Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Crystal Brush Recap and Thoughts on the Competition

Well, another Crystal Brush competition has come and gone.  To everyone who signed on to check out the entries and cast their votes, thank you!  The standard this year was incredibly high.  We had quite a few European painters and sculptors show up including Michael Kontraros, Kyriakos Simos, Sergio Calvo Rubio, Joaquin Palacios, Francesco Farabi, Fabrizio Russo, Richiero Massimiliano, Ben Komets, Kirill Kanaev, Matt Cexwish, Karol Rudyk, and probably more I'm forgetting.  If you have not gone online to see the work, you really should check out all the pieces that made first cut.  You can see them here: http://crystalbrush.coolminiornot.com/cbgallery.  It's easiest to go category by category.  Or you can just skip to the winning entries here: http://crystalbrush.coolminiornot.com/cbwinners.

There were some great hobby workshops this year.  I could only take a couple, but the ones I did were excellent.  I ended up in Ben's seminar on the loaded brush, Kirill's one on oil painting, and Angel Giraldez class on airbrushing.  I still need a lot of practice on all three of those techniques, but seeing it done correctly really helped me figure out what I was doing wrong and more or less how to fix it.  I also taught three sections on painting faces.  I was really happy with the work the students did during those classes and the feedback I got was great.  I hope they all enjoyed the class.  If I'm able to go back to Adepticon again next year, I imagine I'll teach some more.  Perhaps I'll take on another topic like freehand too.  We'll see!

As for the painting competition, I was lucky enough to win a silver trophy in Historical Single.  Matt DiPietro won gold in that category.  I personally thought it was a toss up between our two pieces, so I'm not shocked by the results.  Unfortunately the samurai did not place in the Large Scale category.  He lost out to pieces by Sergio Calvo Rubio, Francesco Farabi, and Fabrizio Russo (which was totally not surprising!).  On the gallery link above, you can sort of score.  Based on that, my samurai piece came in 4th... so close!

I've seen a few posts online bashing the show, which I really don't agree with.  Yes, it has some quirks.  The scoring is a bit different from typical shows, since 50% of the score is from onsite judges and 50% is from online vote.  I can understand why some people don't like it but, at the same time, it seems to work for them.  I've yet to see an entry win a top three spot that didn't deserve to be there.  There are some categories where I think 3rd place should have been 1st and vice versa, but that happens at every show.  Find an example where 1st place really should have been last place and then I'll believe the voting system is broken.

Some people also seem to feel the cash prize for the top three is not a good thing.  I've heard a couple different reasons.  Some say it's not right to offer it for something as subjective as miniature art.  Others say it attracts too many pros and thus less experienced painters or hobby painters can't compete.  They also brought up the idea that it's not fair for entries that are professionally sculpted and scratch built to compete against kits and gaming figures.

I understand some of these ideas, but generally disagree that things should be changed.  Yes, the cash prize attracts a lot of professional painters from around the US and Europe.  But why is that bad?  Don't you want to go to a show and see some of the best work from around the world?  Without that big cash prize, I doubt we'd get many (if any) European painters flying over for the show.  And, with all the top painters there, not only can you see their work, but you can also take classes from them and just chat with them to find out how they did things and get feedback on your work.  This sort of access is so worth the trip to the show and is the main reason I want to go each year.  Whether a cash prize is right for a subjective thing like art is a matter of opinion.  But, I don't hear any complaints from the people who were competing and lost.  They seem to feel that the winners deserved it, so what's the big deal?

As for having to compete against people with professionally sculpted pieces while most of us are stuck using kits, I say that's just the way it is.  If I thought I could paint well enough to win the top prize and all I needed was a better sculpt, I could commission a sculptor to make me something!  Plus, those scratch built pieces tend to show up in the Large Scale and the Diorama categories.  With the exception of Karol Rudyk's dragon and Fabrizio Russo's gold minors, every other winner in every other category was just a regular commercial kit.  All in all, the category winners consisted of 5 scratch builds and 28 kits.  Yes, the top three overall consisted of 2 scratch builds and one kit.  But last year it was 1 scratch build and 2 kits.  If you can paint at that high a level, you can still win with a commercial kit!

If I were to propose any changes to the show, the two I can think of are:
1) The additional of finalist pins or coins.  It'd be nice if everyone who made first cut got something to show for it.  It doesn't need to be anything too fancy, just something to show for making it that far.  It's hard to win a trophy and a lot of people strive just to make it past the first cut.  When they do they should get something!

2) Acknowledgement of multiple artists working on the same piece.  Right now only the painter is listed as the artist on a piece.  If it was a scratch built sculpt the site will say "Manufacturer: Scratchbuilt."  Why not put the sculptor's name there?  What does that hurt?  They've made it clear that there is only a single trophy and the prize money (if it wins top three) is not divided by the show (it's up to the artists to deal with that).  I guess this one is pretty minor, but it's still something I'd like to see.

There was a bit of drama this year with the categories though.  Last year the judges made an effort to set a standard across all categories with their first cut.  This meant that if only two pieces in a category met that standard, then only two were up for awards.  It came as a surprise to many of us, but I understand and support what they're trying to do.  This year there was another change.  In two of the categories only a single entry made first cut.  Instead of just giving them a gold, those entire categories were removed from the competition and the pieces were put into the next closest category.  So a historical unit was moved to fantasy unit and a historical vehicle was moved to sci-fi vehicle.  It's possible that a friend's historical unit was also dropped because he already had an entry into fantasy unit (though I can't confirm whether or not it would have made the cut).  Again, I understand what they're trying to do and don't necessarily have a problem with it.  I just wish this had been better explained at the event.  I saw Jen comment on Facebook that they plan to update the online rules to reflect this possibility for future years.  So that should help avoid the same confusion in case it happens again.

All in all, the Crystal Brush was a great show.  If you're in the US or Canada, I highly recommend checking it out.  I'm sure you will agree it's worth the trip.  If you're in Europe, well you've already got a lot of great shows to attend.  But we'd love to have you come to this one too!


  1. I agree, if I were running a show, I would award Finalist pins. Oh, wait, I did! ;-)

  2. Great write-up David! I am saying it here" I will go to Adepticon next year." What's your next project?

    1. Thanks, Ben! Up next I'm hoping to wrap up a few figures. I'd like to finish off the pirate dwarf and the hussar bust. Once those are done I'll move on to something new. Not sure what, but I've got an idea for my large scale Crystal Brush entry for next year. If I decide to run with it, then next time the piece would involve both a bunch of freehand design AND OSL. I've got to make each year better than the last. =)