Thursday, 31 March 2011

Jakob descends upon Crystal Brush...

There's something intriguing afoot this weekend. At Adepticon in Chicago from the 1st to the 3rd April there's a new miniature painting contest called Crystal Brush run by Coolminiornot. Crystal Brush is somewhat different to most painting contests as it's offering cash for prizes and a might $10,000 to the overall winner. I'll admit having reservations regarding this but I'm not really wanting to form an overriding opinion without seeing how it all goes down first. There's the possibility of much controversy due to the money involved but also the potential for some incredible works of the miniatures art as amazing painters strive for that coveted top spot. Crystal Brush also differs in that it's offering 50% of the selection of the winner to the voting public in a similar way to the various phone in TV shows (though thankfully just via online voting). I'm actually more curious as to the effect of this on the contest more than the money...

But, you know what? I think I'd prefer to offer my thoughts on Crystal Brush as a contest next week when the dust is settling. Easy way out I know but I'd rather give it a chance to shine or explode before ranting one way or another. Instead I'd like to talk a little about one of the entries that will be there. This is a piece by my good friend, multiple Slayer Sword winner Jakob Nielson.

Yep. Bonkers. I immediately love that Jakob has taken this opportunity to produce something totally loony. Plus it's a rare chance to see one of John Blanche's Femme Militant figures. In this case extensively converted into a... crazy... horse-thing... on a ball...

Yep, back to bonkers.

Getting aside from the crazy image that Jakob has concocted it falls back on exxactly the kind of approach I like to use when designing an entry for a contest. I have a list of things I want a figure to have and try to make contest entries tick the boxes. I refer to this as not giving the judges a good reason to knock you out in a tie break situation. Basically you go with...

Immaculate painting - It's the obvious one and obviously this piece is beautifully painted. In fact I'd go as far as to say this is better than Jakob's usually top notch standards. Check out that red and tell me it's not like a slap to the face?

Conversion - Yes, it's good to convert. Sometimes this can be something small just to personalise a piece but I find it's good to get the judge looking for the joins because if they can't see them then they're immediately impressed. It forces the close up look and you want the judge looking closely. That's where you show them that you're the real deal.

Base - You want more than flock, sand or static grass. It's good to have something there that singles the model out but without drawing attention away from the figure itself. Jakob has gone for a nicely apocalyptic look to the base with lots of details to find but in a tightly controlled palette that sets off the figure rather than drawing the attention away. Jakob has also put it on a spherical base. I think this is the first time I've ever seen it done. The ball is weighted and Jakob has a video file on his site of him wobbling the figure around like some demented weeble centaur. I guarantee the judges will want to take a closer look. This goes nicely into the next area...

Impact - You want your figure to stand out from the crowd. Make the judges look at your figure. Jakobs mini screams it's impact in so many ways. The rich colours, the animation of the figure, it's off the wall design and the ball base which all smudges together into an incredible feeling of motion.

Freehand - Freehand is a great one for contest painting. This is where you can really show the judges you know how to paint outside the lines. My favourite freehand on this piece is the painted fur texture. Subtle and not drawing attention but we've already made sure the judges are looking closely. Also check out the playing cards and the checkerboard arm tie.

Storytelling - A little harder in a single figure without extensive basing but it's good for the figure to immediately start asking you the questions of who and what they are. I think the storytelling strength of this piece come out of it being somewhat difficult to define in genre. To me it would be a great character in a new version of the movie Labyrinth where instead of Brian Fround you had John Blanche as the lead designer. Can someone make that please. I'd buy a ticket!

The back - last point is a lovely one. Put something amazing on the figure that can't be seen from the front and make it one of the points that the judges will be blown away by. On this figure it's the clockwork insides of the horse that are visible through it's body but only from the back view as shown below. This is a great plan as, depending on the contest, either the back view is the first a judge sees of the figure so it's a good way to make a first impression or they see it front first and then get a second 'wow' moment when they turn it around.

So, that's a whole lot of thought processes. Is it worth going to such extremes. Hmm... I'd say two slayer sword wins and countless demon trophies suggests Jakob might be onto something in his techniques and I genuinely feel this is one his greatest, and maybe THE greatest of his works.

If this is any indication of the quality of works that will be on show over the next three days then this is going to be an incredible weekend for mini enthusiasts and I can't wait. I'm wishing best of luck to Jakob anyway.

You can check out Jakob's website at this link


and you can find the Crystal Brush Awards at

Crystal Brush

Now, lets sit back and watch the drama unfold...


  1. This is so unbelievably good. I've looking at the different pictures for about 20mns, I don't know if I find it motivating or slightly depressing.

  2. been following this one for awhile - its RUST DRENCHED MILK and mi favourite colour palette to - i cant get away from red as being the most potent colour that we can see ............

  3. Very nice indeed! Colour scheme hits the bullseye and the "8-ball" shaped base is very unique idea (at least I haven't seen that done before...). Stunning and eye-catching piece.

  4. It's a fantastic piece, and distinctly JRN in how it's painted. As in an awful lot of his stuff, it also screams 'Blanche' in a very loud and definite way.

    This I think is a very good thing indeed. I just love the way it's been painted by someone who is utterly confident in his techniques, and is not pandering to whatever fad is going on in the painting world at the moment. It'll be interesting to see how it fares.

  5. Very nice review.

    Having seen it in real life I can only agree with you Steve. For me it is THE miniature Jakob has created, and I think it is a real strong contender in the competition.

    Cheers - Rune Kappel

  6. Hope so, the photos taken don't inspire confidence...