A little disturbed



  • I’m not going to lie. I am still a little unsettled about the live critique and judge. I will say first that i appreciate the time set aside to critique and give feedback.

    Here are some of the things weighing on me.

    Isolation is not necessarily a negative thing. Just practice for a minute why would someone practice isolation for something positive.

    @Will-Terry your statement was to you being the judge that it is a negative thing. I can respect the judge’s perspective despite the fact that @Lee-White add his views of the different perspectives. My question is what makes the two winners of this month negative isolation? (Please understand I believe their artwork is fantastic) My question is in the consistency to what i hear you 3 say every month.

    Concept are most important. However there have been familiar artist with artwork that trump concept. @Jake-Parker even said that in April’s live critique that this goes to show you that artwork can carry a lack of concept.

    My frustration is with the structure. For me, and i may be the only one, it is just confusing what is expected.

    So far my understanding is simply which pieces the judges like more that day.

    I’m open to anyone’s opinion on my line of thinking. Just like my artwork I always invite constructive criticism.

    Again Thank you for all the work and time that goes into the critique. Much love. ONE!


  • Pro

    @dafoota I wouldn't call it "disturbing", that's a bit extreme... This is an art contest and judges pick the best pieces, their favorite pieces. Judging art isn't as clear cut as grading a math quiz. They try to give pointers like storytelling and concept are very important, but in the end art isn't a formula and those things don't guarantee the best piece of the month. Sometimes the artistry is so mind-blowing, that alone is enough to make it the best that month. Sometimes the technical skill is not the best, but the concept is so clever, touching, or well-thought out that it makes it an obvious winner. Personal taste is also involved obviously, because we all resonate with different things. A lot of times, MY favorite piece isn't the winner.



  • @NessIllustration thank you for your insight. First disturbed I used because I thought it was the less aggressive word for me to use.

    My sole purpose is just to voice my frustration with the lack of direction for these contest and the consistency in the reasoning. I do not discredit their professional or even the students who reply to this. I am simply a little troubled which is The definition of disturbed.

    Thank you for your insight. With much respect and love thanks.



  • @dafoota I wonder what the results of the live critique would have been if the judges were Lee and Will since their views of the meaning of the word isolation differed. And it's fun when they spar.



  • @Laurel-Aylesworth I bet it would be crazy.



  • Hi @dafoota, your piece is my favorite of all your submissions so far! I think you’ve leveled up, but I’m still a beginner. It has a LOFI vibe, like an album cover. Keep up the great work!


  • SVS OG

    @dafoota I'm sorry you're feeling troubled by this recent live critique. I'm going to try to answer your question, esp. since I've been struggling with landing concepts lately.

    First, to your question: What makes the two winners of this month's prompt a negative take on "isolation"? I actually don't think they're negative. The feelings I get are pensive, dreamy, peaceful, thoughtful. However, the one thing they're not is "happy & bright", and I get the feeling that this is what created a disconnect for @Will-Terry with some of the pieces that conveyed more bright and happy tones/feelings/palettes in interpreting the prompt. And you're right, @Lee-White did suggest that we might also explore other unconventional approaches to the prompt. But I'm thinking that when we as illustrators attempt to take an unexpected approach, we need to really nail the concept, even for viewers who might initially take issue with a different approach. Since judging these contests is partly subjective, we need to consider the tastes of the people (Lee, Will, Jake) who initially sort through all the submissions and narrow them down to the few to be voted on.

    Second, I empathize with your frustration with the contest structure and understanding what is expected. In some ways, the structure can be nerve-wracking, but in another way, it's actually a more honest real-world structure since many students from all over the world are beIng asked to vote on the finalists, and not just a few judges. And yes, the expectations of different instructors with different tastes is challenging. Ultimately, though, I feel that it's our responsibility as the illustrator to communicate the idea clearly and powerfully to the best of my ability. In the end, the image we create needs to communicate the prompt and affect the viewer emotionally. Each month, no matter the outcome of how well my piece did, these contests offer an opportunity to test my abilities as an illustrator, and see where I need to improve.

    One clue that @Will-Terry gave for expressing a concept was to aim for a middle way, which I took to understand as somewhere not so obvious, but also not so obscure as to confuse the viewer. Another thing that might help is to show your initial ideas (thumbnails and rough sketches) to many different people, including in this forum, and ask: is this communicating the concept for you?

    Sorry for the long response. I hope some of what I said was helpful. I think your submission for this month's prompt was beautiful, by the way:)


  • SVS OG

    @dafoota I just checked out my own portfolio - it has 29 pieces posted (too many I’m sure) there is only one piece there that is not in some way related to an SVS monthly challenge- I think that is where Will, and Jake and Lee are coming from - helping us make portfolio pieces - The monthly challenge has changed format so many times over the years and we were even without for a while - so glad they are doing it again - it is a way to make our new personal best piece and possibly get a little critique from a pro if we are lucky - I’m just so thankful they take the time to do it and try not to be too bummed if I don’t make the cut - much of the time my favorite piece does not win and I’m sure that is true for most folks - anyways - I thought your piece was cool and totally see where isolation can be a positive thing - Corey and a few others had a positive spin on it too - I’ve been working on this month’s piece all day today (finally) and I think I may have a new portfolio piece by the end of the month ...so will you I bet 🙂



  • @dafoota I agree with your frustration. There were a lot of well done pieces that fit the prompt for positive or negative ideas of isolation. I do think it was a little wrong to only be looking for negative concepts considering the fact that Lee White said he welcomed a positive spin on the topic. I would liken it to asking an art director for clarification about an assignment and being penalized for following that advice.

    I have decided to discontinue the contests and continue to work on my skills, composition, color, light, backgrounds, character design. Not in a “take my crayons and go home” kind of way. I appreciate the good skills that can be learned through the classes and I feel like I have learned a great deal since being a member for the last few years. But I feel like the classes are a value to me and the contests are not.

    I joined SVS because it was the only place I could find that had a focus on picture book art. Several of the classes are very specifically geared toward picture book artists and picture books or children’s illustration market. But the contests rarely feature works that are more picture book oriented. A lot of what I notice are images that would fit well into comics or a digital animation style. That is fine. I just have to realize that my art does not fit that look or feel and will therefore not be noticed.

    I love that Aaron Painter mentioned that SVS understands that people would like their work to be critiqued in some way and that that would add a great deal of value. (Having any criticism given by a professional artist is invaluable to a person just starting out. So I really appreciate the speedy criticism given at the end of the bracket voting section.) *******My suggestion is that it might be a better use of instructors’ time and students’ learning to select 10 or 15 additional good pieces and give those a 30 second critique based in real and measurable action steps. It could be mentioned that if your piece was not selected for an additional critique, that the submission was appreciated but it needs more work. Better luck next time.

    I love SVS and I love the forums here. I am not trying to spread hate or be a “Negative Nelly” but I really want to express my frustration here as well. What would the site be if all the feedback Was sunshine and rainbows?! Growing together. Keep up the good work everyone.


  • Pro

    @dafoota I guess I personally don't find it troubling because it's how it is out in the industry... There isn't a lot of clear direction for how to catch the interest of art directors or agents. Sometimes while working on a contract you can follow the AD's instructions to the letter only to be told "Meeeh, now that I see it, it's not really the feel we're looking for." There's almost never a consistency in the reasoning to be found, especially as you query multiple art directors who all want different things.

    Once, I was approached to do book covers for a series of 24 educational manuals and was really pumped. We agreed to do 3 to start with. I talked with the AD at length about the look and feel she wanted. I checked with her what pieces in my portfolio she liked best and if she'd like me to go with that feel in my illustrations. I sent her sketches to approve and re-drew one of them from scratch when she decided a bunny might work better than a panda. I made sure she was 100% happy with the sketches before I went to color. After I sent her everything, a week later she tells me they thought my covers felt a bit "too young" and they were not going forward with the series. It was super disappointing but after ruminating on what happened multiple times, I came to the conclusion that I really did all I could here and was not at fault.

    So, I think from this perspective the contest can be a very accurate representation of the industry and can provide very meaningful experience in navigating an industry that sends mixed messages and contradicting directions. Will, Lee and Jake are kind of like the ADs in this context, they all have different preferences and the outcome most certainly changes depending on who is the judge. While I can understand the frustration, if you intend to pursue illustration at a professional level you're most definitely going to have to navigate these issues all the time.



  • Really great points and discussion!

    Guys, totally understand the frustrations. I'm bummed a lot of my personal favorites didn't make the cut, but very happy for every one that made the cut- you can tell they put time and thought into those pieces. It also stings a little when you make it to the finals, but people aren't happy with the selections.

    I will say that with most contests and juried art shows I've been exposed to, there's always a sense of frustration and confusion for some people, where they just can't understand why some pieces were chosen, some pieces weren't, and how everything fits into the parameters and guidelines provided. Seems like it happens every time. Art is soooo subjective!

    I can see where having different judges each month would help with the diversity of which pieces are chosen though. What if we had some women judges? Some fellow people of color? (That would take additional time and effort to coordinate. What kind of time investment do they want to put into theses contests? It's typically been an in-house thing.)

    Honestly though, maybe because I've been around a few years, when Lee was running it himself and it seemed to be a low maintenance motivator to help us fill out our portfolios- I view the contest as very casual, not serious. I always expect to disagree with some choices and always expect some of my faves not to make it. People were complaining back then too though, now that I think about it.

    For those who aren't happy about the process, how has your experience been with other contests and art shows?



  • @Johanna-Kim Thank you a million. In the future with me you do not have to apologize for a long response. I love reading others opinions.
    Thank you for much for your insight. I and not above believing that i might have let my frustrations get the best of me today. My agenda isn’t for to push my art. Again I know i have years of intense improvement. My sole purpose is just to get more in sync with what is expected. Right now, believe you are correct, it so according to the taste of the judges. Especially for a no name and beginner artist.
    I hope in the future i can return such positivity and inspiration for you. Thank you again.



  • As someone who missed the critique arena because I FORGOT!!! I am dying to know who was in the top sixteen now that I read this thread. I am pretty certain it wasn’t me but I am curious to see how this was interpreted.


  • Moderator

    I, personally, never know what to expect from these kinds of things. So I stopped having expectations.

    I do these prompts now thinking I won't be selected, and honestly that's very freeing. I tell my students in my classes, "Let's say your 'A' is guaranteed. So now what are you going to do with the time you have in this class? If grades aren't the issue, what is your relationship to the assignments? What are you wanting to actually get out of the investment of time and money?"

    So I gave up thinking about the judging aspect of the prompt. I do the prompts to practice something I want to concentrate on for that month--creating key words or manipulating a specific element or principle of art or composition and blah blah blah. It's homework that I do because I need to practice the process of doing the homework.

    @dafoota I would urge you to submit your work to the forum's thread for some month in the future, but schedule something in your life that directly conflicts with the live critique. Then you can go back after it's loaded up to the classes the following week and watch the voting at your leisure. It changed the experience of participating for me when I did it, and helped me maintain the frame of my investment of time and energy on my own terms.

    Now I have a bunch of portfolio pieces that I am proud of, despite only making an honorable mention once. And I can indeed be proud of them because this particular field is so frickin' subjective... Art Directors/Agents/Editors rarely agree on what they prefer, and you will never be in a situation like a prompt without having very specific direction and guidance from someone--often ad nauseum in certain situations... Prompts are quite artificial in most ways. So give yourself a break, and use them for something you want to accomplish. They can be very valuable if you let the judging be part of the experience and not the goal.

    My 2¢.



  • @Kevin-Longueil RESPECT! Honestly, I did not consider the portfolio aspect.

    Thank you for your insights. Also, thank you for your compliments. I greatly appreciate it.

    A little about me and hopefully this doesn’t reflect in anyway how i feel about your compliment. I’m not fighting for my piece. I only enter because I know i could get some live critiques. I have wrestled with even submitting because ultimately I do not want anything the contest has to offer except the wisdom i need to grow. I really enjoy listen to all the critiques because i learn from them too i think i might have just let my frustrations get to me.

    Again thank you so much for your insights. Much Love. ONE!



  • @Jeremy-Ross RESPECT! Thank you so much for your compliment. I appreciated it greatly.

    SN: This post isn’t about my submission really. I only submit as a form to pick the professional’s brains.

    Ultimately: Thank you greatly!



  • @dafoota I do want to give you a shout out on your piece this month. It's my fave of the pieces I've seen from you on the forums. I think it was well worth it for you to explore the contest prompt. It made for a great piece.



  • @JennyJones RESPECT! Thank you so much for your insight. I think we are in line a lot. So I’ll start with your last sentence. I too am not trying to be a Karen or spread hate. I would just like to talk through what is bothering (Which I rarely do). I’m trying to evolve.

    I have wrestled with discontinuing also but because i ultimately just want the constructive criticism.

    You have some good insights that i think should be considered.

    Hopefully, we can open a healthy and productive line of communication with whoever engages.

    Much Love and God Bless!



  • @NessIllustration RESPECT! Thank you for your insight. If this is how it is then I will have no trouble altering my perception of Jake, Will, and Lee. Thank you for you time and patience.

    Much Love!ONE!



  • @TessaW I don't compare the experience of the live critiques with other contests, but I know that this is much more public than they usually are. If a jury chooses, it is private, and there is no commentary most of the time about why some make it and why some don't.

    What I compare it to is the classroom critiques I had when I was in design school 20 years ago. Those were brutal. Critiques in classrooms can be a public assessment of your skills and not healthy for building the kind of confidence some need. Some people thrive on this, but I needed more privacy. It was not a contest, but it always clear who the 'winner' was, yet each piece got attention and ideas for improvement. There was also the important component of talking about your piece, explaining what you were trying to achieve. I know very well how that environment affected me; I was not ready for it, and I was not mature about it. 😞

    I participated in all the live critiques except today's this year, and December's (iirc) was exactly when it had changed to voting. If you look at some of the old critiques on SVS, they have full draw-overs and none of it feels like a competition. Or, if it does, the competition is the one the artist has within their own work. So to me, the format now is something between a classroom critique and a competition by votes, and I will be entering each contest as I am able, and then specifically NOT attending the live critiques. I think the contests are great; I think my tendency to compare myself with others means I can't handle the live sessions yet.

    So the contest, as it is now, improves my work each month. Looking at what everyone submits is one of the most amazing parts of it, and we wouldn't be able to see those if it were a more typical contest. I study the entries as much as I can. But I am not ready to attend a contest that is determined by voting because I need to work on understanding what I think of my own work BEFORE I start comparing it to other artist's work.

    So @dafoota I would suggest that you make sure you are clear on your own expectations of your work when you create an entry. Yours was beautiful, btw. What do you want to explore that has nothing to do with winning a contest? Your portfolio can be ANYTHING you want! This is such an exciting idea I have sometimes forgotten when I'm desperate for feedback or a particular path. In a traditional class you would have assignments that would need to be done in a certain way with more restrictions, but here, you get the prompt while you're free to pursue anything you might need in your portfolio. You also might want to consider not attending the live critique if it helps you keep going with producing work. Because wondering what the judges want is honestly not going to get you anywhere. I do relate so well to your post here. I have been surprised at how unnerving it can be. If it's a throwback to all the painful critiques I experienced in design school, I guess this is my chance to work through that and get better at it. (seriously the good classes were the ones that had the reputation for making students cry in front of everyone, just the worst!) Right now for me it means setting myself up to do my best work and until i'm more mature about where I see my work going outside of anyone else's expectation, I won't attend the live critique sessions. I can't seem to sit still in a zoom session these days anyway! I also just want to assure you that you're not alone in your frustration, it's hard! But it's a good contest, so I hope you continue entering along with us.


Log in to reply