Euroma 2022

I’ve been trying to make a point of going to as many shows as I can. This is partially because the End Times stopped all shows for two years, but also because I genuinely enjoy shows, and to see what works and what doesn’t, so I can apply the lessons to the Fen Model Show. When a show turns up somewhere that I’d also like to visit, it makes the decision much easier. While travel is expensive and time consuming, it’s something I thoroughly enjoy and, if the location is right, I can turn it into a holiday. Rome, obviously, is that sort of location.

Euroma has quite a good reputation in certain circles – predominantly historical, but also among flat painters. It’s not so well known among the fantasy crew, but I find there’s less antipathy between the various camps these days, so it may just be a matter of advertising.

Anyway, photos first (with usual disclaimers around the quality of my photography):

In terms of results, I won a silver in Master Flats and a bronze in Nature (no Master/Standard split in that category), as well as a special prize from Cixmodels for (presumably) my fox in the Nature category. I’m pretty happy with those results, especially as it shows that I’m right in concluding that I’m pretty good at flats (just as well that I enjoy painting them!).

I’d say the judging seemed very consistent and much as I would expect from a good show. They clearly set a high bar for achievement, but then provide really nice medals for those who reach that level. The level of work present was also very high; some really excellent work on display.

Overall, the show is pretty good. I think there’s room for some improvements, especially in terms of providing information about the show up front. They have a Facebook page and a website, but there are some key bits of info that aren’t easy to find. For instance: there are no tickets. The show is free to visit. You pay to enter models (one flat rate, regardless of how many models or categories you enter), which I was able to find out about beforehand, but I went along not knowing if I’d be charged extra on the door. The fact that I hadn’t seen anything advertising tickets suggested that I didn’t need to book one (which would have been terrible to discover on the day), but I was pleased to discover that there were no hidden costs.

Signposting around the show also wasn’t great. There was a sign outside the hotel saying the show was inside, but nothing telling me where to go for it. I ended up following some people to the first floor and got lucky. I think a basic addition to the sign would have been an easy fix. It’s not something that really matters after the first few hours, but I did find it a touch offputting. Once on the first floor, there were a number of rooms with different categories in them. I don’t remember if there were signs indicating which displays were in each room other than on the display tables themselves.

(Yes, these two points could be resolved by talking to people, but I’m very introverted and prefer to figure things out myself from the information available. I suspect I’m not alone in this.)

Lighting at the show was a bit 50:50. The lights they had were good – suspended panel lights over the displays in the fantasy and historical figures room, some lamps over the flats, etc. However, in some places the large windows let in far too much light, and some models I think really suffered from that.

The prizegiving was… something. It was 30+ degrees, which I’m sure is positively mild in Rome, but for some reason they opted to do it outside, with very little shade provided. For those of us from more temperate climes, this was a distinct struggle, especially as the ceremony took more than an hour.

The organisers were very good about making sure they clearly enunciated the names of non-Italians, which was greatly appreciated. I don’t expect them to conduct the prizegiving in English, so it was nice to have it obvious for those of us who don’t speak Italian when to go up.

Would I go back to the show? Probably not, if I’m honest. Rome is lovely and the show was enjoyable, but it’s quite a lot of effort that I don’t feel the need to repeat. The show could entice me back if it tried to be something different from other shows. As it stands, it is very much like the usual sort of event you can find in a lot of places (lots of categories to appease the various rivet counters and isolationists…), just in a much nicer city than most.

The other thing that put a bad taste in my mouth was Roman public transport, which isn’t the show organisers’ fault at all. On the plus side, I did find out that Google Maps is very good at finding alternative public transport routes.

World Model Expo 2022

It’s taken me a while to get around to writing this up for a few reasons:

  1. I had 200+ photos to sort through, all of varying quality, and all to be done on an aging laptop that often tries to take a nap in the middle of a process.
  2. The event was a massive shock to the senses, so I needed a bit of time to process it all.
  3. I was busy. Pretty crappy excuse, really, given I’m usually busy with one thing or another, but it worked as an excuse to procrastinate. “Oh, I suppose I could write up a blog post about WME, but I have this other thing to do that absolutely could also wait.”

Anyway, contrary to my usual format, I thought I’d do the write-up up top with the pictures below. This is at least partially because I know that my laptop will panic at uploading all those pictures (and then freak out about loading them onto the page), and that part of the process will take forever. Might as well get this bit out of the way first so I don’t have an excuse to delay. Again.

The models

As you’ve probably seen and heard, this World Expo had more than 4000 models on display, and courtesy of the pandemic giving everyone a lot more time at home to work on their hobbies, the overall standard was consistently high, whether in Master or Standard. I was in fairly early and managed to get my models on the displays while the shelves were still fairly empty, and I felt pretty good about them. They looked like they’d have a decent impact.

That feeling lasted all of an hour or so.

It’s pretty humbling seeing the best you can do set alongside the best produced by someone with considerably more talent. On top of this, my fantasy models simply vanished into the sea of ultra-saturated models with powerful light sources.

I’ve always favoured a more realistic approach – partially because I’ve always preferred grittier, more realistic fantasy and sci-fi content, partially because I just don’t like highly saturated art in general. I am clearly in the minority, and it’s given me things to think about. I doubt I’ll suddenly throw fluorescent pigments at everything, but ramping up the strength of the light sources for a touch more drama might be useful, and I can always chuck some really high saturation at key features if I need to really draw attention.

One thing I did find interesting when comparing this World Expo to the last one I attended in Stresa in 2014, is that the fantasy open category felt much more restrained. What I saw at Eindhoven were a surprisingly large number of entries that were relatively simple – a few stock models on a base, for instance. Generally beautifully painted, but… In Stresa, the open category was awash with collaborations between sculptors and painters, which showed off enormous creativity. Some pieces at Eindhoven were certainly of that calibre, but it did seem like there was less ‘ambition’ generally in the fantasy open.

I’d also like to mention that the World Federation really should rename its ‘diorama’ category, as that clearly caused a lot of confusion. So much, in fact, that the show organisers had to put up signs advising people (mostly fantasy painters) that, under World Federation rules, a ‘diorama’ has to have a vehicle in it, and if your [apparently not a] diorama lacks a vehicle, you need to re-register it in the appropriate category.

I can’t fathom why a ‘diorama’ category needs such a ridiculous requirement unless it’s deliberately intended to separate ‘vehicles’ from ‘vehicles with figures’, in which case surely a more descriptive title would be valuable? Anyway, I gather this has been an argument for some time within the World Federation. Maybe one day they’ll realise that it’s just silly.

The people

One of the best parts of going to shows is to catch up with friends and meet new people. I’m not great in crowds, however, and it takes me a long time to warm up to socialising, especially after two years of hiding inside. I spent the first day or so trying very hard not to just hide in a corner with a lot of beers.

Having said that, the Danes made excellent company – especially Tue, who’s always fun to be around and has an incredible mind for the hobby.

Anyway, if you saw me at the show and thought I was standoffish or brusque, I was probably actually just trying to avoid having a panic attack.

One thing that was very lovely was the dozen or so people who approached me to ask if I was ‘the duck guy’ (or variations on that). That was quite humbling, especially as many of the people who approached me about the ducks are painters I’ve admired for some time.

The show itself

I had misgivings about running the show at the Koningshof, simply because I remember Stresa well and one of the things I loved most about that show was that you weren’t stuck there. You could easily treat it like a normal holiday in an incredible location where there just happened to be a model show. I thought it was a shame not to move the World Expo into Eindhoven, giving people the opportunity to see the city (which, I maintain, is lovely and vibrant).

In the end, I’m happy to be wrong. Would the show have been better if it was in the city? Perhaps, but it didn’t need to be. The venue was large enough and there was enough going on that there was no need to have an escape to hand.

The barbecue was also an excellent idea – with limited dining options (and dining space) at the venue, it was a really good way to not only provide dining for many more people, but it also encouraged everyone to stick around and socialise outside of the show itself.

(It’s my opinion, however, that a barbecue really should have sausages.)

The prize giving at the end was also very well handled – I was pleased to see that they didn’t run out of medals as they had at Stresa – and as far as I could tell, the judging was generous but justified. I’ve seen moaning online about the sheer number of medals handed out, but I think that sort of argument fails to take into account the self-selecting nature of the World Expo: everyone who is at the show is very serious about the hobby, and they are bringing the best they have to show off. Unless you impose an arbitrarily and unnecessarily high standard (which you have to determine on the fly, because you don’t actually know what’s going to turn up until it does), you’re going to end up giving out a lot of medals.

The results

I was quite shocked – but very pleased – to win two bronzes and a silver. Silver for fantasy master painting, bronzes for historical master painting and historical master open. I’m still not quite over that silver, if I’m honest.

Martin, meanwhile, also got silver in fantasy master painting and also got bronze in historical master painting. Had he entered historical master open, he probably would have got a bronze in that, too, just to maintain the symmetry.

The pictures

The usual caveats apply: I am a terrible photographer, etc. I should note that while the light seems very harsh in the pictures, it was actually perfectly fine in person.

White Rose/Figureworld North 2022

The Fen Model Show isn’t the only new show this year, and since the White Rose/Figureworld collaboration was announced last year, I’d been keen to head along. Figureworld used to be based out of Oundle, which is pretty close to me, and had been a show I really enjoyed. It was never a competition, just a get-together for painters to show off their work and do some shopping.

Before I get into the review proper, the usual caveats about photos:

  1. I’m a terrible photographer. Yadda yadda. No news there.
  2. Lighting wasn’t ideal. It wasn’t awful – the level of natural light was very good, but that’s all it had, which meant that some models had windows directly behind them, making it tough to get photos.

Note to the organisers if they happen to read this review:

Well done! Thoroughly enjoyed the show. Below the pictures I have a lot of opinions. They are precisely that and I encourage you to ignore them entirely or take them with a pinch of salt. It’s your show to do with as you please – I’m just some nerd who writes things.

In terms of results, my hobo nickels took a gold, while the infected gangster and Apophys took silvers, so it was a pretty successful show for me. The judging clearly seemed to be aiming for a similar style to the old Euro Militaire, which is to say setting a very high boundary for bronze, which meant that in each category there was only a relatively small number of medals awarded.

I think this approach can be a good or a bad take – on the positive side, it does encourage entrants to bring their A game and pushes them to improve, as the value of any prize is perceived as quite high. On the negative side, it can discourage painters, especially if they enter over and over again without ever quite making the standard. Euro had examples of both, and the fabled ‘Euro gold’ was held in very high esteem internationally, which kept it going for quite some time.

I’d argue that if a show takes that approach and gets very large, it’s worth considering adding a ‘standard’ category, so there’s a sort of stepping stone for painters, whereby they can achieve at standard level before moving up and trying for masters’ level. This show isn’t large enough to worry about that yet, but hopefully it’ll grow and become part of the organisers’ conversations.

In terms of turnout, Colin told me they had about 340 entries in the competition, which is a very healthy number for a first show. I thought it looked like more, but I’m terrible at gauging that sort of thing. There were also club displays downstairs, which probably had a couple of hundred more models on show.

I would say that some of the categories felt a little arbitrary to me, but I’ve held that opinion about painting competitions in general for quite a long time. For instance, the historical single figure category was split between up to 65mm and 65mm+, while the fantasy single figure category mixed all scales (including two extraordinarily large pieces). In my opinion, if you don’t think a model at one scale can be compared to a model at another, you should at least be consistent with this. If the issue is that you expect one category to be much larger than others, I think a cleaner solution is to rope in some more judges.

On a personal note, I’d also like to see the end of ‘military’ in category names unless it’s absolutely restricted to military topics. The hobby has a huge range of topics, many of which aren’t military, and while it can seem a small thing, I think people can be put off entering a category if they don’t think their work will be accepted by the judges.

Anyway, the show itself was very well run and organised, although I seem to have missed the prizegiving. It was advertised on the Facebook page as being at 3, so, as is tradition, I buggered off for a pint at around 1.30 and returned just before 3 to find people collecting their models and medals. It’s not a massive issue, as I was confident I wasn’t going to win best of show (and it did let us get away a little earlier so we could get home at a more reasonable hour), but I would have liked to be around for it to clap for the winners and get a better idea of who did what.

The quality on display was very good, and Colin told me there were around 340 entries, which is a very strong first showing. I would have liked to see more entries in the junior category, but I think that’s always going to be a struggle unless you really yoke yourself to GW topics.

One of the most important parts of any show – for me, at least – is that it’s more than just the show. I really enjoy competitions in places where I can feel a bit like I’m on holiday and coincidentally there happens to be a model show. The World Expo in Stresa was a great example, as was Duke of Bavaria in Ingolstadt; we hope the Fen Model Show has much the same vibe in Ely. I wasn’t sure what Easingwold would have, but I was very happy to discover that’s a very nice little village, with some excellent cafes and pubs, and set in a beautiful part of the country.

We actually came up to York the night before to have dinner in the city, because Christina and I have enjoyed previous trips there and figured it was a good opportunity. We came up with Joey and his wife, who claimed to have ‘always wanted to visit York’. Given this claim, I was very surprised to discover that they’d not heard of the Shambles. Or even the Minster. Or much at all other than something vague about Vikings having been there. Needless to say, I made sure we stopped by the obvious tourist spots.

All up, I’m very keen to come back next year, but I’m also thinking about heading to Kontrast in Poland, which was the same weekend this year. Hopefully there’s not a clash!

BMSS 2022

Just yesterday, Martin, Joey and I took a wee roadtrip to the British Model Soldier Society’s Annual Show. It used to be held in a church hall in Pimlico, London, which was an easy trip down on the train, but the venue was very small and the competition hall was very dark. Since the pandemic, they’ve moved the show to Reading, which is more of a journey for us, but it’s considerably more spacious and has much improved lighting, both of which make it quite worthwhile, I think.

Also, the venue is just around the corner from what is apparently one of the best pubs in the region (and it was indeed quite good). This, combined with marginally cheaper beer than in London and Ely, makes for quite an improvement overall.

Hopefully you’ll see the benefit of improved lighting in the photos, but I should note that they did supply some very small battery-powered lamps that unfortunately left many of the models backlit to some degree. I suspect lighting overall would be improved simply by removing those lamps, or more expensively by replacing them with larger daylight lamps that can be angled to provide frontal lighting for the figures.

Anyway, on to the pictures:

As you may be aware – or notice from the pictures – the BMSS has a very strong interest in military history, so fantasy pieces and civilian pieces are relatively rare. This is fine – it is the British Model Soldier Society, after all – but it does mean that you’re never quite sure how those other pieces will be judged. In the end, the only real controversy from the Ely delegation was Martin’s Scottish Highlander (a military historical piece, obviously), which still got a bronze.

Overall results:

  • Martin: Two golds (dragon and troll), two silvers (Yarry and Pirate Poopy-Pants) and a bronze (Scottish Highlander).
  • Joey: Bronze (The Trio) and commended (10mm Viking).
  • Fet: Gold (Apophys), two silvers (Bowie and Gaga), bronze (Freddie) and commended (10mm Saracen).

Overall, it was a fun day out without any stress over the show, which I think is something a lot of people miss out on at shows. There’s often consternation over how your work will be judged, whether you’ll win the prizes you may think you deserve, etc. I don’t think that’s really the case at the BMSS Annual Show for the simple reason that they really like giving out prizes, and generally seem to get the rankings about right (Highlanders notwithstanding). Also, several good pubs nearby. More shows need to remember that they should cater to people’s needs outside of the show. Pubs, in my case.

Finally, it was especially great to meet up with some people we haven’t seen since before the pandemic. A few of them are coming along to the Fen Model Show next week, so we’ll see them there, but we’ll be working so probably won’t have time to mingle.

On that note, we have two pubs basically right outside the venue for the Fen Model Show. We’re thinking about the visitors’ needs.

Hammerhead Model Show 2022

Yesterday, Martin, Joey and I headed up north to the Hammerhead Model Show, which is held just outside Newark, which is a little way outside Nottingham. It’s actually not too long a drive for us, and we’ve been itching to get to some shows since they all disappeared during COVID and following the disappointment of Salute last year.

The usual caveats, then the photos, then the commentary:

  • I suck as a photographer, etc.
  • The models were mostly in round perspex display cases, some of which were a little scratched or fogged. The competition organisers were gracious enough to pull some models out for me when they were available, but I didn’t want to take up all their time and slow down the entry process or judging.
  • I didn’t get all the winners because Martin won four categories and he doesn’t need help spamming his photos all over the internet. If you’d like to see the rest of his stuff, it’s all on his Instagram.