On my desk right now, I have 6 bottlecaps. If I was in the Fallout universe, I'd only have enough money on me to be barely worth the ammo it took for the hero of the story to kill me as I tried to mug him for no reason. He'd be frustrated with me and would probably be wondering why he used his fancy pistol rather than the service rifle he has a bajillion rounds for. That would last for a few seconds and then I'd be just another generic corpse for him to step over on his way to the next town.
|Why did I think mugging a heavily armed sociopath was a good idea? Was I really that high on jet?|
The game designers spent a ton of time skillfully building all the 3D meshes required to give me shape. They also spent a ton of time rendering my textures, tweaking the animation for when my head flies off and they even bothered to give me some voice acting. A lot of man hours went into me and I'm excellently presented. Yet I look exactly like everyone and everything else in the world. I'm forgettable -hockey pads, mohawk and all.
Which is kind of how I feel about the current state of what is often considered the 'best' examples of miniature painting, the Golden Daemon.
[Warning: generalizations ahead]
Take a look at the winners from the last couple of Golden Daemons from Baltimore (especially the gold winners). Here's 2009 and 2010 for our reference. Each individual winner is exceedingly well painted and meticulously crafted; they are masterpieces. However, they all tend to blur together when you look at them as a group. There's a preponderance of drab colors, a focus on realism and most of the entries are painted as you'd expect them to be. Stylistically speaking, they are all very similar as well*. It's a bit boring when you get right down to it. The models just aren't memorable beyond the fact that they're really, really, really well painted.
This has to do with the mind numbing focus on technical details that comes as part of painting to win a Golden Daemon. You really get the sense that artistic risk isn't rewarded so much as painting to the judges' expectations.
Need proof? Take a look at the descriptions for the slayer sword winners for both of the example years:
"Once again Todd Swanson stuns us with his precision painting, smooth blends, attention to detail and strong narrative style."
"Congratulations go to Dylan Gauker for his utterly flawless Nurgle Chaos Marauder unit. Very rarely do we see a unit of models painted in such a clean, precise and consistent manner as these!"
Seriously, the essence of the big winners' models get boiled down to how good the blends are? Fucking precision is a key factor? In the two lines that you had to describe the winners, these are the things that we're chosen to be mentioned over everything else? Its hard to see a love for the artistic possibilities that miniature painting presents with descriptions like the ones above and a field of gold winners that looks suspiciously homogeneous.
Now, I'm not trying to tear the artists down or shit on their wins.** Their accolades are well deserved. They've produced some very stunning models that put most anything I've ever done to shame. On more than one occasion I've been watching a tutorial and been convinced that what these guys do is nothing short of sorcery. No question, there is a great deal of skill and artistic savvy involved.
|Also, you can win a fucking sword!|
All the hoopla surrounding the Golden Daemon presents the contest as the pinnacle of miniature painting excellence. It's not, though. The Golden Daemon is a specific contest with specific expectations. Its a great example of what the miniature painting hobby can look like. It's just not THE example. We need to stop treating it like it is. Because doing so is, in turn, driving a lot of what I'm worried about with all this business about that missing thing I've been obliquely yammering on about.
Right, I think that's a good spot to stop for now. In terms of where I'm going in the future: I think I have a bit more about the Golden Daemon style to discuss - though I worry that it will be become a focal point rather than a stepping stone so it may drop off. Anyway... I've also got some stuff about the fear of failure to talk about as well a discussion on the differences between an entire army vs. individual models that will be more than the 'no shit' moment it might be.
*Special props to Dave Taylor for being a clear outlier.
** Though I'm sure it will come off like I am to some people. Such is life.