Sunday, May 12, 2013


On a bit of a lark, I decided to attend the Miniature Figure Collectors of America show in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.  I never heard of the show until a few weeks ago, when my fellow hobbyists at the National Capital Model Soldier Society mentioned it.  I was discussing at our meeting the strong European presence at Crystal Brush, and my friend, Rhodes, explained that the MFCA was probably the one show that attracted the most European talent to the US and that it would be worth my while to go.

It turned out to be about a 3-hour trip, but that was nothing compared to the 16-hour drive, I think it was, that fellow WAMPer, Wendy, and her family made from Michigan.  It was a pleasure to meet a non-NCMSS WAMPer for the first time.  Wendy and her family have attended the show for six years, and she educated me on a lot of the logistics and history behind the show.  For example, one reason the show attracts so many Europeans is that local businesses (mainly law firms, apparently) donate stipends to fly the artists over.  I'm curious as to what the selection process is, to choose from among all the talent over there.

Here is a link to my full gallery of photos, but I'll show a few highlights here.

Here is an overview shot of the show.  There are 3 Categories:  Historical, Fantasy, and Ordnance.  Each Category has two Divisions:  Painters and Open.  The Painters Division is for stock or slightly converted models, while the Open category is for full-out conversions, dioramas, scratch-builts, etc.

It's interesting to me that the Category label denotes the higher tier, organizationally, than the Division label.  Now I think I understand why the NOVA Open organized their art competition that way last year -- they were following established precedents.  I'm organizing it for 2013, and I flipped the labels around, because I just thought, in the English usage of the terms, Division is a larger construct than Category.  Now I learned that I'm defying established conventions, and I'm probably going to confuse everyone.  D'oh!

Here are a couple of Wendy's pieces.  This first one she entered in the Crystal Brush.  I wasn't sure if she attended Crystal Brush, so I didn't know this piece belonged to her.  I recognized it instantly at the MFCA show, though, and I finally made the association.

I love this next one.  It's a little hard to tell from this angle, but the top figure is a cow on a snowboard.  Wendy sculpted the penguins herself!

This next figure is by Rhodes Davis, one of my fellow hobbyists at the NCMSS.  This is one of my favorite pieces by him.  Rhodes serves as head judge at the NCMSS show, and he's been a great mentor to me and anyone else in the club who seeks his help.

This was an interesting scratch-built sculpt.  The sculpting is masterful -- very classic lines and volumes.  It's like a steampunk/fantasy Michelangelo in miniature!

Here is a "flat" by Marion Ball, a Grand Master of the MFCA.

A member of the European contingent, here is Diego Estaban.

And here is his piece that won 2nd place in the Crystal Brush last year.  What a surprise to see it in person!  This alone made the trip worthwhile.

I don't recall ever seeing a photo of the back of the piece.  Check out the tatoo and shield!  Not to mention the fantastic skin tones.

Here is another masterpiece by Diego.  I asked how he achieved the soft lines of the tatoo, but the language barrier was a little too much for us to understand one another.  The best I got out of him was, "lot's of blending, lot's of blending".

I'll wrap up with some other highlights from the show....

I just ordered this Scarecrow figure for myself.  What a coincidence to see the actual paintjob that was done for the box cover art!

This one is by David Powell, another NCMSS member.

This one is by Jim Richey, yet another NCMSS member.  I gave him this figure in a trade!

One of my fellow NCMSS members said this next piece was auctioned off for $65,000!

Now these were neat.  I had never seen miniatures in lightboxes.  Phenomenal work!

I am pleased to report that I actually earned a couple of medals!  The judging is "open judging", which means that the artists are measured against a standard, and any number of bronze, silver, and gold medals can be awarded, if enough entries meet those standards.

I entered my 'Border Dispute' diorama that I entered in the Crystal Brush (official photos are forthcoming), and it earned a bronze, which I'm very pleased with, given the incredible standard on display at the MFCA.

On top of that, I earned a silver for my Brotherhood of Assassins figures for Freebooter's Fate!  These are figures that didn't score very well on Cool Mini or Not, which I was kinda disappointed about.  I feel a bit redeemed hat they earned a silver at an international show!  Maybe presentation has something to do with it.  They're not on an elaborate base like most of the other pieces in the MFCA show, but it's a more formal approach than what I used on CMON.

In any case, I'm motivated yet again to push myself in the direction of competition/display painting.  Crystal Brush and MFCA have certainly put some wind in my sails.

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