Saturday, March 14, 2015

Painting Crusade XII : afterthoughts and behind the scenes


Seems like a long article is coming. After all the promotion I made on this blog, the least I can do is to write something about PC XII.

Painting Crusade XII is done. For what I have seen and the feedbacks I have read on the web, it seems to have been a successful edition. From what I hear/read, it seems that PC is synonymous with miniatures and buddies. Most of the people come for gathering with friends for a weekend, and for meeting painters/sculptors from other places and seeing minis they either have never seen, or have only looked at through a screen; and they come back the next year (or so) for the same reasons, which is totally fine for me.

The city of Namur, current host of the Painting Crusade. PC XII was synonymous of sunny weather all along!

The contest/exhibit. This edition saw 44 miniature painters and sculptors showcasing more than 172 miniatures over 55 displays, split in different categories (see below).

A good illustration of the Painting Crusade: the guy on the front comes from Spain, is making an Erasmus study stay in Germany and came for the weekend to PC XII in Belgium. PC sees people coming on a regular basis from France, Germany, England, Poland, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Italy and even from Russia (cheers Anna! Hope we see you again soon!)... and Belgium of course!

 Ambient on the Sunday morning. The big table in the middle is available the whole time for participants to be able to do what they like. On the right, there are a couple of tables occupied by a second-hand market fueled by the participants themselves, the left corner is dedicated to the "Indie Shop" where you can buy miniatures from small manufacturers or from sculptors. The bar is on the left with respect to the picture. The contest/exhibition is in the other half of the room, behind the photographer's back.

 Mikkel, from Denmark, working on Patrick "The Small" Masson's Steam Thing. Kudos, dude! We are honoured and pleased to have you and your fellow mini artists with us! And thanks for your kind help!

I will always be wondering what is the actual importance of the "contest" aspect in the motivation of the audience for coming to an event like the PC. Of course, those of you who have ever received an award in a miniature contest will probably agree that it provides at least a positive feeling; an award is a real, concrete, form of recognition of the quality of your work, especially when it is given by peers who do know something about miniature making. A feedback on things we sometimes put so much dedication and time into is important to many of us; a positive feedback, possibly accompanied with a trophy, is even better.


Front: the "Best of Show" trophy, awarded by the PC team; each edition has its own trophy. Back: the infamous "Golden Edmon", awarded by the jury to the 3 best minis over the whole contest; "any resemblance..." ... :D  Picture stolen from Corvus' blog .
Some of the trophies of this edition. The contest format is "open" (i.e. no podium, there are as many trophies as painters who deserve them) for 6 categories: painting (master, advanced and beginner), sculpting (master and beginner) and preceding edition's exclusive miniature.


Furthermore, unless you win the "Best of Show" award at your very first contest, you gain a general overview of your progression, by switching from a category to a more advanced one, and progressing in the colour of the award. OK, this is far from being an accurate process, as different juries don't necessarily have the same opinions or views about what makes a mini "better" than another one in some sense, especially when they are not given precise criteria for judging.

The jury doing their difficult task. In case you ever wondered what Aliaume, Maxime and Jérémie's butts look like (resp. left -in red-, middle and right). Picture stolen from Corvus' blog .

Maybe these aspects have become less important with the current generalization of social media and dedicated websites like Minicréateurs, CMON or P&P than it used to be when there was no internet, or when the communities weren't as organized as they are now (10 years ago only, numerical cameras were not that common yet... believe it or not, there were even tutorials about how to literally use a scanner to take "pictures" of minis!). Yet, I think that today seeing minis "for real" and receiving a real, physical award granted by a real judge that you can see and touch still has some meaning, especially for generations that have known the world (and the world of miniatures) before the revolution of the internet.



I sound like an old dude, and this is taking me away from my initial topic. So let's get back to the PC...


So would the PC be as nice without the contest? Probably, yes. We could even focus our energy on widening and improving the other activities (which remains one of our weaknesses in my opinion). But would the PC gather an audience without the contest? Let's be honest, we will probably never know, because we probably won't dare trying, and because we don't have coherent ideas about what to offer as an alternative.


So PC XII is over. As usual, the early aftermath is a coming down lasting for a couple of days. It is probably a mix between at least two things. One is getting back to the "normal life" after spending an unusual and fun weekend with friends and buddies you hardly see once a year, with unexpected encounters, tons of laughters,  lots of emulation, etc. And then, on the next Monday, you're back with the everyday life. The second thing is, literally, tiredness: that of a weekend where the notion of "sleep" is not very present, following a long week where it was almost already the same. That of standing up for a couple of hours, going here, making this, fixing that, and then of cleaning and sorting everything once everybody is gone, and your body suddenly stops forgetting its actual state. And finally that of having spent 7 months where there wasn't hardly a week without doing something for the PC, often forcing you to delay personal projects. Once more.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not complaining. I've been doing it for 10 years, and I am already committed to working on the next edition. See this as a raw, unfiltered, direct link to my thoughts about it. If it wasn't for the PC, I don't think I could find anywhere else the same atmosphere. Furthermore, it also brings me a place to show my work, especially the things that are a bit outside of the usual minis and themes you can see most often in "fantastic miniatures" nowadays. It gives me a certain "legitimacy", as well as freedom. But my displays have been off-contest for the last 5 years or so, because I think there is an incompatibility between being part of the staff and entering the contest, especially as one of my roles is to provide some technical support to the jury in its duty. Although we give them no guidelines for the judging work (except for practical aspects), I think that it would send a bad signal. Maybe I shouldn't worry too much about that, I may be the only one who actually cares. But anyway, that's the way I like it actually.


Damn. Paragraphs are getting longer and pictures are missing.

The versions of Jens (top) and Kristian (bottom) from Denmark, on top of each other.
Andy's version (a German fellow living in Belgium). The most original version in terms of the base. And if you're wondering: yes, it is actually a casting of his mouth! Cheers Andy!
Mikkel's version (Denmark).
Cyril's version (Belgium).
Gôyôme's version (France); the most original version when it comes to the scene/action.
Akewea's version (France).

One of my personal satisfactions of the weekend was the number of entries in the "exclusive miniature" category (open only to painted versions of the exclusive mini of PC XI). Seven painters have presented a version. Two of the mini fellows from Denmark even made a diorama made up of two stand-alone parts (each of them doing one) that can be assembled. You may wonder why I'm getting excited about 7, which roughly represents 20% of the people actually entering the contest. Well, that's because it's much more than the 2 or 3 we had during most of the preceding editions (the record is held by the "toys" of PC VI -that I haven't shown here yet- with 13 entries, until then followed by the robot of PC X that did 6 entries -only?). The other surprise is that almost all the remaining copies we had of these fellows are gone. So there has been some real enthusiasm about them. There were also 2 versions of the bot of PC X, meaning that the mini was a bit relevant somehow (in my opinion).

Martial's version of Usain Bot (France). The pictures are not great, hit me if you have better ones!
Cyril's version (Belgium).

This year's exclusive minis, "Tatane and Moulu", didn't seem to provoke the same enthusiasm. We still have approximately half of the copies (taking into account that the staff members have already received a copy...). So I don't really expect to see many painted versions next year, or in general. Well, there certainly are a lot of good explanations for that, one of them being my limited sculpting skills, especially when it comes to full human minis. The other may be the concept that may be too much of a private joke, and/or that is too far away from the usual themes of fantasy/sci-fi universe and by such that does not bring inspiration.

Tatane and Moulu, PC XII exclusive miniatures. More pics here.

Yet, it is interesting to notice that the 2 lil' monsters of PC XI have quite of a "closed" concept, in the sense that there aren't many situations to think of with one dude holding a lamp and the other one carrying a shovel and a bag. On the other side, I thought minis like Tatane and Moulu are more "open", "raw material". They can be adapted to many backgrounds and converted easily to fit any original idea. But maybe they are too raw, too generic to provoke the necessary spark of inspiration. Furthermore, maybe these minis are indeed mostly painted especially for the special category of the following edition, to show some support and dedication, but not necessarily with as much implication and efforts as in other "more personal" stuff. With that regard, having a mini that calls for an almost "off the shelf" base/scene may be a big positive aspect. Finally, the combination of my limited skills and of my particular "style" that may not appeal to all. So obviously, it was a miss. For next year, I shall stick to more spontaneity and to a concept that better fits my ability.

Check out PC's facebook page for more pictures, complete results and links to reports/picture galleries (everything is in public access, you don't need an account to access them). Random googling will lead you to other articles/galleries as well.


This was a long post, indeed. Last but not least:


The PC XII team, at the end of the weekend. Worn out, but happy.


PC XIII will take place on March 12-13, 2016 at the same place! See you there!

P.S.: another (and shorter!) feedback is available on Minicréateurs.

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