Tremors (the Bad Kind)

This is a legit classic, and that’s all there is to it.

I’ve had a weird week.

For a few months I’ve had a very, very faint tremor in my jaw, only really noticeable when I was in bed, and it was such a fluttery, tiny thing that I mostly thought I was imagining it. There was also a faint quiver in my thumbs when I’d swipe a page or scroll on my phone, but again, so faint that you think you’re imagining it half the time.

This week, I tried to paint for the first time in a while. Maybe it’s the first time I’ve had a chance to notice it, but the tremor is in my fingers, as well. I know that now, because I can’t paint details like eye lenses, belt pouches, or belt buckles, etc. (which, incidentally, Kharadron Overlord minis are laden with) with my hands shaking this much.

Weirdly, it’s easy to ignore 99% of the time, since it’s invisible to other people and it doesn’t bother me when I’m doing almost anything else. Cooking, writing, everything else – all good. But I noticed it in things like turning the pages of a magazine, and trying to get some painting done.

I’ll report back after my doctor’s appointment. All signs point to an essential tremor, which is both minor and controllable, but obviously I need to make sure. And even more obviously, one of the four of us is actually a doctor (which is unsurprisingly why we call him Dr. Mark – who you’ve probably seen from his Stormcast posts on this blog). He’s always reluctant to diagnose on behalf of my local sawbones, but noted that the signs pointed to something fairly unserious. So that’s nice.

I also asked on Twitter about it, if there were any other folks who carried on painting despite similar issues, and there were a surprising number of similar tales.

Hobby-wise, this isn’t great, but it’s also not the end of the world. I’m not a great painter, but I am pretty neat. Not that I’ve actually painted much in my lifelong generalship of grey plastic and bare metal armies, but when I did, I’ve been able to fake skill with neatness. I can’t wet blend and I don’t own an airbrush, but I colour inside the lines and don’t make a mess:

Brother Only-Painted-Guy of the Angels Numinous Chapter, bravely defending my back garden.
50% of a Kataphron Battle Servitor, which took me longer than I care to admit.

So if I lose my ability to be neat because of tremors, that… isn’t going to be great, since it was my one trick.

However, all is not quite lost. I could do an ink/wash-heavy army, like spectral undead. I could weather the heck out of a Chaos army, maybe. And there’s always scenery, which is all about covering your sins with weathering, and which I enjoy doing a great deal, anyway:


Anyway, hopefully I’ll have more info next week.

In the meantime, I promised in various places that I’d show some of my kitbashed Space Marines, to prove that I hobby a lot more than actually just failing at painting. Behold:

Angels Numinous Assault Squad
An Angels Numinous Assault Squad. Every Marine was bashed from 4+ kits.
Angels Numinous Sgt.
Sergeant Nameless of ‘I Never Got Painted’ Squad.
Space Wolves Assault Squad
A Space Wolf Horus Heresy Assault Squad that, like all my Space Marine projects, went nowhere near a paintbrush.

14 thoughts on “Tremors (the Bad Kind)

  1. Those are some seriously cool marines mate. You could make a pretty great blog about your creative process for which kits to rob bits from and figuring how to pose them. I think Jes Goodwin did something similar in a WD about 10 or so years ago.

    Good luck with the doctors! I tweeted a bunch of stuff that I used to use to prevent the shakes when I was doing workshop avionics soldering.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, T. Appreciate the tweets.

      As for the process, it’s probably not much more complicated than wanting each Marine to look individual, to the end effect of making sure that no other squad on anyone else’s table will look the same. I’m a big believer in mixing armour marks to represent a squad’s casualties, inheritances, and relics along the centuries. It’s one of the reason the Great Crusade and early Horus Heresy eras appeal to me a bit less, modelling-wise. For all the opportunities and great minis, there’s a lot less armour-part mixing than you’d see in a 40K (or even late-HH) Space Marine squad.

      The newer Codexes did a good job of showing the stuff I prefer, when they showed an entire Ultramarine Company, and every squad had a mixture of Mk.4 to Mk. 8 armour. That was a lovely touch.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh man, that’s a pretty great bit of insight right there. I’ll have to apply it to my next marine army (night lords) and see how I go.


  2. Hey Aaron,

    I’m a fellow tremorite. My own painting has always been a bit of an “evocative” mess (if you’re feeling generous), despite a lot of effort to make it as clean as possible. It’s an especially disgusting feeling when you’re sat there with your almost-done model, tidying up some of the finishing detail, when whip goes the paintbrush and there’s your hours (and hours) of work ruined.

    So yeah, I feel ya…

    That said, there is hope, even if your tremors don’t recede. One of the best painters I’ve ever known had essential tremor that was at least as bad as mine. This is a guy who doesn’t consider a model finished until he’s done hours of wet blending or feathering to get the colour transitions just right. How he maintains this level of patience for something so tedious is beyond me, but I’m not criticizing his life choices or anything. I’ll share a trick he told me once (that I forget to use, like, all the time):

    Rest your elbows on your painting table (alternatively, rest your forearms against the edge of the table if that’s more comfortable for you). Then, join your hands at the wrist like you’re making a lotus mudra. Model in one hand, brush in the other. Done right, this will synchronize your hand tremors, so if you’re very patient, you can still maintain good precision. Takes a bit of practice to get it right (it’s hard to paint a shaking model!), but it really helps a lot.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Wise words, Sindre. I get discouraged pretty easily if I’m struggling to be neat with a mini (like I said, it’s really my only trick) so I’m not sure if I’ll either learn patience or try to invent a new trick to cover for it, but I’ll definitely give these tips a go.


  3. I’ve had tremors since I was a small child and have actually gotten very good at painting. As Sindre said, bracing your forearms against your painting surface helps. Another couple of suggestions would be to use the pinky of the hand you use your brush with to steady your hand against your model, and another one that helps me (and I don’t know the science behind it) is lifting weights. Lifting a heavy weight as few as 10 times or a lighter one something like 20 times generally calms my tremors for about half an hour.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. First, and most importantly of all, best of luck with the doctors! Hope it isn’t something dangerous!

    That being said, I was going to suggest connecting both hands while painting finicky stuff, but it seems I’ve already been beaten to the punch by several of the other guys. It is a really useful trick, however, even if you don’t have a tremor, because it makes for that extra bit of stability while not being too uncomfortable to pull off.

    Seeing those pretty nifty kitbashed Marines, I just have to ask: Did you ever make one of “your” characters (as in Talos, Argel Tal,…)? I made an Argel Tal recently, and it was immense fun — just wondered whether you had ever felt the itch to tackle one of the guys you’d actually invented 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Heh. No, I tend not to make my own characters. It’s weird – I love seeing art and minis of them, but I see them enough in my head and on the page, so by the time I’ve written about them I tend not to ever want to touch them again. Not until the next book, at least.

      Plus, most of my novel characters have their own deals, stories, and arcs going on. I like to make army background and minis representing other folks, in other places, doing other things.

      It goes without saying (but I’m saying it anyway) that you’ve done some of my absolute fave incarnations of my novel characters.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Cheers for clarifying that, Aaron! Does it ever work the other way around, though? Did somebody you created “for the table” ever grow into a character in one of the novels or stories, if only into a bit part?

        Oh, and let me say that that last sentence in your reply has obviously made my day! Thanks so much! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. That’s… unfortunate. There’s not much I can say as a stranger who hasn’t experienced that particular malady. Hopefully it’s a thing that can recede just as it came, or if not, you’ll be able to keep it under control without it becoming too intrusive – not just for painting but the rest of life as well.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s