When it comes to painting toy soldiers, it might seem odd to say you learn more from your failures than your successes, but it's true. I know that I've learned more from the things I've messed up than the things I've managed to get right.
It took an email conversation I was having with Bear over Generic 40k Blog to bring this to my attention. He's been working on a Celestine model (the one seen above) and he's been going back and forth about how to do it and whether or not to try and match his current scheme and so and so forth. The model has been a struggle for him to say the least.
But he's come out of it with one thing more than anything else. A great understanding of how to apply lights and darks to a model. It doesn't matter if it matches his army or if he ends up stripping the paint off and repainting it in the end. He's learned something that will carry over into the rest of his painting from this point on. And then I got to thinking, what's come out of the failures I've had?
A better understanding of zenith highlighting
This was one of my first attempts at applying directional light source to a model. Sure, I might have started with a basic understanding of the concepts in general, but actually applying it to a model is another story all together. Some things work and some just don't. Putting paint on a model shows you that real quick.
Trying to get the blending smooth enough and the contrast correct so that it looks like the model is being "lit" by the source light is a challenge.
Working through that model and others allowed me to apply all that I'd learned to paint this Terminator Librarian here. With zenithal highlighting being a very specific way of highlighting, it can be tough to get it right the first time around.
An even bigger failure that turned into a success for me was this one here.
My technique for painting Deathwing
While this one wasn't a complete and utter failure, it did help pave the way for the more refined approach that lead to the method I like to use now. This first method is quick and dirty. It's not very refined and the overall results show that. Will it work for a very fast paint job... sure, but it needs help.
This is what came out of that. After working on the process over and over until I worked through all the smaller issues and bugs, I reached a point where the end result is much nicer, cleaner and finished looking. Of course it takes much longer, but that's part of the process.
Had I quit in the beginning
Had I given up after any of those first models, I wouldn't have the experience I have today. I wouldn't have a great way to paint Deathwing or a solid understanding of how to paint a model using a zenithal approach.
And the list goes on... painting white, using decals, how to paint black armour and so on.
Just because your first attempt doesn't go as you wanted, don't scrap your model just yet. Nothing says you have to post your spectacular failures on your blog or in a forum, but you should at least look at what you can take away from the process. Maybe you invested a hundred hours in the model only to have it come out "wrong." But I'm willing to bet you learned a thing or two in those hundred hours. Something you can use next time and build on it.
And that's the trick, trying new things, building on what you learn and finding your way when it comes to painting.
UPDATED: I've added this pic of the Pre-Heresy World Eater marine before he was painted that way. He was supposed to be a Death Guard Assault Marine but I messed up his painting horribly.
I was trying to use a light grey primer and blend it to white using a zenithal type approach, but I failed miserably. I kept at it until I reached a point that I just could not save him. He just looked too bad.
That's when I started over. While I didn't finish the model, it taught me a lot about trying to work through things and how to solve them.
Make sure to check out these posts as they might help:
Do you have a painting style or do you struggle like I do?
A look at my painting style and how it's changed over time
Painting your models, do you love to or hate to?