This past weekend, I made it out to sunny Hamilton, Ontario for HeritageCon, a large scale model show with a category for figures. I had a fun time, learned some stuff, and came home with a full shopping bag and an empty wallet, so I would say it was a successful couple days.
The convention was held at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, which, similar to CapCon, made for a cool experience to look at a 1:72 version of something on a table and turn around to see the 1:1 scale version behind you. The venue was great, though my one little piece of advice is that someone should really make sure to stock up the ATM with cash before opening a venue to a bunch of scale modellers and people selling kits. Lighting was good; perhaps not as great as CapCon, and you could tell by the fact that almost all the figure modellers faced their figures in the same direction that there was definitely one side that had better light, but still pretty darn good.
There were hundreds of models at the convention and it’s impossible to do it justice, but I’ll show off some of the highlights for me — things that either were particularly well-done, or subjects that I found particularly interesting.
First off, in the bantam category for modellers under 10 years old, there was one kid who entered in some scratchbuilt and kitbashed models of imaginary future weapons that were all delightfully Orky. There were a couple tanks made out of random bits and bobs, a mash-up of a MiG 15 and some sort of straight-winged aircraft, and what looked like a Dalek rolling around under propeller power with a couple missiles on stubby little wings. Whoever this kid is, I hope he or she keeps up the level of creativity and passion that encourages him to put a propellor on the back of a Dalek and a radial engine behind that.
Speaking of stuff that looks like it’s straight out of the Warhammer universe, the T-35 was a Soviet multi-turreted tank that is probably the closest thing to a Warhammer tank in real life, in that it was boxy, had guns sticking out everywhere, and turned out to be horrendously impractical in actual combat. Still, this five turreted beast makes for an interesting model. There was also a very nicely weathered… some sort of German thing (I believe that is the technical term, though I have no doubt that some armour modeller will correct me) that caught my eye and will be going in the inspiration folder for the next time I do some weathering.
In the world of aircraft, one of the little games I like to play at model shows is “spot the roundel,” where I look for roundels of aircraft from smaller nations and try to figure out where they come from. In addition to an Irish Hurricane that I remembered from CapCon, I saw roundels from Spain, Colombia, Austria, Thailand, and Czechoslovakia, but I think my favourite was the Iraqi Me-109 from the Anglo-Iraqi war. I am pleased to report that not only was the model nicely done, but a quick google search confirmed that I managed to identify the rather strange looking roundel on the first try.
There was a beautiful P-39 Airacobra at the show. The Airacobra is an interesting aircraft because unlike most fighters of that era, its engine is located behind the cockpit and drives the propeller by way of a long drive shaft. This leaves room in the nose for a 37mm gun shooting through the hub of the propeller as well as nose-wheel landing gear instead of the tailwheel landing gear of its contemporaries. Finally, instead of sliding backwards to open, the cockpit has car-like doors on the side. While it wasn’t the most successful aircraft of the war, it put in some good service, particularly with the Soviets on the Eastern Front. This particular representation was well rendered, with nice weathering and panel line detail, as well as all the doors opened up to reveal details like the engine and the gun. I was lucky to get this photo as unfortunately, in what was probably the biggest tragedy of the show, I saw a dejected-looking builder packing away the model and a ziploc bag full of pieces that had broken off. Clearly, it had taken quite the impact and I just hope that it is fixable, as it is was a wonderful model of a subject that, in my opinion, is much more interesting than some of its contemporaries like the P-51.
In the world of motorcycles, there was one that had what looked like a cool chrome non-metallic metal effect. I think it was a decal, but if you look closely at some of the chrome on that motorcycle, you can see that the reflection is not a result of shiny finish, but is actually drawn on the motorcycle. This is a more advanced version of the non-metallic metal technique, which I hope to master at some point in the future. Also, someone made a couple cool looking motorcycles out of miscellaneous metal bits and bobs, partly from broken electronics, which made for some unique models.
Now, to paraphrase Sir Mix-A-Lot, I like big boats and I can not lie, which is good because there were two very nice large-scale U-boats on display. Submarines are always good to look at because if you look closely, you can see a lot of interesting detail in the weathering, as any vehicle that submerges under salt water and resurfaces many times is going to have some interesting weathering patterns. There was an excellent diorama of a sinking submarine, complete with lifeboats, escaping sailors, and realistic looking wave effects, which won best ship.
The winner of the Arthur Redding trophy was one of the locals, for his representation of U-190, a German submarine that ended up being captured by Canada at the end of the war and impressed into Canadian service. I’ve seen this piece before, but this was my first chance to get a really good look at it in some really good lighting and… damn, that weathering.
Finally, when it comes to science fiction, the gundam guys were out in force, with a lot of gundams done to a pretty high standard when it comes to shading and weathering. There was a red one (I believe that is the technical term) that had some really nice shading and highlights on it, as well as some sort of non-gundam walker thing that was pretty cool. Finally, there was also a robot spider from Johnny Quest which brought back memories of watching cartoons with my sister.
Figures & Busts
Now, lets get to the important stuff — the figures and busts. There were six categories: historical, fantasy, busts, mounted, vignette and diorama. This was where I made most my entries, and there were a lot of very diverse figures and vignettes and dioramas. One of my favourites was this… well, I don’t know what it is, but it’s cool.
The competition in the busts category was intense. There were nineteen entries, the majority of which were painted to a very high standard. Almost all were historical, though in addition to my entry, there were one or two other fantasy busts.
I was recruited to judge some of the historical figures, obviously stepping aside for the fantasy and bust categories that I entered. This was my first time judging, and it was an interesting experience. At IPMS shows, models are judged in direct competition with each other, so instead of an open system with set criteria, we had to pick out a first, second and third place.
It was an interesting experience. Really taking the time to look at other people’s work closely enough to fairly and impartially determine who is the winner was an interesting challenge, and in the process, I learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t, and it sort of demystified some of the cool things I saw on the table. Of course, I also think I may have dodged a bullet in that one of the categories that I had to recuse myself from was the hyper-competitive busts category. With 19 entries, the other two judges had to spend a long time looking at it to narrow it down to a first, second and third.
My main of advice to figure painters who really want to compete is to focus on eyeballs. The main thing that distinguishes figure painting from scale modelling is the flesh tones, particularly on the face. When I go to look at a figure (or even a piece of armour that has a figure sticking out of the hatch), my eyes naturally go straight to the face. Further, if I’m judging a figure, the first thing I will do is kneel down and look him or her in the eyes. If it doesn’t look right, that’s not a good first impression. And if the category has a lot of entries, a bad first impression might mean that your model doesn’t survive the initial cut where the judges narrow down the field to the few that they think are really in contention.
Similarly, if you have a piece that has certain elements that “pop” and draw the eye, make sure those are well done. In one of the categories that I judged, there was one piece that just narrowly missed out on placing in part because of its bayonet. It had a shiny bayonet which was bright enough that it drew the eye, but was also just done up in plain silver paint with no highlighting or definition to it. This, in turn, pulled my eye towards the gun, where I found a couple more little things to nitpick, and long story short, the piece ended up just barely not making the cut to top three. Of course, this also came around to bite me as well, as one of the weak points of my Mary Read bust was the bird, which also drew a lot of attention with its bright colours.
I entered a few figures, my aforementioned Mary Read bust, as well as throwing in my Victor colossal warjack into the Gundam and Mecha category. Between Yephima, The Black Sheep, Laril Silverhand, and Nancy Steelpunch. My main competition in this category was two large-scale female figures and a nicely detailed Sphess Mahreen from 40K.
Against this backdrop, I thought I would be lucky to even place, especially considering the fact that I was working at such a small scale. At 35mm scale (about 1/48), Nancy was dwarfed by even the space marine, never mind the two large-scale ladies. I have to give some credit to my fellow judges on this one; it can’t be easy to look at a 30mm figure next to something a foot tall and try to determine which is better. In the end, Nancy edged out Mr. Space Marine Guy to come in second, behind one of the big ladies.
More importantly than any ribbon or medal, I talked to one of the judges afterwards and got some good feedback. Basically, I needed to go a little sharper on some of my highlights and get my blends a little smoother, perhaps even trying out oil paints instead of acrylics. On the plus side, the judge told me that my metals are a strong point — which reminds me, I should write that article on TMM Brass that I’ve been talking about for months…
I also have the bust of Nancy in my stash, and I’ve had a lot of ideas rolling around in my head about what to do with her, so hopefully by the next big competition I’ll be able to bring both versions of her. I think she will be done in the same colour scheme as little Nancy, though with a few pink highlights in the hair, and I haven’t decided whether to do the punchy fists in NMM, which worked well for little Nancy, or TMM, which I’m a lot more comfortable with and got some kudos on on Mary Read.
Finally, it wouldn’t be a convention if I didn’t spend too much money buying stuff. First, I had an idea for a project for a future contest for a unique take on the Me-109B. I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to find, as one can barely walk around in a hobby shop without tripping over a 109 kit. Boy, was I wrong. Apparently the early marks of the 109 are actually not that popular, and it’s the 109E and 109G that comprise almost all of the kits out there. Fortunately, the staff at Wheels and Wings in Toronto were helpful and hooked me up with the only 109B in the store, a somewhat pricy kit from AMG that includes rubber tires, photoetch, and lots and lots of tiny parts…
Also from Wheels and Wings, I picked up some figures in a box marked Skull Clan – Death Angels, which were just too cool looking to pass up, as well as a book from Angel Giraldez, one of the top miniature painters in the world, on his techniques.
At the show itself, I found some interesting stuff. One of the vendors was selling stuff from Green Stuff World, so I managed to pick myself up a second, smaller leaf punch, some of their colourshift paints, and a couple textured rolling pins for sculpting pavement or cobblestone patterns.
However, I think my best find of the day was some flats that I picked up. Flats are, as the name implies, flat versions of figures which seem to blur the line between painting figures and just straight up painting. My research tells me they had their heyday about 100 years ago, before three-dimensional figures became a popular thing, which is a fact that is corroborated by the vendor telling me that the were being sold from the stash of a nonagenarian. These are going to be an interesting challenge as they will really force me to up my game when it comes to painting in light and shadow, as I will have to represent three-dimensional people with a mostly-flat two-dimensional object.
In short, I’m going to have to pretend to be an actual artist on this one, so it’s going to be tricky.
HeritageCon was a great event, and I will definitely see if I can attend next year, as well as start looking around for other model shows that I can compete at. I know there is TorCan coming up in Toronto, as well as the painting competition at the Southern Ontario Open that I’m going all-in on, as I think I have a much better chance of doing well at that than actually coming out with a winning record at playing Warmachine. Even for people who have cut their teeth on wargaming figures, if you can make it out to a scale model show, there will be something there for you and a lot of techniques you can learn just by staring closely at the models on display.