Tuesday, 16 October 2012

On the subject of commission painting

So here's the part in the blog where I make a confession. For those of you looking for painting inspiration I have to say right up front that at this time I am using commission painting services to bring my minions and masters to the board.

As some of you will have glistened from my profile I work for one of the big 4 consultancy firms and that takes its toll on your free time. I quite regularly pull 12-15 hours days for my job and being in IT means that any remaining time really should be spent keeping up to date on the latest trends.

This when combined with a relatively busy family life, and heavy involvement in my local gaming club, means I'm lucky to have 6-8 hours for gaming a week, which most of you will know probably only equals one or two I painted minis.

I take no pride in fielding a commission painted army, I used to find painting very satisfying and relaxing and I was pretty good at it, but the reality is that painting your own crews is a time consuming business and I have to accept that for now, commissioning my crews is the only way to go.

Thankfully Malifaux is one of few games where I can probably get away with a commissioned crew in a tournament setting. The gaining grounds tournament outline is very clear on how painting should be awarded and it doesn't factor in an overall score. This is a pretty shrewd, meaning that a commission painted crew still has a shot at a podium finish, you just won't be picking up best painted.   Or you shouldn't... I go to extraordinary lengths to point out my crew is commission painted and I hope others do as well.

So onto commission painting itself, if you're reading this and considering the option then I think there are a few things to consider, namely:

1) Prepare well enough in advance, your minis may be away for a while, you need to have a proxy substitute available and you need to ensure you get into the busy schedules of those artists willing to undertake the work

2) Pick your artist based on their talents and a style you like. Don't rush to the first available and don't rely on a friend just because they have talent. The easiest way for a friendship to fold is because money or resentment becomes an issue.

3) Consider how much of the process you want to do yourself, the more you do, the less it'll cost and there's a sense of reward you get from being involved in the process yourself. For me that meant all minis were assembled, in some cases converted, were based and undercoated. Given how detailed and fragile Wyrd metal minis can be, doing your own assembly work can save you time and heartache.

4) Make sure you have the budget and make sure the cost of the work is agreed upfront. It shouldn't feel like your visiting a dodgy mechanic, whose going to have your minis up on the ramps before scratching his head and proclaiming that there's a lot more work here than originally thought and its going to cost you double.

5) My last piece of advice is to ensure you are involved in the creative process from the very start and all the way through. You are after all the client and these will be your babies, the last thing you want is for them to be screwed up. Even if you want your minis painted exactly as Wyrd painted them, you want to be involved often and always to ensure what you get at the end meets your expectations.

For me the path of choosing a commission painter was a long and convoluted one until I settled on Blue Table Painting. Here in Western Australia my local choices were fairly limited, and in one case had run up a reputation for not finishing or returning projects! I turned to the national scene and found a group of commission painters hanging out on Wargamer AU, but when I posted there was little availability and I wasn't overly inspired by the responses I received.

It was at that time that I turned to Blue Table Painting, a company in Utah who have made a reputation by applying a business standard to the commissioning of painting and assembly services. I'd used BTP once before and I'd been delighted by the result but this time I was asking them to paint 40 minis in under a month to a much more detailed level.

I have to say I can't recommend the services that I received enough. Zana, the artist assigned had a real passion for the work, Josh, the Art Director, did a fantastic job on following up on my instructions and checking the details, and the whole process was flawless from start to finish.

Now this work was undertaken at levels 6&7 on their scale and you have to understand that this is approaching but not quite the love you'd see put into a mini by Wyrd's painters to have it published on their website or packaging. If you engage any painter at a lower level you need to reset your expectations, don't expect a Golden Demon when paying $15 a mini.

The net result for me was a crew I'm proud of, but that I consciously tell everyone was commissioned.

Below us a link to the youtube vid BTP did of my crew and some pics from the gallery of acceptance photos they take for every commission they undertake.

Again I can't recommend BTP enough but good luck regardless of who you choose!

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