Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Painting Lesson 2: Rainbowmane

A few weeks ago, I invited my daughter to have her first miniature painting lesson, which she enthusiastically accepted. I have been waiting for an opportunity for a second invite, but time has been hard to find during the busy school year.

I had a go this past Sunday afternoon, as we were all at home with no plans. In retrospect, this may have been a poor decision as we had gone swimming that morning, which generally leaves the kids exhausted. It’s probably a better time for reading stories than trying to teach painting, but I was excited to give it a try, as I had planned something special.

After our first session, I decided to find my daughter a miniature that would really excite her. She’s really into unicorns at the moment, so I figured that would be perfect. I knew Reaper did a good one in their Bones line, so it wouldn’t cost too much. As it turned out, it proved a little tricky to find one in the UK, but I eventually did with Spirit Games (great service by the way, and extensive Reaper selection).

So, I invited her to come paint with me, and when she accepted, I presented her with the miniature. She greeted it with mild excitement, and we sat down to get to work. My plan was two-fold, to continue with a main focus on care of the brush, but also to see if I could engage her imagination by asking questions about the unicorn – what is its name? what adventures has it been on? My wife is very good at inspiring this kind of creative play with the kids.

As it turned out, the whole session was a bit of a failure. She spent about ten minutes painting the unicorn. She destroyed the paint brush (well, for my use anyway, it’ll probably still work for her), and she wouldn’t really engage with my questions. We did name the unicorn ‘Rainbowmane’, but that was my suggestion. Then she said she was done and left the table. She immediately went and joined her mother and brother in the zoo they were creating in the living room.

It is perhaps worth pointing out that this is a girl who can happily colour, or do crafty bits with paper, all on her own, for an hour or more.

I sat there for a few minutes, looking at her unicorn abandoned on the table, and my own miniature that had only had a colour or two applied, and ruminated on the challenges of parenthood. I knew my daughter was tired, and I think she did actually enjoy those ten minutes, but I was so hoping for more – more time – more connection.

A lot of the time, when you are a parent, you feel like you are treading water - just trying to survive the day, keeping the kids protected, fed, and clean. For the most part, you don't expect any thanks for these things, and perhaps none is deserved. But, when you go out of your way to set up something fun, and really put some care and attention into it, in the hopes it will lead to some quality time, it hurts when it falls flat. 

I cleaned up and put the paints away.

The next day she did ask if she could put grass (flocking) on her unicorn, like I did with my miniatures. We couldn’t do it at that moment, but I told her we would the next time we painted…


  1. You did fine Joe. Sometimes these things happen, nobody's fault. She was engaged and happy for the 10 minutes, and Rainbowmane really does look awesome. Cue the metal intro!...

    Rides across the plains!
    Wipes out the evil stain!

    *metal guitar solo*

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks for these blog posts, Joe. I'm expecting my first at Christmas, and I'm already feeling the ups and downs of excitement and anxiety. I've heard plenty of times before, on Facebook and educational stuff, that parenting is all individual, hard, you can't be perfect all the time, but for some reason it's so much more reassuring from you, maybe as a fellow gamer, maybe just because you are a real person being honest and not trying to motivate or encourage or get likes, but just sharing your experience. Keep telling us how it goes, even if it goes badly!

  3. At least you've had two sessions now, so that "Painting with Dad" is a thing. Maybe you can find a different Unicorn and start a herd.

  4. This is so familiar to me as a parent, and as one who's tried to bring both kids into my hobby with varying ongoing success. I'm more than ever convinced that Dr. Johnson had it right when he said "nothing is ore hopeless than a scheme for merriment". The things I plan to be magical with the kids very often disappoint both parties, and the truly special moments are always unexpected. Having said that, I ran a very simple RPG for my kids and two others at the weekend, and was very surprised and delighted that they all LOVED it. So perhaps the key is to expect the worst..