It’s fair to say that for a while there, during the 5th edition of Warhammer 40,000, there was a bit of community pressure to play as though it were a professional contest. This competitive way of playing is certainly in the culture of other games too: video games and Magic: the Gathering already have professional players.
The reason I bring this up is because I’m noticing a shift towards imitation professionalism in the painting side of the hobby now. There is an excellent post here at The Society For Doing Things, laying out a method for avoiding the amateur blues. But I think it’s also interesting that this problem has emerged at all as something people have to face in their hobby.
We all know that there are professional miniature painters, and they are artists like any other. It is their job, probably at least part-time, and they are probably trained in fine art or design and supported by a community of other pros. But at the same time we have the wider community of amateur painters, myself included, and probably you too if you are reading this. And we are beginning to up our expectations of ourselves and other amateurs in light of the highly visible professional’s work.
I don’t know if this is inevitable, but I don’t think it’s reasonable. The vast majority of painters (myself included) are not going to be able to produce a professional finish because we aren’t professionals; we simply don’t have the resources in time, knowledge and motivation. So why do we try to learn professional techniques, and try to mimic their style? Why do we run contests and judge one another and then just hand the prizes every time to people who can paint like Giraldez? What is going to happen when it becomes obvious that there are a few elite painters, and the rest of us finally admit that we can never match them? Are most of us going to stop trying?
Possibly. My only suggestion right now is not to stop trying. But stop expecting that you’ll ever produce a professional finish without effectively being a professional. More importantly, stop assuming that other amateurs can and want to be that good. Aim to create works that you are happy with, and that reflect your own aesthetic sensibilities, within your limits. Develop a style instead of trying to be the best. Critique other’s style, not their technique (unless they ask of course).
One more thought: why is it that only certain parts of the hobby seem up for grabs by both amateurs and professionals, and other parts are only for the pros? It’s a lot less common to meet people who sculpt models from scratch, or design their own games from the ground up, than it is people who are trying to be great painters or successful competitive players. I don’t see why this is; none of these things seems inherently easier to master or more accessible than any of the others to me.