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Judging the Reaper Con MSP Open - Painters Division


Heisler
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Breaking out the scoring or How your models are judged at the Reaper Con MSP Open

 

This will be a series of four posts each concentrating on a different entry category. These scoring “rules” are based on the MMSI painting competition in Chicago and variants of this system are used on an international basis. Michael Proctor and I took a good hard look at the rules a number of years ago and introduced a few tweaks to the system to better represent what we, as judges, are looking for when scoring your entry at Reaper Con. The basis for all of these is still the MMSI rules and there is not a whole lot of difference between the emphasis of the components in each division. One thing to keep in mind is that manufacturer awards do not necessarily use the MSP Open system. Those winners are, typically, chosen by the manufacturer (including Reaper for the Sophies) or their representative on site using their own criteria.

 

The scoring is quite simple. A judge assigns an entry one of five numerical values based on their opinion of what the entrant has earned for their entry:

 

0 – no award

1 – Certificate of Merit

2 – Bronze Medal

3 – Silver Medal

4 – Gold Medal

 

The Reaper Con judging teams are made up of three judges (There are options to use 4 or 5 judges but regardless of how many judges are used only three scores are tallied). Each judge assigns one of these 5 values to each miniature assigned to their team. The three scores are tallied which gets a value somewhere between 0 and 12. That final tally gives a number that tells the team what award to give to the entrant for that entry. Judging is typically not done by committee, each judge assigns the score they feel the piece deserves and moves on to the next. Most discussion takes place around which piece to score when there are multiple entries. Judges do consult with each other when they have difficulty assigning a score to an entry.

 

0 – 1 No Award

2 – 4 Certificate of Merit

5 – 7 Bronze Medal

8 – 10 Silver Medal

11 – 12 Gold Medal

 

That’s the basics, now let’s take a look at how a judge uses the five components to decide what score they are going to give you.

 

Painter Division

The Painter Division is for stock models, those that come straight from the package or are assembled as shown by the manufacturer (it can include minor conversions). The Painter Division is the largest category at the MSP Open, often encompassing hundreds of entries at each show. There is no limit to the number of entries that an individual can enter in this category. I personally would limit yourself to your three best, but if you intend to be considered for other manufacturer or theme awards then it would not be out of place to see six or more entries from an individual.

If you have just a single entry then the judges can just go ahead and score your entry, no discussion is necessary. If you have multiple entries, then there will be a discussion between the judges on which entry they want to score. That conversation is typically the only conversation that needs to occur for any given entrant. When selecting the scoring entry the conversation is based on “I can score this one higher than the others” or words to that affect, till they come to a decision which is usually pretty quickly done. If the entries are visually very thematic the judges may decide to judge them together as a single entry.

 

Let’s take a quick look at the scoring guidelines the judges use (which is published as part of the MSP Open rules):

Difficulty: 5%

Creativity: 10%

Workmanship: 10%

Painting Skill: 70%

Presentation: 5%

 

What does that really mean? In a nutshell we want to see how well you can paint! Did you really execute the different techniques to the best of your ability? Hence why painting skill is the predominant component that a judge is going to look at. Let’s look at a breakdown of those components and how they relate to a miniature in the Painters Division.

 

Difficulty: This is definitely not an intuitive concept in the Painter Division. The judge is not looking at the techniques (including freehand) you used on the miniature. They are looking at how difficult is the miniature itself to paint. While how difficult a miniature is also subjective, subtle shading on flat or nearly flat surfaces are much more difficult to pull off than shading on a surface with more surface texture. Often difficulty is going to come into play when a judge is on the fence between two scores.

 

Creativity: This component looks at use of color, color schemes and the use of freehand designs in other words things that aren’t part of the sculpt itself. This is also where painted effects first come into play, like OSL (Object Source Lighting). This is the component that really addresses your freedom of expression on your entry and how well you bring that across to the audience.

 

Workmanship: This is a pretty straightforward component. It reflects how well you prepared your model for painting. Any type of non-painting effort is represented here. In the Painter division this includes finding the elusive mold line and eliminating it but it also includes assembling a multi piece miniatures or executing minor conversions. A well done conversion or well assembled miniature means that the judge can’t tell that anything has been converted or that it had multiple pieces. A missed mold line, poor assembly or a poorly executed conversion could easily drop you a while numeric value in the scoring.

 

Painting Skill: This is the whole key to the Painter Division entry, how well you apply paint to the miniature. These is where you are evaluated on the techniques you used how well you executed them. Tying everything together is really important as well. Everything you do must come together as a whole composition. It is an area where judges need to be aware of everything that is going on and how it is fitting together. While this is the predominate component of the Painter Division it is also the most subjective.

Judges must overcome their prejudices about which techniques they prefer. As an example there is nothing wrong with drybrushing as long as you executed it properly regardless of how the judge feels about that technique.

Here is an example of how a judge needs to be aware of many different styles and techniques. Blending doesn’t always have to be a smooth transition from light to dark, there are multiple different types of blending, it is how well you executed the technique or style you opted for. Do you blend like Jen Haley or like Alfonso “Banshee” Giraldes? They both achieve marvelous blends but their techniques are markedly different in achieving those blends.

 

Presentation: While not the most important component in the Painter Division it is another example of getting the little things right. A nice, well executed base will set the “scene” for your miniature. It can be the simple base that the miniature came on or with or it can be more elaborate, although I would save the effort on a really elaborate base for a miniature going into the Open or Diorama divisions. This component is another that one that a judge will often use when making that final decision between scores, a tie breaker as it were.

 

If you made it through that wall of text, congratulations! Hopefully that helped explain away some of the magic behind the scoring in the Painter Division.

 

 

 

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    • By Heisler
      Some Thoughts on Scores for the MSP Open Painting Competition
       
      What follows is a complete wall of text, you have been warned!
       
      Maybe it’s your first time entering the MSP Open, or you are veteran that is still a bit mystified by how your entries are scored. Let’s start at the beginning with some scoring basics. Once entry into the MSP Open competition is closed (Friday if you have a weekend pass, Saturday if you have a single day pass for Saturday) we unleash our judging teams. There are multiple teams at work but only one team in any given category will judge your work. Typically, there is one team each for Dioramas, Armor/Ordnance and Open. There are as many as 4 teams for Painter (that’s 21 judges if you are keeping count plus interns, it’s akin to herding cats). All of this depends on the number of entries we receive, so changes do get made.
       
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      0-1      No award
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      That’s the easy part! But now you are thinking, wait a minute, the criteria; Difficulty, Creativity, Workmanship, Painting Skill and Presentation all add up to 100% how does that work? Well, those percentages are the judges’ guide to what is important in each category.
       
      Since the Painter category is by far the most popular, let’s look at that and what those percentages represent:
      Difficulty 5%, Creativity 10%, Workmanship 10%, Painting Skill 70% and Presentation 5%.
       
      A quick glance at the numbers tells us that, obviously, the most important part of the category is painting, standing tall at 70%. Creativity and Workmanship are 10% each and Difficulty and Presentation are 5% each.
       
      How those percentages are used varies from judge to judge which is why a team is made up of three people and not one (in the Open System teams can have as many as five judges but the minimum is three. When there are 3 judges all the scores are used, with four judges the lowest score is tossed out and with five judges the highest and the lowest score are tossed out). Before we go further let’s define what those criteria mean:
       
      Difficulty (5%): This is definitely not an intuitive concept in the Painter Division. While the judge is looking at the techniques (including freehand) you used on the miniature. They are also looking at how difficult is the miniature itself to paint. How difficult a miniature is to paint is pretty subjective, subtle shading on flat or nearly flat surfaces is much more difficult to pull off than shading on a surface with more surface texture. Often difficulty is going to come into play when a judge is on the fence between two scores.
       
      Creativity (10%): This component looks at use of color, color schemes and freehand designs in other words things that aren’t part of the sculpt itself. This is also where painted effects also come into play, like OSL (Object Source Lighting) or NMM (Non-Metal Metal). This is the component that really addresses your freedom of expression on your entry and how well you bring that across to the audience.
       
      Workmanship: While I used to think this was a pretty straight forward component, it does seem to be an elusive concept for some painters. It reflects how well you prepared your model for painting. Any type of non-painting effort is represented here. In the Painter division this includes finding all the elusive mold line and eliminating them, but it also includes assembling a multi piece miniature or executing minor conversions. A well-done conversion or well assembled miniature means that the judge can’t tell that anything has been converted or that it had multiple pieces. A missed mold line, poor assembly or a poorly executed conversion could easily drop you a whole numeric value in the scoring.
       
      Painting Skill: This is the whole key to a Painter Division entry, how well you apply paint to the miniature. This is where you are evaluated on the techniques you used and how well you executed them. Tying everything together is another factor, did you create a coherent whole? Everything you do must come together as a whole composition. It is an area where judges need to be aware of everything that is going on and how it is fitting together. While this is the predominate component of the Painter Division it is also the most subjective.
       
      Judges must overcome their prejudices about which techniques they prefer. As an example, there is nothing wrong with drybrushing when executed properly regardless of how the judge feels about that technique. Here is a place where a judge needs to be aware of many different styles and techniques. Blending doesn’t always have to be a smooth transition from light to dark, there are multiple different types of blending, it is how well you executed the technique or style you opted for. Do you blend like Jen Haley or like Alfonso “Banshee” Giraldes? They both achieve marvelous blends, but their techniques are markedly different in achieving those blends.
       
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      Presentation: While not the most important component in the Painter Division it is another example of getting the little things right. A nice, well executed base will set the “scene” for your miniature. It can be the simple base that the miniature came on or it can be more elaborate (although I would save the effort on a really elaborate base for a miniature going into the Open or Diorama divisions). This component is another one that a judge will often use when making that final decision between scores, a tie breaker as it were. A key point me is harmony, is your base in harmony with your paint work. If you have beautifully painted miniature and all you did was glue unpainted rock to the base you are likely to pull your score down the unpainted rock clashes with the painted miniature. While there is certainly a place for natural materials, those natural materials in their natural state will often clash with our paintwork. Natural materials really need at least a bit of paint to bring them into harmony with the miniature. Like anything there are exceptions to the rule but when in doubt paint it all!
       
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      Creativity: 1 pt
      Workmanship: 1 pt
      Painting: 7 pts
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      Workmanship: I come from a modeling background so this is a big deal for me. Get all the mold lines (and if you try and turn a mold line into a scar, you had better make sure it really looks like a scar, otherwise I will not award that point). Quite frankly, your workmanship should be nearly flawless. Did you catch all the mold lines, how well did you assemble a multi part mini, how well does the mini integrate with the base, that sort of thing? Depending on your workmanship I’m going to start you off with either a 1 (you got the point!), 0 you did a solid job or even a -1 (which has the potential to drop you a medal rank). At this point if you did well you have 1 point.
       
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      Painting: I save the painting for last because this is the point where I’m not only looking at your ability to paint but how well you executed any special techniques; OSL, NMM, freehand and/or the application of other materials. This is the make or break point and its worth up to 7 points. If you are hoping for a gold medal, I would need to be able to award at least 6 points right here. First thing neatness counts! If your painting is clean (no paint where it doesn’t belong) and no stray brush marks, I’ll be starting you off with at least a silver so 5-6 points for paintwork. Then the hard part, the special techniques if any (and I don’t down grade you if you didn’t use any) and how well you pulled those off. While we like to see painters push themselves to try new things, sometimes a contest entry is not the right place to experiment with it. I might give you the 1 for creativity but I may well ding you a point on the painting. Things to keep in mind.
       
      Working out the numbers
      All right so here is the running total in my head right now:
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      Creativity 1
      Painting 6  
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      which means you are sitting at a silver medal and I would give your entry a “3” on the score sheet. But I still have a full point to play with.
       
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    • By Heisler
      This is the fourth, and last, in a series of four posts each concentrating on a different entry category. You can find information about the scoring system itself in the Painter Division post. From here forward I will just concentrate on how the component guidelines apply to the other three divisions.
       
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      At MMSI in Chicago and elsewhere around the globe this category is usually filled with armor, planes, artillery and the like. At the MSP Open it is more along the lines of the red-headed stepchild. This division shares a lot with the Open Division with workmanship and creativity being big components of the scoring. While many entrants are willing to spend hours pouring over a single miniature and eradicating mold lines and filling gaps, they seem to be loath to do that with an entry into the armor/ordnance category. Just like the other divisions preparation is key, a visible mold line or a seam is likely to drop you a whole medal category in the judging. Since many of the entries are from plastic and resin kits visible seams are usually the biggest problem I see as a judge, following that would be mold lines in difficult to reach places. At the 2018 MSP Open there were a lot of larger Games Workshop pieces. Almost everyone single of these had visible mold lines in the hoses and seams in the armor panels on the back of the legs. This dropped everyone of these entries a medal level. Decals are often used in this division and there is nothing wrong with using them. You will get marked down for poor application though, treat a decal like freehand and don’t just slop it into place. There is a right way and a wrong way to apply decals and it can be a bit of an art to the proper application.
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      Let’s take a quick look at the scoring guidelines the judges use (which is published as part of the MSP Open rules. These are guidelines are subject to change.
      Difficulty: 15%
      Creativity: 10% 
      Workmanship: 30%
      Painting Skill: 35% 
      Presentation: 10% 
       
      Difficulty: This and the Open Division are the places where difficulty does have a significant impact. The difficulty of assembling some of the kits available on the market can vary widely from manufacturer to manufacturer. Especially when dealing with a plastic kit like those produced by Tamiya and Games Workshop to the five piece resin game oriented kits put out by other manufacturers.
       
      Creativity: There is not a lot of creativity involved with a straight up kit build, but when someone goes to the extra lengths to “upgrade” their kits with after market or hand made parts that impacts the creativity component. This is the equivalent of a conversion in the other divisions.
       
      Workmanship: This is really a key component for this division and the proposed change reflects that. Any type of non-painting effort is represented here. This is includes your ability to do conversions and/or scratch sculpt or at least be able to blend your entry in with the scene you have constructed. A missed mold line, poor assembly or a poorly executed conversion could easily drop you a while numeric value in the scoring.
       
      Painting Skill: Everything that was said about painting still applies in the Diorama Division but there is less emphasis. At this point workmanship and creativity components exceed the painting component (as currently proposed). There are a few other mediums that are often used in this category, like weathering powders, the application of those mediums falls into the painting component. While we don’t expect your abilities to be exactly equal in those areas you cannot count on your ability to paint alone to carry you over the top.
       
      Presentation: While not the most important component in the Armor/Ordnance Division it is another example of getting the little things right. A nice, well executed base will set the “scene” for your entry. It can be the simple or it can be more elaborate. I would save the effort on a really elaborate base for an entry in the Open or Diorama divisions. This component is one that a judge will often use when making that final decision between scores, a tie breaker as it were.
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