Nick: Interview with an Autistic Tabletop War-Game Painter
Nick from KomarevProjekts turned his special interest in painting miniature models for tabletop war-games into a side business.
He has maintained his day job while also making a side income doing something he enjoys.
Nick shares with us how he got started and what he enjoys most about his side business. He is from the Dallas-Fort Worth area in Texas, USA.
How did you think of the idea for your business?
The idea came from a passion I stumbled onto for a very unique hobby of painting plastic miniatures for tabletop war-games. For most of my life I have enjoyed board games and tabletop games, and I discovered new games that had little miniature figures like starships and troops. These figures can be as small as one inch in height! One of the largest companies in the world for this market is Games Workshop, creators of a game called Warhammer 40k. Imagine a large scale ground battle between two sci-fi themed armies, played out on a 4'x6' table complete with miniature terrain. Players take turns positioning their armies as they work to hold objectives and combat the opposing force. These armies are typically made up of the tiny figures that come in plastic kits, much like you would buy / assemble / paint a model car kit from the hobby store.
What Do You Most Enjoy About Running Your Business?
One of most fun aspects is that the models generally come as grey plastic, which presents a blank canvas to paint them up in whatever paint scheme you can imagine! There is a strong base of hobbyists around the world who enjoy painting them and sharing their work with others. I found that I had a talent for painting on such a small scale, and that many have told me it is of a "professional" level of skill. After about 6 months of painting my own miniatures, I started getting people through word of mouth that they wanted to commission me to paint figures for them. Since it was already a hobby that I became very passionate about, I thought why not make some money while doing something I love!
There are many different levels of "skill" when it comes to painting. Players want to play the game, but don't want to present their army as unpainted but also lack the skill to paint an army that is eye-catching. "Table Ready" is a term used when an army is painted with a minimum of 3 colors (which is a requirement for tournament play), and it doesn't even have to look great. It's often quick to do, but the players who lack skill and/or time wish they could have an amazing looking army. This is where the opportunity for them commission another painter to create that eye-catching look for them. Thus, I started Komarev Projekts. My heritage is Polish, so I wanted to create a brand in honor of that, so the name of my business is derived from the Polish language, but left ambiguous enough that it could evolve into something beyond painting in the future.
How did you fund your business in the very beginning?
It wasn't very hard at all. A minor investment in my website was the financial front, but creating a social media presence was the more intangible effort. Since there doesn't have to be a cost associated with creating an Instagram account, it was more about trying to connect with more well-known artists on the platform. Materials for my business consist of paints and brushes, which can be quite expensive. Paints rage from $5-$10 for a 20ml bottle, and a Kolinsky Sable brush can cost upwards of $30. This was an investment for my personal projects, but also serves for commission work. Thankfully, the overhead is quite low compared to other businesses.
How long have you been running your business?
Did you have any previous experience in your field before you started your business?
Only a few months of personal painting and learning, but I'm improving every day with each new project I'm working on. Experience in this business comes from constantly working on your skill, as long as you're putting paint on your brush. My skills have greatly improved over when I started over a year ago.
Now that your business has been running successfully, is there anything you wish would have done differently in the beginning?
Instead of focusing so much on trying to create a website and catalogue of services, I would have more focused on social media presence and getting my name out there via word of mouth. COVID hit right before I started this endeavor, and as a result in person gaming was halted and the ability to showcase my work in person was non-existent. I would have liked to partner with local gaming stores to display examples of my work, as well as attend gaming events and tournaments to network and gain commissions. Part of that networking I would have offered my services for free (or at least a tip being encouraged) to prevalent players in my area. So that they could be playing often and promoting my work in the process.
How has being autistic helped you succeed with your business?
I mentioned before that this is a unique hobby, and it's often a very solitary one. The attention to detail and patience required to paint a small miniature is something my mind can latch onto, providing that OCD laser like focus. Being that I paint alone, it's nice to have limited social interaction that would otherwise stress my comfort zone. Another benefit is that when I do interact with others, it's in the context of a shared passion for the game. This helps in conversations about the hobby, removing the uncomfortableness of having to generate small-talk with a complete stranger. When a customer describes how they want me to paint their project, I think of my understanding of color theory and the way different paints will behave, my mind goes into I feel like a healthy over-drive. Here is how I would sum it up into some key bullet points:
- Structure – This is probably one of the biggest positives for someone with ASD. Having a clear set of techniques and methods is comforting and easy to work with, as well as presenting a challenge to build and paint armies in a creative way around a pre-built framework.
- Dedication – Those on the spectrum can easily become frustrated or shut down when encountering difficult tasks or situations. With the building and painting part of the hobby, there is clear progress being made from bare plastic on sprues to a finished and fully painted model. The amount of personal accomplishment and satisfaction felt when finished with a project is like its own little life event. The frustration that comes with the amount of detail work normally would lead to an overload, but instead presents a consistent challenge to become better at the craft.
- Social Interaction – This is the hardest part, meeting new people. The beauty of this hobby is that we’re all showing up to the table with the same common interest, so I instantly have something in common to talk about. I don’t have to stress so much about trying to fit in, I already do to a degree. The structure of the game also focuses the interaction within the rules and scope of the game, so I can avoid entering into unknown or uncomfortable interactions. Having trouble making and maintaining friendships, the hope is I can make new ones here.
- Strategy – For my mind, I become hyper-focused on the game to where the outside world is completely blocked out. There is immense mental stimulation from planning your movements and attacks for current and future rounds. Though losing can be devastating, taking a perspective step back presents a challenge to become better.
- Something to take pride in – It’s often hard to find things in common with other people, this is a medium to be able to share the passion of the painting aspect with others who understand, and can appreciate the work we put into our craft no matter the skill level.
Has being autistic created challenges for you? If so, what helped you overcome or cope with the difficulties?
Anxiety and over-analyzing are a consistent challenge. Also, there is the fear of entering into social situations and trying to promote or sell my business. It's still something I struggle with and the best way I can manage through it is stick closely within the structure I described earlier.
What advice would you give a fellow autistic person who is thinking of starting their own business?
Do something you will find stimulating!
Does your business have a social media profile or a website where The Autistic Innovator readers can follow you and learn more about what you do?