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Judging the Reaper Con MSP Open - Open Division


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This is the second 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.


Open Division

The Open Division is far more of a freeform division than the Painter Division. Here is where you get to really strut your stuff with major conversions and scratch sculpts. 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 although these discussions tend to be longer than they might be in the Painter Division.  However, when selecting the scoring entry the conversation is still based on “I can score this one higher than the others” or words to that affect, till they come to a decision just as it would be for the Painter Division. If multiple 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: 15%

Creativity: 10%

Workmanship: 30%

Painting Skill: 30%

Presentation: 15%


What does this mean for the Open Division? In this division we are really want to see all your skills. While the components remain the same the emphasis has obviously changed a great deal.


Difficulty: This is far more intuitive than it is in the Painter Division. The level of difficulty depends entirely on the difficulty of the conversion, with a minor conversion being the least difficult with graduations on up from there with a complete scratch sculpt being the most difficult.


Creativity: Creativity stays about the same as it does for Painter. Painting is still a factor here. Now painting is combined with your ability to convert and sculpt to reach your audience. The entrant’s imagination comes into play here, you are looking for impact on the audience. Are you straining the boundaries of believability or are you trying to evoke a specific emotion from your viewers? Have you achieved what you set out to do at the end?


Workmanship: This remains a pretty straightforward component but in the Open Division there is a higher emphasis on it. It reflects how well constructed the entire piece is. Any type of non-painting effort is represented here. Again a well done conversion means that the judge can’t tell that anything has been converted. A scratch sculpt should be properly proportioned and well sculpted (no thumb prints!). A missed mold line, poor assembly or a poorly executed conversion could easily drop you a while numeric value in the scoring. This is a category that we really encourage documentation, show us what you did and how you did it.


Painting Skill: Everything that was said about painting still applies in the Open Division but there is less emphasis. At this point workmanship and painting are equal. While we don’t expect your abilities to be exactly equal in both areas you cannot count on your ability to paint alone to carry you over the top.


Presentation:  There is more emphasis on the is component as well. If you are building the entire entry, essentially from scratch then the presentation of your entry is going to have a significant impact on how a viewer perceives your entry. Bring your entry to life!

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I’m not really sure how to ask this, but I’m playing around with a few ideas that I want to work on this year. I’ve also never been to a Reapercon, so forgive me if this is something that is easy to discern for attendees. 

1. what constitutes a mini? How big is a piece allowed to be? I know sculpts are allowed, but are we allowed to use a base of something to build on, like, say, a 10ish inch doll? Is this something that would be considered a statue or bust?


2. If, say, something like that would be allowed, could we use non-sculpt additions, like custom hair, leather accent (with or without a paint job). I could go either way on this, but wanted to ensure I can adhere as closely as I can to guidelines to be considered. 

3. If this doesn’t really fit, is there another category that would work with this type of medium where i could still enter and be judged, or is this something you don’t think would do well at all at Reaper con?

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Almost anything can be considered a miniature in the Open category, size is not a deciding factor, there are plenty of sculpts out there in the 12” plus category. Although I will get a second opinion from Michael, I don’t think that it would do well in our show as the emphasis is on sculpting and painting not mixed media. It certainly would not be disqualified if you entered such a piece though.

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There were a couple of puppets in the 2018 entries, one of which was awarded Silver. There's also an artist whose name unfortunately escapes me at the moment who regularly enters multimedia pieces that are very interesting and fun. If you'd like to see the puppet entries, head to this link and look for Mishayla Benzel's entries. 



From there you can access a drop-down menu that will let you take a look at other entries from the past few years. Marike Reimer's open piece from 2019 is also pretty atypical for our contest entries and was awarded Gold, though I think it was completely scratch built.


I agree with Heisler that our training and emphasis as judges is not geared towards knowledge and understanding of OOAK, doll repaints, and multimedia techniques, so pieces of that nature may not be judged and appreciated in quite the same way at our show as they would be in an environment dedicated to them. We would do our best, and they would still be welcomed and appreciated as entries though. Our training and emphasis is on paint and/or sculpting, so if maximum consideration in the contest side of things is part of what interests you, I'd aim towards a project that showcases those elements as much as possible. 

I'm pondering whether a doll repaint would/coud fall under painters more than open. In that scenario the multimedia elements (hair, clothing) would probably be a very minor consideration for judging, like bases are for a traditional figure, and judging would emphasize the paintwork.

I would definitely take and bring along photographs of your starting components and maybe some work-in-progress pictures. You could also do a brief write-up describing your work. Information like this is welcomed with any entry, but in the case of something that is much different than what judges and viewers are more familiar with, will be a helpful insight into the work you've done.

(I'm one of the judges, but I'm not one of the show directors. This is my opinion of what would be likely, but not a definitive answer!)

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