Last week the tickets for Golden Demon 2023 went on sale and, having purchased my ticket my thoughts have started to stray towards what I'm going to paint for the competition, which lead me to thinking more widely about painting competitions in general, and I thought I'd share those thoughts here.
Now, I don't claim to be any sort of expert when it comes to painting competitions but I've entered a few (with a couple of minor successes) and judged my fair share, too, and I've learned a couple of lessons along the way*. Some of this might seem blindingly obvious but you'd be surprised how easy it is to fall into these traps.
PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS
While it's good to push yourself in competitions (after all, you want to produce your very best work) make sure you are pushing in the right direction. A painting competition is not the time to try to learn a new technique. Do what you're good at, what is going to bring out your best work. This Ishirann Tidecaster is a good example of this. This model was my entry into the Masters' category at the 2019 Golden demons. In my wisdom, I decided to do the armour in NMM copper, something I had never tried before. Despite looking at all sort of reference I couldn't get it right, even after multiple attempts and I ended up with an overall paintjob that was compromised due to all the layers of paint I'd applied in the trying. It also took the wind out of my sails and killed my enthusiasm for the project. It's a real shame as I think the rest of the paint job holds up pretty well. the same goes for the Stormcast Eternal, which was an entry into a local competition. I spent far too long on the NMM gold and, while I was fairly pleased with the overall result (and I did actually get 1st place with it, so it can't have been entirely unsuccessful), it meant a project took twice as long as it should. In both cases, a really good true-metallic job would have looked better than a semi-successful non-metallic effort.
HAVE A PLAN AND STICK TO IT
Think about what you want to achieve. Think about the colour scheme and techniques you want to use and, if making a diorama or duel, think about the composition of your miniatures. Plan any conversions, what parts you may need, how you're going to work sub-assemblies. Planning ahead will save you time and heartache down the line. Once you've worked it out, try and stick to it. It's fair enough to adapt as you go, but deciding that you're going to change the pose or add an extra arm once you've started painting is a recipe for disaster. Again, I have a good example. This Slaanesh Champion was painted for an online Oldhammer competition. I couldn't decide on a colour scheme before starting and made it up as I went along. Again, this resulted in a couple of repaints which meant I had to rush the finish and it really didn't come out the way I wanted.
TIME WILL FLY BY
At the time of writing, there's 6 months until Golden Demon, which sounds like plenty of time but it's amazing how quickly that time can disappear. When you're looking at projects that are going to take dozens, perhaps hundreds, of hours' work those weeks can slip by fast, especially with all the usual complications that real life can throw into the mix. There's been many a competition entry (and winner) that has been finished the day of the event itself. Again, planning your time can help avoid the stress of looming deadlines and the potential to have a project that doesn't look as good as it could. Once again, I can illustrate it with an example of my own**. On this Ogor pirate, I wanted to do more with the old leather on his jacket, adding cracks and the effect of salt water on it, but I simply didn't have enough time to do so. While I'm pleased with the overall result, it still wasn't what I wanted it to be.
DON'T TAKE ON TOO MUCH
This ties in with the previous point. Be realistic about what you want to do and think carefully about what you can get done in the time you have available. While it's great to have entries in multiple categories it's better to have one amazing entry rather than two or three that have been compromised by trying to do too many projects. This also applies with online competitions. There can often be a few small competitions running concurrently and it can be tempting to try to enter as many as possible but it's better to pick your fights more carefully. The amount of times I've had to abandon a project because I'm not going to be able to finish them all... Another aspect of this is that, while there are some out there who can focus on multiple projects at the same time and still get great results, for most of u the best outcome will be from focussing on one project from start to finish. Get one done and then see if you have time to move on to the next. Also, if you are going to do multiple projects, get the most simple one done first. There's no point spending five months working on a diorama only to realise, with three weeks to go, that you're not going to finish it in time and now you've not got time to do that single figure entry you wanted to do either...My local GW store recently held a Mini-Of-The-Month competition. I planned on entering the Skeleton, Rotmire Creed and Votann below. In the end I only managed to get the Skeleton done. The other two have ended up in the Drawer of Temporary Abandonment****
PAINT WHAT YOU WANT TO PAINT
There's always the temptation to paint what's in vogue, or the latest release, but (contrary to what many people seem to think) the judges don't base their decisions on such things- they're looking for good painting and the best way to get a good paintjob is to paint something that inspires you. So, if you've got something in your sprue pile that you've always wanted to paint, or something that you've always had a really good idea for then go for it. You'll get a much better result that way than doing something you feel you should be doing and, just as importantly, you'll enjoy the process that much more. If the painting is a chore, you're painting the wrong thing, and you'll never be happy with it. the Ork Kommando Boss was not an obvious choice of miniature to enter, but it's long been one of my favourite miniatures and I'd always wanted to paint it, and it was probably the most fun I've ever had painting for a competition, as I just went with what felt right for the model.
IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT WINNING
This is probably the most important thing, and it ties in with all the other points I've made. Of course it's a competition, and of course the ultimate goal is to come away with a prize but that's not the be-all and end-all of why you should be entering. There's so much more to be gained from entering than simply the wins or losses. Online competitions give you the opportunity to pit your work against that from painters all over the world, and to show it off to an audience of potentially thousands. In-person competitions give you the chance to meet other painters face-to-face and see the work of others up-close and personal, and there's nothing more inspirational than that. Both types of competitions offer unique opportunities for feedback and advice. Competitions also offer the chance to really push yourself and your skills and really prove to yourself what you are capable of. And, if you don't win**** they are a great learning experience, teaching you what you can do better next time.
SO WHAT ABOUT GOLDEN DEMON 2023?
Right, having rambled on enough, what am I planning on entering for the next Golden Demon? Well, as usual, I'm flouting my own rules and planning a number of pieces. I've decided to resurrect a few projects from my Drawer of Temporary Abandonment. The Night Goblin Shaman and Phobos Captain (who was going to be my entry into the Masters category at the cancelled 2020 Golden Demons*****) are going to be my Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000 Single Miniature entries, respectively, and I have a Duel planned, that I started years ago, based on the Lords of Hellstone AoS story.
Now, whether or not these actually get done, or end up being my actual entries, is another matter. A lot can happen in six months, so we'll have to wait and see. I will be posting updates as I go along, on my Instagram. so please keep an eye out for those posts. Anyway, that's it for me on this subject, at least for now. What do you think? Do you have any thoughts on the subject, any more advice that I've missed? Please feel free to discuss in the comments. I'd love to hear your ideas. See you in Manchester on 29th April!
Thanks for reading!
*Learned them? Yes. Actually put them into practice?...Errrr...maybe not so much...
**Can you see a pattern developing?
***more on this another day
****Or even if you do...
*****It's a real shame there's no Masters category this year. I really enjoyed the unique challenge of painting a single, unconverted miniature, and it suited my way of painting really well.