Well, this year I’m certainly not entering Golden Demon, as time is a bit too stretched, the 11/12 May isn’t available to get to Warhammer Fest, and honestly I’m not a good enough painter right now!
I did think it’d be fun to pretend to enter though, and do a practice run for an entry next year, which might help out others thinking of entering too. Golden Demon, unless you are just amazingly talented, isn’t really a spur of the moment decision to enter. You need to read the guidelines, plan your entry thoroughly, and then put the pieces together to the very best of your ability. There are a lot of concepts and information that can help with that planning process.
You can get the guidelines for the 2019 Golden Demon here. Its well worth investigating the whole golden-demon.com site to get a feel for previous entries, the standard of painting and the popular styles.
I’ve gone through the last few years entries, read through the guidelines, and checked what some of the big name painters and the judges have said, and these are my loose thoughts on how to prepare:
- Golden Demon isn’t purely a painting contest. It’s a chance to express a core theme of the world you’ve chosen to paint in, be that 40K, Age of Sigmar, Horus Heresy, Bloodbowl or the like. You can choose that theme, and show your own take on it, but it’s important to remember that in general you should exhibit a theme from the lore, not something 100% original of your own. Its a public reflection of their world. If you want to be creative, you have more scope with Age of Sigmar pieces where the lore isn’t as defined. Looking at 40K entries, for example, in 2018, you’ll see top 3 pieces for Cadians in standard colours, Imperial Fists, Space Wolves, codex librarians, Salamanders, White Scars. Implementing a central familiar scheme really well definitely seems favoured over uniqueness.
There’s a section in the guidelines that covers this, buried away in the FAQ.
“The background and setting are important as well. The judges will be looking at how well the entry fits in to Games Workshop’s different worlds and universes – a strong narrative can go a long way towards grabbing the judges attention.”
- Should you convert your models? Well, the guidelines give an enthusiastic yes, it’s fine, but it is critical to only use GW parts or completely scratch build. However, looking at the entries over the last few years? I’d actually say large scale conversions are discouraged. Kit bashing, reposing, and the conversion or sculpting of one or two unique components would seem to be key. Remember, Golden Demon does have other criteria, but is at heart a painting contest, not a modelling contest. A really well done off the shelf model can compete with a a tweaked one, as long as the overall composition of the entire piece works.
- Basing your models is tricky. Looking through the history, you probably want some sort of display plinth, and your model should be solidly attached to the plinth to allow the judges to pick it up and examine the model. In terms of the base around the models feet, the key here (short of dioramas) is to ensure that the base meets the theme of the piece, but doesn’t draw attention away from the core model. Indeed, if the base composition draws the viewer’s eye back to key parts of the model, that’s ideal. Some people can go nuts, especially for duel and squad pieces, but the real key is not taking attention off the model and matching the overall theme.
- Painting techniques – certain techniques come and go in popularity over time, and no particular technique seems favoured by the judging panel. NMM and TMM techniques were very popular in 2018, but there were certainly entries that didn’t use them. Edge highlighting was comparatively muted, and used generally as part of an overall lighting and layering strategy rather than a technique in its own right. The important thing to note about techniques, though, is that it isn’t about a particular technique, but how well the piece as a whole is implemented. Brushwork needs to be crisp and precise. Blending needs to be consistently smooth. Coverage needs to be absolutely consistent. Lighting is also very important. Every model I looked at on the golden demon website, you could clearly see was “lit” by a virtual light point, and every shade, blend and highlight worked coherently from that point. The techniques to reflect that varied, but the core concept was clear.
- Consistency – really high quality work across the whole entry is one of the big keys to doing well. If any one style or technique lets you down, either make sure you practice a heck of a lot before your entry, or use different methods. Any obvious change in standard will be obvious to the judges.
- Unique or Freehand work – this is an interesting one, looking at the entries. On the whole, freehand customisations were limited. Flames on a blood bowl players armour looked excellent, and were paired with a really solid paint job on the normal clothes rather than further freehand. On space marines, iconography was a chance to show off, rather than free handing on lots of panels that would normally be chapter colours. Basically, the entries that seemed to do well took little tweaks and pushed their complexity up a notch, rather than going overboard across the whole model.
- Composition seems to really be key. The entry needs to be balanced, draw the eye to key features, and reflect the dynamism (or lack off) of the central model. Composing and assembling the piece to a very high standard (of course, with the highest standard on mould line removal, join marks and so on) is a large part of the battle. It’s particularly tricky to implement this, and paint in subassemblies to allow easy brush access, while painting to exhibit a consistent light source too.
- In addition, you should be using colour theory to the best of your ability to balance the theme of the piece, and to break it deliberately for contrast spot colours to draw the eye to particular elements. It’s tricky, and if thats a step too far, you can get a large chunk of the way simply by implementing an existing army colour scheme to the best of your ability.
I’m not a winning Golden Demon painter at all, but that’s my takeaway on the areas I’d look into if preparing to enter for the first time – in one line, you are looking to do:
consistent, high quality painting over a well posed model using strong colour theory and lighting concepts, reflecting a core narrative from a codex or novel.
The real highlight to win would be the Heavy Metal contest, where you all paint the same model with no customisation. That’s truly down to individual painting skill, and the Idoneth Tidecaster in 2019 is really challenging, with a huge range of different textures to bring out, and the looser AoS lore opens up more colour options. Fascinating!