Sunday 11 December 2016

Age Comes On Apace...

I haven't felt much like painting lately, but I did manage to finish these three Minas Tirith guardsman and a Frostgrave treasure token (the rune stone on the right). The photo, unfortunately, is a tad overexposed, which is ironic, considering what I'm about to say.

Over the last year, I have been having difficulty painting. The truth is, I just don't see as well as I used to. It's not a big deal on most miniatures, but those with finer detail (which includes most of GW's The Lord of the Rings line), I'm having real difficulty seeing that detail well enough to paint it.

For most of my life, I have been blessed with above average eyesight (apparently to compensate for my terrible hearing and sense of smell). However, having turned forty this year, it would be surprising if I didn't 'see' some decline. So I went to the optometrist. Apparently, my vision is still above average, at least as far as forty-year-olds are concerned, and I don't need glasses; though I am considering getting myself a pair of low-powered reading specs for small font.

I briefly experimented painting with magnification, but it seems to cause as many problems as it solves, and takes some of the enjoyment out of it. So, instead, I started experimenting with light... and soon made a major discovery. I didn't have near enough light when I paint.

Once I stopped and thought about it, I realized that my 'painting light' has slowly decreased over the years. I used to have a dedicated paint station, near a window, with a specific lamp for painting. Then, I immigrated to country that doesn't receive near as much natural light; I lost my painting space near the window, and I lost my dedicated lamp. Oh, and then European legislation outlawed the old light bulbs and made us all replace them with much dimmer energy-efficient ones. At each step my eyes could handle it, but added all together with another ten years of age thrown in, and it was too much. A few nights ago, after I finished painting these Gondorians, I took my super bright light from the living room into the kitchen. It has both a general lamp and a directional lamp. I cranked both up to full power. I bathed that room in light! And what a difference it made. I could see again! Okay, not like I could when I was a young man, but good enough that I could happily paint even most of the fine detail.

Yes, probably I'm just an idiot for not realizing this sooner, but hey, I've had a lot on my mind. Anyway, I'm a happy painter again!


For those wondering about the title of this post, it is a phrase from the poem 'Solomon Kane's Homecoming' by Robert E. Howard. Howard didn't write much poetry, especially later in his short life, which is a shame, because he certainly had a talent for it. You can read the whole poem here.


  1. The guardsmen look great to me, but a strong lighting source is undoubtedly a must-have for painting. I actually now carry a strong lamp with me when travelling away just in case I get the opportunity to utilise my portable painting kit - as the hotel lighting is usually always poor or low-lit. Great quote btw, just listening to an audible of REH at the moment.

    1. Would love to hear a few details on your portable painting kit! If you get the chance see if you can find that reading of Solomon Kane's Homecoming that was made for the special edition of the Savage Sword of Solomon Kane. It's fantastic.

    2. I have Paul Boehmer reading Homecoming on Disc 10 of The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane; it includes the variant version too. My portable painting kit is nothing fancy, just an Assortment Organiser which just about fits inside my suitcase, and allows me to transport paints, brushes and tissue-wrapped models where-ever I work :-)

  2. Well, a good light source definitely makes all the difference.
    Also I would suggest one of those magnifying glasses specific to paint miniatures. I don't quite like them, nor use them, but already have mine boxed, prepared for when I reach the age of forty :P

    Straight to business, those guardsman of Minas Tirith look fantastic! Great job.
    About the rune stone, I need to get one of those for myself... I love it.

  3. I had one of those speciality magnifying glasses years ago, but never needed it and eventually got rid of it. I might have to look for one again, just to have on hand for especially tricky details.

  4. More lamps! I correctly use 3, 1 overhead and 1 on each side. Pretty much all cheap IKEA lamps with white light bulbs, as bright as I can get.

    1. Currently, not correctly. I'm pompous, but not that pompous ;)

  5. Joe, I am in the same boat. Over the last year I've been having a harder and harder time seeming what the heck I'm painting (that and the very small print on the back of DVD cases?!). I tried painting under one of those magnifying glass/lamp thingies, but didn't really like it. In the spring I finally went to an optometrist and, like you, I've had excellent vision all my life and the optometrist confirmed that I still have pretty good vision and don't really need glasses. She did suggest that as we get older it simply gets harder to pull focus to see things really close up and that some really low magnification reading glasses might do the trick - and they totally did. I think she had suggested +1.00 or maybe +1.25, but the lowest magnification I could find was +1.5...? Anyway, made a world of difference. (good lighting, of course also helps a lot!) Hope you find something that works out for you!

  6. Commiserations:

    I've inherited the family curse of long sight.
    It bit me in my 48th year, and in this, my 53rd my natural fuocus has moved beyond my arm's reach.

    I've had glasses for 4 years, but they don't help when I want to take a close look at a figure.

    Does anybody know whether a different gadget (like a jeweller's eyepiece) would be better for painting detail on figures?

  7. Great looking minis. I have a stack of LotR minis on my shelf awaiting attention, but my eyesight too has recently taken an age related decline.

    I think this is the curse of all us 40 and 50 something gamers. I too hit the painting wall when I turned 45 or so (about 5 years ago), but on my visit to the optician last week I asked about close focus glasses (focal length 25cms) that could allow me to paint again. They suggested a slightly stronger prescription than my normal reading glasses (a very low prescription), so hopefully these will help. I will let you know how things go.

  8. Please do let me know what they say! (And if it's hopeless and you need to get rid of those extra Lord of the Rings minis...well, you know where to come.)

  9. Hi Joe, I also answered your question in the same way on my blog, but here it is again with regards the "close-work" reading glasses...

    "I must admit this is the name I gave them when describing what I wanted from the optician. She responded by saying that the closest focal point they can do is around 25cm, so I said "Yep, that will do"."

    I have been trying them out over the last few days and they are working wonders at the moment for miscellaneous hobby work (cutting sprues, glueing and filling), and I can see fine detail on the miniatures that I am not ordinarily able to see with my unaided eyesight, or indeed with my normal reading glasses. I am hopefully gong to try them out this weekend for a spell of painting - I will keep you updated on how they function.