Reporting back from Torcan 2019

This past weekend was Torcan 2019, a large model show held in Brampton by Peel Scale Modelers. In terms of scale model shows, I would consider this to be one of the big three in the region. It’s not quite as big as HeritageCon or CapCon, and doesn’t have the same really cool venue as these other two, but it’s still a large show that is definitely worth the trip.

It was a long drive, and, after consuming more peameal bacon than I have ever seen in one place before in Oshawa, I made it to the show around 10:00. Parking was a challenge at the venue, but I managed to find a spot at a school next door. This proved to be problematic at the end of the day, when I had to run through torrential rain to retrieve my vehicle. Fortunately, I had the foresight to bring one more change of clothes than I thought I would need and I was able to dry myself off a little, so it wasn’t too bad.

The vendor hall was well stocked; it was basically a hockey rink with four rows of tables running the length of the rink. There were plenty of dealers selling models, as well as a few selling tools, shirts, and other modelling accessories. Since it was mostly focused on the traditional stuff and I’m trying to be good, I didn’t buy any models, however I did stop by the vendor that had all the Green Stuff World and Flex-i-file products and picked up the third set of GSW colour shift paints and the Goodman Models super sanding blocks.

I also liked how they did the awards ceremonies. During the show, they snapped photos of the models and quickly put pictures of the winners and a listing of the top three into the powerpoint presentation. While reading the judges’ handwriting was clearly the weak link in this process, it made the awards ceremonies a lot more entertaining when you get that visual reminder of the cool models on the table and get to see the winners again.

One thing that I did really appreciate was the growth in the figures category from last year. Competition was much fiercer, both in terms of the number of models on the table and the quality. There were about 45 entries, with particularly tough competition in busts and sci-fi/fantasy. With somewhere around 430 entries, figures represented 10% of the models on the table, which is actually pretty good as these sorts of shows are traditionally dominated by the three A’s – aircraft, armour, and automotive. Quality was also up there this year, with some very accomplished painters entering and a large portion of the models on the table being what I would consider to be seriously competitive.

I think the simplest way to illustrate my point would be to note that my entries this year were a lot better than my entries last year, but I didn’t take home as many shiny gold medals. While I was debating for a while whether to make the drive or not this year, the increase in participation in the figures category has really pushed this show from a maybe into an annual thing for me.

Things that caught my eye

Of course, there were a number of models in the show that caught my eye and deserve special attention. Starting with the juniors, there was one kid who was clearly a natural at car modelling; according to the sheet, this Chevy Nova with the yellow to black fade was his first model.

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In figures, this Cap’n Sapo bust beat me out for gold in the busts category, and took home best figure. It was a neat mix of texture, with the frog skin, leather, eyeballs, and a little bit of armour plate on the shoulders creating some nice contrast across the model, and all of these textures were rendered masterfully. It also bore an unfortunate resemblance to a certain popular nazi meme, but I’m assuming that was just a coincidence.

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In sci-fi, there was a really neat looking dieselpunk spacecraft thing. It was cool, it was yellow, and according to the sheet, it was all scratchbuilt. Which was awesome.

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The Nuka Cola building was my vote for the people’s choice award. Though it had no figures and no vehicles, it was very detailed and evocative of the world of Fallout. Or what I imagine the world of Fallout to be; my only real experience with Fallout is watching The Final Pam on Monster Factory.

I wasn’t the only person who did a Bf.109B. Someone also did one, using an older kit from a different manufacturer and painting it up in the more traditional colour scheme of the fascist forces in Spain.

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It’s often hard for me to pick out what stands out in the world of armour because tanks tend to be not very colourful and often splattered with the same colours of mud and dirt. But for my money, the little SU-18 assault gun, which looks like a 76mm gun slapped on an FT-17 tank, was just a neat subject and was very well done.

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For the Gundams, I spent a lot of time staring at a fellow club member’s ball. This extensively modified MG ball kit was painted with inspiration from the Watchmen, and was a great illustration of how far you can take a gundam kit with realistic weathering, battle damage, etc.

Finally, in space and sci fi, I saw someone brought one of those Warhammer 40K walkers. I don’t remember how well it did, but I just thought it was nice to see some stuff from the Warhammer universe on the tables, even if 90% of the models from 40K aren’t really my jam.

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Results

I think before I get into this section, it is important to note that these contests aren’t just about who brings home the hardware, and that sort of overly competitive mentality is something that we all need to consciously avoid in order to keep our hobby fun and welcoming.

That said, even though the competition in figures was a lot more intense this year, I still did fairly well. I took Silver and Bronze in the busts category, with Amy Johnson and Nancy Steelpunch, respectively, losing out to the aforementioned Cap’n Sapo and pushing my Sorscha bust out of the top three. In the regular sci-fi/fantasy category, little Sorscha won me a gold, edging out some sort of space marine. Further, I took home the theme award for figures, with Nancy representing the best “Bent, Broken and Wounded” model with her steampunk mechano-hand.

In the non-figure categories, my Spanish Republican captured Bf.109 took home a silver in the Out Of Box category, losing out to a fellow IPMS Ottawa member’s MiG-31. This was actually the entry that I was most interested in because I was curious as to what the reaction would be. It is very much an illustration of what happens when a figure painter tries out aircraft and very much outside of the predominant style for model aircraft.

My two Gundam entries, my Ball and my SD, also won golds in their categories. Again, these aren’t in the traditional style of gunpla builders, being simple, out of the box kits that were competently assembled, but with a lot of effort focused on the interaction of light and shadow and freehand painting, whereas most gunpla competitons heavily weigh modifications, kitbashing, and flashy LED lighting. However, the painting must have impressed the judges, because they both won their categories.

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For those of you keeping score, Ottawa balls actually did pretty well in the Gundam section, with two balls made by Gunpla Ottawa members winning their categories, and the other one winning best overall in the Gundam division.

Finally, I had some extra room in my case, and remembered someone brought an entire 15mm Roman army last year, so I decided to drag some pieces from my Khador and Cygnar warmachine armies to enter into the collections, and came away with a silver and a bronze, respectively.

I also did fairly well in the raffle department, coming home with a Tamiya motorcycle kit and a couple small ships. Neither of these are the sort of things that I would have actually bought given the option, however I think they will both make for interesting challenges in the future.

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Just so long as I don’t have to buy any 1:700 scale photoetch.

(for another review of the show, check out ModelAirplaneMaker’s report here)

Bonus: random photodump of cool models!

 

Three thoughts on judging

As mentioned in previous articles, I had made it to a few model shows over the past several months. At these shows, people bring their models and place them on display on the table next to other models in the same category to be ogled at by mere mortals and judged by volunteers for awards. Categories vary across all different types of models, from fantasy figures to historical aircraft and everything in between, and can be either fairly general such as “Historical Figures” or as specific as “1/72 Single-prop Inline-engined WWII Axis aircraft.” Judges then decide on first, second and third place in each category. There are some variants to the rules such as whether one person is allowed to sweep the category, scoring first, second and third. And of course, there are pages upon pages of rules.

Generally, judges are instructed to be fair and focus on objective criteria like fit and finish, alignment, etc., rather than whether the model has the proper number of rivets on the glacis plate for the late war model. Also, scope of work is a secondary factor to technical competence, so someone who went above and beyond in converting, scratchbuilding, and doing a complicated paint job will only really help them if they did a really good job of it. Finally, judges are also generally told to ignore bases and the like, except for dioramas, which is fair – people who build armour want to build armour and be judged on the quality of their builds, not on their base.

Anyways, I’ve got three thoughts on judging in the context of the IPMS 1-2-3 system.

  1. Judging will always be a little arbitrary

judy.jpgSo, I’ve taken mostly the same models to a couple shows (my theory being they’re good for a season or until they no longer represent my current skill level) and have noticed something interesting. In one show, Nancy Steelpunch was my highest placing model, while in another, she was beaten out by Laril Silverhand.

I’m not complaining here, but I think this is an example of the limits to how finely we can objectively judge a model. There is always going to be a little bit of subjectivity in the judging process. Different judges will spot different things that they like and dislike about a model. Some may be more lenient on certain flaws and harsher on others. Finally, some (probably most) people may just have an unconscious bias towards certain subjects or colour choices, and a first impression can go a long way. On the two teams I ended up judging with, there wasn’t always agreement right away. That doesn’t take away from the accomplishment of anyone who is skilled and lucky enough to come away with an award, but it means that people shouldn’t get bent out of shape if they don’t do as well as they expected.

  1. How well you do depends on who else shows up

At HeritageCon, the busts section was extremely competitive. There were something like 20 busts on the table, and all but a couple were really good and likely in contention for at least the top three. In part because of the intense competition, and in part because I have no idea how to paint feathers, I didn’t place. Contrast that to Torcan, where there were only a couple busts on the table and my (slightly fixed up) Mary Read edged them out to take home first place.

Now, there are pros and cons to competitive judging systems like the IPMS 1st, 2nd, 3rd, versus the open judging where you are judged against a set criteria and receive whatever award corresponds to the level of skill on display. However, one of the properties of the 1-2-3 judging system is that it isn’t an objective standard that you can measure yourself by because you end up in direct competition with your fellow modellers and painters. As such, the exact same models may get you either showered with medals or going home empty-handed based on who shows up. And that’s without even getting into the possibility of different models being placed in different categories.

Again, this isn’t to say that people who won a sparsely-entered category didn’t deserve it. However, this is the sort of hobby where while there is some competition and it gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling to be recognized, at the end of the day, we do it for ourselves. If you’re happy with what you made, there is no shame in coming home empty-handed because someone like Sergo Calvo Rubio or Kirill Kanaev decided to show up.

  1. Volunteer to be a judge

Often at these shows, they are looking for people to judge. I know there is the stereotype of a model show judge as a nit-picking rivet counter, so it can be a little awkward at times – especially when you have to judge models that are better than anything you can do. While judges sometimes do have to go down to tiny details and flaws in order to separate the first, second and third from each other and from the rest, it’s not quite that bad and judging can actually be quite enjoyable.

First, spending an hour or two staring at models in detail together is a great way to meet new people. Doing some judging can help break up a long day, as there is only so much to do at these shows once you’ve looked at all the models seven times and lightened your wallet at the vendor tables. Also, since we learn a lot in this hobby by making mistakes, being a judge gives you the opportunity to learn from mistakes without making them yourself. Finally, you might get a free lunch or something out of the deal, so bonus.

Just make sure you know how many rivets are on the glacis plate of a late-war model.

May 2018 – Model Show Update

One of the advantages Ottawa has over Winnipeg is the fact that there are other major cities within less than an eight hour drive. As you’re not completely surrounded by hundreds of miles of wheat and canola, you can actually do day trips to other cities and attend events put on by other clubs. The month of May was a busy one with a number of clubs within not too long of a drive putting on model shows. In addition to the first local Gunpla group’s first contest (which I won first place in with my Zaku), I managed to make it to two model shows, the IPMS Montreal’s gala and Torcan, put on by Peel Scale Modellers.

IMG_0314.JPGMontreal was a fairly small show, with probably somewhere a little under entries. I did well with my figures and Gundam; they didn’t allow sweeps but I won first and second in fantasy figures, and was the only entry in busts so I won by default. There were only two Gundam entries; mine won first, but the second-place was a nicely assembled Real Grade Zaku of some sort reaching out to pick someone up from a busted up concrete shell of the corner of a building.

The really nice thing about the Montreal show, however, were the two presentations they put on by local modellers. Laurie Norman did a presentation on figure painting, including fantasy creatures like dragons. I think a lot of people managed to get a lot out of it, because painting figures is one thing that a lot of scale modellers feel intimidated by, and a lot of armour builders struggle with. Her session also reminded me that I’ve never actually done a dragon, and maybe I should try something like that sometime (hello, Reaper Bones…). Xiao Yang, who is an excellent naval modeller and won best in show at CapCon last year, did one on rigging ships which was very informative. I know I took away an important lesson from it, which is “don’t build anything that requires rigging.”

Highlights

At Montreal, there was the usual smattering and some interesting subjects, including a Saturn V that had me clenching my buttocks as it swayed back and forth on the table as people walked by. The highlights for me, however, were the dioramas. That, and a big CN semi tractor-trailer. Automotive isn’t usually my thing, and less so big industrial vehicles, but this was impressive in the finish, the scale, and the detail that went into the sleeper cab underneath a removable roof.

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Note the roof on the base next to the truck; it is removable

As mentioned, there were a number of dioramas with a number of focuses, including aircraft, armour, and civilian vehicles. They were all great, but here’s a couple standouts.

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Torcan

Torcan was a larger show, with almost 500 models on the tables. Again, these were spread out over all categories and had a nice mix of aircraft, armour, ships, etc., with a strong space and sci-fi section. I had a really good day at the awards ceremony, probably my best to date, sweeping the Fantasy Figures category, winning first place in Busts, Humour, and one of the Gundam categories, snagging third with my old Victor in the other mecha, and winning the Best Overall Figure with my Dana Murphy. So, overall, one sweep, as well as three other firsts and a third, and a Best Of award – quite the haul. The rest of the Ottawa crew also did well at the awards table, snagging about thirty awards across all the categories including one other sweep.

For some video coverage, check out this link.

Again, there were a lot of great models and dioramas on display. I didn’t get a lot of photos, but I managed to get pictures of a few that caught my eye, including the following.

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This egg tank was one of my favourites in the show because of the weathering. I just loved the use of that purple; it adds so much dynamism to the colour and really makes this piece stand out. The one criticism I have of it, though, is that it’s a shame that the builder didn’t carry some of the weathering over onto the decals. Seeing beautifully weathered pieces with pristine markings is one of my little pet peeves, but apart from that, this was a great example of taking an egg kit and running with it, and using interesting colours to create fascinating colour variation.

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This Lanchester armoured car was a unique subject, and in my opinion, it was a great use of colour modulation to highlight it. I know there is a debate over how much colour modulation to use, particularly among historical modellers, but as someone who started out in tabletop gaming, I’m a fan of it and I think this is an example of an appropriate application of the technique for a historical subject that really helps make it pop.

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Without getting too political, this diorama, titled “Happiness” was not only well done, but I felt that the portrayal of the triumph over Nazism and the end of the war is a refreshing alternative to a lot of what we see on the tables, and sadly poignant in 2018. But I like the hope that this diorama shows, as the nightmare of Nazism and war is finally over for this town and for the people in this scene.

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The Throne of Sprues was a humourous touch, as were the wedding cake columns on this base, but the weathering on these gundams were top-notch.

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Finally, someone brought a collection of Roman miniatures in what looked like 15 or 20mm scale. They were nicely done, and represent a scale that is just a little too small for me, so I have to give a shout out to my fellow wargamer for bringing these in.

I didn’t get a picture of everything that caught my eye, such as the 1/2 scale BB8 from Star Wars complete with lights and sound, or the historical crusader figure that I would assume really gave me a run for my money in the best figure award, but there are some photos and videos kicking around on facebook and the broader interent that one can probably find with a little looking.

Conclusion

If you have the opportunity to go to one of these model shows, do it. You will see a lot of fascinating models, and learn a lot just by looking at how people did their stuff. Better yet, bring some of your stuff. Even if it doesn’t win, you can get some valuable feedback and meet some new and interesting people, which is more important than any piece of hardware you might bring home.

Not that bringing home some hardware isn’t nice…

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