Inspiration: Painting/Project Motivation

by Massive Voodoo

Hooray Jungle Painters,

during the latest tutorial voting you decided to go for "motivation" instead of the Step by Step of Drakerys' Orc. Well, you choose and Massive Voodoo's year of the painter is happy to bring you your choice -  article number 245 it is right now.

This time it is Roman bringing you the article about Motivation. He is giving us all some deep insight into his oppinion and hopefully brings some tips and tricks on how you can tackle the lack of motivation.

And into his brain we jump now ...



Well, motivation. What a word.
I know the personal power of it when motivation inflames.
I know the lack of it.

Sometimes I find myself sitting in front of brushes, miniatures, colors and basing stuff with no joy in my heart, but honestly this is pretty rare. Lucky me. Usually I always carry a basic motivation with me as I do enjoy my passion so much. This is good as I made miniature painting my job and a long term lack of motivation means serious harm to my economics. This being said, it feels like I learned to force myself to stay motivated at a decent level steadily.

Motivation always has it source in the project you tackle. Sometimes my steady level of how motivated I am can go up or down. Sounds pretty normal again and indeed it is. Ups and downs during a project. But also your daily life brings factors into the game on how motivated you are when it comes to sit down at your workbench at all. There are reasons which are more way more important than tiny figure painting, no doubt on that.

A brand new idea can push your motivation bar high, a freshly announced painting competition, a book you have read, a movie you have seen, chats with friends, a song, something you've seen outside in nature and more ... all that can give birth to a project's motivation.

Motivation is the mother of all creation and so what "Anonymous" wrote in the comments on the tutorial voting is true:

"The first step in motivation is pick up the brush and paint stop scrolling through Facebook."


The Project-Motivation Curve
If you are motivated to paint, no matter what goal you have in doing so and if you take your time for painting the most important step of creating something is done. What I have learned in the past about tackling small and big projects is that a project itself has a - let me call it a "motivational sloping curve" that rises and falls during a project's advance. Following there is an example of a regular motivation curve during a project:

Another example:

If a project tickles you and you start with it the curve sometimes also goes this way, no good motivation to finish your project I'd say. This is more a curve of motivation I feel when it comes to vacuum cleaning the flat.

There are by no doubt many more of these different motivational curves. Important is to look at yourself once in a while to find out how you work, to find out what makes you go demotivated or what keeps you on track.

Simple as that. Now as we understood that we are ready to proceed to my personal average curve. Please know this is different from person to person and influanced by so many sorroundings factors of the specific project. Depending on different project topics, distracting life situations or just summer as a reason this curve might change. Please consider that this is just my personal look on my motivation.

Now the interesting part starts:
I try to seperate this curve into different stages of my project and want to understand why my motivation is high and low sometimes. Number of stages is five. Looks like this:


Stage 1 (blue)
(0% ~ 20% of Project Progress)

The initial stage of a project. An idea pops out of your brain, you start to collect your thoughts on it or even start to work on it initially. Usually my motivation shoots like a rocket into the sky in stage 1, but what I have learned about this stage is the following:

Biggest motivation problems you can encounter during stage 1:

- If you don't take your time to really think on which project to tackle you might find yourself inside tackling too many at once and motivation on all of them is fading away.

- You don't start prepared and might go like this: "ROAR! LET'S GO AND YEAH I GLUE THAT HERE AND THIS THERE AND YEAH WOHOOW YARRRR ... hey wait, damn I am in need of superglue or a specific part and I don't have it in my hobby stock, no! No! Where is it? No! Oh no!". This forces you to slow down and forces you to take your foot off the gas pedal. Motivation can slow down already in this stage if you are approaching an idea too fast. Sometimes it does work though.

Solutions to avoid motivational problems in this early stage 1:

- Think. Plan what you might need. Write something down if you can not keep it in your mind for long. Make sketches and notes. Look out for what you need, update your stock and make ready to go BOOM! with your idea, but do it well prepared.

- Calm down and avoid too many freshly started projects. If you are someone who has a brand new idea every two hours, sit down, take a sheet of paper and make notes of it. You will quickly realize that some of those ideas felt outstandingly superawesome first but after a little  rethinking are just dust in the wind.

- Talk with friends about your ideas, they might help you with their oppinion on your idea. They also might confuse you by telling you that they don't think the idea you had is superultraepic. Consider their oppinion seriously, rethink, but don't get yourself too confused. Follow your heart.

- Be honest to yourself, which means if you think an idea of a project is too big for you at the moment from the technical aspects of painting or sculpting then try to scale it down a bit to make it fit to your actual skill level. Pick about one to three aspects were you want to improve during this project, but not 723 aspects.

- Make sure to know what you are aiming for. Do you want to do a quick fun project, a unit painted in gaming quality or a big display competition piece. Make sure to know your goal up front to stay motivated with your goals.

- Take your time to prepare everything properly.

Philip says:
"Unfortunately I often lack proper motivation and I still haven't figured the right way to get motivated. But I am often motivated after shows or workshops. Sometimes watching a video tutorial does the trick for me."

Stage 2 (dark red brown)
(20% ~ 50% of Project Progress)

This stage is pretty well connected to stage 1. It's a fluid transition from one into the other. In this stage you start to work on your base, give your idea a proper visible frame, start to work with basic colours to see were your project will lead, enjoy the projected growth on top of stage 1. Motivation is still high in my personal curve at this stage.

Biggest motivation problems you can encounter during stage 2:

- Depending on the project the initial motivational explosion damps down a bit as you see how much work is ahead of you. When basic colours turn to be worked on, contrast is increased while painting, base details added. Everything is yelling at you for more work on it. It is just a normal reaction of a human being to get less motivated when confronted with tasks that take their time.

Solutions to avoid motivational problems in this early stage 2:

- Focus. Do what has to be done to make the overall picture of your project grow. Even there are tasks that you don't like when thinking of them. Do them. They will make you happy.

Do not disconnect. Don't let yourself be disconnected from the project and start another project in stage 1.

Max says:
"Try not to think too much about what you are doing and particularly not what you still have to paint. Focus on just painting what you are currently painting. Make a plan of the project in advance, write it down or just keep it in your mind, and then put it into action. No regrets, no looking back, and no look ahead as this might frustrate you. One step after another, that how it's done..."


Stage 3 (green)
(50% ~ 75% of Project Progress)

Right now you are sitting in front of a project that already looks like something. You can see the time you invested and you might know what is needed to make it even look better. Now this stage drains energy, the lack of motivation strikes and the curve is falling down. You think to yourself "Well, I am already working on it since some time, there is not much work needed anymore to finish it!" and this might be true when it comes to a quick project, but if you want to achieve more in your training of skills and in the final result of your project now is the time to start with it. It will be hard as usually a project could be called finished in this stage.

In this stage you bring in details, you work on details more deeply, you focus on small things you want to look better in the end, you focus on increasing contrast on your paintwork, work on cleaning up what you think is not clean enough and so on. The hard way through this stage will make you be rewarded by the outcome of the project, so motivation goes up again if you struggled through this.

Biggest motivation problems you can encounter during stage 3:

- There is hard work ahead of you now and your motivation bar shrinks. You might think, maybe it is time for a little break on the project and maybe you are right. Do a little break, but don't lose the grip on the project or your project will stay Work in Progress with a lot of dust on it for the future.

- You start to dislike what you are doing. You requestioning yourself and your skills like "Is this enough already?" or "I can not work on at the moment as I do not know what to do!" or "Well, I am lazy and I stop right now following my initial goal!". Motivation is getting less and less and

Solutions to avoid motivational problems in this early stage 3:

- Be strong and push on if your goal is aiming for that. If needed sit down, take a look on your project and write down a list of what you want to change and do so step by step.

- Don't force it. Take a break if needed, relax, maybe start a small fun project that you can work off in one evening just for the joy and the satisfaction of getting something done. Such a small side-reward can bring your motivation up again and brings power back to you. If you force it you will sruggle and get frustrated.

- Don't compare what you are doing on your project with other painters and their work. This will always defocus you and will suck self-confidence out of your own painting muscles. Don't compare, there is always someone who does something better or different than you. Always. There is no one outthere who is a painting god. People are different and so are their tastes in what they think is good, so are their skillset due different skill levels and long year experiences. Do not compare yourself to others. Enjoy your creation.

- Ask your friends, other painters or in a forum again, to recieve other oppinions if you stumble through foggy uncertainty on what to do next. Don't take every oppinion as golden, they are just oppinions and suggestions. Take what you like from it and put it to your project.

- Clean your workspace. Get things sorted again and free your mind with a different type of work.

Peter says:
"After I struggled with some long periods of lacking motivation in the past, I realized that there is no sense in forcing anything. Just step back from your desk, relax and invest your time in something else. Motivation for painting will come back sooner or later."
Stage 4 (dark green)
(75% ~ 90% of Project Progress)

This stage during a project is the time where you really want to just stop it and call it done. Compared to the other stages you now know that the worst had yet to come and now it arrived. It is the point when you sit in front of a really good looking project and think to yourself "shall I call it done after the ugly mind mess I had to struggle through stage 3" or "Is there even more that can be achieved by spending more time on it?".

Well, if you choose to work/push on you are truely a warrior and to those people who are unknown to the media of miniatures you look like a madman. And you are. As right now you and your motivation might go down in a pit of hell, where a hundred screaming spartan Kings await you and yell at you.

In this stage steps like maximizing the contrast of a transition here and there are to be found. Detail repairs of unclean color transitions, detail work on a base, detail work on the paintjob. It's down in that pit where you try to tickle everyone of those spartan kings yelling at you to recieve a smile from each one of them. It's hell, but it is rewarding.

Biggest motivation problems you can encounter during stage 4:

- You hate your project and what it asks of your endurance and mind. You do not want to work further on it. Your Motivation is at its lowest, you want to quit and you have all the right to do so.

-  The small detail work you find yourself in is not really visible to your eyes. It is not rewarding repairing a small area for hours and the result is only 3% better. No rewards, no motivation.

- You feel alone with your will of improving the project even more as all others think it is cool already.

Solutions to avoid motivational problems in this early stage 4:

- Relax and take your time, do breaks again, write lists of the smallest things that pop to your mind when you look at your project and want to improve it even more.

- Music. I for example manage this stage of motivational madness and sadness with a ritual. Im my example a movie soundtrack that always makes me go forward. Always. Everytime. A ritual, even I already heard the music for a hundred times and annoy my friends with it. It calms me, to sit down and enjoy what I am doing and it pushes me to unknow boundaries of motivation.

- Ask your fellow painter friends again. They might see different aspects than you do on your own while you already looked at the project for such a long time. First they might say "Cool project, all is fine!" or "Looks good for me!" but if you ask them seriously to put a finger on things they don't like you will get their oppinion. With this you can work on at those pointers. You do not have to take all suggestions into credit neither shall you get uncertain by a different oppinion. You will go your way through that motivational hell - on your own - but sometimes it is good to see directions if there are only spectres in the fog.

- Push yourself forward. If you manage to get many small areas pushed motivation will slowly rise again and make you see the sunlight rise on the edge out of the pit.

- Don't get angry if you try to clean something up and a mistake will kill all your efforts. It does happen to all of us. Take it, sometimes you can just not avoid it. So take it as a warrior and repair it again. Avoid your mistake next time, make experience.

Valerie says:
"Always focus on how nice the project will be when it will be finished and what you wanted it to be. look like in the first place. Picture yourself showing it proudly to the world, the way you wanted it to be always keep in mind the first idea, the firsts sparklings that created it, and be faithful to it."

Mati says: 
"When I am not motivated, I still just start. I enjoy it so much, that motivation comes by itself. I love that feeling of being "in the zone" so much that a lack of motivation is mostly only before you start. So once you started it will just flow. It is just that first step that takes some effort sometimes."

Stage 5 (olive green)
(90% ~ 100% of Project Progress)

Seriously? Another stage to fck up your mind after those yelling spartan kings? You just found motivation again and now you really want to call it done. Really, really.  C'mon you have come so far, you went through hell, have been strong, fought your way through all those bearded warriors, even became one of them after all this tickle-tackle and the beer together and still there could be mpre? Well, yes.

A final push. Add more detail, it could be material like thin floating belts in the wind or small little saliva drools on a dragons mouth, detail in the vegetation on your base, a last check of the light situation that you have painted, a last check in contrasts, a last check on everything. A last push.

Biggest motivation problems you can encounter during stage 5:

- You don't even know this stage existed.

- You want to end your project with that motivation you got by surviving and pushing through stage 4. On that hilltop of motivation where you found joy again, no more work. Please.

-  You are scared to mess something up again.

 Solutions to avoid motivational problems in this early stage 5:

- Believe in yourself. Be confident in what you already have achieved.

- Be aware of ending your project not on a hilltop of motivation, rather exhausted and pretty tired as you let the project and its final push drain all the energy from you. Than you can be serious that you have walked the way that you were able to walk.

 - Don't be scared. If you mess something up, don't get frustrated, do it again and again. Frustration leads just back to all those spartan kings yelling at you and you do not want that to happen again.

- Do what has to be done from your perspective now and call it finished when it is finished. 

Roman says:
"Every project has its time. The right time to start with it and the right time to call it done. If you want to force something on that road, you will stumble here and there and put your motivation to the test and very often you will just fail in the attempt, but failing is nothing bad, it is the exact moment you learn something new." 


Too long, didn't read:
Make yourself known to the way you work, behave, struggle, fight and how you take the challenge in different stages of a project. Learn to avoid your personal demotivation-moments. Be honest to yourself with it.
This has been an explanation on my personal motivation curve. 
I hope you enjoyed the thoughts behind it and I hope some of them are helpful for some of you.
Let me know in the comments what you think about this article about motivation during a project.
Now it is up to you to think about your own motivation. Try to look at you from the outside, try to remember why and it which stage you struggled during a project. What exactly went wrong? How can you avoid that for yourself? Do you find such motivational curves only in miniature painting projects? Well, I can only recommend always asking yourself that and always to be honest with your own answer to yourself. 

It is nothing wrong to say to call it "done" at a particular stage during a project . Nothing. It is your decision. You are the master of your imagination and your boundaries. You can push them forward or let them be. It is a healthy mix of both that keeps me going and never leaves me feeling stuck in learning.

Always remember: I'd say you can not reach perfection. No one can as the meaning of perfection is made of a persons taste or personal idea. You can only reach perfection for yourself, but I recommend to avoid that too. Why? Well, if the day comes when you find your own perfection the effect of learning might stop and this makes you stuck again.

Please remember too, that these thoughts on the topic are just my personal ones. 
Make your own.

Keep on happy painting!
Best Wishes

PS: Way too much text, eh? :P
PPS: Jungle Painter Candyman did sent a cool video about motivation and perfection to Massive Voodo - see it here!

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