Salute 2021

It’s been much too long since I last updated the blog about my own work, but that can wait for now as I’ve just returned from Salute so this entry is earmarked for show coverage. The usual caveat of “I’m a terrible photographer” (I’ve discarded more than half of the photos I took because they were even worse) is this time further enhanced by the especially terrible lighting in the cabinets, but I’ll talk about that in more detail after the pictures. First picture is Andy Wardle’s best of show. Click the pictures to embiggen.

Prelude to rant:

None of my ranting below is from sour grapes (or, at least, I’m pretty sure it’s not). I had a good idea of what I was likely to get going into the show, and I got exactly what I expected. This rant is born from years of going to shows and seeing some problems continue without being addressed, the most prominent of which is lighting.

Rant begins:

While Salute is generally known for the poor quality of lighting, I think this year it was somehow worse than normal. As usual, the lights were behind the models, presumably so the judges can see the backs of the models better without needing some fancy bit of kit like a torch. This, of course, means that we, the attendees and entrants, can barely see the figures in the cabinets. One cabinet – with the miscellaneous and large scale entries – didn’t even have any lights working. I didn’t think it was possible, but this actually made it worse.

I’m not a massively competitive painter, as I’ve said before, but one of the main reasons I attend and enter shows is to be able to see my pieces alongside others to have a clearer gauge of where I am in my painting as compared to others, and to see what different techniques and effects can do for how a piece is interpreted. All that artsy stuff.

Needless to say, if I can’t actually see the models, I get almost nothing from it.

Furthermore, I can only assume some of the judging must have been influenced by this atrocious lighting. One piece in particular was, for me, the stand-out entry of the show. I thought it was a strong contender for best of show. It remained in the cabinet, not even a finalist. (For reference, it’s the woman in the tree that I managed to get a picture of with the help of a couple of friends using their phones as torches.)

There can be only a few possible reasons that it stayed where it was:

  1. It was actually rubbish and I am deluded. The painter (Andy Wardle) actually won best of show with a different piece, so I’m confident it really was as good as I thought, or at least close to that and almost certainly should have made it to the finalist table.
  2. The lighting was so bad that the judges couldn’t see it properly. If this was the case, they should have done some due diligence and actually taken the model somewhere it could be seen properly. They should have done this with every single piece that was entered, but some clearly never budged once they were in the cabinet.
  3. The judges don’t know what they’re looking at. I don’t know any of the judges personally, so I can’t say whether it was that or one of the other reasons.
  4. The judges were absolutely correct and the category was clearly much tougher than I realised. This is, granted, absolutely possible. But I wouldn’t know because I couldn’t see any of the models properly at all.

If I sound a bit miffed by this, it’s because I think if a painter spends tens or hundreds of hours working on a model, they deserve to have that piece honestly appraised at a competition. This isn’t just for the painters in the top tier – everyone who entered a model put in a lot of work and presented it for judging and for display to the public. If the judges aren’t paying proper attention and the public can’t see the models clearly, I think the show has has failed to deliver.

I probably wouldn’t be so annoyed by it if it wasn’t an old, known problem. No show run today has any excuse for crap lighting. If you can’t figure out that the display is for both the judges and the public, I’m not sure what the purpose of the show is.

Note that none of this is to denigrate any of the winners. From what I could see on the winners’ table at the end of the show, everything that made it there was very good. Most of the decisions were probably the right ones – and the hobby is an art, so there’s always an element of taste, etc. that’s going to make deciding between various pieces difficult. However, when it’s clear that some pieces haven’t been looked at properly (or at all, in some cases), I don’t think you can really say that the judging was as thorough as it should have been.

With all this said, I’m not sure I’ll come back to Salute again. Outside the painting competition, the show doesn’t really have much of a draw for me – I’m not a gamer and the more ‘painterly’ companies that used to attend have all stopped coming. So, if I can’t actually see the models, what do I get from attending? At best, I get a confusing set of judging results that I can’t properly appreciate.

Rant ends.

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