ReaperCon 2018

I'm home safely from ReaperCon 2018-- what a fantastic experience. It's always such a joy to spend time with my favorite convention folks! I'm forever grateful to the artists and wonderful people who inspire me and push me to be better :) 

Since I taught a full class load, I was awarded a spot on "Artist Alley", where guest instructors (artists, painters, and sculptors) are available to chat with convention attendees in between events and classes. I did miss a few folks who came by my table while I was teaching, and if I'm an instructor next year, I may make a sign that says "Sorry I missed you! I'm currently teaching a class. Will return at [time]." This was my first time on the "other side of the table" (so cool!) and it was personally rewarding for me. I welcomed new folks to the convention and offered feedback for beginner painters who came seeking advice on how to improve their painting skills. 

I was extremely honored and excited to have all my classes fill up. "Mocha, all your classes are sold out!" "...Seriously? That's awesome!" My favorite class to teach this year was "Multicultural Skin Tones". I had a lot of fun creating the class content and references-- there was so much I wanted to explore and share with my students! We played with different skin color recipes and I shared ways to become more ambitious when trying to plan color schemes for miniatures that look wildly different from the original box art (always a fun challenge!)

My "Painting Eyes" class is a close second-favorite, since I have folks who have never-- and I mean never-- painted an eye. "I avoid miniatures with eyes because I can't paint them" ... "Well that won't do! I expect you to walk out of this room cured of that fear!" The folks who have taken my class tell me excitedly that they've learned something new about painting eyes, whether they're beginners or intermediate painters. When my students have a "Eureka!" moment, that is the absolute best for me as an instructor. I still remember when I was taught different tips and tricks for painting eyes and I actually found joy when painting more expressive faces. 

One of the biggest surprises for me at the convention was the interview with Ron Hawkins, Art Director of Reaper Miniatures. Reaper was livestreaming interviews different instructors during the convention and when I was approached to do one, I was both appreciative and anxious. What will they ask? I don't want to embarrass myself. This is live after all!

In the end, I remembered the convention is all about having fun and sharing the love of the hobby. I agreed and did the best I could, despite being nervous :) As soon as they said, "We're live!" my brain blacked out and had to go back and watch the video to remember what I even said, ha! It was fun and I enjoyed watching the other instructors' interviews as well. 

Interview with Michal “Mocha” Schultz at ReaperCon 2018

Uploaded by Reaper Miniatures on 8/31/18

I do wish I had documented the convention better with photos. It was a true whirlwind! However, once I got back home, I scrolled through my pictures and uploaded the fun ones below (just click the picture if you need to enlarge it). 

I have to say, this year's venue was a true highlight. ReaperCon was held at the Embassy Suites Denton Convention Center and the hotel was beautiful. The two previous years were held at the Premier Event Center in Lewisville, TX and was a musty, sad bunker when compared to this year's fabulous venue. Embassy Suites elevated ReaperCon in my opinion and added such a great value and experience for all who attended. I hope they have it there next year. If they do, I'm definitely coming back!

New Venue Highlights: 

  1. Convenience. Being able to travel upstairs to drop off/pick up painting supplies and personal items in hotel room.
  2. Clean, well-appointed hotel rooms. Bluetooth in the bathroom mirror! Two-room suites! Great value for the price.
  3. PLENTY of room to mingle, game, paint, and explore the convention. Quiet places to escape and recharge.
  4. Noise levels were managed well with the carpeted convention hall, separate gaming & classroom areas.
  5. Private & semi-private classrooms allowed students and teachers to converse easily without struggling to hear.
  6. Gaming tables increased exponentially. Folks were enjoying tabletop games spread throughout convention area.
  7. The staff was fabulous. We can be a rowdy bunch and the hotel was courteous, reasonable & accommodating.

I'll be posting the final photos of my competition pieces on Monday, September 17, 2018.  I flew to the convention, and since leave with more than I brought (yay swag!), I didn't have enough room to transport everything home. I didn't want to risk checking my miniatures as luggage, so I decided to leave them with family members until I can retrieve them in two weeks when I attend a wedding. Flying is stressful enough, but if I arrived home with broken miniatures, I would be heartbroken. 

All in all, ReaperCon was another success and I already look forward to next year. One of the best things about going to this one convention each year is that I get to see the folks who share in my interest and get to recharge creatively! At the same time, it only happens once a year...  However, now that I'm living in the Midwest, Adepticon may be in the cards for me for the very first time. And I'd love to visit my friends in Las Vegas during the LVO convention... now that I'm no longer a corporate slave, I have more time to indulge in my hobby and start painting commission pieces. More miniature adventures to come! Thanks for following along :) 

New Beginnings

I quit my job and moved across the country! I'm now a proud resident of Wisconsin and starting anew with freelance projects and... you guessed it: miniature painting :) We're all moved in and I have my new office set up. My creative space is a bit smaller and doesn't have a closet to stuff my gigantic hoard of miniatures, so I had to get creative using wall space and a shelving cabinet to store my basing materials and alarming amount of unpainted miniatures.

Using my handy dandy label maker, I sectioned out spaces and organized them by manufacturer. Anything that didn't fit in the shelving unit went into the basement (which is a thing up north, evidently). Luckily, it was only a few things: a box of Kickstarter minis from Ninja All-Stars and two fairly large plastic tubs of Reaper minis (LOL). I figure when winter comes, I'll be able to hide away with a space heater and paint miniatures until I'm forced to go outside in the frigid cold weather. 

In other news, it's time for ReaperCon 2018 in two months so I better get painting again! ReaperCon this year is August 30-September 2, 2018. I understand is the exact same weekend as DragonCon and NOVA. I'm bummed that I won't see all the regular artist peeps but I'm looking forward to seeing the folks that are able to make it this year!

I'll be teaching four classes this year (first year as a full-time instructor!): 

Multicultural Skin Tones (x2)

Have you ever tried painting a different skin tone, only to have it turn out all wrong? In this class, we'll venture outside of our creative comfort zones and explore the tricky art of painting various complexions. I'll share my methods of finding inspiration and reference material, planning overall color schemes, and applying finishing touches to help your miniatures stand out (in a good way!) During this class, we'll touch on a few different topics, including a bit of color theory, blending, and glazing techniques. Students will need to bring their own brushes.

Painting Eyes

Ready to face your fears and tackle the dreaded eye? With a bit of patience, you'll be able to paint more expressive faces in no time! In this class, I'll explain my favorite step-by-step process as students get hands-on experience painting happy little eyes. Individual guidance will be offered each step of the way. Please bring your own brushes, including a finer detail brush.

Speed Paint Scramble!

Imagine: it's almost game night and you need a last-minute mini to play with your tabletop group. What do you do? Speed paint scramble! Join me in this beginner-friendly class where I'll break down my method for painting minis quickly, using a limited color palette. Students should bring a medium-sized brush (approx. size 1-3) for base coating and a smaller brush for finishing-touch details.

Last year, I tried to cover too much material at once in my "Blending Skin & Fabric" class, and I'm narrowing it down to just skin tones. I really don't know what I was thinking trying to cover skin + blending + fabric in less than 2 hours with over 12+ students and calling it a "beginners" class. Yeesh! I'm grateful for the experience and now that I'm a bit wiser, I think pacing will be much more manageable. 

I'm still not sure what I've decided to enter in the painting competition, and I'll need to figure that out soon! Luckily, there's still time. I'm going to commit to finishing my entries before the convention, not procrastinating until the last minute like I have before in previous years, blaming my demanding work schedule for the lack of paint time. That's not an issue this year! However, I'm feeling the pressure of dwindling personal savings, so I need to get out there and paint some commissions-- more on that soon! 

Kingdom Death Party

Ain't no party like a Kingdom Death party, 'cause a Kingdom Death party don't...

Stop. Time out. Let's recap here: I finished my very first Kingdom Death miniature.

Let's let that sink in. In 2014, I bought the "Pinups of Death Hard Plastic Collection" and I've been too intimidated to assemble and finish painting even ONE. Sound familiar? I know many people that are more collectors than active painters of these minis (and that's totally okay). For a beginning painter, they're challenging to assemble and paint. Many people hoard them until they feel they have the skills to tackle all that skin and hair and NMM metal. And if you're never ready to paint them? Well then, just keep collecting and when you decide to commission them for painting or sell them to a good home, you know who to contact– no judgement here :) Without further ado...

My Twilight Knight was the very first miniature I tried to gap fill with green stuff. The Kingdom Death models, especially the plastic, require gap filling and, for the longest time, Twilight Knight sat on my "someday shelf" (a.k.a. "shelf of shame") without a head or cape, which was damn creepy. I finally convinced myself to spend the time to complete her for my own personal enjoyment– a rare opportunity– and I decided to try a few things:

  1. Paint high contrast 
  2. Silver NMM practice
  3. Limited color palette
  4. Unconventional skin tone
  5. More "painterly" approach

Long story short, I feel like I incorporated each of those goals in a way:

  1. High contrast in the sword, leg wraps and tones all the way from "Pure Black" to "Pure White" in the NMM
  2. NMM (Non Metallic Metal)– always a challenge! Recently, I experiemented with gold. This time: silver.
  3. Limited palette using two leather browns, neutral black, pure black, pure white, and two purples
  4. Using a pink/purple cold skin tone rather than a warm skin tone like I tend to favor
  5. Not blending too much in the large expanses of fabric– take a look at her cloak (more on that below)

 

More about the "painterly approach": Anthony Rodriguez, from Pirate Monkey Painting, posted an interesting perspective: What if we removed ourselves from the obsession with perfect blending and welcomed a more painterly approach? Now, those aren't his words exactly, but if you want to know more about what I mean by "painterly", it's about incorporating creative application of color theory, visible brushstrokes and incorporating dynamic values, or contrast, within each piece. Now, I'm not claiming I have all these elements perfected in my Twilight Knight, but I did start to dabble in the idea of a "bigger picture" rather than hyper focusing on details. Check out Anthony's work on Putty & Paint here. It's a bold idea to stand up and say "We focus too much on blending!" and there prolific painters whose artistic success isn't limited to ultra-clean, obsessive technical paint application.

Ooookay, I'm going off on a bit of an artsy-fartsy tangent and probably losing some of you. To sum it up? James Wappel. You've seen his stuff, right? If you've spent time in the industry or attended Adepticon or other conventions, you've probably heard of him. If you're fairly new to painting tabletop minis, welcome! Check him out in the link above.  Jim is a master– his painting is thoughtful, brilliant, and seemingly effortless. His work has traces of brushstrokes in it and it's beautiful– the very definition of "painterly". He wields his creative genius with a giant filbert brush ($8 each, including tax) and his knowledge of color theory is second to none. Now don't get me wrong, I sound like I'm totally kissing butt, however, it leads into my next point: his approach is incredibly different than my own and makes my eyelids twitch.

In fact, one of my first painting classes was with James Wappel and it centered around shaded basecoats and glazing. I thought I was in the Twilight Zone. I mixed paint and applied thin layers of glazes, only to feel like a know-nothing fraud. "Am I even doing this right?" I asked. I kept looking at my neighbor and peeking at what they were painting, thinking I was missing something crucial in the guided class. Jim was totally chill and supportive reassuring us, "Don't overthink it, just apply the glazes and see what happens. Everyones will be different and that's totally okay". For a Type A person like myself, I admit, the very concept made my brain short circuit a bit. I stuck with it, though I didn't know if my results were good or bad. I left with my brain reeling and thanked Jim for what I lovingly called, "Anarchist Paint Class" because it absolutely threw everything I thought I knew about painting straight out of the nearest window. And sometimes you need that.

I painted my Kingdom Death miniature in a way that I didn't obsessively blend the ever-loving **** out of each surface area. I'd never thought I'd see the day. Now that you've read all this, take another look at the back of her cloak. See it now? I'm not claiming it's anything ground-breaking, but for me, it totally is and I'm damn proud of it. So proud, in fact, that I entertained the idea of painting more Kingdom Death miniatures immediately afterwards since the intimidation factor is now lessened. Since I've bought more Kingdom Death miniatures than I should have over the past 2 years (haven't we all?) I decided to bring them all out at the same time, maybe to shame myself in a way. I grouped boxes, opened bags, organized my favorites, and realized I was looking at a significant personal and financial investment I need to start completing. Yep, better get on this! I cleaned and filed the Gold Smoke Knight (for someone else) and the Pinup Sci-fi Twilight Knight (for myself). I made a mess, though to me, it's organized chaos:

Completing the clipping & cleaning process:

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I truly hate the assembly and gap-filling process, but I just can't bear to not have control over this part, since it directly impacts the overall quality of the paint job.

Here she is– everything but her sword since I need to attach that after I've painted her, uh, backside:

While I waited for the Milliput gap filling to set, I used the extra mix to fill in a base of a Reaper miniature "Cheetah Girl" sculpted by Julie Guthrie. I purchased her as an option to consider when I was looking for an anthropomorphic player character for the Secret Sophie miniature exchange a few months ago. I worked around the precast base and I will add a few rocks and different textural elements as it dries.

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In the meantime, I have a doctor appointment for some onoing stuff I'll probably talk about later if I'm in the mood for oversharing. Long story short, I'm still working through some emotional and hormonal issues and I'm currently balancing two jobs for two teams which doesn't help the stress factor. I'm totally committed to it, since it will hopefully pay off in a career promotion for me down the road. Still, it's time-consuming and difficult to manage shifting expectations as I jump into the frying pan.

In the name of unyielding positivity: I'm grateful to still be able to make the time to paint and for the people who support me. If you're going through a rough time and can't show it or share it, for whatever reason, I hope you find some balance and comfort in life. In the meantime, I hope you can find joy in painting, assembly, or just the purest form of miniature glory: hoarding!

Until next time :)