Monday Series: A Story About May's Illustration Contest


Happy Monday! Today I'll begin with a few updates before diving into the story of my first-ish entry into the SVS Learn monthly illustration contest.

Education Update

I'd like to take a moment at the beginning of each of these posts to discuss my anti-racism education and provide recommendations based on the media that impacted me most.

Today's recommendation is The Anti-Racism Daily Newsletter by Nicole Cardoza. I subscribed to this last week and I've gotten a ton of value out of it. The newsletter is structured incredibly well. She begins with a brief introduction and 2 or 3 actions you can take right away. Following the actions, she takes a dive into a specific issue, providing a quick history and any relevant societal context needed for you to have a working knowledge of the subject. She provides several links to learn more about the issue throughout. Finally, she closes each email with a quick summary; key takeaways from her history lesson and further calls to action. It's quick, informative, and exactly what you need to learn and act.

An added bonus: it's very nicely designed.

Please consider subscribing and donating to this work.

Priority/Reduction Update

Last week, I vowed to work on prioritization. "There is no reduction without prioritization," I said. This was a two-part endeavor. I aimed to:

  1. Minimize the number of "priorities" I designated.
  2. Purposefully ignore the things that didn't make the list.

How did I do? A recap of the list:

  1. A freelance project with a quick timeline that I just accepted. Done!
  2. Some kind of exercise or body work daily. Done!
  3. Some amount of drawing daily. Done, except Saturday!
  4. Fold my laundry. Done!
  5. Write last week's blog post. Done!
  6. Continue to educate myself about anti-racism. Done!

I did it all! This was a good exercise so I will do it again this week. Here's the updated list:

  1. This blog post.
  2. Draw daily.
  3. Exercise/Move my body daily.
  4. Make Progress on the June Illustration Contest.
  5. Continue to educate myself about anti-racism.
  6. Work on a "Pitch Deck" for C&B to organize my thoughts around the future of this company. (This is a wild card. I got the idea to do this late last week after a conversation with a friend but I told myself that I will only finish it if I'm actually getting value out of it. I'll report back next week.)

May Contest Results

Last but not least, I wanted to discuss my experience with the SVS Learn May Illustration Contest. SVS has been doing some version of this contest for many years. It has taken slightly different forms over that time but the point is largely the same: they issue a prompt and the community submits illustrations. The judges narrow down the submissions, talk about the top selections for a while, and then present the winners. I submitted twice about 3 or 4 years ago. The first submission was a drawing I did for something else that also fit the theme. The second was a commission that I drew with the contest theme in mind—two birds with one stone, if you will. I quickly learned that this was not a winning strategy. Haha, the community is too good to be giving half of my attention to these things. Eventually I decided I didn't have time to enter so I forgot about it.

Over the last year or two, they've opened up the final decision to the community and have turned the critique live stream into a really cool "Critique Arena" that I've enjoyed participating in over the last few months. To get it going, the organizers narrow the submission pool down to sixteen illustrations. Then, during the event, they discuss each of the sixteen images and have the community vote, march madness style, two by two until there are only two images left. Those two artists are then given the opportunity to create an illustration for one of SVS's upcoming podcast episodes. They pay a small amount and you get a ton of exposure.

I finally got my shit together enough to submit a dedicated image this time. In this month's newsletter, I describe my process. I did not make the top sixteen, but that's ok! They received 120 submissions—that is a huge talent pool! Many of the submissions were very, very good. So you know what? It's going to make it even more satisfying when I DO make it into the top. This is not my 5th grade Catholic school class; this is the real deal.

This month, the organizers actually spent quite a bit of time at the end of the session going through the submissions that were not chosen, offering one quick suggestion that would have improved each piece. This was really generous of them given the fact that there were 120 images and it was SO helpful. 

There were two judges on the stream. One of them was part of the team that chose the top sixteen. The other was not. So it was interesting to see their perspectives: one having sat with these images for a while and the other reacting to his first impressions. When the slide advanced to my image, the one who hadn't seen it before immediately said, "Wow! Some great texture on this piece!" That was really cool to see. He was impressed enough to reflexively say "Wow!" I consider that a success in an of itself. The other judge mentioned that it reminded him of Peter Sis's work—which is funny because I don't think that most of my art looks like that but I can see how this piece in particular gave him those vibes. The main piece of feedback given for my image was the focal point confusion. The large beam of light draws more attention than the witch character and they felt as though I should have flipped that attention. I completely agree - that was actually one of the things I was trying to wrestle with when changing the color back and forth. There was also a lot of positive feedback offered from the community in the chat while they were talking about it. This is, I think, a really great start! The feedback was largely positive and the constructive criticism was something that I anticipated. This proves that my head is in the right place and that's really important.

The funny thing about all of this is that the illustration I submitted is not super indicative of the kind of work I usually do. I'll be curious to see what happens when I submit something that is more character-focused in future contests.

I'm going to keep submitting. Even though I'm not sold on the idea of picture book illustration (If I had to choose, I'm more interested in middle grade chapter books or YA books.), I think that it would behoove me to have the SVS guys know who I am and recognize my style. This is 100% about building a network of professionals.

June's contest is going to be a little more challenging for me. The prompt is a lot more specific and much more kid-themed. This will be an interesting exercise though. I've been trying to develop my style and mood lately. A good way to test the strength of said style is to apply it to something seemingly unrelated to see how well it stands up. Stay tuned. This could be really cool... or it could be a train wreck haha. 

 


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