Each week, I’ll pester one of my creative colleagues with five questions about his or her work and, if I’m feeling wicked, deeply personal issues. Most of these folks are friends, a few are secret enemies, and one has been blackmailing me for years.
I first learned of Meg Maples when I read the painter credit on the Varian Jeggare miniature, which Reaper made as a Pathfinder special for Gen Con 2010. Later, when I was writing stories based on miniatures from Privateer Press, I noticed that Meg was one of their in-house painters. Her work had become even more amazing.
That’s all the nudge I needed to commission Meg to paint both Varian and his bodyguard, Radovan. I passed along the miniatures and a few requests at Gen Con, and she put them in her queue, finishing them recently. The resulting diorama should arrive at my house any day now, and I can stop sitting beside the dog with our noses pressed against the glass waiting for the postman.
1. How did you end up painting miniatures professionally?
It was an accident, really. I had been painting for about a year. I was making a lot of progress in a short amount of time, and my gaming group offered to throw a little cash my way to paint their characters. Since I was a broke college student at the time and I enjoyed eating more than just PBJ sandwiches or ramen noodles, I took my fellow players up on their offer. Since my group met at the local game store to play every weekend, people ended up seeing my work and wanted to buy minis off of me at the store. Painting minis for money? HECK YEAH!
Then I started competing and placing in competitions. Eventually I painted a few things for Reaper and other companies. Even after I graduated and had a full time job, I would come home and paint for four hours at night.
Then 2008 happened. Lots of badness happened in my life, including losing my job. I had student loans due, a car payment, a newly acquired mortgage… I had to figure out a way to pay my bills, and even though I applied left and right for work, I had no prospects. But I still had commission requests to keep me afloat, and eventually it became a full-time gig, working twelve hours a day.
At this time I also lived two miles from Reaper HQ. I did work for them as a freelance artist until I made my foray into the gaming industry as a caster, photographer, warehouse monkey, and painter for Reaper. It was quite by accident that I found out Privateer Press needed a second painter and was lucky enough to get the job.
I’m glad I had the opportunity to work at Privateer Press, as I met a lot of really great folks that I’m still friends with. I got to meet other painters and I had managers who pushed my painting quite a bit while I was there. As an aside, I caution people about getting into commission work, and it’s not because I don’t want competition. It’s because I recognize it takes a certain kind of crazy, dedication and love of the meticulous craft to want to do it as a full-time job. I’ve seen it kill friends’ enthusiasm for gaming and miniature painting because they’ve agreed to too many projects. They get bogged down, don’t price adequately, and get frustrated with negative feedback. It’s a tough gig. Think very hard before you take on any commission work. If you have any hesitation about doing commission work, don’t do it! Paint for yourself and enjoy it as a hobby that makes you happy!
2. You recently left a day job to work freelance both as a painter and as an instructor who travels internationally to share your skills. How big a job is it to arrange these classes and travel?
Even before I left Privateer, I had a ton of requests to teach at conventions around the world. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to take advantage of these offers if I didn’t out on my own again.
I thought organizing classes would only take a little bit of time and not really interfere much with my painting schedule. Boy, was I wrong! Organizing classes at conventions doesn’t take up a lot of time. It’s the classes independent of conventions that take up so much time. I didn’t realize how many hours I’d spend each day posting on forums. I’ve had to visit the forums a couple times a week to answer questions in order to make sure people knew about payment deadlines. Figuring out a good deadline so I could ensure enough sign ups to prove to foreign governments I have funds and a reason to travel to their country so I could get work visas. Booking flights, coordinating with game stores, figuring out which miniatures I could get at a reasonable price within the time frame for each store… it’s a ton of work!
My Australia trip is by far the most time consuming, but that’s because I’m spending six weeks traveling. Originally, I was just supposed to attend CanCon 2014 as a special painting guest in the Warmachine and Hordes tournament area. Then I had Press Gangers, Privateer Press’s international crew of volunteers, ask me to visit their cities to do my two-day Master Classes. I have my flights booked, couches ready to be surfed, visas acquired, and even dance studios to dance at while I’m there. Setting all of this up took about four hours a day for the last two and a half months.
Now that the planning is finished, I can get back to painting six hours a day with two hours a day planning for convention classes and some US classes later in 2014.
3. You have an especial fondness for miniatures of female characters, including some scantily clad or “babe” figures. Why do you embrace those models when others decry them as sexist?
This is a super hard question to answer without getting too preachy. The basic answer, I enjoy painting women. I find it a lot of fun. Let’s face it, the female form is pleasing to a lot of people, and a lot of painters enjoy painting female figures.
Most of the painters I know who enjoy painting females the most are female. I think it’s because it appeals to our girly side, which we don’t get the opportunity to express very often as gamers. What I mean is, female miniatures are like Barbie dolls for women. The form is sculpted for us, and if we want we can sculpt clothing, paint the skin a different and odd color, get creative with hair color, jewelry, tattoos, make ups, and so on. Since women in many societies are adorned more than men through clothing and body art, you have a lot more freedom to do whatever you want when painting female figurines than a male figurine.
The somewhat charged answer is, if someone out there is going to rail against models that show cleavage, ankles, exposed wrists, never mind a perfectly sculpted exposed vulva, well, I think they are taking toys way too seriously.
On the flip side, I have yet to hear men rail against the perfectly sculpted, rock-hard abs and always exposed chests, stomachs, and calves of half-naked barbarian models. If scantily clad male models are perfectly fine, then shouldn’t scantily clad female models be okay? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
Why is it perfectly okay to paint a model that has an ax sticking out of someone’s head and blood pooling on the base but not a set of breasts in a corset?
4. You and I share a fondness for the novels of George R.R. Martin. Who are some of your other favorite fantasy authors? And if you could choose any, which fantasy characters that don’t currently exist in miniature form would you most like to paint?
I love Naomi Novik! My first introduction to her writing was through the Neverwinter Nights video games. She did some of the story writing on those. The book series she is writing is based in the Napoleonic Wars, but the fantasy element is having a Dragon Air Corps.
I would love to see Temeraire (the main dragon) and the rest of the cast of characters sculpted so I can paint them. My Dad picked up one of her books first and then sent me the first one. He loved the stories and the characters. It was up his alley as he was a writer and reenactor. One of my Dad’s wishes before he died was that I convert and paint a dragon to be Temeraire for him. I sent a photo to Naomi explaining the project, and she loved it!
Brandon Sanderson is a fantastic author. I am so looking forward to his next books. I’ve listened to all of his stuff currently published that isn’t part of the Wheel of Time series. I’d really like to see his main characters drawn up and sculpted in miniature form, particularly the Steel Inquisitors. The main characters in Elantris I’d love to see sculpted as well, and also the main characters from Warbreaker.
5. Do you still have time to game? If so, what are you playing?
Now that I work for myself again, yes! I just started playing Pathfinder’s Kingmaker campaign for the third time. I’ve been a gamer for almost ten years and have gotten far into campaign arcs before but never finished one. It is one of my goals to complete the entire adventure path.
I’m also taking this December off to paint things for myself and catch up on video games. I haven’t played anything on my PC or Xbox in over a year. Before I moved to Seattle I had started and gotten through a hefty chunk of Dragon Age: Origins but never finished it. I’ve decided my 27-inch monitor is way too small, and I’ll be moving my PC upstairs for December to hook up to our 60″ TV.