I had a great experience this year at ReaperCon– my fourth ReaperCon so far! However, it's been a very different experience compared to previous years, since in the past, I've attended strictly as a con-goer and forumite. This year, I was a part-time instructor teaching two classes: "Painting Eyes" and "Blending: Fabric & Skin". I also got a chance to visit with friends and see family! Needless to say, it was a gloriously-packed five days that started out rough...
I bought a VIP ticket, which included the Wednesday night Meet & Greet, however I was struck down with a killer migraine that had me bedridden and unable to travel. If I had worn my magnifying Optivisor the day before, I wouldn't have hunched over my desk and squinted late into the night as I rushed to complete my competition miniatures. Having a stiff neck and shoulders is a recipe for misery. I have the distinct pleasure of getting "ocular migraines", which means my vision recedes into one small blindspot with shimmering edges which slowly expands to encompass my sight. When it's at its worst, I could hold my hand in front of my face and not be able to see it. It's followed by a monster of a headache that only 800mg of ibuprofen, a dark room, and restful sleep will cure. Traveling obviously isn't an option, so I lost an entire day of the con. Lesson learned! I definitely recommend an Optivisor if you don't already have one– there are several magnification options (and price points) so choose what works best for you!
I arrived at ReaperCon on Thursday afternoon, thankful I planned to drive and not fly. I arrived in time to check in, collect the miniatures for my classes, and get ready for dinner. I found my table in the open seating and parked myself next to some of my fellow con-goers and friends I've met in previous years. It's always good to meet new people and catch up with friends you've met in previous years! And maybe get a beholder balloon...
I won't lie, I was super-nervous about my classes and I spent the first night finishing my miniatures and preparing last-minute changes to my colorful "Painting Eyes" handouts and sending them to Kinko's to pick up on my way to the convention the next day. Lots of folks were hanging out downstairs and I was bummed I wasn't able to make it. However, Kevin G. said he would bring me some wine and shows up with this:
My favorite part is the "Mocha is Drunk With Power" that the little girl is writing on the front. I about died laughing. It's one of the most creative surprises ever! :) Thanks Kevin– that made my week!!
Teaching Day 1
I've attended many classes over the years and, in my experience, half the attendees want a lecture-style class; the other a hands-on approach in learning. While I enjoy lecture-type classes, I decided to attempt a hybrid class with both elements present. I'll be honest, I was incredibly exciting to see that my classes filled up just after a few minutes after the ReaperCon classes went live. It's nice to know that people want to learn about what I'm excited to teach. However, it was my first time teaching, so I was extremely nervous!
Fast forward to the convention and my first class "Painting Eyes" went very well! There were ten people in that class and about fifteen minutes into the class, I had a sudden, terrible thought– okay, three terrible thoughts:
- What if I can't fill the two hours of classtime with quality material?
- What if I can paint but I can't teach? What if I explain something that my class attendees can't replicate?
- I've never painted in "real time" in front of other people. What if I'm too nervous to paint tiny details?
Luckily, the class had a lot of great questions I was able to answer. Knowing that the first part of the class was lecture, we rolled into the demo part and I started to sweat a bit. I also had too much cofffee so I was a little shaky when combined with the nerves. Luckily, I was able to paint Lem the Bard at each step of the process and pass my example miniature around. I also walked around to see each person's progress and was so relieved– they looked great!! I was so pleased and proud of each of them– even the ones who swore they were terrible at painting eyes :) I was pleased to notice that each one of them was so careful, trying not to get a millimeter out of line. However, I told them, "It doesn't have to be perfect at each step. Be free with your paint at first– as long as it's thin, you can always clean it up in later steps."
Fast forward to dinner that night and my friends Clint and Yeji were in town from Las Vegas (they hosted me when I was in town for the Las Vegas Open '15) and it was so good to see them! We went out for dinner the following night at a sushi place with Mark Maxey and his wife Lauren. We had a great time! I found the restaurant on Yelp and tried to make a reservation in advance but couldn't seem to understand the person on the other end of the phone. They kept saying "Yes, very busy. No reservations. Very long wait. Forty five minutes. Very busy." As I drove to pick up the crew, Yeji called to try again and coincidentally enough, they both spoke Korean and she was able to communicate much more effectively. I joked that once we got there, we wouldn't have to wait because Yeji made fast friends. The hilarious part was that when we arrived, I tried to open the door and it wouldn't budge (I made sure it said pull, not push like the Far Side comic I remember) and when I looked confused, thinking the restaurant closed, Yeji stepped in and opened the door without any perceived effort. The best part: once we walked in, they said "Yeji? Are you Yeji?" and seated us immediately. So much for the forty-five minute wait! I couldn't stop laughing until our waiter came to take our order. Everything we ate was delicious, and I'm so glad we went. Moral of the story? Take Yeji with you whenever you go out to eat! That's one of my favorite memories of the con :)
Teaching: Day 2
The next day, my "Blending: Skin & Fabric" class didn't go as well (in my opinion). Oddly enough, it's easier to teach class in a room full of strangers than it is to have friends and/or family there, and having folks I knew made it that much more intimidating. Not their fault of course! While I wanted to keep it casual and open, when you have twelve people around a U-shaped table, it's difficult to ensure everyone can hear you. You find yourself repeating things, or worse, losing the attention of the class if they can't all hear the instructions. When the demo portion started about halfway through the hybrid lecture/demo class, I realized the beginners were struggling a bit more than I expected and the more advanced painters were moving quickly through the steps. While my Painting Eyes class was listed as Intermediate/Advanced, my Blending class was Basic/Intermediate. I opted to make sure the beginners were taken care of, even if the more advanced painters "went rogue" a bit (their words) and painted on other parts of the mini until the rest of the class was caught up. Everyone hopefully still got something out of it, but next time, I will definitely reconsider pacing to make sure everyone leaves completely satisfied :)
- Don't try to cram too much into one class. I could take an entire class to talk about properly prepping a mini for the best blending (but not specific to skin/fabric), another class for painting different skintones, and a third class for painting fabric (with multiple examples). Yeah, overly ambitious, especially for a larger classroom of mixed skill levels. Lessons learned!
- Teach more classes! While first-year teachers are rarely approved to teach more than 2 classes (as listed in the Reaper teaching policies), I look forward to being invited back to possibly teach more classes next year! We'll see :) I have a lot of good ideas that I'll have to work on over the next year that I hope would catch the interest of future con-goers.
- Trust yourself. While I'm passionate about painting and sharing my knowledge, I tend to put too much pressure on myself to make sure everything is perfect and everyone is 100% happy and sastified with everything, all the time. Once I finally relaxed, I realized that people are there to learn and have fun! The folks at ReaperCon do a great job setting the friendly, casual tone– the more experienced instructors are still very easy to approach and everyone makes you feel welcome! The idea of being an instructor can be intimidating at first, and I'm happy to report that not only did I survive, I think I'm hooked!
[Coming Soon: ReaperCon 2017 - Part 2]
- My Contest Entries/Awards/Feedback/Lessons Learned
- Convention Fun with Forum Friends
- MOAR PICTURES!!!