Competition? Mmh ... no!

by Massive Voodoo

Hello Jungle readers,
today we have a very adult conversation going on here in the usually so childish jungle.

OK, the headline is a bit provocative and maybe not true. But here we go.
Some of the Massive Voodoo members decided to not enter competitions anymore and push forward the idea of exhibitions. It is a very personal decision and everything we write here is just our very own believes, thoughts, brainfarts, wishes and dreams in concern of our beloved passion. In no words we mean any offense, if you think you found some please do not hesitate to contact anyone of us for talking.

We hope you enjoy the read and tell us your oppinion on the topic via the comments section.
If you find this topic interesting do not hesitate to share it.


For a few years I am a bit annoyed by competitions.
Everybody claims he does not care about the competition still they enter in competitions – including myself
. Everybody wants positive feedback and maybe a reward in form of a medal. If you deny it you're a liar. And that's totally fine, but we don't need competitions for that.

But why are there competitions in our hobby anyway?
The following lines are no offense to historical painting. I love historical figures.

I assume it comes from a time where figures were mostly all the same. Not really conversions, creative bases, freedom of color choice or different styles of painting. The only difference was the quality of the paintjob and historical accuracy. So it was easy to compare the figures and even made sense.

But it's not like this anymore.
Figure painting has become very artistic and creative. Artists became very bold and tried the weirdest stuff in the last few years. Is this still comparable? Should we even try to compare such creative artworks? I don't think so – at least not as we do it now.

On one hand a lot of artists wish figure painting to be recognised as a true art and not just a nerd hobby, but on the other hand they compete each other like jealous kids.

Have you ever you seen any other art where artists compete with their artworks with totally different styles, mediums and contents? Sure there are musical competitions like rap battles, but they do not compete with their regular artworks or fine art exhibitions that award a few outstanding pieces.

So a completely different thing would be figure painting aimed for competition with strict rules. I am not saying competitions are complete bullshit. At most shows only your best piece is judged, so why not entering only that project in the competition.

Or even better: have a true exhibition
without an old fashioned figure painting competition giving away hundreds of medals, but awards for a handfull of amazing projects. All figures by one artist in one display, maybe with a name sign. Visitors would greatly benefit from it and would instantly know who the artist behind those works is. And hey, maybe it’s a new buyer of your art.



It sounds confusing for many people what I will write now as some people will definatly think it is easy to say for me that awards are not important as I have won my cut. I already said this when I started my very own journey as a painter. Of course I take part and took part in competitions and when I look inside myself I still am and always was excited about it. Over the years I learned to not be too excited on winning a medal, more on presenting my work to an audience as their feedback and a person's very own impression of my creation is what its all about and what I am interested in: communication through colors, technical aspects, compositions, stories, art.

Seeing and showing the beauty, variety and passion behind this lovely thing called miniature painting. This did not change, even I have won awards and medals. They are not what I am striving nor painting for. I paint for myself and to grow on my journey as a figure painter. And I have the feeling I am still at the beginning in terms of learning about painting. This is wonderful. It is a neverending journey.

Please do not get me wrong here.

I do not say competitions are a bad thing. They can motivate to great achievements and push you further, can make you finish something that you never expected, but at the end of the day you are only competing against yourself and will learn about yourself from the full experience a competition can bring you, personally. Every individual is different and people enter competitions for different reasons. Some to win, some to be better than others, some for fun, some for the joy of painting, some to see how big their wiener is, some to see where others would rank their skill and so on. This is all good. Nothing bad with it, but everyone also has to find his personal place inside this competitive world and how he deals with it. I see many painters paint figures for relaxation, to get away from the competitive world of their jobs and all the pressure coming from there. A very good thing.

Competitions can bring back that pressure for some and I have seen painters who think they can not paint after a competition where they did not win what they expected or hoped for without understanding the fact of acceptance where you are at on your journey of experience as a painter. 

I recently enjoyed a great interview
of Dmitry Fesechko in the last Figure Painter Magazine. If you did not read it yet, I can only recommend it. He is speaking about good points on the actual figure scene, not only on competitions, more a global, future way of thinking of this passion we call figure- or miniature art. Since I got these thoughts on my chest for a long while now his words triggered me to finally write my words on this particular thinking of mine. 

There is no perfection.
Over a decade now I am taking part in and judge competitions worldwide. I always enjoyed judging more as I am able to take my time to have a closer look on creations of others with even holding them in my hands. It is amazing also to learn from it and at the same time I can try to be the best judge I can be and do wonderful teamwork with other great judges. In the end we are a committee that judges on our agreements. I really enjoy it everytime I do, but what I learned is that there is no perfect figure. There are figure or model projects that work really well for the major audience and of course also for the eyes of judges. This depends on the skillset and personal journey of the particular painter and what the audience, including judges are looking at, but I never found perfection in a figure project. So far I only found perfection while observing nature. I found things that work perfectly or stand out in a great way, but the strive for perfection can kill someones joy in growing as a painter. It is good if you paint a lot, then you will grow a lot in your skillset and will understand why some aspects on figures work well and others won't.

 I just recently found this in a very good book:

Still I am not saying awards or competitions are something bad.
This is important for me that you understand what I mean. I had a really good talk last year in Monte San Savino with my friend and talented painter Roman Gruba. We talked about how awards can influance your sales as a full-time figure painter. We not only share the same name, we also share the same job. They can do yes. I said I personally do not like to see medal photos after a show without at least the model on it which has won the award. Showing only the medal is somehow only: Look how great I am. In my eyes is just a dick challenge and showing how big your nuggets are. Some people are like that and also this I accept. I usually do not take photos of my awards ever since, even they are beautiful and they do have meaning for me: Good memories of an event, interesting days of painting time to finish a project, great chats, too much drinks on an event and so on. This is what I connect my medals with.

To my brother in name, Roman Gruba I said that you decide who is interested in your figures: a) collectors who buy from you because the model has won an award or b) collectors who buy because they like your personal vision on this model. Of course you can have both and so on, but you are the one who is deciding this with how you offer your art. It is just a personal thing in the end coming down to painters, collectors and journeyman painters who might admire a painter they like and follow and his/her behavour. It is a thing about personality how you deal with medals. It comes down to what everyone personally admires and names as an achievement. And there is nothing bad with it, again. People are different and so are their goals in life.

Where I see my point why I decide to stop entering competitions:
Having a closer look on the overall miniature scene/community/development of this niche I can tell from the last decade it is growing. A wonderful thing. More people are joining the joy of figure painting, more and more people help others to improve or be inspired on their own ways as a figure painter, more people start collecting and supporting artists, more companies and brands see birth with great ideas. It is growing, definatly.

BUT I also see that this scene is just carrying itself. 
Only people interested in it and knowing what it is about go to such events like shows, tournaments, competitions. We all have different reasons to go. Very often it is a mixture of meeting up with friends, enjoying creations, buying supplies and also competition. I wanted to make the experience last year at SMC to enter as many pieces in the competition as I was able to and so I did with 44 entries. I was told by close friends I should consider only entering my favourite or best to be able to compete better. My answer was simple and straight forward: I do not enter to win something, I enter to show how much fun I got while painting figures and I can show this reason more precise if I show up with what I painted. I will never do it again as packing and handling made me crazy, but experience was made.

Last year in Monte San Savino Show
I already thought about entering out of competition at last years show in Italy. Not because I think I am better than others. Just because I want a change for me personally. I was approaching the organisators of this wonderful show, asking where I do find the out of competition area and had the feeling that they felt a little bit offended as I would not appreciate the work they put in to set up the competition. This is not the point for me and I realised that more words about this have to follow first, before people will understand the "why" behind this decision. That is why I write now and explain.

While I organised and enjoyed my first art exhibition
this year I was amazed by comments and chats I had with people who have never seen miniature painting before. Old and young ones. It was an open talk about the exhibitioned pieces. A free talk about subjects, techniques and impressions. No piece was better than another piece I presented there. They were just differently recieved in terms of what impression they made on individuals. It is also my personal way to see art. If something has an impact on me I consider it art, but this - again - is a personal thing.

On the other hand I had chats with people, who have never seen miniature painted before and going to a figure event and are absolutely confused about all the war, anger, weapons, hate, chopped off heads, tits and butts presented in our figure world. Of course I love a Space Marine who looks and acts like a wargod as I am a proud geek and this just rocks, but it is not presenting the beauty behind this art form in a very good way to be recognized outside our community. With the normal-non-geek people.

With the next words I do not say events are not a good and great thing. I am saying something else. I even would go this far to say that as long as the figure painting community is often mainly about competition, who is a master and who is not, what is masterclass and what is not, who is the greatest miniature painter, who has won money awards, who is a better painter than the other and so on, we will never have a a chance to be accepted as an artform. We will always stick on technical judging criteria to find out who is better than the other in his craftmanship as this is all you can put down as criteria for judging in the end. Of course we have much more criteria for good judging work, but often all is coming back to this one point in competitions and that is why judging with me sometimes can take a while as I try to see and explain other aspects too. More global, concerning different aspects that lead to a "figure project that works wonderful" or actually missing some points in the wide variety of judging aspects.

So why aren't there more public exhibitions?
Free, public exhibitions could open up this community to a broader audience. No super-medal-excited geeks, an atmosphere of envy and unhappiness over awards (this does happen) scaring away visitors. What I would love to see on exhibitions: Talks of deep technical analyse of figure projects, explanation of personal impact from non-figure painting visitors. No comments about comparision, no envy, no unfullfilled expectations, just the pure joy of seeing different creations and stories being told. This is already happening slowly, but still medals and grand prizes do dominate our figure painting scene and commitees are handing out criteria what they want to judge good or bad. It slowly changes and the more changes appear the more such long-established commitees are scared and push harder on their will. This sounds a little too harsh if you compare it to reality, but in some points I am right as I made experiences. I do not blaim commitees at all, without them and whitout what people do for our passion it would be much smaller today. I appreciate everyone who puts heart in our community and cherish when people come together. I just think some of the long-established ways on thinking should change with what miniature painting is today. It is not the same anymore like twenty years ago. I also do not blaim painters who find their motivation in painting for competition, it is just not my way.

I think this change could attract more people

in the far future to the beauty and passion of figure painting, people who might never have heard of it before. Maybe more appereance in newspapers, more attraction to visitors who do not know about how to do the hobby at all and maybe start themselve in the future. More kids to join the fun, more future for the passionate, enjoyable hobby that figure painting is. More future in the variety of sculptures in small scales, more teachers, more students, more techniques, more thoughts on painting, more future for artists working in this field, more possible sales for brands and companies, more growth in the variety of painting styles and painters themselve.

I would love to see more and more figure teachers teaching for beginners, most of the teaching nowadays is on superhigh-quality and everything is named 'masterclass'. This will help painters for sure to increase their skillset to win more medals in competitions or reach the next step of their painting wisdom faster. This is something good, but if we continue like this we will not have many people following up on their personal journey as figure painters in thirty years. We will have superold 'masters' who think back to the old days of glory, long gone and forgotten, because the figure community is still carrying itself and dying a slow death.

I know that this all sounds rebellish
and I know that I am standing on a front line concerning what I say in here, but I do hope that some of you can see my point why I decided to enjoy this years SMC without entering the competition at all, rather putting my models in exhibition (out of competition) with my name sign on it. Of course I am also willing to pay the competition or exhibition fee to support the event itself. No fear from organisators needed on this point. I will keep this attitude for future events I will visit I am pretty sure. Maybe I will enter a competition again, when the moment is right and I have finished a piece that I want to compete in a system and stand the criteria of the commitee. I will not blaim anyone who does think differently and hope to be not be blaimed by anyone for what I think.

Thank you for reading through all of my emotional confusion.
I hope I made my point clear on this, at least I tried :)


I´m very happy to have painting miniatures as my hobby. Over the last years it has been an unstable relationship: sometimes I hated it, somtimes I loved it. BUT, it was always a part of me and will hopefully be for many more years. As this hobby (wargaming and painting) is a trustworthy companion on my journey through life since I was 14, my view on it changed as did my view on life itself. This is nothing bad, it is a natural thing: At first, it was simply a realm of fantasy where I could dive into my own world, but over the years, it became more and more a way to connect with people who had a similar mindset, to meet people who think differently (positive and negative). We are all geeks in some way and I see this "way of geekhood" as an expression of uniqueness and a (slight) expression of being a non-conformer. I met many great persons during those years, who changed my view on many things and most importantly shared their experiences with me. The MV-guys are only a small part of this group and most of those people eventually don´t know or care about their impact on me. In short: the most important thing I get from painting today, is a unique way to develop and to have great people in my life.

Contests have always been a part of this hobby.
I fought myself through wargaming tournaments and attended decent miniature shows. They were a fixed part in my hobby, but I realized more and more that especially the painting contests had a bad impact on my mood from time to time. There have been the shows, where I was not happy with the results or put a lot of pressure on myself before the show, in order to achieve a paintjob
at least adequate to my "best pieces", e.g. Theseus´ Destiny.

Many of you will know this kind of pressure or the black hole you sometimes fell into, when you did not get the award you thought you´d "deserve". As I work fulltime, I only have a limited time frame for painting and so, it is simply impossible to invest as much time into improving my skills as a full time painter, who makes his living out of it. Of course, I alway understood this point, but could not accept it deep in my heart and so, I went through one black hole after another.

Over the last two years I started reviewing my life.
Am I happy? Do I have a enjoyable life? Are there things that prevent me from having a positive view on life? Maybe these are questions you start asking yourself when you overstep the 30th birthday, but to make things short: there are some major constructions sites I have to take care of, but I actually do. One of these was/is my view on my hobby. As written above, it is something special for me and I get a lot of power out of it, but it´s also a factor whit a high potential of pulling me down. 

After gathering my thoughts, I realized that I actually enjoy painting. I´m not the best painter, but I think of myself as an experienced one with some quality. I can implement my vision of a bust/miniature on a good level and so, I´m happy with it, and, if I am not, I can learn to do better. In the end, things come down to (self-inflicted) pressure. Sometimes this can be a good thing. It helps to finish a piece and give it the last perfect brush strokes, but it can also crush your potential freedom right at the beginning. The basic question remaining: What is the motivation for pressure? I would say: To impress other people, is a major motivation for painting, and it´s a good one. But I realized, that I did it very often to compare myself with others, a fact I can also see in many other painters (evil recognizes each other). 

The more I thought about this last point, the more I realized how wrong this felt for me. There is nothing bad about a contest in which you compare something in regards to clear measureable aspects (the biggest cow, the fastest runner, the most efficient robot), but our community compares projects which have an artistic core. As there is almost nothing measurable about this, the remaining part must be a subjective decision. Of course you could argue about technical points like a "properly" painted color trasition (aka "blending"). But, have you ever realized that some painters use a more "rough" style to achieve the result they like? It´s always about the point of view. So, judging could basically be reduced to: Does the judge like my (way of) painting or not? Having these points in mind, I asked myself the most important question: Why should I be judged by anybody? Or, I could answer: Nobody has the right to judge me (or my paintjobs).

These two sentences were a very important realisation.
Don´t get me wrong: I´m always open for a good discussion and feedback, I also accept if somebody does not like my way of painting, but I can not accept, if somebody places himself above me because he (or somebody) thinks he is a "better" painter. There is no "better painter"! We are painters, that´s all. There are painters, whose work is liked by more people than the work of other (less known) painters, but this has nothing to do if a paintjob is "better" or "worse". There is no objective way to say "good" or "bad" about a painting or a paintjob, it´s always only the pure subjective view of the specator. Given this, I state that all painters a equal and the moral aspect of the work "to judge" is wrong to be used here. 

Hierachy in question.
At my job I always had a problem with a hierarchy in which I did not see the real achievement of the people on the "higher level". Over the years I often thought of my superiors as idiots (subjective!) which somehow had luck in their live or sat in the prior position long enough to get a promotion. But, I often witnessed that people with good ideas, a critical (positive!) way of thinking, the ones asking questions, are often blocked from rising in the hierarchy or simply burn out of it. I can live in an hierachy if my superiors have a bigger responsibiliy due to more experience and skill, but I can never except if they place themself above me, without having the rational better argument. Sadly, I see exactly this bad type of hierarchy develop in our hobby. Maybe it has been there all the time, but for me, it got more and more present over the last 3 or 4 years. I saw painters being called "master" and because of this given title developing an arrogant behaviour towards other painters.

I´m sick of this comparison between people.
To quote a friend: "We are just painting little plastic dolls (püppis)". And these words carry a lot of truth. I have seen some bad shit during my time in Palestine and Egypt. I have studied history and politics because I want to understand conflicts in the world and how you could prevent (too extreme) suffering. I am very much concerned about the things happening in the world right now, for example about the people who voted for the right-winged AfD in Germany. You could call me a idealist, but there is so much more important stuff going on in the world and we use some painted fantasy-space-soldier-berserker-monsters to rate each other? This is the basement for every conflict. I will not call upon you all in order to prevent a future "genocide" between painters, but I want to call upon you all, because I see this hobby as having so much potentail to create positive effects with almost no effort. I might not have the same noble ideals for our hobby as some others do, but I want to enjoy my hobby with people from all over the world and from different social enviroments. I want to share the positive (!) mood I had while painting with people interested in this hobby, by showing them my stuff. But I have decided, I will not put these (for me important) pieces into a contest anymore. I want to prevent myself from an "corrupting" pressure, which does certainly not mean the show in general or all these awesome people I meet there. Making use of the "out-of-competition"-areas will be good way to show my stuff and generate some kind of "art-gallery-atmosphere". SMC will be the first show to do this.

Contests in the future? Maybe!
This plea does not mean that I will never participate in a contest, again. Contests can be good things, if you enter them with the right distance in your mind. From challenge there can be progress. A lot of people invest a lot of effort in organizing a show and its contest, and I don´t want to give them the feeling, that I don´t appreciate them. These people need our support as they are responsible for our loved "family-meetings" and I will always help in the organisation of a show, if possible. But, if I participate in a contest again, it will be with a paintjob which was made especially for this occasion. Something which is made for competing, something which is not connected to my inner self, something "ready for the show-down".



Why I stop competing. For me a rather difficult thing to think about on one hand. I was only part of a real competition once till this day at this years Duke of Bavaria. I can agree with most of the things you are able to read from the other guys above my text. I will not write that much about how I see the whole situation of competitions as I had this experience only once so far. On the other hand I want to tell you what I have to say about a small part, a little facet of it and why I feel happy when it comes to this topic at the moment.

As Scale Model Challenge 2017 comes closer I was suddenly feeling a lot of negative pressure in my painting,  was constantly counting days that are left until I would travel to Eindhoven and was even feeling bad if I did not paint in my spare time.

The pressure I was putting on my self to paint

a lot of new and exciting stuff was so bad that the joy for painting got lost. 
Now lets recap what happened to me. Regarding the Competition I was putting that much pressure on myself that I lost the fun and relaxing part a hobby should have. Don't get me wrong, a lot of people need this kind of pressure to do great things and to achieve higher goals.

After recapping how pressure or a timeline could influence my work
I am able to tell you how I feel about it. Until a certain point a deadline of a competition can give you the power to push thruugh, to paint like a madman with a strong focus. For me there was a point where I felt this motivation to achieve was turning into pressure, pressure that I was putting on myself.

  • What will others think?
  • Is my work as good as it was at the last competition?
  • Will people see progress?

I was stressed regarding the thought of sharing my work at a competition.
Exactly on this point the other Massive Voodoo guys where talking about the topic of competitions a lot. I was first secretly starting to think about to enter into out of competition at SMC and as I thought this, I felt pressure falling off. Time continued and I was slowly starting to find the joy and happiness again. From there on I knew it would be the best thing for me to not enter into the regular competition this year.

Right now Iam happy to say that I found the joy to show my work and knowing that there will be no judging on it. What doesn't mean that I don't like to talk or get critical feedback about my work. And most importantly that I found the fun and relaxing part of my hobby again.

Now if you excuse

Ii hear my paints calling me back to the painting table. ;-)


What do you think about this topic?
Could you imagine just going to an exhibition without competiton?

Or do you think a competitive part is a must have?

Could both go hand in hand and still work?

What is your experience with competitions?

We are looking forward to your comments and talks :)
Your MV-Monkeys

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