CapCon 2017 — Craftsmanship on display

This past weekend I went to CapCon 2017, hosted by IPMS Ottawa, and held at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.  CapCon 2017 was a great collection of scale modellers, figure painters, and diorama builders.  There were categories and subcategories for pretty much everything, including cars, planes, tanks, ships and figures, and each entry was examined and judged by experts.

Since my PZL P.11 remains half-finished on the shelf, and I haven’t actually finished a scale model kit since I used to build model airplanes with all the enthusiasm and skill of my twelve year old self, I figured there might be some categories that my gaming pieces might be appropriate for.  Fantasy Figures (under 54mm) would be good for my infantry, and there was a category for Mecha & Robots, which I figured that a steam-powered warjack would fit quite nicely under.

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Uhlan Kovnik Markov

So, I decided to pack my figure case with five entries: three in fantasy figures (my headswapped version of the Greylord Forge Seer, Uhlan Kovnik Markov, and Olga Strakhov & her Kommandos), and two in Mecha & Robots (my Black Dragon Spriggan, as well as my Victor).  I went more with the intention of seeing what I could learn than trying to compete with others, as while it is nice to win, miniature painting and scale modelling are the sort of hobbies where the primary rewards are intrinsic — that little rush of endorphins you get when you finish up a model and place it on your shelf, the joy you get from levelling up your skills, and the pride you take in your own craftsmanship when you show them off are all more important than any plaque or trophy that you may receive for the final result.

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That’s MR. Some Space Marine Guy to you!

That said, I did pretty well for myself when it came to awards — In the Mecha & Robots category, Victor got 1st place and the Black Dragon Spriggan came in 3rd, despite being physically dwarfed by some of the much larger mechs on the table.  The fantasy figures category had some very stiff competition, including a very nice… some Space Marine guy, I don’t know, I don’t play Warhammer… on a plinth with a stained glass window behind him, and I was pleasantly surprised to bring home 3rd place with my Lady Forge Seer.

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Lady Forge Seer — my take on the Greylord Forge Seer

The venue was perfect.  Being held in the War Museum, it was possible to look at a model tank on the table, and literally turn around to see the 1:1 scale version.  Also, it provided attendees with an opportunity to take a break from the showroom floor and take a look at the museum, which was full of inspiration.  Things like pictures of trenchwork, nose art, and all the military vehicles on display really made the day complete.

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Seriously, dude, you should learn to use an airbrush to apply camo… that brushwork just looks sloppy.

There was also a great silent auction with something like 180 prizes.  Though I put in some bids on a Blohm + Voss BV141 and a Hanriot HD.1 (because I’m too much of a hipster to assemble and paint something normal like a P-51) as well as a couple of books, I didn’t come away with anything.  Which was probably for the best, given my current backlog.

Some of the other highlights for me were:

The craftsmanship in general.  The level of competition in some of these categories was pretty fierce, and there were many highly detailed models that just blew my mind.  Particularly in the naval section; all the little details and the rigging on those ships was very impressive.

IMG_2023.JPGThe Diorama section was great, and I found myself staring at them a lot, trying to see how they did certain things and what I can pick up from them for my basing or my future diorama projects.  In particular, there was one titled “Last Stand in Berlin” that showed a lot of figures engaged in very dynamic poses, shooting each other, whacking each other with shovels, that sort of thing.  As well, a Marder II in front of a half-collapsed Belgian building was incredibly detailed and gave me some ideas for rubble bases.  As well, some of the scale trenchwork was pretty nice, and since messing up Cygnaran trenchers is a theme of my army, some of the stuff on display gave me a lot of ideas.

IMG_2038.JPGThere was a very well-done P-51 with all the access panels open and plenty of weathering.  All the dirt and smoke and grime tarnishing the silver and covering the markings on this model made for a very realistic piece with a lot of visual interest.  It was my candidate for the people’s choice award, as I felt the visual interest generated by the all the soot and grime really went a long way in making it look less like a model and more like the real thing.

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The Irish Hurricane IIC

A couple of aircraft with unusual markings also stood out for me.  Because we’ve all seen the American Mustangs and the German -109s, I like seeing aircraft of that era either produced by relatively minor powers such as Poland or Romania, or marked in roundels that make you go “hmmmm, now what country is that?” (because again, I’m kind of a hipster).  There was an Irish Hawker Hurricane that was very well done, as well as a Latvian fighter (I think it was a Junkers D.I) from the immediate post-WWI era.

The weathering on the armour was also something that I can take some inspiration from.  I’m starting to do more and more weathering on my pieces, and one of the goals for me was to learn to get better at it, and I do think I got some ideas from staring at all the Panzers and Shermans on display.

And of course, figures.  As someone who is primarily a figure painter, and who is looking at getting into busts and larger scales, there were some pretty fine figures to take inspiration from.

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Did someone say “busts”?  Or “fine figures”?

But seriously, there were some amazing pieces on display, both fantasy and historical, and at some points, I had to remind myself that my stuff, while maybe not up to their level, is good enough to be on the table beside theirs.

All in all, CapCon 2017 was a blast.  I am going to try to get out to some more IPMS events locally, even if they require waking up early on weekends and heading to places with not-so-great bus access, something I’m typically loath to do.  I think there are things that miniature painters, gamers, and scale modellers can learn from each other, and it’s a pity that there isn’t that much crossover between these groups.  And maybe by the time CapCon 2019 rolls around, I will have finally finished that P.11… or maybe not, considering the kit is decades-old, was missing parts when I bought it, and I already bungled a few things on the assembly…

Black Dragon Spriggan Paintlog

So, in my efforts to bash out the backlog on my shelf of shame, I managed to finish off my Spriggan that had been sitting there since, well, since Spriggans were considered to be one of Khador’s best warjacks.

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For me, this model was a study in freehand and weathering.  I stuck to my usual purple and pink colour scheme with the autumnal colours in the basing.  To be honest, when I started, I didn’t think it would end up looking this good.

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I bought this model used, and had to strip some paint off, and of course, broke the spindly little arms off in the process and had to reconstruct them.  Then I primed it white and hit it with the purple base coat using an old Badger single-action airbrush.  My purple recipe is simply the Reaper Royal Purples triad of Nightshade (9022), Imperial (9023) and Amethyst (9014) purple, which with the right mixture of Vallejo airbrush thinner and flow improver, shoots through the brush pretty well.  Start with the darkest colour and work your way up, occasionally using a business card or a bit of silly putty for masking and to prevent overspray, and you’re in business.

Then it sat on the shelf for a year.

Of course, when I picked it back up, I noticed that there were a lot of issues with the model, as I had gotten a little better at painting in the meantime.  I had missed a lot of mold lines the first time around, and my first attempt at recreating the arms was not great.  There was some cleanup involved, but I didn’t want to have to respray the model, so I kept my cleaning to places where I was going to paint over anyways, or where I could easily conceal my scratching at it.

I also ripped off the arms to make it easier to paint and to redo the arms.  With a couple plasticard tubes, I managed to create a couple piston-looking things that could go over the brass rod underneath and which were a little beefier looking than the original arms that come in the box.

And then it was on to base coating.  I used mostly P3 and Vallejo Model Colour metallics to do the metal bits, and for the whites, I worked my up, with an undercoat of a medium gray, to Reaper’s Misty Grey (9090), which I find to be one of the most useful colours in my repertoire.  The pink on the lance and shield is also from Reaper; I used their HD Rosy Pink (29853) as an undercoat, Punk Rock Pink (09286) as a base, and Blush Pink (09262) for the highlight.  These are some very vibrant pinks, and have a home in many models in my army.

And then we have the freehand.img_1903.jpg

This is, in my opinion, the most impressive part of this model.  It catches the eye and, along with the weathering, is one component which goes beyond “here’s a model I painted” and really tells a story.  I’m not sure what to say about it; just having nice brushes, the right consistency of paint, and some reference material close by (in this case, a picture of the Black Dragons logo), and a single-colour freehand like this turns out to be less difficult than it looks.  I also freehanded the spiral on the lance, which wasn’t too hard, again, with the right brushes, right consistency, and a steady hand.

Washes add some depth to the model; I used Nuln Oil from GW for most of the wash, and added a little Druchii Violet for the brass bits.  It sounds funny, but I’ve found that a purple shade works really well on brass and gold because colour theory.  Being across the colour wheel from gold, purple shadows make the golden highlights really pop, or something like that.  I don’t know, I’ve never been to art school.  Highlight the metals back up, do a bit of edge highlighting, and we’re ready for weathering!

There were a few techniques I used for this weathering.  For the scratches, what I did was a line of dark colour in the scratch, with a line of highlight below, kind of like this Duncan video.  I also used the sponge technique, applying some dark silver like GW Leadbelcher or P3 Pig Iron using a leftover bit of some pluck foam.  Then I followed up with some P3 Umbral Umber overtop using the same technique.  Both GW’s Typhus Corrosion and Agrax Earthshade can create rust streaks, and Typhus Corrosion is also good for adding dirt and mud effects around the feet and legs of the jack and bottom of the shield, as well as sooty crud on the smokestacks.

When it comes to weathering, placement is key.  Remember how I mentioned earlier that last year’s me kind of slacked off on the mold lines?  Well, here is a nice way to cover that up without worrying about exactly matching the colour at that point on the smooth blend.  That scratch is supposed to be there; it’s weathering…

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Also, weathering tells a story.  I put a lot of weathering on the shield, for example, because it’s a shield.  Blocking blows is what it does, so it’s going to get beaten up.  Also, the lance is going to get scratched up as it penetrates the armour of a Cygnaran warjack, destroying its boiler and wrecking it.  A jack with a punchy fist is going to have scratches on the fist and on the forearm from punching.  Ideally, Khador jacks will have more damage on the front as they face down their foes rather than running away like cowards.  And so on.  I took a while to get into weathering because I like a “clean” look, but even a few scratches can really help the model go tell a story.

I have to admit though, it took a lot of courage to take this freehand that I spent a couple hours working on and which looks great and start randomly stippling crap on.  But in this case, once I got over the fear that I would ruin my wonderful freehand, I came up with something that is so much better and more visually interesting than it was before.  So, my one piece of advice would be to not fear the weathering.  Doing it well can really take things to the next level, and the worst that can happen is you end up repainting something, which in the grand scheme of things is no big deal.

And so, we get the final product.  It turned out a lot better than I anticipated when I started, and while there are some imperfections here and there, I’m very happy with it.  Now, to figure out who to take it with on the table.  Hmmmmmmm, perhaps Vlad1 for the anti-stealth in a rocket list, or maybe Kozlov once the Man-O-War theme comes out?