Golden Demon Classic – The PRELUDE
It was with mixed feelings and a lot of anticipation that I went to Golden Demon Classic this year. I’ve been to Golden Demons from 2008-2013 all UK ones except from the one in 2013 which was in Germany. It turned out to be the last of the German events. At that point the Golden Demon as we knew it was stopped. GW started to make the small themed GD’s in 2015 I think, I went to GD tanks and was quite disappointed with the very small size of the event and the very little turn out of artists participating in it. I’ve later learned that other of the small GD’s were bigger and better, though still quite small.
What I used to love about the Golden Demons was the sheer size of them, the utter mind-boggling amount of great and inspiring pieces to look at and actually to be in a competition with so many other artists. It often felt like everyone was there. So when I learned that they started to make these classic Golden Demons again, sort of resurrecting the old GD format I was very pleased, because I have really missed the old ones. I know that this wasn’t the first of its kind, but this was the first time I got the chance to go to one. As I write this, I realize how much I was looking forward to it and was literally thrilled to finally go to a proper Golden Demon again.
I am not much of a Warhammer player, so my friends and I went to Warhammerfest (the event that GD classic is a part of) solely to participate in Golden Demon. It is much the same as Games Day of old, just in two days instead of only one. We arrived at Ricoh Arena in Coventry and I must say I was a little impressed. I think it was a very nice and spacious venue for such an event. It is both a sports arena, conference centre and even with a hotel attached, if you come from afar using the hotel at the venue would be a very comfortable option. I did that when I went to Scale Model Challenge last year. I would advise GW to make a deal with a discount for Warhammerfest ticket holders if possible, that would go down very well with the community, I think. There was a restuarant, bar, coffee shop and food stalls, so being a guest there you were taken good care of. Thumps up for the venue.
At the ground floor was the big main hall containing all the Warhammer players in the Grand Tournament along with large GW and Forge World trading stands. First upstairs floor was the Forgeworld design studio, a great place to see the new stuff and chat with the designers and modellers. On the second floor was the GW studio, White Dwarf studio and the object of our quest: Golden Demon. It was a nice big room, it wasn’t too cramped and it was easy to access.
We filled in our entry forms and entered our miniatures. The staff handled everything responsibly and carefully. It was all very much like how I remembered it from the old days. Except from one thing, there was only about half as many display cabinets as there used to be, if even that much. So there was no way around the fact that Golden Demon had shrunk. It all had a lot of the same vibe as before, but it was a lot smaller. This is not necessarily a bad thing, for instance I remember at the old GD’s the single miniature categories were always swamped with entries from people who just painted up and entered a quick one to get in early at Games Day (GD opened an hour early to accommodate the many entrants). There is none of that now. There was a really nice and relaxed mood to the place and it didn’t take long before we met some old friends and started chatting away. I also had a good time browsing at the studio displays and chatting a little with the GW design studio guys. I saw a display of the Pilgrym miniatures, a project I have followed closely on the internet and in White Dwarf, it was great to see some of the miniatures from that with my own eyes.
Coming back to the Golden Demon cabinets, a lot more people had shown up and I realized that it was getting difficult to get close to the cabinets and take proper pictures because there were a LOT of people standing and looking. In the old days it was like that as well and in a way it is a measure of success; many people come to look at our pieces, but in some instances people were standing four deep, making it impossible to get in close. I think the turn up was a little bigger than anticipated, we could have done with a little bigger space than we had. On the other hand the cabinets were not overly filled, so the amount were in most instances adequate, a few of them were a little cramped and a few of them were half empty, but I think that is down to the usual unpredictability of how many people enter each category. I am not sure if this problem can be solved, there always seem to be a little too many people looking at the miniatures, so you almost have to queue up sometimes to get close. I find it frustrating and think that it needs a little more space to accommodate everyone, and it is not only Golden Demon that has this problem but most of the bigger painting competitions I have been to.
Back in the day people were always complaining about the lighting in the cabinets at Golden Demons, it is just these small domestic warm light halogen spots in the top of the cabinets with about 3 glass shelves underneath. I’ve heard a lot of complaining about the lighting in these new ones as well. At some point I heard a rumor that GW were to improve the light at Golden Demons, but I guess that was just somebody’s wishful thinking. When I got there I immediately noticed that the display cabinets were the same as always, lights and all, nothing changed here at all except there were fewer of them as the GD is a lot smaller than it were. At least the judges have proper light for judging the entries.
There is an advantage of the smaller size of the event and don’t get me wrong the Golden Demon Classic with all the categories is a big one, just not as big as they used to be. There is the advantage that it is easier to bump into someone you know or get back together with your friends. I got go catch up with a lot of old friends and made some new ones as well. I also got to meet some of my idols in the hobby and that whole social part of the Golden Demon is a lot easier for me now when the event is smaller than it used to be. I think we have a very fine balance here between the event being a big grand affair and it being small enough that you get close to people and not just get lost in a big crowd. In that way I find the current size of the GD quite comfortable.
Looking in the cabinets, the standard was very high for the most part. There were some pretty heavy names present; David Soper, Chris Clayton, Mark Masclans, Karol Rudyk, Michal Pisarski, Richard Gray and Angelo Di Chello to name but a few. Looking at the entries was pure eye candy, so much inspiration there. I never get tired of drifting around at the cabinets and just let the quality of work and all the good ideas flow into me and inspire me at a very basic level.
I love coming back to the entries and look at them again and find new details and new wonders to feast my eyes upon. There were several pieces which I had followed the creation of on the internet, like Richard Gray’s blue Knight titan with it’s impressive freehand work and Karol Rudyk’s Chaos banner, that he had been working on for years and showed in wip at Monte san Savino last year. There was Tue Kaae’s amazing black and white walking library diorama, also seen at Monte san Savino last year and of course Michal Pisarski’s amazing Nagash diorama “The Tribute”. Also there were some amazing new pieces like Chris Clayton’s beautiful Aos Griffon rider unit, my personal favourite entry of the whole show and Angelo Di Chello’s green and red Slambo, the best paint job I have seen on this model so far.
The great inspiration was not only present at the top level. There were many entries not making it to the finals also showing a lot of inspiration and a wealth of good ideas. There was a nice spread of quality in the competition, which I think is a good thing as it shows that GD is not overly elitist and do not scare less experienced painters away. No matter your skill level you get your miniature on display and get to show it to a crowd and maybe get it’s photograph in White Dwarf. I always get inspired by entries and ideas of all levels.
There was a couple of additions to the usual Golden Demon format. Youngbloods got a single miniature and a large model category, that is a very good thing in my opinion; we get twice as many youngblood winners, which should spur them on in the hobby and the diversity in the miniatures/categories makes it possible for them to compete more equally as in the other categories, putting a single space marine against a dragon makes for a very unfair competition!
We got Blood Bowl team, great as this is a unique format which do not mix too well with normal units as long as there are enough participants to not leave the cabinets half empty, which there were. And finally we got the ‘Eavy Metal Paint Masters Category, in which you take a predetermined miniature, in this instance an Eldar Farseer, assemble it out of the box, no conversion, no elaborate base, just purely the paint job. In that way they get to judge the painting on equal terms, as it is all on the same canvas and maybe that would free them up to look more at good creative ideas, sculpts and conversions in the other categories. I see this as a great step in a better direction for the way they judge Golden Demon, the effects of this will show in the coming years, if they continue to have this category, maybe the way they view the other categories will shift over time into something more creative. I shall follow this closely. Conrad Mynett took this brief cheekily literally and just painted his farseer on the sprue and entered it like that, great fun that one.
Which brings me to the way Golden Demons are judged. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not second guessing the judges, the judges’ decisions are final and I respect that 100%. When you enter a Golden Demon you are on GW’s turf, you have to abide by their games universes, obviously this is after all what they sell. GD is not an independent competition. There is also a strong bias towards paint jobs in the vein of what the ‘Eavy Metal team paints, this is after all their box art and as such a reference for how the miniatures are evaluated. There has always been ‘Eavy Metal painters on the judging panel and it is only natural that they evaluate the entries against their own abilities. These are the terms of a Golden Demon competition and if one wants to enter such a competition, one must recognise that these are the rules of the game. I have no problem with this whatsoever, but I’ve been in quite a few discussions about that lately.
My personal conclusion on that, is that you have to play the game by the rules, and if you are a little creative these rules leave plenty of wriggle room anyway, there is still a lot of room to make your piece unique. You just have to be aware that GW is a company and this is something they sell, so what you make for their competition should fit that bill. Back when I did many Golden Demons they said: this is purely a painting competition, the paint job is all we look at. It is ok to make conversions as long as they look fitting as part of the model, but we do not include that in our judging, not even as a tiebreaker. Many people, myself included were a bit put off by that, but I’ve come to terms with it, there is still room to make that great unique eye-catching storytelling model, you just need to paint it really well because that is what might earn you a demon.
It is not such a problem, because the unique eye-catching piece will surely capture the judges’ attention and then it is up to the paint job to bring it home. I do not know if they do it this way still, I hope they consider the modelling part and overall creativity a bit more than they used to do. After all, we all know how to paint smoothly, precisely and combine colours in interesting ways, so why not look at what we create with those abilities? I like to think that they have loosened up a little on this.
There were several entries in the cabinets of the Blanchitsu kind and I think that they got the recognition that they deserved and personally I really enjoyed seeing this kind of figures entered in GD. I myself made a display of some of my Axxos figures, including the Hermit’s fabulous walking tower and entered them in the open category. I got a finalist pin for these, I think this as a recognition of my creativity opposed to the paint job and it sure goes to show that the entry got noticed and evaluated. No matter if a paint job can win a demon or not it has great value to put a good entry on display and have it seen by everybody else.
It makes me very happy that this trend has found its way to a Golden Demon competition as people normally think they are not well painted enough, they certainly have other merits and can be painted beautifully as well.
The award ceremony was delayed by about 45 minutes. I remember seeing the judges still at work judging when it was time to move to the main hall. This may have been due to there being more entries than anticipated and this can be seen as a sign that Golden Demon is finally growing again. I hope it did not make them rush their work. When we were waiting for the award ceremony to start they also had problems making the big screen work and finally had to abandon that. This is a shame as people often do not know which entry won what… they normally show the winning entries on the big screen, missing that can be quite problematic. Otherwise the award ceremony went down smoothly though missing the pictures.
Richard Gray won a very well deserved Forge world trophy with his amazing blue knight lancer with absolutely gorgeous freehand work all over.
The Slayer sword went rather unsurprisingly to Michal Pisarski and his Nagash diorama “The Tribute”. This is an absolutely stunning piece, the NMM effect is perfectly executed, the blends flawless and smooth, the mood and conversion spot on. It was an absolute joy to see this piece in real. Well deserved Slayer sword winner.
All in all I had a great time at Golden Demon Classic 2017, meeting old friends and making new ones. I even won a demon myself. There is certainly room for improvement especially concerning the glitch with the big screen and the delay with the judging, but that is nothing that can’t be fixed. Personally I think it could do with a little more space as it sometimes got a little too cramped around the cabinets and they certainly, as always need better light in the cabinets. Golden Demon is not as big as it were, but it looks like it might be growing now. Golden Demon is on the right track and I for one am ready to give it another chance next time!
Thanks for reading everyone and before you go be sure to check out the gallery and links below!
Here are two terrific Facebook albums of the entries:
Until next time
Award winning miniatures painter and modeler. An avid reader of fantasy, SciFi, art and history, this reflects more and more on my painting. I occasionally teach painting and modeling to people and I am here to do just that as well.