So Curt, in no particular order:
1) Your Annual Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge, where did you get the idea? Give us some background.
In 2010, a good friend of mine, Dallas over at the Fawcett Avenue Conscripts, held a painting contest for a bunch of us guys in the group. I had such a great time participating that I wanted to do something similar and open it up to people who I had met through blogging.
From the very start I really wanted to create an event that was not a painting competition. That is, something in which people explicitly judged each others skill with the brush. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy those type of events, and I even participate (poorly) in a few, but they, by necessity, place participants in an adversarial role to one another and I wanted something different. Instead I wished to create an event where hobbyists from around the world, both new hands and old salts, could gather together, work separately but towards a common goal and have a lot of laughs along the way.
2) How has it changed over the years?
Well, the first Painting Challenge was purely focused on Napoleonics as that is what I was interested in at the time. I needed some external impetus to help ‘keep the steam up’. That first event was a lot of fun, but being so narrowly focused it only had a certain appeal, I think there were seven of us. John from ‘Wargaming in 28mm and Smaller’ was the winner on that one.The second Challenge wasn’t focused on Napoleonics, but I kept it to historical content. It attracted 24 participants. Ray from ‘Don’t Throw a 1’ came out on top of the heap after a great rush to the finish line (his ‘sandbagging’ during the final hours of the Challenge is now the stuff of legend).The third Challenge was the first with a core theme, 'The 47 Ronin'. This was when I realized that the event had started to get some traction with the blogging community and sponsorship began to rise. We had (yes, you guessed it) 47 participants, and the focus was still primarily on historical figures, but I did allow figures from The Hobbit, as the first movie was just about to be released. Chris from ‘The Wars of Pooch’ peaked the group that year.The fourth Challenge’s theme was celebrating Sam Peckinpah’s movies. I know, it’s sort of odd, but the fun thing about running this thing is that I have the luxury of picking these whacky themes. That Challenge had 61 participants and the prize support was both varied and very generous. Andrew from ‘Loki’s Great Hall’ mastered that Challenge quite handily that year.The fifth Challenge had 72 entrants and the overarching theme was ‘Antiheroes’. It built from the success of previous years was very successful, with a record number of entries and enjoying the participation of a wide variety of hobbyists from all over the world. Dave from 'One Man and His Brushes' took top billing.Last year's Challenge, the sixth, saw 88 entrants with a theme of 'Gamblers and Risk-Takers'. I changed the format of the event by having a group of people help me with the entries and scorekeeping. This turned out to be a huge success as all the participants enjoyed the 'Daily Minions' and it took a huge weight off of my shoulders as it was becoming too much work for one person to handle. Miles from 'Lair of the UberGeek' was on the top of the heap.
3) Your best moment running it?
It’s hard to pin it down to a specific moment but I do have some highlights from running the event. I remember receiving an email from a participant who told me that the fellowship of Challenge helped with his PTSD. I was quite humbled by that. Also, generally, I find that by the end of each three-month Challenge there is a wonderful sense of camaraderie that has grown amongst the participants. Everyone is so positive and supportive about the work being done. So even though I may be completely knackered by the end of the event, I always feel very happy and privileged to be a part of it.
4) Your worst moment running it?
Oh yeah, when I screwed up the point totals for Ray during the final tally on the Third Challenge. He was up for 3rd place but I had made a mistake in my math. Eek. He was an incredible gentleman and great sportsman by pointing it out to me. I felt completely embarrassed, but thankfully he and everyone else was really good about it.
5) Do you have a personal favourite entry of all time?
Hmm, I actually have several ‘favourites’ as the Challenge has had the honour of seeing some incredible work over the years. That being said I don’t want to give names as I know I’ll walk away form this and think, ‘Dammit, I forgot to say I loved so-and-so’s work as well…’
6) How do you find the time!?
Well, not having children or needing much sleep really helps... Seriously, I don't think I could do it without having a very understanding partner. My wife, Sarah, really enjoys what she calls ‘The Challenge Season’ and her support at home really helps me keep focused on the event.
7) Do you think the theme rounds which started with the 4th Challenge have changed things?
Yes, definitely. I’m quite pleased with how well the theme rounds were received. It seems that many of the participants really enjoyed the opportunity to interpret the various themes and made every effort to turn in their best work. I know there were a few participants who felt it was an unneeded distraction from the core concept of the Challenge, but I still think the themes add an interesting venue for a broad spectrum of painters to show their creativity.
8) At what point did you think "I've got a tiger by the tail here..."?
By the end of the 2nd Challenge I knew that I could basically grow the event as much as my sanity and free time would allow. The trouble is that I never like to turn anyone away, so it simply escalates from year-to-year. Also, after running this for several years now I’ve found that many past participants often want come back for another go. So when last year’s Challenge grew to over 60 participants in a few hours I knew it had begun to resonate across a significant portion of the hobby community. It can be a bit harried at times but I’m also quite proud of how the Challenge has grown year-over-year.
9) Any plans to change the format further in the future?
Hmm, perhaps a tweak here and there, but otherwise not too much.
10) Will the Challenge be back?
Yes, definitely! I have a few ideas for the theme and format for the next event. I hope to open the Challenge to even more people, which will make for a busy winter but one with loads of good camaraderie and fun – so stay tuned in November for the announcement!