A journal following the history, design, construction and operation of Bernard Kempinski's O Scale model railroad depicting the U. S. Military Railroad (USMRR) Aquia-Falmouth line in 1863, and other model railroad projects.
©Bernard Kempinski All text and images, except as noted, on this blog are copyrighted by the author and may not be used without permission.

May 5, 2024

MFCA Show 2024

Three of the dioramas I exhibited 

I attended the Miniature Figures Collectors of America (MFCA)  Annual Show in Trevoise, PA this weekend.  The show has the reputation of one of the top miniature shows in the US, and perhaps the world. Artists come from all over the US, Europe, and Asia.  Some of the most well know figure painters were in attendance. I had a chance to meet some of them and all were extremely friendly.  They hosted a Q&A session with the grandmasters in attendance before the awards ceremony. I thought that was really neat. 

Keith and Libby Rocco were also in attendance. Keith was selling his artwork and books. His display was very impressive.  On Friday evening Dave and Darci Hoffman, Mike and Linda Pierce, Keith and Libby Rocco, Zack Becker, Bob Huebner and I had an enjoyable dinner at a local restaurant. Following that the MFCA hosted a hospitality suite with drinks and snacks.

This year they had about 780 models on exhibit divided into several categories. The quality of work was very high. It was very inspiring to see so many wonderful models.  I posted many pictures on my Facebook page at this link.

The MFCA makes it clear that they judge to a standard, but they also say on their website that awards represent percentile of the models entered. So Bronze is a top 30% model, while silver in top 10% and gold top 5%. The bottom line conclusion is that it is very difficult to get a medal at this show. 

I entered 6 pieces and received two bronze medals. One for a bust of Medussa and the other for the Oracle of Delphi diorama. I was happy to receive the recognition. I do admit being surprised that those were the models the judges selected. In past shows, the other models I exhibited this weekend were selected by judges over these. Of course it is all subjective and some variability has to be expected. 

The Medusa bust was only figure I entered where I used oil paints over an acrylic base. The more I use oils the more I like  them, especially in doing skin tones. 

I noticed a couple trends in examining the models at the show.

German Gunner by Jim Rice

 First, a lot of artists are including small backdrops with their individual figure models. For example, this German Machine Gunner by Jim Rice. I like this idea as they help place the model in a space or set a  mood. They also allow more room for artistic expression. 

Roman vignette by Mike Blank

One thing I did not like so much was the high contrast and saturation that many artists use in their painting, especially in skin tones. However, I may be in a minority as many of the figures painted in that style won awards. 

This vignette by famous artist Mike Blank did not fall into that category. Note the muted colors and low contrast. This looks very realistic to me. It received a gold medal.

I thought the Marilyn Monroe figure  below had very realistic skin tones. It won a gold medal but I did not catch the artist's name. 

I like the metallic sheen on the muzzle of this Parrot rifle.  This received best Civil War award.

Many artists use flat  acrylic paints to simulate metallic surfaces. This technique is called Non-Metallic Metal. I am not sure I like this or that it is even necessary. There are amazing metallic paints available now that look like real metal, even in scale. I think the most convincing effects combine the use of these new metallic paints with tradition shading to emphasize shape and texture. I need to experiment more with those techniques. 

I noticed some artists use strong directional lighting in painting their figures. These create dark shadows away from the light. It can be effective if done well.  Similarly, a lot of the figures painted light amber or florescent colors on to the figures to represent light from a point source. That is called Object Source Lighting.  They are interesting techniques that are very difficult to pull off. 

Note the lighting on the face and armor from the "glowing" weapon.  

It was a fun show and I look forward to going back.


  1. AnonymousMay 06, 2024

    What a marvelous display of model art. Thanks Bernie!

  2. Doug HalkeMay 07, 2024

    I missed your diorama at the show but saw your Medusa bust. Really nice job. Congratulations!