Wednesday, 2 May 2018

IPMS Vancouver 2017 Fall Show : A Model Show With Something for Everyone

It's been a little while since I last covered an IPMS Vancouver Fall Show, so I thought I'd post some pics I took late last year.  As you may know, IPMS stands for "International Plastic Modeller's Society", which is an international organization of scale modellers, and it's been around for quite some time.  There are local chapters all around the world, so I highly recommend you do some research to see if there is one near you.

(Note: despite the name, they're open to models made from all sorts of materials... not just plastic).

Our local chapter holds monthly meetings for their members, but once a year they hold their big annual event, the Fall Show, which is open to everyone (members and non-members).  In addition to the vendor's area and various presentations, there's a big competition with tons of categories, and they fill a gymnasium with tables of wonderful entries.  It's definitely something to behold.

For more information, I covered the 2013 event in a previous blog post:

This year, my 9 year old son decided he wanted to enter, and so we got to work on our entries.   

I pulled out a box of Reaper Bones miniatures, and Tristan picked out this really nice dragon.  Despite the soft rubbery plastic, it had a good amount of detail which took to washes and drybrushing wonderfully (both good techniques for a beginning painter to learn).  It was also light to handle (which makes it easier for a kid than painting a large multi-part metal miniature). I also taught him the basics of airbrushing, and he was able to start the model off with some decent zenithal highlights, and then went to town with some detail work.

Whenever he wasn't working on his entry, I was working on mine.

The year before, I had won this great bust that I was really looking forward to painting.  It was produced by "La Centuria", a modelling club over in Italy (, and the likeness was based on a prominent member who had passed away.  Because it was so significant, I really wanted to put my best efforts into it in order to do it justice.

I started it off with a quick zenithal priming job.  This was done with a basecoat of black primer, and then with two quick and light passes with a can of white spray primer, angled from the top right to simulate the direction of a light source.  I then started to build up the paints from there.

I tried to keep the right side warmer in tone, and cool down the shaded left side by working in some blues and purples into the shades.  I may have gone a bit too subtle, and in hindsight (and with more practice), I'd wish I had been more bold and make the effect much more pronounced.

In any case, I had run out of time, and it was as ready as it could be for the show.

Tristan had two entries.  He had mounted the dragon to a black jar lid, which worked quite well as inexpensive but effective plinth.  The other entry was another Reaper Bones mini, a big werewolf, which was a great exercise in drybrushing (and served as good practice before tackling the dragon).

I also brought a small diorama of a Warhammer 40K ork and Imperial Guardsman (sorry... "Adeptus Militarium").  I hadn't done a diorama in a very long time, so this little one was a fun step back into the genre... not too ambitious or time consuming, and light hearted.  The original concept had started off much bigger and epic, but it wasn't turning out as good as I had hoped, so I decided to scale it back and bring it down to a much more focused level.

I also had a small unit of Nurgle Chaos Warriors, which I had painted some time before as an exercise in weathering on a small scale.

I had also recently finished a unit of 40K Grey Knight Space Marine Terminators for a friend, which went into the same category as the Nurgle Chaos Warriors above.  IPMS doesn't really distinguish between sci-fi and fantasy... if it's non-historical, then it's usually grouped by scale.

And of course my "Erny" bust.  With the nice north-facing windows bringing in a nice neutral light, the effects of the shading were a tiny bit more pronounced.

But enough of our entries.  What did the other entries look like?  I wasn't able to take pics of every entry there, but I believe I got a few good ones. Please click on the pics for closeups... the thumbnail pics certainly do NOT do these projects justice.

The local Gundam club came out in force once again:

The above pic was taken just at opening, when the entries just first started trickling in.  By the end of the day, they had stuffed two tables full of models... to the point where they were practically standing shoulder to shoulder.

I love how Gundam is slowly trending towards more realistic weathering, aircraft-style panel line washes, etc.  In the past, they have favoured replicating the look of '80s TV cartoons, but I guess as computer animation is allowing studios to create more realistic / stylized effects, the model scene is evolving to match.  I'm guessing they are going to start looking more like Star Wars and Pacific Rim models pretty soon, which I am all in favour of.

Below are some entries in the scale model car categories.  I am becoming more and more appreciative of the work that goes into these, as I'm becoming more of a car enthusiast as I approach my mid-life crisis.

I have to say something about the one below.  While it may look like a 2 dimensional painting, it's not... quite.  It's what they call a "flat".  Believe it or not, it is a raised sculpture, but with all the depth of the side of a typical coin.  With such shallow depth of detail, it's up to the painter to add enough highlights and shading to make this truly look 3D.  This entry came all the way from Italy, brought over by the fine gentleman Sergio Palumbo... the same representative of Model Club "La Centuria" that awarded me the Erny bust last year (in fact, a number of the finest entries on display were done up by members of that same club).

I was confused by the above camel as well... until a friend of mine pointed out that it was a "Sopwith Camel".  Since I didn't see Snoopy flying it, I didn't quite get the joke until later.

Found that case off to the side, and took a picture for future reference.  Sometimes you just have an awkward space somewhere that an IKEA case won't fit in...

It's a "Fall Show", so I guess you could say that "Winter is Coming"...

The below "sculpt" of a T-1000 Terminator earned a few chuckles.  Sometimes it's not about trying to win in a category, but just to show off something you worked on and thought others might find interesting.

Ever since Bandai started releasing Star Wars kits, I think I've seen a decided uptick in the number of really well done Star Wars entries, which I love.  I'm really tempted to try one out for myself one day.

The dragon diorama below was my son's favourite entry of the show.  Combined with Flames of War WWII tanks, it really captures the imagination.

The vendor's area was its own separate room again this year, and it was packed as usual.  Great deals to be had here.  Some were run by various shops, and others were by hobbyists looking to downsize their collections.

The table run by High-Calibre Miniatures ( is always my favourite.  They sell a ton of military, historical, fantasy, and sci-fi figures online, but it's always great to see them in person.  James Gates is also a big supporter of local events, and it's always great to support the people that support the hobby.

A tip for all parents and parents-to-be: When attending crowded events, get your kid the brightest clothing possible... preferably a hat, as it's the tallest and most noticeable part of their body.  That way you can more easily spot them when they get distracted by something and run off into the crowd (I got distracted plenty of times too though).  Nothing ruins your day, or possibly your life, than losing track of your kid.

These two Iron Man models were well painted, subtly weathered, and had working LED lights in them.  They were big hits with the attendees.

The following two statues were simply huge.  Take a look at how tiny the busts look by comparison.

I really liked the Vietnam diorama below as well.

This "Industria Mechanika" (I hope I got that right) model below was one of my favourites.  I spent a stupid amount of time studying this one up close, and trying to reverse engineer the techniques and tools involved.  The kit itself was also amazing.  I really want one now.

The cargo ship below was absolutely massive.  This one was definitely no stock kit... it was pretty much scratch built, and took up an entire table to itself.

Well, the above pics represent a mere fraction of the total entries on display that day.  The whole show is just overwhelming, and I only managed to take pics of some of the ones that jumped out at me from among the madness.

At the end of the day, the teams of judges went through all the entries (a task that took a very long time, due to the sheer number of them), and started laying down ribbons next to the winners in each category.  So... how did I do?

Erny did well enough to be noticed in a category that was chock-full of VERY good entries.  While I was initially disappointed that he didn't place in the top three, after getting a closer look at the entries that beat him, I couldn't fault the judges.  The winners were simply better.  Mine was technically very clean, but I can't say that it was above and beyond in any way.  Perhaps some freehand tattoos or more weathering or more dramatic lighting and use of colour would have helped.

Oh well.  This is why you enter as many painting competitions as you can.  It helps identify your weaknesses, and motivates you to get better.  And in my case, it helps motivate me to get stuff done.

My Grey Knight terminators and Nurgle Chaos Knights went head to head against each other, in a slightly less hotly contested category (not many groups of figures entered this year).  The weathered warriors beat the sleek terminators, as I would have expected when being judged by historical scale model enthusiasts.

One thing I have noted with IPMS judging is that often the painting is secondary to how well built the entry is.  Conversion work and hyper detailing will almost always beat painting quality.  As I am primarily a painter, not a builder / sculptor, I often find myself being edged out by more ambitious builds, so it's always a pleasant surprise when I win something.

Speaking of which, the 40K diorama also did well, winning the 1st place prize ribbon in its category (sorry, no pic).

However, the real star of the show was my son.

Both his dragon and his werewolf ended up in the same category.  The dragon got first, and the werewolf got second.

The real surprise was hearing that Tristan's dragon ended up winning the "Best of Show Junior" award as well!  During the award ceremony, he went up on stage to shake hands, receive his trophy, and have his picture taken.  Not bad for a 9 year old!

He was thoroughly psyched, and is already planning his future entries.  After all, he's still got 7 more years of eligibility in the Junior categories...

Make that six years... the wife is making plans with the extended family around that time this year, and Tristan and I may have to miss the upcoming one.  Hmmm... perhaps we could do a road trip down to Seattle to attend their IPMS Spring Show instead?

As always, comments and questions are welcome!


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! I was really proud of how that turned out, until I had Sergio Calvo Rubio (Crystal Brush winner, and god-of-painting) stay at my place earlier this year. When I proudly showed off my paintjobs to him, he straight-out told me that my highlights were all wrong.

      After taking a course from him, I see what he was talking about. But i still think that Ernie was pretty good for what skill level I was at, at the time.

      For the record, Sergio is a good guy. But he's brutally honest. that's why his feedback is so valuable.