Random Rambling: Painting and the clubbing of baby seals

Hey all,

Warlock here. Yes I know, it’s been a while. I was preoccupied with exams and assignments but they’re done now, allowing for just short of a month of holidays. Also I didn’t check the schedule for posting, so I apologise to my betters but I really wanted to write a post while it was fresh in my mind. Brain.exe is entering holiday mode and is dumping memory by the terabyte.

Today’s post is something Dave was talking about on the Book of Faces regarding Professional painters entering both professional and standard level competitions, in order to win one or more prizes (and +/- associated bragging rights), aka smurfing. Smurfing, not to be confused with the obnoxiously happy blue folk, is the act of (in gaming) creating a secondary account to log-in unbeknownst to one’s peers or play at a lower skill level in order to avoid “ruining” in-game stats. Smurfing is a typical case of clubbing baby seals as those with a wealth of experience can easily dominate less skilled competition.

This is something that cuts kinda close to the bone, as it’s been a long road with one’s personal painting skills and the belief that painting is one of the main facets of the miniatures hobby. Plus I was SEM for so long thanks partly to smurfs.

In Imperial Valhalla, Seal clubs you. No seriously, valhallan club seals are dangerous

So cute, so fluffy…where was I? oh yeah, morals and stuff.

An example of smurfing (to use one of mine) is in the pc game Counter strike: global offensive, where a ‘smurf’ creates a second account to play in lower competitive ranks and generally troll (ie; team frags, team flash, etc) rather than doing this in their own tier level, thus avoiding bans, penalties or loss of the higher rank. Having been on the receiving end of smurfs, it is frustrating to know not only does the other team have an advantage, but that it actively puts people off competitive matches and even the game itself (not salty at all. I is playing New Vegas soon).

Shush you, it was on sale in steam for $6. I have a ‘to do’ video game list where I -eventually- play these games.

Back to the non-video gaming side of the hobby, entering professional level works into a standard competition for painting can really be detrimental to the hobby or at least this is how my eyes perceive this. While it’s not explicitly cheating, I feel it may be implicit cheating- a violation of gentleman’s rules or exploiting a loophole. If they’re that good to begin with, why do they have to lower themselves down so they can win?



Suspect A: A dwarf. Beardy, but not smurfing.

OH GOD IT’S HIDEOUS. This was the first attempt at painting a miniature way back in 2006, well, 2007 (got the WHFB battle for skull pass set on 31/12/06 lol). It’s…adequate to say the least, or “pro painted” according to ebay :P. Keep in mind that this was when I’d first started the hobby (fer reals, after playing DoW) so I look back and joke at the growth one has made over the years in painting.

Compared to the outstanding quality seen throughout coolminiornot, there’s just no comparison in a competitive paint stand-off. Now if a professional level (non-ebay pro) painter entered pro work into a standard level painting comp, the bar is raised twice: The first is that judging will now be skewed as the pro’s ‘standard’ level is much higher than the true standard levels. Secondly, how will aspiring/hopeful painters feel when the pro’s work is held up as what constitutes a decent standard. Hell, I’d be crushed if golden demon/ crystal brush winning stuff was said to be ‘standard’.

In the interest of disclosure, I don’t want to shame ‘smurfs’ per se, but rather highlight why this kind of behaviour can be detrimental to less skilled painters/gamers. It’s just that it can be horribly demoralising for those who aren’t the best at painting to see a falsely elevated ‘standard’ paint job. It’d suck to be hopelessly outclassed especially if it’s your first competition.

I understand that it’s human nature to win and that we want to win. However, if two people engage in a game, someone has to lose. It’s a given that only one person can win (g/s/b rankings aside) and no amount of “everyone’s a winner” and participation awards will not change that. What hurts people though is not having a chance to begin with and this is where smurfing comes in. Using the lower skill levels as an easy win is personally horrid for me as how many people tried their best only to be slaughtered by a long-standing pro.

Fresh blood is always needed for a hobby, lest the Corpse Emperor go thirsty.

Even if a paintjob is bad (or you think it’s bad), the person who painted it put time and effort into it and should be proud of what they’ve accomplished. Always constantly striving for improvement helps to raise skills to meet/exceed the metaphorical ‘bar’ for a standard level miniature/comp rank. Hell, with painting it’s taken me nine years to get white to a level that I consider satisfactory (for my skill level). It’s a combination of frustration, practice, learning to paint strip, more practice, perseverance and above all, patience.

For those struggling with painting, you’ll get there, you really will. We’re lucky to have a blog community which can help with painting tips, schemes, tricks and the like to assist each other in lifting our own personal skill.


Oh and er, music. Hmm, let’s see. Heh. Run Rabbit Junk by Yoko Kanno.



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  • Hey Warlock, I totally agree. It’s hard to stay positive and keep trying when people cross the line and play the big fish in the little pond just for a cheap win.

    In the hobby at the moment I think we’re in a transition period between mini painting being seen as proper popular art form like comics or street art, and it being still “just” a hobby.

    Ultimately I think it’s up to the people holding the contests to do some checking. Real art prizes check for fraud and make people sign declarations that their work is their own, with their real names. If we aren’t going to take it seriously enough to do that, maybe contests should be for kudos and rep only – no “valuable” prizes.

    PS nice music choice. I just got an Evangelion hoodie last week and now I can’t get the theme out of my head πŸ˜€

    • Yo.
      Hook a brother up wif a link to the Evangelion hoodie. I, uh…know somebody who might need one of those.

      • The Warlock

        If you can hook me up with the actual dvds I’d rather that. The people making the movies won’t let the license be used to re-release the episodes πŸ™

        • Sorry dude I watched it on SBS in the late 90s and then used to get DVDs from the video store when I wanted to watch it. Back when there were still video stores anywhere within reach πŸ™

          • The Warlock

            It’s cool, I’ll just find it the Australian way πŸ˜› YARRRR

          • Lol.

        • Amazon has a bunch of different collections, but it looks like the full, 24 episode series is crazy expensive. And you hafta see the movie that came out after, cuz that wraps up the series. Purchasing everything would be sooper costly.
          I generally purchase animes. Getting copies is one thing, but I watch anime in Japanese with subtitles- the way Gawd intended. Properly subtitled bootlegs are a rare thing.
          I can’t imagine hearing Rei speak in anything but Japanese, though. I think I’d bug out.

          • The Warlock

            I’ll have a look, though I fear they may all be NTSC rather than the hurr durr PAL region lock. Is crazy expensive cuz there’s no new copies floating around πŸ™

            I saw a few trailers for evangelion a while back and one recently, the main male character sounds like a whiny bitch πŸ˜›

          • Yeah, stupid Shinji.

      • Here it is πŸ˜€ It’s not like, official or anything, I got it by typing “Asuka” into Redbubble and trawling the search results.

        I’ve just started getting stuff from places like this because they’re original designs, and the artist gets money every time you buy one. There are some seriously amazing designs on there.

  • I’ve never understood the need to smurf. If I enter into something then I want to win but I want to know I earned that win. Beating up a seal in any format (gaming, painting, etc.), is not a rewarding experience. Putting my models against people of my caliber and winning is a triumph, a worthy victory, and anything else is hollow and just demoralizing for others involved.

    • Dude, I dunno how people can take pride in beating up on noobs. I can’t say I’ve never done it, especially when it comes to FPS games, but it’s never been something I actively persue. If I step on a server filled with newjacks, it’s like a lil’ slice of stat-padding Christmas. It’s never long before the server empties out, and the massacre is over.
      In the event I get cocky, there’s always some cat who’s level whatever, running a broken combo or has hacks set up to give me a lesson in humility.

      Escaping these situations is always just a click away, however. The same cannot be said for the poor cat who puts in some serious time on a model for entry in a painting competition, only to get smurfed.
      We’ve also seen jerks who accept ‘best painted’ awards when their army was pro painted. What the heck is wrong with these people?

      I’ll be honest- I find this kinda thing very disturbing. I don’t even know what to say about it. Itsr stoopid wrong, but the fact that it goes on just shocks me. How can a Terran have so little pride?

      • There’s a guy on his services Facebook group who literally had boasts about winning 2 different painting competitions a few posts apart, one being pro and one being standard. I just don’t even.

      • The Warlock

        Weren’t there issues a few years back with the golden demon awards, where some people submitted commissioned work as their own?

        While there’s nothing stopping a pro entering into a standard comp, it’s still kind of a dick move. It’s nothing more than ego stroking and pride-validation. >.>

        • I seem to recall that.. Of course there are also issues where someone has a commissioned army that gets them comp points in tournaments.

          • Von


            I’m sorry. Not entirely sure what happened there.

    • The Warlock

      See that’s what I don’t get- I don’t see how winning when your victory was never in doubt can be emotionally fulfilling. I’d rather put an entry into the pro level then offer tips and tricks to the newbs. We’re all in this hobby, so being considerate of the newbs should be given. After all, we were there once πŸ™‚

  • Very interesting thoughts.
    At the FLGS I play at (alongside Thor, below), I think we ran into a similar-yet-different situation. We have/had three or four more experienced painters at the shop who were 40K regulars. Each month, as part of the monthly tourney, we’d have a painting competition by unit type or model size. Invariably, it was won by one of the three or four experienced painters. The less experienced painters painted and entered, but never won. One or two continued to keep trying and improving, but many burned out on painting because they felt they had no chance of ever “catching” the more experienced painters.
    I’m not sure if that’s a side effect of having small painting competitions so frequently, of having such a small pool of painters, or of making the competition an “anything enters” format. By that I mean that it was pretty typical for the competition to garner models that had been painted months or years before as part of the painter’s army, not specifically for the competition.
    The painting competitions faded away. It is my suspicion that it happened because the same small group of players was winning every month. It was a “which experienced guy will win this month, and which also-rans will enter models that won’t win no matter what?” situation.

    • I think that while, yes, a side effect of a small community, it could have been addressed by the organizers creating two levels of painting if there was a clear separation of skills. They could have easily created a Standard and Expert level of contest.

      • Eventually we did setup two groups for beginners and those more experienced. It’s mostly faded from the scene for us on account of a lack of players at the monthly events. Less people, less cash, less prizes to go around.

  • I too approve of the music selection πŸ™‚

    Also like your comparison to eBay “pro” painted. The same can be said about A LOT of the painting services I’ve been seeing popping up on Facebook.. essentially people who are getting paid to paint because some people just don’t want to, but the quality isn’t even what I’d consider polished. Good on them for doing something they enjoy and making money from it. Since they’ve got examples of the quality they’re painting, people know what they’re getting in to.

    I’d be fine with these “up and comer” painting services competing at standard quality. Just because you’re getting paid doesn’t mean you’re “professional”. And there are certainly people in between who haven’t quite passed into the “expert” level but are certainly at the top of the Standard game – that’s fine. They’ve worked hard to get where they are.

    There’s probably also a certain amount of “Am I ready for this?” where artists are nervous to compete at a higher bracket too.

    But there are certainly people who are obviously above standard quality and as pointed out by someone else, a professional artist not painting their best (ez mode) is still higher quality than someone struggling to raise their personal bar at Standard level. I think also if you’re competing above Standard quality and holding your own – maybe not winning – you’ve also passed standard and it’s time to raise your personal bar. Not “give up” and go back to winning by competing against those you know you can beat.

    Really, the worst thing about all this is it hurts the confidence of people who have a lot of potential. Winning competitions feels good. Not even having a chance feels bad. Feels cheated.

    EDIT: I could go on rambling about this type of negative behaviour, but I’ll just leave it as this for now.

    • The Warlock

      Exactly. It’s like how the intro starter sets for 40k are one-sided- so the newbie doesn’t get crushed, then gets excited buys kits and then the cycle of plastic buying commences

      • Not sure I follow this one..

        • The Warlock

          Ha, I think this was meant to go somewhere else. It’s really early over here but the point I wanted to make was that experienced players should know how to ‘tone it down’ to not crush the newbie and to build some kind of confidence in them

          • The Warlock

            That and I probably deleted the part about the stories you sometimes see on forums how TFG crushed a noob in their intro game and they haven’t been seen since. Sure the experienced guy got a win, but at the expense of a new person into the hobby.

    • Bugstomper

      Actually: getting paid for an activity is the very definition of the term “professional”.
      I agree that not all “professionals” are equally good at their job, so in a competition the fact that they do commissions may not be enough to discern experts from newbies.
      People should stop confusing professionals with experts.
      One option to level the chances for small group competitions would be to exclude previous winners (maybe temporary or create a “former winners league”).
      Anyway: NO competition should allow the same guy to enter as “expert” and “standard” simultaneously.

  • I guess the other thing to specify too is, “How do you know when you shouldn’t be entering Standard level competitions?”

    Maybe that’s worth exploring on it’s own, Warlock?

    To me, a few stand outs:
    – Are you winning or holding your own in painting levels above Standard?
    – Grasp of techniques. Things like fine blending.
    – Busts and dioramas. Not a strict thing, but most of the time these are tackled by more advanced painters.

    Or do painting contests need 3 categories? Entry / Beginner, Standard, Expert / Master?

    • I’m starting to add to my repertoire of techniques, but I haven’t muscled my way up to wet blending just yet… It feels… intimidating… I only just recently added a wet palette to my tool-kit, so baby steps πŸ˜€

      • I don’t use a wet palette either.. more thinking the look of the end result, not how you get there.

    • The Warlock

      I’d love to research that πŸ™‚ Same with ‘what constitutes 1 point’ in 40k/whfb.

      I suppose going into collector models like Zab’s vampirella (?) he painted up a while back. (It was you Zab, right?) is also a good indicator.

      Painting contests probably need a registration or some kind of proof that the model for the comp is
      a) unpainted
      b) gonna be painted by yourself

      Really though at the end of the day it’s up to the players to help police/regulate their own local scenes.

      • Zab

        Yeah that was me. I hate that bitch so much. It’s one of my top scored on P&P but the process of getting her to look good was so harrowing that i feel nothing but contempt for her. Now that said she made me a better painter and taught me some stuff but i still hate the bitch with a passion -_-

  • Original counterstrike back in the early 2000’s completely killed multi player on line shooters for me just getting fucked up again and again by dudes who evidently spent 23 hours a day playing.

    Never heard it called smurfing you kids with your whacky lingo πŸ™‚

    • I’m ashamed to admit I was one of those guys playing CS for about 15 hours a day. When I met my first GF (EVAR), she thought I was as pale as a ghost. She wasn’t wrong, I never went outside that summer.

      • The Warlock

        I need to do that. About the sun, I mean. I’m more wight than white ^^;;;

    • The Warlock

      I didn’t hear it being called smurfing until I was playing comp regularly online. Uninstalled csgo though as I wanna do more than vid game these hols. Maybe it’s a “Codex: Ultramarines and people who want to be them” from 5th edition bleeding over into gaming at large?

  • Heya Warlock! Great post!

    I’m curious to know about the URL —- “Extrapolating from Comment Left in Oaks” — obviously the post has changed since the pen was put to paper here, but I’m curious to know the post you’re riffing of of πŸ˜€ (understanding of course there are several oaks out there)

    • The Warlock

      lol this was a draft of the comment I made a while back regarding GW’s demise and how they’re acting similar to Mac Donalds who are experiencing PANIC MODE and pulling out all the stops. Heh

      • The Warlock

        then I scrapped said draft because I saw Dave talking about smurfing on FB so I got a little bit ABSOLUTELY LIVID at this type of cheating.

  • Cedric Ballbusch

    On the one hand, I’ve never encountered anything other than an ‘open’ painting competition. Given how subject ‘art’ (I use the term loosely) is, it is hard to really stratify skill levels in a painting contest.

    As to the main thrust of you topic, I don’t understand the cheap win. I like to win. Indeed, I like to win far, far too much. My general evolution of though is: X is my opponent; thus X is a potential threat; therefore, X must be destroyed. Remembering context is often a challenge in the heat of the moment.

    Still, I have never grasped the point of confronting an unworthy opponent. It strikes me as being something of a bully. Personally, I try to bow out of competitions (or confrontations) when it is a forgone conclusion that I’m going to win. Of course, part of that is that I’m going to go for the jugular…

    • The Warlock

      I’ll never understand the cheap win either. I want nice close games that could go either way- that way the victory feels earned. I can get that mindset, though I don’t really mind if I lose. As long as I had fun and my orcs occasionally hit each other it’s all good.

      Maybe in painting comps, there should be a preliminary judging round, where works deemed to be pro in standard are bumped up into a pro category? Honestly don’t know how that would be determined though

      • It’s hard to tell, y’know… In a local scene, sure, everyone knows where everyone stands. And not necessarily a prelim round, but maybe as they’re entered. I’m not sure how getting bumped up a quality category would feel – one one hand, it’d be kinda flattering. On the other, you worked hard to go for a win in your category, and you just got bumped into a smaller fish against mad skillz.

        • The Warlock

          See that’s where it becomes grey, but I suppose it’d be more flattering as being bumped into pro sorta means you’ve already ‘won’ the standard comp. Really though it’s speculation as I’ve never bothered to find and enter a painting comp as I don’t think I’ll be ready ever ^^;

  • Zab

    Ugh. I hate folks whole enter lower level comps to win with higher skills. most legit events will have a judge or experienced painter checking in entries and deciding what category they belong in so you can’t scam. Who feels good about winning like that? I would never enter a tabletop competition or armies on parade with my display stuff. That’s just stupid. How do you know if you are actually any good unless you compete in your own level? How will you grow your skills without honest feedback on what you could do better from your peers? Stupid stupids being stupid -_-

    • The Warlock

      I don’t know who feels that way but there are sadly people who do this kind of thing πŸ™

  • I know someone locally who is within a year of being a Crystal Brush winner. They enter standard contests regularly. I don’t think highly of them, despite their ability.

    • Do they enter these contests locally? Know if any of the places they’re entering have considered talking to them?

      • it’s usually within a couple hours of home but never close enough to be called out. I tried talking to them once but it didn’t go well.

  • Smoke88

    I have recently started hawking my services to those who cant be bothered painting the minis, and while I am not a top painter who will win awards, I do have the virtue of being quick, tidy and affordable. I do remember being in a competition where the level was so far above where I was I just looked at my work and all I could do was laugh. My bad. I should have realised what I was getting into. Feedback was pretty minimal. It was definitely a cool-kid thing going on!

    If folk want to enter a competition they are over-qualified for and pound on the less experienced then they can accept their real title. Bully. Not sure what other tag really fits.

  • “Compared to the outstanding quality seen throughout coolminiornot, there’s just no comparison in a competitive paint stand-off.”

    Depends on the judge. πŸ™‚ Competitive painting is an art in itself, and I HIGHLY…HIGHLY recommend anyone with even the tiniest interest in painting compete when they have the chance. It unlocks another door in the community, which you didn’t even know was there in the first place.

    Not winning. Not even placing…just…entering…ANY model.

    You’ll meet new people, new artists, and new friends. And you’ll learn TONS.

  • Von

    Let me chuck out a couple of examples from my old nemesis, the UK Warmachine community.

    Painting prizes were often awarded as a side thing at small events. What this meant in practice is that a few people, all of whom were really nice blokes and very active on the scene, would generally sweep up the prizes EVERYWHERE. First it was functionally “so, who’s coming second to Mr. Charles?”, and then it was “Look, just write ‘Charles’, ‘Webb’ and ‘Cawthorne’ on bits of paper and pull them out of a hat, it’ll save everyone the time”. No skin off my nose, I’m not much of a painter and generally I’m chuffed with things that exceed my own standards rather than other people’s, but it did make rather a mockery of the contests.

    And then there was the scene at SmogCon a couple of years ago, where the painting cabinets were almost empty. Now, my guns are already tracking the sky, so keep the bomb bay doors closed Kelly, and consider that there are some EXTREMELY good painters active in the UK scene, at the other end of the spectrum from the undeniable tinboys. But – and it’s a big but – very few of the nice looking figures I was seeing around the tables were making their way into the cabinets.

    “Tabletop standard”, these days, seems to mean what I call “pulling out all the stops”, at the very least. “Display” or “Competition” are far, far above that. Now, again, this is no skin off my nose: I don’t enter contests where I know I won’t stand a chance. But that’s just it – if everyone THINKS that, even people who are objectively better painters than me, the competition pool gradually drains dry.

    There’s also a limited style at those sort of events: very crisp, very detailed, ultra-realistic and slightly drab, very heavy on the airbrushing. That reduces the pool still further: firstly to those who can and want to paint in that style, and second to those who can afford or want to faff around with an airbrush. There seems to be this idea that if you’re at all interested in quality painting you MUST use an airbrush and that the kind of style that you get from doing the best you can with other methods is somehow not accomplished or comparable.

    It’s reached the point where I’d actually enter my Kaelyssa or eSkarre if I were still on the scene, just so there was SOMETHING different on the shelves. I wouldn’t win. My models are bright and slightly cartoonish. I don’t care for airbrushing and I don’t have the disposable income to throw at one anyway (I’d rather buy models, you see). I’m not even that good with the old brushwork (I don’t paint the pupils on my models’ eyes unless I am feeling VERY brave). But… for the sake of variety, for the sake of widening the pool, for the sake of bringing people back into the contests, it might actually be worth doing.

    • The Warlock

      Eh, pupils are overrated. From 3-4 feet, who’s going to see? Not sure how to respond to this, Von, but I can agree with the airbrush sentiment. Don’t really want to comment further lest I rant ^^; little things have been getting under the skin this week.

      • Zab

        Let me be clear, Steps on soap box… Airbrushes are great, but some of the best painters in the world can do shit that would blow you mind without them., I have 2 and they are useful tools, but outside of table top batch panting or really large scale crap they simply don’t get used very much for my display pieces. Nice to have but absolutely not mandatory or game changing at all πŸ™‚ Steps off soap box…

    • Don’t forget NMM. Artists seem to think that’s the epitome of master painting.

      • The Warlock

        I thought it was zenithal highlighting. Zenithal highlighting everywhere.

        • glittler. glitter is the shit, man. =P

      • Von

        I try to forget about NMM all the time.

        • Thuloid

          Saw a big swing back towards TMM (true metallic metals) at Adepticon this year. Couple of big name painters started talking about how ceramic NMM looks.

          • The Warlock

            To be honest, I never got NMM for miniatures. I can understand the logic behind it, but we’ve metallic paints etc. That being said, it’s most likely the next technique I add to the skill set if only to make power armour look more ceramic than it is.

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