Model Contests & Judging
This last month was the month of the big Seattle Spring Show. There was definitely a large turnout of amazing modeling talent, both in display and in actual contest entrants. Going out on a limb, I decided to get the full experience of the Seattle Spring Show and I volunteered to judge. In doing so I learned an awful lot about modeling for fun and modeling for contests. In retrospect, I can see why there are many modelers who don't enter contests. The judging guidelines issued at the show gave each judging team a solid starting point, and one thing that didn't factor into the process was what the model was of. When I build a model, I, like many other modelers, spend lots of time researching the subject and make sure that everything is accurate. This doesn't matter at all to a contest judge, though, as there are no "experts" on the judging teams (or at least there shouldn't be). The contests judge modeling skills, and modeling skills alone.
So what does this mean, exactly? Well, the basics are the first stop. Unfinished seams, glue marks, silvered decals and such will eliminate a model quickly. From there, details such as landing gear that isn't aligned symmetrically or airbrush overspray that is excessive trims down some more until there's only a first, second and third. Scratchbuilding does figure in the equation as well, but with today's aftermarket resin and brass detail sets not too many people are doing much scratchbuilding. In fact, when it comes to judging a model with, say, a nice resin cockpit set, the extra detailing might even work against things. I saw several models that had absolutely beautiful interiors, with everything detailed just and painted to perfection. But the exterior wasn't finished quite as good. The difference between the interior and exterior just made the flaws in the exterior seem that much more glaring.
Because of the judging guidelines at contests this might mean a different modeling style for contests versus their own personal enjoyment, at least for some people. I know now that if I was to enter a model in a contest, I wouldn't necessarily go for the most detailing in the cockpit or make a landing gear leg out of 43 pieces. I would look for a plane that was finished in one color overall (no airbrush overspray that way), I would finish it as if it rolled off the factory that very day (no weathering to worry about), and I would focus on making sure all the basics are taken care of completely. It may not be the most impressive model out there, and it may even look bland, but if I took care of all the basics I could be assured that I would be bringing home an award.
The bottom line is that at contests, models are judged purely on craftmanship, nothing else. If you enter a contest and don't win anything, go and talk to the judges. Ask them politely why your particular model didn't win and they will be more than happy to tell you what it was that kept your particular model from getting that award. It doesn't help any to argue with any one judge, as often the judges work in teams, which means a number of people agreed on the eliminating factors. Use the contest as a learning tool to improve your modeling, and for the next year's show you'll be better prepared to take home a trophy.
And if you REALLY want some fun, the best thing you can do is volunteer to judge in the next show. You get to take a close look at some absolutely stunning models and get to work with others in trying to determine what the best ones are.