Monday, 11 November 2013

IPMS Vancouver : Fall 2013 Show / Part I

Back to the world of blogging!!  Apologies for the long hiatus, but I got quite a bit of painting and event reporting done during that time, so I hope to make it up to you guys with some quality posts over the next little while.

Yes, I got a decent amount of painting done (relative to my usual slug-like pace), but I had a fair bit of motivation.  Aside from a well attended in-store contest run at my local Games Workshop store, the annual local painting competition, The Immortal Brush hosted by Strategies Games, was coming around again, and I always make a point of getting in a few entries every year.  Second of all, I was planning on attending my very first IPMS event here in Vancouver, the big Fall show.

For those who have never heard of IPMS, it's a huge international organization (a network, really) of dedicated modellers.  For many people, IPMS is "them".  While "We" are the sci-fi and fantasy geeks, "They" are the die-hard historicals.  "We" measure the scale of our models in millimetres (as in "25mm", "28mm", and "32mm" scale), while "They" use fractions starting with the number 1 (ie "1/5th scale", "1/48th scale", "1/35th scale", etc.).  "We" read Michael Moorcock and Tolkien, and watch Star Wars, Starship Troopers, and Game of Thrones.  "They" read "Enemy at the Gates", and watch "A Bridge Too Far".

Wow... that's a lot of quotation marks.  Phew.

The fact of the matter is, the IPMS'ers are pretty much like us.  They love to build and paint models.  The differences are actually quite minor.  The most fundamental difference, to me, is that for us, the hobby originated out of wargaming and grew into a modelling art form, while for them, modelling was it's own hobby and art form right from the start.

The other main difference is the brands of kits we build.  Instead of seeing names like Games Workshop, Privateer Press, Rackham, Hasslefree, and the like, names like Revell, Tamiya, Airfix, etc., were the norm.

So, stepping into an IPMS event was a bit of a step out of my comfort zone.  Not a HUGE step, mind you (like I said, it's all modelling, after all), but I suspect it would be somewhat like how a muscle car fanatic would feel like when attending an import tuner car show.  Put aside any snobbery or preconceptions, try and have an open mind, and try and make some new friends.  Most importantly, my mission was to see some gorgeous models, puzzle out how things were done differently, see things from a new perspective, and see what I could take back to my own miniature building and painting.

Lest anyone think that I am trying to take any credit for being the first person to try and cross-pollinate the two species of miniature modelling genres, let me admit that it's definately NOT new ground for some of the real "Masters" out there.  I was introduced to the concept by Mathieu Fontaine,(sure, I've picked up the odd "Fine Scale Modeller" magazine and books on dioramas by Sheperd Paine before, but never really put anything into actual practice before meeting Mathieu).  Since then, I've come to admire the works of Justin McCoy of Secret Weapon Miniatures (co-incidentally a member of IPMS), and really took notice of a certain entry in the last GottaCon Painting Competition (see Gerald Moore's award-winning entry here).  Heck, I bet many of the stunning paintjobs by the staff painters at Forgeworld owe a great deal to previous experience with a Revell or Airfix model.

In any case, I was also kind of curious to see how some of my own works would be received by this crowd.  To that end, I brought along some models I had worked on in the past, some of which had won awards in various miniature painting competitions.  With all the entries being displayed openly, for all attendees to inspect in person and up close, it was going to be interesting to watch perfect strangers' reactions to my entries.

Well, I've rambled on for long enough, and I haven't posted any pics just yet.  If a picture is truly worth a thousand words, then it's time to get really wordy:

The event was held at the Bonsor Recreation Centre, and was spread out across three large rooms.  This was the main attraction: the competition entries.  I showed up early, dropped off my entries (it took awhile to figure out what categories they all fit in with the help of some really friendly staff), and then started walking around and checking things out.

There was a definite increase in attendees once the deadline for entry registration had passed.  The tables were now full of amazing models, and there were clumps of oglers and some really interesting discussions going on.  One thing that was readily apparent was just how respectful everyone was.  While people were intensely passionate about modelling, they were also really chummy with each other, and somewhat laid back in demeanor.  Not once did I hear anything disparaging said about anyone's entry (which sometimes happens at some of the miniature painting competitions I've attended in the past).

This room was full of vendors hawking their wares.  Plenty of business was going on here, and again, the vibe was very chill and super friendly.  I can't say that I was tempted by all the kits on sale (battleship Bismarck models as big as my 5 year old kid?  No thanks... I can barely finish a tiny Rhino APC in a year), but I did pick up a really nice 1/35th scale resin figure of a modern US Army soldier for $16.  There's no way I will ever be able to paint up a realistic ACU digi-cam pattern or even MultiCam pattern on him, but perhaps I can paint him up as a black-clad police ERT member after putting in some serious conversions.  If you ever plan on attending an IPMS event, be sure to bring lots of cash.

There was also a third room, which I unfortunately did not take any pics of.  In it, there were a number of tables set up for kids to build and paint models (which were provided!), and also a number of tables set up by the local monster kit building club, where one could check out the painters in action, ask questions, and ogle some amazing monster busts (and by "bust", I mean a large scale model of a figure's head, chest, and sometimes arms... not just the chest...).  Again, really friendly and enthusiastic vibe.

 While I didn't take any pics of the room, I did manage to take pics of some of the kits:

Fantastic skin... the purple tones around the eyes in particular, and even the hints of blood vessels under the skin.  When viewed up close and in person, you can really sense that there are layers and layers of depth to the skin, just like on real flesh.

Zombies... I love zombies (although I prefer to keep them at long range).  Again, the skin is fantastic, but the glossy eye and teeth really put this over the top.  Grotesquely gorgeous.

Check out the eyes and lips!  Wow.

Anyway, back to the main room to check out some of this year's competition entries:

This pic was taken of the sci-fi and "what-if" catagories, early in the day.  By the time entry cut-off came around, this table was packed, and the entries had expanded onto another table.  My Inquisition Rhino looked a bit out of place next to the Snow Speeders, Tie Fighters, Foxbats, and various space stations, mainly because it wasn't a theme that was readily recognized by mainstream sci-fi fans, and because it was a very vibrant and saturated colour when compared to all the whites, blacks, and greys.

By contrast, the "Mecha" category was definitely pretty thin in terms of entries, with only my Khador Warjack and this absolutely monstrous Robotech mech in attendance.  Most of the mecha were well represented over on the Gundam table.  Apparently the local Gundam scene has happily tucked themselves under the IPMS umbrella, and while the Gundam guys were a distinct sub-culture here, they seemed really stoked to be there.

Speaking of Gundam:

Again, early in the day.  Later, there were almost double this number of entries on the Gundam table.  They were practically shoulder-to-shoulder.

A closer look at this particular kit.  Subtle but effective weathering.  One thing I've noticed with Gundam is that weathering is not really their thing.  There is a good use of it here and there, but it's really really subtle and slight.  Most entries had little to no weathering at all, and to my un-educated eye, they just looked like stock vinyl kits right out of the box.  If I was to make a guess as to why people liked that style, it would be that perhaps they were trying to recreate that '80s / '90s TV cartoon anime look.  Clean was what the subject matter looked like on TV, so that's what they should look like in 3D.  Again, just a wild guess, and it's something I think I should look in to.

Over on another table, there were a long line of Gundams that were not competition entries.  From what I gather, it was some sort of mobile Gundam museum, with each Gundam standing next to a info card detailing that war machine's armament and service record in various fictional conflicts.  Without exception, each and every one was done to an amazing standard.

Something about the weathering on this model really gives it depth.  I've seen this kind of painting done on various airplane kits, where the lines are pre-shaded with an airbrush, and then the basecoat goes on over top.  Again, this is something I'm really very curious about, and I definitely want to learn more about this.

A closer look at what I mean.  Each armour panel / segment is made distinct from the next by a hard black line, but also with a much more subtle and soft grey-tone.  Is this to represent a slight build-up of grime?  Strangely effective at lending depth to an otherwise flat model... a vastly different approach to armour than the Mig Jimenez technique of colour modulation that I've been trying out for the last year or two.

Again, very reminiscent of what I've seen on some airplane kits:

"Highway to the... Danger Zone!!"

Sorry, I couldn't help myself, even if this isn't an F-14 Tomcat.  While there were at least one or two of those at the show, I liked this model because of how well it scaled... which is to say that it looks like a much bigger kit in pics than it really was in person.  Effective use of shading was key to achieving this.

A close-up of the tail.  I'm guessing an oil wash with a subtle feathering with thinner helped make the effect of greasy oil buildup inbetween the panels possible.  I've been to the Langley Air Museum, at the Abbotsford Air Show, and on the deck of a real-life aircraft carrier, and seen planes like this up close.  This really gave me the feel of how the rivets would exhibit a nice brown / red patina of oil and rust.  Lovely.  Really lovely.

This one's a bit different, and not just because of the different time period.  I really liked how the effect of paint flaking and chipping off the aluminum (was it aluminum on the real plane?) body was achieved.  The cockpit glass is also crazed and frosted nicely too.  I would have liked to see a tiny bit more shading in places to give it a greater sense of scale, but otherwise I really really like this model.

Anyway, that's enough for one massive blogging session (these things take WAY longer to put together and type up than it does to read through and view pics).  I'll be back shortly with part 2 of this 2013 IPMS Vancouver Fall Show.  I've only just scratched the surface, and will have tons more pics to show you (tanks, dioramas, figures, and battleships, oh my!), along with my thoughts and impressions .  I will also show a few pics of the models that I entered, and let you know how they fared.  Plus, if I have time, I will give you a short write-up of tips and advice I'd give someone who was attending their first event of this nature (from a person who just attended HIS first event of this nature... heheh).

I've also got some pics of some other events I've attended recently, and pics of some models that I recently finished, and others of models I'm still working on for future blog entries.  Stay tuned, and be sure to comment!


  1. I was worried you'd abandoned the blog! Great show, great write-up. I'm contemplating a "Complete Guide to Painting Like an Amateur" over at House of Paincakes, but I know you'd slap me silly the first time I suggest dipping.

    1. Thanks. Sorry for the long delay, but it's good to be back.

      Part of me is completely horrified by the concept of dipping, but there's another part of me that would much rather prefer seeing someone have at least SOME sort of paint on their models. I had one friend who once said that if you couldn't paint decently, he would rather see a pristine and clean metal model than a poorly painted one.

      I completely disagree with that opinion. ANY paint is better than none. After all, no one started out as a Golden Demon winner, we all started out as rank amateurs. Just as we all started out crawling, then standing, then taking a few wobbly steps long before we learned to run, jump, and dance, I can admire a beginner's paintjob as a solid step towards mastering the techniques that make up a great artist. If you don't have the courage to mess up a bit at first, you won't get anywhere.

      Going back to my example earlier, imagine you had an accident, and had to relearn how to walk. As an adult, it could be embarrassing to stumble, wobble, and struggle in front of others. Some might prefer to just roll around in a wheelchair for the rest of their lives instead. However, I think it's better to go through the pain and struggle to get to where you want to be, and those first steps are probably the most important and significant steps of your whole painting development. That's why I never look down my nose at "amateur" painting techniques, so long as the painter is actually relatively new to painting.

      If you've been painting for 20 years, and still paint the same way you did when your first started out though, that's something I have an issue with. If you aren't pushing yourself each time you paint, then what's the point?