Friday, October 11, 2013

Painting classes and the journey so far...

Big heavy topic here.. with the underlining questions of "What is the purpose of taking a painting class?" and "Is it worth the time, energy and money?"

OK... One class a decision this does not make. Yoda be I. This wall of text be warned you shall. :)

For me to dive into this topic though I want to go back a bit.. let us say 1 year ago shall we?

First class I participated in was with Stephan "Dervish" Rath, and his class in Aachen.

The class itself.. 

The victim to be painted... And yeah.. the one on the right is mine.. and it has not been touched since actually.. 

My freehand attempt from the class.. probably the only thing that I think that was even decent let alone good from the class.. at the time.. 

This trip was my first trip to Germany. It was my first experience with international painters. It was the first time I had gone to try something more professional in what at the time was just a hobby, and something that I made some cash from on the side from painting other people's models. 

It cost me 3 vacation days, and something in the vicinity of maybe 500 Euros. Thanks mostly as I was on a business trip directly before this in Belgium, and the train ticket was not so bad from there to Aachen. 

Was this trip worth it? If I knew afterwards what I would have taken away would I have still gone. 

Answer is actually a bit resounding no. Sorry, but no it was not worth it. I actually walked away from the class thinking I was painting worse than when I went in. The experience of the people was great, but the lessons itself were not in line to either my expectations, or have anything that I think I wanted to have for the money and time I put into it. 

My head, exploding from all the information and frustration I felt in that class. 

But why is that? This is not for me kicking Dervish for a bad class, as this was anything but. It was full of information, it was very detailed, and for a lot of the people there it provided them with a huge step forward in their painting. But for me not so much. Why?

I was in a foreign country, in a class that was geared for those in a different language (German), and at a skill level that I had thought I was at due to my disillusion of my own skills due to the local talent available in Turkey or the circles I ran with. Nothing to do with Stephan at this point actually. 

My expectations were completely different than the reality that hit me, and it hit me hard. And to be honest, my trips to Germany for such classes almost ended there if not for the help and advice from everyone, Stephan included, to go back and relearn the basics of painting. To take a class that is a bit easier, simpler, or for the beginner mindset. If you have been painting for a while, thinking your hot shit, and someone tells you this.. it would be normal to react negatively. But honestly this was the best advice I could have ever been given, and at the right point!

I mean seriously.. I painted like this a year ago! Just a year ago! They could see the level of frustration within me from this piece. And although everyone was super nice, and supportive to me to not give up I have to say that I was thinking it was over for painting abroad. Just go back to my humble abode and paint my old way some more. 

But I did not do that. In fact I would join the forum Brushbrothers, and they would inform me and convince me that I should give it another go, and this time with Roman's Beginners Painting class in Augsburg. So after an exchange of emails between Roman and Peter, and someone else I think from the hotel I would stay at.. I was off to Germany once more, though almost 6 months later. 

I knew that they were influential, and that a lot of people looked to them as people to learn from and "copy" for lack of a better word. But I was still trying. I had even joined their Banalicious painting competition prior to the class with this assembly of pieces.. 

With all but the big dwarf bust being new. And to be honest, I had been able to finally master some of the techniques from Dervish's class on the 2 smaller busts in the front here by this time. So, although very much later, some of his teachings had finally begun to reach me. And all of these pieces I was very happy with the results of as well! Especially the 2 in front as I thought they were my best works to date then. 

Of course, Roman would go on to paint his version of the Barracuda just as I was about to enter mine to his contest, and his blew mine away. Slight shock to the ego once more, but still at this point I had lowered expectations of the experience. Looking at myself as a beginner to this class and someone who needed to learn, and grow still instead of someone who thought he was THE guy everyone should look up to ( where I got that mentality, I do not know.. but I had it none the less.. ). 

So again, off to Germany for a beginners class. This time the flight being on my own bill, and the trip taking 3 vacation days away from me once more. Cost of this trip being significantly more than the previous one whereby I spent in excess of 1000 Euros all said and done ( Airfare, Hotel, Class costs, materials, food/beer money ). With the bulk of it just being the travel and the class being but a small part of it. 

Again students showing up from all over Germany to learn from Roman on how to get the most of their models. Most being here for the first time, and some being here for their 2nd or 3rd time!

I have to say that by going into this class with lower or no expectations, and being a bit more open minded I was able to take away a bit more. And it helped that the class was half that of Stephan's and thus allowed me to chat with Roman more when I had questions throughout the workshop. 

The results at this time then were a lot better also.. and a few click moments appeared with regards to showcase basing that I would expand upon later on. 

Better model, but I would still be learning how to take photos at this point. Super over-exposed, and really horrible here.. but the point of the base and the work would sit with me. Even if it did not fully click until a bit later.. 

I can say that this was a kick off moment for me though. Things from the first class began to come into place now, with what was a beginner class. I have to say that I did things backwards, and had I done this class before Stephan's the take away would have been much greater. And again I was grateful for the advice from those in the first class to recommend me to go here. 

From here, I would begin to look online, and crave feedback on my pieces so that I could grow. I would paint things such as.. 

Morlock from Infinity, on my first real socket after the class. Socket and basing using Roman's style, and the model painted closer to Stephan's methods. 

This little guy whom I found in a trinket shop on the Canary Islands would get the full Massive Voodoo beginner painting style. Showing that it can be applied to anything. 

And another model that I would paint up and try something both simple and complex. Complex in the skin tones, but simple in the basing. Not the best piece obviously, but showing that I was going in a new direction with my painting. 

I would also begin to chat more with the forums, more with other paints via Facebook, and others via PMs in other back channel groups where painters of miniatures gather ( I can't say where under pain of death but you get the point by now.. ). 

Chatting with Michael from Painting Buddha/Masterminis would give me the chance to go to my first Games Day in Germany as well. And while chatting with others it was decided that I should not go empty handed. So with what was little over a week prior to leaving I would build up a funny little duel to take with me. 

While in Berlin with Michael and the Painting Buddha crew, I would get a chance to get some last minute advice from Ben Komets on how to improve the duel a bit as well. Adding the papers, and the weathering on the wood were just a few of his ideas. I cannot say that I implemented them as he would have, considering how he looked at me after applying it, but still it was in a better direction than it was prior to showing up to Berlin. 

Big surprise for me though would be that it would become a finalist and I would receive one of the finalist medals for this piece!

Finalist paper under my duel! Woot Woot!

Again the costs of the trip included airfare, accommodations, and transportation costs. Though this was cut back due to being able to stay at Michael's for the trip. Though the final cost was still only about 600-700 Euros in the end without the binge shopping at Battlefield Berlin thrown into the mix. 

But I had already signed up for not 1, but 2 BAM classes with Massive Voodoo already.. and so with just a month before showing up I still had time to paint more. And there was at that time a Fairy Tale contest going on with Brushbrothers also. And Michael had provided me with the perfect model from one of his crazy contests a year earlier that would work perfectly for this diorama.. the Alice in Wonderland piece. 

Easily my best piece to date. Which I know cause this is how it was described by the members of Brushbrothers, by Roman/Raffa during the workshop, and by those now on Putty&Paint where it is getting some get votes and scores compared to my earlier works. 

So coming back to the BAM classes I would come with a bit more of an ego, but still with a thirst to learn. Hopefully this would be enough to take some "clicks" away from the upcoming lessons. 

I do have to make a point at this point though. A good/bad point to make but a point all the same. Just like the first class with Dervish, there were reservations from Massive Voodoo with me taking both weekend classes back to back. With the fear that I would not have enough time in between classes to absorb and implement the things from the first before the second. And thus maybe not the most beneficial. Same was with the first class where I think Dervish could see potential maybe but didn't voice his concerns. 

This is bad in that it could have gone even worse in both situations and me having a completely different article being written now. But it was good in that they saw some potential ( I am taking artistic license on their perceptions here ) that I would take something away at the very least and it would be beneficial. But I think this is a tight line to walk where they want people to join their classes, but also want to ensure it is the right kind of person that is showing up. That or having some crazy Canadian/Turkish painter show up to their class gives them a new marketing advantage.. no idea... but something to note. 

As it was.. I think the experience was worth it in the end when you consider the results. 

A comparison of Busts.. one from last January and then the one from the class.. which is not finished yet. 

And a shot from Turkish Brekk in Fez's good side. Again, still WIP at this point. 

I mean just the after the first weekend I was impressed.. but I was here for the rest of the week and still had a second class to go. 

And although I knew that this trip was worth it, it was twice as much worth it due to the fact that the costs of the trip were spread over a week. Every time I had traveled so far the most expensive part of the trip was the trip itself! This being no different with the airfare being 400 euros by itself. Thankfully Heiko provides some low cost, but great accommodations at the WuDao. Cost of the classes coming in at 470 Euros. Epic ( not so ) surprise trip to Berlin via bus for 45 euros return. This trip easily broke 100 Euros ( again without taking into consideration Battlefield Berlin.. bastards with such great selections that you give up your money willingly! ). 

But again the question of would I learn anything in the second class.. being so close to the first class and having no time to paint at all in between the classes ( even with our best efforts to try to make things happen ). 

Well.. I have posted this model up already.. so it is pretty clear that yes.. I still learned a few things.. 

The guys at Massive Voodoo went out of their way to ensure that I got a bit of extra help on this new bust that I started while with them. Since I was not painting their busts ( which they were cool about thankfully ) and that I had taken it already they adapted to me more than me having to adapt to them in the class. Something that I think was really great to have the ability to do and help me out here on this massive project. 

But looking at this now as a timeline of 1 years worth of work.. and thinking back on the original questions.. "What is the purpose of taking a painting class?" It should be obvious now. It is to improve. However one can only improve is they are open to the ideas, and are ready for the information that is to be presented. Something that I learned the hard way on the first class. 

And the second question being "Is it worth the time, energy and money?". I think looking back at my progress and seeing from where I began in the classes.. 

And going to the Dwarf Bust above.. I can definitely say that it is worth the time and effort that one puts into it. As are all things in life though, you will only get out of it what you put into it. And again this was only something that I only realized after taking these classes. 

Sure this is not cheap. What with me living in Turkey, and all the classes that I wanted to attend being in Germany so far. If I were living in Germany I can honestly say that I would be attending far more of them as the majority of my expenses came from plane and accommodation costs. Remove that, and the costs go down significantly, and the ROI goes up even farther!

But if I were to do it all over again I do believe that I would have put Stephan's class in after the beginner and the BAM classes as another technique to learn and improve upon instead of going to it first. And for others who may want to look at doing classes, then taking a class that is more directed at beginners, regardless of your skill level currently, is highly recommended. It will give you a baseline of what to expect from other such classes, and allow you to adapt yourself accordingly for what to expect from future sessions. Also allow yourself to open up to learning again. As I for one have not done proper classroom like learning in a long time, and so this is quite a change for me to get back into it. 

And a final question out of it all.. will I continue to go to more classes now that I know I can paint a piece like that of the Dwarf Bust? Seeing as it looks to be the start of what will become my best piece? Has my ego swelled to a point where I don't need to learn anymore?

Hells no! Cause I know that I will have moments like this... 

.. where a piece or a technique will stop me in my tracks. Because I know that if I do not try to continually improve I will become stagnant. And most importantly no as I know that I do not know everything that there is to know about painting. This will be an never ending process.. but one that I hope will continue to astound me, improve me, and make me appreciate both the skills that I learn, but also the people I meet along the way. As they are the ones that really make this all worth it in the end.. and are probably the biggest take away from all the classes that I have joined!

And honestly it is to these people, the students, teachers, and facilitators that I want to thank for this journey the most. The painting almost comes secondary to the memories I have made through these classes. 

So thank you.. and hopefully I will see more people in future classes.. whatever the country or style that it is. Where my painting, or travels, or classes will be next.. I am not sure.. but I am sure that I will have just as many, and maybe even more epic memories from them. 

Enjoy the weekend.. I hear that there is another painting class going on this weekend at the WuDao.. wishing everyone at it the best time and looking forward to the results! 


  1. This was a well written piece and an honest one. There is no question about the amount of improvement you've made since starting the journey through these classes. And I think it is not for everyone. A person must be as driven as you are to learn, to improve, to push and to never rest until you achieve what you know lies dormant within you. I have enjoyed watching you take this journey thus far and look forward to seeing how you surpass the work on that bust!

    1. Thanks Anne.. this is probably my first real article where I put myself out there a bit more in how I feel and what I think of the painting. Hopefully I will be able to do more of these in the future also.

      Thanks also for sticking around and following me on this journey. Still a long ways to go in my way of a painter. So let's see how I can surpass the dwarf! That will be interesting to see!

  2. Very great word ! And i love the pics good work as always my friend .

    1. Thanks Capt LOL... was hoping the photos would help to show my progress over the past year.

  3. loved the retrospective dude. wish i could ve accompanied you during some of the trainings. not only for the improvement but also for the fun as you mentioned.

    hope you continue improving your skills after the UK move.

    1. Thanks mate.. it has been a rollercoaster and you know this more than anyone over the last year. Would have been great to have you a my sidekick on these adventures, but maybe in the future!

      Still waiting for when we will start our painting challenge! :)

  4. Nice post Mr. Lee! Showing some of your thoughts and concerns in this way is something new to your posts and something I clearly like. I always asked myself how you can do this massive conquest of painting lessons.

    To the painting classes: I always have the problem that I ask me questions like: "Is it worth attending? Should I prefer to spend this time with my wife? Would the money not be invested somewhere else much better?" and always come to the conclusion that doing something different than going to a class is the better thing to do (especially when I see the results of even the beginners classes).

    As stated on many of your posts I really applaud you for your progress and somehow this is inspiring and motivating for other painters (myself included).
    I really hope this quest will continue and you will take us with you and let us be a part of it.

    1. Thanks for the comments Paradox0n. Am glad that others liked the way that I do the classes ( Mrs Lee questions it at times :) ).

      I can fully understand your way of thinking for the costs of a class vs well.. anything else.. I have to say that I went through the same thoughts ( and still do often ) but I have to say that it was worth it. I think it would be awesome to meet up at one of these, and trade painting stories.

      And yes, I hope that this journey continues, and I would be more than honored to have you and everyone else who comment often to come along with me.

      Thanks for following, and hopefully more such posts can come out of me in the future :)

  5. You are so lucky to lie where you do. I live in Canada. We just don't have this kind of system or opportunity (not that I am aware of anyway). It's why I joined C'MON. To learn from those better than me and get honest feedback no matter how hard it might be to hear. Thanks for the insight and taking us along on your journey!

    1. Thanks Zab. I know exactly what you mean though as I am originally from the Vancouver area, and there was not much of a painting scene when I left 8 yrs ago. And n real internet community there either.

      Am glad that you are part of the Brushbrothers forums also, as that has helped me a lot outside of the classes ( soon to be another article itself ).

      Thanks for coming along the journey, and still waiting to see the final piece of your big diorama!


If you liked the post, become a follower, comment or email me at
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...