Friday, August 24, 2012

Painting Miniatures and the Imagined World of Warhammer

Painting miniatures has been my hobby ever since Jr. High.  One of my friends discovered the wonderful world of Games Workshop somewhere in seventh or eighth grade and I've always had an especial appreciation for the quality and imagination evinced in their Citadel line.  It was a childhood dream come true when the company acquired the rights to produce miniatures based on Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.  I don't have near the time to paint that I once did, so my ability to keep in step with the doings over at GW has greatly decreased.  Still, even if I'm behind the times, I'm always excited to see what their newest creations.

Citadel's Finecast range of resin miniatures has been out for several years now, but I haven't had an opportunity to sit down and work with one until last week.  A very obliging friend sent me Korhil, Captain of the White Lions for Christmas.  I can't tell you how impressed I was.  The level of detail was staggering.  My first thought was: how am I going to get this thing out of the sprue without breaking it?  My next was: how am I ever going to paint this in a way that will do it justice?  Well I did get it out of the sprue without breaking it (It turns out resin is more forgiving than plastic).  As for the paint job, if I had a working camera I'd let you be the judge.  As it is, I'm pleased enough for now.  There's always time for touch-ups...

Hobby details aside, the real pleasure of working with Games Workshop's products is being able to interact creatively with a richly imagined world.  In assembling, modifying, and painting Citadel miniatures, a hobbyist can participate, in however miniscule a fashion, in expanding the world of Warhammer.  This can be done with online games as well, but I appreciate the uniquely tactile quality of working with miniatures.  When you're done, there's an incarnate bit of an imaginary universe sitting there in front of you.  It can be picked up, handled, admired, or dropped (accidentally, we hope).  This cooperative process of adding art to story is something Tolkien hoped for when he set out to create a mythology for England.  I don't know what he would have thought about painting little miniatures, but not all of us can compose operas or direct films.  Painting little men is something I can do and, for what it's worth, I'm grateful that I can still find some time in the business of life to do it.


As an addendum, you may have noticed that this post is going where so many of my posts tend to go.  If you have, or even if you haven't, let me try to explain.  All this is to say that I stand for the right to imagination, the right to fill in the spandrels of creation, to make by that law in which we're made.  If humanity has a Creator, then we are more like that Creator when we create.  As contingent beings, consumption is necessary for our being, but we spend too much time in modern culture merely consuming.  So I do celebrate when, even in little ways, people make the choice to no longer consume but to also create.    

5 comments:

Herch said...

"Man, Sub-creator, the refracted light...
We make still by the law in which we're made."

You keep making me think of Mythopoeia. I would berate you but for the fact that I should be thinking even more about it.

Graf Spee said...

Thank you, sir. Once again, you explain what I've been trying to get at for years very simply. For me, miniatures touches on many facets of my life. The need to sub-create and use creativity, my love of a deep world, and my love of strategy games and competition are all used in the hobby. On the other hand, I probably have too many miniatures and could afford to cut back.

James said...

Herch,

I love Mythopoeia. I think it's really a key for understanding the "Tolkienian Project" insofar as he had one.

James said...

Graf Spee,

Thanks! I miss being able to work together on that invented world and share our progress in community. Grad school was a tough time, but there were definite good things as well.

I hear you about having too many miniatures. Over the years, they've begun taking over my house. One of the things I think Tolkien might have brought up would be the question of hording. Tolkien argued that one of the great temptations of makers is the desire to horde; to create/acquire a thing and stash it away without further use or enjoyment. GW keeps chunking out good stuff, so long as we buy it responsibly and continue to enjoy the pieces we've painted and share that enjoyment with others via gaming or displaying the pieces as art it's healthy. When we can no longer enjoy all that we have, I think Tolkien might point us to "Beowulf" where young men amass goods and old men give them away generously. When we've got more than we can enjoy, it's time to start posting on Ebay. That's my 2 cents, FWIW. ;-)

Herch said...

One of these days I just might sit down and memorize the poem.