Friday, 28 March 2014

GottaCon 2014 part 4: Single Miniatures continued...

So we're getting to the end of the Single Miniature Catagory.  After posting pics of the final entries and my thoughts on them, I'll reveal the winners, and what put them over the top.  I'll also introduce you to Lee, my co-judge, and post his thoughts on the winners as well.  After that, we'll still have the group catagory and the large model catagory to go over in later blog posts.

On to the rest of the Single Miniature entries:

Jeremy Fleet's heavily converted Malifaux model was quite tricky to photograph properly, and my little point-and-shoot camera just wasn't up to the task.  Luckily for Jeremy, we made our judging decisions in person, and through the lens of the Mark I eyeball.

In real life, this model is outstanding, if a little disturbing.  She has a strange grey flesh tone, but it wasn't a straight grey (ie just blends of black and white)... it had enough undertones of reds and purples to still read as flesh.  Just a very strange ashen grey flesh.

Everything was highlighted just right.  Super smooth blends, all the highlighting was placed perfectly (classic textbook zenithal... the light coming from almost directly above), and there was tons of gorgeous contrast between highlights and shades.  The light falls nicely on the tops of the shoulders, the top-most exposed parts of the upper thighs, her upper left arm, the crown of her head, and the upper part of her chest.  In contrast, the undersides of everything is perfectly shaded.  It's not just the lighting from the display cases / room, it's the painstaking and thought out work of a real artist.

He also put his model up on a raised wooden block.  By doing so, it elevated his model (literally) above the competition, which helps when it's a full display case.  Otherwise, a model with such a subdued colour palatte would likely fade into the shadows.  In addition, the block was painted black... a decision that I applaud.  Woodgrain looks great, but the point isn't to show off a nice looking block of wood, it's to show off a nicely painted model.  You need that negative space to give you model breathing room among the other entries, and you also don't want to distract from the entry itself.

Speaking of woodgrain, you can't tell from this pic, but the paddle in her right hand has the woodgrain lines hand painted on.  A very nice touch.

All is not perfect though... the joins between the torso and the arms are a bit too pronounced... some greenstuff to smooth the join, applied before the painting stage, would have made her look less like a department store mannequin.  The base detailing is nice, but the paintjob isn't super convincing as cobblestone when viewed up close.  Also, more implied shine on the boots would have given them that polished leather or vinyl look.

Overall though, this model really hits very close to the mark.  Super impressive.

Trevor Galpin entered this nice Archaon mounted on daemonic steed.  I'm not entirely sure if this model should have been in the single miniature catagory, or the large model catagory... while not the size of a tank, it's still a pretty big beast.  Like I said, next year I hope to have some templates made up and set out on the entry registration table... it would make it a bit easier to determine which entries should go where, based on their footprint.

Trevor did some interesting things to make his model really pop on the gaming table.  The choice of red, black, and green (for the base) is fantastic... red and green are opposing colours on the colour wheel, so of course they contrast amazingly well.  The black is a great "colour" to balance the two, otherwise too much red laid directly against too much green would give it a Christmas-y feel that wouldn't keep with the dark theme.  And the gold / bronze and the bone are nice accent colours, which give the model distinct points of interest for your eye to catch upon.

Technique-wise though, it's a bit unrefined.  The muscles on the steed could have used a bit more highlighting (a nice controlled zenithal highlight would have made the muscles really stand out better).  Many people are afraid to highlight black too much, as you often run the risk of making it look grey instead.  However, if that happens, there's an easy fix.  Go back over the areas that are too light with a few really thin glazes of black.  By doing so, in a very very controlled fashion, you bump everything back a bit, and make it read as highlighted black, rather than shaded grey.

By the same token, the bronze has almost no depth... it's hard to tell, but it looks like just a basecoat to me.  No shading, lining, or highlighting that I can detect.  The red reins look like they have a hint of a highlight, but otherwise looks like a straight basecoat red to me.  And finally, the armour plates of the rider are black, with a red edge job for highlights and definition.  Granted, it kinda looks like there is two levels of highlighting going on there, but all it does is define the edges of the armour... it doesn't realistically reflect how light would be playing off blackish-red armour plates.

Simple edge highlighting is a new trend in miniature painting, and I'm simply not a big fan of it.  In fact, I wrote an entire blog post on the subject:

Still, this would be a fantastic paintjob to place on a gaming table to lead your army.  Due to the excellent colour choices, it really jumps out at you.  It just needs some more work to make it work equally well up close.

Todd McNeal entered this awesome "Malifaux Depleted".  It was one of the tiniest models in the single miniature catagory, and yet it held my attention for longer than any other.  Of course, I had the advantage of being able to pick up the model in my hands and really examine it in detail.  I did notice that many viewers from the convention didn't even pay any attention to this entry at all.

So, what kept my eyes fixated on this entry?  First of all, the skin colour is perfect.  A warmer skin tone, or a dark skin tone, would NOT have reinforced the theme of a wretched soul, deprived (perhaps of his own volition?) of sunlight.  By restricting the shading of purples and reds to the absolute minimum, while still using enough to give it depth, he let this model have a really pallid complexion.  Absolutely wonderful.  And going beyond just highlighting and shading, we have the red glazed elbows to imply abuse... perhaps from banging them on things, or even crawling on them?  The face also has precisely placed red glazing... almost like burst capillaries under the skin.  Even the subtle greys added to the face to give him the look of a 5 o'clock shadow were amazing... and again, it really reinforced the idea that this poor guy was not exactly at his best.  Even the dark bags under his eyes tell us that this is a haunted wretch that finds no restful sleep.

The beauty of this model continues with the tentacles.  In contrast to the human skin, they glisten.  The green has all sorts of different tones interplaying within it, and even some reddish contrasts in there.  The shading is spot on... I can't find fault with how this model is "lit".  There are even tiny, absolutely tiny, spots on the tentacles, which really make them look amazingly organic.

Even the transition from the "human" flesh to the green tentacles is fantastic.

I'm not a huge fan of the birch pod seed bits used as leaves on this model.  On a larger diorama, or even on a much larger base for a large model, they work fine.  However, on such a small model, they don't seem to scale as well.  Also, the red "leaves" are a touch too bright, and seem distracting.  That being said, there was one leaf on that base that wasn't a birch seed, and it looked fantastic.  You can't tell by this pic, but it was the right size, the right tone, and I think it even had the leaf veins hand-painted on.

I've been around a good long while as a painter, and while I'm not the most technically proficient painter out there, I've been trying out so many different things over the decades that my toolbox of tricks and techniques is pretty well stocked.  It's rare that I get to see a model in person where I can't place all the techniques utilized, but this one had me excited to puzzle it out and try and reverse engineer various aspects of it in my mind.  Combined with the sheer artistry involved (not just technical skill) as evidenced by the decisions that went into it, and we have a model that would be very tough to beat, in my estimation.

Gregory Schadt dropped off this striking Skorne Warlock.  Now, I'm no Hordes player (in short, I think the rules are ideally suited for hardcore tournament play, but the miniature range is not as geared to a kit-bashing hobbyist and more casual gamer like myself), but even I had to do a bit of a double-take to see a Skorne model in such non-traditional colours (aren't they normally red and gold?).

But it makes sense.  The black and white robes are more clerical / monastic in theme, while the gold still gives him that sense of richness and opulence (no vow of poverty here!).  The base also suits this theme, as it looks like he's standing in a spotlessly clean cathedral.

The metals are well done (I'm a big fan of "TMM", or "True Metallic Metals"), and so is everything else.  Purple is a good pick for the colour of the gems on his shoulders and staff as it's the direct opposing colour on the colour wheel from yellow, but giving it deeper shading would have made it pop in contrast better to all the bright gold used.  The layering of shades and highlights are done nicely, but are still pretty pronounced in places... thinner layers or blending of the layers would have helped smooth things out a bit.  Overall, a really really nice piece of work though.

So who won in this hotly contested catagory?  Well, I'm going to post pics of the 3rd, 2nd, and 1st place winners in each catagory, along with a brief bit from me, and more details from Lee De Kock's (my co-judge for this year's competition) point of view.  For anyone who does not know Lee, he's an amazingly talented painter, founder of "Beautiful Warfare" miniature painting studio, staff painter for Drake: The Dragon Wargame, and something of a painting philosopher himself.  Lee's words will follow mine, but in italics, to avoid creating any confusion.

What did he have to say about the single miniature catagory?

Hey guys 'n gals, Lee here from Beautiful Warfare with some of my thoughts going through the judging of the 2014 Gottacon painting competition. First-off, The Small Figure category. I think in general this category had the tightest margins and was the closest for poll placements, so you may find a bit more emphasis in my comments here towards the negative, precisely because the entries all displayed such a high level of skill. 

Arthur Nicholson's Kingdom Death Architect (pinup version) took third place.  Buttery smooth blending, seamless transitions, excellent NMM (although I would have liked to see the contrasts pushed a bit further), and a generally well composed paintjob really impressed the heck out of me.  Again, I had a few suggestions as to how it could have been slightly better, but there's absolutely no denying that Arthur really knows how to push paint around... his technical mastery is probably the best in the competition.  Had he addressed some of the issues I mentioned in my earlier writeup about his entry, I think it would have been really hard to beat.

The technique on this piece is fabulous, I really like the soft shading and tone. Arthur has displayed some great lighting on the figures flesh, face and even done something a lot of people seem to forget - the base! He's carried the figures shadow onto the base very well and set a tone for a light direction noticeably off the zenith. The face is painted beautifully, as is the leather and cloth, I particularly liked the hits of vivid blue in the under side of her cape, which gave a great sense of form in the lighting.

Arthurs NMM is usually fantastic, though I personally think he's done better than on this piece. While still showing seamless transitions, and a great understanding of form, I felt the metal was a bit lacking and could have used a bit more of an extreme shadow in places to really make it pop. This combined with a lack of framing on the models face (and despite her double d's) the chest looking a bit 'flat' dropped my vote for this model to third place.

I would strongly encourage Arthur to revisit this piece and emphasize some shadows here and there, to bring up the highlighting or increase the saturation on the shoulders and hair to emphasize a focal point on the face and to add a bit more depth to the white cloth.

Jeremy Fleet's Malifaux miniature had tons going for it.  His blending is nearly comparable to Arthur's (an amazing achievement!), some minor conversions, and everything about the paintjob matches the theme and tone of the sculpt perfectly.  I believe it edged Arthur's just barely... however the lighting was slightly more artfully done than Arthur's, which pushed it over the top.

I'm not sure of the name of this artist, but I genuinely love his work! This piece didn't initially grab my attention for first place, but after looking at the model with a bit more attention, I gave it my vote for first or second.

The piece as a whole displays a great global feel that ties the individual elements together extremely well. I really like the fine attention to lighting in particular. The small elements carry the same overall gradient to the zenith as the larger surfaces, and some strong understanding of colour theory was displayed through the lighting of the flesh. The individual elements use the spread of the colour wheel well to add pop and carry a tone to the lighting I very much enjoyed.

The piece also displays some fairly tight brush control in the freehand wood grain on the paddle and fine highlighting in some of the high detail areas - such as the bows on the gloves and boots. There's not too much I can suggest for improvement here, other than to maybe show a bit more care with the flocking and to add a touch of emphasis to the gem on here forehead. A few more technical elements and a touch of some metal technique would have put this piece over the top for a strong vote for first place in my books.

Finally, first place in the single miniature catagory went to Todd MacNeal's fantastic Malifaux Depleted.  I said this one would be tough to beat, didn't I?

While this model did not immediately grab my attention, I must admit that closer inspection shows a great level of skill and creativity. I think Todd did a great job in capturing all the elements of this model and really playing on them. Looking at the tentacles, I think that there is ample display of seamless transitions in the shading on the tentacles and the transition between the human flesh and tentacle flesh. The lighting on this piece is superb, with some focused lighting on the tentacles, face and rib cage, as well as solid attention to the global lighting through the zenith.

What really makes this piece shine are the small things, like the shading on the eyeballs, bags under the eyes, the 5 'o clock shadow and the effects of rotten, bruised flesh being more subtle, though continuous. What I did feel held this piece back was that the overall piece was not as strong as its individual elements. I think the piece would have benefited from a more thematic base to tie the whole piece together and an element or two that interacted with the figure, like a puddle reflecting light onto some of the lower parts of the tentacles.

In the end Kelly and I discussed the entries and decided that Todds piece displayed more technical skill and character and deserved first place for the category.

So, three absolutely fantastic, and very deserving winners.  And so, so many fantastic runners up, in my opinion.  Entering a painting competition is tough... you know you love your paintjob, but will the judges?  Well, anyone entering this competition has my respect, and my appreciation for your art.  Every entry had a story to tell, and the con-goers really loved seeing each and every one of them.

I have one or two non-GottaCon blog posts planned for my next musings, and then I'll move on to the group / unit catagory.  As always, your comments and input are welcome.

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