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.

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