Two Great Shows: CapCon & OSAC 2019

As the leaves start changing colours, the model show season in Canada is starting to wrap up for the year because, to be honest, no one wants to leave the house in winter any more than they absolutely have to. However, over the past month, I managed to make it to two nice model shows in the Ottawa area: CapCon 2019 and the Ottawa Scale Auto Contest.

CapCon 2019

CapCon is run by IPMS Ottawa every other year and is one of the biggest model shows in Canada, on par with IPMS Hamilton’s HeritageCon. This year, I was on the organizing committee, so I got a firsthand experience of how the sausage is made, so to speak. I will say that being on the committee has greatly increased my appreciation for the work that these volunteers do (and greatly decreased my appreciation for Monday morning quarterbacking, but that’s another story).

CapCon is a bit of a unique show because it is held in a national museum. The Canadian War Museum is a great venue, being spacious, well-lit (weather depending), and having a certain ambiance with all the 1:1 scale models surrounding the competition tables. That does mean that CapCon is a little more expensive than other shows, but between the sheer number of models on the tables and with entry to the show also including unlimited entries and free museum access, you do get value for money.

This year, there were 692 entries, comprising about 750 models once you include dioramas, collections, etc. I believe this is slightly up from 2017. But, seeing as I was busy working a laptop doing data entry and making up the awards presentation, I didn’t really get to see very many of them. If you want to see pictures of cool models, go read the writeup on Model Airplane Maker, or check out CapCon on facebook.

One thing I was pleased to see was the growth in the figure categories. With about 80 entries, figures are a growing portion of this show. Also, my favourite category had the largest year over year growth and aside from an aircraft category that got split, was the most popular category in the show. With 24 entries in busts compared to the previous year’s five, I’m evidently not the only one who likes big busts and cannot lie.

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That’s… a lot of busts

Sadly, I have to keep my thoughts on CapCon short as I was so busy that I barely had a chance to experience the show. As for the awards ceremony, with the usual caveats that one shouldn’t focus too much on awards, I did pretty well for myself. While I didn’t win any special or theme awards, my balls and busts swept two categories (Busts and 1:144 Gundam) and I came home with a fairly heavy sack full of coins. I also didn’t really get much of a haul of kits or products, as I didn’t have time to shop in the vendor hall or watch the silent auction like a hawk as all the Beargguys slipped away.

OSAC 2019

While the Ottawa Scale Auto Contest is primarily an automotive model show, as a response to popular demand, they have been steadily adding additional categories and expanding into all sorts of non-automotive categories to the point where it is now perhaps 50% non-automotive. This year was the first year at a new venue, as between club tables, vendor tables, and a couple hundred or so models, they had outgrown their previous location.

One fundamental difference between OSAC and other shows is that there is no judging at and all the awards are decided by popular vote. Of course, there are pros and cons to both ways of doing it, and as Canadians learned last week, sometimes a straight up first past the post voting system can give unusual or unrepresentative results. However, the use of voting seems like it is a reaction to some of the issues that have been occupying my mind lately about model shows, namely the question of how to have the draw of competition without all the drama and negativity that competitiveness can introduce, so they get credit for approaching that problem.

Aside from a few minor administrative issues, it was a good show. I’m not sure what it is, but between the OSAC and AMRO shows, the car guys seem to have a more relaxed approach to the hobby which I like. I wonder if perhaps it has to do with their subject matter; after all, in a world of hot rods and custom cars, there is lot more room for creativity and a “why not?” attitude than with military subjects where there isn’t really a such thing as a low-rider Sherman tank with a chopped top and custom paint.

I was at the IPMS club table for a good chunk of the day, promoting the club and hanging out with the gundam guys at the next table, but unlike at CapCon, I managed to escape and take a look at the models, where I had a few good conversations and met some interesting people. As with CapCon, for more pictures, check out the recap on Model Airplane Maker, and keep your ear to the ground as the Hobby Centre or Ottawa Model Car Group will probably be posting show photos on their social media in the near future.

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This motorcycle was one of my favourite entries in the show. You need to have a near-perfect finish if you are going to do a lighted display like this, and this model didn’t disappoint.

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In the judged category, this XP-55 Ascender had that combination of excellent craftsmanship and unusual subject that I tend to appreciate. The XP-55 was one of a few particularly unusual WW2 fighter prototypes that the Americans toyed with briefly before returning to more conventional designs. Personally, I think it looks like what you get when someone says they don’t need instructions to assemble a P-40 Warhawk.

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There were a couple big paper ships. I chatted with the builder about them, and they seem like quite an interesting modelling medium. While they come printed in the colours you need so there isn’t any painting to do (unless I suppose you screw up), there is a lot of cutting, folding and gluing required to turn a booklet full of paper into a detailed model.

While I forgot to get a picture, Steve from Model Car Minion brought out some classic cartoonish Weird-Oh models. These are whimsical kits that are definitely a product of their time; that time being the early 1960s. I’ve often wondered who buys these and I suppose now I know. But seriously, it was nice to see these unique models you see on the shelf at the hobby store on the table and chat with Steve about them, and his use of straws from juice boxes as exhaust pipes was positively genius.

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And speaking of unusual things, without a doubt the most unusual thing I saw at the show would be a Mussolini trading card at one of the vendor tables. I was almost tempted to get it and mount it upside down somewhere with Xs over the eyes because we apparently live in a world where Ace Ventura is feuding on Twitter with Mussolini’s granddaughter. 2019 is weird.

My OSAC haul

Aside from a couple plaques, I came away with an airbrush stand that I won in the silent auction, a polypod ball kit that a friend brought to me straight from Japan, and a ’64 Ford Falcon convertible. To be honest, I’m not sure what to do with the latter. It looks like a nice kit despite the dated box art, but I haven’t really done car models since I was about 10 years old, so I’m kind of between “not my jam” and “challenge accepted.” Since a ’64 Ford Falcon probably wouldn’t look right as a Mad Max conversion, I’ll probably have to go for the nice smooth showroom finish and maybe try out some worse-tasting paints than my acrylics. Of course, I’ll probably find some way to put my own twist on it; perhaps I’ll do something stupid like try to do all the chrome parts in NMM or work in some unusual shading in some area in the interior that no one will see.

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Also, I’m not really a Ford guy; my family has been GM as long as I can remember, so there’s also that issue. Oh well…

Conclusions

CapCon and OSAC were two great shows. While if CapCon sticks to their schedule the next show is going to be two years out, those in the area should circle their calendars for OSAC, and don’t let the name fool you – it’s not just an auto show!

 

Bonus Content: Batskiboat, featuring Julie Newmar

With a stack of AMT Batskiboats sitting around the hobby store at a steep discount, someone from the local Gunpla group got the genius idea of a little challenge based on the idea of seeing what we can do with this cheap, basic kit. Of course, time made fools of most of us and by the end of the challenge, only two Batskiboats were completed for the big show.

The Batskiboat was a boat featured for about a minute and a half in the 1992 movie Batman Returns. Which meant a minute and a half of waiting for Catwoman to make another appearance, but I digress.

This is a pretty simple kit, with only about a dozen parts. I spent most of my time on it correcting issues, some of which were my own fault, like somehow losing two pieces and having to scratchbuild replacements because I was too cheap to spend another $10 on a second kit, or me deciding that raised panel lines weren’t good enough and rescribing them. But, with enough sprue goo, milliput, sanding, and bits of plastic, I was able to get it together. While I was at it, I also did a little customization, greeblifying up the rear near the jet exhaust and adding seat belts to the cockpit.

Most of the painting was done with the airbrush, using the Nighshade Purple/Coal Black/Menoth White combination that I am particularly fond of to put a little twist on the jet black Bat-stuff. Afterwards, I cut out a Batman symbol stencil out of frisket and sprayed over it with some Green Stuff World Color Shift paints to get a neat effect and drive home the model’s bat-pedigree.

Finally, for a focal point, I decided to have Catwoman posing on top. However, I had a bit of an issue with my references. Batman Returns features a modern take on Catwoman, and while I wouldn’t kick Michelle Pfeiffer out of bed for eating crackers, as we all know, the only true Catwoman is Julie Newmar.

And since a 1/24 Julie Newmar wasn’t readily available, I decided to get some sculpting practice in. At the risk of being seen as one of those weirdos who buys Master Box products, I picked up “Marilyn” from behind the locked glass case at the local hobby store. I reposed her, rotating her right arm about 180 degrees so her hand was on her hip rather than holding onto the brim a nonexistant hat. I also left off the hair and hat which were fortunately separate pieces, preferring to sculpt that on myself. Then, after sanding and filing off some of the details on her clothes, I got to sculpting. Most of it was done using Brown Stuff aluminum putty, which is generally my putty of choice for organic shapes as I find its properties to be a nice happy medium between Green Stuff and Milliput. This process took several days, as I had to sculpt in in several layers, and let the putty cure between layers. I cheated on a couple areas, making her claws out of stretched sprue and her belt out of some Tamiya tape, but the rest is either brown stuff or the original kit details.

Catwoman’s outfit was painted in similar colours as the batskiboat, albeit with some work done with the brush afterwards to reinforce highlights and shadows. The skin tones were given an initial pass with the airbrush and some additional work with a brush, while the hair was simply wet blended and given some washes, dry-brushing, and painted in highlights. I wouldn’t say she was my best work, in part due to an unfamiliar scale, but considering that most of the painting was done somewhat hastily the day before the show, she isn’t bad. Finally, before doing the metallics, the entire outfit was given a coat of about a 50-50 mix of satin and gloss varnish to give her a little contrast and help focus the eye on her – not that Julie Newmar needs any help to catch one’s eye.

Sword, Brush and Boudicca – S&B 2019

September and October have been a couple of busy months at the evil lair that serves as the headquarters of Ice Axe Miniatures, so I’ve been falling behind a little on my writing. However, before it fades too far from memory, I wanted to talk about Sword and Brush 2019.

The Show

Sword and Brush is probably my favourite show within driving distance. While it isn’t the largest, it is focused almost completely on the art of painting miniatures and figures. Over the past couple years, they have been incorporating a wargaming tournament aspect, however not much in the way of games I play, so the figure show and the vendors remain pretty much the only draw for me.

And that is more than enough! With over 200 entries, the sheer number and quality of the models on display is over the top. Just about everything on the table is of a high enough quality to at the very least warrant a good, long look, and you could learn a lot just by closely examining some of the models and trying to figure out how the artist accomplished certain techniques or what went into his or her mind with colour choices and light placement.

In fact, I would say that it is almost intimidating going into a show like this and placing your work on the table. I’m not sure what it is – perhaps it is the fact that I have stared at the piece for dozens of hours while painting it, or perhaps it is in knowing exactly what went into it, or perhaps it is just a mix of imposter syndrome and a generic, self-hating artist attitude – but I found myself actually feeling a little out of place with my entries, wondering if I’m not just embarrassing myself by putting my stuff on the table next to some of the amazing models on display.

Some that I would like to give a shout out to are Paul Stockley’s Spitfire Pilot and Soviet female tanker. The Spitfire Pilot won best in show, and between all the straps, clothing, skin and five o’clock shadow, is just an amazing exploration of texture. Kyle Maitland’s “Exit the Actress” showed some cool effects with lighting and setting the stage, plus she had pink hair, which is something I appreciate on miniatures. This pirate shark dude was nice and whimsical, and Philippe Godbout, who I travelled down with, packed a lot of neat lighting and shadow effects into a simple, practically mono-textured subject.

(note: Images taken from the Sword and Brush website, because one thing I learned at this show is that I really suck at photography)

Boudicca

While I had a number of entries in this show, my pièce de résistance (see! All those French classes are paying off already!) was Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni. Boudicca (or Boudica, or Boadicea, or Buddug, or…) is a British folk hero who lived in the 1st century AD who was queen of a Celtic tribe in East Anglia. To make a long story short, the Romans messed with her so naturally she raised an army of over 100,000 Celtic warriors, burned down London, and made Nero consider withdrawing the Romans from Britain before her catastrophic defeat. In short, she’s pretty badass.

The model is a 1/10 scale resin bust from FeR Miniatures, which comes in a few pieces which are not hard to put together for those who are experienced with resin models. The spear and the sword are a little fragile, and while the mold lines are mostly hidden, you may need to do a little work on the one on her right arm. Overall, the model has that great combination of interesting subject, nice sculpt, and wonderful detail on the hair that makes it a great choice.

As for the colour scheme, while I am normally too punk rock to stick to a studio scheme, in this case, I didn’t have much of a choice. Obviously, if one is to paint Boudicca, one has to start with “a great mass of the tawniest hair,” as Cassius Dio put it in her day. Also, since this is a bust, I have to put in some neat textures somewhere, which means some plaid pattern with a lot of green in it would offer both an interesting texture and some nice contrast to the red hair. A bit of blue war paint is, of course, both historically accurate and a good way to make her look tougher. Add an off-white tunic, and you basically have the studio scheme.

Of course, there is more to colour theory and composition than just picking out colours. There is light placement, shadow, and highlight to consider as well. Since she is turning her head off to one side, I chose a primary light source somewhere between the direction of her head and the direction of her body. As for shadow colours, I’ve been thinking a lot about them lately, inspired partly by some pieces I had seen in real life (including a really awesome bust at the Southern Ontario Open that gave me a run for my money for Best in Show), so I tried to incorporate cool, dark colours like Reaper’s Nightshade Purple and Coal Black in the deepest shadows – colours a little more interesting than black.

Painting time!

After assembly, my first step was to give the model a zenithal prime to get a good understanding of shadow and light placement and shoot some washes up into the shadows to tint the shadows blue on most of the model and purple on the cloak. Now, I work best by roughing in all the colours then refining them down into the final product. So, my next step was to lay in some base colours, using my airbrush on the skin and tunic and wet-blending on everything else. The goal here is not to get the smooth, uniform basecoat like Duncan of Games Workshop fame teaches, but to quickly and roughly lay out your colour scheme and work in shadows and highlights.

With the base colours laid in, it was time to take out the nice brushes to paint. I followed my usual procedure of reinforcing highlights, doing blending and glazing to smooth things out, and adding in details such as the eyes, the lips, and the sword. Particularly nerve-wracking was the addition of the blue war paint to the face – the model was so close to completion and I had spent so much time on the skin tones that it was sort of like when you do weathering over detailed freehand; one of those times where you need to get over your fear of ruining something you’ve worked hard on and just paint bravely. So, I’m glad I didn’t let fear get the better of me, because that war paint definitely makes her look tough and badass.

The plaid was a new one for me as well; I started by laying out the pattern, then doing a lot of cross-hatching with a 10/0 liner brush in dark colours to fill in the plaid. Then more cross-hatching. Then some stippling. And some more cross-hatching. And so on. After several layers of cross-hatching and a little stippling, both to get the effect I wanted and to cover up my initial lines to lay out the location of the plaid, I came away with something that I was happy with – something that not only had a plaid pattern, but also had a bit of a rough texture to it. The effect kind of faded out in the back and in the deepest shadows of the cloak which may look like I got lazy, but that was intentional – shadowed areas probably shouldn’t convey as much visual information as highlights. At least, that’s the story I’m sticking to.

As for that wonderous hair, it was a particular challenge and something that I thought was important to get right. I don’t have a lot of experience painting red hair, especially not at this scale. So, after doing some research, I decided that I would work up from Coal Black in the deepest shadows, into a deep crimson, then a rusty red, then up through some orangey ochres and Reaper’s Blonde hair, and into off-white top highlights. Overtop my wet blend, I layered in some highlights and did some dry brushing and washes to get started. But I was kind of struggling to get it to look right. Even as I went over the dry brushed areas and started painting in the highlights and manually putting them in with the brush, it wasn’t quite looking right. Where I hit the breakthrough was when I decided to kick up the highest highlight using P3’s Frostbite, a very light, desaturated blue which is a go-to colour for certain highly reflective surfaces.

The model was finished with a block of cherry wood for a plinth, and a sign printed off and painted over with inks and washes. So, with her completed, back to the show…

The Judging System

I’ve talked about judging systems before here, so if you want to get some background on this, I have a previous article here. Sword and Brush uses the Open System, where models are awarded a Gold, Silver or Bronze medal based on objective criteria, rather than in comparison to other models on the table.

Sword and Brush only has a few categories, and entrants are required to group all their entries within the same category together. While there is no restriction on the number of entries per category, entrants can only receive one award per category. Generally, this is awarded to your best piece, but if you have multiple entries and there is no standout piece in your collection so the judges can’t decide which of yours is the best, you may simply be awarded a medal for your collection as a whole.

To be honest, I think this is the best way of doing it. The open system fundamentally promotes a healthier attitude towards competition, but it gets critiqued for taking longer to judge and requiring more award purchases. By only judging an entrant’s best work in a category, you can cut down both time and award costs. And, of course, the “best of” awards are done in the traditional competitive style, for people who like the head to head competition.

The Awards Ceremony

So, in the first category, Historical Figures, I sat there, patiently waiting for my name to be called. Last year, I had won a couple silvers and was hoping to repeat that achievement. However, the sense of relief at not hearing my name called for a certificate or a bronze was quickly replaced with shock and excitement when I didn’t hear my name called for a silver either. With Boudicca, I had earned my first gold medal.

The rest of the awards ceremony was a little anti-climactic; I picked up three more silvers in fantasy, vehicles, and fantasy vehicles and a bronze for wargaming unit. I know it’s not good to place too much value on trophies and medals, but seeing all the insanely good models on the tables and taking home a gold made all that imposter syndrome from earlier disappear. While, obviously, I have a lot to learn, it is a nice feeling to know that I can at least mix it up with the best of ‘em and not totally embarrass myself.

Now I just need to figure out how to top that next year…

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Bonus Content: Red Haro Ball

I haven’t painted much red. It’s kind of a tricky colour, because it’s so intense it can be hard to fit it into a scheme, and because you need to really master your colour theory to highlight it and make it look good.

So, I decided to rectify that. I had this little Bandai Haro/Ball kit which was kind of cute, however it was a little frustrating because there were a lot of hollow areas that I had to fill and sand. I also added a little greeblification under the one slightly ajar hatch with some styrene and a couple guitar strings. So, after many different colours of primers, paints, and inks, I came up with this little guy, with a primary light source coming from the top front right, a secondary source from the top back left, and some green glow coming from the eyes. Fun little kit, aside from all the hollows on the arms.

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