MFCA – The Miniature Figure Collector’s of America – held their 71st show on May 18th and 19th. It’s billed as the oldest and largest show of its kind. I have not been to the MFCA show since around 2006 but made the trip this year in an attempt to get my painting mojo back. I haven’t painted a non-gaming figure in years, and I feel like even my gaming figure painting skill has stalled. So with hope in my heart I pilgrimage was made, and I found a show changed in many ways, and perhaps due for some bigger changes in the future.
In the plus column, the level of painting is jaw-droppingly-fantastic. Basically what I saw as the best in 2006 is now closer to the run of the mill. Participation included some greats from Europe, entries have diversified to include more game figures, more fantasy, anime and garage kits.
Also great was to see the gathering of Grand Masters. To quote from the MFCA’s website “A unique institution of the MFCA is the Grand Master. In the early 70s, it was noted that certain artists were winning a lot of awards at MFCA Shows, due to their excellent and unique work. It was thought that this might be discouraging to others who wanted to exhibit their work but were intimidated. It was decided to declare these multiple winners Grand Masters and make them ineligible for regular awards, thus giving the average person a better chance. Once a few Grand Masters were picked, the MFCA decided that the best judges to award this accolade to others were the previous winners themselves. So, over the last thirty years, a member of the MFCA and all the Grand Masters attending the Annual Show gather and debate and discuss the merits of the artists present and their work, and the uniqueness of their contribution to the hobby. “ At this year’s show they had displays by every Grand Master all the way back to Mr. Numero Uno – Shep Paine from 1972.
For those of you who are either young or mostly confine yourselves to game figure painting Shep Paine is one of the greats who moved painting figures from a craft to the art that it is today. It was a real thrill to see in the flesh the boxed diorama by Shep called “Below Decks of the Trafalgar” (probably screwing up the title). I remember seeing this when I was a teen back in Military Modeler back in the 70s (a US mag not to be confused with the British Military Modelling). Shep may also be known to some for his great articles on diorama building in the instruction sheets for Monogram model kits during that same period.
I saw Shep at the show and it was nice to see he was still alive. I didn’t actually speak to him, cause, well, I’m a little shy around the gods.
And last in the good column is that I got to say hi to a great number of friends in the hobby who I have known for decades. It was very heartening to see so many still painting after all these years.
On the down side, the MFCA has been for years (with one or two minor exceptions) at the Valley Forge Convention center. As mentioned in one of my Historicon entries, the convention Center has been partially converted into a casino.
Cause eastern Pennsylvania needs more casinos.
Anyway, the result of this is that the vendor area was about one half to one third of what I remember it once being. I am assuming reduced vendor area makes it harder to support a prestigious show of this type. I would not be surprised to see the MFCA show to either down scale and move, or cease to be in the next couple of years.
I snapped some pictures and I am just showing a sampling here. All of the pics I took are in a Photobucket directory here. It is but a fraction of the incredible work that was seen.
So net-net: inspired by the work, saddened those that have passed, curious about the future. Who knows? I may even try and get something painted for next year!