On the Facebook event page, an attendee made a request to switch the order ot tiebreakers and place sportsmanship above painting. My response on the matter went along the lines of this:
Both scoring systems are fairly subjective. This is a simple fact that cannot be overcome. Opinions on Art can vary greatly, with no little reasoning beyond personal gut feeling. Sportsmanship is also a very subjective aspect; people may or may not get along with another person based on some past history or misunderstanding. There may also be some unexplained circumstances that could be bothering the poor sport in question.
The reason I believe painting should be placed above sportsmanship is overall very simple: Painting has more concrete details and effort put into the score. A judge can go through and notice the different techniques used on a model. They can notice the wash, highlights, lining, transfers etc. These are concrete objective techniques used that allow a judge to make note of effort put into the model. Regardless of overall quality or feeling generated by the army, a judge can at least base scoring on the complexity of the techniques used. In addition, the same judge reviews each of the models and armies, at least in this case. I have a certain rubric in my own head concerning the things I am looking for in the models.
Sportsmanship, however, has a number of the opposites playing against it. There is often a lack of concrete details in "sportsmanship." It can mean drastically different things for different gamers. To me, for example, I can enjoy a more serious game-focused individual, but I don't mind a gamer that is willing to crack a joke. I care more about his interactions with the rules and how he works to handle disputes. In addition, the attendee mentioned the idea that the "majority" felt the gamer in question was a good sport. The reality is: the majority doesn't get a say. Scoring for sportsmanship is based on the individual games played, so only 3 people give a score. These three people may have drastically different thoughts about a good gamer.
So, overall the distinction is simple. Painting is much easier to judge objectively, particularly when looking for completion, details, and advanced techniques used. Sportsmanship does not have these objective qualities, so it becomes more difficult to score. They both are important in terms of winning the tournament, and they both factor into ties. There is a specific set of reasons, however, that one is placed over the other.