Monday, November 21, 2011

Balancing the Hobby with... the Hobby

This article may only resound with a small portion of my readers, but it has been on my mind of late. 

I am a hobbyist and gamer.  I am also a commission painter.  I distinctly remember my first commission job.  My customer, also a gaming buddy, asked, "Are you sure this isn't an inconvenience?" To which I responded, "Are you serious?  I get to do for money, what I would gladly do for free....just not for you!"

courtesy of brokermojo
I began my commission career with the attitude that I was getting to expose myself to a wide array of models, most of which I would never own myself. That I would have fun honing my painting skills and that I would get to make money on top of all of that! All of this is true, but time has shown me that though it is fun and it is in line with my hobby interests, commission painting is a job.  Sometimes you don't feel like doing it.  You don't get as much creative liberty as you would with your own stuff.  You have to put in the time (on top of another full time job I might add) and sacrifice other things you want to do.  And for those of you who don't believe me, commission painting may seem expensive from the outside, but that is simply because of the opportunity cost of the job.  It takes time, lots of time, and energy, and expertise.  In the end, a commission painter makes peanuts for what they charge.  I think I generally make something like $4 an hour when it is all said and done if I'm lucky and paint quickly.  Companies have been shut down for breaking labor laws here in the states for doing less.  The bottom line is that it can be stressful.

I write about this to say that the money is nice, and necessary for my family, but my interest in the hobby and enjoyment of it is also important to me.  I played a game of 40k last week, Blood Angels versus the new Necrons. The guy I played is a customer of mine, and in fact, we were playing so that we could meet for him to drop some Grey Knight stuff off to me.  The store owner, who is also a customer of mine came over and they both began to give me a hard time because I painted their armies to a wonderful standard and my Blood Angel army isn't even halfway done.  I was playing with unpainted models because I wanted to enjoy my BAs. 

At some time, you have to achieve some balance in what you do.  You can't always do your hobby (shock, gasp!), but you also need some break time.  In my case, real world duties of family and work are compounded by the fact that I have a second job that utilizes my artistic skills and my love for the hobby to bring in some extra cash.  As a matter of fact, I just finished a 180+ model Warriors of Chaos fantasy army that tops out around 4,000-5,000 points.  It has taken me several months to complete.  In all that time, I have picked up maybe one of my own models to paint.

There are a few things I have learned about in regards to the hobby and commission painting.

1) Even though I am constantly painting other people's stuff, I try to get reinvigorated by occasionally painting something of my own or at least going out and playing a game or two.  Painting a high volume of models without actually getting to use them will, over time, steal your joy.  Taking those breaks is a huge deal.

2) Not should you balance the hobby with itself if you are a commission worker like me.  You should also take time to balance real life with the hobby...and correctly.  We joke, but real life comes first.  My wife and boy are #1.  When I start to lose that perspective, I'm done.  No issue.  No second guessing.  I'm done.  Luckily, I have a cool wife who keeps me grounded and supports my interest in the hobby. 

3) Take care of yourself.  I try to run regularly.  Getting out of my house after 6pm is a huge deal as my wife and I are homebodies to begin with, but working out is a huge release for me.  It allows me to get rid of pent up energy.  It gives my body a much needed break from the awkward sitting positions I find myself in when I paint, and it's just generally good for me. 

So, if you are a commission painter, I would love to hear your thoughts on balancing life, the hobby, and work.  I know it's different for everyone, but sharing advice really helps.  It is easy to let the hobby actually steal your joy and get bogged down by it, but it is a fun hobby and we invest too much of ourselves just to give up on it.  It's all about balance.


Dave said...


I really enjoyed your article. I heard you on the 11th company an figured I would swing by.

I always have some commission painting gong on and I struggle with painting something that I am not thrilled about.

I also struggle with finding time to sit down and work.

What are your thoughts?


Dave said...


Great name, man! Thanks for the comments and questions.

Believe me, I have found myself in your situation many a time. Here are a few tips that I have for getting me through those models that are hard to get motivated to do.

1) Listen to a podcast or watch a movie while painting. Don't mess with anything that will actually distract you, just something that can serve as background. I love watching old sci-fi or fantasy movies from my DVD collection. That helps a ton.

2) Alternate models or jobs. I generally paint multiple models and/or have multiple jobs going on at any time. To help keep things fresh, I go back and forth between characters and units, job to job, and between commission stuff and my stuff. This really helps me keep things fresh.

Finally, in regards to finding time to paint and painting commissions. I think of it like any other job. I wouldn't dream of regularly not working at my real job (though some days are more productive than others), so I just bite the bullet and carve out time. I am lucky to have a supportive wife in this though. If you have a family as well as a day job, it can be a daunting task, but having a regular time scheduled to paint every evening or every other day helps out quite a bit. Schedule in the time.

I hope those ideas help. Thanks for listening and reading.

Dave said...

I was looking through your blog and saw some PP models in while, some sort of Warjack thing. White was stellar. Awesome Job!!

I typically paint historics when I need money, but I have around 350 15mm models to paint......

The other thing I tend to struggle with is painting high quality models for display/ store/ ect. Right now I am working on a Mechanicus Dreadknight Conversion, but I am just plowing through it.... but cant seem to make myself do it. You can check my blog for some of my work.

If you want, leave me a comment and I will shoot you some pictures.

Keep at it!!

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