Miniature Contests at Conventions and Shows

If you like the work I do on this blog, please consider supporting it via my Patreon.

This article provides some general information about miniature painting (and sculpting) contests at conventions and shows. I occasionally write articles with tips for people entering contests, and rather overstuff every contest-related article with general information and definitions, I’ve put it here for easy reference. I also have an article with some general information on why it’s worth attending a convention or showing up to a show.

Msp prizes 2019 2Prizes and awards at the MSP Open in 2019.

At the bottom of this article is a list of all of the conventions and shows with miniature contests that I’m aware of, with dates and links to further information. If you know of a contest that isn’t listed here, please let me know about it so I can include it!

First up is a glossary of common terms related to contests.

Podium or Top Three Contest
Many gaming convention contests and online contests are organized podium style, like the Olympics. Within each category, there are a set number of winners. First, second, and third is pretty common, but some contests award first through fifth place, and a small contest may only award first place. In these contests the entries are ranked by judges or popular vote, and the best three (or designated number) are awarded trophies/prizes. Some contests allow ties. There are usually limits to how many figures you can enter in each category and/or overall. There may also be additional prizes offered by specific manufacturers for the best first through third (more or less) figures painted from their company.

Depending on the size of the contest and the way it is organized, judging may be conducted by a single person or a team. Judges may be miniature painters, guest artists, or representatives of a sponsoring company.

Msp prizes 2019Left: Sophie trophies for the top three Reaper figures in each category at the MSP Open 2019.
Right: Large Monster trophies.

The Reaper MSP Open includes a podium contest element in the manufacturer awards. All entries that include Reaper figures are considered for top three placement in their categories. The winners earn bronze, silver, or gold Sophie trophies. Other manufacturers also sponsor awards at the MSP Open.

Another podium contest many miniature painters are unaware of are the IMPS shows. While awards are first through third place, IMPS shows have some elements in common with shows. Entries are displayed on tables rather than cases. They are judged by teams following established guidelines for standards. Although the focus of these shows is on models, they have categories and prizes for miniature figures, and attending one of their meetings or shows could be a great way to meet local miniature enthusiasts. I really enjoyed attending my local IMPS show, both as an entrant and a viewer. There are IMPS clubs and shows around the world. The USA site has a map and listing of clubs so you can find one near you.

Open Show Contest
The open format began in the military miniature figure community, but in recent years has been adopted by some convention and manufacturer contests. In this format, entrants can enter a number of figures into each category, and even arrange them together in an attractive display that might include risers and a cloth backdrop. Entrants can also include information about the piece with their entry. This might be a description of the inspiration or historical background, and/or work in progress pictures that document steps of sculpting, conversion, and/or painting.

World expo 2017 2The medals at the World Expo in 2017 filled several tables!

Figures are assessed in given criteria against a standard of achievement, and are awarded a placement based on the standard. If 40 people enter gold quality work, 40 golds are awarded. If no one enters gold quality work, no golds are awarded. There are often additional special awards that might be sponsored by the host organization or individual members. The Atlanta awards show includes special awards for best Western themed piece and best Monster, among several others.

In the military shows and those that adopt the same format, there are guidelines for the overall process, category judging, and training of judges –  the International Judging Criteria. The Reaper MSP Open is one of those shows. Open shows at gaming conventions or organized by miniature manufacturers may be conducted in a different fashion. Under the International Judging Criteria, entries are judged by a team to make judging as equitable as possible. Alternate judges are on hand to step in if a judge has a bias for or against an entrant, and judges do not assess their own pieces. The process is overseen by an overall director who is available to review discrepancies in judging and help resolve any technical issues or confusion.

IMG 5822Example of a display area at the Atlanta show in 2019.

Note that there can be a difference in the standard for each medal level between shows. The MSP Open at ReaperCon is a very encouraging show. The World Expo Open is a very stringent show. Many figures awarded gold at an encouraging show might instead earn silver at a tough show, with only the best of the best earning gold. But the idea of judging to a standard and maintaining consistency is the same among all of the shows who use the International Judging Criteria. 

Volunteers Make it Happen
Convention or show, all of these events depend on volunteers. Contest volunteers often work a full workday or more of hours each day of the convention. They provide fun content to attendees at the cost of limiting their own time available to attend events, take classes, shop, or even just socialize. They are not paid for this, at most receiving a free entry badge and hotel accommodation. Respect their efforts by being polite, making yourself aware of the contest rules and schedule, and following them. Events have been reduced in scale or disappeared completely for lack of volunteer interest because volunteers burn out.

Reapercon entering 2019The volunteers in any contest area work hard to help you enter and retrieve your entries, organize the judging, and answer a lot of questions.
Volunteers Alison Liu and Debby Lewis (seated) assist entrant David Cecil, while award sponsor Michelle Farnsworth looks on.

Judges
Most contests select experienced painters as judges. Contests with a small judging team may not permit judges to also enter the contest. When judges are permitted to enter, they do not assess their own work or make podium decisions in categories that include their own work. Judging a larger contest takes hours, and is often conducted late at night to minimize disruption to viewers of the contest entries. It is a lot of fun to be able to see all the entries up close and from different angles, but it is also a gruelling process filled with difficult decisions. Judges know how much work goes into an entry, and it is tough to know that you will be disappointing some people. Note that many judges also work as contest volunteers and/or hobby class instructors, which is a lot of additional work that limits their time to enjoy the event as a whole.

Dark sword judging rc 2018Dark Sword has generously supported convention contests for years. Here owner Jim Ludwig is assisted by Mengu Gregor in choosing the Dark Sword winners at the MSP Open in 2018

Contest Rules
Every contest has rules. While there are commonalities, the rules of each contest are unique, and may change from year to year. The onus is on you to be aware of the rules. Entries that don’t conform to the rules may be placed in a different category than you intended, or completely disqualified from consideration. If it is later discovered that someone did not follow the rules, they might be stripped of their award.

Contest rules include guidelines for each category, and maximum size of piece accepted. There may be rules related to the kinds of bases required or permitted.  Most contests require you to be attending the event to enter. Many require that only the entrant have worked on the piece (apart from the use of commercially available figures and components). Others may not have rules forbidding multiple artists to work on an entry, but may only allow one entrant to be named as the creator.

I’ve linked to contest rule information for each convention at the bottom of this page, where I could find it.

Submission and Pick Up
It is very important that you familiarize yourself with the schedule for entering and retrieving entries. Fill out forms in advance if possible. Remember that lots of people try to enter at the last minute. Contest staff reserve the right to stop accepting entries after a certain time even if a line of people remains. Be kind to contest volunteers and make your life easier by entering well before the deadline!

You will not be able to pick up your entry prior to a certain time, and you must retrieve your entry by a certain time. Be familiar with these times and make your event and travel plans accordingly. Venues give the convention or show a strict deadline by which they must be packed up and out of the venue. You may forfeit ownership of your entry if you do not pick it up by the deadline. Events are not under any obligation to mail unclaimed entries or prizes. At conventions, you will be given a receipt during submission that you will need to present when you come to pick up your entries. This ensures that only the owner can pick up miniatures. If you are unable to pick up your entries, you can give your receipt to a friend to retrieve them for you. If you earned an award or prize but were not present to pick it up (or the contest doesn’t have an awards ceremony), you can usually pick it up at the same time as you retrieve your figures.

Award winnersAward ceremonies move fast and can be hard to photograph. It’s often easier to get pictures of award winners with their trophies afterwards.
Left: David Diamondstone accepts a gold Sophie trophy from award presenter (and painter) Michelle Farnsworth.
Right: Michael Proctor poses with his Crystal Brush trophy following the awards ceremony.

Award Ceremonies
Many contests announce winners and award trophies and prizes at a scheduled awards ceremony. Since they know people may be involved in other events, it is generally not required to be present to accept your award. You will be able to pick it up later. (But of course check the rules, some may require you to be present to win!) Whether a contest is larger or modest, it is a lot of fun to be present to receive an award and to see friends be recognized for their work.

First Cut
In podium style contests it’s common for judges to do a first cut. They separate out the most competitive entries, and then rank these to select the final winners. Some contests have a shelf set aside for first cut miniatures so entrants can at least get the feedback of whether they were in the running. Some contests may not have an official first cut area, but you can sometimes get an idea by how figures have been moved around in the display area.

Honourable Mention
Occasionally when there is a very tight race for placement, the piece that didn’t get awarded will be called out as an Honourable Mention. This lets the entrant know that their work was of very high quality and competitive for an award, but they do not receive a trophy or prize.

JudgesA judging team confers at Smoky Mountain Model Convention in 2019.

Judges’ Selection/Mention
Some contests award this regularly, some occasionally, some not at all. This is a piece that the judges loved, but which did not win another award.

Best in Show
Some contests award a Best in Show prize to a single piece or the top three pieces. For some, this might be a judged award. The judges usually consider all of the pieces awarded first place in their category and then select the Best in Show winner(s) from these. In other contests, this might be a popular vote. The Best in Show at the Reaper MSP Open is a modified popular vote contest. Everyone who has entered a piece in the MSP Open can vote for their favourite to win Best in Show. Three total prizes are awarded – overall Best in Show, runner up Reaper, and runner up non-Reaper.

Popular Vote
Some contests or some prizes within a contest are awarded by popular vote. Popular vote via likes is common for online contests conducted on social media platforms like Facebook. In a popular vote contest, viewers or a subset of viewers chose their favourite piece, and the one with the most votes wins. Viewers tend to be drawn to the same kinds of quality as judges, but they are also heavily influenced by other factors. Viewers are more likely than judges to factor in their personal feelings about the sculpt rather than considering only the merits of the workmanship and presentation. Viewers are as strongly drawn to story and character as they are to technical prowess. When considering technique, viewers tend to put a lot of value on techniques that are considered challenging, like freehand or source lighting, but they may not assess these as critically as judges would. They may not recognize the challenge level of more subtle techniques like smooth blending or complex colour use. 

Rc bis ballot box 2018Voting can be serious and thematic!

Manufacturer Awards
Many manufacturers offer awards within the context of a larger contest. For example, Dark Sword Miniatures has offered awards at Gen Con and the MSP Open. The manufacturer decides the number of awards and the prizes, which might range from ribbons, to trophies, to free product, to cash. The manufacturer also determines how their awards are judged. Often it is someone from the company itself, but they may designate or be assisted by one or more seasoned miniature painters.

Manufacturer awards, especially for smaller or newer manufacturers, are often much more lightly entered than the main categories. They are a great opportunity for an up-and-coming painter to get some recognition and win some prizes. It is not uncommon for information on manufacturer awards to be announced some time after the main information for a contest is posted. Keep an eye on the contest information page and follow your favourite companies to keep an ear out for late additions to the awards lineup.

Category Divisions
Many contests divide entries into different categories. These may be based on subject, size, number of figures, or other criteria. Make sure you understand the guidelines for a category you plan to enter as well as possible. Podium contests often divide categories by size and broad type. Examples might include gaming scale Sci-Fi/Modern Single, Monster, Bust, Large, Unit. Open shows group figures regardless of size into Painter (the focus is primarily on painting), Open (the focus includes both sculpting and painting), and Vehicle. The military shows separate Painter and Open by subject – Fantasy Painter/Open includes fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Historical Painter/Open includes figures from any period of history, including modern day. Some open shows may have additional categories, such as diorama/vignette.

Entrance Fees
The cost to enter a contest or show varies considerably. Remember that there is a cost to the event to run a show or contest. They have to rent space from the venue and equipment like display cases or tables, and the cost of these can be considerable. Purchasing awards like trophies, ribbons, and medals is another additional cost. Fee options include:

* There is no fee or the fee is included with your event pass.
* There is a separate fee for exhibitors (entrants), but it covers as many entries as you are permitted under the contest rules.
* There is a fee per piece entered into the contest.

Hatchlings gc 2011Awards and winners in the junior division at Gen Con 2011.

Skill Level Divisions
Many contests have a Youth or Junior division or award system to help encourage young people to try out the hobby and participate in contests. It is rarer, but some contests have a Master category. Entrants who have won in the past or sell painted figures may be confined to this division. While this can seem like an equitable way to spread awards a little further, in practice there are painters who make a living selling miniatures who do not paint at the highest levels, and hobbyists who do, so it doesn’t always work as expected/desired.

Some shows have a grand master or similar system, to which one or two new members are added each year. The criteria for being voted into grand master generally includes not only entering consistently high level work over several years, but also having made contributions to the club or hobby as a whole. The MSP Open has the MSP Medallists. The existing members vote in one new member per year. While this is a great honour, it comes with a few penalties. MSP Medallists are not eligible to win Sophie trophies. If the work they enter into the MSP Open does not merit gold medal level, they do not receive any award. 

Viewing Entries
Contests that are held as part of a gaming convention are usually located in a high traffic area. Entries are placed into glass fronted display cases with shelves from the floor to five to six feet up. Viewing entries can be a crowd jostling experience at busy conventions, and you may have to bend down or stand on tiptoe to see all the pieces. It is common for the largest pieces to be located on the bottom shelves. Others are usually grouped by category. The display cases are locked when the contest staff is not available, and if they are located in a room like a dealer hall, the room is locked as well. At Gen Con the display cases of the main contest are in a busy hall, so they’re still accessible for viewing at odd hours. (And there’s enough traffic to deter thoughts of funny business.)

Adepticon cases 2018The display cases at Crystal Brush 2018 at Adepticon. Display case viewing isn’t always this busy, but it’s not uncommon.

One of the fun features of open style shows is that entries are displayed on tables. Entrants arrange their displays in each category as they wish, which may include risers, backdrops, or other elements. They must do this with the constraints of the room available and the needs of other entrants, however. The display tables are usually raised to approximately chest height. This is convenient for viewing by average height viewers, but may present difficulties to those in wheelchairs or of smaller stature. The tables are typically spread out around an entire room, so viewing tends to be less crowded than around display cases. There is no separation between viewer and entries, which allows you to examine the entries from different angles and without light glare, etc. Volunteer staff are usually on hand to remind viewers not to touch the figures or to ask parents to remove rowdy children who might jostle the tables. Display rooms are open for set hours and locked when closed.

World expo 2017All of those tables are filled with fantastic entries. And that wasn’t even the whole room! World Expo 2017 in Chicago.

The Safety of Your Miniatures
Entrants assume all risk when they enter pieces into a contest. Contest staff make every effort to treat figures with great care, but accidents do happen. Even at a show where you yourself set up the display of your figure(s), you should assume that your piece may be handled by the contest staff. Judges often pick pieces up to look at them from different angles. Figures may be transferred to a side table to be photographed, or judged for a special category or manufacturer award. If more figures are entered than expected, contest volunteers may rearrange the tables to try to make more room. Assemble your figures sturdily and completely, and attach them securely to whatever base or plinth you use. Judges are trained to pick pieces up by the base or plinth to minimize touching the figure itself. In an open show, you can include a sign with your display that a particular piece is fragile or not well attached and that will generally be respected, but bear in mind that you are still taking a bit of a risk with that. This is not feasible for a contest entry in a traditional display case contest.

Tray gc 2013Many contests use padded trays to transport miniatures to the contest case or photograph booth. These were entries at Gen Con 2013.

All of that said, it is rare for a figure to be damaged in a contest in my experience. It happens, but it’s rare. Transporting your figures to and from the event presents more dangers. You need to secure them against the travel itself, and also bear in mind dangers like a suitcase falling on your figure case or airport security opening your case without warning. Secure figures in position with bubblewrap, poster tack, double-sided tape or other means. Try to stay close to your case as it is examined at the airport so you can advise about the best way to open it if they want to test the interior.  Be leery of packing fragile pieces that need careful wrapping in your checked luggage, as security staff may open your suitcase and any container within it during the screening process.

List of Conventions with Miniature Contests

ReaperCon, Dallas TX: September 2-5 2021
MSP Open contest rules. You can also view past entries and awards by clicking the dropdown menu for each year.
There are numerous hobby class events.

Gen Con, Indianapolis, IN: September 16-19, 2021 (normally summer)
There will not be a miniature contest in 2021, per the Facebook group.
There are hobby class events in 2021.

Origins, Columbus, OH: September 30 – October 3 2021 (normally June)
Event information is incomplete as of writing, but there does not appear to be a contest planned for 2021. Check this page for more information.

Warfaire Weekend, St. Louis, MO: November 5-7, 2021
Information on the painting contest.
Information about hobby events.

Historicon, Lancaster, PA: November 10-14, 2021
Information page for the painting contest.
Information on events, including Hobby University classes.

Las Vegas Open, Las Vegas, NV: January 28-30, 2022
Information on the miniature contests and hobby class and workshop events is available here.

Adepticon, Schaumburg, IL: March 23-27, 2022
Adepticon 2022 is hosting the first US Games Workshop Golden Demons in years. There will likely also be several other manufacturer contests.
Information, rules, and entry forms for Golden Demon are available.
Hobby events have not yet been finalized and posted.

Nova Open, Arlington VA: 2022 date pending

KublaCon, San Francisco, CA: 2022 date pending

List of Shows

Military Miniature Society of Illinois, Chicago, IL: October 22-23, 2021

Miniature Figure Collectors of America Show, ?: 2022 date pending

Atlanta Military Figure Society Show, Atlanta, GA: February 2022 (usually around Valentine’s Day)

Historical Miniatures Society of Northeastern Oklahoma, Tulsa, OK: 2022 date pending
The webpage does not seem to be updated. Check their Facebook page for more current info.

Euro Miniature Expo (Euro Militaire), Folkstone, United Kingdom: 2022 date pending
Additional information available on their Facebook page.

World Model Expo 2022, Veldhoven, The Netherlands: 2022 date pending

If you know of other contests or shows than these, please let me know so I can update this page and encourage others to attend!

Many thanks to Jen Greenwald and Michael Proctor for fact checking and suggestions for additions.

How to Teach Miniature Painting Classes – Why, Who, What, and Where

If you like the work I do on this blog, please consider supporting it via my Patreon.

As the popularity of the miniature hobby expands, so does interest in taking and teaching classes on painting and sculpting figures, as well as related topics like basing and 3D printing. I’ve put together this series of articles to help prospective teachers. This first part explores whether you might enjoy teaching classes, and if so, what topics, and in which venues. Later articles will explore how and what to prepare in advance, and tips for the actual class experience.

I’m not the most well-known or accoladed painter in terms of winning awards and painting high profile figures, but over the years I have gained a reputation as a skilled teacher, and my classes sell out quickly in most venues. I’ve been taking classes for all of the 17 years I’ve been painting miniatures, and teaching them for at least 13 years. These suggestions are drawn from my experience as both a student and a teacher in this hobby. 

Because it’s based on my experience, the content of this guide focuses on the areas I’ve explored most thoroughly – teaching adults, painting classes specifically, and convention classes of 90-180 minutes in length. I’ve tried to provide information that will also be useful to teaching sculpting and other related topics, and to teaching in a longer workshop format, or even online teaching, but your mileage may vary. 

DISCLAIMER: I am not a professional teacher and make no claim to that level of expertise! I also don’t think that the way I teach is the only successful method. I hope that other teachers and students will share thoughts and ideas in the comments section.

Grey divider edit

PART 1: WHAT TO TEACH, WHERE TO TEACH, AND ADMINISTRATIVE DETAILS

Why Teach Classes?

Share the Fun!
I think the best teachers are those who find teaching enjoyable or fulfilling in some way. That doesn’t mean they’re never anxious about public speaking or that they enjoy every single aspect of the process. Rather what I mean is that good teachers are people who get something out of sharing the enthusiasm of their hobby with others, who genuinely want to exchange information with their students, and who challenge themselves to become better teachers as well as better hobbyists.

Experience Conventions
Attending conventions is a great way to meet fellow hobby enthusiasts, make industry contacts, pick up cool new supplies, and take classes to develop your own skills. Payments for classes allow many painters to attend a wider selection of conventions than they would otherwise. Note that while class fees offset convention costs, or if you’re very careful you can break even, very few people actually ‘make money’ teaching convention classes. When you are considering whether something is affordable to you, remember to consider ALL of your costs: travel, luggage and related fees, transportation at the venue, housing, food, and cost of supplies. Don’t forget to factor in whatever money you won’t be making during the time you spend preparing for, traveling to, and attending the convention. (And considering con crud and exhaustion, maybe add a few more lost days after the con!)

Promotion of Services
Teaching classes and attending conventions can expose you to a wider audience and help you promote other services you may offer – Twitch streams, Patreons and other online courses, etc. Since the bulk of the hobby class audience is made up of people trying to learn to paint for themselves, teaching is probably not a great avenue to find new clients for commission painting services. It’s possible that you may make industry contacts at a convention who might be interested in commission painting, but I wouldn’t rely on or expect that to happen.

Learn More
One of the things I love about teaching is how much I learn. Figuring out how to explain concepts to other people makes me explore and understand them much better for myself. To really get the most value out of this you need to review your class content every few years, not just teach exactly the same thing every time.

Help the Hobby
Interest in miniature painting is ever-growing, and thus so is the need for people to teach it. If this is a key motivation for you, don’t forget there are options other than classes in established venues. Your local store and small local conventions looking to expand their slate of offerings might need you the most! I’ll talk about that a bit more below.

Grey divider edit

Who Should Teach Hobby Classes?

People sometimes think that only really well-known artists who work in the industry or have a lot of awards to their credit should teach classes. Certain topics are more advanced and do require expertise and experience to explain well. But there is room for teachers with a variety of experience levels and interests. Many display level painters who spend hours painting a single figure are not the right fit to teach classes on quick painting armies. An intermediate level painter or sculptor is capable of doing a great job teaching the basics to new hobbyists. They may even do a better job than an expert, who might inadvertently overwhelm students with too much information too quickly. (I’m guilty of that!)

The key thing that you need to do is be realistic and honest with yourself, the venue, and your students about your skill level and the level of your class! There are lots of people just starting out or just beginning to expand their horizons of techniques and effects. Where you will run into issues is if you pitch your class to an incompatible level of students, or if you make it sound as if your class appeals equally to beginners and experts and it does not. If the content of your class is fairly basic but you attract some students who are more expert than you are, they will resent having wasted their time and money. You will also risk losing some of your potential audience who are at a more appropriate level but assume the class is too advanced for them and don’t even buy a ticket.

Here’s an example with the technique of non-metallic metal. There is an audience for a class of quick tips to paint NMM that looks okay and that can be painted fairly quickly, and plenty of mid-level painters would be able to provide class content that audience would enjoy. There is also an audience for an NMM class that includes a review of the physics of how light reflects on metal and how to portray that in the most accurate way on a figure, but that audience requires a more expert teacher to meet their needs.

Beginner, intermediate, and advanced are somewhat nebulous concepts – classes that might be considered advanced in at a smaller convention might be only intermediate at a large hobby-focused one. Just aim to be realistic about what your own level is and provide as much information as you can about what you’ll be teaching so people can make an informed decision.

Grey divider edit

Where to Teach Hobby Classes?

Conventions with established hobby classes tend to include instructors in one of two ways – as guest instructors or as event instructors. There are several conventions with elements of both. There are also lots of exciting possibilities for teaching at local conventions and non-convention venues.

Guest Instructors
Some conventions work with instructors using a ‘guest’ system. In the guest system, the convention and the instructor agree to an exchange of services. The convention offers some combination of travel expenses, housing, and/or per diem in exchange for the instructor running a set number of classes. The convention has a lot of input into some key elements of your events: how much they cost, how many people can attend, what the topics are, length of classes, and when they occur. Usually you will work with the convention on some of those elements, but you may have little to no say into others. You may also be asked to fulfill other commitments like judging a painting contest or taking part in a panel discussion. You may be reimbursed for travel expenses and costs before or some time after the convention, or a mixture of both.

Event Instructors
Other conventions treat hobby classes as an independently run event. These conventions allow instructors to submit their events just as a game runner would. Instructors pick the topic, number of students, length of classes, and other elements. Sometimes you can pick the times of your events, sometimes you can just indicate when you are or aren’t available. In this system, you also choose the cost of your class. Usually the convention adds a small fee on top of yours to pay for the space your event uses. At some point after the convention you receive payment. All travel, housing, and arrangements are your responsibility and expense.

Local Conventions and Game Stores
If you want to ease into teaching or help grow the hobby, don’t overlook options in your local area. If you have a local game or hobby store, talk to them about running a demo or a basic how to paint class. Find out what you can about conventions within comfortable driving range. Some may not have space to add additional events. Others may not currently have any miniature focused events only because they don’t have any volunteers interested in organizing and running those, and might be eager for your help! For these types of events you’ll likely want to focus on beginner friendly topics. It has also been my experience that the prices need to be low to entice people to try a new activity. (And also because many regional convention attendees don’t have a lot of cash to spare.) I have charged as little as $5 for a local class at a charity fund-raising convention and as much as $50 for classes at a miniature-focused convention. The length, content, and take-home supplies varied with each of these, of course, but they varied a lot less than you would think!

ReaperCon
ReaperCon uses an invited instructor list for their hobby classes. If they have additional classroom spaces available, they may open up class submission to other interested instructors. If you’re interested in teaching at ReaperCon, I recommend joining the Reaper forums and monitoring the ReaperCon subforum for requests for new instructors. You can also follow the ReaperCon Facebook group. ReaperCon uses a guest instructor format. Depending on the number of classes you teach, you may receive a free pass to the convention, a swag bag, or even travel expenses and a shared room at the venue. ReaperCon instructors pick their class topics and can request a general day and time of day to teach, but the available options become more limited as the schedule fills up. The class submission process usually starts in March or April and runs for a few weeks in different waves of invites. (My info on ReaperCon page. The official ReaperCon page.)

AdeptiCon
AdeptiCon also uses an invited instructor list for their hobby classes. I’m not entirely sure how to get on the list. Monitoring the AdeptiCon Facebook group is a good place to start. Invitations to teach for the next year often go out in August, with class submission starting soon after. Instructors submit their subject preferences for a few different classes. AdeptiCon assigns each instructor from one to four class time slots, and completely determines the schedule (though I believe you can let them know you’re not available certain days.) Apart from that AdeptiCon uses the event instructor format – you choose the subject and format of your class, how many students you’ll take, and what the cost per student is. You receive a cheque from AdeptiCon a few months after the event, and must provide them with tax filing information. Instructors receive a free badge to the convention, but take care of booking and payment for their travel and housing. (My info on AdeptiCon page. The official AdeptiCon page.)

Gen Con
NOTE: I have not attended Gen Con since 2014. Some of this process may have changed since then. I recommend contacting Lyn Stahl of MetalHead Minis for more current information. Gen Con uses the event instructor format. You must collect and submit tickets, and receive payment several months after the convention. Instructors pick out their class subjects and formats, number of students, and cost of tickets. The last time I submitted classes to Gen Con you could request a preferred date and time to give your class, but it was not guaranteed. During the later years that I was teaching at Gen Con it was required that you bring all of the supplies that you needed for your classes, including water cups, palette plates, paints, brushes, etc. I have heard that Gen Con may no longer allow ticket fees for lecture and demo classes, and that instructors should provide all materials that a person would need to take the class, but this is the kind of thing that evolves back and forth at a convention like this, so it’s worth checking with Lyn or other Gen Con instructors about how things work currently. Depending on the number of hours of events you provide, you may be eligible to be reimbursed for your badge. I believe hotel room shares are only provided to volunteers (in the hobby events or other areas) and must be arranged through a volunteer coordinator. (The official Gen Con page. Check the Host drop down for a number of topics for event runners.)

General Convention Guidelines
It is very helpful to have previously attended and participated in hobby events at any convention you’re interested in teaching at. This ensures you have an idea of how the hobby area works and what kind of classes they provide and so on. It is also helpful to participate in online social activity related to the convention – join the Reaper or Gen Con forums, participate on the AdeptiCon Facebook page, etc. And participate in the general hobby community, as well. Participation in the community and being known to attendees makes artists much more attractive as instructors. 

Grey divider edit

Coordinate with the Coordinator

Many conventions have a coordinator for miniature hobby classes. That is not an easy job! It is definitely to your advantage to help the coordinator by following instructions and meeting deadlines promptly. People who are difficult to deal with or who consistently fail to meet deadlines are the last to be considered for benefits like extra class slots and first choice of teaching times. Or they may even find themselves dropped off of invitation lists. Someone who is pleasant to work with and follows instructions is much more desirable to a convention coordinator in the long run than a ‘big name’. 

Your usual responsibilities to the convention coordinator include:

Answer Communications Promptly
You might be asked to confirm attendance at the convention, fill out a tax form, what topics you want to teach, asked to read guidelines for instructors, other things along those lines. Some conventions coordinate flight and hotel through the events organizer, so you may also have instructions to follow for booking flights and choosing a roommate. There is almost always a date by which you must complete these tasks. Complete them all, and do it before the deadline. 

Know the Guidelines
AdeptiCon has a handbook for instructors. So does Gen Con. Gen Con’s is quite long and detailed, in fact. If you’re asked to read something like that, you’re expected to actually read it, to ask questions if there’s something you don’t understand, and to follow the guidelines and procedures it lays out.

Submit Detailed Class Information
Class information is often submitted via an online form. Occasionally you’ll email it directly to the convention coordinator. I’ll get into more detail below about how to write class descriptions and submissions. This is more of a note to remind you to make sure you know what you need to know from the coordinator on how what what to submit. If you have questions or are confused about something, contact the coordinator. A good coordinator would rather you ‘bug’ them in email ahead of time than have to work with you on fixing something after a deadline has passed.

Follow Onsite Instructions
The coordinator may ask teachers to check in at a particular time and place. There may be an orientation session or a meet-and-greet. You should be given some information about what supplies are provided onsite, so you can make sure you bring anything you need that won’t be available. Usually there are guidelines for wrapping up your class in a timely fashion so you have enough time to clean everything up and leave the room is ready for the next class to begin promptly.

Behave Responsibly
You are entirely responsible for yourself at a convention. Your primary job is to get yourself to where you need to be at the right times and teach a good class. Keep yourself as well-fed and as well-rested as you need to be to do that. Everyone wants to have fun at a convention, but you need to balance the fun with your responsibilities. You also need to follow the code of conduct for the event and comport yourself in a way that won’t reflect poorly on the coordinator or the event as a whole. There is no downside to as being pleasant and helpful as possible with all of the convention staff and your fellow instructors.

Continue to Answer Communications Promptly after the Convention
Occasionally there is some post-convention paperwork. This might include a survey to help the coordinator plan better for the future, information on where to send cheques, etc.

Grey divider edit

What Should You Teach?

The big question for every teacher at every event! Here are some ideas for how to decide:

Nature of the Convention
Are you teaching at a local gaming convention adding miniature events for the first time? Classes that focus on foundational techniques, ways to paint quickly, and perennial problem areas (skin, faces, metallics, basic basing, simple conversions and assembly) will likely garner the most interest. There is room for more involved techniques and more specialized topics at an event with established hobby classes – faces or female skin, problem colours like white, black, red, yellow – lots of options for a variety of levels.

Your Strengths
Are there elements you regularly receive compliments or inquiries about? How did you paint that skin, how did you get those cool looking plants on your base??

Other Classes
Sometimes you don’t have any advance information about what other classes will be available. Where you do have information (some of the schedule is already set or you know the other instructors and their usual topics), you can use that information to your advantage. Are there topics that are missing or have only one or two classes? Is there a way you could provide a different perspective than is represented in the current slate?

Student Requests
One reason to be active in discussion groups for the convention is to look for suggestions for classes that people would like to see. There are at least a few discussions a year on this topic on the ReaperCon forum.

Nature of Class – Hands-On or Lecture/Demo
Hands-on classes are always most desirable to the most people. There are certain topics best suited to a lecture or demo format, and if you feel that is how they are best taught, you should teach them that way, but if you are concerned about tickets for your class selling well, I recommend that you focus on hands-on classes until you are more established in the hobby overall or at that particular venue.

Number of Classes
If you’re teaching three classes, don’t feel as if you need three different topics. People often appreciate it when you teach the same subject on different days and at different times of day since they are scheduling around the other events that interest them. However, you may want to do only one or two sessions of a more specialized topic, like say transparent cloth, or resin-poured bases.

Grey divider edit

How Many Students?

You will have to decide early on how many people you can accommodate in your class. The class coordinator or venue may set minimum numbers for a class in order for them best use limited space. They will also likely have maximum numbers based on table and chair availability in the space. But what should you take into consideration apart from that?

Class Format
Large class sizes work well for a lecture/discussion format. Depending on the equipment available, larger class sizes may also work for demo classes. For hands-on classes, remember that a primary appeal for attendees is the opportunity for them to receive your feedback on their work. You need enough time to look at, assess, and comment on each student’s work several times, in addition to the time it takes you to explain and demonstrate the topic to the class as a whole and answer questions.

Topic Complexity
You’ll find you can be more efficient to teach simpler topics that you’re very familiar with and so can handle larger class sizes here. You’ll probably need to leave more time for questions and expanding on explanations with more complex topics and so will benefit from a smaller class size.

Organization Level
The more advance work you’re willing to do and the more you can organize your supplies and class format, the less time you’ll spend on those functions in class, which gives you time to work with more students. Making notes for your lecture or figuring out how to hand out supplies quickly and efficiently are examples of what I mean. I’ll make more suggestions for this in the second part of this series.

Ticket Sales Appeal
A lot of students are aware that a teacher will have more time to spend with them in a small size class. Keeping your class size on the smaller side is a good way to add appeal to your tickets while you’re still getting established as a ‘name’ in the hobby. 

As a general guideline, 6-10 students is probably a good class size for your first time teaching a hands-on class. As you become more comfortable teaching and more familiar with the common questions and issues students will have, you may find you can handle as many as 14-16, but I strongly suggest starting on the lower end and using your personal experiences as a guide as you decide to increase the number. 

Grey divider edit

How Much Should You Charge for Classes?

If the fee for your class is up to you, how much should you charge? This is a difficult question to answer! There are several factors to consider:

Event Guidelines and Custom
The event may have guidelines for appropriate ticket prices. Even if it doesn’t, you can get an idea of the range that is customary for that event from prices for tickets in the past year or two, and/or consult with the class coordinator or other instructors you may know who are attending the event.

Name Recognition Factor
Instructors who have won prominent awards, who work with well-known companies, or who have significant social media followings are able to successfully charge higher fees for their classes. Keep this in mind when scanning prices for previous years! Note that name recognition can vary with venue, and it can change over time in a venue. I paint Reaper studio models and wrote their latest learn to paint kit series. I am well-known to attendees of ReaperCon and my classes there always sell well. AdeptiCon’s focus is Games Workshop and other competitive miniatures games. The first time I instructed at AdeptiCon, I assumed that few people would know who I was, and I priced and pitched my classes accordingly. People that attended enjoy my classes, and with years of word of mouth and repeat students they sell out quickly now.

Attendees are Price Sensitive
There are always people who won’t pay more than a certain amount for a class regardless of who is teaching it. They will be interested in a class on the same topic that costs less even if they don’t know recognize the instructor’s name.

Your Costs
Remember to factor in all of your costs, and aim to have the ticket prices cover as much of those as you need them to. Costs include travel expenses (parking, baggage fees, etc. as well as ticket/gas), housing, and food. But also the costs of any supplies you need to buy. You may need to provide your own figures, or buy a few brushes for students to use. Don’t forget the costs of printing out a handout. 

Grey divider edit

Information About Your Class

Once you decide what you’re teaching and how much to charge, you will need to provide more information about your classes. This information will appear in the online event purchasing systems and event catalog books. Prospective students review this information to decide which events they would like to attend.  This is your students’ first encounter with you and your class. What can you share with them to help them decide if this class is for them?

If you aren’t a skilled writer (and lots of visual artists are not), then I recommend that you ask a friend or two who is read over your class information to see whether everything makes sense and sounds appealing to prospective students. 

Keep a Copy
Whether you submit information to an event coordinator or submit it via an online form – keep a copy for yourself! Making a copy of your class descriptions gives you a starting point to write new ones or customize the class to various conventions, and saves you time in the long run.

But it is also a good idea to make notes of the other information you submitted about your class – how many students, the cost, what figure/supplies you’ll provide, anything you might need to reference later to plan what you need to bring or be able to answer questions from prospective students. 

When you submit through online forms you usually receive an acknowledgement of your entry, but this often does NOT include all information you submitted, and some of the information you provide may not be included in event catalogs or other material for you to reference. I have forgotten to note everything down in the past and made things difficult for myself had to bother an event coordinator. (For example, your class might list the total number of tickets that is available, but this number will change as people buy tickets, so you need to have a note of the maximum number of students you submitted to be able to plan supplies.)

Scheduling Tips
As mentioned previously, you may not get a lot of input into the scheduling of your classes. If you do, here are some observations I’ve made. People get more exhausted later in the day and the further into the convention. Schedule lecture/discussion classes or those that are complex for earlier in the day and earlier in the convention. Sundays and early morning classes are great time for fun hands-on classes.

Title
From conversations with event coordinators and other instructors, I can confirm that a snappy name for a class can be as effective a method of marketing a class as having a big name teaching it. However, my personal approach is to take the nature of the venue and events listings into consideration as well.

For a miniature hobby focused convention like ReaperCon and AdeptiCon, I will happily use a catchy title if I can think of one. The majority of the audience are familiar with the hobby classes and what they are, even if they aren’t personally interested. Examples I’ve used in the past include Hair’s the Thing and Amazing Glazing

I prefer to use duller, but more descriptive titles for conventions that are huge and/or have a vast array of activities, like Gen Con. These kinds of conventions encompass lots of different crafts, hobbies, and types of gaming, and attendees may peruse thousands of different events. Similarly, if a convention is just adding hobby classes to their event offerings, I’d probably err on the side of boring but descriptive. My titles for the above class topics in this situation would be Painting Hair on Miniature Figures and Glazing: A Versatile Miniature Painting Technique.

About the Instructor
You may be asked to provide information about yourself as part of your class submission. This might be for a separate instructor biography area of a website or convention guide. It is also useful to add a little information of this nature to your class descriptions. The more information attendees have about you and your work, the better able they are to decide if your class is for them. I sometimes take the trouble to do a general web search to find examples of someone’s painting to see if I’m interested in taking their class, but lots of students won’t go to that effort.

Include the following if possible:

* Your nom de brush on online discussion forums and galleries.
* Major awards and accolades.
* Significant working relationships with hobby companies.
* Link to a website/blog/gallery – somewhere people can look at your work.

Level of Your Class
Class submission forms usually ask you to indicate the appropriate skill level for attendees of your class. The trouble with this is that there is not really a universal definition of terms like beginner, intermediate, and advanced. People use and understand these in different ways. I tend to think of beginner techniques as washing and drybrushing, and thus assume that knowledge of blending is understood by the term intermediate. Someone who has been painting tabletop for 15 years and is the best painter at their game store is likely to figure they are at the very least intermediate in level, even if they have no knowledge of the skills I think of as intermediate. Both definitions are reasonable!

After I experienced a few issues due to a mismatch between the level of some attendees and the level of the material in a class, I adopted the strategy of including key prerequisite skills or knowledge in the descriptions for my classes instead of relying solely on class level indicators like beginner/intermediate/advanced. An example of a prerequisite skill would be whether students need to know a form of blending (layering, wet blending, etc.) to be able to execute the effect that you’re teaching. 

Giving some idea of the required skill level is particularly important for hands-on classes. Time is short enough for getting through your main topic overview and then giving critiques to people as they make hands-on attempts. You do not really have time to also teach one or two people the foundational technique needed to execute the subject of your class. People who don’t have the skills to practice hands-on will be very frustrated that they aren’t getting it, and the rest of the class will be frustrated if too much of your time gets used up trying to help just one or two people in the class.

Class Content Description
The description for your class is the only way you have to communicate with all of the students who take your class prior to the class. Snappy titles get people to read the description, but descriptions should provide clear, useful information. If I am very interested in a class topic that has a very brief and uninformative description, I will occasionally take the trouble to look up the instructor’s work to help me decide whether to take the class. But generally speaking, if the instructor couldn’t be bothered to write out clear and descriptive information, I lose confidence in their ability to provide that kind of information in a class environment. (I do make allowances for people offering classes in a second language!) 

Information your class description should include:

* Specific details on what people will learn. Not just ‘how to paint hair’, but information that includes specific details, like ‘where to place highlights and shadows to make hair look shiny, colour recipes for specific colours of hair, and, how to use glazing to shift the colour’.

* Any skill prerequisites people need to have to get full value from your class (and keep them from derailing the class for others.)

* List items they take home from the class (free mini, handout, paint samples, etc.)

* List any materials they need to bring themselves to the class (brushes, etc.) I’ll expand on this in the next section.

Student Supplied Supplies
If you’re traveling and need to prep a class for a lot of people, it seems reasonable to ask the students to bring their own supplies. That works well for a day or weekend workshop where people are packing and traveling primarily for that experience. It typically does not work well for convention classes. People will see the requirements in the class description when they pre-register months before the convention, but forget to refer back to that when packing. Or they’ll remember to pack their supplies, but leave them in their room that morning. People attending a beginner class or a very specialized topic might not even own the necessary supplies, and may be taking the class in part to decide whether they want to spend money to acquire them.

The main supply I ask people to bring is a good brush. Even then, I know that at least one person will forget, and at least one other will bring poor brushes. So I have kept any brush I’ve had that had a goodish point but I just didn’t like or considered worn out for some other reason to use as a class brush. If I were starting out from scratch teaching I would try to find some decent and not too expensive brushes to buy to use for that purpose. I can’t provide one for an entire class, but it has saved a lot of people’s class experiences for me to bring the handful I have. (Do an Amazon search for ‘bulk round brush size 0’ and you should find a reasonably priced option for smaller size synthetic brushes.)

For sculpting/conversion classes, you will likely need to bring tools for every student. People often take sculpting classes to dip their toe into it and thus may not have any tools to bring. Even if they do, the tools are likely to be all over the map in terms of shape and size, and may not fit what you need people to have in order to execute the techniques you demonstrate. I have attended sculpting classes where the teacher purchased tools to make up small tool kits and incorporated the cost of those into the class ticket price. I’ve attended others where the instructor provided handmade tools for each student to use during the class, but kept these to reuse in future classes.

Lately I have also started suggesting that people bring a visor or other magnifying aid, and a battery LED lamp. Some conventions provide a lamp in the class room for the instructor to do demos, but it isn’t practical for them to provide lamps to all students. Convention room lighting can be indifferent, at best. I have been finding that at least one and often two or three people in my classes struggle at times due to feeling like they can’t see what they’re doing. I can’t make people bring those things, but I can recommend it in my class descriptions so they’ll at least think about it. I bring one to class to hand around with sample miniatures, and if someone is really struggling I loan it out to them during the hands-on portion of the class.

Grey divider edit

Advertising Your Classes

The area where being a big name is most helpful is in advertising. People quickly snap up tickets for classes with well-known painters at almost any price. When they are considering classes from unknown teachers, they need more information to make a decision to attend, and they are far more sensitive to price and the value of free materials included with the class. 

Note that ‘well-known’ and ‘unknown’ are contextual on a variety of levels. I have seen amazingly talented European painters who had slow-selling classes at AdeptiCon because the audience was not immediately familiar with their real names, and their class descriptions were sparse. My name sells a lot of tickets at ReaperCon where I am well known, but prospective students of classes I teach at local events are far more interested in cheap ticket prices and getting as much take-home stuff as they can for the price than they are in who I am as a painter or a teacher.

A lot of the advertising for your classes will come through the convention’s website and calendar and so on, but you can also further both your own classes and the convention by spreading the world through whatever social media channels you regularly frequent.

Grey divider edit

If you made it this far – thank you! And stay tuned for future articles with information about how to prepare for your classes in advance, and tips for teaching a great class.

Understanding Critique: a Visualization of Lining and More Contrast

If you like the work I do on this blog, please consider supporting it via my Patreon.

This article is part of a continuing series on contrast in miniature painting. It also serves as an example of some of the issues discussed in my article Suggestions for Contest Entries.

Libby vs Eriu original paint

On the left side of the above picture is my painted version of Beach Babe Libby. On the right is Eriu, Champion with Greatsword. They have a lot in common apart from wearing bikinis. Both are sculpted by the talented Kev White. I used a similar colour scheme on both – pale skin, and a triadic colour scheme of red-orange, green, and blue-violet. I painted both of them in 2003, only a few months in time apart. Both were painted with the same stock of paints and brushes. Despite all these things that they have in common, I think most viewers would agree that Eriu is the better painted figure. But why is that?

Some might look at Eriu and think it’s a superior paint job because it features bells and whistles like NMM (non-metallic metal) and a bit of freehand. Many would likely note that Eriu is painted with better contrast between darker shadows and brighter highlights. Those are definitely factors, but I think there’s a more fundamental difference than that between these two paint jobs. Below is a digitally edited comparison. I edited the photograph of Eriu to remove a lot of the contrast, dull down the NMM, and soften the lining. My aim was to in effect ‘paint’ Eriu in a manner more like Libby. Let’s compare this edited version of Eriu with Libby.

Libby vs low contrast Eriu

Even though her NMM is flat looking and her hair is dull, I would argue that this version of Eriu is still a better paint job than Libby. If you walked past the two of them on a contest shelf or game table, the Eriu figure would catch your eye more than the Libby figure. This is because Eriu is a better application of another type of value contrast – contrast between different areas of the miniature. If you squint your eyes (or shrink the pictures) and look at Libby, the figure kind of blends together visually. You can’t see a strong separation between the areas like her hat versus her face, her skin versus her bikini, or her feet versus the sand. The midtone colours used for the various areas of the miniature are very similar in value. (Value is a measure of how light, medium, or dark a colour is.)

The Eriu figure stands out better visually because the midtone colours of adjacent areas are also different values. She has very pale skin and very dark hair. The green boots and bikini bottom and the copper armour top are middle values. So the skin, hair, and clothing all stand out from one another and help the viewer quickly spot what and where each area on the figure is. Giving the viewer that kind of information is the most fundamental job of a miniature painter (IMHO at least). Using value contrast in the midtones of adjacent areas on your figures is a simple and very effective tool you can use to make them much more interesting to look at!

Edit to add: I have received a few comments from people who don’t feel like they see any difference in the quality between these two figures, or who prefer the Libby figure. Part of the reason I chose these figures is because they’re so similar. Not just the figures, but the tools and general skill level used to paint them. We get very caught up in having the ‘right’ tools, or developing skills like blending and the ability to paint precise details. Those are important, but they are only half of the equation of creating visual impact. The other half is more to do with our perception and our judgement. Seeing subtle differences like this. Making judgements about which colours to use, in what values, and where to put those. It is just as important to build those skills as it is to work on your skills of handling brush and paint. It took me a long time to understand that and start working on it, but it is something that can be improved. At a certain point it becomes the critical skill that you’ll need to work on to improve your work.

If you are having trouble seeing much difference in some of these images, try this – step back from your screen or shrink the images down until you’re looking at them closer to the size of a miniature (a little over an inch or 30mm or so, these are fairly small.) This is the way most viewers will experience your work, you need to grab their attention and give them as much information about the miniature as you can at small scale/at a distance. This is just as important for display/contest miniatures as it is for gaming figures! You need to grab a judge’s attention at arm’s length to make them want to pick your figure up to look closer. (Or to put it another way – we know it’s tough to paint high contrast and subtle blends and details. That is why minis that pull off both score better!) 

Libby vs Eriu in black and white

Another tip is to look at your work and make comparisons in black and white. We love colour, and it’s very easy for us to get distracted by it. But value usually has the most impact on whether a piece is visually effective. This is true whether it’s using different values between regions of the figure, or using stronger contrast in highlights and shadows. I’ve added a comparison of the two figures in grayscale above. Hopefully it should be easier to see that the midtone colours of most of the Libby figure kind of blend together, whereas the various areas of the Eriu figure stand out more distinctly from one another.

There are times when it is not possible to use strong value contrast between areas. In those situations it is all the more important to use other tools like lining and stronger contrast between shadows and highlights. To add (or increase) lining and contrast are two of the most common pieces of feedback I find myself giving to painters after judging contests like the ReaperCon MSP Open. When possible, I show painters who receive that feedback an example of what I mean by comparing a figure like Eriu to one like Libby. But I think it might help people if they were able to compare what adding contrast and more lining looks like on the same figure. So I have digitally edited this photo of Libby to provide an example of that.

Libby original and revised.

Let’s convert this one to grayscale, too. I think it helps us see how the lining and additional contrast make the figure ‘read’ more clearly.

Libby original vs edit in grayscale

The revised version of Libby isn’t a gold medal paint job, and it would still benefit from stronger midtone value contrast between the different areas of the figure. But it does stand out more visually than the original. If you squint you’ll have an easier time seeing where one part of the figure ends and another begins. But which is more important, lining or contrast?

Libby lining vs contrast

I made my digital edits of the lining and the contrast on separate layers so I could show each of the elements individually. The only change between the original paint job and the picture on the above left is that I added strong lining to separate areas like the skin and the bikini. The figure on the right has only the faint original lining I painted, but I digitally painted in additional highlights and shadows. Both at the lining and additional contrast improve the figure, but I think if you could do only one that the lining is most effective.

I know a lot of people who feel like blacklining/darklining is ‘unnatural’, but it is very helpful to the viewer on gaming scale figures. I would also argue that it is more natural than people often think since clothing or other items that overhang other items create a small line of dark shadow, but that’s an argument for another day. Thick black lines will have a cartoony or graphic novel feel. For a more natural and less obtrusive look, choose a dark value of one of the colours on either side of the area and use that for your lining.

I don’t as yet have a tutorial about executing the technique, but you will find plenty of lining tutorials on YouTube. One thing that helped me a lot was to paint the lining in after I did my basecoat, but before other steps. Then I could easily clean it up with the basecoat colour if I got sloppy in spots. If you do this, you will need to come back at the end and touch up a few spots where you lost some lining doing other stages of painting, but that tends to be a lot less nerve-racking than painting all of the lining at the end. 

In case you’re curious, here’s is a picture of what the edits I made to Libby look like with the original photograph removed, so you can see only the parts I altered. Anything that appears grey is untouched. This might also help you get a better picture of the value range between the highlights and the shadows. My intent with the digital edit was to create something that was a better version of the original figure, not something painted in the style I would paint today. My digital talents are too limited to alter the picture to that degree! In case anyone’s curious, I made these edited versions on an iPad Pro using the Apple Pencil and the Procreate program.

Libby edits only edit cr

I also did a digital edit of improvements to Eriu. Since the figure had a stronger foundation to begin with, the effect is less dramatic.

Eriu original revised

I’ve written a fair bit in past posts about how and why to paint with more contrast. Below are some links you may find helpful. You’ll also find pictures of a few miniatures I ‘edited’ the old fashioned way if you’d like additional examples of what more and less contrast look like on the same figure.

First, an example of what more contrast actually looks like on the same figure.

Let’s talk about the issue of contrast vs. realism.

The way we think as we paint can make it harder to paint more contrast (includes additional examples of what more and less contrast look like on the same figures.)


And finally some hands on tips for painting with more contrast.


2020 Convention Schedule

Every year I mean to do something like this fairly early. I’m remembering to do it this year, though not exactly early. ;->

2020 schedule graphic

 

Cold Wars, March 12-15

Registration is currently open for Cold Wars. Check back occasionally for scheduling of and tickets to classes. Look in the Hobby University section under Games/Events. I am planning to teach the following topics:

Object Source Lighting (OSL)

Blending: Cheat Code Unlocked

Non-Metallic Blades

Fur, Feather, and Scales

The Hobby University classes at Cold Wars are small so you get lots of access to the instructor. Aaron Lovejoy is also a guest this year, and the Hobby University staff offers a great suite of classes. 

AdeptiCon, March 25-29

Registration is open for AdeptiCon, and you can sign up for classes until February 28, 2020. 

Of the classes I am teaching, I still have tickets available for my Critique Clinque class. The aim of this class is to help you better understand critique you receive on your miniatures, and to improve your skills in assessing figures yourself. Both of these should help you discover ways to improve your own figure painting. We will definitely be talking about how ‘needs more contrast’ is a statement a lot more complex (and interesting to solve) than just higher highlights and deeper shadows.

Tickets for my other classes have sold out. However, it is surprisingly common for one or two people to fail to show up to classes. If you are interested in one of these (or a class taught by any of the many, many fine painters who will be attending), you can show up at class time with the fee for the class in cash, and if we have room, we will be happy to add you to the class! If I have an extra mini or two (and I usually do), I will sneak one or two extra people in even if all the registered attendees sign up.

Object Source Lighting (OSL)

Blending: Cheat Code Unlocked (two sessions)

I have written a general overview of AdeptiCon in the past. If you want to learn more about painting miniatures, this is one of your best options in the United States. Dozens of amazing painters teach classes at this convention. Note that the Crystal Brush competition ended as of last year. This year the focus is on manufacturer hosted painting contests, including the United States return of Golden Demon, and Creature Caster’s competition. 

Save versus Hunger

Save vs Hunger is a small convention local to me. It is a fundraiser for one of my favourite charities – Second Harvest of East Tennessee. The focus of the convention is on role-playing game sessions, but there is also a board game library, and a few other activities. I host a paint and take table. People are welcome to bring their own figures (and other supplies) to work on as well. David Cecil has kindly donated his time to run a couple of painting for tabletop classes (times TBD), and he and I will both be available to answer questions, do short demos, and offer critiques.

ReaperCon

Registration for ReaperCon opens on February 14, 2020. Class tickets are not yet on sale. 

I have not yet submitted what I will teach at ReaperCon. I am thinking about teaching OSL and Blending: Cheat Code Unlocked. That class features a method for achieving smooth blends that involves starting off with layering, and then using acrylic retarder to refine the blends as you would with oil paint. (Sort of a way to do wet blending where the paint stays workable for a much longer period of time.)

If you are attending ReaperCon and there is a class topic you would be interested to see me teach, please let me know and I’ll see whether it’s feasible for this year!

ReaperCon is an amazing convention for anyone interested in learning more about painting miniatures. There are dozens of instructors teaching hundreds of classes of all levels and topics. When they aren’t in class, the instructors hang out in the artist area at tables with name plates, so you can seek them out to get some feedback, or ask about their tools and techniques, or just say hi and admire their work up close and personal. ReaperCon is not just for painters, either. It offers the largest slate of sculpting classes and access to sculptors that I know of, both digital and traditional.

You do not have to be a Reaper fanboy to attend. Miniatures by any manufacturer (or that you sculpted yourself) are welcomed into the MSP open contest. You can talk about and use other company’s products. Plenty of other companies are on-site in the dealer hall! 

If you or your friend/relative/partner enjoy something other than miniature painting and sculpting (what, why?), there are also sessions of RPG games, miniatures games, a board game library, and a small video game/pinball arcade. Costumes are welcome – this year’s theme is piratey.

AdeptiCon 2019 – Registration Opens Monday November 18

I’ve written before about why I recommend that miniature painters and enthusiasts attend conventions. I’ve also previously talked about ReaperCon in particular. It remains my favourite miniature-focused convention, but AdeptiCon runs a close second, and it offers some features I have not found elsewhere. (See the bottom of this post for links to previous articles and other sites/companies/people mentioned in this post.)

Registration for AdeptiCon passes, events, and hobby classes opens on Monday, November 18 at 1pm Central time. For more information on the convention in general, start with the following below. To see a preview of classes and events, select the Register option at the top of that page. I’ll share some information about the classes that I am teaching here, but for full details, check out the events on AdeptiCon’s site. There are a wealth of classes with lots of different instructors.

https://www.adepticon.org

Hobby Classes – Painting, Sculpting, Scenics

AdeptiCon offers an impressive array of hobby class topics and instructors. The focus is on painting topics, but there are also classes for sculpting, and for scenics like terrain and bases. One interesting feature of AdeptiCon classes that started just last year is they have variable length classes. The short class this year is 1.5 hours long. There’s a medium length of 3.5 hours, and a long format of 5.5 hours. As both an instructor and a student of miniature painting classes, I love this idea! Some topics just can’t easily be squeezed down to 90-120 minutes, especially if you want to teach them as hands-on classes where people get a chance to practice concepts and techniques during the class.

Painting class with Raffaele PiccaTaken during a class with Raffaele Picca at AdeptiCon 2016.

Another notable thing about AdeptiCon’s class schedule is that it typically features sessions with international painters. Every year several international artists travel to AdeptiCon to participate in the Crystal Brush painting contest (more on that below). Most of them also take the opportunity to share their wisdom in painting classes. I don’t think there is another convention in North America with as much access to international artists.

As if all of that weren’t enough, the AdeptiCon hobby team works very hard to make the experience as positive as possible for everyone involved. The class rooms are large and decently lit. Each holds only one class at a time and doors can be closed, so it’s a quiet, focused environment. Where instructors request it, access to airbrushes or computer projection screens and the like is provided. Classrooms are also furnished with basic paints, brushes, and related supplies. Damon Drescher is the current lead of the hobby team, and he and all of the other volunteers do a wonderful job with the coordination, logistics, and on-site help with this event.

If you do want to take a class, I recommend that you consider bringing a few supplies of your own, however. In particular, bring your own brushes, and bring good quality ones if you’re taking intermediate or advanced classes. You will need a quality sable brush with a good point to be able to execute most techniques taught in anything other than basics classes. Hotel/convention center lighting isn’t always the best, so if you use magnification at home, bring your visor or reading glasses with you. In a similar vein, if you can squeeze a small battery powered lamp into your travel kit, I highly recommend that. Every class I teach I have at least one person frustrated about not being able to see as well as they’d like. It’s not feasible to expect the convention or instructors to be able to provide lighting (or magnification) for every student in every class. A variety of cheap battery operated or rechargeable lamp options is available via avenues like Amazon.

Rhonda Bender’s Classes for AdeptiCon 2019

This year I am teaching one shorter lecture/discussion class, and two mid-length hands-on classes.

Level Up Your Painting From Intermediate to Advanced
Thursday, March 28 from 2:30pm to 4pm CET
A survey of a lot of topics aside from technique that can help painters progress from intermediate to advanced level painting – understanding critique and assessing your figures with a more critical eye, improving contrast, improving use of colour, composition, referencing real life, balancing visual interest with realism, and many more. Includes a 12 page handout, but I recommend you bring paper and pen to take additional notes.

Painted Ladies
Friday March 29 from 1pm to 4:30pm CET
What characteristics make a person look more feminine or more masculine, and how can we apply that to small miniature figures? We’ll start with the body and howto  place shadows and highlights on those tricky curves. Then we’ll work on how to render a face and its features in a way that appears more feminine, even at gaming scale. This longer class format will allow us plenty of time to both discuss the theories and practice hands-on.

Transparent Cloth
Saturday, March 30 from 1pm to 4:30pm CET
How do you make a solid material like metal or resin look like filmy transparent cloth? I’m excited to have this longer class format to show people. It will give us time to discuss the theory and then practice hands-on with the various areas of a miniature that need to come together to create this illusion. 

I would like to thank Dark Sword Miniatures and Reaper Miniatures for their support of my classes, at both this event and over many long years. I couldn’t offer what I do without their generousity and assistance!

James Wappel in the Hobby lounge at AdeptiConThe legendarily speedy and creative painter James Wappel is a prominent fixture in the hobby lounge. He is always very generous with his time in explaining and demonstrating his unique techniques, use of oil paints, and his general creativity. His wife Cathy is also a great painter and often found nearby. A lot of the luminaries of miniature painting who attend AdeptiCon will spend some time painting here and may be willing to share some tips and information.

The Hobby Lounge

The hobby team sets up the the lobby of the classrooms area as an open painting area. Tables are provided so that people have a place to sit down and paint. Which many do! Many people hang out here to swap tips and tricks, meet new friends or catch up with old, so don’t be shy. Some people just stop by for a moment to touch up their armies before heading to a tournament. And there are always some frantically trying to finish up their Crystal Brush entries! (In fact if you find the hobby lounge too crowded the first day or two of the convention, check back after the contest entry deadline and you should have much less trouble getting a seat.)

The hobby lounge may make a few lights available, but apart from that you will need to bring your own supplies.

Vendor Area

If you’re interested in miniatures, the vendor area of AdeptiCon is tough to beat. Many miniatures companies set up booths, of course, but there is much more than that. There are companies selling brushes, paints, and other hobby paraphernalia. There are booths filled with amazing buildings, terrain, and other scenic elements. It’s a great place to try out a new game or pick up some dice. And there are always a few non-miniature cool geek booths that might sell jewelry or drinking horns, or who knows what else?!

Games Workshop fans will also want to check out the bitz vendors in the hallways near the vendor hall. There are additional scheduled bitz exchanges for players.

A vendor selling cool Western buildingsBuildings, ships, terrain, I’ve seen just so many cool things for sale at booths at AdeptiCon!

Vendor selling diceIt’s not a geek convention without dice, is it?

Happy AdeptiCon shoppersSave up your pennies and then spend them at AdeptiCon, and you too can be as happy as Rex Grange and Jen Greenwald!

Reper Miniatures paint and take tablesReaper Miniatures is one of the vendors at AdeptiCon. Every year they set up tables where you can sit down and paint one of their Bones figures. They supply the paint, brushes, and other materials, and you keep the figure. The placemats on the tables also have a small preview of the material I wrote for Reaper’s Learn to Paint: Core Skills kit.

Gaming!

While the hobby offerings have grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, AdeptiCon has always been a convention for gamers. The primary gaming focus is on miniatures war games, of course. These include casual play events and tournaments for a wide variety of game systems. Check out the events preview for more information.

Board Game library at AdeptiConApologies for the blurry picture! This is the board game library for AdeptiCon. There are more games than in the photo. See a link to a complete list of games in the library at the bottom of this post.

If you’d like a break from miniatures games, there is also a small variety of scheduled role-playing and board game events. And a board game library where you can borrow one of the provided games to play with your friends in between scheduled events.

Other Activities

AdeptiCon is a pretty focused convention, so there aren’t a ton of other activities, but there is some costuming. There is also a contest for army board displays that is separate from the Crystal Brush. These are huge displays that often feature light and sound effects in addition to amazing scenics. I am impressed by the creativity on display every year. In previous years these army displays get set up in the main hallway on Saturday evening. To see them at other times you will need to wander the various gaming areas where the armies are being put to use and not just on display. (It’s worth a little side trip to see!)

A costumer at AdeptiCon 2018.Costuming isn’t a big focus at AdeptiCon but at the same time, there are always at least a few really amazing costumes at the show.

Army display board at AdeptiCon.This is just a small part of one of the fantastic display boards that I have seen at AdeptiCon. Some of them take all the year between one con and the next for their builders to complete!

The Crystal Brush Painting Contest

The Crystal Brush is pretty legendary in the miniature painting hobby. The prize for the best in show figure is $8,000, with prizes of $3,000 and $2,000 for second and third. There are also Gold, Silver, and Bronze prizes for the best three miniatures in each category. These receive smaller cash prizes of $200, $100, and $50. There may also be additional manufacturer prizes awarded.

Given the purse, you can imagine that some pretty top talent throws a hat into the ring each year. It is definitely a very competitive contest. If that type of environment spurs you to greater heights, this is the contest for you! If you prefer more of an open show environment, you might find that you’d get more enjoyment as a viewer than as an entrant. I myself have gone one way some years, and the other direction in other years. 

Crystal Brush contest cases at AdeptiConThe cases fill up with entries as the contest deadline draws closer. Painters submit their entries at the white table to the far right.

One other thing that is unique about the Crystal Brush is how the winners are selected. There is an on-site judging team coordinated by the fantastic painter Jennifer Haley. The guest judges each year are well-known painters and hobbyists. But they decide only a half of the score for an entry. The top 10-12 first cut entries are posted on the CMON site for live voting during the convention. The scores they receive make up the other half of the voting. So an entrant needs to paint to appeal to both a team of highly skilled judges, but also consider the popular tastes of voters and making an entry that photographs well to succeed. If you do want to enter, make sure that you read all of the rules and guidelines on the page linked below. You don’t want to accidentally disqualify yourself for having the wrong size of base or having shown pictures in advance in the wrong venue. (This is a far more common occurrence at contests than you might imagine.)

http://www.crystalbrush.com

Even if you don’t want to enter the contest yourself, it is definitely worth taking some time to look at the entries. The level of craftsmanship and creativity on display is always impressive. Unfortunately the miniatures are displayed in cases in the vendor hall, so you can only access them during vendor hall hours, and there can be small crowds of viewers at times, but it is well worth the effort. The miniatures being in cases also makes them a little tricky to photograph, so the pictures below definitely do not capture the pieces to best advantage.

Bust entries at Crystal BrushBust is an increasingly popular category at Crystal Brush.

Chibi entries at Crystal BrushChibi style figures are one of the categories, and often the most fun and creative one!

Large size entries at Crystal BrushOther categories include large figure, monster/vehicle, and more And of course single gaming scale figures in a couple of different themes. There are also generally some nice historical themed entries, too.

Links and Information

I hope you’ll consider coming out to AdeptiCon 2019! If you are thinking of coming and have any questions about my classes, please just let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Some Prose on Cons – why I think miniature painters should attend conventions: https://birdwithabrush.com/2018/08/09/some-prose-on-cons-conventions-and-shows/
ReaperCon – not Just for Reapers (my description of ReaperCon specifically. Not too early to plan!): https://birdwithabrush.com/2018/08/15/reapercon-not-just-for-reapers/
AdeptiCon main page: https://www.adepticon.org
AdeptiCon events page: http://www.cvent.com/events/adepticon-2019/agenda-7822dab492fa4ed0bde10d960366d97c.aspx
AdeptiCon vendor list: https://www.adepticon.org/sponsors/
AdeptiCon board game library game list: https://www.adepticon.org/librarium/
Reaper Miniatures: http://www.reapermini.com
Dark Sword Miniatures: https://www.darkswordminiatures.com/
Crystal Brush main page: http://www.crystalbrush.com/
Raffaele Picca web page: http://www.raffaelepicca.com
Damon Drescher’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/damon_drescher/?hl=en
James Wappel’s blog: https://wappellious.blogspot.com
Jen Greenwald’s blog: https://minipainterjen.blogspot.com