Sunday, August 30, 2015

A GenCon Tale Part 4: A Game of Tones

Is that the clarion call of brass trumpets?  The rattling rat-ta-tat-tat of drums and the marching stride of legions, all advancing onto the painting battlefield, ready to bleed their hues for a chance at miniature glory?!  

Yes it is!  And as the dust settles on the GenCon painting competition Saturday morning, we begin to see how the battle shook out the night before.  The judges have deliberated over nearly a hundred entries Friday night, and as the morning sun rises, the promise of their verdict looms in the air.  But who will be crowned the King or Queen of the seven painting categories that make up GenCon's miniature hobby events?  Only time will tell, so read on! 

Saturday and day four of the Con!  What a day, and as we pick up where we left off in Part 3 of our GenCon series, the promise made for more miniature goodness will not go unfulfilled.  

In Donovan's post he wrote last Wednesday, he mentioned that we failed to secure a spot in most of the events we wanted to attend.  What he failed to mention was that we did make it into one event, and it was one I was looking forward to with great anticipation.  Despite all odds we both secured a spot in the non-metallic metal course, hosted by none other than...

Miniature hobby's very own painting goddess, Marike Reimer!  

For all of you who are not familiar with her work, take a moment to browse her site or make a quick google search.  Yeah, she's really that good.  Other than creating painted miniatures, she can even pull of pleather halter tops... so we knew we were certainly in for one awesome painting class!  

And in that we were not disappointed.

Donovan, myself, and about a dozen others clustered around a pair of tables to eagerly soak up the wisdom being offered from one of the industry's best.  The whole scene reminded me of this (though thankfully no one was crucified the next day).

The class was to teach us the fundamentals of light theory and how it interacts with reflective metal surfaces.  In short:

For those looking for a synopsis of the technique we learned, I hate to disappoint, but that's a story for another day.  The experience of the class itself is tale enough, and all we have time for in this week's post.  And what an experience it was!

Marike maps out her projects in a scrapbook journal, testing the color palettes she would like to use, all of this done before even one drop of paint ever touches the miniature.  Flipping through her journal felt like flipping through a wizard's grimoire, filled with arcane knowledge and painting power!

She also passed around some of the iconic pieces that have become her trademarks.  Seeing these exquisite miniatures up close is a real treat.

The fading of the sheer fabric to where it bunches at this miniature's ankles is incredible, combine that with subtle embroidery and this truly is an amazing piece.

Do you paint individual hairs complete with their own highlights on your mounts?  Yeah...  

There is so much on this miniature to enjoy: the freehand on her cloak, the masterful shading; it's proof positive why Marike is amongst the masters of the craft.  The patience alone to put that many hours into a mini is formidable.


Of course, we were treated to personal instruction from Marike herself, while she worked on a primed white mini.  She discussed at length how to build from dark hues to the highest highlight that made up the metal plate's shine painted pale sand (see the process pics near the top).

Along with her journal and actual minis, she also had photo copies of some of her pieces on hand and explained how light sources, both ambient and source, reflect on the metal and affect its coloration.  The quote of the day was, "does gold reflect blue light?  Of course it does!  It reflects whatever light that shines on it.  Whoever says otherwise is full of phooey!"  (Phooey may or may not been the word of choice, one month on and my memory is a bit hazy about these details)

All in all, the NMM class with Marike was informative, inspiring, and a little disheartening.  Seeing such amazing work up close puts it in perspective and it appears more attainable, but when you take another look, you find yourself saying things like, "my god, that blend is so smooth," or "how did she make that detail so small, so precise."  

All kidding aside, it was an excellent class and $20 well spent.  A very big thank you to Marike for teaching the class and sharing some of her great knowledge and talent with us!

With the NMM class under our belts it was time to stretch our legs, roam the halls, and check up on a couple of GenCon staples that grow over the weekend... and both of which are destined for destruction by Saturday night.  Muhahahaha!

I'm speaking of Cardhala and the balloon monster of course.  You might remember the challenge I posed in part 1, to guess what the balloon monster would ultimately become.  When I first saw it, I went with elder horror (a safe guess for a jumble of ambiguous appendages, but a rather poor one as last year's monster was Cthulhu itself).

Hey Donny, pose in front of Cardhalla, it's tradition!

The monster turned out to be a giant octopus!  Sushi was served later that night when both the balloon monster and Cardhalla were summarily destroyed (proof positive that at the heart of every gamer there indeed lies a dark seed of bloodletting and destruction).

Oh hey, a band!  Neato!

Oh hey, Boba Fett!  Even better! 

Even more costumed individuals... that must mean...

It's time for the GenCon cosplay parade!

We would be remiss not to mention the obligatory dalek..

Jedi school is out for the summer, so a whole flock of padiwans were in attendance, waving their sabers in an appallingly unsafe display of intergalactic theatrics...

And then there was this interesting post-apocalyptic wolf-thing, which would tap on its wrist and then a pleasing female voice would sally forth with a witticism or greeting from its voice box.

Even a mighty Grey Knight was in attendance with adeptus mechanicus and vindicare assassin backup!

Don't... look... him... in the eye...

For when you need your target dead-dead, a gun the size of your body should do the trick.

For the sure feeling that I will offend someone, I'm just not even going to go there... pass...

Escaping the tide of costumed congoers, Donovan returned to the miniature painting room to throw down his speed painting gauntlet in the 45 minute challenge.

Though playing nice now, those running the competition take it upon themselves to heckle and cajole participants with shouts of, "paint faster!" and, "I want to see lighting effects!!"  They really are cruel overlords.

And from the fray, Donovan arose victorious, taking second place!

That's too jovial, Donny!  Act serious!

Much better...

About this time the MHE results were posted, so with baited breath, Donovan and I headed over to take a look.  Now, granted that I spent only a couple of weekends to paint my entry, I didn't have high hopes, so when I saw my name listed at seventh place I was pretty pleased!

Next up was Donovan's results...

Donovan picked up a tenth place finish!  Not too shabby for grabbing a diorama off his shelf five minutes before we left...

We'll fast forward to Sunday as Donovan competes in the final of the Wyrd speed paint he qualified for with his second place finish the day prior.

Just look at the concentration!  The skill!

And he was rewarded with a third place finish, owing to his tactical use of blue fire and tasteful application of painted daisies on the base.  Nice work Donovan!

Gaining two $35 models, paints, and accessories for his troubles, Donovan summed it up succinctly when it was all over, "not bad walking away with over $100 worth of stuff for two generic tickets [$4]."  True that, Donny, true that.

That wraps up Saturday at GenCon, where we benefited from the instruction of a living legend in the industry, saw a slew of amazing cosplayers, and took home some hobby hardware.  We wrap things up next time with Part 5: Return of the Geeks!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

DLBlog 2: GenCon 2015 The Other Story

My first trip to GenCon was last year with Matt. We finally made the decision to attend late into summer, and by that time any event that didn't accommodate hundreds of people (none of which I was interested in) was completely booked. So most of my time was spend in the vendor hall, which was a perfectly good experience for me. I had only recently gotten into the miniatures and board gaming hobby and everything I saw was new, interesting, and shiny; it was a total blast. On the drive home from Indianapolis we had already decided to attend the next year.

Flash forward to 2015. We procrastinated with our hotel reservations so we didn't get a room within walking distance of the main event, but we were ready at our computers when it came time to sign up for events. We each had about a half dozen events on our wishlists and clicked 'Submit' the second it let us. About 45 minutes later, after entering the line about 4000 spots back, I ended up getting just one of the events I was excited about attending.

Well, that was disappointing. Down 3 of the 4 painting tutorial classes I was most excited about (airbrush class with Angel Giraldez, freehand class by Marike Reimer, and a true metallic metal class) and the True Dungeon Matt and I wanted to try, I was in the same situation as last year through no fault of my own. No worries, I'd hang out around the vendor hall again where I had so much fun last time.

This year I also brought along one of my miniature dioramas. It wasn't specifically built for GenCon (but for an online contest earlier in the year) but it was decent enough that I wasn't ashamed to enter it into a big contest.
It ended up placing in the Bronze category, which I was pretty pleased with considering my time invested.

'Professional' pic of my entry
Entry in the final Bronze category. Got me a pin!
After entering in the painting contest, I had all the time in the world to explore the Con; Three entire days to wander the halls. With just the single painting event and not being one to nose my way into open gameplay scattered throughout the con, the vendor hall was my spot. But, different than last year, I wasn't a newbie to the scene and wasn't going into this wide eyed and inexperienced. I frequently watch preview videos and reviews of new games and keep up with gaming news. I knew what I was interested in and where to find it so I quickly picked up the games and miniatures I wanted and skipped by those that didn't interest me. A few games I was on the fence about and wanted to try them out, but hovering around demo tables for up to an hour while the current group wrapped up wasn't my idea of a fun time. So back to wandering it was.

After about a day and a half I had seen all I initially wanted to see. Luckily, after meeting up with Matt between his MtG events, we spent time in Artist's Alley where I had never paid much interest before. There is some really amazing artwork to be had and I picked up a few pieces by NEN which are by far my favorite buys from the con.

NEN's booth
Amazing Harley Quinn and Daenerys Targaryen watercolors by NEN
The rest of my time was spent between looking for gifts for others, lounging in the auction hall (where I bid on some Harry Potter memorabilia that quickly shot out of my price range) and some last minute entries into speed painting competitions.

This was my first time entering any kind of speed painting event. if you're not familiar with the concept, you typically have 45 minutes to paint a surprise mini to the best of your abilities with just a crappy brush and a limited range of paint colors. This is where I had the most fun of the entire con, in part due to being not placing too shabbily in most of them.

Dark Sword, Wyrd part 1, and Wyrd finalist speed painting minis
The first mini is from a Dark Sword competition. I didn't place in that one but did come away with a pretty cool mini. Second is a Wyrd Rail Golem. A $35 mini, not bad for the $2 entry fee. This is a huge model, so it was a challenge to base coat the whole thing evenly, let alone focus on details. Went for a bronze color with oxidation effects, red glow from the boiler vents (disappointed in how those turned out) and a blue base, as I paint the rim on all my Malifaux minis according to their faction (much to the chagrin of Matt). Painting the base last also leads to the judges getting their grubby mitts also over it, hence the terrible splotchy look. I placed 2nd with this mini which qualified me for the Wyrd championships.

Dark Sword judging

Wyrd round 1 judging
The third mini is an alternate sculpt of Kaeris, also from the Malifaux line. This was a limited edition mini, another $35 freebie, this time for no entry fee! Same brass w/ oxidation for the wings, and a purple cloak and brown pants. To make it hopefully stand out from the rest of the pack I did a blue fire effect rather than red/orange, pink streaks in the hair, and some color splotches on the base that look like grass and flowers if you squint hard enough. Got third place and scored a Games & Gears brush set and some Wyrd plastic lampposts. Quite a haul for the measly entry fees and quite a boost to my painting self esteem as well. I considered stripping the models down and painting them a bit better, I decided to keep them as is to commemorate the experience.

Wyrd finalist lineup
At the end of the con I came home with an armful of Malifaux stuff (my preferred skirmish game and miniatures-for-painting line), some art pieces, the speed painting haul, and Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn (excellent card game I was able to demo).

Overall I had a great time at the Con, but I'm not sure if I'd like to attend again. Not getting into my preferred events left a bad taste in my mouth right off the bat. When 60,000+ attend this thing its understandable, but its grown a bit too large for what I'm most interested in doing. By keeping up with board game releases throughout the year the vendor hall isn't as exciting as it used to be. With the speed painting events being by far my favorite thing I've done at the con, and my hobby interests shifting more from playing to painting, I plan on looking into different conventions that focus more on the hobby aspect. Adepticon or ReaperCon may be on my radar for next year.

Bonus! Things I forgot to talk about during my first memory dump:

Fantasy Flight In-Flight Report. Sweet to be the first in the know about their new releases!

Dice Tower Live Podcast
My favorite of the cosplay parade. Guy dressed up as the buff 'Shame!' nun from Game of Thrones. Ringing his bell and shouting "Shame!' the entire time. Brilliant!
Some shiny uncut Magic cards. Always cool to see.

Stay tuned for next time (shooting for every Wed) where I'll chat about what's on my painting bench, some laser cut wood hobby organizers I've begun using, and a cool pickup I scored while at the Lake of the Ozarks!
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