2013 - A Commission Painter's Year in Review

Dark Vengeance

I started this year the same way that I ended the previous year - working on a full set of Dark Vengeance minis for a regular client.

I think that the most interesting thing about the project was that I was expecting to enjoy painting the Chaos minis and be bored by the Space Marines. Turns out the opposite happened. I really loved painting those marines. Don't ask me why. I'm not really sure why I was so inspired by them.

Omega Battlemech

Next up on the list was something a little different. Counting this Omega Battlemech, I think I've painted half a dozen Battletech minis in the last 20 years. This is, by far, my favorite. This was actually painted for the designer of this particular 'mech. My friend, David White.

The mini is something of a beast. It had to be painted in pieces and then assembled, then touched up and I had at least once incident where it toppled over and came apart (it's metal so nothing broke) and had to be touched up again.

I'm super-proud of that model. It really came together well and go me working at a scale that I haven't done much recently. I think that this is also the model that solidified my approach to painting white.


One thing that was interesting about 2014 is that there was both a lot of repetition as well as a lot of new things. In the new category was an influx of RPG minis from a variety of manufacturers. I think that the bulk came from Reaper, but a lot of different companies were represented on the list. The guy on the left is from Dark Sword minis.

I can't think of anything better than somebody handing me a batch of fantasy minis, some loose guidelines on color, and telling me to go nuts. In many ways it's the best kind of commission. I get to do a lot of different things, so I'm never bored. I have some sense of direction from the start, so I don't spend a lot of time staring at a mini wondering how to get started (you might be surprised at how long I can spend worrying about a color scheme in the absence of direction). I do some of my best work in situations like that. 

Dropzone Commander Post Human Republic Army

Every now and then I actually put the call out that there's something in particular that I want to paint. Early in 2013 I had taken a shine to Dropzone Commander. I let people know via my videos that I was interested in painting some of the minis. Sure enough, one of my clients answered the call and I got a chance to paint this set of UCM miniatures.

The minis are both amazing and frustrating. The masters must be a thing to behold because the detail on the minis is amazing. Sadly, the casting isn't all it could be and some pieces needed to be replaced, a lot of work was needed on some of the pieces that weren't replaced, and by the end I was pretty much done with the minis in terms of enthusiasm. I LOVE how they turned out. My work had not gone without reward. Still, it pointed out to me some of the issues that miniatures manufacturers are always going to have trying to crank out vast quantities of resin models. I think GW made the point pretty well on their own with Finecast, but the problems aren't limited to them. There's nothing quite like a lovingly cast resin model. It's a process that requires time and attention. When you rush it the results can be underwhelming.

Dust Tactics: Axis Medium Walker - Luther

Although this is about my commission painting, I thought I might also mention that in the past year I have been able to get some painting done for myself! I know, it seems weird, but I do still enjoy painting for myself. One of the things that I feared about doing commission work on a regular basis was that it would kill my enthusiasm for painting. That hasn't happened. In fact, I think the opposite has taken place. I'm more enthusiastic about painting than I've ever been. I also am certain that I've never been better at it than I am now.

So what have I been doing for myself? Well, I started two Warmachine armies (Cygnar and Retribution), painted several X-Wing minis, Federation Commander ships, Some Dust minis and vehicles and have ever started work on a German army for Bolt Action. Most of them are still in my collection - though I did end up selling my Cygnar models to help get another player started in the game as well as giving me an excuse to paint Retribution minis.

Emperor's Champion

This was just a one-off for a client. It's actually the second time I'd painted this particular sculpt. The first time was when it was in metal when it was first released. This was a Finecast model. I had no problems at all with the casting. I think by this time GW had managed to sort out most of the issues with that line (which is now pretty much done). I love how it turned out. Especially the black sword. I'm not ever sure what made me go with that look, but there it is. 

One thing I sometimes have trouble focusing on is my bases. This once got just a little bit of extra detail that I think really helps give the model a lot of character.

Earth Reborn

Something else new in 2013 was painting sets of boardgame minis. I have a feeling that this is going to continue to be a regular thing as boardgamers are discovering how cool it is to have a full set of painted minis for their game. It doesn't hurt that many boardgames now have miniatures that rival some of the best miniature game pieces in terms of sculpt quality if not casting material. This set of minis for the game Earth Reborn turned out pretty great, but I also did a set of minis for Fury of Dracula. The Boardgame area of my portfolio is also one of the most popular sections.

Bethsoft Doom Miniatures (Painted)

 One thing that continued from last year to this year was DOOM! Last year I painted a bunch of DOOM miniatures and this year I also painted a bunch of Doom minis. The fact that Bethesda Softworks briefly released a set of the minis for the first time in 20 years resulted in part of the resurgence in interest. The things continue to be highly collectible and the fact that my painted minis come up pretty high in Google searches means that I'm likely to continue to get inquiries about doing more of these in the future.

 A quick check of my YouTube stats shows me that my volume of videos created has dropped a bit in 2013. I did 52 videos in 2012 and 43 in 2013. To be fair to myself though, I did spend a lot more time, effort and money improving the quality of those videos. I hope to continue doing that.

As I type this my channel has nearly reached 2000 subscribers. Which means that I picked up about 1000 subscribers over the course of 2013. Being Interviewed by The Wargamers Consortium gave me a nice bump in subscribers at the beginning of the year.  My X-Wing Mini painting videos seem to have been picking up new subscribers as well.

I really do love doing the videos but there's always a tug-of-war between needing to get projects completed and wanting to do the videos. There's just no way around the fact that shooting video slows down my painting. When you get into a groove you just don't want to break it to get the camera going.  I wish doing the videos paid as well as commission work. I would switch over to just doing videos in a heartbeat if it did.

 I've been jotting down my thoughts over several days and I'm afraid that this is coming across more disjointed than I'd hoped, but in a way this is really just an exercise for me. A way that I can reflect on what I did and where I might be going which is one of those things that one is expected to do at the beginning of a new year.

FYI - If you want to see all of the commission work that I did last year (and all previous years) I keep a set of them on Flickr.