A Very Special Miniature (and I Have Awesome Friends)

This is going to be a bit of a departure from my usual blog post topics. I’m going to mention some miniature related stuff, and a convention, but I’m also going share my personal thoughts about some pretty special people. I try not to go on about it too much online (or even in person), but I’m not always the most positive of people. Sometimes it seems like every day brings another piece of news that shakes my faith in humanity a little bit more. But recently I have found my crumbled faith being built back up by the altruism of a number of people I know. Some are good friends, others I don’t yet know very well, but all have shown impressive compassion towards myself or other people in a way that has profoundly touched me. (And in many cases in ways that relate to miniatures or general geekery, so this a little related to my usual topics. A little. ;->)

Convention season continued for me this past weekend, but this one is a little different than the others. For one, the convention is local to my home town of Knoxville, Tennessee and I didn’t have to travel. But what really makes Save versus Hunger stand out is that all of the proceeds of the convention apart from operating costs are donated to Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee. The convention is even held at their facility! (Which is a former furniture showroom/warehouse they rent out for banquets and such, so it’s actually a pretty nice environment.) The convention is primarily for role-players, but my husband and I help out to provide some other activities people can enjoy. I run a miniatures paint and take table, and he sets up a library of board games for people to play.

Save vs Hunger convention miniature Sprout von Harvest IIMeet Sprout von Harvest II, brave hero and wielder of the Save vs Hunger shield. Sculpted by Bobby Jackson.

Last year one of the convention organizers suggested that it would be pretty nifty to have a custom miniature for the con. Although I do know some people in the miniatures industry, it seemed like quite a long shot to ever get a figure made. And yet, it happened! Bobby Jackson did a fantastic job sculpting this piece, which turned out exactly as we all had hoped. And Ron Hawkins from Reaper Miniatures helped me to get it cast, even though Reaper no longer does contract casting work. I’ll share a little bit about the painting of this figure in a future post, including the front view. :->

SvH logo on Sprout's chest armourBobby Jackson didn’t just sculpt the shield to look like the Save vs Hunger logo, he included a teeny tiny version on the chest plate of the armour!

While a collectible unpainted miniature is a new addition to the convention, traditionally Save vs Hunger also has a show stopper painted miniature available as a prize on the raffle table. The raffle table is full of geeky delights like games and dice bags, and ticket sales are a big donation generator at the con. Usually Cera Smith (who also does cool Magic card repaints) contributes a giant painted dragon that drives a lot of raffle ticket sales. Unfortunately she was not able to do so this year. I wasn’t up to painting a dragon, but I thought a painted version of Sprout ought to be in the raffle. And since that wasn’t much of an offer compared to a whole dragon, Sean Fulton stepped in to help beef up the prize offer. He contributed two wonderfully gory ghouls for Sprout to fight, AND a pack of very well painted resin bases! And he also donated some new brushes to the paint table! That’s on top of all the charitable work he does with the Nova Open Charitable Foundation. (And if you’d like a chance to buy raffle tickets for charity where you can  win some amazing painted miniatures, you will want to check out NOCF!)

Ghouls frontSean Fulton did a fantastic job painting these ghouls up to be super creepy and gross.

With a special con miniature lined up, I thought that the paint table at Save vs Hunger would be even busier than usual. And I worried about that, because most of the local friends I was hoping could help me out were unavailable. Even some of the non-locals who’ve come in the past had other commitments. Once again some wonderful people stepped up. Erin Hartwell (Corporea in the miniature world) drove all the way over from North Carolina, as she has done several years in the past. And this year we were able to offer miniature painting classes for the first time ever thanks to David Cecil (LordDave) coming in from Louisville, Kentucky. (If you’re into mini painting and near Louisville, check out the great painting group they have in the area – Llama!)

IMG 7099Here’s a pic of David Cecil reaching into his literal bag of tricks during one of the painting classes.

I also put out a call for help to our local Knoxville painting group (Knoxville Area Miniature Painters, aka KAMP), and I got a great response. Thank you so much Kristen, James, Brad, and Tammi. It was wonderful to get to know you all, and I really appreciate your help this past weekend. And a big thank you to all of the people who came out to paint, play, eat, and buy raffle tickets in support of the cause. My husband and I have a variety of charitable interests, but being able to use our personal passions and knowledge to help raise money to feed people in our local community is very meaningful to us. I am deeply moved by the friends both near and far who contributed to the effort this year. (And in years past, of course!) Thank you!

The final total raised this year was announced a few days after the end of the convention. $19,311! I believe that exceeds last year’s total by more than $1000.

My husband and I have been very fortunate to have been helped by friends on a more personal level lately, as well. One of the distractions that’s been keeping me from getting back to making meaty blog posts is that our home suffered some damage in the flood rains that hit the South a few months back. Our damage was pretty minor compared to what many suffered, but more than our feeble non-handy abilities could deal with on our own.

Just after the floodOur rec room flooded along one wall. Everything had to be moved to pull out rotted shelves and rip up the carpet. Which was made more difficult by the fact that planned house repairs meant we had even more stuff in the room than usual.

We have been very fortunate to have friends who do know what to do who have generously shared their knowledge, tools, and most of all, precious time to helping us not only damage control, but even upgrade and improve the room. (Begone horrible 70s decor!) I want to shout out our thanks to Trip, Norm, Nathan, and Astra. It means a lot to have you use some of your precious non-work hours doing such hard and tedious work to help us!

Improved rec roomIt’s not quite done, but what an improvement already! New paint, new floor, new doors. Same old cranky cat, though. This flooring is waterproof. Just in case…

Classes at Cold Wars 2019

I am very pleased to be the special guest and a painting class instructor for the Cold Wars convention, which takes place in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on March 14-17!

I have not had the opportunity to attend this convention previously, so I can’t share any personal experience with it and I don’t have any past photos. Though I hope to report back with both of those after (or during) the event! But I have known several of the people involved in the Hobby University activities for some time, and they’re a great bunch. They work hard to organize and run classes related to painting, sculpting, and terrain for the several conventions run by the HMGS (Historical Miniatures Gaming Society.)

I know this is late notice for trying to attend Cold Wars, but the good news is that the HMGS offers three conventions each year, and the Hobby University provides classes at each of them, so you can start planning right now to attend the next one that works with your schedule! Even if you aren’t particularly into historical miniature gaming, if you’re at all interested in miniature painting and in the region of Lancaster Pennsylvania, you should definitely check them out. Here’s the link for the main HMGS website, which links to each of the three yearly conventions: https://www.hmgs.org

There are a lot of interesting classes on the Cold Wars schedule this year. And the cost couldn’t be more reasonable – free with your convention badge! This is the schedule of classes that I’ll be teaching. I believe registration is available online through the website linked above.

Friday, March 15, noon to 1:30pm: Smooth Blending via Layering and Glazing

Friday, March 15, 2pm to 3:30pm: Next Level Faces

Saturday, March 16, noon to 1:30pm: Next Level Flesh

Saturday March 16, 2pm to 3:30pm: Level Up from Intermediate to Advanced

Below are the rest of my scheduled convention appearances for the rest of 2019. It’s always possible I’ll add another or two, but these are the ones I know of right now.

March 27 – 30: AdeptiCon – Schaumburg (Chicago), Illinois
Information about AdeptiCon from a previous blog post. My classes are sold out, but if you’re really interested in one (of mine or any other sold out class), you can show up at the time of the class with the class fee in hand. If not all of the people who bought tickets show up (and that happens more often than you’d imagine), you will be able purchase a ticket on the spot and join the class. More information on the AdeptiCon website

April 12 -14: Save vs. Hunger – Knoxville, Tennessee
My hometown convention to raise money for Second Harvest of East Tennessee. I run a paint & take table, where I’m happy to offer painting advice as time permits. Other events include lots of role-playing games, fantastic raffle prizes, cheap food, and a board game library with experienced gamers available to teach. I’ll write more about this convention soon, but for now, you can visit their website or check out their Facebook page.

August 29 – September 1: ReaperCon – Denton (Dallas), Texas
I have a blog post with an overview of all of the fun things you can do at ReaperCon. Classes and other activities have not yet been scheduled, but I will try to put up a blog post once I know what classes I’m teaching. You can already book a hotel room via this webpage, which will be updated with additional information as it becomes available. In the meantime, you can find lots of general information and helpful tips on the ReaperCon forums.

Links and Information

Cold Wars 2019 information: https://www.hmgs.org/page/CWHome
Cold Wars Hobby University class schedule 2019: https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.hmgs.org/resource/resmgr/cold_wars/2019/hu_cw_2019_final.pdf
Historical Miniatures Gaming Society – three conventions per year!: https://www.hmgs.org
Hobby University Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/HMGSHobbyU/
My AdeptiCon overview: https://birdwithabrush.com/2018/11/16/adepticon-2019-registration-opens-monday-november-18/
AdeptiCon webpage: https://www.adepticon.org
Save vs. Hunger Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/saveversushunger/
Save vs. Hunger webpage: http://www.savevshunger.org
My ReaperCon overview: https://birdwithabrush.com/2018/08/15/reapercon-not-just-for-reapers/
ReaperCon webpage: https://reapercon.com/
ReaperCon forums: http://forum.reapermini.com/index.php?/forum/23-reapercon/

Atlanta Model Figure Show Photos Coming Soon

The Atlanta Model Figure Show takes place Friday February 15 to Sunday February 17. Prior to the show I will be attending a workshop by the Spanish painter Fernando Ruiz. I had been hoping to figure out how to blog on the road prior to this convention (to practice for the many conventions I have coming up), but sadly an ill-timed bout of the flu has prevented both that and the completion of the miniature I had hoped to bring as my main entry. But at least I’m getting better just in time to still attend the events!

Rather than the originally planned blogging live on the scene, I will instead try to post some pictures to my Facebook artist page, and then hopefully  do a highlights blog post once I return home. Though I’ve got another topic I’ve been working on that’ll probably jump the queue. I just need to work up some photos to add and give it a once over.

My Facebook artist page: https://www.facebook.com/wrenthebard/

Show up to a Show – in Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia and…

I’ve written before about why I think it’s valuable for miniature painting enthusiasts to attend a convention or show, and I’ve gone into detail about a couple of specific conventions (ReaperCon – hotel now available for booking, and Adepticon – coming up soon!) Now I’d like to write a little more about shows. I’m going to focus on a show in Atlanta, the Atlanta Model Figure Show, which takes place February 15 – 17, 2019 but this information is also generally applicable to shows in other cities, including Chicago, Philadelphia, Long Island, Tulsa, and Folkestone UK. Links to those shows are available at the end of this post. I know there are others in the United States, and hope that readers who might know more about those will share links and information in the comments. The show format is popular in Europe, and some marvelous large scale events are held there. Sadly I cannot as yet offer any personal experience with these, but I would love if people with more information on them shared their experiences in the comments!

A figure show tends to be a smaller and more focused event than a convention. That focus is on showing off, viewing, and assessing painted miniature figures, although there are also seminars, vendors, and opportunities to hang out and make friends with fellow miniature fans. The focused nature of these events offer a lot of advantages, though it may not appeal to those whose primary interest in gaming over painting and modeling.

The Show at a Show

The entries in a show are all displayed together in a room (or multiple rooms for large shows) on tables that are roughly chest height. If you’ve only ever seen miniatures in photographs or behind glass at a convention contest, this is a wonderful revolution in viewing experiences! You can see every figure at close to eye level. You can move your head to see figures from the side, or even from the back from the other side of the table. It’s far easier to get good photographs without having to deal with the glare and reflection of glass. There’s a whole room full of tables, so if you run into a traffic jam, you can just move to another section and come back to the jammed area later. Granted the high tables are less ideal for very short people or those in wheelchairs, but traditional convention display cases are also going to present some difficulties for those folks, as well as those of us with back issues who can’t easily bend down to see the lowest shelves.

Entries display at Atlanta Model Figure Show 2018This is just a small section of the display area at the Atlanta Model Figure Show 2018. You can see how easy it is to view the pieces displayed up on tables with lots of open walkway space. A far cry from trying to peer at figures crowded together in glass cabinets at a convention contest!

People who wish to display at a figure show enter their work into a few broad categories. An entrant can enter as many figures that conform to the rules as they like into each category. (Generally the rule is something you haven’t displayed in that show previously, and which fits the category guidelines, but always check the specific rules of any contest before you enter it!) There are helpful people at the registration desk if you have questions or concerns about which category is the right one for your work.

Elizabeth Beckley-Bradford's entry to Fantasy Painters in 2018 An example of a display of entries in the Fantasy Painters category at the Atlanta Model Figure Show 2018. These figures were painted by Elizabeth Beckley-Bradford.

 Whether entering one piece of a dozen, each entrant creates a display for their entries in the category area. This display can include small risers and/or a backdrop. These elements might be used to make it easier to focus on the figure for viewing (and photography), or to create a more pleasing composition for the selection of figures in the display as a whole.  A card with information about each figure is placed next to it, so people can see what it is, and who painted it.

Horror entries from Atlanta Military Figure ShowIf you like horror, whether modern or traditional, you’re bound to see something you’ll like at a figure show.

Entrants are also welcome to display additional information alongside their figures. This might include work in progress pictures that detail the customizations and conversions, research related to a particular time period or historical person that informed your work, or anything else you might like to share with viewers. Getting the chance to read/view a little more about the background of how a piece came together is one of the very fun features of a show!

Scratch built interpretation of a panel of a Mayan engraving.Entry in the Open category at the AMFS Show 2012. This is a scratch built interpretation of a panel of Mayan art. The entry becomes much more interesting to view because of the inclusion of a reproduction of the Mayan engraving that inspired it and an explanation into the thought process behind the piece.

At the Atlanta show the main categories are Fantasy Painters, Fantasy Open, Historical Painters, and Historical Open. Fantasy incorporates traditional fantasy, but also science fiction and horror. Historical focuses on both specific individuals from history, or figures sculpted and painted to reflect relatively accurate historic uniforms and dress. In Painter categories, the focus is primarily on the skill of techniques used in the painting process. The figures may be lightly converted or customized, and the piece may be a diorama, but by entering it into a Painter category, the entrant is requesting that the skills which will be judged will be primarily painting related. (The overall presentation and preparation of figures is considered as a small component of Painter categories.) The Open categories are for figures which have been significantly converted or sculpted from scratch. This can range from a scratch sculpted bust or figure with simple presentation, to complex diorama displays with a lot of base work as well conversions to the figures. It is particularly helpful to include WIP photos demonstrating the sculpting process or level of conversions with Open entries. Painting is also judged, but as a smaller component of the overall score than in the Painter categories.

Example of a Fantasy Open entryIn this Fantasy Open entry, Laura Dandridge went beyond WIP photos and included an unpainted copy of the bust that she sculpted and cast as well as the finished entry!

Additional categories at the Atlanta Model Figure Show include Models, Junior, Basic, and Toy Soldier. Many shows will have similar categories, but may not have all of these, or may have additional ones. Junior is for entrants aged 15 years or less. The Models category includes tanks and other types of historical ordinance, but also science fiction ships, and other types of aircraft/vehicles/etc. Basically entries where the focus is on a mechanical contrivance, though there may also be figures included in the scene with it. Weathering and other concerns specific to this type of figure are the focus of judging for this category. Toy Soldiers are a specific type of figure that may have been sold pre-painted so it’s more about the display and arrangement of the figures, which can become quite elaborate or sizable. Basically if you know what it is you might enter this category, and if you don’t, don’t worry about it. :->

There’s a whole type of figure that you are unlikely to see at a convention that you will see multiple wonderful examples of at most shows – the flat. Traditionally termed Zinnfiguren in Europe, a flat is a sort of cross between a full round figure, and a flat drawing. It’s a sort of bas-relief. These are a great way to push yourself to paint with more contrast, since you can’t rely on the sculpted contours of the figure at all! Flat figures are available in a great diversity of subjects, and in different scales. Flats based on classic artwork are very common, as are flats of holiday and cartoon characters, and subjects like angels and fairies. (Which makes them great gift ideas for your non-gaming friends and relatives that you’ve been wanting to paint something for!) They are often displayed in picture frames on dark velvet backgrounds, though some are sculpted on small stands with both a back and front side, so they can also be posed in dioramas or displays. 

The subjects of flats are as diverse as figuresThe subjects and painting styles of flat figures are as diverse as those of figures in the round. They are not judged as a separate category from figures in the round. Stock flats are judged in Painters, and scratch or heavily converted flats in Open.

The Show is also a Contest

Although it is possible to enter one’s work for display only, the majority of entrants also enter the contest. If you are only familiar with traditional podium style contests where only the top three (or five) entries are awarded prizes, the way an Open format contest is run is a completely different thing. In essence, each entrant competes against his/herself. The team of judges selects the best work from an entrant’s display to consider. (It is also possible for the judges to decide the work in the display is all of the same quality standard and to judge the entire display as a group instead.) So you don’t have to wrestle with deciding whether this one that you’ve done is the best you have right now, or is it that one? Then they judge that work against an overall standard, taking into account the criteria of the category. So in a Painter’s category, the quality of the paint work and the challenge factor of the techniques attempted are considered, with an additional smaller consideration given to the quality of the prep work and general presentation. In the open category, the technique demonstrated in sculpting and conversions is a significant factor, plus some consideration of the painting, and the prep and general presentation.  

Awards at AMFS 2018In addition to the medals awarded to the different standard levels, there are also special awards for particular subjects of figures. Awards at the Atlanta show include Best Horror, and Best Mounted figure, as well as several others.

Each judge awards the assessed piece a score, and the scores of the team are totaled and then averaged to find the score for that entry. Based on that score the entry might be awarded a Certificate of Merit, Bronze, Silver, or Gold medal, with each level becoming progressively more difficult to attain. As many medals of each level are given out as are achieved by the entrants. So one entrant’s success never takes anything away from someone else in the general show awards. Most shows also have additional prizes, like those pictured above. These might include the figure that best exemplifies the theme of that year’s show, or the best Napoleonic figure, or a number of other things. Many special awards are sponsored and selected by members of the figure painting club that hosts the show, so they can vary widely from show to show.

Award winnersFantasy/SF painters might recognize some of these proud award winners from the AMFS 2017 – Sabrina Ferguson, Aaron Lovejoy, a cute little creeper, and Liz Hunt.

I love this Open format for miniature figure judging and awards. It gives all entrants feedback on their current level and what they might yet have to strive for. There is no reason not to enter this kind of show. It doesn’t matter if you’ve only been painting a few months or a few years. Prior to attending a show hosted by a model figure club, I had gotten the impression that all of the work of military figure painters was top level. I probably came to this erroneous conclusion because those of us more interested in fantasy and SF generally see only the best of the best from the military side of the hobby, if we see anything. I was very encouraged to discover that of course they have the same range of experience levels in painting as we do on the fantasy/SF side of things! But in the Open format, even those painters who are newer or more casual in the hobby can still have their work considered for medals and appreciated in the display of the show. 

A range of levels is welcomed in the Open show formatYou may see work of world-class quality at a figure show, such as the piece from Mike Blank on the left that won Best of Show at the AMFS in 2017. But work from less experienced painters is also very welcome and will be assessed with just as much care and concern, and awarded a prize as appropriate. (Unfortunately I did not record the name of the painter of the swashbuckling pirate on the right.)

Seminars

In the United States at least, you are not likely to find the kind of miniature painting/modeling classes at a figure show that you might find at a convention like AdeptiCon, ReaperCon, or Gen Con. It is common for there to be a 1-3 day workshop in the days preceding the start of the show. This is a more expensive cost to attend than a two hour class, and requires arriving and staying at the venue for a few days ahead of when the show starts. (I do recommend attending a workshop if you can, it’s a terrific learning experience!) But this doesn’t mean there are no learning opportunities at a figure show! There are usually a handful of free seminars on various topics given by top painters and modelers. While you may not get hands-on opportunities with these, they are well worth attending if there is a topic that interests you on the schedule.

Vendors

One of the fun things about a figure show is that the pool of vendors and what they have for sale tends to be much different than what you’ll find at a convention! Busts, and larger scale figures, great reference books on painting and historical time periods, wonderful scenic bits for dioramas, and speciality products like brass etch plants are some of my favourites. You are also likely to find at least one booth offering those high quality wood plinths and blocks you’ve likely seen on some of the busts and displays from your favourite painters online. And of course there should be at least one vendor of the flats I talked about above.

Vendor tables at Atlanta military figure showBoxes of busts and larger scale figures at the Atlanta Model Figure Show.

More vendor tables at Atlanta military figure showModel kits on the near table and a view of one section of the vendor hall at the Atlanta Model Figure Show.

Hospitality Suite

Another fun feature of many shows is the hospitality suite. This is a hotel room open to attendees staying at the hotel to gather and hang out and enjoy snacks and possibly adult libations. This is a great opportunity to get to know people a little better and find out more about how they approach their hobby. I was nervous to attend my first model show in Atlanta in 2012, but everyone I talked to was super friendly and welcoming. Many even remembered me from that one meeting when I finally made it back again in 2017!

Hospitality suite at AMFS 2017Enjoying snacks with fellow figure enthusiasts in the hospitality suite at the Atlanta Model Figure Show in 2017.

A Few Notes

The atmosphere of a figure show is a little more casual than most conventions, including in the vendor area. A vendor might choose to close up early to go out to dinner, for example. Also while the schedule will generally list the vendor hall as being open on Sunday morning, my experience has been that a lot of the vendors will use that time to pack up, and some may already have left by 10 or 11am. So if you spot something you really want to buy on Saturday, don’t assume you can dither all Saturday night and be certain to pick it up the next morning. 

Magic cards come to lifeI love the creativity of this entry! Sady I did not keep track of the name of its creator.

The societies that organize these shows tend to have a lot of members who are a fair bit older than folks from the gaming side of the hobby. While they’re making an effort to embrace new technology you may find that they’re a little slow to update webpages, or more likely to communicate by email or even require snail mail advanced registration. Also these events are completely volunteer run, unlike a large gaming convention that has a core professional staff in addition to its numerous volunteers. If you can’t find all the information you need to decide whether to attend on their website or Facebook page, reach out to a contact address and ask what you need to know.

It is also important to note that many of these societies are eager to welcome new members of any age to their organizations, and many are very welcoming of fantasy and SF painters! If you live near enough to one of these groups to attend the regular monthly meetings, you have a wonderful opportunity to learn from some fantastic painters and modelers that you should not pass up just because their first interest is history and some of them are a little older than the people you normally talk to about painting. I wish I lived a lot closer to the Atlanta club than I do.

Scan of schedule for AMFS 2018

Scan of AMFS schedule 2018Scan of the schedule from the Atlanta Model Figure Show in 2018.

The Atlanta Model Figure Show

This year the Atlanta Military Figure Show takes place on February 15 to 17, 2019. It will be located at the Atlanta Hilton/Marietta Conference Center. If you want to attend but not enter any of your figures, the cost is $10 for the entire weekend. The fee to attend and display your work is $25 if you pre-register, and $30 at the door. For more information, check this website. You can get to the gallery pages from there to enjoy work submitted in 2017 and 2018 as well.

Atlanta Miniature Figure Show homepage: https://atlantafigures.org/amfs-show-2019/

Other Figure Shows

I have only had the opportunity to attend a few shows. In addition to Atlanta, I attended the World Expo in Chicago in 2017. This was hosted by the same group that puts on the MMSI show. MMSI also includes the participation of several members of the fantasy/SF community, so I have no qualms about recommending it, and I’m hoping to get there one day! I also have heard good things about the Miniature Figure Collectors of American show in Philadelphia. I’ve heard of shows in the past in Southern California, but was not able to find any information about upcoming shows. I did find a show in Long Island and another in Tulsa, but I have no personal experience or information about either. I also found one UK show to share. My guess would be that there are others out there as well. If you know of any, please let me and other readers know about them in the comments!

The Miniature Figure Collectors of America Show, April 12-13 2019: http://www.mfcashow.com/upcoming.html

The Military Miniature Society of Illinois Show in Chicago, October 11-13 2019: http://www.military-miniature-society-of-illinois.com/2018-chicago-show/

Euro Miniature Expo in Folkestone UK, May 11-12 2019: https://www.facebook.com/EuroMiniatureExpo/

The Long Island Miniature Collectors Show: http://www.longislandmodelsoldiers.com/limcs_model_soldier_show.htm

The Tulsa Show by the Historical Miniatures Society of Northeastern Oklahoma: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Historical-Miniatures-Society-of-Northeastern-Oklahoma-HMSNEO-211702852223535/events/

Note on the Lateness of this Blog Post…

Clearly my resolution/good intention of trying to blog a bit more regularly has not been going that well. My aim of painting more has hit similar snags. We’re trying to organize a bunch of work on our house and prepare for that, and I’m also attempting to move all my data and my computer use from an eight year old PC to a new Mac. Which is wonderful, of course, but also I’m a human who doesn’t like change, so it’s also kind of ACK and fraught with time-consuming technical snags. It was my aim to get this information out earlier, but hopefully it’s still early enough for making plans. I’ll be at the Atlanta Show, and if you can attend, I highly recommend it, and I’d love to see you there!

I normally try to provide links to figures shown in these blog posts, but I’m not sure where to start on this! If you’re particularly interested in one mention it in the comments and we’ll see if I can find it or another reader can.

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

ReaperCon 2018 Photos – Miniatures, People, and More

I think the thing that finally gave me the push to start this blog was my frustration at trying to share painting tips in photo captions on Facebook. But on the flip side of that, I think a blog is a terrible venue for a massive photo dump. So this entry is primarily some links to the photos I have posted over on Facebook.

First up, some photos of the contest entries. Sadly this is only some of the entries. My window of time to take pictures of the entries was briefer than I would have liked by far! ReaperCon is always a super busy show for me between teaching classes and serving as captain of one of the judging teams. I had another complication this year in that I had an episode of bursitis in my hip start up a couple of days before traveling to Texas, and that slowed me down a fair bit a the show. (In related news – I’m old!) So if you do not see your entry here, please trust that it was just a failing of time to get through the whole room with my camera, not a judgement of your work! When I take photos of minis I just work my way down a table taking pics of everything as I come to it, but occasionally having to move to another table as I attempt to avoid being in other people’s way.

After the miniature photos are a series of badly composed and occasionally blurry photos. These were taken at the awards ceremony. I was sitting near the front, but my position wasn’t optimal, and people move fast! Nonetheless, I thought I’d post what I had of people’s moments of glory!

https://www.facebook.com/pg/wrenthebard/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1587853734674471

If you would like to check out photos of all of the entries, go to this page. The show photos are terrific!

https://reapercon.com/mspopen/2018

My other photo directory is filled with pictures I took of a few of the activities at ReaperCon, and many of the people who help make the show what it is.

https://www.facebook.com/pg/wrenthebard/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1711390415654135

I think that wraps up my Reaper coverage for this year. I’ve been painting away on something that I’m excited to post about soon, I hope it’ll be a nice visual example that might help people in their painting.

ReaperCon 2018: MSP Open Contest – Diversity!

One of the things I love about an open show like the MSP Open at ReaperCon is the diversity of entries I get to see. Garage kits, tanks and armour, a scratch built ship – with  dozens of crew!, book ends, gumboil prizes, fan statues, snow globes… I can’t even remember all of the cool creative things I’ve seen over the years that I could never have imagined seeing in a standard miniature contest. 

I hope to be able to post a lot more pictures of contest entries once I get home and have more internet access, but in the meantime, here is an overview of some of the variety we enjoyed looking at this year!

(Also here’s a link to the official contest photo page with photos of all of the terrific entries and winners: https://reapercon.com/mspopen/2018)

IMG 3695

IMG 3701

IMG 3708IMG 3746

IMG 3747IMG 3763IMG 3766IMG 3763IMG 3766IMG 3786IMG 3787

IMG 3792

 

 

 

 

IMG 3839IMG 3840

IMG 3864

IMG 3869IMG 3919

Hopefully I’ll be back blogging soon with more insights into ReaperCon 2018 fun!