Thursday, 28 February 2013

SST #3: Cheap and Easy Display Stands

You want your models to look their best.  I know you do.

What if I were to tell you a super simple, cheap, and easy way to make your models look elegant, classy, and display better?

Two words: Display Stands.

The idea is really simple.  Just as a picture frame makes a painting or photo into a work of art, a display stand showcases your models in the best possible way.  They "frame" your models, elevates them, and gives them the elbow room they need to shine.

People in the miniature painting world have known this for some time now.  Since the mid-nineties or so, most of the top entries in any top-tier painting competition have been entered atop some sort of display stand.  Now, there are many different itinerations of a good display stand, from the diorama base inset into some sort of picture frame (sample pic below is Jarrett Lee's Bronze Demon winning entry from Canada 2003):

To the simple solution of setting some models down on a wooden plaque of some sort (pic of Vincent Hudon's Gold 40K squad at 2008 Canadian Golden Demons):

And one of my favourites, setting a diorama inside a vertically hung picture frame (unknown artist):

Now, for something really simple but effective, I'm having a lot of success with these cheap wooden (pine?) plaques / stands I found at Michael's (a large chain of arts and crafts retail stores):

Now, they're less than $2 each, so I wasn't expecting high quality.  They're made from some sort of fairly rough, soft, and somewhat porous pine (I think).  However, with a little bit of work, I thought I could make it work.

A close-up of the roughest part of the stand:

Everything other part looked marginally better.  It did look much better after some sanding though.  After that, I went outside and hit it with GW Black Primer:

Now, it didn't look perfect by any means.  There were still some rough patches, even after sanding and painting:

But I figured that I would just try and face the roughest side away from the viewer in my display case.  I would attempt to do the same if I was going to use this in a painting competition.

Now, most of the time I simply leave these as is at this stage, but just out of curiousity, I did try departing from the matt finish by hitting one with a gloss coat finish:

Not bad.  It seemed to make it look richer, somehow.  However, the matt finish seemed to look better in person, in my opinion.  That's just one person's opinion though.

They did come in all sizes and shapes, which is great if you've got a certain project in mind (the Sisters of Battle squad is a work in progress, while the Inquisition Rhino has been entered in two local painting competitions on this very base, and won both times):

And then there's this neat display case I found at a local hobby store (Magic Box Hobbies in the Kerrisdale area):

The great thing about these cases is that they keep the dust out, as well as the cats.  Now, if you keep the bubble wrap and cardboard box that it came packaged in, it doubles as a carrying case for travel.  I simply stuck the diorama to the bottom of this case with some double sided tape (which worked fine, although glue might have been more secure), put the clear lid back on, re-wrapped it in bubble wrap, then slid it back into it's original box.  Then it was safe and sound in my suitcase during the long car ride and ferry trip to my destination.  They also come in all kinds of configurations... long and short, small and short, tall and skinny, etc etc etc.  They are a bit more expensive (this one was just under $20), but suitable for display in all sorts of places (just don't enter one in a competition... the judges don't like to have to open and close these to get a closer look, and they take up too much space in a crowded display).

And believe it or not, I found something similar in a dollar store (it was actually $2 plus tax):

Continuing the theme of cheap and easy (no jokes about anyone's mom, please), the following stand started off as a spray can cap, primered black and painted with meaningless freehand, and then topped with a small mirror:

Now, if cheap isn't your thing (and I wouldn't advise going cheap if you're entering the Crystal Brush or Golden Demon competitions), then there are a number of excellent commercially produced display stands made especially for miniatures.  I own a really really nice resin one made by Secret Weapon Miniatures (Jeff Wilson's company, Dragon Forge, also offers resin stands), and it's perfect in every way.  It needed only a tiny amount of cleaning, some primer, and sealant, and it was a flawless in every way... I can't say the same about the cheap pine pieces I showed you above.  Other companies often refer to theirs as "plinths" or "sockets"... but those are usually geared towards displaying a single small model.  I've seen some offered online, made in all sorts of exotic woods, stained and laquered as nicely as any fancy picture frame hung in a museum.  Coolminiornot has a nice offering of those.

But if we're talking about some local painting competition, on the bookcase, atop the fireplace mantle, or just for the inside of your IKEA glass display case, the cheap display stands I've described above may just do the trick.

Monday, 25 February 2013

GottaCon 2013: Miniature Painting Contest part 8

Pics and Judge's Thoughts: Single Miniature Catagory part 8 and My Final Thoughts

This will be my final entry regarding GottaCon 2013, finishing up the Single Miniature Catagory, and posting the last of my random musings regarding the competition overall.

After my last rant about how you need to elevate your game for miniature painting competitions, and putting in extra hours (ones that the judge can pick up on), I'd also like to encourage everyone to just enter as many painting competitions you can, regardless of whether or not you think you have even the remotest chance of winning.  Painting competitions are not like the Olympics.  They are not reserved for the elite, and the glory of competing is not reserved for the winners.  There is much to be said about just getting your stuff out there, getting it looked at and discussed by people outside your immediate gaming circle, and seeing your models sitting next to other models done in all sorts of art styles.  Whether you're a beginner or a veteran painter, every artist stands to gain SOMETHING from the process.

And you are contributing to the success of the painting competition, and benefitting every witness to the painting competition.  The more entries for people to ogle over, the more variety of art perspectives there are  on display.  And viewers come away with a much richer experience to inspire their own works and future projects.

Ideally, I'd love to attract some sponsors for the GottaCon Painting Competition in the future.  While we gave out a number of trophies and ribbons for the winning entries, it would be great if we had a few nice prizes to hand out for just entering (determined by random draw).  I've taken part in a few competitions like that, and it seems like a really nice way to thank people for entering and contributing to the event as a whole. The trophies and ribbons aren't the whole point of a competition, COMPETING is the whole point.

If there are any suggestions you might have regarding the GottaCon painting competition, ones that might shape the direction the event goes in in the future, please comment.  I'll take them to Paul Puhallo (Miniature Games Co-ordinator for GottaCon) and we'll see what we can do to make them happen.

And on to the final entries:

Scott James' Ultramarine Captain was apparently entered into last year's competition too late for consideration, and so he was allowed to compete with it this year.  That was great news for me, as I was glad to have a chance to ogle this model.  His tonal transitions were soft and smooth, and finished off with a nice crisp edge highlight.  There was a really exceptional use of blacklining to create further definition and distinction between each segment.  The marbling on the shield was a treat for the eyes too... a great example of showing that little extra bit of work that judges can appreciate.  The only things I would say to Scott would be to attempt some TMM (true metallic metallic) techniques on a future project.  TMM is a technique of creating NMM style contrasts on a model, while still using metallic pigmented paints.  It's an advanced technique, but one that Scott seems definately ready to tackle.  The base could also use a bit more punch.  It's definately stellar by gaming standards, but something a bit more would have given this model more "wow" power.  Also, some script on the purity seals would have been nice... I find a quick and easy way of doing this is by using the smallest tipped Pigma Micron art pen (something else I should have mentioned in my "Visiting the Art Store: What to Buy" blog post).  It's a tiny detail that would have taken just a few seconds to complete, yet it tells the judge that you sweated all the small stuff.  Still, this is the kind of paintjob that would have contended for a Golden Demon back in the Bobby Wong days (mid 90s).  It's that good.

Alex Yeun's Eldar Special Character Yriel(sp?) was certainly a striking entry.  Done in almost the same colour scheme as the Eavy Metal paintjob, Alex makes some neat departures here and there.  There are some nice touches of purple, and balanced quite well on four different ends of the model.  The hair gets a blue anime accent as well.  Very neatly done, and it shows that Alex really gave his paintjob some thought as to how to punch up the drama.

However, I would have chosen a different colour for the base, as the grey ash is too similar to the black of the armour... it doesn't allow the model itself to stand out enough.  Also, while there is some great use of edge highlighting, there are no intermediate stages of highlighting used to emphasize the curved nature of the armour plates.  With no intermediate highlights and shades, it just looks like there's these funny whitish lines popping out of the darkness here and there.  The Eavy Metal paintjob is also complicit in the same crime in my opinion, and there are many other paintjobs of Prince Yriel out there that proves it.  Edge highlights should be used as a finishing touch to make a blending job a tiny bit crisper.  They shouldn't be used just on their own.  There's simply no discernable depth to a paintjob that way.

Still, a really nice paintjob.  And check out that soul gem!  Fantastic.  If Alex had applied the same number of highlights and shades to all the various rounded armour plates, this paintjob would have been stellar.

Patrick Carolan's "Throgg, King of Oni" exudes character.  Not only did Patrick convert this model extensively, he also imbued it with a name.  There's even a kilt pattern on the loincloth!  I would have toned down the shininess of the paintjob (perhaps it's from the spray sealer?  If so, then switch to Testor's Dullcote, and make sure you give it multiple super light coats in warm conditions, letting each coat dry competely before applying the next), worked one or two more intermediate stages in the shading, and done something with that large base to make it more characterful too (a discarded weapon, some static grass, etc.).  This was one of the most radically altered models in the whole competition, and personalized to the extreme.  That kind of work and thought really impresses the heck out of me.

Liam Bath's Chapter Champion is dramatically posed (I imagine him issuing a challenge to the enemy), and adorned with all sorts of impressive script.  However, as with Alex's Eldar model, edge / line highlighting alone isn't something that wows me.  I understand it takes patience and a steady hand to do, but it's only one step when a model needs much more.  It's like a pencil drawing where you only draw the outline of your subject, rather than a fully fleshed out painting where you add tone, shades, highlights, contrasts, and colour. I don't get why the GW Eavy Metal team has suddenly fallen in love with edge highlighting (especially with the Dark Eldar), but even then, they at least use varying shades and colours on their edges... not just one paint colour.  In addition, unless you're trying to convey the idea that a model is trying to camoflage into it's surroundings, I don't advise painting the base in the same colour as the dominant colour of the model itself.  It needs to stand out, and a black model on a black base doesn't really do that.  Liam, I'd love to save you a seat at my painting clinic next year... I could show you some tricks that would elevate this model like crazy.  You obviously have good brush control and very evident visual flair for the dramatic.  We just need to marry that with some blending techniques and colour theory, and you'd be one heck of an artist.

Speaking of dramatic, this Mechanicus conversion by Christian Tervo is like a John Blanche take on what Doc Ock would look like in the 41st Millenium.  Two of the arms even have servo skulls attached to them!  Looks like a fun kit-bash, with some greenstuff thrown in.  I bet Christian had a blast creating this model.  While some of the paintjob's fundamentals could use a bit more work (extra stages of highlighting on the reds, deeper and richer shades on the metals, etc), it was neat to see a bit of OSL here and there, and some weathering in the form of mud and dust spattered on the hem of the robes.  The base is a bit plain by comparison to the fun nature of the model itself too, but overall, this is neat take on the imagery and conversion madness inspired by John Blanche's artwork (one of the best blogs for checking this kind of stuff out is Spiky Rat Pack).

Joe Calvert entered this Space Wolf Hero, and here was a model that stood tall and proud in the display case.  The detailed base added to his presence, as did the huge banner and hammer.  There is blood splatter, decals, and all sorts of debris.  It definately looked like Joe had a blast building and painting his personal hero.  That being said, it looks like there were some details Joe was really enthused about (such as the ones listed above), and others that he didn't give as much love and attention to (not drilling out the gun barrels, definition in the paint scheme in the form of shades, highlights, and lining).  In the rush to get a painted model to the game table, there may have been a few steps that were glossed over.  Any beginning painter needs to spend time learning and practicing their fundamentals, and not worry so much about the finishing details.  It's like baking a birthday cake... don't worry so much about finding the fanciest candles to put on top... worry more about the cake itself.  My advice is to find a painting mentor... someone whose work you respect and admire, and see if they won't take you through some of the stages of painting they do.  It'll make a world of difference.

Wait a sec, how'd this tank get entered in the single figure catagory instead of the large model catagory?  That's because Richard Despres' King Tiger is a Flames of War scale model.  I wish I had a pic of this model next to a penny, because it's TINY.  Despite that, Richard didn't simply hit it all in one basecoat colour, then dip it in a wash like most FoW players do.  He painstakingly added all sorts of camo to it, using a number of different paints.  Still, I would have liked to see a bit of shading and highlighting, and perhaps some weathering.  Looks like a bit was done to the tracks, but not as much on the rest of the tank.  Also, camo doesn't really help such a small model... as I've said before, camo serves a purpose, which is to trick the human eye into not being able to percieve detail, depth, and definition.  Without those key elements, a object in camo is better able to blend into the background.  By applying camo to something the size of a pocket lighter, you've taken a model that was hard to see details on in the first place, and made it even harder to discern detail.  If you are going to apply camo to something this small, you HAVE to hyper exaggerate the shading and highlighting first to compensate.  Otherwise it's just a visual mess at any viewing distance further than the end of my nose (and I'm asian... we have stubby little pug noses ;)

Brenna Anderson-Dowd entered this Pathfinder Vampire, and it shows real potential for a painter that has only picked up a brush recently.  Her brush control is good, and her colour selection was well composed (except for the bright red base... I'm guessing that serves some purpose in her RPG, but it certainly visually distracts from the model itself).  We wargamers are spoiled by the many painting articles on offer in the various magazines and army books we read, but role-playing gamers don't get fed the same steady diet of detailed painting articles from expert painters.  This is an excellent paintjob for the RPG table, and would stand proud amongst the d20s, half empty pizza boxes, and dry-erase marker grid maps that I've spent many a late evening (and early morning) hunched around.  However, just as we miniature gaming painters are looking to learn various painting techniques from military modellers, scale figure painters, and even canvas artists, RPG gamers looking to elevate their paintjobs are well served by (temporarily) venturing into the realm of miniature gamers and stealing all the techniques we've mastered.  Brenna's on the right track, and some extra shading, highlighting, and detail work would work well and impress her RPG group greatly.

Argh!!  Apologies, but this is probably one the worst pics I took all weekend.  Trust me, Bryce Jensen's Epic Scarre looked much much much better in person.  As I said before, somehow I lost all my best pics from this catagory, and this is the only one I could find of this amazing paintjob.  Zoomed in this close, I know it looks pretty rough, but in real life, this model elicited more oohs and aahs from viewers than just about anything else in the display case.  Bryce once again displayed his precise brush control, and his ability to fit more layers of shading and highlighting than just about anyone without experience in Neurosurgery could do.  It doesn't compare to Marike Reimer's work perhaps, but whose work does?  Certainly not my own.  The above is simply a crappy pic, and you'll just have to trust me when I say that just about everyone loved this model, myself included.

In the end, I had to pick three winners.  That was very difficult, and I hemmed and hawwed about it for quite some time.  And every time I review the pics, I'm not certain I would have picked the same models.  However, I went with the impressions I had at the time, and the thoughts that I had at the time.  Looking at photographs is not the same as looking at the actual models, and often the best paintjobs for displaying on a computer screen are not the same paintjobs your eye likes the most in person.  These are the three I liked best in person:

3rd place: Steve Hoffman's Ork Hero may not have been the smoothest paintjob, but it was the one which best conveyed the attitude and character of the sculpt.  It had a richness of detail in the painting that I enjoyed.  In short, this model made me happy inside.

2nd place: Scott James' Ultramarine captain was the best example of solid painting fundamentals I've seen in awhile.  His treatment of the blue armour was just about as smooth as Jeremy Fleet's stuff, but with the slightly added edge of extra depth and definition.  With the addition of some cutting edge TMM, it would have been my favourite by far.

1st place: I know this pic doesn't do the paintjob justice, but in person, it was everything that Bryce's warjack and necrotech models were, but even better.  I don't have the words right now, but it really impressed me at the time.  Again, I would have liked to see some wet blending or feathering of the layers, rather than the slightly heavy handed layering, but on this particular paintjob, it wasn't nearly as obvious as on his other entries (hence my taking this ultra closeup shot... it was just about the only way to tell on Skarre).  Some TMM would have elevated the paintjob too, as would some blacklining around the eyes, but otherwise it was a really nice job, and a stunning centrepiece for Byce's army.  I know that some people would have liked to see some OSL coming from the sword, but the important thing is that the fundamentals were done well... fancy gimmicks like OSL and blood effects don't go far to impress judges when the fundamentals aren't there.

So congrats to Bryce Jensen, who walked away from GottaCon 2013 with two 1st place trophies and a 2nd place ribbon.  This will be a hard feat to repeat, as there were many entries that were so close to matching or beating his... I saw plenty of nicely blended paintjobs, some nice freehand, and some very characterful models.  In fact, the following details were probably my most common nitpicks of the competition, and held back more than one entry:

1) More contrast!!  Pulling off a damn impressive blend from light grey to white isn't enough.  Maintain that buttery smooth transitions, but try and do it from the darkest shade of the colour you're using, all the way to the lightest.  It will add contrast, definition, and interest on your model, especially when viewed quickly and at arm's length.  This will go a long way to pulling your viewer's eye in for a closer look.

2) Smoother transitions.  While some entries had really nice blends and transitions over too limited a shade range, many other entries had plenty of range, but only used a tiny number of shade transitions (For example, black shade, red body, and yellow edge highlight).  Without a number of intermediate steps, whether done in many many layers (such as Bryce's paintjobs), or not carefully blending one stage into the next (Jeremy Fleet's models), your highlights and shades come across as harsh and heavy handed.  And that's fine for the gaming tabletop, but it will compare poorly to your competitors in a purely painting competition.

3) Underuse of blacklining.  This goes with point #1 above, need more contrast.  Blacklining is all about putting some sort of visible border between two separate segments of your paintjob.  A light peachy skin area next to a bright yellowy gold area will need something inbetween them, otherwise they fade into each other when viewed from more than a foot away.  I like to use a thinned down wash or ink, applied precisely with a fine detail brush (00 or even with a particularly fine tipped 0).  And it despite the name, black is not always the best colour to use.  Often I'll use a chestnut ink for gold, red, or flesh areas, dark green for green areas, etc.  It's dark enough, and less comic book-ish.

4) Not enough thought in the basing.  Bases are part of the artist's canvas.  They are an often rushed or neglected part of the model.  I understand you want to get your model onto the gaming tabletop as soon as possible, but your character models and showpiece paintjobs deserve better.  Show some imagination, and detail your base.  It's harder to do on the smaller base sizes, but there's certainly no excuse for the larger ones.  And while you're at it, try and make them contrast with your model, not blend in.  Avoid using the same dominant colour.  Otherwise your main focal point (the subject model) gets lost in the base.

That's it for now.  Whew!  Sorry it took almost a month to cover everyone's entries, but I hope people appreciate the sheer amount of work it took.  The pics took time, the second analysis of each entry took time, and the actual writing took some time (and kept my wife up at night, seeing as our home office is in our master bedroom).

I was impressed by the entries, and so was just about everyone at the Con who saw them.  I have to give a big thanks to the two Pauls (Miniature Events Co-ordinator Paul Puhallo, and 40K and Fantasy judge Paul Sorenson), as well as thanks to the other volunteers at the 40K and Fantasy organizing table... without their help, this thing would not have been a go at all.  Thanks also to the guys of Dice Bag Games, who sponsored and hosted the competition in the previous years.  They got the ball rolling, and it was relatively easy to pick up the ball from them and run with it.

And thanks most of all to all of you who entered.  I hope to see all of your entries again next year, and hopefully together we'll grow this event, drawing in fantastic art from all the lands near and far.  Victoria, Vancouver, and even the rest of the island and the province's interior (good gang from Kelowna) were represented.  I hope you were all as inspired as much as I was.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Visiting the Art Store : What to Buy?

Next to a good game store, I love visiting a great art supplies store.  Now, I'm not just talking about a craft store like Michael's, I'm talking about those hardcore art stores where you find all sorts of strange supplies that don't immediately seem applicable to our particular art form.  Most of the items stocked on the shelves (or even better yet, behind locked glass cabinet doors) are developed by canvas artists, mixed media artists, sculptors, and other "conventional" art types, but they're slowly making their way into our hobby.  However, since the average art store stockboy and clerk is completely clueless about miniature painting, here are a few suggestions from someone who has spent more than a few bucks experimenting with just about anything I could afford.

First of all, if any of you are local to my area (Vancouver, Canada), then I suggest you pop into your nearest Opus or DeSerres stores.  Of the two, I favour Opus by a small margin... the one on Granville Island right next to the Emily Carr Art School has been around forever, and is fantastic.  The students at Emily Carr are pretty cutting edge when it comes to art, and the Opus location there does it's best to cater to that.  DeSerres isn't bad either... they've got almost everything Opus does, and a few things they don't (most importantly, the location on Grandview Highway stocked Raphael 8404 Kolinsky sable brushes, as well as Winsor and Newton series 7s).

That being said, if your favourite game store stocks any of the stuff covered below, try and buy it from them instead.  I'm all for supporting your local brick and mortar store when possible... they're the guys doing their damnest to support and grow the hobby, and I feel it's our duty to return the favour whenever possible.  My buddy Darren at Strategies started stocking W&N series 7 brushes some time ago, and brings in just about everything else upon request.  He hosts a mean painting competition every October that brings in all the best painters in the area, and he does his best to learn what stuff we like to use.

If that's not an option, there are some great online stores that cater to us miniature artists, such as Secret Weapon Miniatures and Coolminiornot.  Lots of neat stuff on offer, but I digress.  The whole point of this blog is supposed to be about browsing your local art supplies store, so here goes... my favourite (and not-so-favourite) items found in an art store:

Flow Release:
As many of you know, liquids have varying degrees of surface tension.  Even in something as runny as the inks we use for washes, it's there, and it can lead to tide-stains when the ink dries, your shading washes not settling into the recesses of your model properly, and difficulty in getting your paints to thin to just the right consistency for more delicate uses like freehand work.  Any time you are not getting the results you want when you thin your paints and inks with plain water, try adding a mix of flow release and water instead.  Flow release reduces the amount of surface tension in a liquid, making it flow smoother.  A long time ago, we used to use a mix of water and liquid dish soap (the stuff you use when you're washing dishes by hand).  Well, that did the trick for breaking up the surface tension, but it had some nasty side effects of weakening the strength of the paint when it finally dried, leading to some of the paint just flaking off my models while I was gaming with them.

After hunting around for awhile for something better, I came across Flow Release, and it's 100% better.  Buy a small bottle of the stuff (I bought the smallest bottle over 10 years ago, and I haven't finished it off yet), and then buy a tiny dropper bottle (you can find bottles similar to the Vallejo paint bottles at most art stores for about a buck and a half each).  Fill one tenth of the bottle with Flow Release, and the other 90% with plain water (I guess distilled water would be better, but probably not necessary).  Give it a shake whenever you're about to use it, and that's it.  Refill as necessary.

Just be warned that if your mix is any more than 1 part flow release to 9 or 10 parts water, it may prevent your paint from drying fully... ever.  I've done it, and believe me, no one likes tacky models that leave sticky coloured residues on your hands.

Brush Soap:
I've covered this stuff in my "Stupidly Simple Tip #2: Taking Care of Your Brushes" blog entry.  Check it out if you haven't already.  Your choices are "The Masters" Brush Cleaner and Preserver shown above, and "Pink Soap".  "The Masters" is a hard cake of soap in a plastic container... you simply wet your brush and swirl it on the cake until the brush lathers up.  Rinse the lather off, and you're good to go (although it also helps to apply a bit of hair conditioner to the brush once in awhile too).  "Pink Soap" is a liquid soap... you put a drop of pink soap on your wet brush, and work it into a lather with your fingertips.  Rinse, and it's done.  Both do just as good as job.  It's just a matter of personal preference.  I can't recommend this stuff enough.

Brush Cleaner & Restorer:
This stuff is a gentle solvent that weakens dried paint enough for it to lose it's grip on your brush hairs.  If I have some brushes that are pretty much used to heck, I'll use this stuff as a last ditch effort to rescue them.  Soak just the bristles (and maybe part of the metal ferrule) in the cleaner.  Do not soak the brush handle, as it will strip the paint off of it.  Leave it overnight, and then rinse under cold water.  Clean the brush with some brush soap for good measure (and work the soap with your fingertips so that the loose chunks of paint come off), and then see if your brush is good shape.  It probably won't be as good as new, but there's a decent chance that it's still pretty useable after that.

I also use this stuff for stripping paint off of metal models.  I've heard of people using things like PineSol or Simple Green, but this stuff seems to work well too.  Heck, it may even be gentle enough to use on plastic or resin models, but I haven't been brave enough to try yet.  However, I poured some in a jar and soaked some poorly painted metal Chaos Dwarves that I picked up used at a convention, and it really did the trick.

Brush Shaper:
I picked this stuff up on a whim a long time ago.  It does work as advertised: you take a clean (but mishapen) brush, soak the bristles in this stuff, shape the brush with your fingers, and let dry overnight at least.  While it dries, the bristles regain their "memory" and get back into line. When you decide to use the brush again, simply rinse the dried brush shaper solution off.  Afterwards, the brush should look roughly the same shape as when you shaped it.  It's kind of like a hair gel for brushes.

Now, that being said, I find nowadays I simply use hair conditioner instead.  It does pretty much the same thing, only it also conditions the hairs too, and it's cheap and easy to find.  I'm guessing the brush shaper is probably better than conditioner when it comes to large canvas artist sized brushes, but for our miniscule little brushes, hair conditioner does the trick.

Colour Wheel:
No matter what it says on the wheel itself, I'm NOT spelling colour without the "u".  I'm Canadian, damnit!  In fact, just about every english speaking nation on earth spells it with a "u", just not the States.  If Americans want their own language, why don't they just start calling their national language "American", not "English"?  Sorry... end of rant.

That aside, this is a really useful tool.  Any time you are struggling to decide what colour loincloth would go well with green pants, refer to the colour wheel.  These things have a neat reference on the back, where you pick a colour, rotate the inner wheel to correspond with it, and then it'll let you know which other colours will work well as complementary or contrasting colours.  You can try out colour triads or colour tetrads.  I don't fully understand the principles behind colour selection, but I can't deny that it works.

Oh, and "z" is pronounced, "zed", not "zee". :)

Oil Paints:
As miniature painters are stretching their boundaries and actively searching out new tools and techniques to incorporate into our hobby, more and more people are experimenting with oil paints.  Military modellers have used oil paints for quite some time for weathering.  Scale modellers who specialize in larger scale busts have worked with oils in order to achieve phenominal blends and hyper-realistic skin tones.  We miniature painters are only now borrowing from both those camps, and incorporating them into our art form.

The reasons for NOT using oils are many.  They take a long time to dry.  You can't thin them with water, you need smelly solvents.  They are really hard on brushes.  Etc. etc. etc.

However, if you've mastered acrylics, and are looking for something more challenging to paint with, then oils are worth a try.  They seem to have more potential, but the learning curve is daunting.  I'm only just dabbling with them now, and I've had countless failed experiments so far.  That being said, the few times I've managed to make them work, the results have been stunning.  I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Airbrush Supplies:
Now, your local hobby store is probably a better source for most airbrush supplies.  My favourite places to shop are the kind of hobby store that carries entire aisles of R/C cars and historical model tanks.  Those kind of hobbyists are passionate about airbrushes, and they usually carry a great lineup of dedicated supplies.  That being said, for bang for the buck, I've found that the comparatively giant bottles of airbrush mediums, thinners, and airbrush cleaning solutions offered at art stores are hard to beat.  I guess they're intended more for the canvas artist or t-shirt artist than for the kind of person who wants to put winter camo patterns on their King Tigers, and are priced accordingly.  Whatever the case may be, the airbrush cleaners still work very well, and so do their mediums.  Sure, Windex may be even cheaper, but I prefer to work with stuff purposely formulated for artists and their acrylic paints, not for OCD neat freaks and their Shamwows.

Wet Palatte Sponge:
Speaking of Shamwows, if you've got a Privateer Press wet palatte, be sure to toss the included "sponge" in the trash, and get this instead.  This is a real micro-cel sponge, rather than the packing sponge foam that PP is trying to unload on unsuspecting customers.  A sheet of "Sta-Wet" wet palatte sponge comes in single refill sheets, so you don't even need to buy their overpriced and oversized (for us) complete wet palatte set.  Buy one, cut it to fit your wet palatte, and you're good to go.  This stuff really is quite similar to shammies in that it holds and transfers a ton of moisture, and very evenly too.  I haven't found anything to beat it, and they last forever.  Just rinse any paint out of it while it's still wet, and wring to dry.  I'm very happy with mine, and the single refill sheet I bought was 4 times the size of the packing foam included in the PP palatte, so I was able to cut up 3 backups in case something goes horribly wrong.  Nice.

Anyway, that's it for now.  There's probably a ton of products I've overlooked.  When I get a chance, I'll take stock of the various odds and ends inside my painting cabinet and see what I can add to this topic.  In the meantime, if there's something you use that I've forgotten (or not yet discovered), please comment and let us know.  I'm always interested in hearing about new toys and gadgets, even if they're not new to some other genre of artist.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

GottaCon 2013: Miniature Painting Contest part 7

Pics and Judge's Thoughts: Single Miniature Catagory part 2

Still no luck finding the high quality pics from this catagory, but it's still time to keep going until this is finished. Only a few more writeups to go before I've covered EVERY entry from this year's competition (maybe I can power through it all in one entry), and then I'll get back to the random ramblings of a painting addict / philosopher.  Hopefully some of the blog entries will be of use to my fellow artists.

A quick thought to keep in mind if you're entering a painting competition: despite their skills, the top artists in the world invest stupid amounts of time in their competition entries.  Rarely does someone win a Golden Demon or Slayer Sword with a model they tossed off in an evening.  Most winning entries that I know of represent 20-40 hours of work, even the smallest of single model projects.  A large diorama is usually something a painter would have been working on for nearly an entire year.  When an award-winning painter talks about their "quickie" tabletop quality paintjob, they are usually referring to something that took between 4 to 10 hours of work at their most frantic pace, and that's not something they would dare take into a competition.  Another thing to consider is that these artists can blend at least 2-3 times as fast as the average painter, so something that takes them 20 hours to complete might take someone like me at least 30 to 40.

It's an intimidating thought, isn't it?  Now, these are the "Olympians" of their art form, so no one is expecting something like that at a local in-store contest, or even at GottaCon (but it would be nice to see at least one entry like that... such models are awe-inspiring to witness in person, and a rare privilege).  However, it's something to keep in mind when you need motivation to put just a few extra hours into your competition entries.  An experienced and talented judge will be able to look at a bunch of entries and quickly calculate how much work went into each one.  Will the model with the most hours invested automatically win?  No, there are a ton of other factors to consider, but it may sway his or her bias towards one entry or another.

In short, if you're entering something you consider is a good solid paintjob, I would take a good look at it a week before the competition, and figure out a way to put just a few more hours into it.  There's almost no such thing as "overdone" in the painting world, as it's usually the extra bit of effort that wins it.

Kim Daynes entered this lovely "Druid Gone Wilder" model, and it was positively recieved by many of the Con-goers.  The colour composition is spot on (green and red contrasting very well, with enough neutral browns and flesh tones to balance it nicely).  However, the base was what blew me away.  I've said it before with some of the previous entries that the base is part of the artist's canvas, and cannot be ignored or rushed.  Kim really went to town on this base, and it really makes the model come alive.  It's got such vibrant colours and luxurious texture to it, that it elevated the entry to a whole new level.  The model's paintjob itself is nice... some great blending, deep contrasts and sharp highlights, but it could have used a bit more definition in the way of some blacklining.  Otherwise, the lighter toned areas look a bit washed out when viewed from a distance.  When a light skin colour meets light coloured gold embroidery, there needs to be some visible border between the two.  I might have carefully applied some dark flesh wash along those lines with a detail brush... that's pretty much all this model really needed (apply a bit of brown wash to the red hair too... it would have given it more definition and depth).  Perhaps bring the highlights up another notch here and there (particularly on the browns), and it would have popped even more.  Those are all minor nitpicks on an otherwise brilliant model, but of course, in any painting competition, it's usually the smallest of details that can make all the difference.

Marshall Reeves entered this Absylonia model, which was a prime example of "Pop!"  It elicited a number of wows from people, and for good reason.  The bright green plating really contrasted well against the bright red of the loincloth, wings, tongue, and of course, the lava.  OSL (object source lighting... the effect of a light source illuminating the immediate surrounding area) is always a crowd-pleaser, and this was done in a very different style to the PP studio paintjob.  The base elevated the model nicely, giving it more presence as well.  However, the shading and highlighting was handled a bit heavy-handed.  Each successive layer was applied rather thick, with very few mid-tones to smooth out the transitions.  While difficult to tell on the highly textured areas such as the scales, it's all too easy to pick out and count the number of paints used in the lava. Some wet blending, feathering, or even a number of extra layers inbetween the black, red, orange, and yellow would have helped this entry out, and made it look more like bubbling liquid.  Still, this model oozes ambition and intent, and the artist has a flair for the visual that can't be denied.  It just needed some more of the tedious hours of detailed drudgery that a painting judge is looking for and appreciates.

This Reclaimer model was painted by Jeremy Fleet, and unfortunately it was overlooked by many (including me).  I mean, have a look at that cross... I rarely get to see such beautifully contrasted metals in person.  Even thought Jeremy put his model up on a pedestal base, it somehow didn't get the attention it deserved.  The blending is top notch (probably the best in the competition), and the face exudes character (the eyes especially).  Perhaps if the highlights went up another notch or two (the grey cloth could have gone all the way up to white at the top edges of the creases, and the reds could have used a touch of orange or white here and there), it would have pulled the eye in more.  I would also have used a bit of blacklining around the tan, gold, and flesh areas... it would have given those areas a more definable border from one area to another.  Nonetheless, I wish I had paid more close attention to this entry at the time of judging... it wasn't until reviewing the pics that I really stopped and admired this entry.  My apologies Jeremy.

Speaking of apologies, sorry for the blurry pic of Steve Hoffman's Ork Hero.  Such a paintjob deserves better.  What I liked about this model was how Steve embraced the character of this sculpt, which probably led him to paint all manner of scratches, rust, verdigris, blood spatter, checker patterns, etc. on it.  He did this pretty well too, with plenty of contrasting highlights and shades.  However, some more colour contrast would have helped, as the different rust colours, browns leathers, and brown furs tend to blur into one another when viewed at any distance other than up really close.  However, when you allow your eye to wander around on this model, you do see that he took the care to paint with different colours of brown for area... the gloves are treated differently than the leather straps, the furs are yet another kind of brown from the leathers, etc etc etc.  The layering of the highlights and shades could have been smoothed out a touch more though (I say that a lot, don't I?), but otherwise this entry made me really happy, as it accurately conveyed a form of mirthful menace that I love to associate with Orks.

Aaron Kehler's Teraph exudes a form of menace that is anything but mirthful (although it's smiling).  Great paintjob... nice brush control, nice deep shades, and excellent work around the face especially (on any model, but particularly beasts like this, you really need to emphasize the face as a focal point somehow).  The skin could have been smoothed out a bit, some more work could have been done with the base, and everything could have gone up a notch or two in terms of highlighting, but otherwise a very nicely painted model.

And the last entry for now (I'll finish up the rest soon, I promise!) is Lee De Kock's Kreoss.  Shading and highlighting are nice and smooth, although deeper shades on the bone coloured areas and brighter highlights on the reds would have been fantastic.  The embossed red crosses on the armour are screaming for some blacklining to border them against the pale white plates.  And the base was looking a bit neglected.  However, it may be that having seen some of Lee's gorgeous entries from a previous GottaCon painting competition, I was expecting more.  The blending was better than most every other entry, but it just didn't go deep enough on the white, and it didn't go high enough on the reds (difficult to do on red without making everything appear either orange or pink, but as long as you restrict any highlight colour higher than red to just the sharpest bare minimum, it'll look good... I promise).  A really well painted entry... it just needed more.

Anyway, only one more blog entry on the GottaCon 2013 painting competition, I hope.  It's been rather exhausting, and I'm also a tad worried that if I start looking at this as a chore, then I may get more critical in my feedback on people's models.  I want to reiterate that I have tons of respect for everyone who entered... it's really hard to work so long and put so much effort into something, only to hear any kind of criticism regarding your baby.  What I'm trying to accomplish is to give constructive and positive feedback to all the artists.  I've entered more competitions than any other painter I know locally, and if there's one thing I really wish I had, it would to hear from the judges their opinions (emphasis on "opinion") on how I could do better next time.  It's great to hear, "Your paintjobs are awesome!" once in awhile to keep your spirits up, reward your efforts, and stoke your ego, but I feel that honest criticism from a qualified peer or someone you admire is what will help get you to the next step of your painting evolution.

Friday, 15 February 2013

GottaCon 2013: Miniature Painting Contest part 6

Pics and Judge's Thoughts: Single Miniature Catagory (part 1):

The Single Miniature Catagory was the most hotly contested, by far.  At least in numbers of entries, that is.  While I'd have to say that all three catagories were very difficult to judge, and I went back and forth in my mind on which ones should have won in every catagory (in fact, I'm still pondering whether or not I should have made the decisions that I did), this catagory took almost double the time to judge than the others.

The thing about the single miniature catagory is that it's probably the easiest catagory to enter.  It's just one single model... and a relatively small one at that.  That's the easy part.  You don't have to be consistent across a whole unit of miniatures (minimum model count of 5 for the unit catagory), and you don't have a massive monster of a model to invest a ton of time into (such as the large model catagory... which no one deserves to win if they haven't invested as much time into their single large model as equal to an entire unit of smaller models).  The hard part is that there is double or triple the number of entries to compete against, so you really need to go to town on the model to elevate it above all the rest.  It really needs to pop, or it'll get lost amongst all the other entries.

In short, it HAS to be better than your usual "gaming quality" paintjobs.  MUCH better.

Apologies in advance for the crap quality of the pics.  It was very hard to take pics of such small models (most were barely over 28mm in height) without the use of a tripod and lighting booth.  And the worst part?  Somehow I lost all the pics of the models in this catagory that I DID take with the benefit of a tripod and lighting booth.  Sigh.

With that out of the way, let's start the proceedings:

From the very moment Ryan McKinnon entered this gorgeous Vampire Lord (vampires are allowed to be gorgeous nowadays, aren't they?  At least, Hollywood and legions of teenage girls seem to think so), this was a fan favourite.  It's easy to see why.  The brilliant red sword grabs ahold of your eyes immediately, and it's layered wonderfully.  Textbook example of how nice good layering can look (although I argue that layering starts to lose it's appeal with larger models and surfaces).  The armour and gold trim / gold sword are done up in NMM (non-metallic metal... which means painting a surface to resemble metal, without using any metallic pigmented paints), and while the steel comes across more as grey, the gold is done pretty much near perfect (take a closer look at the hilt of the sword, if you don't believe me).  The steel could have been given a better implied shine (some stark white edging in places could have boosted the contrast), but I recall it being soft and smooth in appearance when viewed in real life... which showed a deft touch with the brush.  The face was done extremely well too, although it was probably too close in tone to the massive shoulder guards (I suspect the sculptor watched too many episodes of "Record of Lodoss War"), and so it didn't stand out as much as it could have.  The base was nicely done, but much too simple for a painting competition entry... perfectly fine for gaming, but people need to go a step or two further for competition.  Overall, a stunning entry (far better looking than Robert Pattison).  Not only was it one of the fan favourites, it was definately one of my personal favourites.

Paul Sorensen, a veteran gamer and paragon of the island GW community, entered this fantastic Chaos Obliterator.  The red lava effect on the armour was something the Eavy Metal painting studio popularized and perfected some time ago, and Paul has shown that he is a first class student of their paint jobs (it's done that well).  The gold trim is also wonderful... lots of contrasts with deep rich brown shades, all the way up to precise shiny edges.  The skin is also well done, although the tones are not far off from the golds and reds... if he had chosen something on the other side of the colour wheel (the skin tones that Ryan McKinnon used above, perhaps?), then it would have contrasted and stood out better.  The steel coloured metals were a bit rough by comparison to the quality metallics done on the golds.  If he had applied some NMM techniques, but with metallic pigmented paints, it would have matched the high bar set by his armour painting.  Also, the base was overly simple for a competition piece, especially since there was much more "canvas" for him to work with on a larger base.  Still, a wonderously ambitious piece of work, and it definately hit a number of high notes for me.  This is the kind of paintjob I like to see... it's very evident that Paul was straining to push his painting skills beyond his normal comfort zone, and that's the kind of effort that makes you a better painter in the end.

Chris Brakefield's obviously a big fan of greenskins, as this luminous Ork Shaman complemented his GorkaMorka gang entry in the Squad catagory nicely.  However, while his skill with a brush is evident almost everywhere on this model (precise lines, nice placement of layering, good detail work, etc.), the contrasts needed to be ramped up more.  More highlights on the reds (some nice shading, but otherwise a tad flat), more highlights on the bones, more highlights on the various leathers, more more more.  The places where he did highlight enough stand out in my eyes... that loincloth is a nice piece of work, but they just serve to make the other areas look flat by comparison.  Great colour choices though, and a strong entry.

This Belial Dark Angels Terminator was painted by gaming tournament veteran Phil Turner, who knows a thing or two about creating wonderfully attractive armies.  In a gaming tournament, having a well painted army not only makes playing against you more fun, but it also helps score a few bonus points towards your overall tournament score.  The problem is that, because your painting is scored based on your army's overall appearance, many painters don't go that extra EXTRA mile on their character models.  It needs to blend in harmonously with the rest of the models in their army, which means they tend to be based to the same level, shaded to the same level, highlighted to the same level, etc.  This entry was a really nice piece of work, but it needed to be treated as a whole project on it's own in order to contend with the top entries in this competition.  Phil's a great gamer, and he's really enthusiastic about painting armies (he does it extremely well).  I hate to say it though, most painters like that need to throw away almost everything they know about painting and relearn how to paint individual competition entries because it's a totally different mindset.  There's only a rare few painters that I know who can do both very well.  The high deity of this dual ability is multi-Golden Demon winner James Wappel (, and he's about the only painter who can simply pluck any unit out of any one of his armies into an international level painting competition and come away with a trophy.  Some can do it at a more regional level (like many of the painters in this competition), but it's a rare talent.

Fraser Hallet's Imperial Fist model is a great example of "pop!".  As their Primarch Rogal Dorn once said, camouflage is the colour of cowardice.  The predominantly yellow, red, and black paint scheme contrasts extremely well, making it stand out in an extremely crowded figure case.  Very good brush control, interesting base, but there were a few simple things this model needed to get to the next level.  I would have liked to see more intermediate shading and highlight stages to make the tonal transitions look much smoother.  And speaking of smoother, I think Fraser could have thinned his paints down a tiny bit more for a cleaner finish.  Overall a very nice model.  It really hit a soft spot for me, as it made me recall my old personal Imperial Fist army from years and years ago (they all went missing a long time ago and I have a bad feeling that they got "drafted" into the GW Metrotown store army... I miss those models dearly).  I also think this paintjob might actually be better than the models I painted for that particular army though.

Speaking of personal paintjobs, if any of you are in the Metro Vancouver area this weekend, please drop by the Games Workshop store in Highgate Mall in Burnaby.  They have their semi-annual painting competition going on, with judging set to go sometime Sunday.  I've got entries in four catagories (I think judging will be done by the staff), and they are already sitting in the display cases at this moment.  From what I saw, there were some really nice early entries, and it'll be a tough competition with plenty of miniature art eye candy.  A great place for some painting inspiration, and I invite any and all competitors to join in the fun.

Well, I've got to call it quits for now.  I'll have continued coverage of the Single Miniature Catagory up soon, and I'll be frantically looking for any clue as to where my higher quality pics went in the meantime.  I also have a series of other posts I'm working on, but I welcome suggestions for possible future blog topics.  Let me know what you're currently working on, and what issues you're running into.  I've been painting for a very very long time now, and I've run into just about every problem one could encounter during that time.  It's very possible that I may have the solution to your dilemna.

Monday, 11 February 2013

GottaCon 2013: Miniature Painting Contest part 5

Pics and Judge's Thoughts: Large Model Catagory (continued):

Where was I again?  Oh yeah, just a few more entries in this catagory to go, and on to the winners.

Andy McBeer entered this Warhound Titan, and I'm not sure, but it might be over the size limit for the contest, seeing as it took up an entire shelf in the display case by itself.  Yikes!  Really eye-catching.  Great weathering.  Fantastic story base.  The only thing I could nitpick about was that the paintjob was a bit flat... it's hard to tell with all the dry pigments used over top, but it looked like there wasn't enough tonal variation worked into the model.  If you take a closer look at the yellows, you can see what I mean:

I would have liked to see the yellow fade into ocre, then eventually dark brown, for the shades.  As it was, it looked a bit flat (I know, I say that alot regarding large models, but it's one of the most common perils when painting something this size!).  The Rhino and Imperial Fist aren't as weathered, so it's even more evident on them how few tones were put into the base colours.  Again, this is normally a minor complaint... the whole piece was so characterful and wonderfully ancient looking, I really had fun looking this model over... lots of neat details to discover.

Evan Moore entered this gorgeous Ork Fighta Bomba.  Again, fantastic weathering, precise freehand, extra work put into the base, great paintjob on the crew... lots of things I liked.  A tiny bit more contrast would have been nice though.  More shadows would have made the model more defined, and perhaps a hint of edge highlighting would have helped too.  Weathering tends to flatten (or even cover up) a model's contrasts a little bit, so I think you really need to exaggerate your shades and highlights before moving on to that final step.  Still, this entry oozes character, and the artist really went to town on it.  Fantastic.

Speaking of weathering, check out Gerald Moore's Minotaur tank.  This thing looks like it came straight from the pages of one of the Forgeworld books.  The gun barrels are scorched, the tracks are dusty, the rivets have rust streaking down from them, the mufflers are rusted, and even the vehicle markings show weathering.  Everything is supremely well thought out and executed.  And when you think it can't get any better, check out the interior crew compartment:

Wow.  The paint is chipped and worn in all the right places (you can almost imagine all the little stones and rocks that get stuck in your boot tread scratching up the deck plating, the rungs of the ladder, and just about everywhere else you step).  Big guns like this also kick up alot of dust when they fire... and you can see how it collects in all the nooks and crannies.  The crew is reasonably well painted as well, although a bit more subdued in colour than I prefer.  I'm also not sure why the guns are less weathered and dusty than the rest of the piece... it looks deliberate though.  This is NOT a model that might catch your eye at first glance, but once you zoom in and allow your eyes to wander all around it, it really stands out.  I'm not sure if everyone will appreciate how nice this entry was, but I certainly did.

Another fantastic tank was entered by Marshall Reeves from all the way from Kelowna.  All the weathering makes it a bit muddled looking from a distance, but Marshall countered that with a really eye-catching freehand dozer blade.  It looks like a graffiti artist went to town on it while the crew was out having lunch.  Beautifully done, and I regret I don't have a pic of the whole blade... the title of the piece, "Let the City Burn"   was painted on as well, and was cut out of this pic somehow.  As with Gerald's tank, the weathering is extremely well thought out and placed in all the logical places.  However, Marshall uses some older Eavy Metal techniques, and they don't scale as well when viewed up close when compared to some of the techniques used by modern military modellers and the painters from Forgeworld.  They do look fantastic when viewed from the gaming tabletop though.  Lastly, check out the glass pieces, particularly the spotlight!  Gorgeously done, and the super clean shiny look really contrasts well against the grime and beaten look of the rest of the tank.  Just fantastic.

On the other end of the spectrum is Bryce Jensen's Deathjack.  Like all of Bryce's entries, this was a supremely well-executed "clean" paintjob.  There's nothing to hide or distract from his deep, rich contrasts, and razor-sharp precise highlights.  This is how I imagine a model being painted if you could someone use a CAD machine or 3D printer to do it.  It's like an early Pixar animated piece, made real.  Up close or at arm's length, Bryce's models are simply stunning.  No lack of contrast as well, which is difficult when working with larger areas.  Again, I just wish he would feather or blend his tonal transitions though... it's a bit more obvious when viewed up close on the large open areas:

Notice how each layer or step of highlighting is very pronounced looking?  That's because when you place one tone next to another, the area just along the join will be interpreted by your brain as darker or lighter looking when compared to the next tone.  It almost looks like each layer or highlighting is underlapping the next.  I vaguely remember my grade 8 art teacher explaining the phenomenom(sp?) to my barely comprehending teenage mind.  Now that I see Bryce's paintjob, I finally get it though.  This is why miniature painters should try and challenge themselves to blend each layer into the last one... it blurs the definitions away, and gives it a smoother finish.

A tiny amount of weathering would have also been nice too, but not too much.  A few paint chips here and there would have added visual interest, but too much would hide an otherwise stupendous paintjob.

Lastly, we have this monstrously large Trollblood model.  Unfortunately, this piece was entered after I had packed up on saturday night, and I didn't get the name from the volunteer who had accepted the piece.  If this is your model, please comment so that you can get credit for a really nice bit of work.  This artist got quite alot out of a few simple techniques... washes and a nice light touch of drybrushing.  Some of the more intricate places got more attention with the brush though (the inside of the mouth in particular), so it's evident the artist has got some skills.  The purple veining is a nice touch, although the blue skin and the grey rock are otherwise a bit too monochrome... highlighting up to another colour (such as flesh tones) on the skin would have been nice, and the rocks could have used some subtle grime or dirt.  This is the best example I could come up with at a moment's notice:

See how some darker dirt accumilates in the cracks and recesses of the rock?  Also how vegetation clings to the sides?  At the scale of this model, I'd say it would look more like green slime growing along wherever water would run off the rocks.  Otherwise everything looks too fresh, and not outdoorsy enough.  It's a tad unnatural looking for anyone who spends alot of time outdoors.  However, it's otherwise a spectacular entry, and probably impresses the heck out of any gaming opponent.

So, who won?

Third place was a tie between Marshall Reeves' "Watch the City Burn" tank and Jeremy Fleet's Avatar Warjack.  I really had a hard time choosing between the two... Jeremy's warjack demonstrated some amazing blending skills, and Marshall really knows how to work freehand.  Both put lots of care and thought into their models as well.  I almost gave the edge to Jeremy's warjack, but it turned out that I had an extra Third Place ribbon, so I opted to cop out and give them both third place.  Both fantastic works of art for entirely different reasons.  I'd love to see the both of them compete again next year, but with deeper contrasts, and a tiny bit of modern weathering techniques.

Bryce Jensen killed it with this standout Deathjack for second place.  While I like to bitch about Bryce's highlighting style (I want smoother, damnit!), it's still awe-inspiringly precise, and the way he manages to fit so much contrast into such small areas is unreal.  A tiny bit of freehand or weathering would have put this entry over the moon though, and there's something about that head that gets lost in the rest of the model... perhaps doing it up in a contrasting colour or perhaps done much lighter than the rest of the body would have put the focus back where it should have been.  Otherwise, I'm stuck with my eyes magnetically drawn to the harsh stepped effect of the line highlighting on the upper armour plate.  Damn you Bryce.

Still, first place has to go to Gerald Moore's Minotaur tank.  This is the pinnacle of realistic weathering that I've seen so far.  I mean, compare that paintjob to something in real life like this:

And you get the idea that Gerald's going for something that actually looks like a working piece of machinery, and not just something from a late '80s / early '90s sci-fi movie set.  The interior crew compartment was what sealed the deal for me though.  It really scaled extremely well, and was believeable in almost every way (still not sure why the breech area of the guns were so relatively spotless though).  Also plenty of shading, unobscured by the weathering.  Really loved it, and would love to see more.  Congrats to Gerald, you should be very pleased with yourself:

I guess though, in a perfect world, you'd get something like all four top placing paintjobs all on one model.  Bryce's super ramped up contrasts with Jeremy's super smooth transitions, Marshall's kickass freehand skills, and Gerald's hyper-realistic weathering.  That would be something worth witnessing, although I suspect it would be a massively time-consuming undertaking.  Oh well, there's almost a whole year between now and next year's competition...