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MSP Open Judging - What you were afraid to ask


Heisler
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It's worthwhile to note that judging any form of art has this problem.  I come from the world of dance, and I've been privy to similar conversations.  The Olympics has their problems judging things like figure skating and gymnastic routines.  Judging anything in a subjective manner has these issues.  It's not like we have mini-painting death match (and no, that's not a challenge for next year's ReaperCon!). 

 

Heisler has written a really good piece, and hopefully competitors will take the words to heart. 

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I didn't participate in the competitions this year. But I do have a question:

 

- Does the detail level of the mini itself have a noticeable impact? In this sense I mean comparing a Reaper metal cast mini vs a Reaper Bones mini whose details are not as pronounced or sharp as its metal counterpart. Some of the original Bones 1 models (i.e. the Noseless Horrors) are literally disfigured right out of the box. In other words, what if you got an ugly mini?

 

And I'm also grateful to see everyone else here on the boards discuss their own results and what they learned:

- Push the contrasts even more! No, even more than that. MORE, I SAY!

- Consider the light source when taking the contrast into account. Usually brighter at the top of the model, and darker on the ground level.

- Smooooooth blendings.

- And you've just mentioned thin paint fares better than thick paint.

Edited by Cranky Dog
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Well put, Kris.

 

As someone with a fair bit of experience in both judging and being judged in a variety of arts, little of this is a surprise...but it's incredibly good information to have laid out in plain terms.

 

I think the only time I've disagreed with any judging I've received at Rcon has been...well, every time I've entered, the judges have chosen a piece other than the one I expected them to judge. But the scores I've received have been pretty in line with my expectations.

 

Thanks for putting this up for the forums!

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Hmmmm.......

 

You mention training the judges how to score an entry. I'm curious if you have a specific set of painted figures you use to visually provide an example of each "level" of painting for the judges to reference while training or during the scoring of the entries?

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I didn't participate in the competitions this year. But I do have a question:

 

- Does the detail level of the mini itself have a noticeable impact? In this sense I mean comparing a Reaper metal cast mini vs a Reaper Bones mini whose details are not as pronounced or sharp as its metal counterpart. Some of the original Bones 1 models (i.e. the Noseless Horrors) are literally disfigured right out of the box. In other words, what if you got an ugly mini?

 

And I'm also grateful to see everyone else here on the boards discuss their own results and what they learned:

- Push the contrasts even more! No, even more than that. MORE, I SAY!

- Consider the light source when taking the contrast into account. Usually brighter at the top of the model, and darker on the ground level.

- Smooooooth blendings.

- And you've just mentioned thin paint fares better than thick paint.

 

This is a tough question. A well cast and detailed piece is just easier to paint and its likely just going to be easy to achieve good results on. Its really hard to do competition level work on a piece that is less well defined casting. The round about answer is yes, you can do well with an ugly mini but you have to be willing to do the work and its going to take more work than a well cast piece. Beyond the dragons there were a number of Bones minis in the competition that did very well this year. Except for possibly the youth entries you probably couldn't have told the difference unless you knew about it. I have scored 1st place trophies with some less than stellar historical miniatures over the years so it can certainly be done.

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Hmmmm.......

 

You mention training the judges how to score an entry. I'm curious if you have a specific set of painted figures you use to visually provide an example of each "level" of painting for the judges to reference while training or during the scoring of the entries?

 

Its not training in the same way that you are thinking. Its more about making sure they have an open mind about techniques and the quality of work. For instance Banshee's blending style (a European painter for those of you unfamiliar with his work) is quite loose and is not the same smooth blending that so many of us try to achieve. If we had figures to consult against we would have to select an artist to paint those figures and then we would be boxing ourselves into that artist's style for everything. So the whole thing is rather nebulous. Or we would have to go to some kind of check of system like GW uses to get through their first cut judging. Did they use more than three colors on the base, did they use more than three colors on the mini, etc. If I had example figures I would have to have one for almost every technique you could think of, that would be a lot of minis!

 

I think the hardest thing to train or teach  judges, especially when we first introduce this judging style at Reaper Con, is that there can be more than one gold medal. There is that first impulse to equate gold with 1st place and that is not the case in an Open competition. If there are 49 gold medals in the room then we will give out 49 gold medals. We can reward those painters that have shown the skills to paint at that level and not have to narrow it down to the top three, when we do that then we have to look at what a painter did wrong more than what they did right. We have to enlighten judges to the concept that just because they don't like a technique like drybrushing that it is still a valid technique and when its done well it should be rewarded. When you are wavering between a bronze and silver or a silver and a gold either go with the higher score or have a consult on the piece with another judge. Formal training is just not an option for us which is why we like judges to be instructors first and see how they can handle a class of students before we throw them to the wolves.

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Pfft, a poorly molded model is a great opportunity to be creative. Have a really ugly dent in the thigh of a giant from the metal not settling? Instant scar.

 

I wonder if there are kudos for cover ups like that.

 

If you covered it up that well, how would we know? So no, no specific kudos on something like that unless a judge was familiar enough with the piece to know what kind of effort it took to get a medal with it. And if you entered it in painters that would really fall into the prep work side of things and wouldn't have a huge affect on the score anyway.

 

Any by the way those percentages we show are just guidelines to keep the judges on track. So if a judge know a piece was a tough to paint up its still going to be judge, primarily, on your paintwork not your prep work.

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Thanks a ton for posting this, Kris!  As a first time full-judge this year (after serving my apprenticeship last year), I can really say that we are all trying our best not to let any of our own personal prejudices negatively affect our scores; we want to see folks leveling up!

 

As far as techniques/styles go, I may say something like "too much gloss sealant is detracting from this mini" or "the drybrushing appears a little chalky" or something else along those lines, but pretty much every technique/style (I'm lumping them together on purpose) does have its place if executed well.  The trick is, I'm always leery of the "that's just my style" statement, which can sometimes come across as an excuse to use a familiar (but maybe not most appropriate) technique rather than a valid artistic defense.  Heck, I feel like I do the same thing at times when I may choose to avoid adding some wear and tear to a mini of mine because "my style is bright and happy".  Is that really the case, or am I just scared of "messing up" my mini with a possibly very appropriate technique that I feel I don't execute as well as other techniques?  What I am trying to say (maybe not very well...) is that every technique or style, when executed well, can and should receive its due affirmation and approval (and the judges want to give that!), but we all need to keep pushing ourselves to broaden our skill sets so that we can have the right "tools" ready for the "right" applications (understanding that art is subjective and that there may be many "right" tools and applications).

 

Hopefully that whole post has slightly more clarity than a puddle of mud...  :lol:

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And I can confirm on the tech side that the database of scores are remarkably consistent. I can find no instances where judges disagreed by more than 1 point. So 3/3/3, 3/3/2, and 3/2/2 are all fairly common variations and patterns in the scores, 1/3/4 occurs nowhere. And I find 3/3/3 and 2/2/2 to be by a fairly large margin the most common results.

 

The judges have all been pretty well trained to understand what a 1,2,3, and 4 should be, and the degrees of variation are all within reasonable variation for something as subjective as art.

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Great post.  We can all be frustrated, but since both you and Michael are local, I have eyes into the system better (being taught by Kris how to judge for local comps here) helps.  I see things I am sure others do not simply because I have been taught what to see.  Though I still miss it on my own mini at times.  Though this last time, I was happily surprised and disappointed all at once.

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this was my first year as an apprentice judge and it was really fun and interesting!  I'd say after looking a lot of models, I started to get a sense of level of work, regardless of technique.  it was good for me to see what the judges look for and how the process goes- very educational. My mental numbers matched up most of the time.  I found I tend to be on the more critical side, which surprised me 'cause I'm a pushover in real life, but I didn't actually vote on many models- two maybe as the alternate. I guess it's because as a perfectionist, I always see the things that I can improve and that must carry over to judging.

 

I know the process can be stressful for the recipient.  We all want to be rewarded for our best work, and it can be frustrating when our hard work doesn't seem to match up with the award.  I've found feedback from the judges fantastic.  It helps me so much to know what they're seeing that I'm not.  heck, I cornered poor Derek at the end of the night when he must have been exhausted and asked him for feedback on my gold-winning tiefling.  because I want to get better.  I also worried that since I spend so much time on the forums, that this would interfere with my ability to be objective.  But since I see and often try to help out with most of you all, I guess it ends up cancelling out!

 

I guess what I most want to say is know that the judges are people who want everyone to both feel good and most importantly learn and improve.  Know that we're pretty much all introverts and when we give feedback and help, we're probably nervous!  And as the night goes on, also probably exhausted...  ^_^

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