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Why You’ll Never Be as Good a Painter as You Want to Be

    I’ll be honest. If painting really isn’t your thing, and/or you view it as a means to an end, then this wouldn’t be applicable to you. However, if you enjoy painting and are always striving to get better at it, then this article is aimed at you.

    What am I talking about? Read on and find out!

    The Beginning

    When you first learn to paint miniatures you’re happy to put paint to model and get something done. The feeling of pride when you’ve completed a squad, team, unit, etc., is amazing! You never saw yourself painting and there you are, painting tiny figures and creating a cool army.

    There’s not much that takes the wind from your sails at this point.

    As time goes on you learn about new painting techniques. You learn to start using washes, you begin dry brushing your models, and you’ve even tackled edge highlighting.

    You’ve got the basics down and your improved painting is obvious to you now. The stuff you’re painting now is night and day from the early work you did and you’re proud of your accomplishments, as you should be.

    The Curse

    You find yourself enjoying painting. During work you’re thinking about your current painting projects, or what you’ll be working on next. When you sit down to paint you’re relaxed and in the moment – as it should be.

    Suddenly you find yourself wanting to learn more. You’re happy with the painting you’ve done, however, there’s this urge to learn something new and to improve upon what you’ve learned.

    Whether it’s on Facebook, Instagram, or Youtube, you’re seeing the work of other painters who create these incredible pieces of art. You’re envious of their talent, but more importantly you want to paint like them. You want to learn what they know so you can do what they do.

    You’ve now got the curse and the only cure is more cowbell! OK. Maybe not cowbell.

    What am I Talking About?

    That was my basic journey through painting and one I figured most could relate to.

    Now, what I’m talking about is that desire and drive to become a better painter. I’ve got some tips on that subject, but this is more about that mental state of needing to improve.

    It’s all a bit like a hamster wheel when you think about it. The problem with enjoying painting and getting better at it is that there’s always a new goal. Maybe you want to learn to paint NMM or try your hand at some OSL. Whatever it is, there is always something just out of reach that you’re striving for.

    I won’t bore you with how I progressed as a painter, but this has been the curse I’ve endured for years – seemingly a lifetime. Every time I set out to learn something new, I eventually do, I get better with that technique (or whatever I learned), and then the urge to learn more kicks in. There has to be something else I can learn now…

    This is Why We Will Never Be as Good a Painter as We Want to Be

    I really do enjoy painting. While I’m jokingly calling this all a curse (or am I serious?), and it kind of is, it’s a blessing too. The reality is that it’s ambition, pure and simple. That desire to always be better, to never settle for good enough, and to always be looking to the future is an ambitious nature and something that should be nurtured.

    With that though is the reality that I will never paint as well as I’d like. There is always going to be something I want to learn, some improvements I know I could make to my technique. Once I learn that new thing I will be off to the next and continuing on an endless quest.

    If you’re reading this, then you likely share my feeling and you too will never be as good a painter as you want to be. There is no end to this. We’ve set a goal, an ideal, that as we get closer to it, it just moves further away.

    The other part of this curse too is that we often overlook what we can accomplish. In that pursuit of impossible perfection we forget how far we’ve come. Instead of seeing something wonderful we’ve created we instead see the flaws. Our eyes are drawn to the things that didn’t work well or the mistakes we made, rarely ever seeing something for what it is.

    Others may view our work and be impressed, even amazed, but we don’t see what they see. Every artist who is passionate about their work knows what I’m talking about.


    The idea to write this sprang into my head suddenly, out of nowhere. I was probably thinking subconsciously about what I’m working on now or what I will be very soon.

    Either way, I just felt like sharing this.

    The takeaway (I hope) is that sometimes you have to enjoy the journey and not see reaching a particular level with painting as a destination.

    Try to be less critical of your work and it’s OK to be happy, maybe even impressed, with what you’ve accomplished. If we don’t stop to enjoy what we’re doing, and enjoy the road we’re on, then what’s the point?

    Foster that ambition and master it. Let it fuel your desire and passion to learn. It’s a curse, but it’s also what separates us from other painters.


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    John Jay
    John Jay
    3 years ago

    Good article Thor! For me it is slightly different. Instead of ‘I will never be as good a painter as I want to be’ it is more ‘I will never be as fast a painter as I want to be’

    Michael Pierce
    Michael Pierce
    3 years ago

    Thanks for writing this. I strive to paint better, and this helps motivate me.

    Michelle Linder
    Michelle Linder
    3 years ago

    I am professional artist (designer, illustrator, animator and fine artist), and this article is dead on. Artists of all stripes are their own worst critics.

    Bill Witthans (vonkluge) around the internet

    Very good article Thor, it seems you have reached into my head. I have been painting mini’s since the early 80’s and have trod down the very path you describe, it’s a common path. I have over the years learned to paint fairly well and indeed have been around (and contributed) to the way people paint mini’s nowadays. I was once dare I say it a painter of some note but as time goes on others take up the brush and forge on to new and greater heights as they stand on the shoulders of those that came before. Over the last few years (7-8) I have had a renewed interest in becoming even better and learning from the new guys such as your self, squidmar, and others who through the internet so unselfishly give back to the hobby your knowledge and love of the hobby. I have always found painting to be the most relaxing form “stress relief” from work. At first it was just completion, then volume, then quality, but lately I find that having accomplished those other “steps” in my painting life I find the comment “I will never as fast a painter as I want to be” strikes home, as it will for you one day. That will be the day that you look at that lead mountain, think of all the projects yet to be tackled, and think of the time left to you. It will happen sooner than you think. One of my biggest pushes in the area of painting now is SPEED! Now you are totally correct about “having fun and enjoying the process” but there are plenty of steps in that “process” that are boring and can be speeded up, made easier, more efficient, so that the actual fun part gets more time devoted to it. I recently wrote a short article for War-games Illustrated” called “how small balls made me a better painter”. One of the premises of the article is that becoming a good painter is a combination of time and talent. It takes time to develop the talent and then applying the talent is dependent on the time you have to paint. Simply you can have plenty of talent but with out the time to apply that talent you mini will not look as good as it could. To that end I have spent quite a bit of time stream lining the painting process, shaving bits off here and there to maximize the actual “creative” time for my hobby. Wow sorry for such a long comment, love your work!

    Last edited 3 years ago by Bill Witthans (vonkluge) around the internet
    2 years ago

    Picasso said “it took me a lifetime to learn how to draw like child”
    What (I think) he ment that he had to learn the CRAFT of being an artist before he could truly create.
    When I look at GW house style painted miniature’s i say to my self
    Hay that’s an amazingly PAINTED miniature! My point is I see the paint! I see the technique!
    And that is the next step if you can see the paint the techniques its just an amazingly painted miniature not living thing.
    Once you can’t see the technique you will fool the eye in believing that miniature is a living thing and then my son you are an true artisans