Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hating on BoLS - Liquid Talent Revisited

You got no BoLS
From the tracking numbers, the last Hating on BoLS article was pretty popular. It is only 16 views behind the GK Overview which is the leading article at 143 views as of this date. The BoLS article even prompted my first anonymous dislike mail. I'd call it hate mail but it is rather hard to express a concept as complex as hate in 6 words and no clear attempt at punctuation, content or structure. I am nonetheless flattered (but I am also disabling anonymous comments at this time). I am hoping to make the "Hatin on BoLS" style posts a semi-monthly thing. Emperor only knows that they give me plenty to complain about and I am not the only one

Today our hate for the BoLS (pronounce it "bowls" or "balls" if you want to be a pretentious douche) is directed at Brent from Strictly Average and judging by this article, strictly average may be out of his reach. My critique, like any good offensive, is going to consist of waves. First, I need to outline my compositional objections to his writing "style". After that, I can address my thematic objections. I do want to make a section about his good ideas because there are several things that he talks about that I agree with.
(Attacking someone's writing style rather than the argument may seem like an ad hominem, but in this case my objections to this crappy article (and BoLS in general) include the poor way that the posts are written. I am not trying to distract from the point because the point is that the content and the structure make these posts unreadable.)

Brent can't write well. I am no Thomas Wolf, Tom Wolfe or even Tobias Wolff but I would like to think that I can construct a coherent article without too much effort or prep work. My posts are far from perfect but I'm lightyears ahead of the frass over at BoLS. Brent's posts most often look like stream of consciousness rants with no direction and no real thesis. He jumps around from point to point and really fails to develop his assertions into anything concrete.

Could not resist the Primer on Primer pun, could you?
For starters he has no idea how to use a paragraph break. He seems to arrange his sentences based on the kind of picture they make like E.E. Cummings. There are many single sentence paragraphs (a no no in writing) or other paragraphs that could be easily combined.

The title of the article is "Painting Marines Sucks" and yet he spends very little time talking about why this is the case preferring rather to make bold assertions and not back them up. Halfway through the article, he apparently has a topic shift and gives it a subheading of a beginner's primer to painting Space Marines. So is this a rant about how it is hard to paint space marines or a how-to-paint article. Each of these things could have been a decent article on its own, but to clumsily insert a half-assed painting tutorial into the middle of the article is just confused and poor writing.

I could really go on but criticizing someone's writing style not only opens me up to the same but is a weak argument. Yes, Brent needs to up his writing game but that is not his biggest problem. His biggest problem is that he does not know what he is talking about.

His first mistake is calling drybrushing an advanced technique. If DBing is advanced, I would hate to think what he considers a basic technique. Opening the pot? Drybrushing is as basic as they come. It is one of the first techniques in the How to Paint books. It would be the first if they did not do things alphabetically.  If a four year old can master drybrushing, I have a hard time considering it advanced. Wet blending is my idea of an advanced technique because it takes skill, patience and better motor control than a toddler has. He goes on to undermine his own topic and illustrate the point I am making by showing a picture of a mini that a child painted with dry brushing.

From the Strawman Chapter.
He also contradicts himself. He tries to extort the premise that Marines are hard to paint because they are composed of large flat areas compared to other minis. He follows this with an example of an Inquisitor with lots of leather and cloth that are painted in flat colors. He also completely ignoring that the minis are what you make them. His example mini is indeed composed of large flat areas because that is how he chose to build it. If he has a problem with large flat areas, he could easily paint Dark Angles or a successor Chapter with the cloth he do deeply admires.

In addition, his premise is flawed. I find it quite challenging and rewarding to paint armor. It is difficult to get the shading and highlighting just right. Granted they do not lend themselves to basic painting techniques like drybrushing but developing painting skills is part of your development as a painter. Brent, seems to want minis that are easily painted with basic techniques rather than any sort of challenge. I guess that makes him a poor painter and a poor writer.

As if to undermine his own point, he then shows pictures of decently painted Marines done with dry brushing. At this point he loses me. The post is just a series of  blind assertions that do not make sense. My head starts swimming and I lose patience for this nonsense but that is no different from any other Brent article.

Brent talks about some awesomely painted Blood Angles remarking on how skillful the painter is but follows it with "but it is really hard." So I don't get it. He wants great results from simple techniques without spending a lot of time or using any real skill? Yes, painting is hard and making it look good takes years of practice and hours at the bench. There is really no way around it. How do you get to Carnegie Hall again?

From the forthcoming "Masterclass from a 4 Year Old"
I am going to skip his primer on painting Space Marines mini-article because it does nothing to address his primary concerns about what he thinks makes panting Space Marines difficult. He has a bad case of logorrhea and just spouts whatever comes to mind regardless of if it has any bearing on his topic or how it relates to what he just said. He would benefit greatly from making a flipping outline before he starts writing or having someone proof his stuff.

That brings us to Dev Mud. I've talked about it before and my feelings have not changed. I love Dev Mud (now called Agrax Earthshade). It is my second most used wash after Badab Black. But it is not is an easy button.

Now, to his credit, Brent does not advocate using it as the last step. He says, and I quote, "Wash your model after its basecoat - from there you're almost home." To a point I agree. Aside from him not having any idea at how to use a dash in a sentence, he is on the right path. Dev Mud is a part PART of a painters tool box. Where he fails is that he does not advocate more painting after washing or explicitly state that Dev Mud is a only a step in the process and rather blindly defends it.

What is dislike is those that use it to make up for a lack of skill and pretend like they have skill. Use Dev Mud all you want, but use it as a last step and do not expect me to compliment you on how well your minis are painted. It is weak to even pretend that is a form of painting. At that point, you are dipping your minis and you should be using Army Painter as Brent suggests. That bypasses the whole "time" and "skill" issues that Brent has.

The watch words for those that use tricks to make up for skill sound like"And lastly, hit the entire model with Dev Mud and you're done!" As a side note, I also have little patience for people that think a drybrush of Bleached Bone is the same as highlighting, but that is a story for another day.

One of the very few things that Brent gets right is the pen trick or I like to call it, THE PEN IS MIGHTIER. Brent advocates using a 0.02mm pen because he stinks at shading. This is a bit of an easy button but still takes quite a bit of skill to make it look decent. I am in favor of this to a point. Acquiring actual skill in shading and adding depth eliminates the need to use the pen for shading. I only use them for purity seals at this point.

I think that Brent lacks any understanding on what shading is as he thinks the Marine to the right is adequately shaded. I can't really even call it painted. He claims he used the pen to shade the white areas but I am failing to see it. Maybe it is the photograph, but this looks really flat painted to me.

Brent then goes on to talk about having a dedicated paint area which I also agree with. Having an area where you can sit and paint for even 30 min without set up or breakdown time maximizes the amount of time that you have your brush on minis. What I do not like is what does this have to do with painting Marines? What are we even talking about at this point? Stick to the subject of your post, for the love of Pete.

This is just a shitty post in a long string of shitty posts from Brent. This is a a shining example of the crap over at BoLS. It has no theme, no structure or direction and no one is any better off for this existing. There is certainly little useful in it and what little there is is hard to distill from the word salad heaped upon it.

I will close with a challenge to those that would defend BoLS. Should your opinions differ from mine, feel free to write your own "Hatin on Vurumai" article. This is the internet and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Just be sure to be clear, concise, and have a discernible thesis. You'll have to enumerate the points that you feel that I got wrong and supply an alternative point of view that is more than an ad hominem attack. Remember, while ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions, you have to be able form a coherent argument to be able to ridicule in the first place. So loose your slings and arrows. Just make sure they are sharp.

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