The Pantsers & Plotters of Painting

This past month, I’ve failed my Army of the Month Challenge.  Sometimes, life gets in the way of painting an army per month, specially when you go at it haphazardly.  Which raises the question:  When it comes to painting, are you a pantser or a plotter?

The Army of the Month

For this past year, I finished one of my partly-started 40K army every month.  Alas, May’s army of the month is still quite unfinished as the second week of June draws near.

It is now finished and rocking the tabletop… Okay, that last past is a lie, I only played it at 1000pts and got wrecked.

There are tons of reasons that could explain this:

  • I painted 3 commissioned armies this month
  • The store had its biggest month since the opening two and a half years ago.
  • I spent more time building another army most of the month ( July’s AOTM )

But we don’t deal in excuses here.  This month, I failed.

I mean failed is a big word, I’ll just have to pick up the rythm a little bit and power through two armies this month.  It’s easy when you have a proper plan.

Which bings me to:

The Pantsers and Planners.

This term is originally about writers, but I find that it applies for miniature painters quite well.

Plotters, when it come to writing, are so called because they start with the plot in mind.  It starts like this, something major happens, and it will end like this.  They write the characters to get the story from point A to point B.

JK Rolling, before the twitter era, is one such example – Harry Potter had a set ending to book seven when book one was still unfinished.

Pantsers on the other hand, develop characters, and their story evolves around those characters without a super fixed ending in mind, they fly by the seat of their pants when it comes to writing.  The characters make their own choices and drive the story somewhere.

GRR Martin is one example, of shaping his characters and then letting their story unfold itself based on the choices his characters make.

And this translates into painting models quite a lot:  some folks plan out every details of their miniatures and don’t really start until they know how everything will be.

Others just start and see where painting takes them.

Who’s Who?

As with most things in life, the goal is to land somewhere in the middle.  However, as I’ve come to realize with this month’s failed project, is that everyone is leaning towards one end of the spectrum.

While researching for this article, I’ve come to the realization that I am most definitly a Pantser when it comes to painting models.  This realization came with a few clues:

  • I hate painting models to a super detailed scheme.  In fact, I don’t even take comissions that involve matching an exact scheme or that come with too many guidelines because I hate it.
  • Whenever I start painting something, even comission pieces, I rarely go into much details.  I usually give a broad idea or go along an idea for a main color and a vague  secondary color like glows or bases.  For example, Jack’s Chaos I presented the project to him as: ” Purple and Black.  Dope” or Eric’s Lucky 32 that came with the directive: “Not pink, but whatever”
  • I have a real hard time helping people at the store shape out every detail of their miniatures when they ask me for help.  My friend Max is starting Seraphon and came at me for advice with the scheme.  I was utterly lost answering his questions beyond how to do  the main colors for them.  As best as I could, I could think of 93 different colors and ways to paint the various colors of models, but which brown would go with which red tones, gold or silver, and what about… completely clueless.

What are the perks of each?

Knowing which type of painter you are can help you a great deal, as it will expose this that you can work on that don’t really involve skills or techniques ( I.E. this is not a case of gitgud scrub )

The biggest perk of plotters is that it’s really easy to stay on track and motivated to paint.  Models are at step 1,2,3, or whatever of 63.  Done with step 4, go with step 5 and so on.  Pantsers can get lost once they finish a step and don’t know where to go next.

The biggest perk of pantsers is that the finished results are usually more organic.  If you don’t plan on the colors of the boots or eyelenses or weapons, you are free to pick a color that fits with the model in it’s current stage.  Should the belts be light brown, dark brown, or an orange brown; it’s much easier to pick once the clothes and armor are already painted.

Overall, I don’t think one is better than the other.  But I know for sure that once I started testing this theory, I am way better when I commit to even the most minimalistic plan.

So what about you?  Are you a pantser or a plotter?

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