Sunday, 12 October 2014

Blue Table Painting

So Blue table painting is a commission painting house that’s been around for a while. I say painting house because it’s not really run by a painter but more as a business, where the business employs several painters under him to paint for them. Needless to say, this can result in very dramatically different standards in painting.

Blue Table painting first came to my attention back in 2012, where they attempted to run a failed kickstarter (link) where you would pay them money in advance and you would be able to use that money to buy some of their pre-painted armies. I’m paraphrasing but in general, that was the gist of their kickstarter. Needless to say, this failed and basically quite a few things came up about the management of BTP. I’ll go into that later on. But what brought them back to my attention was this recent youtube video. 

In the video, the creator goes on to talk about how he had commissioned BTP to help him paint his forgeworld chaos dwarf army for him. And the prices he was quoted wasn’t cheap;  with 17USD for a level 4 mini. As he explains it, BTP has several levels for paint job quality. A Level 3 was supposed to be Table Top standard while their highest, level 6 was supposed to be one step below Golden Daemon (a prestigious miniature painting competition award). Needless to say, he wasn’t happy with the results which was why he was making the video.

At level 4, as he explains, you can still see the PRIMER on the models. In fact, he complains that the models are basically primered, then drybrushed and maybe airbrushed in certain areas to give them that red glow. Then there’s his lvl 6 monster creature, which he paid more than 50 bucks to paint. As a quick guide, a lvl 4 monster costs 50 bucks. A lvl 6, which is below golden daemon? God knows. 

Yep, still lots of primer then drybrushing without a proper basecoat. Best part was when he pointed out there were almost no highlights, and the fact that the heads/skulls hanging from the monster weren’t painted at all. They were painted the same beasthide color as the monster but how on earth is a skull beasthide color or a shrunken, withered human face? 50 bucks man.
The best part is this was after he had complained to them after they had sent him some WIP and this was STILL the result. In fact, during the video he goes on to complain that they didn’t really do everything he asked of them, which was to change certain parts to a different color. And it wasn’t like this was some rush job. They had his army for several months too, and it was in fact severely delayed compared to their original estimate.

I mean, it’s not all bad but basically, there is a lot of bad. Especially considering the prices being paid for this project. 17USD for a small grunt for a mass battle game like Warhammer Fantasy adds up pretty quickly. When a normal unit consists maybe 20 grunts, that’s 340 USD right there.

He also complains about BTPs customer service, and how slow it is to get a reply from them as well as how they obviously didn’t listen to his instructions on how he wanted the miniatures painted. Hint; he wanted them to be painted covered in gore not covered with a light reddish lava glow. His complaints are quickly echoed by several other people who have had experiences with BTP, who was already notorious for censoring comments on their youtube videos that were critical of them.

He sent me an email last night and this morning stating he was still "preparing" a response ..... because i had "chosen to take this to the court of public opinion"

thats it.

I still dont get that... who would pay that much for an army and NEVER show anyone?

He even gets an email from Shawn; the owner of BTP, stating the above. So…does that mean if he hadn’t chosen to put it into the realm of public discussion, he would have been screwed cause you wouldn’t have done anything Shawn? It certainly reads like it.

Honestly, all this coupled with what I heard about BTP 2 years ago during their KS would make me very wary of trusting them with any commission work. The below excerpts are from ex-employees of BTP several years ago, back when their KS was going on. 
I was paid $8.00 an hour. I was there 8 AM to 7-8 PM Mon-Thu and 8-noon Fri but claimed only 40 hours because overtime was not authorized. I was told at 1130 AM on Friday by Josh that I was not authorized overtime and that “they” wanted to talk to me later. I took the hint and packed my stuff and left. I drove straight through back to Texas 22 hours, calling my wife on the way to tell her I was heading home and that she had been right (ugh).

My cost for the entire trip to/from plus lodging was over $1,000.

I was initially interviewed by Shawn via Skype. Art Director Josh sat in. Shawn asked the questions and after each question, he would mute the mic and lean over to Josh and interpret to him the meaning of my response. Several times he missed the mute and I should have known then to forget it, but I was sucked in by what I took to be an opportunity I might one day regret not going for.

In one instance during the interview, in response to question Shawn asked about my willingness to work for what they were paying, I told him that I get a disability retirement check from the military that gives me a bit of a cushion. He asked me to wait and talked to Josh – without muting – about how careful you have to be hiring disabled people and all the ADA rules. So in my opinion he might have just offered me the trial to be safe but never had any intention of keeping me on. Too bad for him, though, he would have received a $14,800 tax break for hiring a disabled vet.

At the end of the Skype interview – about 35 minutes – they invited me out for a trial.

They sublet a 4 bedroom house and rent out the rooms (part of Hollingsgate or whatever they call their joint real estate venture that also runs Valhalla). I was told by Shawn it was $15.00/night when interviewed but it turned out Sarah charged me $25.00 (better than $65 for a hotel, but still not what they had told me).

My accomodation was a small room with no furniture other than a single-wide bed with a sleeping bag on top of the mattress. I signed a 3 or 4 page rental agreement for 6 nights. I left Friday so did not use 2 nights I paid in advance for. Of course they kept the money. I returned the key to the house but never got my $10.00 key deposit back either.
I was referred to as “newbie” by a several people. Few introduced themselves, though I must admit I really like Mrs. Gately, whose sunglasses I repaired. She was very nice. So was Jon.

I was never invited out to lunch or over to anyone’s house or out gaming. Never met with Shawn and he skipped right past me during his famous Studio Updates. The only time we spoke was in passing. A few of the others were just downright rude.

Though Josh called me “Padawan” once or twice, I was never taught anything. Oh, he did once ask me why I was using my own brushes and straight away brought me over a fistful of hobby brushes more suited to painting a mural than a miniature. I did not use them . . . I couldn’t.

I’ve been painting miniatures since 1987, but was willing to learn some new stuff but got nothing. I think that I painted as good or better than anyone there from what I saw – and as fast – but did not really get a good feel for the talent level because of the assembly-line-hurry-up-nature of the place.

I received an art scholarship when I was 10 years old. I have B.S. degrees in history and art. I am a hard worker. I’ve done work for the Smithsonian and for numerous museums and private individuals, but looked forward to learning what they had to teach me. I have 25 years miniatures painting experience. I worked for President Bush for 2-1/2 years taking care of all of his art and memorabilia. I was a museum curator for 5 years. But apparently I fell short.

Those are the facts and an opinion or two. Can’t say much more than that. I do know that BTP has a huge painter turnover issue and must need painters bad. Check out the recent group photo on the BTP blog. Only 4 or 5 out of the 16 people in the picture are full-time painters.

As well as
"BTPemployee wrote:
October 29, 2012 at 2:42 pm

I’m a BTP employee and will remain nameless for obvious reasons. Most of the critical observations in this thread are indeed accurate.

The Kickstarter is indeed a money grab, and a desperate one at that. BTP is a slowly failing business that is going further into debt by the day. Much of the debt is in the form of credit owed to its customers. Many weeks they don’t even have the money to order the models and supplies needed for current orders, even though 50% down payments were made. Those down payments are often spent on previous orders and payroll. I hope for the sake of the Kickstarter supporters that it fails because much of the money will be spent before Kickstarter obligations are met.

I can verify most of what Trojan has said of his experience at BTP. I’m sorry you wasted your time and money, I wish I could warn others before they do the same. But you did get a glimpse of the real BTP. I don’t know why you wern’t hired, but you should be gratefull that you weren’t. I really feel sorry for the guys that relocate out here and get stuck. The ones that rent from BTP are really in a tight spot.

I actually feel a bit sorry for Shawn as well. I don’t know that he is outright dishonest. He has grand dreams of Shawnland, and lives there to much to actually manage a successful business."
Comments can be found here (link) There are actually a few more that I'm choosing not to quote because it would simply take up too much space. However, it is an interesting read from people who have worked at BTP and it would explain the sheer difference in paintjob quality. 

As of the writing of this article, Shawn has reached out to the video creator and offered 4 options
He responded to me this morning.

He offered 4 solutions. 2 of which involved me sending my army to them therefore those are not on the table.

one was a partial refund (half of the partial refund i requested)
The other was an offer to fly a painted to me to repaint.
I asked about the details of the second one. Honestly if he is willing to do that it at least says a lot about commitment to customer service.

The refund is nowhere near enough to get a repaint so that would only soften the blow.
Once he responds on the specifics of having someone come to me to repaint then I will inform you all as well.

However, some have mentioned that the offer of sending out a painter to repaint the army was too good to be true, considering it would at least take several weeks to do so. At which point, where does the painter stay? Who pays for the stay? And so on. Needless to say, there is still no decent resolution to this and it looks like there won't be for a while.