Art and the Hobby: illustration, fine art and street art

Hi everyone,

This is a little embarrassing. It’s uh, been quite a while hasn’t it? Thank the various gods and philosophies for Dave G and Thuloid, hey? Those guys… they’re really holding it together while the rest of us take five. Oh and Fearless Leader Lo of course. Anyway I’m back. A little older. A little crazier. Let’s party…

I don’t want to go into a big dramatic story as to why I suddenly vanished, so I won’t. Briefly: I had some sort of a… something. An episode. If I were a religious man I’d say it was an epiphany. If I were a business man I’d say it was a mid-life crisis. I’m not sure what a psychologist would say because I’m still on the waiting list!

I was feeling quite depressed and anxious for several months, which is unlike me. Especially because I couldn’t identify an obvious cause. Then one morning I woke up and it was like I’d woken up in more ways than one. My mind or soul or some deep but convincing part of me said “what do you think you’ve been doing with your life for the last twenty years young man? Why haven’t you been drawing and painting pictures? Stop pretending you like doing anything else and get back to it!” And the rest of me said “hey, that guy’s right!”

So I did. Aside from going to work and spending time with my family, I have done nothing but draw and paint for a couple of months now. I’ve been drawing in my lunch breaks at work. I’ve got a new perspective on life and my place in it. Actually it’s more like I’m a different person, so things look different. A lot of what I used to care about seems to have lost its importance. Also, I’m being glib. It’s been a pretty unpleasant and unsettling few months.

On the positive side, I suddenly don’t discriminate at all anymore between art and hobby. I find it hard to comprehend why I ever thought the two things were somehow separate. I’ve been trying to do a bit of art every day and this can mean a sketch, some work on a canvas, or on a model. It’s all building skills and it all cross-pollinates.

All of this means basically that a) I’m finishing models lately, and b) I’m in a pretty good place right now to talk some more about bringing the hobby and art together. Which I am happy to do because this place is a genuine community with a good heart and worth contributing to *wipes away manly tear.*

The first of my articles on this subject is here. I mentioned three kinds of art that I felt our hobby has links to or a possible affinity with, of one sort or another: illustration, fine art, and street art. Today I want to talk about those approaches in a little more detail. There are also obvious links between our hobby and crafts, but I think Dave has that covered. Taking our hobby to makers movement events is a strong step towards getting what we do more widely understood, and that’s a good thing right?

This is my Riptide. There are many like it but this one is mine. He is illustrative of my mercenary Tau, with his captured Ork trophy-face and peg-leg.

This is my Riptide. There are many like it but this one is mine. He is illustrative of my mercenary Tau, with his captured Ork trophy-face and peg-leg.

The hobby as illustration/fan-art

I think this is what most of us do, although we don’t call it that. We express ourselves in illustrative art. Our models bring to life a scene or an individual in the context of an existing story. That story is the game setting. The models are the characters. It’s as if we’ve been commissioned to provide art for a book. We read the book, get a feel for what the audience expects to see, and then make our illustration. Another way of looking at this is that we are fan artists, making works that celebrate the thing we love. I suppose it depends on the work you produce. A “historically” accurate pre-Heresy Death Guard Fellblade is more of an illustration; my company of human and Tau mercenaries are like fan-art. I made them up to fit in the cracks of the 40k background and people could conceivably argue that they could never “happen.” I think this illustrative ideal best captures what is unique about miniatures art in its current and most-practiced form: it blends story-telling and narrative with three-dimensional physical objects.

Lizard Pilot Concept

Either way, to count as art, our work needs to meet some standards.

The illustrative modelling and painting we do has to look good. It’s art after all. “Looking good” can of course mean fabulously ugly, but works that violate the general tenets of colour matching and such that humans have painstakingly discovered over millenia aren’t going to cut it. Again, Dave G has posted a great series here at the House on these more basic technical aspects. My series is going to be more conceptual. The way I see it, art has several aspects, including the technical and the conceptual. I want to hopefully start some discussion of the conceptual aspect of miniatures art because I think the general focus in the community, even amongst our best artists, is on the technical aspects.

Right, so secondly, our illustrative art has to be “correct” or recognizable to the audience (in our case others who are familiar with the game worlds). This can be restrictive, but I suppose that’s where the illustrative approach hits its limit. Bright purple-skinned Cygnar guys in a Warmachine game are going to mess with a lot of peoples’ suspension of disbelief, and suspension of disbelief is important with this approach.

Thirdly, as a bonus, it has to fit with the setting aesthetically, while looking fresh. This last one can sometimes be the hardest to achieve. If you’re Angel Giraldez or someone doing a studio paint job, you need to be subtle. You have to achieve the fit and the freshness purely with the paintjob, rather than messing with the model at the elemental level. He can’t kitbash a robot to represent McMurrough, obviously. But you or I could…

The hobby as fine art

This, I think, is where I am at and what I’m most interested in right now. I find the idea exciting and like I said, I don’t see why art and hobby can’t be one big thing. It probably means forgetting about a model’s intended use (in games or what-have-you) and what it means to our little subculture, and instead using the models to create some sort of calculated effect that is readable to someone who doesn’t even know what a space marine looks like. Fine art is meant to have a wider context after all.

This man does not know what a space marine is.

This man does not know what a space marine looks like.

There’s no reason not to include things that only a member of our scene would get, but I think it’s not strictly necessary. They’ll be able to take more away from it anyway, just by looking at the models you chose to use and other choices you have made. A general art consumer though will probably assume, if they see a miniatures-based art work in a gallery, that the artist sculpted all the models themselves, and I think it’s therefore important to be clear when you have not.

There's more than one way to paint a model.

There’s more than one way to paint a model.

It occurs to me that you might not get what I mean when I say “use the models to create some sort of calculated effect that is readable to someone who doesn’t even know what a space marine looks like.” I mean something like this: a local gallery in Canberra recently had a show of “low-brow” artworks inspired by Danny Trejo. There were Danny Trejo paintings, and street art, and skate boards, and a whole bunch of other stuff. I heard about it too late to try and contribute, but I immediately wanted to buy one of the many Danny Trejo clone miniatures on the market and a bunch of zombies and create a diorama of Machete fighting zombies. This would be instantly recognizable as having been done before in our scene. I mean there’s a character who is basically a Machete knock-off in Zombiecide right? But to someone not in our scene, it would look like an amazing artwork of a super tiny Danny Trejo fighting teeny tiny zombies, and they could draw all sorts of pop cultural statements out of it. And they might even buy it…

The hobby as street art

This is also exciting I think. It’s art as playful rebellion, and our hobby is in many ways decidedly non-rebellious and conservative. Politically and creatively. I think to work well, miniatures-based street art would need to be similar to miniatures-based fine art, e.g. readable to passersby outside our scene. Every time I see a tree with knitting all over it I want to put a tiny crashed UFO at the base of it, with grey aliens scratching their heads. I wonder how long they’d be there for?

My son drinking his coffee and admiring the yarn bomb (he's not really drinking coffee, I'm not a glutton for punishment).

My son drinking his coffee and admiring the yarn bomb (he’s not really drinking coffee, I’m not a glutton for punishment).

Anyway that’s enough for now. Sorry I went on about myself for a bit at the start. Setting the scene you know? I don’t know exactly when I’ll be back; hopefully sooner rather than later. Next time I’d like to talk about creating a miniatures-based artwork, from concept to the beginning stages of execution. I’ll give you a hint: it’s about samurai…

Till then, have a good one!

James

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  • The reason for the disconnect between miniatures and art is because most people approach minis as a game. They’re not wrong. 99% of gamers paint minis so they’re not fielding bare metal. Some field unpainted because they have no interest in painting. (Or pay someone if they can afford it. ) Painting has always just been cathartic for me.

    I paint in the styles I do because I don’t care about realism, I want my minis to look cool and fit their aesthetic. More people should just paint for themselves and not be intimidated by stereotypes of what looks good.

    My only problem with art and the hobby is most of the people liking my stuff on Deviant Art seem to be furries… maybe that’s just DA.

    • Aren’t most people on DA furries? It’s a biased sample pool 😀 It’s funny, I remember furries were so shocking in the early days of the internet. It was the nadir of humanity! Now everyone just kind of shrugs them off. Hardly seems important or threatening that some people like dressing up as humanimals for their kicks. Not these days.

      I think you’re probably right about why there is that disconnect. The reason I have finally and entirely disappeared up my own ass, I mean er… stopped seeing the disconnect, is that I’ve pretty much lost interest in gaming since my little episode. It’s not like I even ragequit. Just stopped. I remember Zab also quit/lost interest in the gaming aspect just before he began focusing on display painting. So maybe these articles won’t be interesting to the 99% of people who read this site, but to a few they might be. I’ll try and put nice pics in at least.

      • I’m very interested in this conversation. Keep going.

        • You mean about the furries or about losing interest in gaming? 😀

          • Thuloid

            It’s all connected, I’m sure.

    • I’d also say that of those 99% of people painting just for gaming, most of them are also making illustrative art according to my above classifications. Everyone who paints their Blood Angels red or their Orks green is making a conceptual choice to accurately illustrate the source material, even if they don’t acknowledge it.

      Wierd, my second reply went above my first…

  • Von

    Did I show you this before? I don’t remember. Anyway: graffiti, of sorts, around the back of St. Leonard’s Square in London.

    https://kaptainvon.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/2015-04-14-17-55-43.jpg

    That’s just there, presented for anyone taking a shortcut or a crafty smoko in this little corner of hipster central. I have no idea who put it there, or why, but there it is. Ork rave.

    • This is awesome!

    • You did show me that before, it’s exactly what I’m talking about. Is it actually there, or is it a poster?

      • Von

        It’s a very, very well printed poster.

        • I really like how the buildings just look like cardboard cut-outs but the graffiti gives them a real illusion of realism. They’re like those old Charlie Chaplin Hollywood facades.

  • Knight_of_Infinite_Resignation
    • No I’ve never seen his stuff, thanks, that’s really cool 🙂 Love that snail shell.

      I have a few of those little architectural models actually that I picked up somewhere. They’re obviously less blinged-out than the ones we’re used to but the proportions are very natural.

  • Thuloid

    Very interesting stuff, James.

    I’ve been thinking about art much more than usual lately, through a new friend. He’s an art critic who splits his time between Miami and NY, and has done some serious writing on the topic of modern at and theology. As part of my day job I brought him up to my little corner of Pennsylvania for a weekend to engage some folks here in a way they aren’t used to.

    One thing he’s made me aware of is the way that modern art exists within its own social world, and what that means. So, yes, perhaps a wider context, but that doesn’t necessarily imply a wider audience–in fact, the audience might be very narrow indeed. My friend insists that modern art isn’t something that is for everyone–it’s not “culture” that we need to get in order to be educated. A work addresses you in a way that’s meaningful to you or it doesn’t. This means there’s got to be quite a bit more at stake for the artist than whether or not it looks like a proper space marine (or even like Danny Trejo).

    • Hey Thuloid. Yeah… fine art is a funny thing. I know a lot of people who went to art school (which trains you for the fine art world) and are at various stages of art-related careers, and I’d say only two of them are actually completely a part of the fine art world. And both of them come from families of practicing artists. The rest make work that is somewhere in between fine art and pop cultural art, or is pure pop culture, or they don’t make art at all and have become teachers or writers or food people. I think there’s an overdue cultural shift happening at the moment where art is being re-connected to the mass of people as something that it’s OK to appreciate and understand. Hence the proliferation of websites like bigcartel, etsy, redbubble, tshirthell etc. where artists and designers can sell their stuff by the piece to consumers who just see it on the net and think “hey I like that.”

      And that’s what your friend is getting at maybe? Successful art is art where people look at it and they instantly like it, on a gut level. They don’t need to know why they like it – that’s for critics.

      In a way it’s easier to make art for a subculture, be it geeks or Danny Trejo fans (who let’s face it probably identify as geeks). You can use symbols you know are appreciated by that subculture and ignore trying to make something that appeals to 9 out of 10 people. I think personally that fine art is ideally art with all the subcultural references stripped out so it appeals widely, and looks good to almost everyone. But all too often it’s art made entirely of subcultural references, and that subculture is the fine art world.

      • Thuloid

        “Like it” is not how my friend would put it. As far as he’s concerned, modern art comes out of a profoundly uncomfortable place, and it’s supposed to be challenging. He’s not opposed to the sort of work which is made to sell to people who just kind of enjoy it, but that’s not what he writes about, and he’d consider it a different animal on that basis. What counts as success between the two might be quite different.

        I think he considers his job as a critic (or as a museum curator, which he’s been), to suggest that a certain work might be worth a longer look. Maybe somebody will pull out a painting he acquired for a museum some decades from now and put it on display again, or read an essay by him and then go and look at some paintings. But he does that because he believes art can have something really powerful to say. Again, not to everyone–a given work might not be for me. That’s fine. I’m not deficient because I don’t get it. But maybe it’s for somebody else in a really big way, more than just “I like it.”

        As an art historian, he’s equipped to “get” all the references, which most people aren’t–the subculture part. But he thinks it’s a lot more than a set of references. There’s an artist in Miami he works with who gave up a serious career in physics to do art as a career, with no guarantee he could make it. It was important to him. That kind of story isn’t uncommon.

        But there is room for different artistic cultures, different approaches. You spell out three. I see no reason why “the hobby as fine art” couldn’t exist, but I’m not sure we’ve seen it yet. Who paints miniatures with that much of themselves at stake in the process?

        • Right OK. I suspected I didn’t quite follow you earlier and now I see that I didn’t. I’m still not thinking that sharply to be honest. Often lately I have the feeling that I’m feeling my way. Maybe because my perspective has changed a bit.

          Anyway, so your friend is most interested in “real” art, that challenges people and is all about purity of expression, intensity, authenticity and all that stuff. He believes art has power and worth beyond the simply aesthetic power to move people. I’m not an art critic or historian (not anything really), but that sounds very modernist to me; very 20th century, fraught with assumptions about truth and genius. The masses today are suspicious of those sorts of claims about art, which is funny considering how self-obsessed people generally are as a culture.

          I’m sympathetic. I think if you create something and it isn’t risky and painful for you in some way, then it isn’t likely to be great art. Other people can sense the blood sweat and tears in some heretofore unexplained way. But I think even many fine artists these days do not see themselves in this way. They seem more concerned with being clever, or simply with mastering technique. There’s nothing wrong with that of course. And the things aren’t mutually exclusive. Andy Warhol is a great example of a 20th century transformative genius who lived his art to the death, even though his art was intentionally banal. Damn, I’m getting that foggy feeling again that I’m losing track of what I’m saying!

          I know in some way how that ex-physicist feels. I was going to explain further but there’s no need.

          As for the hobby as fine art, I reckon you’re right. No-one has done it yet. Maybe I can, maybe I can’t. At the moment I think I’m still learning this whole “turning yourself into art” thing, so my first few attempts at art using models are likely to be more about technique and cleverness until I’m strong enough in those areas to really express whatever it is real art expresses.

          Whatever, art is not about the techniques or materials you use. That is simply down to the artist’s background and what they are familiar with, and what is right for the medium.

          • Thuloid

            Yeah, hazards of a few sentence slapdash summary of a guy who writes whole books. Yes, his frame of reference ought to be modernist–he’s a modern art critic. Time periods he’s working through are mid 19th c and on. Though, I have to say he is idiosyncratic, in my opinion in a very good way.

            Interestingly, when it comes to looking at a painting, he’s not very focused on the artist. He’s interested in the painting and the person in front of it. “Genius” doesn’t seem to enter the picture. If the artist does, it’s through the work. Mastering technique takes a lot–but by itself, it’s just technique. It’s not art any more than music is notes or writing is letters.

            I identified with that ex-physicist as well, and thought you might. Said artist is really into Wittgenstein–I don’t think I need to explain that, either.

          • But different mediums speak to people for different reasons. People can look at a scene in nature or even graffiti and see more depth than if they were to look at something hanging in a museum. There’s also that stereotype of people who look at 3 lines on a canvas and make up all kinds of shit they feel.

            I agree miniatures aren’t traditional art forms.. and maybe we wouldn’t look at one and see some kind of emotional depth, but it’s a new art form. Artists are doing more and more to create some next level minis these days. We have the opportunity to explore the medium and forge ahead.

          • Thuloid

            Sure different media can speak differently. But artists have been calling attention to that for some time–a painting of a penguin is not a substitute for a penguin. The fact that it’s flat and hangs on a wall isn’t incidental to what it is. So whether we’re talking a mural or, hypothetically, a miniature, the medium isn’t incidental to what the work is trying to do. It’s not that painting is “better” than anything else–it’s that it’s painting, with its own history and characteristics.

            A miniature could be very interesting. But paint job aside, think of what we’re going for in miniatures–little guys who look like badass big guys. What’s valued is dynamic action and “accurate” (insofar as we can imagine what a space marine or an orc looks like) representation. Pits in the surface, artifacts of the casting process, things that call attention to its being a miniature–these are commonly held to be “bad.” I wonder what it would mean if a sculptor in 28mm valued things differently.

            As to people who make things up in order to impress other shallow people, I’m not sure we should care. People pretend to like books all the time, both good ones and bad ones. That isn’t a strike against writing. But it is a warning about who we should listen to.

          • But we see examples of beautiful airbrushing, detailed freehanding or simply exceptional levels or detail that call to us and make us pause. Well done NMM really stands out for example.

          • Thuloid

            Sure. It’s not nothing to paint a figure well. But I think those elements mean something in the context of a whole figure.

          • I would say that there are a few that have done the hobby as fine art. Angel Giraldez is a supreme example of hobby as fine art.

          • I don’t know, I think Giraldez is certainly technically amazing, and is always pushing the boundaries of technical skill, and that’s certainly part of art. But it’s not all of it.

            I think what Thuloid is talking about, and me too, is a miniature that an art critic could look at and declare was important culturally or deliberately said something interesting about society or something. As far as I know Giraldez just, you know, paints models to look good. Like everyone else. He’s just really really really good at it.

          • Thuloid

            Yeah, I LOVE Giraldez. But he’s a studio painter for a miniatures company, employed to make their figures look like the illustrations in the books. And honestly, better. He does that, amazingly well. But he’s totally a “make this game piece look awesome” kind of painter. He might well have the talent and the imagination to do a different kind of art, but that’s not what they pay him for.

          • Smoke88

            Some of the work by Banshee is nudging at areas of expressive painting and is getting pretty loose. The busts he does are damned interesting ways of dealing w colour and mood. Him and Jeremie Bonamont. Legend painters.

          • Hey Smoke, I think The_Warlock shared one of those busts on facebook a little while ago. Is he Spanish? Banshee I mean, not er… Warlock.

            Whoever they were, the artist had written a little post about the tyranny of smooth blending and “realism.” There are definitely people in the world out there who are keen to expand the community’s horizons when it comes to style – some of them much better technical painters than I am. That makes me happy.

          • Smoke88

            I think Banshee is on a pretty cool angle in regards to how he approaches painting. I imagine he is on putty and paint if you want to see more of what he does.

            He runs classes that I would love to be a part of. The likelihood of him being in NZ is rather remote however!

          • Thuloid

            I’ve had the pleasure of seeing one or two of Bonamont’s pieces up close. Absolutely amazing.

  • Nice article I’m glad you found some inner harmony I think content is a state we should all reach for and a lot of the time a lot of modern day angst is linked to a belief we are all entitled to more than “just” content.

    I’ve long since resigned myself to the fact I’m not terribly artistic minded talented or inclined. I’m awful at painting models but I enjoy it I find something quite therapeutic about picking out all the little details but mostly I just want them ready for the tabletop

    • Thanks DC 🙂

      Yeah, I don’t believe we’re put on this earth to be happy. The Buddha, the Greeks, all those ancient people knew the truth: Content and balanced are the best we can do and the way to real… contentedness. The Abrahamic religions also suggest that there is always pain in this world.

      What goes up must come down, and I’m certain that we live in a decadent society. Many of us are mortally afraid of suffering because it is the unknown. We are brought up to be addicted to pleasure, but we know deep down that humans are supposed to have joy and suffering and when one is missing you only have half a life.

      In the immortal words of Beavis and Butthead, you gotta have stuff that sucks so you know when stuff is cool 😀

      • I am going to say that happiness is possible, but it’s a choice. It takes work, and it’s fragile.

        • Yeah. I agree it’s possible to be happy, and that’s a good way to put it – a choice you have to work at, and fragile. But I think believing that the point of life is to be happy is dangerous. You run the risk of bottling up emotions and denying reality. How we accept disappointments and tragedies says more about our character I think that how much happiness we’ve managed to gather up.

  • Von

    A few more thoughts just plopped and trickled through my brain-casing, and freshly adorned with dust I present them for your perusal:

    Firstly: dioramas. Dioramas could be that sort of thing that’s readable to the not-We in the way that you suggest the miniature as art should be. Think about the Duel categories in painting competitions. This dude fighting that dude. There’s a lot of implicit narrative and symbol and resonance and suchlike that you can build into a simple confrontation without necessarily having a clue who each of the little dudes is supposed to represent – or even that representation is supposed to be involved. Now scale it up. Did you ever see the Siege of the Emperor’s Palace, or Big Toof River, or the Vengeance of the Vampire? Those massive GW displays from the mid-Nineties? Are those more in the right lines? Or are some of them too reliant on specific bits of visual and narrative language from the settings, rather than archetypes that transcend and inspire them? There’s a permanence to them, too; you can’t pick those miniatures up and move them. They are not gaming pieces. They represent a moment in time, but in ‘battle depiction’ time rather than ‘playing Warhammer’ time.

    (Apropos of nothing: I recently found out that the staff who built those displays were sacked in one fell swoop, and their replacements were cack-handed oafs who trashed the displays at their first Games Day run, all for want of asking their predecessors how the works should be handled.)

    Secondly: http://www.exprofundis.com/ . Ex Profundis. If any of you knew that this thing existed and didn’t tell me about it beforehand… you’re a rotter. Anyway; here’s a bunch of people who seem barely connected to gaming, if the comments on their Age of Sigmar post are anything to go by. Is this more or less like art? I don’t know, but it’s literate and elaborate and it puts my clumsy efforts quite to shame. Then again, I’m not an artist, or even a craftsman. I envy more the way they write and seem to think about things.

    Thirdly: the idea of credit where it’s due, saying “miniature sculpted by Werner Klocke and painted by me”, seems nothing unorthodox. Certainly it’s how I annotate photographs of models when dumping them on DeviantArt. I remember how disappointed I felt when nobody laughed at me or told me off for pursuing a style of painting which made the most of the miniature as sculpted thing – taking off the shine of bare metal and replacing it with light and shade on existing details, without showing off my ‘mastery’ of brushwork and colour at the model’s expense.

    • Thanks for weighing in Von. Those Ex Profundis folks; I haven’t seem them before. They remind me a lot of the Iron Sleet blog.

      I would almost call it a movement without a name. There seems to be this “alt-hammer” (how’s that?) bunch of people making serious conversions of models that conform to something like the oldhammer aesthetic, and eschewing the cartoonish new look GW universes in favour of punk perversion a la the 1980s and early 90s. They are exclusively (sometimes aggressively) into GW universes, but often seem to disdain the games themselves and the universes in their modern form. But what they make doesn’t look exactly like the old stuff either – it’s still new stuff, being made now. I think Blanchian and Miller-esque art with a sparse Scandinavian aesthetic is how the Iron Sleet guys put it, but then they’re Scandinavians. It goes to show that the empire GW has created is big enough and old enough to have splintered into various sects with different emphases, a lot like a religion 😉

      I definitely think dioramas are the way to go. A single model displayed as such is interesting because to Us, the model is almost invisible. It’s the canvas, maybe because we know it has been mass-produced. But I think to one of the not-We, the model will probably be the thing they see before they see the paintjob, if they even separate the two at any point. So a single model to them is going to look like it’s being presented to have the sculpture admired, and then if they find out that anyone can buy that sculpture in any quantity, they might think “well what’s the value of that, you’re just showing me a Star Wars figure. That you painted.”

      Actually that’s a cool idea: painting commercially available toys using the arsenal of techniques we have available to make some sort of statement.

      But to get back to what you were saying, a diorama has an impressive totality about it, and it’s clearly been assembled with thought and care. I don’t want to say much more because dioramas are where my next post is heading…

  • As long as we’re having a solid conversation about art and the hobby, here’s something I’ve pondered. What does Putty and Paint do for the hobby? At first I thought it an interesting resource of high quality art… but you can get that at CMON if you sort by ranking. Is it elitism? That said, a lot of people seem to like fawning over high quality images. Is that behavior our community’s version of entertainment rags? As I type this I wonder if I’m onto something, with rumor sites and forums acting like tabloids.

    (I recently unfollowed p&p because I was getting an elitist vibe and wondered where others stand)

    • Interesting. I’ve never seen that before. Just going by their FAQ and About pages… I have to say it irks me.

      Firstly, the invitation thing. “You need to be invited by an existing member. Now and then members will get a invitation code to invite a new artist.
      Please do not ask us to send you an invitation.” So you can’t approach them? What if you aren’t moving in the regular circles? This is an issue traditionally with art in general, but the internet mitigates it. These guys are just putting the social barrier right back.

      Secondly, and more importantly, the voting thing worries me. Is this art or not? If so, then tallying up numbers to get a score seems a little too… methodical. If people are judging by taste, why the numbers? Why not just a simple thumbs up or down? But that doesn’t work either. Art is hard to judge, and art prizes in the fine art world recognize this and concede that a great deal is in the eyes of the beholder. Numbers don’t enter in to it. Yes there may be a winner, but you can’t “lose on points.” Personally, I strongly believe that this numerical voting system is not a good way to judge art. Well, it’s as good as any other way, which is to say it should be taken with a grain of salt, not used to rank people so they can create a prestige brand and sell more works.

      Honestly, to me, this reminds me of a medieval craft guild. You have to be invited by a member, and the members have different levels, and they seem to want to set themselves up as the go-to people for “great” miniatures art. Only P&P members can win P&P medals… sounds like a recipe for creating a strong stable of technically excellent artists, but maybe not the best environment for nurturing non-standard art.

      I dunno, like I said, just a first impression. But some food for thought.

      • Yeah, these seem like appropriate reactions to their method. And you’re right about ranking. Like they tried to create something different but put standard methods of review into place.

        They were also handing out invites to anyone who’d review them when they first launched, there’s also a bit of a skew. I wouldn’t because I didn’t feel comfortable promoting it.

        Numbers work as a ranking system to the public. It’s a quick way to get a general idea of what people think. But because it is an imperfect system, it almost requires a larger userbase like CMON to create a better average.

        It also is applying the idea that good artists are also good judges of art, which isn’t necessarily a true statement. It seems like if a site wants to be groundbreaking in the way they critique art, they should create a score based of categories. Rank by Creativity, Execution.. i dunno, probably a few other things that could be judged.

        • Or we could emulate traditional galleries and simply have critics curate their own sites, choosing works they think are valuable. There’s no reason why anyone has to be accountable to anyone else (certainly not the wider masses) when it comes to taste. I think this democratic voting model might be OK for reality TV but is not the best thing for art.

          There’s a reason Rotten Tomatoes has both general and critic’s scores. The general public, and, as you said, even other artists, are not always the best people to recognize potentially important work. They’re too busy doing other things! It’s interesting to know what they think though, especially if you want to sell things to them.

          The way I see it there are three sides to
          this triangle: artists, critics, and the public. P&P is a group of artists attempting to take on the function of critics. Problem is, they’re the ones making and, more importantly, selling the art. If you want to know who makes the best hamburgers, do you ask a food critic or the guy who makes them?

          • Thuloid

            In general, what I’m seeing is a lot of signs that the whole enterprise hasn’t broken very far away from its roots in Warhammer tournaments. Why scoring? Because of Golden Daemon and, more generally, painting contests, best army awards, etc. Note–we can do that semi-objectively if all we’re judging is technique. But then exploration is mostly foreclosed.

            This is still just a pumped-up version of “most badass space marine that looks like the books.” And that’s great, in the context of a Warhammer event. But it starts to make P&P look childish, not because “the Hobby” is innately childish but because the pretense of “let’s play artists” is so obviously betrayed by the site’s methods. I remember when I was about 8 years old, judging a contest between two friends. They had each drawn a bunch of fighter jets, and I was supposed to assign scores to them, tally, and declare a winner. This seemed a very grown-up way to handle art to an 8 year old.

            I’m not accusing these guys of not being serious about their work. They have an obvious level of talent and commitment. But I wonder if there’s a divide between those who have formal art training and those who are gifted but self-taught miniature painters (i.e., former or even current gamers). I also wonder whether they talk about these things themselves. Maybe what they’re missing is that critical third leg, someone to help them push their work to an audience that isn’t, well, a gaming event demographic.

            I’d enjoy seeing an art historian (and it might not hurt for them to have thought hard about gaming and game pieces as well) attempt some criticism here. No scores. No rankings. No prizes. Give me some words about what this thing is and what a human being could gain from looking at it–or even why we shouldn’t!

            There’s also the issue of evaluating a painted miniature via a photograph. Online, can’t be helped. But a critic needs to look at the work. These are sculptors and painters–unless the intended medium is photography (and I think we can agree the photographs are more functional than artistic), a proper viewing requires the work to be at hand. In April, once again, I’ll be at Adepticon, and enjoy looking at the Crystal Brush entries. But it would be absolutely marvelous if, outside of “competition pieces,” there were a curated miniatures gallery, and someone bothered to write a few words on that show.

          • “I’d enjoy seeing an art historian (and it might not hurt for them to have thought hard about gaming and game pieces as well) attempt some criticism here. No scores. No rankings. No prizes. Give me some words about what this thing is and what a human being could gain from looking at it–or even why we shouldn’t!”

            Me too. Like Dave said, they think they’re doing something new but the standard way of reviewing makes it… standard. If I wanted to make a gallery (online or otherwise) for miniatures, I’d be inclined to allow only words in critiques, as you said. Line up ten great works, grab your critics (which may well be the hardest part), and ask them to pick their favourite. Just one. And then explain why it’s their favourite.

            If they all pick the same one, then we might be able to extrapolate some standards for critiquing miniatures art from there. Right now I don’t think we have any that aren’t related to fashions in technique.