Hi everyone, my name is Pascal Rooze, I am a figure painter from Tilburg in Holland and in the wake of the Scale Model Challenge in Veldhoven, Netherlands, I was asked to write a couple of words on this show. The editor Jason, recently wrote a piece about the Euromilitaire Show in Folkestone, England and what he felt was needed to improve the event. Meanwhile SMC in stark contrast seems to go from strength to strength.
A SLICE OF SMC HISTORY
This year has been the 10th show and ninth year of this increasingly popular event. It started out as a modeller’s event, based out of the local modelling club. The show revolved primarily around historic themes and vehicle modelling (planes, tanks, ships, etc).
It was in essence that which it would become now: vendors that could show their wares, stands for different modelling clubs to show their love of the hobby, artists would show various how-to’s and of course a contest with different categories.
About five years ago the organisation began to incorporate other disciplines of the miniature hobby, and added fantasy and scifi-themed categories to the competition.
They actively invited hobby clubs that revolved mainly around the more fantastical side of miniature painting, and appropriate vendors. It quickly picked up speed, and the entire event grew in status and importance within a couple of years. An ever increasing number of great and renowned artists from every discipline of the hobby were drawn to participate and even demonstrate their skills.
In it’s eighth year, SMC started to expand to a two day event, with bigger, even full day workshops on the first day, and the competition and general convention on the second day.
SMC IN THE PRESENT
Next year will see its 10th anniversary, this year however, SMC went all out. Again, the event spanned two days, but now the convention was open to the general public the full two days, with a good host of seminars from well known artists on both days, for which you’d have to pre-register. The vendor’s area was packed and brimming as before.
The clubs area was neatly organised in two halves, with in between a nice collection of model companies, in the dead centre large displays with works of the judges of the contest, and cabinets showing off works from special guests, clubs and such. In the far corner, there was a separate area for the model contest. From the size, this really compares with a full, professional, popular and to-be-taken-seriously convention.
MY SMC EXPERIENCE
This has been my fifth SMC, so yeah, I have seen the rise of the fantasy/ scifi side of the event. I use to attend with a couple of friends as one of the clubs with our own stand in the club area. We were seriously dwarfed back then by the tank modellers, planes, trains, boats, WWII scenes and Roman Hoplite painters. But we loved it none the less, because of the open nature of everyone there.
Sure, there was a contest, but it never felt (aggressively) competitive. That was because of the nature of the contest: you did not compete against the other modellers, but against yourselves. You had to meet a certain standard to earn a bronze/silver/gold medal. So that would mean that there could be more than one gold winner, for instance.
This ambience immediately set this event apart as THE event to go to (especially as it is just an half hour’s drive from my home!).
I have been lucky to be able to be judge a couple of times after that first time, but this year I really wanted to see more of the event itself, do some more meet & greets than I could do before (judging takes a lot of time!). Still, I got invited by Scenery Workshop to do some product testing/ demoing at their stand and agreed. I asked Maartje Giesbers to join me, so that we could do short sessions each, and got plenty of time in between to enjoy the event in it’s full glory.
So what was there to do?
One hall was packed full of vendors, trying to sell their products in their niche of the hobby. Airbrushing equipment, model kits, loads of parts and bits, paints, plinths, supplies and gear – save up your cash because you could really stock up on needed supplies here. Next to the vendor hall was the clubs area, where major model companies were set up to show their latest models. FeR Miniatures, Scale75, Broken Toad Miniatures, Tiny Leads, Dino’s plinths, AK Products, Vallejo are but a few present.
This part of the convention had got me burning money fast! I really needed the first day to see it all, and be in dire conflict with myself to be able to decide on what new models I should spend my money on on day two. There was so much goodness to be had, I still regret not having brought more cash…after all the inspiration that these two days instilled in me, I decided to get out of my comfort zone this next year and try my hand on some busts (like ‘Alas’ and the smaller ‘Wonderland’-set from Broaken Toad, for instance).
Regrettably, I spent not nearly enough time along the rows and rows of tables displaying all those awesome works from various modelling clubs around the world. Yes: world, as countries far and wide were represented (True, they were predominantly European).
I got to know a lot of new people via Facebook and other social media, and had set myself up to meet with as many of them as possible. Those meetings mostly took place in the vendor’s area or the contest area, so I hardly ever got somewhere (joking!).
This was probably the one thing that really set this event apart for me: to be able to meet like minded artists, to be able to talk to each other on an equal level about the hobby, no matter how skilled one was. To have some laughs, a drink or two, wonder about this and that together, even if you have never seen each other before in real life.
In a very different part of the convention, rooms were set up to host a series of workshops – or seminars if you will – by some renowned artists in every field of the hobby. I did not attend these myself though, but from what I heard they were well organised, with great execution and attendees loved the fact that there was still time left to see something of the convention itself afterwards!
Finally there is the contest. A couple of notes first: this year held a record of around 320 contestants, with combined over 1100 (!) different entries in 26 categories. This was particularly impressive to witness, the place is full of inspiration, everywhere you look. Now mind you, without causing offence to anyone, this is not GW Golden Demons’ in the past, where a significant percentage aren’t even going to make the first cut. Here at the SMC it was – and has always been – ALL quality! Even in the beginners categories one could not say there were any poor entries!
However, this year in particular saw a large contingent of international artists come over, and shared their amazing works, setting the standards in every group incredibly high. It was a joy to see so many great pieces (yes, also some old work from well known artists, but it is always fascinating to see those well known pieces in real life).
The competition was extremely hard, and everyone loved it. And even if you did not win anything (such as myself), you could not be disappointed, angry or sad, but instead thrilled for those that did win, and bask in the positive vibe of the show.
So was there nothing wrong with the event then? No, of course there is always room for improvement and history has taught me that the organisation really listens and works with all critiques they receive after each and every show. So let’s delve a little more into the show.
First off, the competition: the rules stated that entries for the competition should be registered on Day 1, the judging was done on Day 1 also yet we had to wait for the ceremony on Day 2, to find out who had won. That meant that one had to invest two days at this convention if you were to participate in the contest.
Now that in itself that is not such a bad thing, and for international visitors it is even a blessing as it is hardly worthwhile to make a long trip for just one day. However, for the local people, who could enjoy the event just as much as a one day event it was less fortunate. Then again the show is totally worth the two days, especially for the social aspects in the evening too.
Now here is a point of contention for myself, Games Workshop had planned an Open Day, including Golden Demon contest, in Amsterdam on that very same Saturday. This could have been an issue for many people but quite a few took it upon themselves to enter both competitions.
Many wanted to participate in both, so people had to be creative, and ask their friends to enter their models for them in the SMC contest, as they attended the GD themselves. Then they attended the SMC the following day in time for the ceremonies there. While some were lucky enough to earn prizes in both contests, some would argue whether it was good sportsmanship to not enter the models yourselves. I am still out on this one. Yet I am aware that this happens regularly at shows all around the world, when people are not able to travel and attend, but when you’re already in Amsterdam, it seems a little odd for me.
The awards ceremony took far too long. Not surprisingly though, because there were no less than 26 categories to wade through, each having bronze, silver and gold medal finalists that need to get on stage for a second, plus the vast amount of generous special prizes donated by vendors and clubs. Of course that takes a load of time. But an hour and a half clapping and cheering gets a bit weary at the end.
And on the contest one very personal critique I had, was one I got pretty riled up about. I found out that the models in my display that I had entered were constantly being moved, and placed apart from each other. Now I do get it that judges pick up your model and may place it on another spot, but even after judging, this happened no less than three times, every time me putting them back together (trying to ignore the surprised looks of bystanders of why I would DARE to touch and even pick up any model). Perhaps the photographers at the show did not realise this was a display entry and were merely trying to get a better angle at individual miniatures, perhaps this is something that would need explaining to them in the future?
Head Judge Sander van der Does (bless this guy!) explained to me that there were also photographers working for them, and they may also move models, and yeah, that sounds plausible. Yet it happened just too often for me to be comfortable with. I suppose others may have experienced the same. Sander assured me that he would think on this and try to find a good solution for next year. This is one of the pluses to SMC, despite any small negative critique they always listen and try to improve that small issue for the following year.
The things that were organised very well had more leverage on my opinion of the event luckily. SMC is very accessible. Both in location, but also as a visitor as the entry fees are very low. The venue is a top notch location with classy convention halls, and a huge hotel next to it. As a visitor you have more than enough to see and do. As an attendee (club, vendor, special guest) everything was very well organised, communications were clear, asistance was fast and effective when needed. The overall feeling from the organisation as a host was that of really being in service of it’s ‘guests’.
Take it all-in. You have got to conclude that this is a show that HAS TO be on your to-visit-list for next year. This SMC has already been called the ‘best event of the year’, it has been compared with other great shows such as Euromillitaire, World Expo, Monte San Savino and others. I know that next year, it will be even bigger, even better. I am there. Will you be too?
SMC has also released a commemorative book celebrating the first ten years. In addition, FeR Miniatures in cooperation with Pepa Savedra have released a special model to commemorate this particular anniversary. Both may still be available through contact with Scale Model Challenge or Fer Miniatures.
Congratulations to all the winners and those special artists who won Best of Show in their perspective classes. Many thanks for reading and thank you to Jason for the opportunity to provide a little write up.