very well considered post about the… not to put too fine a point on it, the saminess of the high-end paint-jobs that you see around the place. The point was not to deny the skill, talent and bloody hard work that goes into learning to paint the Serious Business way, but to ask whether we can or can’t and should or shouldn’t be doing something different, just because… well, you see one realistically-done lovingly-weathered pseudo-historical not-a-brushstroke-in-sight Khador army, you’ve seen ’em all. Is it good form to pursue the Golden Daemon or Cool Mini Or Not style, or is it better to follow your heart and realise your own vision?

I’d like to hope that if you’re reading this you give a hearty HELL YEAH to the latter and a hearty FUCK NO to the former. The idea is not to just fuck about with things, but to pursue an aesthetic choice that is yours rather than matching up to some external standard of what’s ‘good’ or ‘appropriate’. If you want to drybrush everything, you get out there and drybrush everything.

As a case in point, all of my ‘best’ paintjobs have been the ones where I actually enjoyed the techniques I was using and managed to produce something that didn’t totally offend the eyes. Long ago, I painted up a Dark Emissary using nothing but very thin glazes straight over bare metal. The figure has, alas, been lost to time, but take my word for it – it looked cockin’ brilliant.

I still start most of my paintwork with a layer of grey or white gesso primer rather than airbrushing or aerosol sprays – I find you get a nice toothy texture and I don’t have to unlock the back door and tie the cat up and send half the paint into the back of a cardboard box in order to get my stuff primed. Also, glazes take on the pieces beautifully, to the point where my first layer of detail-picking-out Windsor and Newton inks actually looks… quite nice. It’s almost a shame to paint over it.

The other day, I started asking myself why I was bothering. After all, my favourite Warhammer art is the stuff by Mark Gibbons, which tends to be richly detailed greyscale, heavy on the light and shade which always justifies black and white photography or film or illustration to me as an art form. That’s achievable with a few layers of black ink over grey – that’d really take the arseness out of painting hordes of very samey infantry geezers too.

I’m sure someone would have a sneer and say that it was lazy corner-cutting and it didn’t meet the three-colours minimum that’s the accepted standard on the scene. To such a hypothetical wanker I would say a) it’s an artistic choice, actually; b) so what if it is lazy, I don’t like painting the same thing over and over and over again and I thought this was a hobby, not do-something-you-don’t-like time; c) like the three-colour-minimum guarantees well painted armies when people just prime black, drybrush weapons with Boltgun Metal and dob some red on the shoulderpad; d) who died and made the three-colour-minimum the baseline standard for art anyway and e) did I mention I’d rather do something I want to do well than ruin models trying to do something I don’t want to do?

When I do go for colour stuff, or scenery-building for that matter, I’m inclined to go all Blanchitsu. Coop (who’s a bit of a lege) has spoken wise words on what makes Blanche’s particular style of outsider art (as only the very wankiest of art-school wankers call it) so fundamentally Warhammery, and I have to admit that Blanche’s weird and wonderful composition sits side-saddle with Gibbons’ dark and detailed style in the part of my brain that knows what Warhammer looks like.

So what if Blanche ‘can’t draw’ in the technical sense of getting his anatomy right and his mountains joining up with the ground properly? His style stands out a mile off. He’s interested in things looking weird and eldritch and fantastic and that’s what he gets. So what if his miniatures – shock horror – have visible brush-strokes and the shimmer of gloss varnish, enamel paints and layers of proper washes on them? If we were talking about paintings, we’d be talking about the control of brush strokes and the effects of the varnish and the choice of materials, not banging our feet ’cause his models don’t look like photos of actual things.

What I’m getting at here is that the core assumptions of our hobby – that such and such is lazy, that such-and-such is filth, that such-and-such is in some way Not On – could stand to be challenged rather than just blithely accepted. I’m going for bright and crisp and colourful and cartoony with my Retribution – because I want to, because Warmachine has always felt like a Saturday morning cartoon crossed with Warcraft III by way of second edition 40K to me, because I based the schemes on World of Warcraft since that’s what made me interested in elves again. They still look like something I painted – they’re not photo-realistic and I don’t want them to be and sod anyone who has the temerity to suggest that that’s in some way half-arsing it.

Tch. Honestly. Next thing people’ll be saying Siouxsie wasn’t fit as hell back in the day…


7 thoughts on “Follow Your Heart, Follow It Through – Punk Art and You

  1. Everytime I slather two/three coats of shiny gloss varnish over a 28mm figure (which is basically everytime I paint a 28mm figure) I take great delight that somebody, somewhere is dying a little inside at my refusal to paint like everyone does.

    • Good. I feel much the same every time I ‘complete’ a paintjob with only drybrushing, inks, and primer applied the old-fashioned way – with a paintbrush.

  2. Fuck yeah! Thank you for this post. I don’t think my style will ever be that oh-so-smooth CMON standard. Sometimes I catch myself wishing I could do that, but you’re right. That just ain’t me and I need to remind myself sometimes.

    • There’d be a lot less anguish in this hobby – possibly this world – if people stopped trying to make things into something they’re not. If you’re not actually interested in all that farting about with airbrushes, no amount of feeling obliged to do it is going to make you interested, and if you’re not interested in something, you’re never going to enjoy it or be any good at it.

    • It had been a while, so I thought it was worth bringing this up again. I’m starting to hear “you should get an airbrush” too often for my liking, too…

  3. So much this. I can appreciate someones craft but what I really want to see is passion, point of view and someone enjoying what they’re doing. Same goes for music, art, comics, miniatures or whatever. I get sick of the same ultra produced paint jobs that while technically brilliant, just lack a soul.

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