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

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

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

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

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

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

Grey divider edit

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

Why Teach Classes?

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

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

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

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

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

Grey divider edit

Who Should Teach Hobby Classes?

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

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

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

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

Grey divider edit

Where to Teach Hobby Classes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grey divider edit

Coordinate with the Coordinator

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

Your usual responsibilities to the convention coordinator include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grey divider edit

What Should You Teach?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grey divider edit

How Many Students?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grey divider edit

How Much Should You Charge for Classes?

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

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

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

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

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

Grey divider edit

Information About Your Class

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Include the following if possible:

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

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

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

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

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

Information your class description should include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grey divider edit

Advertising Your Classes

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

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

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

Grey divider edit

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

Some Prose on Cons (Conventions and Shows)

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

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.