Monday, May 13, 2013

A visit to the MFCA figure show

Back in my high school days I was introduced to a corner of our hobby that few plastic modelers spend time exploring…figures. One evening the local IPMS chapter president called to tell me that the author of a FineScale Modeler article about painting figures lived in my small town. When he mentioned the guy’s name, I realized I knew of his son, David, a year younger than me in school.

I could be melodramatic here and say that that one phone call changed my life. I introduced myself to David, and nearly 30 years later he’s one of my best friends. (I wrote about our visit to a favorite hobby shop last year.) I also met David’s father. Larry quickly introduced me to the world of armor and figures and became an early mentor to me. Although I originally built aircraft, Larry’s influence led me to spending good chunks of time over the years building armor and painting figures.

Last weekend I attended the Miniature Figure Collectors of America MFCA Show and Mart in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, also known as “The Valley Forge Show” given its proximity to that historic site. If you’ve never attended a figure show, you should. You’ve probably glanced at the entries in the figure categories at local IPMS contests or even the IPMS National Convention, but with all due respect to those modelers, the level of artistry at a pure figure show is much higher. These shows attract the best painters from around the United States and Europe.

Having spent a good deal of time building plastic models (aircraft and armor) and figures, I’ve come to the conclusion that they are two completely different hobbies. The techniques and media used in each are very different, and while the focus with plastic models tends to be on engineering, the focus with figures is artistry. It’s a completely different mindset, and not every plastic modeler can make the transition (or vice versa).

Here are a few photos I took at the MFCA show to give you some appreciation for the work on display. The pictures don’t do the figures justice; in fact, the photos make many look worse. You really must see them in person. Unfortunately there aren’t as many pure figure shows as there are traditional model contests, so the opportunity of attending one relies on circumstance to some  extent.  But first, here’s a list of the clubs that sponsor the five major shows, should one be in your neck of the woods.

Military Miniature Society of Illinois
Miniature Figure Collectors of America
Long Island Historical Miniature Collectors Society
Historical Miniatures Society of Northeastern Oklahoma
Southern California Area Historical Miniatures Society

Fantasy pieces were very popular this year, like this scratchbuilt bad dream!

Another fantasy figure. Note that the blue light is not real. That illumination is painted!

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