Monday, November 7, 2016

Playtime for Paul

-By Paul Bonner

This months musings again require that you just bare with me and again, hope that we all get something a little bit coherent out of it. No promises.

So - it's all very well wanting and planning for a career. It's very responsible to put together the best portfolio possible and learn about the intricacies of approaching and communicating with all those who will hopefully be responsible for giving you some paid work. There is nothing wrong with being overwhelmed and eventually depressed when confronted with the fact that there are a substantial number of frighteningly talented individuals out there - and, that a large percentage of them seem to be more talented than you. In my case this extends to most of them being substantially younger as well. Another monkey to add to the chittering rabble on my back.

 This very same age difference means that I hark back to a time when the creative world seemed a simpler place and the earth-enveloping cyber-space was non-existent to mere mortals. I can only sympathise and shudder inwardly at thinking of the communications jungle that has to be negotiated now. I can feel positively light-headed with relief that I managed to find ways to pay my rent and have edible things on at least one shelf in the fridge way before I was forced to navigate my way, very shakily indeed, through cyber-space.

Now it is the only way of doing things and has surreptitiously made itself indispensable in our lives. Much is a blessing. Not having to rely or be patient enough with a physical post service. Paintings that can be translated into pixels and sent in seconds - and sent back just as quickly with well intentioned comments, corrections and criticism. Everyone has access to an infinite exhibition of wonders at their fingertips. Bit intimidating really for - as you know - that this applies to givers of jobs as well. It's their job to see more than you. Think of all that competition that you don't even know about that they are looking at.

Fresh from college back in the Dark Ages I would look through the pages of a phone book. Find an art director. Ring them up. Make an appointment, and at the given time would knock on their door. Then would follow a cosy chat about how charming and lovely my goblins and trolls were - but not actually anything that they could see using for the foreseeable future. Nothing intimidating. They always had time and I was often given tea and biscuits as well. All very civilised. I don't remember ever, on my way out, having to edge my way through a waiting room full of pale and desperate artists, clutching their portfolios and hoping for a biscuit.

I never felt I was in competition with anyone at all. Without the internet, everyone else was simply invisible. They didn't exist. I knew the art director was not going to be wading through swathes of talented and eager freelancers, sending down to the canteen frantic requests for extra biscuits. He or she might well have some artists samples languishing in some drawers or some visit cards pinned to a board, but without the invisible competition from hundreds of other artists cluttering up cyber-space, usually, actually sitting in their office usually seemed to mean that they were willing to give you a shot at whatever job was on offer.

So - as usual - I find myself rambling. Another by product of hailing from a distant past. I suspect my point - for now - is that we are all very much in one form or another of constant competition with each other, and very much aware of it. Just knowing what's out there and who's doing what. Stressful stuff indeed.

So don't forget to enjoy yourselves. Isn't that what prompted us to stay at home drawing, painting and modelling while our siblings and contemporaries where out chasing a ball around a cold, muddy field and other such wholesome activities. Tremendous fun - I'm sure, and I must admit to having climbed my own fair share of trees, caught more than a few frogs and other such strange past-times - but the formative stuff was the aforementioned drawing, painting and modelling. No awareness of anyone else's efforts. No competition or deadlines. Just fun. At that age, if it wasn't fun we wouldn't do it. The fun-free stuff we are usually forced to do. Like chasing a ball around a cold and muddy field, most subjects at school and cleaning our teeth.

"You shall not pass!" An early attempt……very early.
So - keep yourselves healthy and happy. Don't forget to do something for yourselves. Ignore the competition and create what you feel impelled to. Be inspired, seduced and amazed at what other people are doing and by the world around you. Be technically brilliant and untouchable by anyone else. Let others spark ideas, inspiration and techniques that you can ingest, digest and gently twist to bring your own unique visions to life. If it comes from the heart -it will show through every time. People can't but help notice.

So set aside some playtime. I do. I sometimes need that direct connection back to the basic need to make something before it was tainted by the need to make a living. Creating something that has nothing to prove to anyone else. I accept that my circumstances permit this kind of slightly irresponsible activity.

I have a roof over my head...

Two out of three shelves in the fridge seem to be reasonably populated...

Our dog, Baldur, seems able to muster an encouraging level of enthusiasm and appreciation for all that is done for him (even if he's hiding it well in this photo)...

And, though I have been forbidden to supply evidence of this, Artur, my son, does have some trousers without holes in them.

So - with these four things in place I find myself increasingly drawn to get out the plasticene; find my big brushes and a large piece of old wall-paper, or play with toy soldiers. For years all my pocket money went on amassing huge armies and all the paints and bits and pieces that were required to bring them to life. The mechanisms of wargaming never appealed me that much - even when I was in-house at Games Workshop. It was always a purely visual thing. Setting them up, so that with my face squashed to the carpet  - at eye level it just looked fantastic.

If they were Napoleonic, little puffs of cotton wool would be set at the ends of there tiny muskets. if they were knights - my favourite - the line of the plastic, flashing hooves of their mighty chargers would be about to thunder over the heads of some hapless French bowmen.

Back then there was only historical armies to be mustered. Now, I can press-gang a rabble of rowdy orcs into service. How can my inner-child ignore the possibilities of that! Artur and I spent a lot of time this summer painting and building. Maybe he is just humouring me; maybe it's a better option that kicking a ball around a cold and muddy field; or maybe he has just learnt to recognise the tell-tale signs that dad thinks he has spent far too long in front of a screen.

Whatever his reason - for me it's a direct link back to carefree creation of something for fun. It takes me away from comparisons, competition and clocks. Drifting in and out of my studio, I can encourage the little ongoing narratives with the tweak of a sword arm, adjust the firing line of a particularly nasty looking machine gun , or with the turn of a rearing horse, make his hooves cause the immediate cessation of hostilities on the part of a hapless man-at-arms. All very therapeutic, and sets me in good stead to get back to the "proper" work.

I feel compelled to add here that these little quick moments - sometimes it's just a quick perusal - are nothing to do with reference. I,m not sneaking quick photos to aid my more academic endeavours. I,m not making quick sketches to help me map out an epic painting. It,s just fun.

So, if you take anything to heart from these musings remember, at least - to have some sort of covering between you and the heavens. Have some things on the shelves in your fridge -preferably with a viable "use by" date. Pay your bills. Brush your teeth. And do remember to have some fun with whatever form or direction your creative urges push you in. It is tough, now, being a part of and being aware of what the whole creative community is up to - all the time. The pressure is there as soon as you sit down in front of that blank piece of paper or browse around the visual wonders on the internet. And it,s not always constructive. It's ok to take a break from it and do something for yourself. Remember who you are. Why you do it - and then - do it. For yourself.


  1. Hi Paul, great post. As professional picture maker and 'hammer hobbyist, I have felt guilty at times for taking time out to paint tiny angry soldiers. But when I try and force it completely out of my week/month, it feels like I'm suppressing something. A something that I have found only needs a few hours here and there to satiate, so... I just fit it in anyway. I don't get much of it done very quickly, but it works for me. I'm so glad it evidently works for you too, given your standing.

    Occasionally I still hear of some truly exorbitant "sacrifices" one must make in order to get anywhere in this industry... but I think toys and games help with their kind of "active rest" activity, in addition to all that pigment from childhood swilling about in our brains (good luck sifting that out). That Stompa looks fantastic, by the way ;-)

  2. Thanks Phiq(!). Oh - I feel guilty too, even though it,s often more enjoyable. But I guess that,s my point. Even though we are lucky to do something we love - it,s still often within a framework that sometimes muffles and kills the enjoyment because of those internal and external pressures. Ones own quest to be better each time. Deadlines, money, competition, families including dogs. It all nibbles away at us often for the worse - so, for me, I find it increasingly important to steal something back just for myself. Being a kid again. It,s never for long enough though!!

  3. Great post as usual Paul! For me also very timely, I am in constant worry of how to make a living with my art and phasing out my day-job which causes me to always feel that everything I do has to either improve my portfolio or teach me something valuable to make my art better. It is ironic and strange how these things always seem to work backwards though, in the sense that when you don't worry about the importance of whatever you are making so much, it tends to become more fun and lead to a better result on it's own. Actually, it's been so long since I did something just for fun I'm not even sure how or what I would do, ha! Pretty sad really, but I guess it takes some patience finding your way back there again. So thank you again for pointing this out, and I don't mind your rambling, I think it makes for a better read actually, having some sidetracks and metaphors along the way, just like walking along a winding and "organic" path is much more fun than driving down a seemingly never-ending highway.

    1. Thanks Staffan. Glad you don't mind the rambling. That's how my mind works - and maybe like the most enjoyable creative endeavours - you just have to go with the flow;enjoy it - and see where you end up!

  4. Some very wise words there, Paul.

    I've grown up in the digital age. I also went to art school and we were all told of the hardships we would face trying to elbow our way into the industries we are aiming for.

    In fairness, I am a terrible artist; but I am a creator. I'm a mouldmaker and caster, I want to be the best I can be, but I am often distracted by trying to be better than everyone else. As you say, it's not about that. It's about being the best I can be and focusing on the things I want to do.

    Thank you for sharing these words. They've helped lift a cloud that affects me fairly frequently.

    1. Thanks Rob. I have the same problem. With the access we have it's pretty much impossible to ignore what,s going on out there. It's always there - so a bit of play therapy is an absolute necessity. Thanks for chipping in!

  5. Replies
    1. Justin! Mug-ta-haaag! And thanks. Your sage words are always appreciated.

  6. Wonderful post, Paul! Not 3, not 2, not even 1.5 ... just 1 single life. Too little to not have fun!

    1. Good morning Nicolay. Thanks for commenting. You are right - one can never be too little to have fun. So enjoy!

  7. Wonderful post Paul fantastic to see you still collecting models :) you know that you are partly to blame for my own slide into the heady world of war gaming and modelling! Remember poring over your paintings and drawings at my local hobby shop and trying to match up the colours on my figs. I think that yourself and Russ Nicholson have a lot to answer for :D

    1. Thanks for the kind words Avp - and glad I could help your decline into such noble past-times!

  8. Now I don't feel so bad when I stop to paint up a few of the miniatures that I've been collecting for the past twenty two years, those Rackham Wolfen are howling to me now...

    1. Thanks for the comment Owen. There's always a element of guilt involved - fight it!

  9. Older article but I appreciate the honesty regarding stress, fear and competition. Paul's art book I have is quite honest as well. Thank you for sharing your work and thoughts Paul.

    Rob Chope

  10. Just saw the comment Rob. Thanks for that! Always a pleasure.


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