Monday, March 31, 2014

Entry #1 to the 8th Lead Painters' League: 30mm Goblin War Party


As I mentioned last week I decided to join this year's Lead Painter's League (LPL) over at the Lead Adventure Forum. I participated in the event last year and I found it good fun and a great source of impetus to get some work done on my own projects.

This year the LPL kicked-off only three days after the end of the Challenge which put me in a bit of a flap to meet the deadline requirements.  Since the LPL rules require the first three entries to be sent together, AND all three entries have to be 'unpublished' miniatures, I had to keep some figures back from the Challenge, which was a bit of a bummer. So, fellow 'Wild Bunchers',  if you were wondering why I had 'flatlined' at the end of the Challenge this is why.

The first round of the LPL gave bonus points for aligning to its theme which was 'Realms of Fantasy'. I was wracking my mind trying to decide what to do and then discovered that Tom Meier has his own company, Thunderbolt Mountain which has a range of 30mm fantasy figures which provide a modern, arguably more sophisticated, take on the classic work he did for Ral Partha in the 80s. So I plunked down for a set of groovy looking goblins and waited for them to arrive. 

And waited. And then I sighed heavily and waited some more. 


Finally, when they did arrive, it was only a few days before the LPL deadline, right in the midst of the closing Big Push of the Challenge.  In the end I had to burn some (more) midnight oil in order to crack them off in a few frenzied hours of gluing, painting and flocking. I don't know if it was the time crunch or what, but I had a hard time getting any real traction with these guys. It's certainly no fault of the figures - they're wonderful castings, clean, crisp, with great character and requiring very little cleanup. Nevertheless, I staggered to the photo-booth in the early morning light not really feeling the love. 

That all being said I actually had fun working on them. I'm not a big fan of GW's ubiquitous bright green used for their orcs and goblins so decided to go with a darker, olive hued skin, with mottled charcoal patches on their arms, upper legs and shoulders. I also played around with the hair of the drummer, making him a blonde. I thought I'd follow a spur of the Tolkien canon, I think it's from the Silmarillion, which postulates that orcs and goblins are corrupted  versions of elves.  Along this line I'm thinking of having some sort of debauched elf warlord as the leader of this force - I'm imagining something like a Dirk Bogarde with pointy ears.

Bonzo 'Boom Boom' Thrakka with his dwarf-skin bass drum (assisted by junior goblin roadie)








Not surprisingly, I got completely curb-stomped in the first round by this excellent D&D themed group of adventurers painted by Frank. (As I lamely pointed out, with the LPL organizers matching us up they managed to cover off two great adjectives for this round. Y'know, 'Curt and Frank'. Get it? 'Curt and Frank' ...Ahem. Okay, move along...)

I particularly like the faithful pooch sitting on the far right.

While I really enjoy many elements of the League, such as its efficient (and patient) administration, painting towards ten weekly targets and the camaraderie of fellow contestants, I do find some of the rules a bit byzantine. The restriction of just one 800x800 image for each round seems cruelly limiting. Why not allow  a few more images, at a greater size, with varying angles? These are three dimensional objects after all, not flat figures. As it stands now viewers miss at least 50% of the work put into the submissions with this restriction. It also puts a tremendous amount of pressure on participants to compose one good image to convey the best of their work.  While some participants are gifted photographers (my stuff is serviceable at best), many people do not have the patience or skills to consistently create 'good copy' of their submissions, even though their paintwork may be brilliant.

The other thing that sort of piques me is the elaborate backgrounds that the organizers allow, well, actually encourage. To me this seems to fly in the face of a competition that compares figure painting. I often read the comments from visitors of how they are impressed by the use of particular backgrounds, terrain, etc. This is completely understandable, but I often wonder to what extent some of these backgrounds skew the consideration of the voters. By my understanding, this event is supposed to compare painted figures, not the settings they are placed within. Accordingly I've stuck to using my usual black backgrounds as it forces the viewer to just see the figures, for good or ill.

Anyway, these minor peccadilloes aside I really do appreciate all the hard work put into the event. Anything that can bring hobbyists together in a well-run, constructive forum over ten weeks is a great boon.

On a final note, Round 2 of the Painters' League is now up so I invite you to go check it out. 

For this round I've posted five more of my 1812 French Retreat figures that I kept back from the Challenge. Alan Perry really hit the ball out of the park with this range of figures - they're absolutely gorgeous castings. I'll have the lads posted here next Sunday when the round is finished, but you can get a 800x800 preview of them on the Round 2 League roster. :)

26 comments:

  1. The "staging" of miniatures in LPL always seems contrary to the whole concept to me as well. Still, if anyone can do it then the playing field is at least level I guess.

    Regardless, these are lovely despite your own misgivings. Good luck for the rest of the comp mate!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cheers Millsy!

      Yes, you are right. The rules allow it but somehow it just doesn't sit right with me. It seems to give an unfair advantage to those who have access to nice terrain and have the photo skills to make the best use of the staging. Then the painting begins to take back seat to the rest of the production.

      Delete
  2. I think you're right about the Byzantine rules.

    I think the limitation to one image is an over-compensation after some of the montages from previous years, which seemed to give points to skills in digital manipulation. That being said, then why go down the same path by encouraging elaborate scene-setting? As you say, very distracting for those casting votes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment Edwin. Yes, I think for a pure painting contest instituting a monochrome background (white, grey or black) with three decent-sized photos would solve many of these issues.

      I'm typically not a big fan of 'confrontational' painting competitions. This is why I chose the format I did for the Challenge theme rounds (i.e. open-image, multi-vote, encouraging multiple podium placements, etc.) I like the LPL as it gives me something to participate in that doesn't require Golden Daemon/Euro Militaire skills and it is very well run.

      Delete
  3. You know, even before I got to your beef about the backgrounds, I was thinking the same thing looking at Frank's piece. It's beautiful, absolutely, but a big part of the appeal is his shadowbox. If this were a diorama competition, then hey--knock yourself out. But if this is supposed to be a painting competition, then backgrounds should be strictly limited. In particular, when you combine this with the "one picture only" rule, you're pretty much setting it up to have diorama shadowboxes, since you can then have perfect control over combining lighting, staging, background, etc. For all we know, Frank didn't even paint the backs of those minis! ;)

    I kid on that last point,of course.

    At any rate, the whole thing reminded me of the series finale of Freaks and Geeks, where the guy wins the disco dancing competition by doing a bunch of magic tricks instead of actually dancing.

    "They didn't say you were allowed to do magic!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your considered comments David.

      To be clear, I think Frank's figures deserved the win - no question, hands down. Those adventurers are clearly superior to my goblins. And I don't necessarily begrudge him his use of a dungeon setting. It IS very cool and it follows the stated rules. BUT if our paint work had been closely comparable AND he still got the win I would be hard pressed not to feel 'the rub' as one could never be certain what effect the staging had on voters' impressions.

      My use of black backgrounds is a self-imposed handicap so I'll smile and take my lumps. In the end I guess it comes down to that I refuse to use magic in a disco dancing contest. :)

      Delete
  4. Great looking Goblins Curt. Great colour choices and great figure choices. Would be good to see more fantasy products like these rather than GW 32mm cartoony ones. Having said that I like some things they did. The cheeky smaller night goblins but not the muscle orcs.
    cheers

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Brendon! I have to agree with you about the Night Goblins. I want to hate them but they are just too infectious and fun to dislike. That being said I still generally like the 'high fantasy' approach to orcs, goblins, elves, etc. Being brought up imagining Tolkien's immersive vision of Middle Earth has completely skewed my perspective for this genre.

      Delete
  5. Very nice work Curt I particularly like that drummer. I was looking at Franks work and to be honest it is nice but you have to look beyond the diorama to see the figures which does create a bias in the mind. After all its a figure painting competition and I have to agree with your point not everyone is a digital camera genius. I certainly am not and can just about take a fair picture let alone compose one to that level, I would certainly feel peeved if like you say comparable work was favoured due to the enhanced scenery. Good luck in the future rounds anyway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comments and nod of support Andrew!

      Delete
  6. The fact you even had the time to submit these is a minor miracle. There did seem to some interesting debate on the rules over on LPL itself. I certainly think the setting of the dioramas will skew voting , and if it's a painting standards contest it should have the same backgrounds with 3 views.
    Sure though once in your stride you will give a good account.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cheers Dave. I'll run my own race and will enjoy the scenery along the way.

      Delete
  7. These are quite some nice goblins! To be honest though at first I took them for trolls. The guys with the drum are especially nice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They do have a troll look about them but at 30mm they are too small - unless your adventurers are 20mm!

      Delete
  8. Howdy! Great figures. I've been wanting a few of these guys to compliment my old Ral Partha Tom Meier goblins/lesser orcs. It's nice to see a few painted, and definitely a good job. I myself have never been a fan of the GW "cartoony" orcs and goblins, and bright green skin has never to my tastes either.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, they have a nice old school look about them for sure. As they are 30mm they will be significantly larger than the lovely old Ral Partha stuff. Perhaps they could be 'greater orcs' or 'hobgoblins'?

      Delete
  9. Nice work Curt! I still can't work out how you had time to paint during the Challenge, with all the work you had to do on the blog???

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Ray. My secrets are:

      1) No kids
      2) Little sleep
      3) Espresso

      Delete
  10. Very nice painting work, Curt. These figures appear to be really good (I have been waiting for some long time ago promises 1/48 WWII figures Tom Meyer had on his workbench...).

    Wonderful painting work!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I really like his sculpting but he seems to have been hijacked with work for GRR Martin's 'Game of Thrones' stuff. I think you'll be waiting for a while yet...

      Delete
  11. Great work dude - the painting is top notch. And your explanation of the process around the LPL rules reminds me why I could never try to participate in them...

    Love the skin tone on these guys. It's too bad the GW orcs and goblins have, over time, become more and more cartoonish and brighter and brighter green...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Greg! Yes, I think the LPL is not Burch-Friendly so it's best you watch me flail away from the sidelines.

      I used German WWII Fieldgrey as the base of the goblin skintone. It's a great, unspecific, nebulous colour that works well for so many things.

      Delete
  12. I liked your entry a lot - very nice, muted colours. Alas, strong competition.

    I completely get your point on the staging of the one image that the LPL encourages, but as an independent bystander, it does result. Some lovely images that you rarely see in the hobby. I started to try my hand at it for some challenge entries, though my efforts were pedestrian at best. It does put me off entering the LPL a little - I'd get smashed I suspect!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't get me wrong, I love dioramas as well, but having them in a figure painting competition clouds the water too much in my opinion. If it was clearly stated that staged settings/dioramas are expected (or even mandatory) then there would be no ambiguity and I could determine if I wished to participate. As it stands, I believe the current system handicaps those who do not have the skill, time or inclination to 'stage' their figures.

      To be clear, I'm really not losing any sleep over this. The LPL is a load of fun but these are just observations I've had since my participation last year.

      Delete
  13. I got it though, bloody good work Curt!

    ReplyDelete