Welcome to Hobby Aesthetics 101. This the place where we take aim at making our tabletop miniature armies look really neat and stuff. First things first, I’m Sean, just a dude who loves the hobby and has gotten a couple awards for painting and hobby here and there, but it’s all just part of a greater journey of this hobby of ours. Enjoy the process with me. First things first we’re going to talk a bit about inspiration, how to find it, where to look when you can’t find it and how to manage it once you do.

Let’s begin and set the tone:
It is a dark, cold, rainy night in your attic and you’ve packed up Teclis, 100 Sentinels and I dunno, 20 Kangaroo rider blokes in your army case. Over the last two weeks you’ve built and slapchopped this army (excellently I must say, great job) straight out of the box. You proceed to go 5-0 over the weekend, but come in 12th because you didn’t have enough conversions or free hand on your models. Sorry homie. Back in the attic the Lumineth Slurmlords go. But staring at you in the attic is a dusty copy old copy of Final Fantasy 7 for Playstation 1. Wow you loved that game, oh man and how cool were those bird things…what were they again? Oh right! Chocobos. Yeah, Chocobos…those were the days. Nostalgia hits and you think to yourself. Chocobos kinda look like those Kangaroo guys, yes yes. What would Teclis look like if I gave him a big sword and one wing like I dunno…Sephiroth? HOLY SH*T WE GOT SOMETHING HERE! Fast forward 2 years you just won best overall at the most prestigious tournament in the world (Rune Axe Team Tournament probably) with your Lumineth Final Fantasy army because Lumineth is somehow still crazy good and you did amazing at converting the army (I’m very proud of you btw).

This is really what the process tends to look like when inspiration comes in, takes over and wraps you up for a project. Can be any number of things that feed it but honestly the best place it can come from is you. Where is your heart on this stuff? You almost can’t SEEK it out, there’s got to be some organic inspiration that happens. But that wouldn’t make for a very good article would it? So let’s talk about getting primed and excited about a big hobby project. I’ll use my Waaaghnnarok project as an example.

  1. To Look Forward, Look Back: One of the best ways to plan is to look at what you’ve done previously, tried previously, enjoyed previously. This works for inspiration in the sense of nostalgia, but also for hobby process for what you know how to do or what you had wished you knew how to do better. This is a good way to give yourself a frame for a project. A project could be based 100% around learning how to sculpt with green stuff better, or use a specific paint process, or just utilise a specific model kit you’ve always loved. Experience is a great teacher and an excellent source of inspiration.
    Waaaghnarok: I always loved Orks, I played Orks in 40k when I was a young dude and always wanted to build an army of them, also a massive Warcraft fan with many years played of WoW and wanted to find ways to incorporate that into whatever project I did.
  2. Look Outward to Look Inward: Without going straight to social media and looking at what other people are doing hobby wise, you can get inspired just by looking around your surroundings, especially things you choose to surround yourself with. Going for a drive and staring at a rusty ute might inspire you to make some rusty metal stuff (I love rusty stuff too, there’s probably a support group somewhere), a walk in nature could inspire basing concepts like: rocky outcroppings, fallen logs, cracks in the earth leading to an ominously glowing underworld. Looking out an office window at reflections on a skyscraper could give you just the inspiration you need to start that Non Metallic Metal Stormcast project. The world is full of inspiring things and sometimes all it takes an extra 10 seconds of looking.
    Waaaghnarok: Living in Australia, it’s very common to find red dirt everywhere and there’s plenty of rusty stuff. Also the home of Mad Max, so there’s a lot around that would fuel a landscape strewn with scrap metal, rusty equipment and red dust.
  3. Have Love, Show Love: What do you love? Is there music you listen to constantly? A movie you can’t stop watching? Okay buddy, if you watch the extended Lord of the Rings trilogy weekly and listen to Enya maybe you just need to go play Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game, literally made for you. But if you can’t stop listening to Goldfinger and you watch a lot of John Wick, maybe a ska themed John Wick Space Wolf army is your calling (“It Wasn’t Just a Puppy”). Having those things you love and being able to display them through the hobby is such a rewarding process and can help to reinforce your love for those things.
    Waaaghnarok: I love metal music, pretty much across the board. Black Metal, Thrash Metal, Death Metal, Metalcore, all of it. Also could watch Fury Road on repeat pretty much every day, especially while hobbying. So naturally these found their way into this project.
  4. The Social Network: Okay now you can go on social media and look at some other ideas people had, search twitter, instagram, facebook, bing, google+, myspace, whatever to see if there is anything that’s close to the idea you’re starting to form. If you find anything close, go check out that person’s profile see if there are any WIP shots that might give you some ideas for how to do conversions or paint processes and final processes to see how it turned out. Also go dig for reference material, pictures of any visual inspirations, build a mood board (google it), find lots of stuff. Also start to look at the models you might want to use, and look across all the ranges for ideas (and 3d printed bitz if you swing that way). There are great models in Necromunda, Underworlds, 40k, AoS that are all usable across other game systems with a bit of mish mashing and kitbashing. I didn’t put this first as the internet can be very overwhelming when it comes to hobby, and I think focusing on yourself and your immediate surrounds are more valuable than going too broad too quickly when it comes to these things.
    Waaaghnarok: There’s a long history of the Goff Rokker in Warhammer, primarily 40k. So taking in a lot of those references and processes people came up with to build towards the 40k Goff Rokk aesthetic I was able to find inspiration towards my own project.
  5. Amalgamate, Collaborate, Integrate: Okay you’ve gotten a lot of sources of inspiration and you either have like one random entry from a Rogue Trader book or you might have like 20 mood boards and have already bought 5 different kits to build one hero for your army. Either way you need to build some kind of a plan. One model at a time, an unit, the whole army at once. Be realistic with the timeline. Don’t try to scratchbuild 150 models in 3 weeks, some part of your life will suffer I promise. Plans can change, but get something written down.
    Waaaghnarok: After Cancon 2020 I was inspired by the Megaboss on Mawkrusha, Gore Gruntas and Warchanters lists people play (Hey Gabe and Joel love your work). So my plan was to start with the Megaboss on Mawkrusha then work my way through the list, building stuff as I wanted but goal was to actually do 2 Megabosses on Mawkrusha, then about 12-15 Gore Gruntas and 2 Warchanters. I ended up swapping a MBoM to a Rogue Idol in the end. Individually each model was it’s own plan on what bits to source and how to build it. The Rogue Idol was the most intensive conversion / build, using 6 or 7 different kits, PVC pipe, 3d Printed bits, wood and jewellery chain. WORTH IT.
  6. Enjoy the Process: Okay now that you’ve considered how many models is in that 2000 point competitive list it’s really overwhelming and do I really have to sculpt a monocle and a tophat on every single squig and what am I doing and why do I do this hobby and I hate it all and I’m going to throw my paints away and and and and. STOP FOR ONE SECOND. Do one model, try it out, make it the best you possibly can or best you possibly want to can be able to. Enjoy that process, it’s your hobby, get a feel for what’s working and what’s not. Adapt, modify and onwards you go into success.
    Waaaghnarok: I spent 3 years working on the army on and off because I only worked on it when I was enjoying it. It took time, but the time was all worth it and made it feel that much more fulfilling to finish as I could look back and enjoy the fond memories.

Inspiration can be fickle, intangible and difficult to wrangle. But it is also the life force behind every project. Learning how your mind works and what excites you creatively can be a difficult process but it is very rewarding and endearing. Hopefully this list gives you a bit of a framework for finding and harnessing your inspiration from concept to action. Please let me know if any of this helps you or if my own work is an inspiration to you, I’d love to hear all the most inspiring stories. You can find me on twitter @seanzor21 or instagram @seanzorr

Onwards, to coolness!

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