IMPS – Models (and Miniatures) Closer to Home

Please see this Facebook gallery for many more pictures from the Smoky Mountain Model Convention of 2019!

I’ve posted a fair amount about large national figure shows and conventions, but I do understand that many people face constraints that make them unable to attend such events. This weekend I was able to attend a local event by a chapter of an international organization that has chapters and events all over the world, and it is my hope that this will offer hobby options to some of the people that aren’t able to make it to other events.

In case you’re not very interested in my personal experiences at my local show, I’ll just go ahead and share the information to help you find the closest group to you. The International Plastic Modellers’ Society started in the United Kingdom, and now has chapters all over the world. While the emphasis of chapter meetings and local and national contests is on plastic model kits (including Gundam and other mecha style), models of metal or resin and figures of all materials are included, including busts and dioramas. (By at least some chapters and shows, I don’t have encyclopaedic knowledge of the organization by any means!)  

KSMA figure displayThe historical figure subcategory at the Smoky Mountain Model Convention in 2019.

While the audience may not be laser focused on miniature figures or gaming with figures, there’s a lot in common in terms of skills and interests between the two groups. If you aren’t able to make it out to a gaming convention or miniature figure show, it seems worth the effort to do a bit of digging to find out if you have a nearby IMPS show or chapter. You might be surprised to find more recognition of and interest in figures that you were expecting – I was!

The Wikipedia page for the IMPS links to the websites for the branches of various countries. The site for the United States branch has a map and a chapter listing for all of the US chapters. And they aren’t all in the most populous states or near big cities.

If any readers have more experience with the IMPS and any of its chapters and shows, I hope that you will share your thoughts in the comments for others to learn from!

VW Bug at Smoky Mountain Model ConventionI believe this one won first place in its subcategory at the Smoky Mountain Model Convention in 2019.

I first heard of the Smoky Mountain Model Convention held in Knoxville, Tennessee three years ago via a flyer at my local Hobby Town store, but for the past two years it conflicted with the dates of another event I attend. This year I was finally available to attend on the date of the show. I don’t know a lot about the organization, or model kit making, so I wasn’t sure what I would find at the event. But the website had detailed information on the categories and rules for entering the show, so I figured I should overcome my introversion and go check it out.

Frost Giantess front viewThis seemed like a good choice to bring both because it was larger in scale, and because I had painted it to a high display level. It ended up being an opportunity to talk with other attendees about Secret Weapon snow, as well.

I picked out three figures from my collection to enter into the show. It seemed likely that the group was more accustomed to seeing larger figures and model kits, so I selected my giantess and the Random Encounter bust as entries. I don’t have a huge collection of dioramas. I probably should have picked one that was a big larger or showier, but warm weather was in the forecast and it amused me to bring a Christmas-themed piece. (Not that I have a huge array of dioramas of any size/scale!) 

Seeing Red front viewI was sort of stunned to realize that I painted this as long ago as 2007! While the painting could certainly use more contrast, and the base has some issues, I am still proud of this and find it amusing.

The check in process was inexpensive and simple, particularly since I had printed out and completed my registration forms at home. I was excited to see that the entries were displayed as they are in the show format events that I’ve attended previously – out on raised tables where it is easy to get a good view of them from multiple angles. It is so much nicer for viewing than when entries are trapped behind glass and located on shelves too low or too high to be visible to the eye line of many viewers.

Registration at Smoky Mountain Model ConA view of the registration desk, awards ceremony seating area, and the table way at the back overflowing with raffle prizes.

The tables were well marked with their respective categories. I got my entries set up and then started to wander around to look at what everyone else had brought. The entries were divided into four rows of tables of overall categories, with various subcategories within those. The main categories were Aircraft, Armour, Automotive, and Miscellaneous. Subcategories might be based on scale, time period, or other factors, with all including a Junior subcategory for younger modellers. Entries with figures as the main subject all fell into Miscellaneous subcategories, including specific categories for science fiction/fantasy figures. 

Show display and judgesAs you can see, the tables are raised up slightly, which makes it very easy to get a good look at the entries for most viewers. I believe this is the judging team conferring over one of the award decisions.

There was also a table for entries to the special show theme category. This year’s show theme was Wild and Dangerous Creatures, and I enjoyed the diversity of the interpretation of the theme. Entries included Godzilla (the eventual winner), Rommel, a pair of War Toon tanks, and an Arab fighter on a camel. There was also an area where the Knoxville Scale Modelers Association members could display their work outside of the contest entry area, and there was some very nice work on display. 

Godzilla in Wild and Dangerous Creatures categoryThis Godzilla was the winner of the Wild and Dangerous special show theme category. There was another Godzilla entered in the SF/Fantasy figure subcategory.

The selection of figures as an overall portion of the show was low compared to vehicles and armour and such, but there were definitely figures there. And some very interesting ones, like a life-size furry werewolf head! The KSMA member area included a small display of busts, and a nice display of historical figures. I spent some time talking with the painter of the figures, David. I found that people in general were quite appreciative and complimentary of my work, and welcoming and friendly. 

Werewolf Head - life sizeThis enormous entry was very popular with viewers.

David's figure displayDavid’s figure display on the Knoxville Scale Modeller Association club table.

I enjoyed looking at the entries in the other categories, as well. I know I lack the historical and modelling knowledge to have fully appreciated them, but I enjoyed what I did understand. The vehicles were especially fun. Other shows I’ve attended have featured armour, aircraft, and nautical vessels, but I haven’t seen a lot of automotive vehicles elsewhere. Modellers use some terrific looking paints and finishes on those cars. There were also some fun examples of weathered old junkers with lots of little Easter egg tidbits to look for in and around the vehicle. There were two very fun automotive dioramas, as well. One was a recreation of a classic 50s ice cream stand. The other was commentary on the features and bugs of Ford vehicles.

Old truck from Smoky Mountain Model ConSo many little details to enjoy on this old truck, as well as the weathering.

There was a small vendor area that I only perused briefly, and that did seem to be completely focused on model kits. I imagine there is a bit of variation in the vendors that attend in different regions and countries, however. The club also ran a raffle for a table full of prizes. 

Ice cream stand at Smoky Mountain Model ConThis ice cream stand diorama won in its subcategory at the Smoky Mountain Model Con 2019.

Ford diorama at Smoky Mountain Model ConThis Ford diorama was also a very fun entry in the automotive diorama subcategory.

When it came time for the awards ceremony, I was very honoured by the recognition my work received. I was awarded first place in each of the three subcategories I entered, overall Best of Miscellaneous category, and Best of Show! I had not expected anything like that when I decided to go to the show. But even had I not won anything at all, it still would have been very worthwhile for me to attend as an opportunity to meet local enthusiasts of my hobby.

Hobby woes diorama at Smoky Mountain Model ConThis was one of my favourite entries in the show. Those of us with a hobby and a spouse/partner have all been there, I imagine! The subtitle reads “You are not bringing anymore model kits into this house.”

During the awards ceremony I realized that I had gotten sidetracked on my rounds of picture taking and completely failed to take pictures of the armour category row. You would think that at a smaller show I’d be able to finally get pictures of everything, but alas, I have once again failed! You can see all of the pictures I did take over in a gallery on my Facebook artist page.

AwardsI did not expect to be awarded to this degree. I am very honoured, though I think my cat is unimpressed.

Figures from this Post

I sadly lack knowledge of the many model kits featured in these pictures to be able to help you find them. I am also not familiar with most of the historical miniatures that were shown at the convention.

Frost Giant Queen, Reaper Bones plastic.
Random Encounter bust, resin, gift with purchase from FeR Miniatures.
Mrs. Claus is a Hasslefree miniature. I thought she was still available, but I could not find on the site. Perhaps she is only sold at Christmas.
The naughty creatures is a Waggamaeph, produced by Crunch-Waffle Enterprises, which is now out of business. Noble Knight has some Waggamaephs on resale, but not this figure by the look of it.

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.

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!

 

 

ReaperCon – Not Just for Reapers

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

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

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

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

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

Painting and Sculpting Classes

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

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

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

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

MSP Open Figure Painting and Sculpting Show

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get Your Game On!

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

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

Other Activities

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

Factory tour combo

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

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

Other acts combo

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

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

Friends combo

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

Vendors combo

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

Some Prose on Cons (Conventions and Shows)

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

Meet the Miniatures

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

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

Make the Miniatures

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

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

Shop the Miniatures (and accessories)

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

Improve Your Skills

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

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


Meet the Makers

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

Be Part of the Family

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

A Partial List of Conventions for Miniature Enthusiasts

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

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

A Partial List of Shows for Miniature Enthusiasts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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