Monday, 4 April 2011

So then... Crystal Brush...

As mentioned in my last post, the past weekend was host to the first Crystal Brush painting contest. I said that I'd offer my thoughts afterward and so shall it be. Right now. I've almost finished my coffee and everything...

Being the first time this contest has run it's perhaps unsurprising that it wasn't all plain sailing but at the end of the day the first second and third places were taken by three worthy winners. That's a good sign. So, first up I should congratulate Marike Reimer, Jakob Nielson and Alfonso Giraldes for their efforts as the respective winners.

There are basically two areas of Crystal Brush; the judged show in person on the day and the public vote. So, what can be said...

Show day. Obviously I wasn't there but I've heard a few reports from people who were at this early stage and there doesn't seem to be much howling about terrible injustice or bad organisation so I'll assume this went pretty well. This part of the contest also showed something they did absolutely right. Getting Mike McVey to judge the contest was spot on. His name recognition helps to legitimise the contest but, beyond this, he is qualified as much as anyone I could suggest to judge a major painting competition and, from what I know, appreciates a wide variety of painting styles. Perfect choice.

The public vote. This is the thorny stuff as it didn't end up working very well. The site seemed poorly laid out and the photographs were not up to scratch, especially for judging. Mistakes were always going to be made here and there, it's the nature of a large event but this should not have happened. It doesn't take much to make sure this is done right and it's a central part of the event.

Overall the event needs work but I see it as something that can be built on in the coming years. Mistakes were made but they're mistakes that can be fixed and luckily it seems that the right stuff won regardless.

And onto a few thoughts and recommendations...

The photography - Beyond the obvious of 'get it right' I'm not sure what the thinking behind the black backdrop was. It's tough to take photos against as it tends to confuse cameras when 90% of the frame is taken up by it. I'm not even totally sure how Marike's entry managed to do so well as the photo was out of focus and the highlights blown out to the point where I didn't really know the painting choices she'd made. I just had a colour scheme and composition (admittedly strong on both counts). Pale grey or pale blue gradient for the win. And make sure the figures are shown at appropriate size. The single figures needed to be cropped as they'd have been too low in resolution even if they'd been perfectly taken. And the larger figures we couldn't see a lot. All in a lesson to get this stuff right if the public vote is going to be an important part of the contest in years to come...

Encouraging attendance - Incentive to attend has to be big if they're going to pull in the top painters from Europe and elsewhere. As it stood there weren't a huge number attending. It may have seemed like the crazy grand prize was a great incentive but it's one prize. Attending would be expensive and a monetary incentive falls flat when you'll only really profit from the overall win. Thought has to be given how to make this a more considered choice to attend. And there's the public vote. I'm not sure the top painters trust the public vote to be an accurate measure of their entry, especially with the worry of how their mini will be presented.

The public vote - It's a generally thorny area as it's so easy for it to go haywire as it pretty much did this time. And it's half the vote with $10k at stake. I kind of feel this is a minefield that was luckily avoided this year. I wonder if it might be better if the public vote was a separate contest with each category getting a people's choice award with no direct monetary award (or perhaps vouchers for the Coolmini Store).

The rules - The rules were badly worded and quite confusing in places. Needs to be sorted out and the rules also need to be enforced. For example you may only enter a category with a maximum of two entries. One entrant entered Fantasy Single five times. I'll assume he wasn't cheating and just wasn't aware. But he should have been told to pick two. And then there's the team entry thing. The rules on this first state no team entries and then immediately say that it's okay for someone else to have converted the figure but there's no co-credit. That makes no sense and is contradictory. It's an extremely grey area which makes team entries easy to pull off as long as you only have one painter.

Judging criteria - It's a good idea to let people know what they are being judged on. I'm not sure really. By the letter of the rules I believe that conversions count for nothing (the only assumption I can make given the situation with the no team rules as it's the only way that makes sense) but nobody told the public that so they'd be considering everything in whatever way they saw fit. Doesn't take much. Just a few generalised sentences. Doesn't need to be a detailed breakdown.

So, that's the Crystal Brush and a few of my thoughts. Overall? I think it can work though it'll take a few years to solidify as a major contest. Tightened up and clarified it could be quite something. I'm certainly looking forward to next year as I'm sure that mistakes will be learned from.

And, above all I come back to three beautiful figures that won those top spots and a worthy choice for a $10k prize. With a few things ironed out I very much look forward to seeing what the organisers do with it next year and I hope all of my thoughts here will be taken as constructive criticism and out of my wish for this contest to grow in years to come because of my thoughts on that controversial cash prize. I'm a bit of a fence sitter regarding whether it's a good thing or not but I probably fall on the side of the fact that this contest is doing something different to the rest. And doing something a bit different is a good thing in my book.

And you can check out Crystal Brush here

Crystal Brush


  1. It's a shame the pics were so bad at the Crystal brush. It seems though that the miniatures that deserved to win did so. Congratulations to Jakob Nielson on his win. His miniature was my personal favourite of all the entries.

    The public vote is a bit of a difficult topic. Having a voting system like this could have gone horribly wrong. I would imagine that the painters who have more of an internet presence and are more well known because of this would tend to benefit from the voting system. This could of been a problem.

  2. Underwhelmed.

    Giant was the best/most striking of the top entries.

    Rewarding couple of days work for Marike.

    Clearly a GoldenDemon sword is more highly prized by the miniature painting fraternity than a bag of loot!