Thursday, June 5, 2014

Lead Painters League 8 -- Final Standings and Recap

Click on the image to get a larger, easier-to-read version of the final standings
 Check this out! Not only did I end up with a winning record for the first time in my three years of participation, but I also ended up in the top 10! How did that happen...? Well, if you examine the above standings closely, you will see the answer comes in the form of two words: bonus points. Simply put, I was able to field a "new team" (previously unpublished online) for all 10 rounds, as well as participate in all three theme rounds. I did pass up the "big item" bonus in round 10, as I owned no WW I tanks, trains, aircraft, boats, etc., that I wanted to paint up for the competition. I am not letting this go to my head, though. I can do subtraction and see what would happen if all bonus points were removed and we simply were scored on vote points. Doubtless, a half dozen painters would move ahead of me, and rightly so! I would also say there are quite a few beneath me in the standings who are better-skilled than I am.

I also think I benefit from my photography and composition skills. I tend to put together interesting scenes to show off my miniatures. I also own software which allows me to crop the photos on the computer to show off the miniatures to their best advantage. Sometimes that spectacle is what tips the scales and causes a voter to click for me instead of my opponent. I realize that, and I know I do the same thing myself when voting. If two sets of miniatures look relatively equal, I'm going to vote for the one who bothered to tell a story with their composition. So, yeah. Take out composition, and place all minis against a grayscale background, and then take out bonus points, and I sink probably right where I fit in this incredibly-talented group of painters: the middle of the pack.

To reverse the Mike-bashing, I did think it was interesting that three of my four losses were to those who finished the competition ranked #1, #3, and #5. So, my losses were to no slouches -- and also were often closer vote totals than I would have expected. Even more strangely, it seemed that my opponents weren't always giving me their best shot. What do I mean? Well, when I faced the champion in round 2, his Star Wars chess entry was probably not his strongest of the year. I ended up with about 40% of that vote. Had he submitted one of his usual masterpieces I would have been stomped and received almost no vote points. When I went against #3, I was edged out in my closest loss of the year. It is also the only one where I felt maybe I shouldn't have lost. Either way, his entry was definitely not his strongest of his competition, so once again I accumulated a lot of vote points. And in round 10, my opponent (a very talented painter) submitted a photo that was so dark many voters chose mine simply because they could see my detail. So, yeah, I think I got lucky this time around, too. But it was the fact that I never got stomped in any round, and that I was always getting a healthy percentage, that kept me adding up the vote points over 10 rounds of competition. Early on, I noticed I was always had the most point among those with a similar record (top 3-3, top 3-4, etc.). And that remained true to the end.

So, what skill did I learn this time around? Color washes. I was tempted to try my hand at inks this competition, but settled on using watered down acrylics instead. My first foray was on the Rogers Rangers entry (Round 6). I started with a pale, faded version of the color I wanted as a base coat. Then once it was dry, I mixed about a 50/50 batch of a darker, richer version of that tone. I then followed it up sparingly with a light drybrush highlight. I did this for both the flesh and the green on the Rogers Rangers, and was very happy with the result. It provides a more colorful and richer hued look than simply base coating and dry brushing.

I also took the advice of Joe (Neldoreth), who recommended that I don't simply use a black wash on everything. Some colors look better with a brown wash (fleshes, yellows). So, I created a new final wash coat, or more properly, two of them. I bought some Vallejo clear gloss acrylic resin paint and mixed two batches, a brown and black. On some parts of a figure, I may use the brown wash and on other parts I may use the black to highlight and deepen the shadows.

What was my favorite entry of the round? Interestingly, I would have to say it came early with my Round 2: On the Warpath -- Indians posed on my cliff pieces. The entry actually lost to eventual champion Frank, but I loved the rich colors on that batch of Indians. The biggest surprise? I would have to say winning Round 10 -- I'd had that one penciled in as a loss from the beginning. And maybe how well I did with the 15mm Splintered Light Miniatures mice in round 1.

I painted 57 miniatures over about 16 weeks (the league was announced about six weeks before the start), which is a nice output for most miniatures painters. Most importantly, I learned new techniques, and had a lot of fun. The camaraderie among the participants and voters on the Lead Adventure Forum is amazing. Flame wars simply don't happen. Comments that could be perceived as mildly negative are almost non-existent. There is a huge range of talent in the pool, so anybody can enter. I highly encourage anyone who enjoys miniature painting and has the ability to photograph and resize pics of his or her minis to enter. You will look forward to Sunday mornings for 10 weeks. It is so enjoyable to sit back, click through the matchups, and be amazed at the magic of what some people can do with a paint brush. The artistry, cool figures, and imaginative narratives told by the photographs allow you to shut out the real world for awhile, and enter one of beauty and color.

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