Author Topic: Hunting Golden Demons  (Read 1126 times)

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Mark Lifton

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Hunting Golden Demons
« on: October 10, 2018, 05:29:10 pm »

Aha, so you’ve been bitten by the bug and winning a Golden Demon has now become your Holy Grail, eh? I got addicted in the early 1990s and it has never really left me. I still enjoy the chase …
•   Plotting entries, building, tinkering, painting.
•   Finishing the last touches at 1am on the day of the comp (usually  … actually it feels wrong to finish early). Many competitors will tell you tales of painting through the night in their hotel on the eve of GD (respect ). Although my tale of finishing an ork truck at 3am in 1996 and struggling to stay awake on the M1 and having to pull over and go to sleep hoping that I’d wake up in time is not to be recommended.
•   The trembling hands as you hand over your sacred offerings to be put in the cabinets
•   The banter with the other competitors
•   The nervous pacing / stalking of the cabinets … have I got a green dot? … what’s the red dot for again? Have I made it to the top shelf?
•   And hopefully the elation of a cheeky bronze or better / the licking of wounds and resolving to try harder next year.
So, what are my tips for navigating your route to winning a demon? These are my thoughts and observations made over my 25 years or so of entering Golden Demon during which time I have been very fortunate to win more than my fair share of demons – and I’m not done yet … well, hopefully.

First of all, things have changed over the years … and not just the venues, the trophies etc.
•   The standard of entries keeps improving and at quite an alarming rate at times. Stuff that I won my early demons with would struggle to even make the cut these days … and some would get nowhere near it. Do not look at them – they are depressingly poor and I count myself lucky to have started competing when I did.
•   Recently, there have never been so many Demons on offer in the UK in a year! Mini demons and more classes at Classic have meant that the joy of winning demons has been spread to more competitors. However, the recent news is that November’s 40k Mini Demon will be the last one. There will still be painting competitions at the various events at WH World, however, these won’t be awarded demon trophy status. We shall have to see how these shape up.
Just how good a painter do you have to be?
•   Not an easy question to answer – it keeps changing. If you have ever been to EuroMilitaire or Euro Miniature Expo, as it has become, then if you can get a Bronze or Highly Commended medal then I reckon you are at a standard where you can seriously compete at GD and be in the hunt for a demon. The best that I have managed at Euro is a couple of Silvers with my best GD entries but others have got bronze or Commendeds and other, older ones, nothing. So, the good news is that you do not need to be in the same class as Soper, Nicholas, Gray, Clayton or DiChello to be able to pick up a demon. I have always suspected that quite a few people view me as a good steady-eddy benchmark level for demon winning, which I think is fair. Peter Bell described me as a ‘very consistent’ painter a few years back and he’s pretty much on the money there. My stuff is typically very accurately and neatly painted in a style that fits the minis – nothing too flash. I can do a nice gradient shade and highlighting and a bit of weathering and the occasional bit of nifty detail (wood grain, fur etc). But do I do much freehand? Not really. NMM? … certainly not – but I do like to convert and kit bash and (hopefully) bring something extra out of a model … oh and I do like a duel. So, if you do go onto Putty and Paint and, like me, freak out at how good some of those models are, do not despair 
•   The level of painting required to win does vary a bit by category, sometimes quite randomly (the route to my success is out!). The toughest categories are almost always going to be the single mini categories. You tend to find more of the top painters in these classes, hence why I rarely enter them . With the amount of time that they want to spend on a mini in order to make sure that every square millimetre of their entry is perfect (can be well over 100 hours) then this is the category for them to show their very best work. Obviously, the larger the model / entry the more time it is going to take to paint it, so entry numbers tend to be lower with fewer top names entering each of those classes. Plus, there is only so much time that even the top painters want to spend on an entry so you will tend to find (with some insane exceptions) that entries will not be quite as perfect as in single mini. So, if you are embarking on your demon quest, I would recommend steering clear of the single mini classes, although if you do get a pin in a single mini class then it is to be treasured more so than in any other class (for my money anyway).
•   There’s a lot of debate that goes on about the merits of different styles of painting and this subject is often very controversial. If you look at the winners in recent years you will see different styles being used across the categories – i.e. you don’t have to just copy the ‘Eavy Metal style, which itself is still evolving. In general, the bigger the model / entry, the more leeway you have for your mini to be not quite so perfect as we see in the single mini classes.

What advice would I give to anyone setting out on their quest for a Demon?

1.   Study the ‘form’ and learn (obviously)
It has never been easier to study the form online. However, a key part of doing that is gaining a true appreciation of why winning minis are better than yours – not just in terms of the painting but also the composition, the colour scheme, the character and even the story line. All of these elements come together to create something even more special.
Try to get to see minis in real life and make sure that you are looking at them from 3 inches. My view is that if you haven’t seen a model in the flesh from 3 inches, then you haven’t really seen it. Some painters do post excellent high resolution close ups that really do give you a feel for their skill level but a lot of photos can be misleading due to lighting making some minis looking better or even worse than they are in real life. I’ve heard winning models criticised based on online photos which have been fantastic in real life. Similarly, I have seen models that look fantastic in photos that have been far less impressive in the flesh. It’s the same looking at models in cabinets. You can’t tell how good anything is from 3 feet.
Try to get to chat with some of the senior competitors. Some of them are even quite nice . Seriously, people in our hobby are great to chat to and do genuinely like to try to give advice and feedback on your models, if you ask – we love our hobby and it’s not often that we get to talk to people about it in real life. It’s amazing how they all share their secrets, although putting them into practice is the bit I find hard.
2.   Embrace the Journey but be realistic
If you are like me, the point at which you decide to enter GD is likely to coincide with your painting skills not being at the right level. But learning to improve your painting is half the fun. There is nothing like the feeling of suddenly finding that your skills have gone up a notch or two. But being realistic about your painting level, being appreciative of the level of skill of others and then pushing yourself to improve still further are all part of the experience. You will have setbacks and disappointments, you will have people telling you that you should have won when you didn’t (even though you shouldn’t have), you will think that your painting has achieved the required level when it hasn’t, and you will have moments when you feel that you are useless at painting or can’t be bothered to pick up your brush, but that will make achieving your goal all the sweeter … well, it is supposed to be an achievement, isn’t it? And I can tell you that I have over-estimated my painting prowess on several occasions  … most notably what I call “The Humbling at EuroMilitaire” – so funny when I look back at it now. Mr Bell will be nodding sagely if he ever reads this rubbish 
You will inevitably have people online telling you that you are bound to win etc. But never get too carried away with your expectations. I always arrive hoping to win something but never expect to win anything. It doesn’t mean that I don’t get disappointed, but the defeats help to fuel that drive to push on again. It’s funny how I start my entries a lot earlier after a defeat .
3.   Play to your strengths
Pick models that suit / complement your painting style. If you are great at painting fur then choose a fury one! If you are great at painting red, choose one where you can use it as the dominant colour.
You don’t have to pick a very complicated model to win. In fact, the more complicated the model, the more likely you are to leave an error on it for judges to spot. Pick one that has features on it that you are great at painting – look what David Soper did with that Pox Walker as a perfect example of a simple mini turned into something spectacular. If you can add your own personal twist to a model and improve it and make it unique with a bit of a conversion or kit bash then so much the better. In the past, I have had an absolute blast converting minis for the monster / large model categories. And don’t forget the base – if you can create a narrative / storyline that builds on the character of the model then it will all help.
Equally, pick a category that suits your strengths, not just in terms of painting but also modelling. If you can paint models to a consistently high single mini standard then go for a unit – not everyone can be bothered to paint a whole unit ;). If you are better at painting bigger areas / bigger models pick a monster. If you are great at scenery and /or getting the minis to interact in a scene, then diorama or duel could just be the class for you.
4.   Allow plenty of time.
Don’t think you can start 2 weeks before GD and pick up a trophy … although, as always, there will be exceptions (Wil Davies, you are sooo annoying!). The top boys will be spending 100 hours or more on an entry. Some even over 200 hours. OK, you might not have to spend that long, but expect to put some graft in. Rome Demon wasn’t built in a day.
5.   Focus
Don’t use the scattergun tactic. If I had a pound every time I’ve heard new competitors say that they are going to carpet bomb the categories ... . Concentrate on one or two entries and paint every part of a model, including all the bits on the base, as if they are the most important part of the model. If there’s a rubbish bit on a model, the judges will spot it and mark you down.
6.   DON’T GET MAD GET EVENt savvy.
Not all competitions are judged in exactly the same way, so if you are used to Salute or Euro you may have to adjust your sites. Although GD is most certainly a painting competition there are other ways to give your model the edge against your competitors. So again studying the form is key. Look at the winning entries and work out what the judges liked about them – handily they say what they liked about a lot of them in White Dwarf  … and it’s not always the same answer – stunning colour schemes, some great texture, a fabulous freehand banner, even amazing conversions and cunning kit bashes can help. But remember, it is GW’s competition and their judges’ decisions are final – so you have to learn to play by their rules. Inevitably their judges have their own preferences and will lean towards a style of painting that impresses them the most … which does tend to be painting that exhibits a very high level of skill – well, in the end it is a painting competition. Moaning about the judging will get you nowhere either. It is a subjective art so you just have to accept the results and move on. And remember my comment earlier – if you ain’t seen the models that beat you from 3 inches then you haven’t really seen them. Cabinet distance is useless, especially under those lights.
7.   Be lucky
There is always going to be an element of luck whichever event you go for – ‘the random elephant’ as I’ve heard it called. Obviously, who else enters your event or class is a random factor that you can’t control. You can slog away for 6 months on a superb entry only to find that Soper, Clayton, Grey and Di Chello have all entered your category … flippin’ marvellous . But next year it might be different, so don’t give up.
8.   Enjoy the ride!!
If you are entering your first Golden Demon then, unless you are already a fairly experienced competition painter, treat your first one or two attempts as a test launch and reconnaissance mission … as well as a fun day out. By all means put your heart and soul into your entries and set out to do well, but don’t get put off if you don’t make the cut or win a trophy (I’ve seen people put off in the past after building their hopes too high). There are still many excellent models that don’t even get a finalist pin. Talking of those pins, these are an excellent benchmark. Once you start picking those up then you know that you are on the right track – set winning one or two of these as your early target. And if you don’t win a pin or a demon this time, then you’ve still got the winning of one to look forward to next time .

HAPPY HUNTING!

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Marc Chee

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Re: Hunting Golden Demons
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2018, 11:52:50 pm »
Thanks a bunch for taking the time to write this!

I'm coming for my first Golden Demon, so it's a little bit daunting. Also since I'm coming from Australia, it's highly unlikely that I'll take another shot at it in the next few years, so I'm feeling a little bit of personal pressure to make the best of it. Hearing advice from people like yourself makes it a bit easier to have confidence to at least come and check it out . . . and also go in with a good attitude towards not having to win anything to make the trip worth it.

I'm also glad that my first entry will be in the Unbound category, which I'll post in the WIPs section sometime over the weekend.
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msaspence

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Re: Hunting Golden Demons
« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2018, 10:50:02 am »
Thanks for this post. Apart from anything else I'm feeling much more cuffed with my Euro Mini commended entry now :D
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MartinWaller

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Re: Hunting Golden Demons
« Reply #3 on: October 11, 2018, 04:26:47 pm »
Sage advice Obi Wan!
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Mark Lifton

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Re: Hunting Golden Demons
« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2018, 07:26:29 pm »
Sage advice Obi Wan!
You know it all already mate  ;)

Mark Lifton

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Re: Hunting Golden Demons
« Reply #5 on: October 11, 2018, 07:30:10 pm »
Thanks for this post. Apart from anything else I'm feeling much more cuffed with my Euro Mini commended entry now :D
That's great to hear. I a man sure that most people think you have to get gold at Euro to win at GD. I made that mistake ... only the wrong way round 😂 . The nice thing is that you've got new targets for your next Euro.

Mark Lifton

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Re: Hunting Golden Demons
« Reply #6 on: October 11, 2018, 07:37:46 pm »
Thanks a bunch for taking the time to write this!

I'm coming for my first Golden Demon, so it's a little bit daunting. Also since I'm coming from Australia, it's highly unlikely that I'll take another shot at it in the next few years, so I'm feeling a little bit of personal pressure to make the best of it. Hearing advice from people like yourself makes it a bit easier to have confidence to at least come and check it out . . . and also go in with a good attitude towards not having to win anything to make the trip worth it.

I'm also glad that my first entry will be in the Unbound category, which I'll post in the WIPs section sometime over the weekend.

Wow, now that is dedication. I take my hat off to you. Just set a target to enjoy the day. I can't imagine the stress of justifying the trip by bagging a demon but You'll have already done your best painting-wise, so try to make the most of the experience and try to chat to as many people as possible. We all love painting so we all have tonnes in common. I shall hopefully be there if I ever get my duel finished so come and have a chat ... if you mention that you are the one from Australia I shall probably remember this exchange, but please excuse me if I look blank for a few seconds as my memory is getting worse :)

Mamikon

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Re: Hunting Golden Demons
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2018, 08:36:35 am »
Hey Mark I'm really grateful you took the time to create something really special here. This means a lot not only to me but I'm sure that to other painters too.

It's really important to have people like you in the community because you bring so much spirit, passion, legacy to it.

You are the Golden Demon Rolls-Royce I believe!

I will re read your advice many times, thank you!  :)