Just like at CapCon, I was in the situation where I didn’t have a purely display model to enter, so I had to bring the best, recent work on my army. However, unlike CapCon where there were dozens of categories and a competition for first, second, and third place, this show used the open judging system. This means that you are given a participation cerficiate, bronze, silver, or gold based on the quality of your models on display, so depending on the quality on display that day, there could be one gold winner, eight gold winners, or no gold winners. It also means that you aren’t competing against anyone but yourself, and the awards you take home don’t depend on who else shows up that day.
To be honest, I like this system. Competing against each other to see who is the best goes so much against the spirit of the hobby, and comparing yourself to others is the fastest way for new painters to get frustrated and quit. This allows you to set a personal goal and try to achieve it, rather than directly competing against other participants.
So, after staying up until about 3:30 am putting the finishing touches on Lady Aiyana, I packed the best models I could find and ventured across the river into La belle province. The Lady Forge Seer who scored Bronze in the fantasy figure category at CapCon went into the case, as well as Victor, the Black Dragon Spriggan, Assault Kommander Olga Strakhov and her Kommandos, Markov, Aiyana, Eilish, and a Field Gun. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure what the standards were, and I just went to have a good time. I didn’t think I had a serious chance of scoring at the highest of levels because my models were all gaming pieces with plain, arc-marked bases. No fancy plinths here, just gaming bases and very thick layers of varnish.
It was held at a comic book and miniature store, and brought out perhaps 20 entrants, including folks from across the Ottawa-Gatineau area, some guests from Montreal, and couple of the Moose. There was a good mix of people, including those doing historicals, fantasy, and gaming figures. In addition to the gold/silver/bronze, there were five awards — Best in Show (as decided by the judges), Best Judge’s Model (which consisted of the work of the judges, which was voted on by the other entrants), and Best Knight Miniatures, Privateer Press, and Games Workshop model. Warmachine players had a good showing, but surprisingly, there was only one entrant repping GW. Taking up most of the day, there was display, judging, classes, and a speedpainting contest. I did skip the speedpainting contest for a tutorial on weathering, which George from Moosemachine won using the cunning strategy of “hog the Agrax Earthshade and don’t let anyone else have any.”
Unfortunately, the tutorials didn’t get a whole lot of uptake, but fortunately for me, that meant I had some opportunity to receive some one-on-one instruction. I took a class on weathering, and saw some new techniques in play such as the hairspray technique and weathering with oil-based paints. These are techniques that I hope to try out sometime in the future, however adding oils to my repertoire is going to be a bit of a jump. The class on groundwork was great, and I was able to snag some of my models off the table for some one-on-one constructive criticism. The guy running it also gave me a lot of really good advice for composition and dioramas, which is great because I plan to do one in the new year and don’t 100% know where to start when it comes to things like composition.
The quality on display was simply amazing. I’ve sprinked a few photos in, but even though the photography was great, there are some miniatures where they just don’t do them justice. My favourite pieces were an Elven archer holding the bird, and a bust of a tattooed blonde woman. There was also a very well-done Cygnaran warjack, though I can’t say much more because its… ugh… Cygnar.
I managed to take home a bronze for the Forge Seer, though one of the judges mentioned that I was very close to the silver level. Without having the experience to judge miniature painting, I think that is a fair assessment — these are gaming pieces, after all, and I have to get a fair bit of time at the painting desk before I can say I’ve mastered the art of getting smooth blends. My goal next year will be to snag a silver, and I will be going all-out on at least one or two models; likely something in 30mm scale, a bust, and perhaps a diorama. But the more I think about it, the more satisfied I am with the bronze. Some of my techniques haven’t quite been fully developed yet, and winning a bronze this year means that I now have a measurable goal to work towards for next year.
The feedback I got was also valuable. One of the judges commented positively on the bold colour choice, to which I think he meant the pink on the Forge Seer. I would tend to agree with that; I’ve been very satisfied with the bits of pink that have made their way into the colour scheme of my army. It’s a very vibrant colour, one that most painters probably don’t reach for right away. It’s seen as overly feminine in today’s society, which given the dudebro nature of large sections of the wargaming community may make it seem like an odd choice, but there is actually some interesting history in the colour pink and its associations with masculinity and warfare right up until the 1950s.. Besides, does anyone really want to say anything about pink armour to the Butcher of Khardov’s face?
Beyond that, I think my next steps are going to be just getting some practice in on various techniques which I’ve learned but have yet to master, work on building my understanding of light and how it interacts with a miniature and the real thing, and maybe kick up the contrast and highlights even more than I’m already doing. I have plans to get some practice in, however the next couple weeks are going to be dedicated to just banging out some dudes for my army.
Overall, the Ottawa Figure Show is something that all local painters should strive to attend. While attendance wasn’t huge this year, the quality of figures on display more than made up for that and seeing what is possible with these figures can inspire you to want to take your painting to the next level. It’s also just a great opportunity to get feedback on your painting, learn additional techniques, and hang out with some fellow miniature painters.
Hope to see you all next year!