Ask The Corps: Artists or Technicians?

We've got something a little different today on TPC and it has been something I've been mulling and pondering for a while and it came up recently in an Adepticon class where my instructor flat-out stated: "Miniature painters are not artists, we are technicians."  I'm paraphrasing, but you get the idea:

What are we, that paint miniature models?

This questions has been in my mind recently while working on some Harlequin.  I was searching results on CMON admiring the results and thinking about how heavily I was going to use freehand patterns.  I think it is easy to go too heavy on diamonds or some other pattern and end up with Harlequin that look like bad golfing pants.  And then I came across a model and decided, "That looks good, let me try to replicate that."

While I went about the business of getting ready to paint I thought about how much I am really going to contribute with this model and how much "art" I'm putting into it.  I didn't sculpt it.  I'm not bringing any new technique to the world by painting it-- quite the opposite, since I'm trying to replicate someone else's technique.  And really the model is going to only look at good as the weakest part of my technique-- by improving my techniques I'll get the model close to how I want it to look.

And techniques!  Here I am writing on a blog dedicated to improving the look of a model by providing hundreds of techniques and technique improvements.  A lot of what we provide are shortcuts, quick tips, and reductions to get a good look on your miniatures.  All of which is sometimes a dirty job, but I'm not really sure it falls into the category of "art".

Speaking of, last night on Dirty Jobs Mike Rowe was in a mannequin factory and they had a segment where the faces are painted to simulate make-up.  There was a wall of originals, each created by the designer or mannequin artists to go with a certain body, but most were copies of make-up from magazines that was popular at the time.  The technicians in the make-up room grab an original off the wall and paint the new head to match the original.  They look great in the end, but it is just a knock-off of a knock-off.

With all of the internet pictures of models and painting techniques bouncing around in my brain, sometimes I feel like the technician in a room of knock-offs.  As Palahniuk writes, "a copy of a copy of a copy."  Something like artistic insomnia I suppose.

But then I see a miniature that is so far out of ordinary, something so different than I'm used to seeing that the photocopier breaks and I start thinking, well maybe there's more art to this than I think.  The Adepticon Rogue Demon was full of such miniatures: The Merman, Karabidae MK III, Inquisitorial Land Raider, Horus-- those were just a few.  While there is a great deal of technique on display, it just feels wrong to call the people that created these models mere "hobbyists" or "technicians".

So then where do we stand?  To make a car analogy, we painters are doing a lot more than changing the oil, but we aren't exactly building engines either.  I'm sure most of us start out trying to master and develop the basic techniques, but isn't that true of any student of the arts?  When do we cross that line and is there art in miniatures besides the sculptors?

Nothing like a little rambling monologue for a Monday afternoon.  So what do you think?  Are miniature painters really artists or merely technicians?  Let's get that new Disqus system some exercise.