As I mentioned in my last post, I’m starting a period of personal improvement that requires commitment to a multi-dimensional strategy. One element of this is decreasing the amount of time I spend sitting in front of a computer screen in my leisure time (since I do enough of that during work hours as it is!). I aim to achieve this by returning to a hobby I put away in my teenage years – miniature figure painting.
There are a few reasons why I’ve turned to my past to find a way to change my present and improve my future:
My Inner Child
I’m hoping (maybe naively) that I can reach back far enough into my memories that I might find something to harness that reinforces the positive parts of my mind. My inner child is always there, always the positive voice I try to listen to when things start getting tough. He’s the reason I still hold onto things like a love of fantasy and science-fiction; he shakes me with excitement when I try something new or see something amazing in the World; he’s the one that I need at the forefront of my thoughts and self-talk as I walk the incredibly scary path on my way towards self-improvement.
My Need for Order
Miniature painting is a very creative hobby. Whilst there is a lot of structure available to a hobbyist in this area, there is so much room for creativity when assembling a model and painting it. What drew me to miniature painting was the controlled element that I saw – models come with certain pieces to combine into a figure to be used in a tabletop game, and you painted them in certain colours depending on which army or style you wanted them to have. My teenage self welcomed this level of specified order with open arms, however even then I soon became aware of the more interesting and scary part of the hobby (at least for me) – the creative element.
It’s a little difficult to explain this properly, but I’ll give it a shot. For the most part, I’m a man of order. Things get done in a certain way, and they are done that way because it should be the easiest/best/fastest way to do that thing. Rules, laws, ethics and morals are things that are in my core. However, I am also a creative individual, capable of fantastic flights of fancy and (so I’m told) able to write in a manner that others find interesting, heartening and even somewhat humorous. I take a level of pride in that knowledge, and I do enjoy bursts of creativity on a regular basis.
Herein lies the challenge for me…
Stretching my Comfort Zone
As a person who is largely driven by logic and reason; as a 43 year old who has commenced this journey of self improvement – I want to break some of my old mental walls and expand into fresher territory. Taking up this hobby is making me face one of my worst fears – mixing colours. The companies that sell miniature figures also sell the paints required to paint them. Naturally, they have a selection of the many colours that can be used, and there are colour schemes available to those who are still learning about the hobby and are looking for guidance. It’s very easy for me to simply buy the required colours and follow the paint-by-numbers process that the company tells me I should do. This time though, I want to paint my own way. Of course I’ll follow the guidelines that might apply to a miniature I paint; but I also want to IMPROVE as a person, and this hobby can help me work on a number of areas of my personality that I’d like to tweak.
The part of my brain that demands order shouts in terror when colours start to blend into each other on my palette.
The part of my brain that knows the degree to which I am colourblind trembles with fear because the colour I think I am making may be very different to the colour that everyone else sees.
The part of my brain that houses my inner child tries to fling its doors and windows open so that I can hear the encouragement that is being shouted against the howling storm of doubt, fear and hyper-control.
I want to stop that storm and let my inner child step onto the lawn so that we can paint together.
When I made the decision to get back into this hobby, my first instinct was to paint the miniatures with the specific colours dictated by the manufacturer. The “rules is rules” part of my brain simply would not hear a word of argument. So I bought the paint and got to work, and I can’t say I’m displeased with the almost-finished product (pictured at the beginning of this post). My inner child, however (or it could have been the colourblind guy, I’m still not 100% sure!), looked at those miniatures a few weeks later and wondered whether I should be trying to find my own version of the yellow that was required for this particular army. After researching and reading hundreds of opinions online, I decided that I would take the plunge and find my own colour scheme which would both stay true to the Imperial Fists (the army I have chosen to paint and hopefully play with one day), but would also be unique to me.
To this end, I have yet another reason to be grateful for my wife’s love and patience. Leah knows painfully well that I have a degree of colourblindness. If you ask her, she’ll happily tell you of the argument we had early in our relationship which focused solely on the colour of a bath towel. So when I asked Leah if she would teach me about colour, well I think it was one of the proudest moments of her life to date. We sat together for hours at the desk she uses to tutor students in architecture and design. I’ve seen and heard her working passionately with students, supplying them with tips, knowledge and patience that few people can provide and so I felt incredibly lucky to be able to spend time with her in this way – seeing the light in her eyes as she helped me understand more about one of the things that is dearest to her heart. The end result of those hours we spent together looks fairly straightforward, but is so much more than that.
Without her, I would have remained a slave to the colours dictated by my hobby. I would never have mustered the courage to ACTUALLY MIX COLOURS TOGETHER to lighten, darken or make a new version of a different colour at all. By sharing this with Leah, this hobby has already started to evolve into a bridge between my past, present and future. This hobby may take a back seat to my other responsibilities as an adult, but it will be a hobby that I return to and invest in for my own sake. That it is also something I can share with Leah (and hopefully our children) is just an added bonus.