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  • A Slayer Sword winner's perspective of US Games Day 2002

    My Thoughts . . . 2002

    I just got back from the U.S. GamesDay and the most unexpected of results
    occurred-I won the 2002 Slayer Sword. I was utterly shocked because I
    truly did not think that I had a shot this year. The only miniature I had
    brought to GamesDay was a 40k single, which has not won the sword in the United
    States since I have been competing. With the likes of Bobby Wong and Jason
    Richards prowling the Categories, I firmly believed that this was not going to
    be my year. Two years ago after I won my first sword, I wrote my article
    "MY THOUGHTS ON HOW TO WIN AT THE GOLDEN DEMON" which explained that
    winning a the Golden Demon requires both a lot of hard work and a healthy dose
    of good luck. You can still see this article on Jason Richards's Web site

    What was true in 2000 is even more true in 2002.


    This year I originally did not intend to go to the U.S. Games Day because of the
    ban on past Golden Demon winners. Rather, I planned to go to England
    to try my luck there. Two months prior to Games Day they lifted the ban on
    Sword Winners, and suddenly I was back in business with respect to U.S.
    competition. The only problem was that so was Bobby Wong. If you
    compete in the U.S. then you know what I am talking about. I have come to
    terms with the FACT that Bobby Wong is the most technically proficient blender and
    highlighter in the United States, and probably in the world. His highlighting and blending technique is unmatched and every one that has seen his miniatures in person leaves with a sinking suspicion in the pit of their stomach that Bobby is working on a whole another level than the rest of us.

    One of my daemons
    He is the man to beat on the U.S. circuit-we all know that. Worse still is
    that he primarily competes in the 40k categories, the same categories I
    compete in and I knew he was working on a 40k single figure. The road to a
    first place trophy (which was what I was hoping for) for me would have to go through Bobby.

    With that being said, he is not unbeatable, no person is. The Golden Demon
    ("GD") are a painting competition which is highly subjective. In addition
    to painting technique, many other factors come into play, most important of
    which are individual preferences of the judges concerning style. If I was
    going to win, I would have to do something different than Bobby and hope that
    the Judges just liked what I did better. I had decided that I would
    paint up an over-the-top Daemon Prince conversion based upon a Cave Troll model,
    at least, I would have a size advantage over Bobby. Furthermore,
    fortunately for me, Bobby and I have almost diametrically opposed painting
    styles and maybe I would get lucky with Judges that preferred the look of
    my miniatures.
    Bobby is the absolute master of the classic, super clean "cartoon
    style" (which he hates being described as such) which currently dominates
    U.S. GDs. This style was first interjected into the GW hobby by Mike McVey
    and is used by other competitors such as Brian Shaw, Chris Borer and Brett
    Dewald (his 40k stuff only). Bobby's miniatures' most notable features are
    bright contrasting primary colors (painted on a white undercoat) and
    exaggerated edge type highlights that move from the base color to pure white in
    under a millimeter of distance. His miniatures tend to have simple
    color schemes that show off his flawless blending technique. His
    miniatures are pristine and without flaw. Never will you see a brush
    stroke or a rough
    transition. They evoke a sense of a perfect beautiful world of the
    future-the world of "Star Trek."
    One of my daemons

    As Bobby embodies the perfection of Star Trek universe, I strive for the
    "Road Warrior" look. I try to project a primitive and savage
    feel to my
    Chaos Marines. My miniatures are dark with deep shadows (painted on a
    black undercoat) and naturalistic color schemes (at least for 40k). My
    highlights never go to white, but my shadows tend to go to pure black.
    Several of my models were painted without so much as a drop of white paint--even
    with other colors. The schemes are intentionally overly-complicated to
    create an asymmetrical, eclectic look of being feral and primitive. I
    consider my style to be "realistic" in the same vein as the work of
    Jakob Nielson, Jeff Wilson and David Brooks.

    As different as our styles are, I knew I had to "upjump" my painting
    technique if I wanted to be an effective competitor. The field has moved
    extremely fast in the last few years in terms of the level of painting technique
    required to be in the game. Although I have been successful for
    the past two years with my usual bag of tricks, I needed something new. This
    leads me to an important part of doing well at the Golden Demon. You
    must continue to grow as a painter or the world will quickly pass you by.

    One of my favorite parts of the hobby is studying the work of other people. I
    constantly do it to find more techniques to incorporate into and improve
    my own style. I refer to a lot of the painters by name in this article,
    but I do not actually know these individuals on a personal level. I know
    work from repeatedly studying painted miniatures on the internet and the White
    Dwarf. I actually spend more time looking at other people's work
    than painting my own miniatures. Two notable advancements that I learned
    this year came from studying work outside the U.S.[pagebreak]

    Last year I took a trip to the Canada Golden Demons. I
    was fresh from winning the open category at the 2001 U.S. GamesDay
    (winning over
    impressive models by Jason Richards, Chris Borer and Jeff Wilson) and
    winning the 2000 U.S. Slayer Sword. I was up for a rude awakening in
    Canada. My models used the same patterning style that had been so
    successful in my two prior competitions, did not do as well in
    Canada--both taking third place

    Far more important was arrival of three new painters on the
    scene: Tim Kholmetz and the Rantz brothers (I think they are
    brothers). All of them employed impressive freehand work. This
    separated the men from the boys
    at the Canadian competition, leaving me one of the boys. At that
    moment I
    knew that freehand was something I had to master and something that could
    me an edge in future competitions. I set out to develop this
    technique for myself which leads me to my Sword winning entry which I will
    discuss more later.

    The second new technique I learned was the use of subtle color blending
    with high water washes (95% water) to smooth out the color transitions in
    shadowing of my model. I learned this technique from studying the
    French Golden demon winners (particularly Thomas Barse and Dave Thomas)
    who blend
    purples and blues into the shadowing to add hints of many colors to the
    model. Also my friend Douglas Hahn experimented with this technique
    before. After studying the French models, I began to notice that
    hints of different colors show up everywhere in every day life, even in
    what appears
    to be a single color. If you really look at something, rarely are
    things purely one color, but rather they reflect the many different colors
    of the
    light spectrum. The recreation of this effect is used by artists all
    the time outside the miniature painting world. From over one foot
    my miniature appears to have dark brown and black shadowing. In
    realty, the model is primarily shadowed in purple, green and violet.
    The intersection
    of the color blends produce an olive-dark brownish color which fades out
    to purple, violet and green as you move across the shadow. When you
    closely at the model you can see many different colors in the shadows.
    This creates a model which is both colorful and wonderfully drab at the
    time, giving it a very natural feeling of light. Next time you paint
    a model try shading (with a heavily diluted wash) yellow with purple and
    shading red with blue (or green) and green with violet-you might be
    surprised with the results. Then try all three.


    With these two techniques in mind, around Christmas of 2001, I set out to paint
    a new pilot model to develop these additions to my current style.
    Before I get involved in a large project, I try to practice on smaller models to
    see if the new technique is going to work out. I chose a
    Terminator character to fill in the gaps in my chaos army line up. My
    pilot model was purchased by me from Brother Sinaer's web site. If you are
    familiar with Brother Sinaer's work, you should definitely check it out. He is
    one of the best converters (maybe, the best) of GW miniatures. I have
    been a big fan of his green stuff casting and relished the opportunity to paint
    one of his models, much like someone who enjoys collecting rare GW
    figures. Steps on how the pilot model was originally converted can be
    found here on Brother Sinaer's website:

    I took his model and made substantial conversions of my own
    to it. I pulled off all four limbs and repinned them to change the
    stance of the model
    from looking down to looking slightly up and walking down steps. I
    replaced his right leg with an imperial terminator sergeant's leg (after
    filing off all
    the detail) so as to have a flat spot for my yet to be developed freehand
    work. I re-sculpted the leg joints with bands so has to create an
    appropriate seam for the new leg. I also extended the right arm off
    the model and added a servor, a corrugated tube and a wire to create
    detail to his terminator armor.

    I extended the fur pelts with green stuff to accommodate the
    new body positioning as well as moved the severed heads to the rear of the
    model. I pulled off the right hand blades and chains to give me more
    room for freehand painting, as well as switched the top fin of the gun to
    make the model more balanced. I also changed the hand positioning to
    spread the left arm out from the body. I added a search light to the
    body and gems to each of the swords and his arms. I added multiple
    body parts and straps to accessorize the model to look like my other
    miniatures. Finally, I created a very elaborate banner made from
    green stuff as well as a large scenic base (the stones were dremmeled out
    of plastic to make bricks) to top the model off. The banner included
    hand sewn stitches from actual thread to enhance the feral look of aged
    stretched animal skin. The amount of conversion I added to this
    already converted model greatly exceeds what the average GD competitor
    does to his models. I spent probably between 20-25 hours on converting the
    model in addition to what Brother Sinaer did.

    As I started painting the model, it took a life of its own.
    The freehand work came much easier than I had expected, so I went to town
    on the model.
    I covered both the front and back of the banners, the base, the power
    glove, the right shoulder pad, the wrist, the butt plate and both ankles
    freehand demoniac faces. In total there are 14 separate faces put on
    the model, peering out of the armor and banner.


    I got so engrossed with painting this model that it soon became apparent that
    this project was going to be far more than just a practice model. I ended
    up spending more time on it per square inch than any other figure I had done.
    In all, my total time spent converting, planning and painting the miniature is
    about 150 hours. Three quarters into the model, I found out that the ban
    on past Sword winners was lifted. This meant I was going to compete 3
    months earlier than expected (the U.K. competition is in September), leaving me
    no time to start and complete my Daemon Prince model.
    That also meant that I would have to go to Baltimore and directly compete
    against Bobby in the 40K single miniature category, without the advantage
    of having a much larger figure to impress the judges. Any thoughts about
    winning a sword were gone, as the 40K single category traditional has not
    been a strong category to compete for the Sword in the United States. However,
    40K single year to year is the toughest category, attracting by
    far the most entries and the top painters. A win there against all the
    prior sword winners and top painters would be one to definitely cherish. I
    would just have to do my best and hope for the best.

    So GamesDay 2002 finally came, but my meeting with Bobby in 40k single did not
    happen. He did not complete his 40k figure, but instead entered the
    Warhammer Fantasy single figure with a Prince Tyrion model. Indeed, very
    few of the usual top competitors entered my category. Rather, they all
    went to Warhammer Fantasy single miniature, traditionally, one of the weakest
    categories. And it was a shootout in the Warhammer single category.
    Bobby Wong, Jason Richards, Jeff Wilson, Brett Dewald, Brian Shaw, Daniel
    O'Toole, Greg Smalling, Laszlo Jakusovszky, and at least 4 other people all
    entered models that on any other year could have taken first place. It was
    the strongest category I have ever seen. Bobby Wong ended up taking the
    Warhammer category and I ended up winning mine. So I got my goal of a 1st
    place in 40K single and I would get my meeting with Bobby Wong in the
    competition for the Sword.

    Now, about being lucky. In the 2002, more so in any contest, there was not
    a single miniature that stood out as the best among the Sword contenders.
    The Category winners eligible for the sword were:

    Bobby Wong (1st WARHAMMER SINGLE and 1st VEHICLE) had, as expected, the most
    technically perfect and beautiful Prince Tyrion model on the table. Both
    striking and flawless, your eyes were instantly drawn to it in a table with at
    least 50 miniatures on it. I still get an inferiority complex when I see it.
    He also had a UltraMarines Rhino done in classic military modeling techniques
    that took 1st place.

    Jason Richards (1st 40K LARGE FIGURE) had a fully sculpted Nurgle Great Unclean
    One with an extremely original paint scheme which looked you straight in the
    eyes and said "pick me." It had all the ingredients of a Sword Winner,
    technical excellence, originality, and being down right cool. I have really
    become a fan of Jason Richards. He is the most versatile GD competitor
    capable of full figure sculpts. He is the most ambitious of the GD
    competitors, pushing the limits with novel paint schemes, techniques and

    Bryan Shaw (1st BATTLE SCENE) had made the atom bomb on miniature painting.
    Everyone knows if you want to win the Sword, paint up a dragon. He not
    only did that, but he painted up two converted dragons dueling in the air.
    He has won more GD trophies than anyone on the planet (21 awards, I believe) and
    is one of the greats of miniature painting.

    Brett Dewald (1st 40K SQUAD) had entered a squad of his very successful void
    reapers marines which have taken three trophies for his army. He has the
    honor of winning the second most awards of any one on the planet (16). I
    used to study both Brian Shaw and Brett Dewald in the White Dwarf when I was
    still in diapers as a miniature painter.

    Jakub Tracz (1st WARHAMMER REGIMENT and 1st WARHAMMER MONSTER) has the honor of
    winning more awards in a single event than any other person: 7 awards. He beat
    the record set by Jason Richards last year (6) and matched my career total of 7
    in one show.

    Tom Schradle (1st DUEL) a winner of 8 golden demons and a former Portent
    Brushworks painter. He did a very nicely put together duel scene.

    Jeff Wilson (1st OPEN) although fortunately for me the Open category was not
    eligible for the Sword, I have to mention him as his work has been highly
    influential on me. I have drawn much inspiration from him and admire his
    very detailed work. My all time favorite GD entry was the Forest Dragon he
    entered in 1999 in the U.S. Open category.

    The moment of truth arrived where the Sword winner would be announced. At
    that moment, I was looking at Bobby Wong, Brian Shaw and Jason Richards to
    prepare to congratulate the winner. Already being content with winning my
    first place trophy, I was floored when the words came. In an instant, I
    had become the first person ever to win two Swords in the U.S. competition and I
    took the highest award I was eligible for the third year in a row in Baltimore
    (In 2001 I was limited to the Open category, where I took 1st place, and was
    ineligible for the Sword). I would be lying if I said that I was anything
    but overjoyed.

    Anyway, to the point. Any of the first place models could have been
    picked. All of them were basically excellent. The three judges happened to
    pick mine. If you like technical excellence and striking models, your
    going to think Bobby Wong or Brett Dewald got ripped off. If you like big
    ticket over the top models, Bryan Shaw and Jason Richards both got dissed.
    And if you happen to be impressed with extensive freehand painting and
    naturalistic color schemes, the judges' decision was just right. At the
    level of the Sword, these are the types of things that the decision turns on.
    It's all about who is judging and how they are feeling that day. On any
    other day, any of the other competitors could have won. There is no such
    thing as the best painter who objectively deserved to win it all. It's
    about doing
    well enough to be in the position of getting lucky and then actually getting

    My predictions for next year . . . . To the extent that these things can be
    predicted, it would have to go to Bobby Wong or Jason Richards (or Jennifer
    Haley, at the time I wrote this she was not competing at GD). In my
    opinion, Bobby sets the bar for excellence in painting technique and, as far as
    I am concerned, he is the man to beat--if you can. He will no doubt
    paint up a storm by next year.

    Jason Richards is the most ambitious painter I have ever met. I pride
    myself on being ambitious, it being my strongest asset-so coming from me it is
    my highest compliment. He could take it all. And then again, there are
    hundreds of very skilled competitors that come to the Demon or that just paint
    their figures for the local store. Any one of them can step up to the
    plate, and knock it out of the park. Anything could happen.
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