by Petrelka

Review: The Art of ... Volume 05 Tommie Soule

by Hansrainer

Hey jungle folks, 

this is Hansrainer again with the next title in the series: a review of the fifth book in The Art of... series by Dave Taylor Miniatures,

which shows you the work and tips of famous mini painters from different backgrounds and styles. This book is different from the other books in the series, which were more about the artistic vision and philosophy of the featured painters, because this book is mostly a practical guide to the basics of mini painting, written by Tommie Soule (a.ka. the_miniature_painting_tutor, a well known pro painter and teacher with over 20 years of experience in the hobby.

Tommie addresses the fundamentals of miniature painting along five main themes, each one about a basic part of mini painting, like having the right mindset, keeping your paint consistent, loading and shaping your brush, putting the brush on the model, and finishing more models. The book has the chapters set up accordingly: first, an intro that tells you what the topic is about and why it matters; second, a detailed explanation of the stuff and techniques that Tommie Soule uses, with pictures and steps that show you how; third, a summary of the main points and tips to keep in mind.

The best thing about the book is how clear and simple it is. Tommie Soule doesn't expect you to know or do anything already, and he tells you everything from the beginning, in a friendly and easy way. He doesn't confuse you with too many choices or variations, but he focuses on the most important and effective ways that he's learned over the years. He also reminds you to practice, try things out, and find what you like, and he helps you to find your own style and voice. The book is not supposed to be a complete or final guide, but rather a strong base that you can use and change as you want.

The book is also really well illustrated and made. The pictures are big, sharp, and colorful, and they show every step and detail of the painting process. The captions are helpful and short, and they go with the text without repeating it. The layout is neat and easy to follow, and the font is nice and fancy. The book is printed on good glossy paper, and the cover is hard and pretty. The book looks and feels great, and it shows the professionalism and passion of both the author and the publisher.

The Good

This book could be one of if not the best book on learning the basics of mini painting. It's a no nonsense approach but that's what makes it a must read for people who want to actually learn mini painting and not just go wow over painted minis.

The Bad

The Art of ... Tommie Soule is very different from any of the other books in the series I've read so far (1,2,3,6,7) and if you think it's going to be a book about the artist's journey and views with a bit of tutorial in there - that's NOT what you're getting.

The Ugly personal view

As I said before, this book is probably up there on the "must read" shelf by itself with Kirill Kanaevs Miniature Painting FAQ a.k.a "the Bible". I totally recommend it. It deals with the basics of the craft (not color theory, not volumetry, not concepts of composition but ACTUAL craft basics) in a way that I haven't seen in a video tutorial or any of the other books I have. If you're a beginner, a struggler or a wannabe painter - get this book. Read it, work through it - you'll probably learn a lot.

And that's it for today. Talk to you soon,



by Petrelka


by Petrelka

The love / fear relationship of intimidating projects

by Petrelka

Hey Jungle!

this is Petra writing today. And I'd like to tell you a story of my life: I saw a new mini on the market and bought that shiny new grey miniature. Of course, I'll paint that ...

... when I am more experienced! Raise your hand if you have ever thought - or even said that. Rest assured - you are not alone. But let me start from the beginning. When I came back to the hobby after almost 10 years of hiatus during my study times, I bought a lot of minis (those I liked a lot were based on their looks and not a specific genre or game). I started my addiction with my first Lucas Pina (Spira Mirabilis) figure: the three witches.

Three witches by Lucas Pina
This was Lucas' second release back then, when you still needed to pre-order via email and hopes were high that you could grab one of the number limited minis.

And when the three old ladies and their buddies arrived, I was full of joy, unpacked them and then put them back into the box and on the shelf. I got intimidated by the beautiful and - in my eyes - perfect sculpt. Back then I thought that with my current (very, very rusty!) set of skills, I would never be able to do that piece of sculpting art justice. I was in love with the three gals, but at the same time afraid to ruin all the work that Lucas had put into sculpting by putting any paint on them.

And yes, while writing these lines and proof-reading them - and with my current accumulated knowledge and view on life - it feels and sounds ridiculous to think that some paint could ruin a sculpt. Still - most of us have had this thought one or the other time: I will tackle this project when I have more knowledge, more experience, more proficiency, and have gotten better (in whichever way imaginable).

So, what happened between then and now ? I finished my studies, I started earning money on a regular basis, I bought minis in all shapes and sizes (because I could ), grew my army of opportunities very fast to a level where I needed to keep track with an Excel file (because I also am a living up to my German ancestry of being well organised *cough* 😂). And guess what? Almost 90% of those purchases were accompanied by the thoughts of "needed progress" to enable myself to actually start putting paint on things.

Boxes on a shelf
It's all about the organisation... whatever is snugly tugged away won't look like I am a shameless hoarder of grey resin (or hobby supplies).

If you can still relate to this situation upon this point: I salute you, you are still not alone. We all have our love / fear relationship to more complex and / or intimidating projects. And this sometimes also petrifies us to the point that we only hoard more and more instead of actually enjoying the process of choosing colours and thinking about schemas and ambience, imagining a story for the project to be told, and the most important tasks of starting, enjoying and finishing something. 

I do believe that this has to do with our primal instincts of "what if I suck at doing this" - back in the days when a hunter would need to fear starvation if they are not good enough at hunting, this thought could have kept us from extinction; even though I guess that hunters actually allowed themselves to suck at hunting from time to time, and just never gave up trying. In today's world, where we are a performance driven society and everyone only shows their glamour high reels on Social Media, it can even get more intimidating - because almost no-one shows their failures anymore, but only the very easy looking glorious results.

I got stuck into this spiral of hoarding (and not starting), for quite a bit of time and actually only started thinking about it after participating in a workshop with my great friend and teacher Meg Maples. (If you have lived under a rock and don't know her: she's an Australian based painter and artist - and if you have the opportunity: join one of her workshops!) So I went to a workshop she held in Berlin, and another participant actually mentioned a very similar thought about being afraid to ruin or destroy the mini. Meg's very wise and thought-provoking answer to this was along the lines of: " The only way you can destroy or ruin a miniature is by setting it on fire and letting it burn to ashes ."

Learning about paint attributes
Tip: Learning about the different capabilities and attributes of colours also helps to lower the hurdle to start a new project - because you will know how your colours behave.

There: it clicked. This was my personal eureka moment: If I actually cannot ruin a miniature by painting it - I wouldn't need to wait until I get better or am good enough. I can just start exploring the story of the miniature one brushstroke at a time, and do this right away. No imaginary need to wait anymore to gain proficiency. No self-imposed pressure of a vague, not graspable and even more fuzzy gut feeling. I understood that this unclear "when I am more experienced" information from my brain actually did not tell me anything about the exact point in time when this was going to happen!

It opened up all the creativity again and removed this self-created hurdle. So, what to do when these thoughts will emerge again, as it of course is sometimes not as easy as just switching on a light bulb. Nowadays, I get more easy with myself and ask: "what exactly is the very concrete thing that I want to get better at before starting the work?" Is it the topic of "smooth blending" or "human skin" or "non-metallic metal" or "ambience"? What steps do I need to do to get a better grasp of this topic? What exercises should I try out? What do I want to achieve with the paint job on this miniature? What steps do I need to take to achieve my goal of starting?

Allow yourself to suck at art
Another great read

I have a journal, where I can put these points down. And sometimes, when forcing myself to answer these questions, I find that I don't actually need to take any additional steps before starting a project. That way, I have freed myself of the stress and pressing thoughts about being good enough -  and just try things out on the actual model. I started allowing myself to suck at making art and not getting the perfect outcome on my first try. After all, this is a journey, and we learn more from trying new things and making mistakes than by doing the same thing over and over to avoid mistakes at all cost.

Ultimately, the question it boils down to is: what could possibly go wrong? I won't be able to set the mini on fire by plainly painting on it. And good news, everybody: neither can you.

You (and I) are ready to paint this miniature NOW; we'll get better by painting, not by solely contemplating about painting. We are already good enough. And if we do not like the outcome, there's always the possibility to strip the paint from the miniature and start all over again. Or to look at the paint job, nod at it, thank it for teaching us an important lesson, and put it aside as a "finished, not perfect" example on our very own, intimate and wonderful way of seeing things and enjoying life.

Which long pushed away project will you start?

Looking at my pile of opportunities, I've taken my three old ladies out of the box and am currently waiting for them to tell me their story and guide my brushes.



by Petrelka

Review: The Art of ... Volume 03 Ana Polanšćak

by Hansrainer

Hello and welcome back dear jungle readers,

This is Hansrainer and I welcome you to the review of the third Volume in the Series "The Art of..." - by Dave Taylor Miniatures. This book is all about the Croatian artist Ana Polanšćak, a household name in the grim dark scene. In contrast to many other sucessful miniature artists, Ana has no professional background in the worlds of arts and crafts and is wholly self-educated in her impressive skill-set of illustration, painting, photography etc. Before she authored this book, she had already a prolific output in her blogging activities, that culminates in her current website and older entries can still be found on her now inactive blog.

Ana has what I would call a profoundly integrated approach to painting miniatures, crafting her art and illustrations, gaming and telling stories. This approach and her very unique style are what makes this book very special. Again, before I go into the nitty-gritty details of the review, I need to disclose, that the book was lent to me by my friend Maren, who herself enjoyed the book tremendously. 

The basics are completely in line with the other books of the series: Silver embossed writing on the matte hardcover, it is well bound with a thread binding and includes a cloth ribbon page marker. The pages are high quality paper and the print quality is excellent. As mentioned in the past, the layout could be a tad more adventurous and the slightly marbled and speckled page background can at times be a tad irritating.

As with previous books of the series, Volume 03 has a certain biographical touch, the author providing us with a good insight where she is coming from and where here interests and focus lies. The first section "where I come from and where I'm going" gives a brief overlook and mentions many points and steps that will be covered more in depth later in the book.

 "World building" is the title of the second section and takes up roughly a third of the book. Ana gives us a good insight into her work processes and the factors and motivators that drive her. It becomes absolutely clear that pretty much everything she creates is embedded in one of many rich and flavorful settings she has and keeps crafting as a major part of her work, sometimes collaborating with other artists following a similar approach. The second very interesting thing is her strong tie into narrative gaming - and the emphasis is on narrative here. She introduces us to a series of small projects and warbands, created to fit seamless into worlds, locations, and stories. The pictures that illustrate that part of her work make that particularly obvious: They are all about telling a story, conveying atnosphere, generating a feeling - nearly not at all about showing off the painterly prowess of her work. In fact, the painterly aspect seems very subdued and relegated to serving the narrative. Unfortunately that impedes the photos a bit - for my taste they tend to be quite dark and it's hard to make out much of the painted models, unless it serves a narrative purpose.

The third section, "Gardens of Hecate" introduces Ana's own world, where the work on several warbands and concepts lead to the creation of compelling fictional world. Atmospherically, I would compare her work to what we see in games like Diablo, but with a clear focus on the small world: counties instead of countries - the scale stays relatable. I have to admit, that at this point I realised that the book was not at all what I expected, but that I enjoyed it reading it, nonetheless. Ana does a great job laying out her creative and thought-processes, which approaches proved to be successful and which lead to problems in the settings consistency further down the road.

"Dark Age of Sigmar" is the fourth section of the book, where we see where her journey took Ana past the Gardens. Again we are introduced to new Warbands and Factions and several small settings she created. But here the focus lies more on how she created multiplayer narrative events in these settings, the challenges she encountered and the tools she used to overcome them.

The last ten pages are dedicated to Ana's journey into sculpting miniatures and unique pieces. Again its interesting to follow her, and her depictions of mummifyed saints and reliquiae are terrifying to behold (at least to me).


The Good: This book is special - it's weird in a good way. If you like grim dark fantasy art, strong concepts with a lot of follow through - this is the book for you. If you like narrative gaming, maybe even Inquisitor or similar games - this book is likely for you. Even though I am personally into neither, I did enjoy reading it. Its the kind of "hm, interesting" book that opens a new world for some. On top of that it contains a chunk of good starting points and pages where one could start to look if you want to got deeper down that well. 

The Bad: The image quality varies - quite a bit. I was really intrigued by the scenic and narrative pictures and everything thats "within the narrative" so to speak. I was, however, not so happy with the "this is just the model" photos. I found them all very dark on the brink of underexposure - and from a painterly view, I'd have enjoyed to see more. I'd particularly have loved a bit more detailed, high level resolution views of the heavily converted models.

The ugly personal view on the book: For me its a mixed bag - I actually almost always enjoy books that deviate from the step-by-step, "this is how my model evolved"-template many authors seem to follow. I am really happy for a book and a perspective that basically doesn't really care that much about how different models where done and even the "why" is only circumstancial. It was actually a good read. On the other hand - I usually expect some reuse value from a book like that (and that might be a misguided expectation) in the way that I see myself go back there for advice "how to" or inspiration or such. In this case this is not likely for me, because its honestly not my cup of tea. Overall the style is a bit too dark, to sullen and gloomy for me. But as the header says: That's personal taste. 

Overall, had I bought the book for the full cover price of ca. 32€ I would not regret it. If you're into that art-style, its amazing. If you're into narrative wargaming its a really good read too. If you enjoy reading the views and woes of other artists - this is another valuable perspective.

I hope the review could interest you in the book or resolve some questions - I'll be back with volume 4 in a few weeks!