Bigger and more ambitious than last year (which was bigger and more ambitious than the year before, and so on...), GottaCon 2015 was held at the Victoria Conference Centre in downtown Victoria, and expanded into the conference centre across the street as well (formerly the Crystal Garden). All the board and miniature games were concentrated in the one building, along with most of the vendors, leaving the electronic games, card games, role-playing games, and other big events (including a Star Wars themed burlesque show!) in the main venue.
This meant that all the miniature gamers were all on the same floor of the same venue this year, which was fantastic for the miniature painting competition, and the miniature painting clinic. Last year, both were situated next to the Warmahordes tournament, Malifaux tournament, and the Flames of War tournament, but far, far away from the GW tournaments. This meant that few Warhammer Fantasy and 40K gamers were even aware of the miniature painting events. Not so this year!
Which meant that we got to see some spectacular models from a wide variety of gaming systems, and miniature companies.
Overall, we still had fewer entries in total, for some reason. Not quite sure why, but it definitely did not hurt the level of competition. Most repeat attendees agreed that the quality of entries went up a notch over the past years, and I think it reflects how the west coast miniature painting scene is definitely maturing year after year. It may be that higher level of painting is intimidating many newer painters away from the competition, but the whole point of competing is not necessarily to win, but to improve... and competing and showcasing your models to thousands of convention attendees is one of the best motivators to get better that I can think of.
As always, Meg Maples sums up that thought much better than I do: http://arcanepaintworks.blogspot.ca/2014/12/why-i-compete.html
I'll be posting pics of all the entries in upcoming posts, and doing up a bit of a writeup on each one. As a judge, I think it might be helpful to each of the contestants to hear what our thoughts were on their entries... what we loved about them, and where we think they could do more to improve their chances next year.
In addition, I will get the thoughts of my co-judge, Lee DeKock, on the top entries in each category. Lee was absolutely amazing to work with, and is a fantastic artist in his own right. His insights were spot-on, and lent a broader perspective to our judging.
Lee also assisted in running the painting clinic, and proved to be an incredible teacher as well.
Yup, right next to the painting cabinets, we had a table set up with multiple painting stations, where painters could drop in, work on their own models, and receive personalized instruction (advice, demonstrations, feedback, tips and tricks) from Lee and myself. Throughout the weekend, many people took advantage of this opportunity to hone their skills, and learn new techniques. Many more people simply asked us plenty of questions and asked us to demonstrate particular techniques, even if they didn't bring any models of their own.
In front of these participants, I had set up a few competed models of my own, which I found helped prompt a number of interesting questions and discussions from painters and non-painters throughout the Con.
Around dinnertime on the Saturday, Lee and I switched our focus on photographing the entries, before launching into the hard-core judging.
You can see my portable photobooth in the above pic. While fairly huge when set up, it looks barely big enough to contain this Warhound titan. The white walls did a decent job of diffusing the light, and reducing artificial shadows, but I think we might have overdid the amount of light by a tiny bit:
This is how most of the pics turned out: a bit washed out, and definitely flat looking. However, a tiny bit of light photo editing seemed to help:
A little better. I definitely did not subject the pics to the full "Playboy Photoshop" treatment (see how this guy's breasts don't look any bigger? And his waist is also exactly the same size too!), but just toned down the white a bit. This allowed the contrasts to pop a bit more, and more accurately reflect what the model looked like in person. I also cropped the pic in order to clear out a bit of the unnecessary dead space.
Due to space constraints (I did have to carry enough kit to set up an entire table of painting stations, after all), I left my wife's DSLR camera and full size tripod at home, opting to bring a clamping mini tripod, and a small compact digital camera instead. That being said, I think the pics turned out okay, considering.
Anyway, that's enough for now. I'll try and follow up this post soon, with more in-depth coverage of the Gottacon miniature painting contest entries. I'm also currently working on some ideas for articles to go up on the House of Paincakes blog, and Steve Kemp of the YouTube channel, "WarGamers Shut Up and Jam Gaiden" and I are talking about putting together an episode about painting.
All this, and I'm also right in the middle of selling my condo, and trying to find a detached home in Vancouver that I can actually afford. Yikes.
Stay tuned! Plenty of GottaCon 2015 miniature goodness to come!