Five Years Ago

ancient rome photo

Those ugly grey things.

“I don’t like looking at these grey things. Can we do anything about that?” she said.

I blinked at her owlishly, bemused. I’d been deep into the tabletop gaming hobby for fifteen years and my shelves sagged with the weight of a hundred boxes, but I’d never considered painting any of the sculpted plastic inside them.

I was an awful artist, and (outside of some dabbling with Games Workshop Gondor knights) never a voluntary one. After six months with my then girlfriend Amanda, I realized that I could do it for her.

Little by little, colors bled into the bedrock of our relationship. We converted a used IKEA computer desk to a paint station. Almost every spare minute we had we spent bonding over brushes and dye. When Amanda switched to a graveyard shift, she would take her minis and supplies. I would stay awake until 3 AM in the morning, working on my own little project and chatting with her over Skype. We were always excited to share our efforts with each other the next day.

I’ll never forget the weekends spent watching Mad Men and inexpertly slathering cultists with a basecoat of Vallejo Color black, entirely oblivious to the concept of primer. Our grizzled boxer Moose was always a presence, his phlegmy snore a comfort to us.

ancient rome photo

Those ugly painted things.

Working at a Wargaming Store

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One year of practice: 2018-2019.

For a while, I did a stint behind the counter of a wargaming store. My boss saw our work and asked us to paint a gigantic demo WarCry battle box for a big community event. Amanda and I saw this as a poor man’s stage debut. We spent about five hours on each figure and were well out of our depth. Board games pieces don’t usually put flock or “dirt” on their bases, for instance, and we had to pick up some tricks fast in order to impress more veteran painters.

But we did. I remember the minute I started to see highlights on objects, to view the world as I thought a born painter views it. I was detailing the pecs of some Conan the Barbarian lookalike. Maybe that’s why it’s skin, of all the things on the earth, I love painting the most.

roman republic

Our first Warhammer box.

After the event, someone approached us and said they’d pay for a paint job. A week or two later, another person came. Then another. Then a dozen.

Not a huge surprise, and I’m not really bragging. We charged $5 a mini, and that is insane. It was the sort of insanity we entertained because what we really wanted was more paint nights, more random TV series, more Moose snores, and more moments together. Since the store was struggling, we started paint nights to draw in crowds. We even did paint nights at another local store, Ticket to Play.


My beautiful wife and our paint nights. This one was at Ticket to Play.

After the Store Went Under

Then the store perished, and COVID hit about two months later. I didn’t have anything lined up and I was sixty hours underneath the 500 hours required by Oregon law to qualify for unemployment.

$5/mini became my life. I painted eight hours per diem. I’d watched almost no TV up to that point, but three years of using it as “painting music” actually gave me enough expertise to land freelance job writing about both games and TV. We kept doing paint nights.

For those first two years, I worked about 70-80 hours a week and spent three hours on each mini. I don’t blame anyone but my pride for that.


Our first flyer. Still have a copy!

I can’t complain. Those dollars added up. It’s been good to us. It paid for Moose’s vet bills right up until he passed away, new tires, and other things that, as the saying goes, come between us and the ground. It didn’t cover everything – I had to pick up another job for a while – but it didn’t need to.

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that we’ve had little time to photograph what we accomplish, and it’s clear to anyone that our website’s not exactly finished. Happily, we’ve had no need for either. Word of mouth and our art’s presence on the table did that for us. We’ve never had to solicit employment. Regarding our final tally of minis, I have no exact numbers – I stopped counting at 500.


Slideshow of our work on minions from Mechs vs. Minions. This was actually a single order!

What Comes After


Token from Blood Rage

But now the season’s changed. The pandemic’s over. As you can see from this page, I’ve begun to make some headway as a writer, and that was always my childhood dream. It’s paying better than painting, sadly, and I’m a bit burned out from all those hours.

Amanda’s decided that she can do more than pass meds and make dinners for wards of the state – she’s going to be a nurse. Our September 15th cutoff isn’t arbitrary: it’s one week before her orientation at nursing school.

We’re ready to move on. More importantly, we’re ready to reclaim a piece of that apartment which seems so far away yet so near. There will be one more dog in the room, maybe – and another and another – but the adventure will continue.

Warmest Feelings,

Sean and Amanda Weeks

P.S. The slideshow contains some NSFW minis from the game Kingdom Death: Monster. Halt at the STOP sign to skip these. Amanda worked quite hard on them, however, so it didn’t feel right to exclude them. Click them to enlarge. If the slideshow arrows don’t show up (I know they don’t appear on Instagram’s interface), you might need to look at the desktop site.


Adios! (Click to enlarge.)