IPMS Controversy

David Lockhart (IPMS USA President) has caused a bit of a stir in the latest volume of the IPMS journal and just when I was searching for a new topic to write about in my blog post…

For those of you that have not read the article, President Lockhart describes people that attend IPMS Club Meetings / Shows without being paid members of IPMS USA as ‘freeloaders’. So I guess if you didn’t read the article because you aren’t a paid member of the IPMS USA… well that makes you a freeloader too?

So what’s my spicy hot take? Are you ready for some extra sriracha on the side?

President Lockhart isn’t entirely wrong. His method of expression in the article (aside from the use of the word ‘freeloader’ which was maybe ill advised) was fairly moderate and reasonable. The thing is, IPMS chapters are struggling for membership across the country. Even our club sees a lot of regular attending members who don’t actually pay dues to the local chapter. At a national level I think membership is even more of an issue. The President’s point about insurance in particular cannot be underestimated – our own club has needed event insurance twice so far this year alone (for the auction and again for the club show). There is NO WAY we could have made those events happen if hadn’t been for the existence of the national organization to provide that support. And yet, every time we, as a club, need to re-up our membership – it’s a struggle to find enough members to meet the minimum basic requirements for the club to renew. And this is despite our club being relatively healthy and seeing a surge of new interest. There is a clear downward trend to membership levels in IPMS and we need to confront that situation.

The thing is… the whole argument neglects a key element – this past time as a whole is dying… or at least the way it’s envisioned by many long time IPMS members is dying. The ‘classic’ plastic model kits just aren’t of interest to younger generations, tastes change, where once a beautifully painted M4 Sherman was sex on… tracks? – these days new members, by and large, are going to be much more interested in the latest reissue of an RX-78-2 or Sicarian Battle Tank. So IPMS at both the local and national level need to change their approaches if they want the organizations to continue beyond the next 10-15 years.

This is not a new topic to anyone that has really spoken to me about the hobby for any length of time (and I touched on it a little in a previous post). Tastes change with time, maybe there are fewer folks interested in historical subjects these days, but does it really matter? The process, the techniques are largely transferable, and maybe the most important – the appreciation of the skill is 100% transferable! Sci Fi and Fantasy subjects may not engender the same ‘historical research’ but as anyone who has seen the Tested YouTube channel knows, there is plenty of opportunity to practice those research skills in movie accuracy, sourcing the actual parts used in some cases, accurate gundam markings (especially for mechs from later shows).

We need to welcome and encourage a much wider segment of the hobby than we have traditionally. Wargamers? Sure, Gunpla builders? Absolutely! 3D Printers should be welcome too. There should be space for everyone and we should all share in and encourage this hobby. And who knows? Over time, new comers may also learn to appreciate some of the historical subjects as well!

And whilst I genuinely believe this to be the biggest issue for IPMS (especially at the national level). There is no hiding the fact that there are many folks showing up to regular meetings without paying dues to IPMS USA (or even the local chapter in some cases) and that is something I encourage them to reconsider. These clubs run on a lot of passion but they need financial support as well at both the local and national level.

Facing your figures

After the demo that I gave in our last club meeting on painting faces. A few of the attendees had follow up questions so I thought I would make this blog post a little more about my process and various methods of application.

For those of you that weren’t at the club meeting, I used a roughly 1/8th bust (pictured on the left) that was kindly printed for me by Chris some time ago. To accelerate the process, I ended up airbrushing the demo guiding through zenithal (aka grisaille), verdacchio and facial temperature zones.

Despite my efforts to shortcut things – I still ran longer than I’d like and it was a bit of a flood of information.

This is also a much larger scale than I would normally paint, chosen for visibility during the class so I thought I would provide some examples of what I would normally do for a higher end model using a piece I am currently working on – Sam Vimes from the Discworld Novels. This particular model is from Micro Arts Studios and is roughly 1/60th scale. (NB: my version of this model is several years old and is cast in white metal rather than the resin indicated in the current listing).

This model is obviously quite a bit smaller and I am applying the stages using a brush rather than airbrush; however the underlying principles remain unchanged.

Starting from a black prime, I applied a white ‘zenithal’ (sprayed white down from above to imitate the light source and provide initial shading and highlights). The next thing is to block in some basic ‘underpainting’ in this case using greens, reds and blues. This provides more depth, realism and visual interest to the piece.


In the case of Sam Vimes we can see what that looked like from this quick WIP picture above. Although I am applying these undertones, I am not flooding the whole model with colour and the colour I use is pretty heavily thinned. (I also remembered to tint the lips this time).

Some folks may ask if this is really necessary, couldn’t you shade over the top or mix the paints as you go? The answer is that you can of course do these things but it is (in my opinion) a lot easier to work with a preshade.

Why? Well I find it to be more forgiving. If you are heavy handed in your application, you can layer the skin colour more heavily over the top to knock back the effect. It also encourages you to push the colours a little more heavily for greater visual interest than you might be inclined to if you mix the paints or glaze over top. Lastly – paints are complex, generally consisting of multiple pigments (particularly for fleshtone paints) – mixing those with another strong colour can result in odd effects and often rapidly desaturate the paint giving a weaker end result.

Once you have that underpainting laid down, it’s time to lay down the basecoat of the skintone. I thinned what is normally an opaque paint, with some glaze medium to ensure a single pass wouldn’t totally erase the underpainting. Remember we can always go back and layer up more.

The last thing I wanted to speak to is painting of eyes. At this scale, I think it is perfectly acceptable to just black out the eyes (typically with a dark brown rather than a full black which can be a little stark). However if you want to show off, you can paint in the sclera with an off white or ivory (don’t use a pure white unless you want it to look like they glow in the dark). With the sclera painted in, you can paint in a pupil/iris with either black or a dark brown.

So there we have it. There is still more to be done on this model, even with the face as I want to move the hue a little, increase the contrast a bit further but this should provide a good starting point on painting faces.

And remember! The Club’s Q3 contest will be Figure painting so you’ll all have a great excuse to put some of this into practice.

The cost of the hobby

I feel that I mention this in pretty much every post I write but I come from the gaming side of the hobby. I feel this gives me a very different perspective on many aspects of our hobby. (Apparently the thought of painting the eyes on a 1/50th scale figure is terrifying to many scale modellers?). It also has introduced me to a world of little things that I find curious as I continue to become more familiar with the scale modeller side of things.

One thing I’ve found particularly fascinating is the perspective on spending in the hobby. Games Workshop models are notoriously expensive but even other brands will frequently charge a couple hundred bucks on a starter set and gamers will often drop as much as fifty bucks on a single 28mm (1/50ish) model… something that puzzles even me. (Despite the reality that I have in fact done this myself once or twice). Scale modellers seem to have much lower thresholds for model kit pricing despite generally needing to purchase many fewer (you don’t need to assemble a 100 model army to field for that tournament next week after all!). Of course the modelling isn’t the end point for gamers and generally these models are being painted for use in a game so there’s arguably additional utility there but it is a marked difference in approach.

The opposite seems to hold sway for other areas of the hobby. I am not sure I know of a single scale modeller without an airbrushing rig. Even if they may not be completely comfortable with it, yet for gamers… it couldn’t be more different. Things have changed a lot over the last ten years but my default assumption is that a gamer WON’T own an airbrush and if you dare suggest they should consider getting one… you better buckle up because you’re invariably in for a tirade about the cost, the space, the noise… I’m sure I’ve missed things and if you’re one of those gamers – feel free to send angry emails about how unreasonable it is to expect poor hard working gamers to afford the outrages sums demanded for airbrushes to idontcare@ipmssantarosa.org I mean I’m not going to read it but if it’ll make you feel better then go for it.

I am being a little hyperbolic but sadly not far off the mark in many cases. Of course it’s ridiculous, SprayGunner.com now sell a pocket sized battery powered compressor and gun kit for $50 that works surprisingly well, is quieter than the music I have going on my computer and will literally fit in my admittedly large pockets… but that’s the inertia of the zeitgeist I suppose.

Going back the other way I feel modellers have a reluctance to venture into new paint lines. Of course there is a lot of loyalty to brands and particularly when those existing lines are thought to provide good colour accuracy. For myself, I’d rather find a paint that sprays well, and is easy to work with than provides perfect colour accuracy, but then I’m not much of a ‘details’ guy when it comes to my hobbying! Are most paint lines a rip off? Yes. Should you be painting $33 for a can of Games Workshop spray paint? Under NO circumstances! However if you find a different line of paints that works better for you and achieves the results you’re looking for then you should absolutely investigate other lines.

All in all this has been a bit of meandering stream of consciousness from me but hopefully one that’s given you pause to rethink your preconceived notions on what you should and shouldn’t drop some cash on. Meanwhile for club members there’s SWAG to be had! Go check out your email inbox and spam filter if you can’t find it.


March Madness

To this day, I’ve never actually watched any games from March Madness… I do however feel like March in a more holistic sense tends to be a crazy month… the end of quarter crush after a slow start to the year leaves me frequently trying to play catch up and generally paying for my slacking off in January and to a lesser extent February.

This year is no exception as I desperately try to crank through a load of Star Wars Legion Snowtrooper models for NOVA Open’s charity foundation, prep for convention and weekend painting classes that are happening throughout the year. Not to mention all the real life work projects piling up!

I think I will have something to enter for the quarterly contest although it’s nowhere near as far progressed as I had intended… it will be something at least. It’s my first time really working on sophisticated masking in a long time and although it’s coming together… that dread moment of truth when you peel off the tape has not yet manifest at the time of writing so we shall see…

On the subject of teaching painting. I have been asked a few times why I feel I can charge for classes when there’s a wealth of information out there for free, YouTube, Twitch, Club Night demos, asking buddies… I get it and I certainly try to make the most of those avenues myself but fundamentally there is nothing like being taught by a person in the room that can give you feedaback as you work through an exercise for shortcutting the learning process. I work hard on my presentation style, my topics and content as well as the skills needed not just to achieve the end result but to be able to communicate that so that my students can walk away knowing that they too can produce something of a similar calibre. Is that worth it to you? well only you can say! For myself, I attend every in person class I can from any instructor I respect and feel I can learn from because nothing has made me a better modeller and painter as fast as those classes and the practice in their aftermath.

Seeing as this is my blog – why not put a little shameless self promotion out there. This is my next class – a weekend class down in the SF South Bay:

Airbrushing class

For those of you interested in really pushing your airbrushing skills to the limit, this weekend class is going to blow your mind. Whether you normally paint figures / armour / aircraft / gunpla – I promise you that you will learn a ton. It’s also being held at a great venue run by a friend. Tickets here.

To Sweep or Not to Sweep…

Well this president’s blog, I thought I’d do a bit of a spicy topic – Sweeps
More specifically why I detest allowing sweeps at club shows.

For those of you that are more casual in the hobby or just aren’t familiar with the term, sweeps is where a single person is able to win multiple times (eg. first, second and third) in a single category.

It was a new term to me when I got involved in IPMS a couple of years ago and it put me off of entering shows at all… For over a year. It took a lot of cajoling from fellow club members to put anything into any show and even when I did, it wasn’t a great experience in large part because of sweeps.

I come from a background of painting gaming pieces and sometimes doing so for competitions such as the Golden Demon, Capital Palette and other gaming focused painting competitions. There’s been a lot of change in those competitions over the years but fundamentally they are very different to IPMS (I’d never heard of splitting categories until I joined IPMS for instance, many of these competitions can see a couple of hundred models put into a single category).

One of the other changes that has gained increasing favour over the years on the gaming side is open judging where each piece is judged against a standard criteria and awarded a gold, silver, bronze, merit, or nothing, based on how it measures up. There is no limit to how many can get gold or bronze or whatever as long as they’re good enough to meet the criteria. I’m sure many of you are rolling your eyes thinking ‘these bloody millennials just never want to see anyone lose’ and I suppose that’s fair. I don’t want to beat the opposition, or pound them into the dust… I am not in this hobby “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women”. I don’t want to sweep a category at the expense of other entrants’ enjoyment of the show just because I can and I also don’t want to be on the other side of that. I want to push myself to get better, little by little, year after year. In 2021 I got silver at Reaper Con, so in 2022 I pushed myself and got a gold. In 2023 I hope to get one of the best in show trophies, and maybe a gold in a different category. I pushed myself and I got better than my past self. But best of all I watched my friends do the same. I got to celebrate their wins without that twinge of jealousy because I’m not in this to beat others, I’m here to improve myself and help others improve. This is not a sport or tournament. It’s not player vs player. It doesn’t need to be competitive… So why make it that way? Almost all open judging is done as no sweeps so that only the best entry in a category by each person is judged and given an award, largely to keep the number of awards manageable but it seems intuitive enough and even contests that don’t have open judging tend not to support sweeps.

This wasn’t intended to be a monologue about the merits of open judging, and I think IPMS is still a long way from seriously considering that format. This is meant to be about sweeps…

The first IPMS contest I entered, last year, had good turn out. It is one of the more popular shows in region 9 and most categories had a good showing with half a dozen different folks entering and 10-12 different models on each table. I had finally put a couple of models in to be judged and they were awful… Missing parts, not great finish, one was an OoB build of a kit first tooled in the 70s. I didn’t expect to win and I didn’t. There was, however, something else I didn’t expect – to see the same three or four people win over and over again, often picking up two awards in a category. Even if some of these categories are lightly entered it’s still pretty disheartening for someone new to the scene to go through an awards ceremony and just feel so far below these apparent gods of the modelling world. Doing the whole circuit of shows, it was the same story over and over again, often with the same models (another bugbear of mine).

The hobby has an aging demographic and it’s only getting worse, but I truly feel we can address this with the scariest of all ideas… Change. Is a no sweeps rule the panacea? A cure all / silver bullet? Nope… Not even close. It’s a small, tentative step to maybe make things more welcoming to newer hobbyists or some of our cousins in the gaming and model car worlds. Such a small step that the nationals took it years ago… But not region 9. Apparently never region 9.

We had a misprint on our show flyers that was 100% down to me not proof reading copy as I should have that indicates we will only accept one entry per category, I’d intended it to be no sweeps and not meant to be yelling it to the world as if throwing down some kind of gauntlet decrying people flooding categories with their entries…
It was also a decision I’d made without input from the club, again something I shouldn’t have done but went ahead with clearly underestimating the degree of outrage I was generating in doing so.

The good news for all regular IPMS show attendees is that we are fully walking back on both 1 model per category and no sweeps rules. We’ll be running the contest just like every other contest in the Central Valley and wider Bay Area. I am honestly looking forward to seeing tables filled with the hard work of our members and those of other clubs. I also hope folks will consider bringing display only pieces from years past. We are hosting in a game store so we have a unique opportunity to really reach potential new members, ones that may not even be aware of what we do. So please, all of you, bring your A game to the show.

And me? Am I bitter? Sure I am. I honestly believe that this is doing a disservice to our hobby and impacting our ability to attract new hobbyists, the thing I am most passionate about… But equally, it’s not just my hobby and it’s not just my club. So for now I’ll continue to try and convince you all of the merits of my arguments while doing my best to represent the will of the club and the region.

Thanks for reading and apologies for causing all this upset and confusion.


2022 in Review

Well it’s that time of year – time for some pompous ignoramus to wax lyrical about all their thoughts that nobody really wants to read. So here I am!

I am now about halfway through my tenure as president of IPMS Santa Rosa / IPMS Sonoma County (delete as applicable). It has been a humbling experience and I have greatly enjoyed it. The club is not the largest in IMPS or even in our district but I enjoy spending time with each and every one of you. We have seen a few new folks starting to come regularly and, I think, started to rebuild the club activities back beyond the more restrictive offerings that we had during the trials of the pandemic. I am keen to keep developing both of these things but I can’t do either alone.

Are there things that we need to change?

Are there things you’d be willing to take on?

Please, please let me know!

I am excited at the prospect of resurrecting our club show and this is another area we need all the help we can get! A huge thanks to all the people that have been active in the planning during our business meetings. Chris, Ray, Jack, Randy, Greg, Mark, Mike – This show wouldn’t be happening without your participation. If you aren’t on that list and want to help out just come along to one of our business meetings that are the hour prior to our regular club meetings.They are open to everyone!

One of the things I have been mulling over for the last couple of months is encouraging folks to branch out into areas they may not normally try. We started this a little with the Super Deformed quarterly contest at the start of the year but I would love to build on it. We have folks that love Ships, or Gundam or BiPlanes… I’d love to see everyone in the club dabble a little bit in a lot of these areas so we all relate to each other that little bit more and maybe, just maybe, discover a new subject passion!

Thank you all for joining me in this hobby voyage through 2022. Here’s hoping we make 2023 even bigger and better!

A thought on Hobby Blocks

Hello Folks!

I suppose this is the space for me to post my thoughts and musings to any who might find them of interest.

I have really struggled to do much in my hobbying this year. Some commissions and occassional teaching gigs have really put me in a place where I was no longer prioritizing the hobby itself. I was still coming up with plenty of ideas for things to work on, grand plans for dioramas and of course purchasing plenty of kits that will no doubt live out the rest of their days on my shelves, slowly gathering dust. So I had ideas, I had kits and yet… nothing was getting done.


Part complete Eindekker

Was it that freehanding details on my thrice cursed 1:72 Fokker Eindecker was the worst idea in the history of ideas? Was I just another millennial blaming ‘Burnout’ for what was really just another facet of laziness? Probably…

So how to fix it?

Well there lies the rub… There are a few things that I’ve done in the past to help me out of a rut:

  • Work on a totally different subject that’s completely new to you! Try a Gundam kit or a Submarine subject, maybe give figure painting a go?
  • Work on something low stakes – a beginner kit maybe or something from the backlog that maybe’s been superceded by a nicer, newer kit.
  • Try a new technique! This combines great with the previous option – get yourself a new kit and test out a new gap filling method, or practice panel scribing, maybe work on a new camo style. And if it doesn’t work? Well it was just a test kit! Give it to nephew or a cousin to strap some fireworks to and move on to the next thing!
  • Work on something super familiar. A bit of a pivot from the previous suggestions but sometimes going back to a familiar kit or subject can take a lot of the pressure off and just make for an easy subject – Just ask anyone who’s built a Zaku before! For me, it’s often a case of going back to gaming pieces, I have a seemingly infinite supply of them, they’ll get use on the table and I can bang a squad out in a weekend.
  • Work to a deadline? This can cause even more stress for some but for others this will really drive people to get through a model and call it done. Maybe they’re doing it for an IPMS show, or to gift it to someone or even just for your local IPMS show and tell next month.

Not an exhaustive list and I’d love to hear your suggested additions. 

What have I done to break out of this latest funk? Well I’ve returned to the familiar and have an added deadline! I am working on a host of Warhammer Underworlds miniatures that have been sat in a drawer for far too long. In a week I’ve already painted a half dozen pieces of terrain, a half dozen warriors and another dozen or so nearly completed!

Terrain from the Warhammer Underworlds Beastgrave set

Warhammer Underworlds Sons of Velmorn

Warhammer Underworlds Chaos Sorcerer