Thursday, July 3, 2014

Community Topics: Entering Painting Competitions

Just two wee articles ago, I thanked everyone for helping make Miniature Tim a success for the past 3 years and asked for topics that you, the readers, would like me to cover. Those topics will be covered in a new series, "Community Topics". The best part is that while I will be covering those who commented in the birthday post first, "Community Topics" is an open series that I will continue to take requests for! Don't hesitate to propose something that you've been searching for good coverage on, with little or no satisfying results so far, we'll get it covered here!

Dai brought up a great topic, and one that is highly pertinent to what I'm currently prepping for: Painting Competitions. What's so great about them? Why should we enter them? What if I'm not good enough?

Let's dive right in!

First, let me say that the lack of a US Games Day greatly saddens me. Those of us who have been working to improve our painting and have yet to win a Demon of any color, now have a clouded future ahead of us with regards to that particular competition. Are there other competitions out there to enter? Of course! Crystal Brush, Privateer Press' Grandmaster, Gencon's MHE competition, local competitions and more, you just have to look for them. But for those of us who have been playing GW games for so long, and have aspired to eventually win one, the hope that they will bring back the Golden Demon competition is uncertain, and it doesn't sit well with me.

Okay, now that I've put my Soap Box (™) away, we can get on with the topic at hand!

"What's so great about Painting Competitions, and why should we enter them?"

I had to combine these two questions here because their answers blend together. Entering painting competitions are a worthwhile endeavor, and I believe one that any painter looking to truly improve should take part in. If you've ever been to a larger, national event with a painting competition, you can typically see all the entries in display cases as people turn in their figures. You also can see the crowds of people constantly streaming past them to see if anything new has been put in, marveling at the entries themselves and constantly talking about them. Some of these people are the competitors themselves, and I've never met one who wasn't nice, polite, and more than willing to share how they pulled off X effect, or Y technique. Having an entry of your own in the case next to theirs also gives you the best opportunity to ask more experienced painters to give you some constructive criticism on your own figure.

Honestly I've grown as a both a painter AND a sculpter/converter in leaps and bounds every time I've entered a competition. Not only by pushing myself to do better on my actual entries, but by talking to other participants, and not being shy about asking for advice from them! Not just them, but the judges too! I can't count how many people, myself included, have asked a judge how they/I could have done better in the competition. The judges have always been more than helpful, so long as you respect their time and responsibility to actual judge the contest, and you can't go wrong asking their opinions on your model.

"I don't think I'm good enough to enter Painting Competitions."


The folks who win a competition with their first entry are extremely few and far between. Most people have to get their hands dirty, feet wet, whatever metaphor you want to use, before they begin actually painting well enough to place at all, much less win! So why would you think you aren't good enough? Because you can't paint like Mathieu Fontaine/Chris Borer/Tom Schadle/Dave Taylor/Vincent Hudon/Insert-Slayer-Sword-Winner-Here? Maybe you could if you stretched yourself and tried! And if you can't, then do it anyway and enter, and ask said amazing painter to critique what you did so you can improve for the next one! The painting community, especially the competitive painting community is a great one where people treat each other with respect and truly have a good time slinging paint to compete against each other. If you want to enter, then enter! Even if you don't win, you'll grow as a miniature painter and have an even better shot at placing next time.

I don't know if I'm in the minority here with my next statement, but I believe we enter painting competitions to improve our painting skills. And I know I want to improve my painting skills. Winning an award is just the icing on the cake in my opinion.

(Though it is a really good icing.)

- Tim




  1. Great article Tim. It's quite intimidating to enter into such an elite group of painters, but nice to know that everyone has to start somewhere :). If there is one thing blogs have taught me, it is that there is tons of tips and info to be shared! (and friends to be made)

    1. Glad you liked it, Greg! I will completely agree that the first time out, it's horribly intimidating. But once you dive in that first time, it becomes this itch to do better.

    2. Tim,
      Just wanted to say, I took your advice, and entered a mini in the nova open painting competition. I didn't place, but it was a wonderful experience, and I met a lot of great artists because of it. Thanks again for taking the time to write this article and inspire someone to take the next step!

  2. We haven't had any comps in the Toronto area for a long time - until this year. I'll be entering a bunch of my pieces in the Hold The Line convention this July. Online stuff is great, but nothing compares to seeing others works in person and chatting about the hows and whys :) It costs nothing to enter and I'm not really that hyped about winning, but more seeing and meeting other painters in my area and finding out if there are painting groups and putting names to faces, etc. Very excited.

    1. Sweet! You're going to have to let me know how it goes :)

      Online competitions are difficult, as photography plays such a huge part in it. That's one thing that the Crystal Brush has been criticized for in the past as well. This past year was a much better way of doing it I think.

  3. Firstly an apology - why I haven't commented here already, I have no idea.

    Second, this was a well written piece. I can see the merits in all you've discussed.

    Lastly, I guess in effect, I already DO enter painting competitions as the Flames of War tournaments I attend have Best Presentation as an award. So whilst not dedicated per se, I guess I'm there already. And participating, or competing - seeing as I put almost my all into my wee 15mm Brits. And winning as well, two out of three tournaments attended.

    Maybe I need to rethink my attitude toward all this over some more? :)

  4. Wow! Really inspiring! So much good stuff here. I'll make it a goal just because of your article. Thanks!