Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Allegory of the Miniatures (part 5)

That time back in Shreveport was the last time I spent any considerable amount of time painting for other people, although I have sold some figures here and there in the last many years. Most for way too cheap. For instance, I wish I hadn't sold this one, at least not at what I let it go for:
But that's not really the point.

Before I get to the point, here's the last army type group of miniatures I painted. I intended to sell them when I started out on them, but, by the time I was finished with them, I decided I wanted to keep them. It's a group of Eldar troops from Warhammer 40,000.

The main thing here is learning to know what you're good at and recognizing it as such. When you're good at something but go around denying it, it comes off as fake or lame. Either you are so insecure that you have no faith in yourself and refuse to believe other people when they compliment you or you're just playing at the denial to get people to pump you up with comments like, "no, you really are good." Neither option works to your benefit. People get tired of being around someone that refuses to believe in his/herself, and false modesty, eventually, becomes offensive and tiresome as well.

Saying, "I'm good at this," or, even, "I'm better than you at this," is not arrogant when it's demonstrably true; otherwise, it's just delusional. And it's not the same thing as going around acting as if you are the king of the world. Arrogance is saying "I'm better than you at this; therefore, I am better than you." I'm a better football player, so I am better. I'm president of the student council, so I am better. I make more money than you, so I am better. The value of a person is not dependent upon a skill.

Likewise, humility is not acting as if you're not as good as other people. Humility is lifting other people up. Helping to elevate them. Being willing to bend down and give someone a hand. It doesn't do anyone any good when you can see that someone needs help with something and, yet, you go around self-effacingly saying, "no, really, you're great!" to that person and not helping them. Humility is being willing to get down in the ditch in your best suit and pulling someone out of the mess they're in. Humility is saying being aware that having more money or more power or more fame does not make you more worthy of person-ness.

So, as I've said in the past, yes, it's important to know where your skills are lacking, important to know in what areas you need to ask for help, but it's equally important to know what you're good at so that you know when to offer a hand to someone else that could use some help.

I am not the best painter out there. Far from it. If you want to see some really great painting, look up the Golden Demon winners from the miniature contest that Games Workshop does every year. Those things are amazing, and I sometimes wish I had invested the time to get that good. However, I was the best painter in the group I hung out with and, probably in that corner of Louisiana. If there was anyone better he was sequestered in a basement somewhere not letting anyone see what he was doing. At that point, it doesn't really matter anyway.

I spent a lot of time painting with my friends and showing them different techniques, not hoarding my knowledge. Yeah, I spent time putting myself out of business, as it were. The guy who bought me all the paints used to come over and paint with me all the time. We'd get two miniatures of the same type, and I'd show him what I was doing while he tried to reproduce it. And my cousin... well, my cousin would come over and paint so that he could get me to "help" him on the detail stuff that he couldn't do. Yeah, it was his way to get out of paying me to paint for him, but, hey, it gave me someone to talk to when I'd otherwise have been sitting there alone.

As the title says, all of this is an allegory. When I talk about grammar and punctuation, it is no way meant to be about "being better than anyone." I am, however, better at grammar and punctuation. No, I don't know that about each and every one of you individually, but I do know that in a general sense I'm better at grammar and punctuation. So, if I talk about comma usage, it's not about me going off about being better; it's about me trying to give you the tools to also be better. Like sitting down and painting with you and showing you how to do a proper dry brush stroke. If I review a book and talk about repetitive use of the word "then," it's not about me saying that I'm a better writer or a better person; it's to point out that there is such a thing as overuse of that word. I'm sure I have my own word reliances of which I may not always be aware. Like suddenly.

Anyway... I hate the idea of explaining an analogy, but, after you work with kids long enough, you kind of learn to explain everything. Better to explain it than to leave it open to someone not getting the point. So, if you know what I was talking about this whole time, that was great. If you didn't, don't tell anyone. Just say, "oh, yeah, I knew you were talking about grammar all along" and let it go at that.

Which is not to say that the painting story wasn't true; it was. I also felt like talking about painting. One of these days I'll get back to it for a little while.


  1. I'm a very talented painter and in time I will be a magnificent one. I know this to be true because after 6 months of painting I am better than many people who have been painting for 20 or more years.

    I am very bad at punctuation and grammar.

    I like the battleaxe. The weathering is very well done and is a skill I will one day acquire.

  2. I do have an issue with making self-deprecating comments at times, and I need to stop that. I need to embrace what I'm good at and not be afraid to flat out say it.

    I always seem to have a word I over use it, both in writing and aloud. Usually they are different words, though. As soon as I realize it and work on it, something else sneaks in while I'm trying to concentrate on not saying the other word.

  3. I am very much the insecure person who has no faith in herself. I don't like it much but so far I haven't found a cure for it either.

    I overuse 'then'... it's one of my watch list words.

  4. Some fine figures there!
    I get what you are saying an applaud the paragraph about humility. And about helping others. I'm happy to pass on anything I've learned on my journey. And a lot of it is more than just skill - it's attitude.

  5. It always sucks when someone sets him/herself above everyone else. I had to deal with someone like that recently. Pain in the arse.

  6. I have a tendency to overuse words and do try to correct it once I am aware of the fact. Hubby says one of them at the moment is "interesting", but when something is interesting I say so, not sure what to replace it with.

  7. That mech is incredible. Great job, Andrew!

  8. This guy who is a football player and head of the student council and is rich?

    He IS a better person than me. But in the end, I'm certain that we'll realize we have a lot in common with each other and in fact I'll be accepted into the popular group, or the popular group will join with my group, and I will get to date that hot field hockey player after all, and we'll all jump in the air together at graduation and go on to happy, successful lives.

    There will also be some wacky hijinks involving a goat.

    Anyhoo, that is some good paintin'.

  9. My friend entered the Golden Demon and (although I thought he was good) he told me that he felt ashamed to have put forth an entry in the contest once he saw what the other ones were.

    I love looking at miniatures that people paint, but don't like to play many competitive games. I've seen tempers flare when people lose one too many times. I hate sore losers.

  10. Anne: You've certainly come a long way since you started, that's for sure!
    The one thing I am very good at in painting is making things look like they've just come out of a battle or seen a lot of use. I'm less good at making things look like they just came out of the factory, but, then, I don't like that look as much. If I'm working on soldiers, I want them to look like soldiers.

    Shannon: It's a hard thing to do especially since, culturally, we take such a negative stance against confidence.

    M.J.: Well, keep watching for it -then-, because it's become one of my real pet peeve words lately.
    And have more confidence!

    Alex: Thank ya much!
    I find people have a difficult time with the concept of humility.

    PT: Yes, it certainly can be.

    Jo: Intriguing?

    Matt: Thanks! That's an Eldar War Walker. At least, I think that's what they're called. I may not be remembering correctly.

    Briane: Well, maybe if he's better at all of those things, but I meant those as individual examples. :P
    And thanks!

    Michael: That reminds me of this guy I used to play Magic with. He was a good player but not great at deck building. He tended to take deck ideas from magazines and stuff. At any rate, he decided to go to one of that National qualifying tournaments one year and just came back almost ready to quit playing Magic for good.

  11. First of all, when you said you painted, I had no idea! How COOL are those figures! Good job! Proving my point once more... I am NOT a good painter. For one, I lack the patience (let's face it, though - we all lack patience to some extent. Some of us love certain things so much that we will overcome our lack of patience for them...painting is not one of those things for me...). Also, I don't like that I can't "delete" my mistakes. :D

    I SO enjoyed reading this post. I just had a discussion with a coworker about this very thing. When people ask what I do, I say where I work. I NEVER say I write. Yes, I like my job, but who I am is not my job. I am much more of a writer than a technical specialist. I don't even acknowledge writing. I have a really hard time talking about it with others because I feel like I'm being arrogant by even mentioning it. It's a problem; I know. So I appreciated reading this because it helps me understand WHY it's a problem...great job!

  12. Barbara: Thanks so much! :)

    It can be weird how we edit ourselves to be "presentable," especially when so much of it is formed by societal expectations. Right now, we have a culture of average-ness that discourages anyone from standing above unless you are a culturally accepted celebrity.

  13. I think the only thing I'm able to say about my quality of writing is that I'm a better writer than 2009 Jess, 2010 Jess, and 2011 Jess. Which is good enough for 2012 Jess :)

  14. Hey Andrew,

    This is my response to your comments on DPK's recent post.

    "I'm a Republican.

    To Andrew, I'd like to say, please don't judge the book by the cover (industry pun intended:)

    I grew up and lived as an adult in several socialist countries (Ireland, England, France, Spain and Holland) but still wanted to come here legally; bide my time and wait until July 3, 2003, when I *chose* to become an American.

    And that, Andrew, is *the* smartest decision this "... less well educated... not educated about political issues... Republican" who lives here in Hawaii has ever made.

    My wife and I gladly take the baton from heroes like Honolulu resident Frank Tanabe who could'nt walk but still voted absentee for the last time just two days before he died at the age of 93 - even if he voted for a different party.

    Andrew, be informed. Please read both sides of the page - not all Democrats are Rhodes Scholars."

    Thanks, Andrew, I just wanted to make sure you saw my response.

  15. Andrew,

    I'm feeling a bit "sensitive" with the upcoming election so close, but I should have kept my political mouth shut on this forum, so I'm sorry.

    I have deleted my comments on Dave's post and your response on on my blog.

    Please feel free to delete my above comment and I hope you can accept my apologies to you - and Dave - for ruffling any feathers.

    Regards, Mark

  16. Jess: Of course, that is always the hope, to be able to say we are better than we used to be.

    Mark: Thanks for posting this over here, actually, because I hadn't seen it, and it was good to get the chance to chat.