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 :) 

Review: Mountain of Metal Miniatures

Last month, I was contacted by Joanne, co-owner of Mountain of Metal, who asked if I'd be interested in reviewing a few miniatures her company has recently released. Mountain of Metal is based in Nottingham, United Kingdom and was founded in September 2014. They specialize in painting and terrain commissions, and have very recently branched out into online retail. This November, they launched their new online store and released three 28mm fantasy miniatures available for purchase through their website. These three miniatures were sent to me for my honest review. I look forward to walking you through my experience from beginning to end!

New releases from Mountain of Metal (click image for a link to their website)

New releases from Mountain of Metal (click image for a link to their website)

Upon receiving my miniatures, I opened the box to find three miniatures wrapped in bubble wrap and shredded paper. I appreciate the care they took to ship these, though the shredded paper made quite a mess as I pulled the bubble-wrapped miniatures out of the box. Whoops! After a quick cleanup, I unboxed three smaller black boxes to find Nenqua, Havan, and Volac. The miniature boxes they come in are the perfect size, though the cotton-like padding they come with snags more readily than traditional foam inserts. I made doubly-sure I removed any loose strands stuck on sharp edges of the miniature during the cleaning process.

I didn't find any jarring mould lines or chunky flash I had to contend with-- in fact, it only took about 15-20 minutes to clean, sand, and scrub each miniature before assembling. Two of the three miniatures require some assembly-- Volac's arm/staff and Nenqua's leg and dagger. Assembly and gap-filling has to be my least favorite part of this hobby, so I'm glad for miniatures that require minor prep work. Upon inspection, the miniatures are of a nice quality and only Nenqua showed signs of metal discoloration with a few rust-colored spots. Luckily, this kind of oxidation isn't an issue in modern white metal miniatures (unless you're talking about "lead rot" in miniatures from the 1980s & 90s). In this case, it's easily covered up when you prime and paint the miniature.

In doing some further research, I found that these miniatures were sculpted by Gael Goumon, a well-respected sculptor in the industry who has created miniatures for many companies including Dark Sword, Wyrd, Reaper, Andrea, and CoolMiniOrNot. While I enjoy painting female miniatures, I wanted to choose what I felt was the most appealing sculpt. Surprisingly, Nenqua is probably my least favorite miniature of the three. The angle in which her leg would need to fit together seemed a little awkward to me, like she's not quite standing balanced. Her stance just isn't as lively as the other two, though she'd make a great rogue or wily thief character with her dagger held out of sight behind her back. Havan "The Half-Seen" really stood out to me. However, just to be sure I was giving Volac a fair shot, I cleaned and assembled him for full consideration. It took little time to glue his arm/staff and the angle set easily. Volac's dynamic pose is appealing for any magic-wielding player character, and I find it convenient that his base is sculpted in. In the end, Havan was still my favorite-- I was sold by the sculpt's dual weapons, segmented armor, and powerful stance.

While painting wasn't part of the requested review, I was excited about the propect of painting Havan. In my opinion, you can best review a miniature after you've cleaned, assembled, and painted them. I can't tell you how many times I run into odd sculpting issues only after I've begun painting. "What is that supposed to be-- a pocket? A patch? A buckle?" or finding out that shapes and angles don't quite line up. It's hard to make out details in unprimed pewter, since the shifting reflective surfaces play with our eyes and make it hard to see the details.

This miniature has lots of great metal detail sculpted in-- buckles, thin armor edging, and studs that were fun to paint and practice the gold NMM (Non Metallic Metal) technique. Each time I thought I'd painted the last buckle or stud, I'd find a new one under the arm or on his boots. His eyes are a bit difficult to reach under his hood and hair and would be a challenge for a beginner painter. As it was, I wasn't able to paint much more than black pupils-- nothing fancy, but it worked out just fine since the focus of this miniature isn't his face.

Havan's original concept is more of a shadowy character, slipping in and out under cover of darkness. I struggled with the idea of painting him in a darker color scheme, and eventually settled on a brighter forest green and brown leather armor scheme. Perhaps he's a middle-aged Robin Hood-like character who has graduated from the bow and has taken up weapons that match his increased strength and experience. I worked to carefully outline the segmented leather armor in gold Non Metallic Metal-- it's not plate armor, but it allows the wearer increased movement and mobility (and it just looks cool). Perhaps it's reinforced leather armor with metal trim for a tough woodsman adventurer. Heck, maybe he's a volunteer lumberjack on the weekends to stay in top physical shape (hence the axe). As I made progress oh Havan, I posted a few works-in-progress throughout the week on Twitter.

Now, without further ado, here's my version of Havan. Let's check him out!

What do you think? Who would you be most excited to paint of these three? For more information about these Mountain of Metal miniatures, visit their website at www.mountainofmetal.co.uk or visit their Facebook page.

Local Painting Class (aka "Troll Night")

Tonight I'll be attending a painting class at a local game shop (aka "LGS"). I've never been to a Paint Night before and I'm really looking forward to it! Since I haven't been to this game store before, I called ahead to ask what I can expect and what I should bring to be best prepared. I was told by a kind and patient woman that the teacher is a super-nice guy and it's a casual environment where the instructor offers helpful painting tips and all skill levels can paint together. I'll be posting about my experience-- can't wait!

••• UPDATE •••

Tonight was extremely disappointing. Surely, I attended the wrong class. I signed up for a painting class at my friendly local gaming store when in fact, I attended Troll Night. Seriously, I should have brought a fire-imbued weapon for all the toxic nasties present. Looking back on it, I wish I had live-tweeted the whole thing-- but let me start from the beginning.

After fighting the back-to-school traffic to my LGS, I was 20 minutes after the listed class start time. While I was assured by one of the employees earlier that people are welcome to come-and-go starting at 7pm, I was still anxious since, as a rule, it's rude to be late. I walked in the front door for the very first time and was surprised at how busy it was! People shopping, groups talking and gaming on three long tables, and a line of 4+ people waiting to check out-- I loved the energy at this place! Since they were busy at the register, I found someone who wasn't currently helping customers and said, "Excuse me, I'm sorry, it's my first time here-- where's the painting class being held?". He stopped what he was doing and said "Welcome! It's over by the... y'know what, I'll walk you there. Right this way please!". He graciously ushered me into a room of four round tables and pointed out the instructor. I sat down at the nearest table in between a gentleman on his laptop and a young college fellow. I sat down, waited for a pause in the conversation, greeted the instructor and introduced myself. "Nice to meet you, it's my first time here-- I'm really sorry I'm late". He shrugged and told me it was a casual painting thing and said there's paint in the cabinets on the far wall and some miniatures if I wanted to use them. (I'd brought my own paints, brushes, water cups... I like to be prepared). Cool beans! I'm just happy I didn't interrupt a teaching demo or something. 

I unpacked my wet palette, 5 paints and my 3 miniatures I'd brought. I greeted Mr. Laptop next to me and he looked at me, promptly picked up his laptop, and changed tables. Ooookay? (I swear I showered this morning!) I asked Mr. College Student to my right where the paint water was. He just looked at me. "Uh, I don't think anyone's using any" ... "Oh, alright, that's cool. I'll go fill my cup up in the bathroom. Be right back" At this point, three things are going through my head:

  1. They list it as a Painting Class "Covering basic painting techniques and giving you great starting points for learning to paint". The instructor isn't very friendly and seems kind of distracted. 
  2. Why don't people have paint water? I assumed water and cups are pretty basic (but I try to be over-prepared so maybe it's not too big of a deal)
  3. Is it weird that I feel uncomfortable already? Should I just leave and go home?

Knowing that it was probably just me being nervous, I decided to stay for at least another 45 minutes to give it a fair chance. After all, I hadn't even tried to join the table conversation and I didn't want to leave as soon as I arrived. I returned from the bathroom with my water cup, offered to share my water with Shy College Kid, and listened to what the instructor was discussing-- maybe offering painting tips & tricks? Asking others about what their goals were for painting? Nope. Two of the guys had their primed Warhammer armies proudly displayed around them on the table. Impressive! However, I was quickly disenchanted when I endured the hateful bile from the duo next to the instructor who passed their negativity back and forth across the table. Several times, I attempted to make polite conversation. I was promptly ignored. Even when other people joined the table, I quickly realized that Paint Night conversation topics were limited to: 

  1. How badly that other guy's Warhammer army sucks and how much better their army was. "That guy thinks he's God's gift to Warhammer but that loser can't even paint his army the right colors. Hah!" 
  2. "My b**** ex-wife... I just don't understand why my kids would choose to stay with her" (I did learn something through this uncomfortable "over-sharing session": during a divorce in this U.S. state, children as young as 13 can choose for themselves which parent to live with. See? I'm here to learn things!)
  3. Ways that they've been "mistreated" at game stores by being asked to come up with their own groups after being told they complained too much. Then, how they planned to take advantage of those smaller local game store owners by winning "easy prizes" in Warhammer tournaments and choosing the most expensive items (blah, blah, F.A.T. Mats, etc.). "Yeah, that'll show them alright!"

I silently dubbed them the "Toxic Trolls". I felt like I was in 5th grade all over again. These adult men were spewing hate and negativity and gossiping like little brats! About 40 minutes later, a woman and two teenagers came in and said "Hi, we RSVP'd to the painting class". The people at the table just stared at them. They received the same cold greeting from the instructor who was too busy agreeing with Toxic Trolls to welcome them and help them get settled. One of the teenagers asked, "So what models are you painting?" No response from any of them. I smiled and piped up, "I'm painting a Reaper mini here... and this one's an Infinity miniature. I brought these from home, but I hear they have a few in the cabinet you can practice on!" The instructor stayed seated. At this point, I was ready to leave. I was disgusted with this "class"-- not only at the negative behavior allowed and practically encouraged by the instructor, but by the sheer lack of courtesy shown for newcomers-- and I'm not just talking about myself! I'm glad the instructor and his trolls didn't ask me a single question or offer to help me in any way. I'm happy no one paid attention to what I was painting. I made it a point not to tell anyone I'd painted before or about my blog because then I wouldn't be able to write this anonymous and honest review.

In the end, I packed up and said my polite goodbye to the shy college student next to me, thanked the instructor (he didn't even look up, though I spoke up loud enough) and on my way out waved to the nice employee who had greeted & walked me to the classroom when I arrived. I drove home saddened but determined. There will always be bile-spewing trolls. Don't be discouraged when you meet them. Instead, learn from them and imagine what you would do differently. When people show genuine interest in your craft, acknowledge them. Courtesy costs nothing. Be kind and welcoming. This is a community, which involves growing the hobby and positively shaping that community. I can't control other people's actions. However, I can control my own actions and how I treat others. I may disagree with how this particular Paint Night was run, and I'm sure others have had much better painting class experiences at their LGS. In the end, maybe I'll just start my own Paint Night-- I'd be extra-welcoming to newcomers and you better believe I'd bring be water, cups, and paper towels for everyone. Can't wait to see you there!