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.


  1. Thanks for the nice words,I painted belial and the land raider 2 years ago, I just grabbed them both on a whim as I left to go to gotta on Friday. I completely agree with everything you said. I have ramped up my painting the last year, relearning a bunch of skills, got some new winton & Newtons, mediums, Vallejo paints, etc. I Had painted some great new DA stuff (DV Librarian etc.) But can you believe it I lost the case with them in it.......oh well, sigh.....I am excited about the new DA models, they are beautiful. Painting armies is a passion though, This year I painted about 3000 points of Necrons (my Gottacon army), finished off my Imperial Guard Army (with great bits from Victoria Lambs webstore), Half the DA 4th Company, and started a Plague marine/Zombie army. I think it might be classified as an addiction now. I might need to get professional help. I need to take a special army to Gottacon 2014, I need to regain my title!......Thanks, Phil

    1. Sorry to hear about the lost fig case. I've had the same problem, and am missing a case or two myself. Grrr... I think I'll have to start engraving my name on my fig cases, and my initials on the bottom of all my based models. That way, if I lose any more figs, at least there's a chance that I'll get lucky and some honest gamer will return them to me.

      There is something about finishing an army that is MUCH more satisfying than finishing a single fig. Once you lay them all out on display, take a step back, and really appreciate the work you've done, there's a genuine warm and fuzzy feeling you get... I guess that's why all sorts of dictators throughout history have loved getting their armies to put on parades, eh?

      That being said, I've found that a painter only gets better quickly by really concentrating on the individual model level. That way an artist can focus on trying new things, working to master new skills, and attempting effects they've never applied to a model before. Once you've figured something out, it becomes part of your painting skills toolkit, and each and every time you use it, you'll get better and better, and faster and faster at doing it.

      It is time consuming though... and it's hard to slow down your painting and resist taking shortcuts when there are boxes of unpainted models of the same army sitting next to you.

  2. I think the worst thing is learning so quickly as a painter your 'style' and techniques change before you finish an army! Do you go back and re-do your old work? Or do you restrict yourself to a former set of skills?

    1. I wouldn't consider that "the worst thing" really. It means that your painting skills are progressing at an excellent pace.

      As for what to do if this happens, I wouldn't re-do your old work, or restrict yourself. I may stick to the same basic colour scheme, but keep going on the rest of your army and keep pushing your new techniques, otherwise your skills will plateau. Also, you'll be practicing old techniques, reinforcing any bad habits you used to have. You need to keep going, keep learning, and keep getting more comfortable with the more challenging techniques you're mastering.

      Also, your old models are a reminder of how far you've progressed. You need to treasure those old paintjobs. Every so often, I'll really beat myself up and get demoralized when I'm having difficulties mastering new techniques. That's when I have a look at my old models, compare them to what I'm doing now, and instantly feel better about myself. I can see right away how much better I am now than before, and it's a good sign that I'll somehow manage to break through whatever challenges I'm going through right now, and get to the next level.

      That being said, if I'm looking for a model to enter in a painting competition and I haven't the time to finish one up from scratch, I may pull out an older paintjob and update it a bit. It's a last resort if I really need an entry, as it takes much less time to do, but unfortunately it really doesn't help me learn anything new.

    2. BTW, Matthew, I just checked out your blog, and added it to my "Blogs of Interest". It's a good read.