So you want to go to a model show…

With CapCon 2019 coming up, and with model shows being popular this time of year, I thought it would be a good idea to write a little article about what to expect if it is your first time going to a model show.

Do you want to compete?

While competition is generally a big part of these shows, you can have a lot of fun just spending the day looking at cool models. These competitions can be organized in a number of ways, and if you want to enter into the competition, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

If you want to have a serious shot at winning a medal, you need to do your best work. Take your time and do it right, fixing any mold lines, nub marks, and other imperfections. Also, make sure you get your alignment right if you are building any sort of vehicle where things are supposed to be straight and level. Work on your finish, and make sure any paint and decals don’t have any glaring flaws. These are the sort of basic things that separate the contenders from the also-rans. Finally, don’t rush your build; that can be a recipe for disaster.

If your model doesn’t live up to this high standard and you don’t feel it is competitive with your peers… enter it anyways! There is nothing wrong with putting a model on the table, even if you don’t really have a chance. Never feel like your stuff isn’t competition-worthy. People go to model shows to look at models, and anything looks better than an empty tablecloth. No one should ever make you feel bad because your model isn’t up to their standards.

Read the rules

Most rules are pretty straightforward, but giving them a quick read can help prevent any unnecessary conflict. Don’t put the contest organizers in an awkward position by bringing in something that violates the rules; forcing them to make a decision on whether to stick to the rules or give you an exception because you lugged your models out and they don’t want to upset you isn’t fair. Also, figure out what categories your entries go into in advance. If you have unusually large models or displays, give the organizers a heads up in advance so they don’t struggle to accommodate them on the day of the show. Finally, if you want to compete, reading the rules can help you understand what judges are looking for.

Prepare in advance

So, you have your models built and your schedule cleared. Now, it’s time to make a couple preparations before the day of the show. If you are bringing models, a few days before the show, figure out how you are going to get your models there. Transporting models can be difficult because they can be very delicate, and there will always be people who make it to the model show only to find that a little piece has broken off. Do a little research into model transport solutions. If your models are firmly attached to a base, it can be a lot easier as you can simply stick the base to the bottom of a big tub with magnets or some sort of temporary adhesive. If not, then you have to improvise with things like foam and homemade jigs to hold them in place in the box so they don’t rattle around. Regardless, by packing your models a few days in advance, you can ensure that you have time to arrange smooth transportation to and from the venue.

Also, most shows have entry forms available online in the form of fillable pdf files. Download them, fill them out, and print them in advance. This will help smooth your registration process and give you more time to enjoy the show as you aren’t wasting time filling out forms or trying to figure out which category your models go into. It also helps the show organizers because judges aren’t subjected to the poor handwriting of the entrants. If you can also pre-register or pre-pay, that will save you some time on the day of the show.

Aside from your models and your entry forms, it is a good idea to bring an empty cloth shopping bag or two to make it easier to carry any purchases, raffle prizes, or trophies you are taking home. Also, bring cash. A lot of vendors, silent auctions, and raffles will be cash-only, and not all shows will have an ATM on site. Or, in the case of one show I went to, the ATM might run out of cash partway through the show, which, while a good omen for the vendors, may be frustrating if you need to refuel before another trip around the vendor hall.

Finally, make sure you keep yourself well-fed. Your stomach can seriously affect your mood, and not all shows have great options for food on-site. If you can grab a decent breakfast before the show, that could help keep your energy level up. Consider packing a lunch (or even just some granola bars and a couple pieces of fruit if you are going for a “big breakfast, small lunch” strategy), or research nearby restaurants so you aren’t scrambling to figure it out when your stomach starts grumbling.

The show

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Image shamelessly stolen from HeritageCon

So, you’ve made it to the show, boxes of models in tow. Your first order of business is to head to the registration table and get yourself all squared away with the show organizers. From there, if you brought models, head down to the main exhibition area and plunk them down on the tables. The tables will be organized by category and will generally have pretty clear signage, so make sure you put them in the right spot.

From there, there are going to be two main attractions: the exhibition and the vendors. Feel free to explore both of these at your own pace, but keep in mind that some shows close the exhibition hall for judging, so if you want to take a close look at the models, do that before and after the judging. If you’re in the exhibition hall, take a look around and admire all the work on display. See if there are any new techniques you can learn from the models on display, as taking a close look at a model and trying to figure out how the builder did something is a good source of inspiration. Admire the handiwork on display, but don’t get too worried if someone plunks down an absolutely amazing model in the same category as yours. And if you do see someone do that… complement his model and try to strike up a conversation.

Also, don’t just focus on the categories you like. Take your time and look at all the models on the table. This can help broaden your horizons and maybe pique some interest in subjects you might not think of. What’s the worst that could happen; you could find out that you think gundams are cool?

The vendor hall can offer some good deals on model kits, tools and accessories. A lot of the time, particularly if it is getting later in the day, the vendors don’t really want to pack stuff up again, so feel free to do a little wheeling and dealing with some of the smaller vendors that are just a guy selling his collection. Also, if there are raffles or silent auctions, that can be a source of cheap kits and the like.

Competition

In model competitions, it is vitally important to keep things in perspective. Be humble in victory and gracious in defeat. By entering into the contest, you have agreed to accept the judge’s decisions, so no grumbling about which model should have won. No one likes a sore loser, and being a sore winner is even worse.

If you have a competitive personality, take some time the morning of the show and before the awards ceremony to get into the right headspace. Remember that in the grand scheme of things, awards don’t matter and in a 123 system, they are as much a measure of who else showed up that day as they are a measure of your objective skill. Expect to win nothing, and be pleasantly surprised when you do hear your name called at the awards ceremony. The worst thing you can do is get your self-worth all tangled up in awards and trophies; that way leads to ruin.

I think it is important to keep three things in mind at these shows:

  1. Everyone who is proud enough of their work to show it off at a contest is a winner. Period.
  2. Finding inspiration on the tables is more valuable than any plaque or medal.
  3. The real prizes are the friends you make along the way.

Conclusions

Model shows are a great way to spend a day, and if you play your cards right, you can go home with some sweet deals on model kits, inspiration for your next build, and some new friends. Don’t worry about whether you win or lose, but be happy and humble if you take home some hardware.

Bonus Content: King & Country Russians

A friend had some King & Country collectible figures that got banged up in shipping. They were pretty gnarly, with two broken barrels and numerous chips and scratches. So, I took it upon myself to volunteer to “restore” them. And by “restore” I mean drop them in acetone and repaint them how I want. I scratchbuilt a couple replacement barrels, hit them with Stynylrez, and got to painting. I airbrushed a base coat of green, and followed that up with some additional brushwork to bring up the highlights. Everything else was done by brush, and the metallics were done after the last layer of varnish just to keep them nice and shiny. The faces were a little tricky and didn’t turn out great because the sculpts were kind of dated and beat up, but the owner was happy with how they turned out.

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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