“Hard days are the best because that’s when Champions are made.” -Gabby Douglas

Winning. Coded from birth, our instinct motivation compels us to achieve.

“Wanting a reward is closely tied with the activity of mesolimbic dopaminergic neurons, particularly within the ventral striatum and ventromedial prefrontal cortex”-Berkman, 2018.

Why is this important? When you win, your brain rewards you with dopamine. Using the dopaminergic reward system, your brain then associates winning as positive which could lead to dopamine addiction.

For me, once I had the taste of victory, I wanted more. I went from 0 to 100 within the sport of miniature painting and didn’t allow any room for flaws. I fell victim to my dopaminergic reward system and became addicted to winning. So much so that I lost sight of what was important and the goals I had set out to achieve. Therefore, this blog post will give an insight into what I learned at my last convention and what placing second has taught me.

Magic the Gathering Miniature: W4 Wrenn and Seven

This was my 5th competition model totaling 15 hours. I only had 3 days between 2 jobs and school to complete it. This was my first attempt at OSL (Object Source Lighting) and was mentored by my friend in Germany. I sculpted the base out of cork board, stucco, and liquid green stuff. My primary paint brands were Citadel and Vallejo. I used a variety of dry brushing, wet brushing, glazing, and washes. No additional colors were added to the foliage.

I had this piece sculpted, filed, primed, and smoothed from any mold lines months in advance before I painted it. When I entered it into our local contest, Strategicon, I was confident I would win. Who wouldn’t with a difficult technique like that? But as all expert painters know, local contests are not always based on talent, but on popularity. I lost to a dinosaur. Yup. A dinosaur with mold lines, a simple, unsculpted, barely painted base, and a dry brush technique to achieve their results. I was insulted. I confronted the judges and the answers I got were “well one of the reasons you lost was because the skull didn’t have enough color”. They also questioned my story choice to incorporate the skulls in the first place.

I placed second, and that’s okay.

My unhealthy obsession to obtain perfection blinded me from the positive feats I had conquered throughout this project. OSL is perhaps one of the hardest techniques to achieve, yet, I managed to paint my first one in 15 hours. Competition is easy to get lost in, and trying to perfect a model can be nerve racking. It’s good to take breaks, set achievable goals, and set reasonable expectations. Sometimes, you have to just walk away, and that’s okay.

Losing provides an excellent opportunity to strengthen and contrive a growth mindset. Those with a growth mindset focus primarily on learning, embrace challenges, and find feedback and success in others to be inspiring.

Finally, here’s what I learned from from my competition:

  1. Paint for the competition you enter: Every competition you enter is different, and so are the judges. Know your judges and know your audience. The competition I entered wanted “show pieces” and didn’t care for technical/technique. They wanted something “cool”.
  2. Never stay for the judging: You never want the judges to know what pieces are yours because that could create a bias. You also do not want to make them nervous. All questions can be answered later.
  3. If you’re nervous go make friends: When I was nervously waiting, I had a few kind people come up to me and befriend me. It helped tremendously and kept my mind busy.
  4. Don’t do what I did and wait till the last moment to submit a painting: Competition models should take at least a month to paint or 2 weeks minimum. I obviously didn’t give myself enough time to even graze the surface of my piece.
  5. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished because I guarantee you, you did an amazing job!

If you get the chance, check out this video by Carol Dweck on a growth mindset.

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