Tuesday, 26 July 2005

Painting competitions at conventions

It is going to be difficult to avoid this entry coming over as me snivelling and bemoaning the fact that I don't win as consistently anymore as before on the Crisis painting competition, and there is certainly an element of that involved (though not, by far, the only reason for this), so I'm stating this upfront. You have been warned.

The idea for this post has been sparked by a [thread on TMP](http://theminiaturespage.com/boards/msg.mv?id=49123), and more specifically this bit in a post halfway down the thread:

Let's face it, Joe Gamer who painted up a nice general for his army isn't going to win against some pro painted masterpeice which was never meant to see the gaming table and is probably too fragile to survive the battle anyway. If only the professionals can win, why bother having a comptetion open to the public?

I couldn't agree more. Not so much about the why have a competition bit, but I can understand the poster when he says that this particular painting competition (or more generally, the ones he comes in contact with) seems to have changed character from a gamer oriented comp to a painter oriented competition. I have seen what I think is the same evolution in the painting competition at the Crisis convention over the years.

First, a small bit of exposition on miniature painting: there are those, such as myself, who are miniature wargamers that want to paint their figures to a good standard, but still game with said figures and thus do not spend a lot of time per figure painting it, in order to get an army on table in a non geological time frame. A second class of miniature painters are the ones the poster above refers to as 'professionals' (a slightly inaccurate term, but adequate for the purpose of this entry) whose hobby is painting miniatures, not gaming with them. For these painters, the painting itself is the hobby and they don't mind spending the extra (tens or even hundreds of) hours to do a really smasing paint job.

As said, I'm a painting gamer, not a miniature painter. I have been entering figures in the Crisis painting competition since 1997 and have won at least one medal or prize each year. However, the competition has stiffened enormously over the last few years. From what was once (I feel) a painting gamer dominated competition, the Crisis painting comp has become more or less miniature painter dominated. The influx of the German contingent the last two years (extraordinary painters like [Dirk Stiller](http://www.theminiaturegallery.de/), [Stefanie Arndt](http://www.ambers-nightsky.de/) and [Holger Schmidt](http://www.fantasy-miniatures.de/) ) is proof of this point. That makes it harder for painting gamers to win at the Crisis painting competition.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Neither, I'd say. This is just the way this particular painting competition has evolved, whether intentionally or not, and that's really all there is to it. I might no longer enter anything anymore (it is getting to the point where it would take too much time to paint something that has a chance of winning), but that should not bother anyone. And it does mean that the Crisis painting comp will become, more than ever, a place to go and look at exquisitely painted miniatures. But they'll be painted by 'professionals' not by gamers.

What's the opinion of the readers on this?

__Update__: added link to Stefanie Arndt's site

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  1. This is not only limited to painting competitions, but competitions in general. Once you turn something into a competition, there will be people who are able to spend a lot more time on perfecting their skills and will win the competition with a higher probablity compared to the 'amateurs'. It's one of the reasons I don't even think about entering a painting competition (I consider Bart a 'professional', but everything is relative, of course ;-) ). It's also e.g. the reason I quit Magic the Gathering many moons ago. Once 'professional' tournaments were being organized, the imbalance between full-time and casual players became too big. It's how many things in life go. On the other hand, people still play pick-up games of soccer on any available space, despite the fact that pro-leagues exist. It does not diminish your amateurish fun of the game.
    However, here we are of course talking about a 'hobby', and the question is whether the current painting competition still serves its purpose. Maybe the purpose is indeed to look at the best painted models, irrespective of gaming use. You could argue that if you want to focus on painting figures aimed at gaming, you can win the 'best Scenery' prize for demonstration game.
    And that's maybe were the solution is: in addition to having prizes for 'best participation game', 'best scenery' and 'best new concept', something like 'best painted figures on the table' should be introduced as well?

  2. "And that�s maybe were the solution is: in addition to having prizes for �best participation game�, �best scenery� and �best new concept�, something like �best painted figures on the table� should be introduced as well?"
    Brilliant idea, Phil! I for one am (although I have no say in the matter) firmly against the Crisis painting competition because it has - in the end - very little to do with wargaming and because it takes a lot of effort to run and organize, as well as manpower. There are other shows for this purpose. Also, if one looks at the number of entries as opposed to the demo games, I really wonder if it's worth our while. "Best painted figures on the table" would be a much better option as far as I'm concerned.

  3. I rather agree with these comments. Bart would, however, be disappointed this year with idea of best painted figure in the demo games. Firstly, it's me painting the S&V figures, and secondly, they are all in 6mm this year - so no chance of a prize there.
    Alternatively, if one must have a painting competition, why not have two prestigious awards for the professional painters, and then have a separate competition for gamers, with the emphasis on 28mm wargames figures - and prevent people from entering both competitions.

  4. Interesting comments so far. Alan, I disagree with you on this one (sorry :) ) -- I don't think that adding a seperate 'gaming figures' competition is a solution. To do this, one would have to have somebody make an arbitrary decision on what constitutes gaming quality, and what constitutes 'professional' quality. I don't think that is anything that can be done in any way fair or unbiased.
    The 'best painted army used in game' award is however a good idea I think. If Willie doesn't mind handing over even more precious metal this year, of course - he was getting quite hoarse at the end of the ceremonial bit last year ;)

  5. Robartes,
    I'm a bit more radical in my line of thinking: I would do away with the painting contest as a seperate issue altogether and make the awards to units (or armies) in the demo-games (a nice link of the paintjobs with the games), using most of the categories already at hand. The painting competition as a seperate issue demands a lot of work and blocks some key people for the duration of the event. Judging could be processed at the same time as the "game" awards.
    Nothing to do with the quality of the paintwork in the contest (some of it is superb), but when I compare the number of entries per category and the amount of time visitors spend looking at them with the efforts made for (and the interest in) many/most of the demogames I strongly believe this sideshow isn't worth the effort and already overstressed crew has to make for it.