Painting hoplites and their shields really does it for me. The challenge of inventing or researching a design and then trying to freehand it and make it look good on a 1/2" area is very stimulating and I save it for last on each fighter, the dessert I earn for painting one of these fellows.
Now for a tougher problem.
I made some standards to play WFB. Warhammer Ancient battles notes that classical Greeks aren't allowed to have standards (because they aren't historically accurate -- phalanx fighters, packed into squares, had neither the ability nor the need to watch the movements of other units on the field and Greeks didn't use such things). Despite the departure from history, I enjoyed the opportunity to envision what a Greek standard might look like. I mounted a couple of iconic classical images on sticks: the head of the gorgon Medusa and the treasure of Colchis, the Golden Fleece.
What I've got to replace them: I picked up a box of fantasy standards on discount.On the larger one, I can mount my greenstuff gorgon's head and just give it a paint job and it should lie at the junction of easy and peasy. The ram's head -- and I really should break out the greenstuff and do it again because my ram's head doesn't look all that great -- would be mounted on the smaller standard and then I might actually flock the smaller standard on one side to give the appearance of wool on one side and tanned skin on the other.
Point of interest: that ungulate head is more of a goat than a ram, since its horns don't wrap around on themselves. You think you can sculpt a ram's head? OK, smart guy. get some clay and twist it into a ram's horn. Easy enough, right. OK, now do a ram's horn that curves in the opposite direction for the other side of the head. Nigh impossible, right? Yeah. If you're right handed it is hella hard to twist clay so that it spirals to the right.
It'll be sad to leave behind my original standards and move towards standards made of more standard wargames modeling materials. I like making odd, outside the box things. But I think if these things are going to look good enough to hang out with my other toys, changes are going to be made, and the plans I have are still going to make use of my artistic talent; it's not like I'm buying a Golden Fleece standard out of a box. Hopefully I will grow to love them. Like the song says, loving (28mm battle standards) is easy if they're beautiful.