Wednesday, 4 December 2013

IPMS Fall Show 2013 : Part 3

One or two more posts on the IPMS Vancouver Fall Show, and then I'll be working on some blog posts on my current projects, recently finished projects, and a tutorial or two.

Again, IPMS was a veritable cornucopia of fresh inspiration and wonder.  The techniques used on these models are ones that I'm just learning about now, and trying to put into practice on my gaming based models. It's one thing to read through the pages of Tamiya Model Magazine, Military Modelcraft International, Finescale Modeller magazine, etc., but it's another thing to actually see these kinds of models in person, and marvel at the skill and techniques involved.  I may have to pick up some more reading material for research (perhaps some of these from AK Interative?), and I plan on attending some of the IPMS Vancouver club meetings (I have no idea what to expect, but it'd be great to pick the brains behind some of these awesome models).

One thing I should say before you keep reading this blog entry is that I will be tossing in an opinion or two in my writeups following each pic.  Now, keep in mind that I am by no means an expert in this style of modelling... far from it.  Like I said before, I've picked up a few magazines, read a few books, and that's about it.  My opinions will be primarily from the perspective of someone who has been building and painting gaming miniatures for about a quarter-century, which is probably not all that long by the standard of some of the people at this show.  I apologize in advance if you are one of the modellers of the entries that I am critiquing (more like "offering an outside observation" on).  I hope that you take my words for what they are: an opinion from a different perspective.

Now, one of the things I noticed was just how highly esteemed modelling skills were in this crowd.  To give you an example, have a look at this model:

Gorgeous model, isn't it?  Chock full of little details, which COULD be a sign of a very high end and expensive stock kit, except it wasn't.  Sitting next to the entry was this list of modifications that the artist did to the basic kit:

Seriously?  The guy (or girl... never discount the possibility of the fairer sex) seriously added valve stems to the wheels?  I've seen people add extra rivets, windows, and hooks, but valve stems and scratch built buckets and fire extinguishers are taking things to a higher level.  That's not to say that there aren't some seriously talented and dedicated modellers within the miniatures community (especially since there are some very talented sculptors as well), but it's still relatively uncommon to see people ADD this much detail to a basic kit.

How about this one? :

My first impression was of a very nicely done Sherman tank kit.  Subtle, but with lots of nice realistic weathering.  Nicely presented on a great display stand, complete with placard and pressed metal crest (a very nice touch that I haven't seen before).  Then my eye went to this:

Remember when we were kids in school, and our teachers used to stress to us, "Show Your Work"?  Well, this is the very definition of "show your work".  Bravo.

That being said, listing all your mods on a sheet of paper, and displaying this next to your entry in a gaming-style miniatures competition would be considered kind of tacky, and would take up too much room in a display case anyway.  Still... for your own reference, records and bragging rights, I would think noting all your work would be a good idea outside of a miniatures competition.  And it seems to be perfectly acceptable at IPMS.

Another one by what looks to be the same artist:

One of the most important goals in a miniature painting contest entry is to convey some sort of story with every model.  This one takes that concept to the level of a historical museum display piece:

One of the best platforms for storytelling in the miniature world is the diorama.  Rather than just an assemblage of random (and randomly placed) models, it is a carefully planned out scene, with each part of the diorama doing it's part to tell a larger story.  There have been some amazing dioramas at the Golden Demons as of late, but there were some pretty good ones at this local IPMS show too.

A simple setting, but every figure, post, and bit of rubble was very well posed, and it all added up to make a great composed scene.

We don't often see naval scenes in our hobby (Dreadfleet and Battlefleet Gothic being two games off the top of my head, and one of those is a space naval game).  That's why it's neat to see naval models in historical settings... it's something very new and novel to me.

I have to admit that the wires holding up the planes are a bit distracting at first, but if you squint just enough to tune them out, you'll see a pretty dramatic scene.  I love the use of the water effects too.  I think I would have liked to see some wet effects on the ships and scattered cargo here and there, and perhaps some plumes of water from the bombs and bullets impacting the sea, and a tiny bit more weathering to add to the sense of scale, but otherwise this is awesome.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have this:

While very clean looking, the "water effects" of this model seem a bit sterile and stylized, rather than heavily modelled and realistic.  The artist certainly has a talent for weathering, but the composition is also a bit rigid... perhaps laying everything out diagonally would add more interest, instead of setting everything out at right angles.

In fact, I do believe that was something I read in a book by Shepard Paine, who was well known in historical modelling circles.  The next few dioramas certainly seem to take that point to heart:

By having the float-plane moving in the direction of the corner of the display, it somehow adds interest to the whole scene, and makes it seem a bit more natural.  Not 100% sure why that's the case, but it's certainly something to keep in mind when doing up your own dioramas.

This has two vehicles moving in diagonal directions that are intersecting each other.  Brilliant, although I would have liked to have seen a bit deeper shading done up to add a bit more contrast and make the details pop better when viewed from a distance.

Just lovely.  Can't really comment on this one much, as it's done as well as I could imagine.  My only nitpick would be to add a tiny detail of something to the front right corner to help balance the scene out a bit.  The space looks a bit empty to me.  Even something trivial like a sidewalk, sewer grate, or some ammo crates would have made this pretty darn near perfect.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am obsessed with modern military history.  I've got books and books on the Iraqi wars, and the war in Afghanistan.  There's something about a personal account by military veterans who are of my own generation (or younger) that fascinates me.  I get pumped (and saddened, and shocked, and the full gamut of emotions) reading books like "Lone Survivor", "15 Days: Stories of Bravery, Friendship, Life and Death From Inside the Canadian Army", "War", "The Forever War", "American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History", "Line in the Sand: Canadians at War in Kandahar", etc. etc. etc.  Therefore, I was psyched to see this particular diorama.  I think the layout was great, the story it told was easily "read" by the viewer, and the figures posed beautifully.  The only thing is that from a technical painter point of view, I would have liked to see a bit more contrast to make the details pop a bit better.  One thing to keep in mind when painting figures in camo, is that  the purpose of camouflage is to make something blend into the background.  This is counter to what we are trying to achieve in miniature painting.  Therefore, we need to heighten the contrast somehow in order to help draw the viewer's eyes to the models, rather than letting them slide over them.  Some more shading and highlighting would have helped, as would placing the figures over top of a contrasting background to help "silhouette" them better (see how the one guy standing in front of the OD green APC stands out a bit better than his buddies?  That's because you can clearly see his outline against the differing colour).

And then there's this gorgeous diorama:

Gorgeous weathering.  Deep, rich contrasts.  Wonderful placement and composition.  And a strong story which comes through very easily to the viewer.  Well thought out, and technically well executed too.  Bravo.

Well, that's just about enough for this entry, as it is quite late for me now.  I'll finish this off with my own diorama entry, which fortunately didn't have to go up against these ones (it was in the sci-fi and fantasy catagory).  Not nearly as ambitious (ie big!) as the ones I just showed you, but a nice little vignette regardless, with an emphasis on telling a simple story:

Dioramas are something I'm very new to, but I definitely want to pursue further.  Every model that I build and paint, I try and tell a story with, but dioramas are taking that to a whole new level.  Hope you like it!

Comments, as always, are welcome.


  1. Excellent photos, Kelly! I've never been a military history fan, but some of these models and dioramas almost made me want to get into it!

  2. Yeah, I'm considering it as well, but not quite sure where to start. With a modern APC? Perhaps a WWII Sherman tank? And where would I go with it?

    Frankly, I'm leaning towards learning what I can from this genre, and doing my best to apply it to gaming models. It's funny... I was thinking that the military guys seem to be more fanatical about "hyper-detailing" their kits than we are, but us gamers have more reason to hyper detail our models due to the much more limited variety of kits that we have access to. If you think about the basic Rhino APC or Chimera APC, most people just use the bits offered in the box. There's only so much variety and customization you can do with that. If anything, WE should be the ones modelling on valve stems, fire extinguishers, ammo crates, and extra rivets.

    In any case, military history is just fascinating. If you read my previous blog entry about concept art, you'll understand that sci-fi and fantasy owes a huge debt to ancient and modern military history. What we do is fleshed out from the bones of real life, and so it behooves us to reference back to the source material once in awhile, as a sort of "reality check".