Painting With Pareto

“Does anyone else get real close to finish painting a mini and get an undeniable urge to put it aside and start a new one? I have like 5 miniatures near done and just keep starting new ones lol.” – a fellow miniature painter on Facebook


You, my friend, are quite likely having a first-hand encounter with the Pareto Principle (aka, the 80/20 rule). If you’re not already familiar with this concept, it’s worth spending a few minutes to learn more about it in detail, but basically, this is an idea that the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto came up with based on some observations he made in his vegetable garden. The core of it is that in many situations, 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. When applied to hobbies or other creative endeavors, it’s a perfect explanation for the phenomenon of losing steam partway through a project: great strides are often made at the start of a project, but it’s the last bit, the final 20%, that requires 80% of the time and effort.

The Pareto Principle in a nutshell. Er, wait a minute…  (Photo by Bill Ebbesen)


In the beginning, it’s easy to work on something new and exciting — it’s new and exciting after all! There might be some bumps and hurdles to clear along the way, but you can clearly see results from one day to the next. Then, as you get close to the end, you hit a wall. You put in the same amount or even more time and effort as before, but now you’re only crawling along. You become frustrated, your motivation is gone, and now you just want to be done with it (or maybe you abandon it altogether). What was once a fun and engaging project has become a grind. But it’s this 80% of time and effort spent polishing and refining and working on the details that turn unfinished or mediocre project into something that you can be proud of, something for which you can own the satisfaction of having completed.

Moving to an even more granular level, it’s spending inordinate amounts of time on the fine details when painting a miniature: adding layer after successive layer or meticulously wet-blending to achieve those ultra-smooth shades and highlights; repeatedly starting over when painting the eyes because you keep messing up and want to get them right; painstakingly fixing tiny mistakes and imperfections that the vast majority of people will never notice, but which will bug you every time you look at that mini because you know they’re there. Tedious and mentally taxing for certain… but it’s the thing that makes all the difference in the end, the thing that separates the amateurs from the masters.


On the other hand…


2 responses to “Painting With Pareto

  1. Pingback: Painting With Voltaire | Gamer Multiclass

  2. Pingback: Narthrax WIP | Gamer Multiclass

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