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

Workshops and Bootcamps

Miniature painting and sculpting classes at conventions are a wonderful resource. Typically they are an hour and a half to two hours long, though occasionally you will find three or four hour classes. That is enough time to get some insight into a particular technique or effect, like wet blending or non-metallic metal, and it is invaluable to see how other painters handle their paint and tools in person. Many classes are hands-on, which gives you the opportunity to get direct feedback on your efforts with the subject of the class. But convention painting classes also have their limitations. If you think of painting like a puzzle, you get an in-depth look at one piece or section of the puzzle, but you may not get a good sense of how that piece relates to the whole picture. And generally you only have 40 minutes or so to practice before you go on to the next class or convention activity, which may not be enough time to fully internalize the new information.

There is another type of in-person miniature painting (and sometimes sculpting) instruction that you might not be as familiar with – workshops and bootcamps. These are all-day intensive instruction from a single painter that might run for one, two, or occasionally even three days. The instructor has a lot more time to go over their general painting process, as well as their approach to specific techniques or effects. Students have more time to practice, and more opportunities to get feedback. You still might not completely finish a figure in a workshop, but you tend to get much more of a sense of how that painter approaches painting a figure as a whole. 

Alfonso In April 2018 I attended a workshop on colour theory with Alfonso “Banshee” Giraldes. He has toured the United States several times giving workshops.

The challenge with workshops is that they tend to take place only in large cities, as a minimum number of attendees is necessary to make it feasible for the instructor to do. So unless you are fortunate enough to live in the cities where they are often organized, you will likely need to travel to attend one. That is an added expense on top of the cost of the workshop itself. (Though I will note that these events in the miniature painting world tend to be less expensive than similar ones in the traditional art realm.)

If you live in the United States, you have the opportunity to attend a workshop next year with the fantastic Spanish painter Sergio Calvo Rubio. Not only is he an excellent painter, he has also worked to develop a process for painting quickly. I took a couple of classes with him at AdeptiCon 2017, and just those few hours really jumpstarted me on finding a way to paint with more directional lighting. I am very excited about what I might be able to learn from him in a full two day workshop!

You can look at Sergio’s lovely miniatures here: https://www.puttyandpaint.com/sergiocalvo

Below is a list of the dates and locations for the Sergio Calvo workshops in the United States in 2019. 

Sergio Flyer Spring 2019 FINALIf you can find a way to get to one of these events, I highly recommend that you do it! Contact miniaturemonthly@gmail.com for more information or to sign up.

I have previously attended two weekend workshops. The first was with renowned Russian painter Kirill Kaneav in 2017. I highly recommend taking a workshop with him if you ever have the opportunity. He really opened my eyes to the value of using photo reference in miniature painting, and showed us some fantastic techniques for creating shadows and highlights to build three dimensional form with texture strokes instead of just smooth blending, and showed us several other things in addition.

Bust I painted in Kirill Kanaev workshopThis is the bust I worked on in the Kirill Kanaev workshop. The cloth texture work is on the back. 

Below is a pair of figures I painted after the workshop to practice with the texture techniques. I also used photo references for the faces, as we had in the workshop. I referenced a picture of Helen Mirren for the woman, and one of Sean Connery for the man. These sculpts are pretty rough, particularly given that they are 54mm scale. Smooth blending looked awful on them, but building highlights and shadows with textures looked much more attractive.

Textured cloth examples on male and female dancersI maybe went a little nuts with the textures…

This year I took a workshop with Alfonso “Banshee” Giraldes, a Spanish painter and sculptor. He is well-known for his bold use of colour. He is a strong champion for a more painterly style to be used in miniature painting. (In a painterly style, the aim isn’t necessarily a perfectly smooth or photo realistic finish, but rather one where the hand and intent of the artist are visible through brushstrokes and colour transitions.) The workshop I took was specifically focused on colour theory and colour use. So it was less focused on painting an entire miniature, and more about exercises and experiments with colour. (Although we did also work on a miniature bust.) I recommend this workshop to people who would like to learn more about colour theory and how to apply it to miniatures, and who would like to mix colours from a small set rather than using a huge collection of pre-mixed paints. 

My painted figure: PromenadeI painted this figure to practice colour mixing after taking the Banshee workshop. You can read more about my painting process here: https://birdwithabrush.com/2018/09/14/a-critique-filled-promenade/

The best way to hear about upcoming workshops is to participate in the miniature painting community via Facebook groups and website forums. It is also pretty common for the historical painting shows to be preceded by a one or two day workshop with a renowned painter. So it might be worth finding out if there is an historical painting show near enough to you to attend. I’ve listed the shows I know of near the bottom of this post: https://birdwithabrush.com/2018/08/09/some-prose-on-cons-conventions-and-shows/.

Have you ever attended a workshop? Are you thinking of going to one of Sergio’s next year? Let me know your experiences and thoughts in the comments!

Links to figures and people mentioned in this blog post:

Miniature Monthly Patreon (organizers of the Sergio Calvo workshop tour in the US): https://www.patreon.com/miniaturemonthly
Sergio Calvo Putty and Paint gallery: https://www.puttyandpaint.com/sergiocalvo
Sergio Calvo Miniatures page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sergiocalvominiatures/
Sergio Calvo Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/sergiocalvominiatures
Alfonso Giraldes Putty and Paint gallery: https://www.puttyandpaint.com/BansheeArtStudio
Banshee page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Alfonso.Giraldes.Banshee/
Banshee Miniature Art Academy on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/miniatureartacademy
Kirill Kanaev Putty and Paint gallery: https://www.puttyandpaint.com/Yellow_one
Angelface bust – sculpted by Kirill Kanaev and used in his workshops, but I can’t find a link to buy it, sorry.
54mm dancing couple – these were a commission for a client. I’m pretty sure you can buy these, but I don’t know where, sorry.
Dark Sword Shaman figure: https://www.darkswordminiatures.com/shop/index.php/miniatures/elmore-masterworks/female-shaman.html

ReaperCon 2018: Day One

ReaperCon 2018 is officially underway, complete with classes, games, and lots of fun with friends.

IMG 3576
Role-playing games were in full swing even before I finished breakfast!

IMG 3588
But maybe board games are more your speed?

IMG 3578
A bracing round of speed paint is a great way to wake up!

IMG 3579
Or if you like a slower pace, paint at your own speed at the paint and take or one of the open painting tables.

IMG 3591
There are so many class options this year!

IMG 3592
Or you can swap tips and stories at Fort Wappel or with one of the artists in Artist Alley.

IMG 3594
I love that the convention center is really getting into the spirit of things completely with thematic spirits!

IMG 3572 2
If you have never had Beth Marie’s ice cream, that is a lack in your life that you need to remedy as soon as you can! And they’re in the spirit, too! (I’m hoping to be able to go to one of their retail locations to snag some of their epic cinnamon ice cream, but this is available on site at the hotel coffee shop area.)

The rest of my pictures for the day are some of the vendors. There are more vendors than this, I wasn’t being very organized or thorough. Perhaps tomorrow I will do some more serious shopping…

IMG 3580

IMG 3581

IMG 3582

IMG 3585

IMG 3584

IMG 3586

IMG 3587Tell Cheryl I sent you if you stop by the Reaper booth!

IMG 3583This guy is kind of a miniature, but not the kind you can paint!

Frantic Preparations!

No matter how many conventions I go to, how many lists I make, or how far I try to start in advance, I always seem to spend the night before I leave for a convention frantically running around trying to do more things than there is time to do! Preparing for ReaperCon 2018 has been no exception. In some ways I’m decently prepped, but there are several things I would very much liked to have done that I didn’t manage, and it’s all been a bit more annoying than usual because I have an issue with my hip that flared up on the weekend.

Those who’ve seen the giant duffle bag I pack for shows often comment on how excessive it is. But have a look at what I’m bringing just for classes that I’m teaching, and I think you’ll get an idea of why I need such a big piece of luggage! And this pile doesn’t even include the class handouts, since Reaper is kind enough to print those for us. (And I appreciate the savings of luggage weight every bit as much as the savings in printer toner and paper!) And since all the classes I am teaching this year use the same paint colours, it’s less paint than I would normally bring as well. This is only for three classes. I normally teach four (or five or six at some conventions), but with the extra duties of judging and other activities at ReaperCon this year, I thought I’d better go a little lighter.

Photo Aug 28 4 53 43 PM

Many of the artists I know have spent the past couple of weeks frantically painting entries to enter in the contest. I will have to content myself with entering the ReaperCon 2018 Sophie that I featured in my last post and something painted earlier this year. I have been spending my time writing a handout for my newest class topic – Painted Ladies. I’ve also painted several demonstration figures to help people who attend the class see points more quickly and easily. My other class topic is something I’ve taught before, but as part of a longer workshop style class, so I’ve had to spend some time condensing down the information to just the topic of faces and expressions, and I painted a few more example figures for that, as well. So my travel case and my display area of artist row are going to look a little paltry next to the treasures most of the artists will have, but that’s usually how I roll. :-> 

Photo Aug 28 4 56 12 PM

I am really looking forward to the convention this year! I’m excited about the new venue. It’s a lot more fun to have the convention areas directly attached to the hotel, and both are spiffy and new. But mostly what I’m excited about is the opportunity to spend time with good friends. My most consistent regret about conventions is that there just isn’t enough time to spend with everyone that I’d like to! But I will try to be at my spot in artist alley as much as I can when not busy with other duties, so please feel welcome to stop by and say hi or ask me some painting questions.

Photo Aug 28 2 46 04 PM

The down side of traveling to conventions is that I’ll miss these three crazies, my cats. Except it’s sort of an upside, too, because they are troublesome creatures and sometimes I get more peaceful sleep away from home than at home! ;->

ReaperCon – Not Just for Reapers

If you’re not a big fan of Reaper or manufacturer specific events, I have good news for you: miniatures from any manufacturer are welcome in the figure show/contest, and there are vendors selling other brands of figures in the vending hall. And now I hope you will keep reading for more details on why this is such a great convention for miniature painting and sculpting enthusiasts of all kinds!

ReaperCon is Labor Day Weekend – August 29 to September 2, 2018

[Edit to add: ReaperCon is booked into the same location on Labour Day weekend through 2023! Start planning now for 2018!)

ReaperCon is two weeks away. (Ack, ack, ack!) It’s not too late to come to the show!. If you’re someone who needs more time to plan (which honestly I am most of the time), then consider this a discussion of why you should start planning now to attend ReaperCon 2019, which should be around the same time of year. :->

Disclaimer: I do freelance work for Reaper Miniatures, and have been one of the artists brought into ReaperCon to teach for many years. They didn’t ask me to write this, and I’m not getting any benefit or consideration for doing so. I started going to ReaperCon long before I did any work in the industry, and I credit the classes I’ve taken there (and at other conventions) for being a big part of how I got good enough to become a freelancer and painting teacher. I’ve only missed two ReaperCons, the first and the third, and I’ve twice made the long trip by car to get myself there. (I hate driving more than an hour!)

Painting and Sculpting Classes

ReaperCon has grown to the point where it has one of the biggest (if not the biggest) schedule of painting classes of any convention. I’m not sure there’s another convention that has anywhere near so many sculpting and conversion classes. There are dozens of instructors, each teaching multiple class sessions. Many of the classes are hands-on, though there are also topics that are best served by more of a demo or lecture format. There are topics of interest to any level, and even for children. If I had the time, I would love to be able to take classes here myself!

But there’s something Reaper does that I think is unique among conventions. Each of the sculptors and painters is assigned a spot at a long row of tables. They have name tags in front of them. When they aren’t teaching classes or judging, they hang out here. You can watch them work, which I always find very instructive. If you’ve taken a class and then practice what you learned for a while, you can bring your practice work over to the instructor for feedback. Or maybe you couldn’t get into a class, or just had a few questions on a topic – the instructors are there for that too.

WappelThe instructors also bring some of their work for you to look at and enjoy, though most of us do not manage to have such an extensive display as James Wappel has put on here!

Since it’s so close to the date of the show a lot of classes are already sold out, but there are also still lots of openings in many classes. And they hold back two tickets for day-of sales, so there’s still a chance to get into a sold-out class or two You can see the class slate here. You need to buy a pass before you’re able to buy class seats, however. https://register.growtix.com/schedules/frontend/reapercon_2018

MSP Open Figure Painting and Sculpting Show

The ReaperCon contest/show is open to entries from any and all manufacturers. Or even pieces which aren’t traditional minis. In the past entries have included garage kits, a repainted gumball machine bust, a scratch built sailing ship, and many more creative things. There are some special awards that are specific to Reaper miniatures, and there are some other manufacturer special awards. (This year includes Bombshell Miniatures and Dark Sword Miniatures.) Entries must be pieces that you have never before entered into a ReaperCon show, but that’s about it – they don’t need to be brand new work, and can have been entered in or won at other contests. One of the things I most love about this kind of show is that the entries are placed onto raised tables. So you can really get a good look at them and enjoy them in a more three dimensional way than you can in contests where they are closed away in cases. (There is someone to monitor the room, which is closed up at night.)

ReaperCon uses an open show style for its painting contest, with some additional special awards. In an open show, you can enter anything from one to a handful of figures into each category. The judges pick which of these they feel is the best piece that you entered into that category, and judge you against a standard. Each piece is assessed by a team of three judges. Their scores are averaged, and the entrant is awarded a certificate of merit, or bronze, silver, or gold medal depending on the result. So in essence, you are competing against yourself, and you strive to outdo yourself each year. (Though note that each level is progressively more difficult! It takes a lot more work to move from silver to gold than it does to move from certificate to bronze, for example.)

Msp open comboOn the left is an example of some entries into the 2017 MSP Open. One entrant has created an attractive display of his pieces at the back of the picture, but as you can see from the front of the picture, simpler displays are fine too. The picture on the right shows the trophies and medals waiting to be awarded to the entrants.

The judging standard takes a several elements into accounts and can differ by category. So in the Painters category, painting technique and painting effects are 70% of what is considered, but basing is just 5%, and conversions are considered only in terms of how they might contribute to the overall aesthetic of the piece. Whereas in Open, painting is worth only 30% of the score, and extensive basing and/or conversion or outright scratch sculpting are weighted much more heavily. 

In the event that a judge has advised an entrant on their piece or in some other way feels that they may be biased for OR against the entrant, there are alternate judges available to step in. The judging is not conducted in an adversarial way. We want to encourage people to enter, to keep on striving for their best results and to push the hobby ever onwards towards new cool things! As part of that, judges are available after the show results are announced to give feedback.

The Best in Show figure is decided not by the judges, but by the votes of everyone who enters the contest. Non-Reaper figures are eligible and have won this in the past. There are also two runners up awards for the Reaper and non-Reaper figure that got the next most votes. Reaper figure entries are eligible for consideration for the Sophie trophies for each category, with additional awards for best Reaper large monster type piece, and best Reaper mousling piece.

Get Your Game On!

Hobby activities are a big focus at ReaperCon, but there is also a lot of gaming. Which can be good news if you’re super excited about the painting/sculpting stuff but you have a family member or friend who needs to be convinced to come along with you. ;-> There are role-playing games, miniature games, and a board game library. You can ‘take out’ board games from the library, and the board game volunteer is available to teach you how to play. This year there is even a gaming-only pass. So if you do have a friend or family member who only wants to come out to game, they can purchase a less expensive pass. And they’re even still eligible to enter the MPS Open contest! (But not to take painting classes.)

Games comboOn the left is a great table of miniature gaming terrain. The right shows a portion of the board game library.

Other Activities

What else can you do at ReaperCon? You can take a tour of the Reaper facility and find out how miniatures are made! The picture on the left shows the metal miniature casting area. The picture on the right is the Reaper miniature gallery that you can tour at the facility. It is filled with literally hundreds of miniatures painted by some pretty terrific painters! (And some stuff that I have painted, as well. ;->)

Factory tour combo

Try your luck at the melt table. What is the melt table, you might wonder? During ReaperCon, you can exchange old metal miniatures from numerous manufacturers that you no longer want for credit to purchase new metal Reaper miniatures. The figures that are traded in are placed on the melt table, and attendees are welcome to scour it for wondrous treasures that they can purchase with trade-in credit or cash. It is not at all uncommon to spot classic figures that fetch a pretty penny on eBay or other long out of print minis. For more information on the figure brands accepted for trade-in or to ask questions about the trade-in program, see this thread on the Reaper forums. http://forum.reapermini.com/index.php?/topic/39734-metal-trade-in-approved-company-list/

The auction is another fun activity. The auction takes place on Sunday, and the only currency accepted is Reaper Bucks. These are earned by taking classes, playing games, wearing costumes, and other convention activities. Auction items include Reaper products, but also other games and hobby related items. The auction is presided over by an experienced auctioneer, and is fun to watch as well as participate in. 

Other acts combo

The pictures below show another couple of great ReaperCon features. Pinball and classic arcade games are a great way to take a break from painting and classes! And the artists aren’t the only people who get to sit down to paint. Tables are available attendees to hang out and hobby at, too. So you have a place where you can practice what you’ve been learning in classes to really try to cement it in your mind, as well as the opportunity to swap tips and tricks with fellow attendees. You will need to bring your own paint and supplies, and a battery operated lamp if you’re concerned about lighting. (Though people are often pretty friendly about sharing supplies, especially since some drive and can bring lots of stuff, and others come via plane with limited supplies.)

Friends are a big part of the fun of every convention. Even if you don’t know anyone there when you arrive, chances are you’ll have made some friends before you leave! (I was extra introverty during my first ReaperCon so it took me two gos, but don’t be me. If it helps, you can start getting to know people beforehand on the Reaper forums – http://forum.reapermini.com/index.php?/forum/23-reapercon/

Friends combo

And lastly… vendors! You can of course buy a large selection of Reaper products at their booth, but you’ll also find the booths of other miniature companies – Arena Rex, Scale75, Black Heart Miniatures, Bombshell Miniatures, and others were present at 2017. Other vendors sell terrain, gaming products, basing materials, and general cool geek stuff.

Vendors combo

So, that’s where I’m going to be in two weeks. I hope you’ll come out and join us! And if not this year, start planning now for next year…

Some Prose on Cons (Conventions and Shows)

For the past few days, my social media feeds have been awash with updates from friends at Gen Con. And now many of us in the miniature painting/sculpting hobby are headed into the crunch time of preparations for ReaperCon (or Nova Open, or DragonCon). The convention and show season for the year is starting to wind down, but at the same time we’re already starting to get ready for next year’s con season, what with room bookings for AdeptiCon having opened a few weeks ago. In today’s blog post, I want to discuss what the deal is with all of these conventions, and what value they offer to a miniature enthusiast. In a couple of days I plan to make a post about ReaperCon specifically (it’s not too late to plan to go!) But at the end of this post I link to some of the main conventions with miniature painting and sculpting related activities.

Meet the Miniatures

Conventions and shows* with a contest offer the rare opportunity to see the work of a lot of different artists and hobbyists in person. Miniatures are three dimensional objects, so it’s difficult to capture the nuances of sculpting and paint with two dimensional photographs. I remember being very struck by the differences in what the figures painted by the artists I admired looked like in person compared to photographs. Many were less perfectly smooth than they had appeared in photos, but they were also much more lively and interesting to look at in person. This was not just a curiosity – the belief that people achieved perfect smoothness drove my study of miniature painting and very likely distracted me from other valuable techniques and effects. Having the opportunity to view a number of well-painted miniatures in a large contest will show you a myriad of styles and approaches to our hobby and can be very inspiring.

*Look for more information on what a show is as compared to a convention, and for some show dates and locations at the bottom of this blog post.

Make the Miniatures

Do you have trouble finishing your miniature projects? Do you hesitate to push yourself to try unfamiliar effects and techniques?  Entering contests and shows is an excellent way to push yourself to meet deadlines and try new things. Painting for contests is not for everyone, and I have largely taken a break from it myself in recent years, but for many years I found working on entries to be very motivating in several different ways. (Luckily there are online contests, too, so even if you can’t get out to a convention you can still take part in those if you need a little push.)

Classroom 600Michael Proctor, Brice Cocanur, and Aaron Lovejoy – Instructors setting up a classroom for ReaperCon 2017. 

Shop the Miniatures (and accessories)

Most conventions and shows have a vendor area. Shopping at conventions is a great way to expose yourself to new product lines, try out miniature games, and save the cost and wait time of shipping. Again, as miniatures are three dimensional objects it’s not at all unusual to find a miniature that you thought looked pretty meh in an online photo is actually much cooler than you thought when you get to look at it in person.

Improve Your Skills

Most conventions that are focused enough on miniatures to include a contest/show also feature classes and/or seminars related to painting, sculpting, and other hobby topics. These are a fantastic opportunity to learn from the talented artists you admire. I can categorically state that I would not be where I am today as a painter without the dozens of classes that I have taken at conventions over the years. Miniature hobbyists today have some terrific resources online with both free and pay videos, documents, podcasts, etc., but there is still no substitute for an in person class where you can observe more directly, ask questions about what’s confusing you, and get feedback on your own work. 

Adepticon boothBooths at conventions are often as fun to visit as they are to shop.


Meet the Makers

Another opportunity conventions and shows offer is the opportunity to meet the people who create the products you love. This includes both company representatives, sculptors, and painters of your favourite studio miniatures. At ReaperCon you can even get a tour of the factory to see how miniatures are made from start to finish! It is a lot of fun to meet the personalities behind the products. And to have the opportunity to give them your feedback to hopefully see more of what you love in the future.

Be Part of the Family

I think this is the thing that really keeps people coming back to conventions and shows. It is also the thing that doesn’t seem at all compelling to consider if you haven’t yet been to your first one. It is an almost magical feeling to be surrounded by people who share your enthusiasm for the miniature hobby. ReaperCon and AdeptiCon are probably the two places on earth where I don’t feel awkward wandering around wearing my painting visor. :-> And although a convention may not seem like the ideal activity for the more introverted among us, keep in mind that a lot of the other attendees are also introverts. And geeks and nerds. Chances are very high that if you’re a little awkward, or you need to take some time to yourself, or you have some mobility issues or other things like that, there are other people there who will understand that, and you.

A Partial List of Conventions for Miniature Enthusiasts

Chances are good that I’m missing some great conventions! This really only covers what is available in the United States. There are many events in other parts of the world, and I hope that those of you with information on these will share in the comments.

ReaperCon, Dallas TX: August 30 – September 2, 2018 – https://reapercon.com
Nova Open, Arlington VA: August 30 – September 2, 2018 – http://www.novaopen.com
Las Vegas Open, Las Vegas NV: February 8 – 10, 2019 – https://www.lasvegasopen.net
Cold Wars, Lancaster PA: March 14 – 17, 2019 – https://www.hmgs.org/page/CWHome
AdeptiCon, Chicago IL: March 27 – 31, 2019 – http://www.adepticon.org
CMON Expo, Atlanta GA: May? 2019 – http://cmonexpo.com
KublaCon, San Francisco CA: May 23 – 27, 2019 – http://www.kublacon.com
Historicon, Lancaster PA: July 10 – 14, 2019: https://www.hmgs.org/page/HconHome
Gen Con, Indianapolis IN: August 1 – 4, 2019: https://www.gencon.com

A Partial List of Shows for Miniature Enthusiasts

I have referenced shows as distinct from conventions, and you might be wondering about that. Conventions tend to be part of the gaming side of things, and usually include game events as well as painting classes and contests (and panels and media and all kinds of things). Shows are more of a part of the historical miniatures side of things. These days the majority of shows actively include science fiction, fantasy, and horror themed miniatures as well as historical ones, and at some shows the non-historical miniatures may even dominate. There are a number of big shows in Europe, and I think this format may be more popular than the convention style events there. 

The contest at many shows is one where entered figures are judged against a standard and awarded a rank based on that. Some conventions are switching over to this format, others continue to use the top three in a category win an award approach. I’ll talk more about types of contests in a future post, I’m sure. The other thing that is really cool about a show contest is that the miniatures are placed out on raised tables. So you really have an opportunity to look at them up close and from a variety of angles. (This is how we do it at ReaperCon, too!)

Shows sometimes have an intensive workshop you can sign up for that takes place the day or two preceding the actual show date, but very rarely have hands-on type classes during the show. Free seminars with slide shows are common, however. 

Many of the vendors at a show sell products that are unfamiliar to or difficult to access for gaming miniature hobbyists, like cool diorama bits, wood plinths, busts and historical figures, books and magazines related to the hobby, etc. Many of them also have no or poor online presence, so you’ll see things for sale at a show you might not easily see otherwise.

I attend the Atlanta Military Figure Society Show and have been to the recent World Expo that was held in Chicago, but I am sure that my knowledge of the military figure shows is incomplete, and I hope that people will add others they know of to the comments.

The Military Miniature Society of Illinois, Chicago IL: October 19 – 21, 2018 – http://www.military-miniature-society-of-illinois.com/2018-chicago-show
Long Island Miniature Collectors Society Show, Freeport NY: November 16 – 17 2018 – http://www.longislandmodelsoldiers.com/
Atlanta Military Figure Society Show, Atlanta GA: February 15 – 17, 2019 – https://atlantafigures.org/amfs-show-2019/
Military Figure Collectors of America Show, Trevose PA: May? 2019 – http://www.mfcashow.com/upcoming.html
The Historical and Fantasy Miniatures Society of Southeast Oklahoma, Tulsa OK: June? 2019 – http://www.hmsneo.org
Euro Miniature Expo (Euro Militaire) Folkestone United Kingdom: September 22 – 23 – https://www.facebook.com/EuroMiniatureExpo/

Show display 1000Example of an entrant’s display area at the World Expo 2017 show in Chicago. The figures in the center of this photo were painted by Erin Hartwell.