Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Bus stations in Helsinki

I've been thinking, there being not a lot else to do when you're awake at 3am because your body clock thinks it's 10am...

Mostly, I've been thinking about why I do this blog, which was in part inspired by something I read yesterday on the Helsinki Bus Station theory. What, you might ask, is that?

Well - it's a metaphor for creativity and art. The article summarises it better than I do, but in a nutshell: Helsinki bus station has a number of platforms, and all buses from a given platform pretty much share the same route as each other for the first bit of their route. This is kind of like the first steps in blogging, painting, whatever: you find inspiration in 'I wanna do something like so-and-so', but for the first few stops you think 'but everyone's doing this / I'm so unoriginal / I suck...'. And if you're foolish, you go back to the bus station, and you pick a different platform, and the same thing happens...

The secret is, to stay on the bus. To keep on doing whatever it is you're doing.

Because eventually the routes diverge. And you find you're on your own bus, going your own way, for all it may have started out like several others.

There are some stupendously brilliant figure painters out there. I'm not one of them, and (given I have next to no depth perception, eyes that make in-store opticians go 'what????', and am generally not the tidiest or neatest of painters) I never will be. I'm not by any means the best tactician or strategist: a look at the results of the last two WAB GT's should demonstrate that pretty quickly. And so on. And there's a part of me thinks 'who the hell do I think I am, trying to teach my readers that include people like RayR or AndyH how to paint horses?'

I think I figured it out from a comment on one of my Analogue Hobbies painting contest entries (which I still submit with a degree of trepidation! - 'here, have an entry. it's not very good'):
I really like how you have described the process. For wargaming standard (my standard) the AP products are really impressive. I am still developing my technique with them, but I have learned a lot from your post as well. 
Well, duh, Mike. (And thank you, John.)

See, not everyone's Kevin Dallimore. Not everyone's Martin Gibbins, or Sidney Roundwood. Sure, we all would love to be. But it's a surprising truth of the universe that you don't have to be that good at something before you acquire your own style, your own way, and you actually have things you can do that not everyone can do as well as you can.

So, no, if you've read this far, I'm not fishing for compliments and affirmation. I'm Joe Average gamer, looking at the figures and terrain my friends and opponents produce and wishing I was that good, but taking pride in the fact that I can put a painted army on the table that I'm not ashamed of. And maybe the thing I can do, because I do seem to have a knack for writing proper, helpful, joined-up English, is to help other folks, the ones who like me just wish they were Andy Hawes (stop blushing, mate!), figure out how to do that, and things like that, too.

Welcome to Trouble At T'Mill. Hopefully, there's something here you can learn from.


  1. Hi Mike!
    That's very well put. I think we all have things that we can teach each other, and that helps to make all of us better painters. Your series on horse colours and heraldry have been very useful and have certainly helped me with my painting. I can only hope that some of the tips and techniques that I've shared on my blog have helped others.

    Keep plugging away,


  2. Great post Mike. Its funny with painting. I've seen some superb paint jobs and some terrible ones. We're not all the same. I look on some 6mm armies with envy - then been told my own paint jobs are great. I think the thing is to find your level and be happy with it. Or pay someone a fortune to paint them for you!

    But I would always say 'give it a go'. No, it may not be the best paint job in the world, but you gave it a go (more than many people do) and they're YOUR troops.

  3. I happen to enjoy reading your knack for writing proper, helpful, joined up English and I am inspired by it. However, with model painting there is no secret raw talent to it. You just keep plugging away at it, learning how to do it as you do it, asking the right questions, and learning how to ask the right questions, so you can learn more.

    If you haven't yet read the works of Tim Ferris (4-Hour Work Week, 4-Hour Chef, 4-Hour Body), then I would suggest you do so. He instructs you how to dissect anything that you want to learn into parts and learn it quickly. In short, you learn by failing, so keep doing it and failing at it until you get it right. You didn't learn how to write in a single day and I'm sure there were many failures along the way. Those failures taught you how to get better over time.

    It's the same way with painting miniatures. You just have to do it. I'd recommend at least 15 minutes a day, but on some days each week, you'll need longer time periods of at least an hour, 2 are better. If you go any longer, don't forget to take breaks. A single three to four hour session over a weekend will really boost your progress.

    Want to learn even faster? Teach somebody else how to paint miniatures who has less experience than you do.

  4. Thanks Mike. Having just suffered another maurice disaster at the club on monday (a case of not seeing woods for trees), good to be reminded that we may all get there in the end. And even if we dont it does not matter as long as it was fun. Re-entering this hobby after a forty year break is a rude reminder of how much the brain can atrophy. However AP is a great painting technique. Results are pleasing and light years better than my humbrol coated minifigs ancients found mouldering in the loft.
    The link page from the gruniad also features a dramatic fall down a snow gully. That I found was a sport to much to keep going. Got off the train before I fell off.

  5. Good post mate! Thank you for your kind words too. It's good to know that my painting inspires and encourages.

    You are right - we can all learn something from each other. That's one of the things that I love about the hobby.

  6. Mike, a very good post indeed. Actually, it's a real classic. I loved it. And thank you for the introduction to Helsinki Bus Station Theory!

    I've loved this hobby for over 30 years now, but quite honestly I don't think I've ever met a single "Joe Average gamer"! This hobby, in my view, brings out the very best in people - creativity, imagination, enthusiasm, dedication and - most important of all - friendship. Every one of us on those buses, wherever we are, has loads to offer to everyone else - that's part of the greatness of the hobby. The most important thing is - just stay on that bus!!!! (as you said!).

    You're doing just fine here with your blog, Mike - just fine!! Take your trees for example - a terrific sequence of posts, and that's just one example plucked at random. And guess what, I even like the occasional rant about parcels left on your doorstep.

    So yes, just stay on that bus Mike - absolutely right.


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