2019 IPMS Nationals: Chattanooga Choo Choo!

961 people entered.

They came from as far away as Japan.

They came from cultures as different from Chattanooga as Argentina, Canada, or Palo Alto, California.

They were young, old, men, women, and any variation in between.

They brought over 3000 models to be judged.

Two even got engaged during the show.

The quality was stunning, and the experience was phenomenal. I have never been as humbled walking through a show and looking at the models on display. I was certain that I was, at best, only average. To leave with three awards and two models to be featured in Fine Scale Modeler magazine was something that left me swollen with pride.

And then, my wife said “Is that good?”. :/

As if I needed further proof that we are not normal. We don’t need proof that as different as we all are and from many varied backgrounds, we share something that most people don’t understand.

We’re mutants.

We get “it”, and for a brief moment in Chattanooga, Tennessee, we celebrated that together.

Speaking of celebrating, I took over 350 pictures and didn’t come close to getting a shot of every model on the tables. Of those all were fantastic, but a few, for any number of reasons, stood out to me and were interesting. Check these out.

As with anything that relies on subjective criteria, there were choices made that could be debated. That said, there weren’t any choices made that I could say were wrong insofar as what I could see of the awards given. The quality was so good, the top 3 in almost any category could be interchangeable. In fact, the top ten in most categories were probably close enough to be argued to be the best. The overall quality was astounding and I don’t envy the job of the judges.

As well as this show was ran, however, I think there is still room for improvement:

One thing that bothers me, and it isn’t unique to this show, is when models are moved in favor of others, especially late entrants. I purposefully got to the venue early enough on Wednesday to make sure I could put my models on the table. When I returned on Saturday, my models had been moved and shuffled around. Three of them suffered minor damage in the move (pitot tubes were knocked wonky, and one set of aerials was stretched and sagging). To be fair, one had a judges note that they pitot was misaligned but it didn’t affect the judging, and it wasn’t difficult to fix when I got home. But still, damage from third parties due to a move is avoidable. Could the pitot or sagging aerial have affected the judging? Of course. In fact, one could argue that in a contest with quality this high, those things should have mattered. I think the solution is that tables can be marked off in grids, and pre-registrants buy a space. Late entrants can still get a spot in any unsold spaces, or at an overflow table that can be scaled infinitely.

Another thing is how some modelers demand more space than their model requires, further exasperating the point above. They do this by using bases, and pedestals, often that the model is not affixed to. Some are the size of server’s trays. Others raise the model off of the surface in an unnecessary way that tends to just obscure models around it. Some bring paperwork and literature that stands up off of the table like a science project tri-fold board. Models should not be moved to make space for that, nor should (at least in my view) people be allowed to put their model on pedestals or to have literature surrounding their model, that obscures other models or takes up a disproportionate amount of space. This issue would get fixed by my grid suggestion above, with a statement that any additional materials have to be attached to the model entry form, can be no larger than letter size, and must lay flat on the table, under the model.

Another issue I had was the length of the Saturday portion of the show and the awards. At 4pm I could not get back into the venue to get my models as the judges were putting the awards out. At 7:15pm the award ceremony started. At roughly 8:30 they finally got into the actual awards. At roughly 10:30pm I was back in the model room. At 11:45pm, after three long trips to the parking garage, I was finally loaded up and ready for the two hour drive home. That’s a very long day. To make it worse, as I was trying to burn several hours in Chattanooga, the vendors had mostly evaporated well before the doors were locked in the model room. My suggestion, as the judging occurred Friday night, would be to put out the awards in each category, after judging but before the venue opens on Saturday. That way the Saturday visitors can see, and appreciate, the best three in each category. An awards ceremony should absolutely be held to announce special awards winners, best of category winners, best in show, and all of the ancillary congratulation and business meetings that are required for a show of this scope, but I don’t think a 6-8 hour block in the schedule is requried.

Finally, and probably the most controversial, is a discussion about the merits of the so-called “Spanish School” of building. I define the “Spanish School” by comparison: it is the difference between Picasso and the later realist movements. It has taken over so much of the hobby, and when done well is gorgeous, interesting, and provides a pop that certainly stands out. But, I wouldn’t say it is particularly “real”. It is weathering and tonal variation overdone to the point of looking like the picture of an average looking person who is made up then ran through instagram filters until they look like someone different. It looks like the expression of an emotion instead of a nod to reality. It is a mood, not a visualization. It seems like what armor builders imagine of aircraft. I can appreciate the skill of the work, and the effort involved, without agreeing with the merits. To me, a significant nod should be given to realism. A picture of the model next to a picture of the real thing, should find little difference. Ironically, a great deal of the people who practice in the Spanish School would also tell you that they want realism in panel lines, rivet count, engine wiring, and other shape and visual indicators. They will argue endlessly about the correct shade of a color on some obscure Russian Yak, but then want to wipe all that away with exceedingly exaggerated color saturation, shading, weathering, and otherwise. I understand this is a wholly subjective critique of what is essentially a hobby of art…now get off my lawn!

In all, this was an amazing event. My criticisms are merely suggestions on how to refine something that is stellar already. My thanks to IPMS Chattanooga, and my congratulations to everyone who attended. You inspire me.

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