top of page

Painting Challenges 101 #1 - Telling a Story

With ArcOpen being announced the hope is we might see a new generation of painters stepping up to the challenge of a new and significant event.

But what do you need to know to enter a high profile painting challenge?

I hope i can fill in some gaps for you. Being a multiple Golden Demon winner, five times voted Player’s Choice and four times judged Best Painted at Arc40k, appeared on the global Armies On Parade Online show twice… and I’ve also coordinated and judged the Australian Golden Demon Competition for several years. I’ve walked both sides of the challenge of competitively painting miniatures

Is there a secret ingredient to get people to like and choose your models?

It could be creating processes and systems that challenge and improve skills, learning and practicing new techniques as well as exploring how to best make models stand out from the crowd.

The new ArcOpen Painting Challenge is less about competing against others and more about working to create the best possible piece you are able to offer. So, if you’re ready to embark on a truly exciting aspect of your artistic hobby journey then this challenge might just be for you.

I started out looking to write an article about my top 3 tips for anyone looking take on the challenge of ArcOpen. But I think there’s much more to cover than one article can contain!

So we’ll start with some advice that I realized was part of what makes great painting competition entries well after I stopped competing - but runs true for almost everything I try to do now.

These are my top three tips - master these and you’ll be on the way to creating top tier miniatures.

1 Tell a Story

2 Action, Graphic emphasis and layout

3 Do the Technical Stuff Right

So my number 1 tip is whatever you do - try and tell a story! Number 2 is to create a frozen moment that is graphically appealing and dynamic. Number 3 is to tick all the boxes to get all the technical stuff right!

So let’s talk about telling a story!

My biggest competitive painting experience is through entering Golden Demon here in Australia. Each of my entries were dioramas in the Open Category. Dioramas are a series of vignettes, small encapsulations of some greater action that plays a part in telling a story.

The Wrath of Kharn - Australian Golden Demon Open Category 2000 - Silver

Art and miniature art is at it’s heart about telling stories. Some stories are given to us and all we have to do is expand and grow them.

A Space Marine is a character that is 30,000 years or more in the making. A genetically engineered super soldier, ready to unleash death, destruction and carnage upon anyone in their way. But can you add to that background and project a story of your own…creating a story of your own for the situation?

Stories don’t have to be large or all encompassing to be effective. Sometimes the models from the box

support or extend the story.

Blade Guard telling us 'What's over there!' or 'Shinny Blades are best'?

Take the Space Marine Blade Guard… all that background and then you can model them pointing at the enemy they are about to engage or cleaning their blade after slaying the enemy they have just defeated. This is the start of telling a story.

With the limitation of up to a 40mm base you need to create and tell a story for your miniature. You need to be asking and answering the question: what brings it here and what is it doing?

A single miniature can tell a story, and a strong story will draw attention - of the judges, of those choosing who makes the cut - stories move you onto the next stage.

Victoria Lamb - The Body Guard - 2001

One of the best examples I’ve ever seen in telling a story in miniature, and that stood apart from other sminiatures is Victoria Lamb’s the BodyGuard from Australian Golden Demon in 2001.

Pathos, empathy, sadness… this miniature is a vignette, a diorama on a 40mm base. It’s still an inspiring piece. it’s an art to tell so much with so little. For me that make this model an all time classic!

Many of my own miniatures tell a story, encapsulated on the confines of the base. You'll find some of the process behind creating crazy bases in a number of Hobby Articles here on the site:

I really like my Khardron Overlords poised on floating rocks that play on the background of mining gaseous aether gold. It’s a bit Avatar esque. And because they are an Age of Sigmar Force I've not shown them off in other articles.

Kharadron Overlord mining the Aether Gold

So back to our regular 40k theme and have you seen the year 1 Warhammer+ Assassin miniature?

He comes posed in what might be a high point shooting position - which is a little short and low on details. All you have to do is exaggerate the base to lean more into that story line. Then with that extra detail you’re enhancing and reinforcing that he is poised on high preparing to take the shot!

Vindicare Asasen - Taking the Shot

So to wrap this first article up here's the key take out: As you start to look at which or what miniature you will choose to paint, ask yourself can I see its story - and will others get it too?

Then think how best you can pose, repose or position the model to enhance that story.

How is it interacting with the base? How is it projecting actions beyond the base? What story does the base convey and how big a part in the overall piece are you making it?

Oh and a whole other topic is do I need a background, plinth or other elements to better frame and focus attention on the model yet still create and support the story?

So you might also try and conveying something beyond the confines of the model’s base. Ask the what if questions - make whatever is going on clear and concise, most of all make sure you’re telling a story.

I hope you found this article useful. In the next installment I’ll run through some important tips to help capture your viewers and create action even when there’s nothing going on.


Related Posts

See All


Preparing for Arc40k!

Preparing for Arc40k!

20 Apr 2024

Celebrating Success at ArcOpen 2024

Celebrating Success at ArcOpen 2024

15 Apr 2024

Everyone’s Welcome ArcFest 2024

Everyone’s Welcome ArcFest 2024

7 Apr 2024

Victoria Returns to ArcFest in 2024

Victoria Returns to ArcFest in 2024

3 Apr 2024

Forging it for Fun at Arcfest

Forging it for Fun at Arcfest

20 Mar 2024

Addikted to Ink - ArcOpen Major Sponsor

Addikted to Ink - ArcOpen Major Sponsor

20 Apr 2024

ArcHobby Hall Update - ArcOpen 2024

ArcHobby Hall Update - ArcOpen 2024

14 Apr 2024

Show your support with exclusive Merch…

Show your support with exclusive Merch…

4 Apr 2024

Exciting News for Arcfest participants

Exciting News for Arcfest participants

24 Mar 2024

May the Force be with ArcFest

May the Force be with ArcFest

19 Mar 2024

bottom of page