Monday June 30 2008 Burning Sensation

Picture: a Forge World giant spawn. This model is out of sight. It's bigger than a tank. This is part of a huge, huge 40K Daemon army. This thing has a ton of old school models.

This is also our 2400th project. Two thousand, four hundred.

Sooooo, what's up all?

My day started at 1:00am, knocking out a few emails before hitting the sack. I had two huge naps on Sunday so I wasn't really tired.

My day started at 7:30am with a phone call from one of our top all time clients (he is currently commissioning that Phantom Titan). That's a great way to start the day. And I was on a cloud knowing the bills were going to get paid.

I spent part of the morning searching for the arms on my young son's Iron Man toy. Once found I superglued them on.

Over the weekend I painted up six random heroes for my D&D game. Just random stuff I grabbed off the bitz wall. I also painted up a small tribe of Goblins. These are probably like a high L2, certainly no more. Did I mention that already.

It was a usual day at the studio: spirits high with lots of joking around. However, there was one very dark spot: I sold my glorious Tau Verdaan army. All 3000 pts.

Let's have a moment of silence for the army.


So sad, but as Sarah and I were discussing; holding on to your art can stifle creativity. It's true. The exit of the Tau paves the way for the Wyches of Thoth army. Oh yes, you know you want it. Plus those figures will cross-over into my D&D game.

When I got home we headed out with the family to pick up some fireworks and we lit of some simple stuff in the driveway. A little bit of magic. That was FHE.

Anyone interested in how to start your own miniatures painting business?

Here's a start. First, you need your painting kit. Pick a solid palette of about 30-50 materials. That way you can duplicate work later. Duplication is a big part of what you do. Keeping notes on how you did each project helps, too.

Now, you have to build exposure. This is the tough part. It means you have to paint a LOT even if you have no commissions. Put your work up wherever you can.

Since I started BTP four years ago about six hundred operations have sprung up around the country. This is an endurance run, not a sprint. The battlefield is littered with the corpses of people who though it would be "fun" to paint miniatures for a living. Listen up, Bambi, it IS NOT fun. It's a business so cover your gonads and clench your teeth and get ready for the pain.

Advertising on forums is good. It's usually about $30 a month. Many of them will allow you to trade service for it. Then start posting on the forums and really become part of the community.

Build up a local clientele. This will keep you steady. People will almost always stay with a local. Treat these people like gold. I still have clients from the SF Bay four years later.

What about keeping your day job? I highly advise against it. A great part of your success will be if you are consistent and available. Make the leap. Don't be a wuss. Burn the ships, just like Cortez!

But in case you need to know for sure, here's what you do. It's a thirty day trial. You have to give up TV, computer games, and other activities. You're going to work your normal hours plus four hours in the evening of painting. Again, no matter if you have commissions or not. Keep painting like a madman and get it all documented and posted on your various forums. If you can keep it up for a month then you might have a shot.

To make your painting studio successful you will have to give up computer/console games. Just sell off your Playstation. Get rid of it. If you won't then you're not ready to make the cuts you need to make it. TV is OK as long as you are working while it is on. But it does reduce your speed by about 20% just to be lisening to it. Be prepared to make sacrifices. There's no way around it.

Extrapolate your prices from your financial needs and painting speed. Don't undercut on the prices. Remember, you'll spend about 30% of your time on administrative stuff (packing, emails, and sales). Account for that. Bring your service up to what you charge. People will pay for quality and followup. And reliability.

Lastly, document your processes when you're painting. You can usually double your speed AND still maintain quality if you really concentrate and approach the process intelligently. Write down step by step how to paint each figure and time each step to the second.

Later, if you add other people remember that you have just changed the entire deal. There is really, really something to be said for going solo. If you're not thinking about going at least ten years I highly, highly advise against employing others.

That's a start.


Chris said...

The Spawn is a great model and a gret paint job. Very interesting post as well. How long where you painting for as a hobby before you turned pro? Does painting for a living mean you've lost painting as a hobby?

bluetablepainting said...

I started painting in 1997. So, about seven years. I was very determined and disciplined even as a hobbyist. I used to get up at 3am to get in a few hours of work before hitting the road for my regular job.

I have not lost interest in painting as a hobby as well. I have seen a lot of artists come through and generally they keep their interest as hobbyists.

Do you have painting in your soul?

When I hire a new artist I prioritize work ethic over skill.

Bryant said...


Will Blue Table Painting be around in ten years then?

Why do you think there is such a high turnover rate for staff in your company?

I've noticed all new people in your videos, except for the blonde woman.

Thank you,
Bryant Smith

bluetablepainting said...

Bryant: Yes, definitely. I think BTP will be around in thirty years and longer. BTP is still a relatively young company, with only 4.5 years under the belt.

Turnover is insanely high for artists under six months. There is such a steep learning curve.

There's also a phenomenon I call "so long and thanks for all the fish". The barrier to entry for this profession is so insanely low it's hard to keep people around, especially once they get to see the inner workings of a successful studio. This has slowly become less of a problem as the years go on and I get more established.

Sooooo, for the nature of the industry I think I've been very, very successful at keeping a stable crew. But I'm not nearly satisfied. I want to keep good people long term.

PS- another thing to consider is that turnover might not be a bad thing. The current crew is vastly improved in almost every way to earlier generations.


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