Most of the wargaming armies I've completed have been finished with the aid of an impending deadline. Where there wasn't an actual deadline, such as a tournament or a project due for work when I was with Games Workshop, I'd make one up; perhaps challenging a friend to a game with a new army, knowing I would have to put up or shut up. In the case of my Valhallans, agreeing to team up with Island Mike for G&G VI in May was just what I needed to get started on an army I bought the first piece for almost a decade ago, and got virtually all the rest back in 2007 with my final staff purchase.
The last time I painted an army start-to-finish in a proscribed amount of time was during one of GW's 'Paint Or Die' challenges. Everyone participating in the pool agrees to finish an army by a certain date, and anyone who does not complete one has to buy a 'battalion box' (SRP $120) for everyone else who has. Needless to say, it is not the kind of bet you enter into expecting to win, but there is a tremendous amount of motivation to not lose. Even at staff discount, it was estimated that if only one person missed the deadline, he would be shelling out close to $700 in tiny soldiers.
The two biggest obstacles to completing a an army in a scenario like this, at least for me, are time and gumption. It is all too easy to either procrastinate, thinking you have more than enough time, or become intimidated, thinking there is no hope, but even when you break the army down into bite-size chunks and can see a reasonable amount of time for completion, it is still easy to succumb to hobby fatigue. It's important to arrange things in such a way that you never forget you are doing them because you want to, not just because you are obliged to, even if you really are.
I used to arrange my painting and building plan carefully, alternating vehicles and infantry, and even alternating types of infantry where possible, so I wouldn't end up in a situation where I was painting 50 of the same thing for weeks on end. For my Valhallans though, I did all the vehicles at one fell swoop ( if I can describe almost six months of building and painting as a 'fell swoop'), simply because I never got tired of it. I was enjoying building and converting and painting the various vehicles I had chosen, and was happy to 'make hay while the sun shines' as my boss Mark Farr liked to say.
Now that all the vehicles (or at least, all the ground vehicles) are out of the way and I have 90+ infantry to do, I am varying up the units I will be working on where I can, since the bulk of the army are 5 ten-man infantry squads, and seven out of ten men in each squad are regular riflemen with only 8 or so different poses.
Saturday afternoon, I found myself at loose ends unexpectedly after a late lunch. The girls had a friend spending the weekend, and my sister had been anticipated that afternoon, but turned back due to the crapulence of the highway conditions from Leduc. Before preparing lunch, I had put a wash of Badab Black on the squad of veterans which I am painting next. The wash adds the necessary shading to the white, but it needs to be completely dry before drybrushing another coat of white over top of it, and that usually takes 24 hours or more, so wrking on them was out of the question.
I had already sorted out the half-kilo of pewter that comprised the bulk of my infantry into squads and put them into zip-locks, and thought this was an opportune time to build the next one. This way, if I slide into a productive painting groove, I don't have to risk losing it by stopping to wash, trim, cut out, assemble, base and prime the next unit. I got out my files, x-acto knife and superglue, decanted 'B' squad and got to work. I'm not sure what time it was when I was done, but it was prior to supper.
Obviously, I could have stopped there after dinner, but having let a building jag get ahold of me, I was reluctant to relinquish it, so I put together the next two projects and a command element as well. Once that was done, I thought it only made sense to glue sand on the bases so they could dry overnight and I could spray them with undercoat the next day.
It took me considerably longer than I had anticipated to glue the sand onto the bases of the forty-six models I ended up constructing that day, but once I had started, I had no intention of stopping until I was done. This turned out to be a little past 2:30 in the morning, with a 7:30 alarm looming as Audrey and I had agreed to serve communion the night before.