To give a little context, there were two posts; one on a Chiagoland gaming forum, and the other on Facebook. The Chi-town blogger was writing in defense of club rules requiring players to paint their armies. He regarded painting as an essential component of the hobby (which he called simply "wargaming.") The Facebook fellow took affront at this and defended the idea that players should be able to play games however they chose. I suspect he felt that the painterly crowd (of which I count myself a member) can be somewhat intimidating and off-putting.
For my part, I agree with both of them. I certainly think it's possible to play a game with unpainted miniatures. I'll even grant that it can be rewarding and fun. But I'm pretty much bollocks at the actual "game" aspect. I play boardgames regularly, but place well only infrequently. I also lose miniatures games more often than not. I'm even worse at hardcore tactical games like chess. (Though this will probably never stop me from trying.) I'm simply too impulsive a player to do terribly well when confronted with players who can chain together long logical sequences of events. Thus unpainted miniatures wargames have much less appeal to me. They're perfectly legitimate. In many ways I believe a boardgame to be a more accurate measure of one's strategic or tactical acumen. I think they're more successful in miniaturizing complex, multi-part problems. But I like the "art" aspect of miniatures wargames, and I miss that in miniatures games without paint. I don't wish to say that everyone needs to take their hobbies in the same direction as mine, but if you do, and find yourself intimidated by painters of long experience, allow me to take you on a journey through my own youth. If you've been following my recent work . . .
. . . I'll show you where I started and how I got where I am today. I've technically done part of this before, in as much as I've talked about the origins of my gaming misadventure, and my modeling techniques, but I haven't carefully and systematically described the development. One thing I'd like to do with this is assure everyone that any decent, self-respecting gamer, would allow ANY of these models on the same board as his own exquisite and lovely paint jobs. Even the antiques with the block-painting. (Exceptions are made for genre and scale, of course.)
Tthese are pretty simple block paints except for the art on the back of the mechanic's jacket. There's no shading, no highlighting, no illustrated eyeballs. These are quite definitely NOT up to my present standards, but they still look more or less presentable. I'd guess that a starter could hope to learn to paint to this standard in a few miniatures at most. (Maybe excepting the nude.)
In the second phase I discovered . . . let's call it "damp-brushing." I'd been using drybrusing for weathering on aircraft and trains for a while, but this wasn't a weathering technique. You use it to paint a color coat with less than full/even coverage. I picked it up from one of my neighborhood friends. We based in black and then drybrushed heavily in color on top of that. This left deep shadows and an interesting textured look. Eventually we added genuine drybrushing in lighter shades of related colors creating a more nuanced, layered effect. I still have quite a lot of miniatures wearing this paint waiting for a trip to the pinesol tanks.
The third phase is mostly distinguished by increasing skill and more free-painting. This came after I went off to college in the early nineties. During this phase I got less done, as the demands of work and class (more the former) took away from my painting time. The bulk of the Space Wolves and orks date from this period, which ran from about 1992-95. After the second edition came out I began to lose interest in the game and took perhaps a two year break. In 1997 I began to work fitfully on the Crimson Dragons and Crimson Fists before life intervened to draw me away again. (I should note that a fair percentage of both Crimsons are minor rescue paints of phase II and earlier phase III paintjobs.)
The fourth phase is really the beginning of what I would call my more or less "mature" painting style. Some time after 2000 I found myself again with the luxury of a small place to work. It was a tiny corner of a bedroom, but I had a makeshift workbench (which I use to this day), and a little light to work by. This is when I began painting my squat army. (Bless the wee little beardies, every one.) I was devastated by the news that the squats had been bested by the insectile hordes. As a salve for the sting, I bought a job-lot of unwanted squats from a friend. It was during this phase that I really perfected my eyeballs (to the extent that I have to date), began highlighting in the traditional, non-drybrush sense, and started to systematically blackline. I still base in black, so this last isn't always necessary. You can leave the blackline as a negative space rather than actively painting it, but sometimes it needs touching up.
Anyway, this is a remarkably long way of saying that you too can learn to do this. If a stubborn fool like me, who takes twenty years to even TRY an ink, having them sitting to his side for fully ten of those years can learn to paint, well anybody can. And even if you never get past the naked-girl-noseart-block-paint phase, reasonable people will game with you. You can put your miniatures on the table and at normal table distances, or even zoomed in quite a bit, they'll look just fine.
Play with confidence. I may not quite be Golden Gobbo grade yet, but I'm getting good enough that I'm comfortable saying I know how to do this. I hope that maybe it helps to see where I've come from. I guarantee you, all the fabulous miniatures painters you see out there started in similar or even less skilled places. It's a learning process. And what took me thirty-odd years and left me with boxes of half-crappy miniatures you, dear reader, can do in much shorter order. I'd suggest trying all the stages independently. (And maybe developing a few more besides. The one with the airbrush might be useful.) But maybe one or two miniatures to a stage will suffice rather than dozens or hundreds.