A little disturbed

  • @xin-li Respect! Thank you for your perspective. I will work on changing my perspective for my ideas in critiques. I will try my best. I would feel bad if the judges are discouraged because of my communication as that is not my intention. Ultimately, I think I am just asking for more stability and consistency for the community in the context of live-critiques. This was never a shot to question anyone’s credibility or biases. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

    Much Love. ONE!

  • @Heather-Boyd RESPECT! thank you for sharing your thoughts and your perspective. I think I am still a little more, with emotion, over puzzled and into the disturbed/troubled point. I have a hard time with the inconsistency of using a point to promote a piece and using the same point to not promote it. Or even disregard the a point of inspection because the artwork is awesome. Especially, if it the disregarded point of inspection in “sticking to the prompt.”

    Maybe it is because I am still puzzled at what the judges expect and I’m voicing my opinion to better understand. I’m still not quite sure what the outcome I am hoping for is. I don’t want anyone discouraged or feeling hated on. After all these wonderful and positive people communicated, I can see that I prolly should just let it be and chill some.

    Thank you again for your time and patience. Much love. ONE!

  • @dafoota okay so, I came here late and had a lot of reading to do lol but I read through every single post, I'm hoping this is a slightly different answer for you. So first of all I also miss the old method, I joined a bit after they changed, but I also go back to watch the old crits because I really value paint overs and the critique and we don't really get that anymore. I also sometimes worry that this format feels more like a popularity contest than an art contest which feels awkward. It would be interesting to see a new vote now that they've been doing it this way for some time

    Regarding the concept vs artistry It's a hard thing to tackle, but I'm going to try.

    What you're asking is really, "what makes good art?" Obviously there is subjectivity but there must be something you can hold onto. IMO there are two routes to an amazing piece of art. There is an amazing concept but not much technical skill in the art. Or an amazing technical skill, with less of an interesting concept. Or the magic balance in the middle that has both. Sometimes a piece can be drawn with stick figures but resonate so well that it is loved (think like some web comics). Or be so masterfully painted that even if there is no story it impacts you emotionally, or with awe and wonder. (Like magical girl paintings on Instagram)

    Now with illustration as a field I do think NORMALLY that concept is more important than technical skill. However the piece you refer to last month was MASTERFUL in regards to technical skill. So I do understand why it made it to the sweet sixteen. But the reason it didn't win imo is due to concept. But there is not going to be a line in the sand to follow here. As a student I think we should do our best to have great concepts while refining our technical skill.

    Regarding the "positive isolation" statement. What I believe Will was trying to say is. If you do a negative emotion with Isolation you can get away with a person alone in a space. But if you make it positive with a person alone, it doesn't read as isolation unless you put more story telling into it, you have to work harder is what I think he said. For example, Braden showing a group of people in the bg, with the main character all alone. The child was clearly isolated, but not negatively so.

    The two pieces that won both hard darker less "happy" lighting to them which I think helped. When I look at them I get an emotional reaction that is a little more quiet and moody which I associate more with Isolation than I do bright and happy.

    I also loved the penguin piece but I could see how the penguins felt a bit like a community rather than isolated but it was in my top 16 as well.

    I participate in the monthly contests to get portfolio pieces. If I get into the top 16 awesome, but that's not why I'm doing it. I decide what my portfolio needs and use the prompt to help me make a piece that will fill that hole. The deadline helps motivate me to finish. The competition pushes me to push myself out of my comfort zone and try things I wouldn't have before.

    Anyway hope that makes sense and helps.

  • @Ryan-Ehr I must admit that I also thought your piece was a very strong contender!

    I understand that the concept of my own piece was not portraying the prompt very clear. I do love to have it in my portfolio though :).

    I really appreciate the challenges and the time the instructors invest each time.

    Personally, I have been less fond of the voting. I liked it much better when the judges decided who’d win. Not because I don’t value the opinions of the voters - I do. But when looking through the monthly contest topic, there are always pieces that are very popular. Not all of these pieces get selected by the professional judges - which is totally fine. But then when the voting starts, the roles are turned again, and the voters decide. The outcomes seem a tad doubtful to me, because it depends so much on who can be available at the Live session, can someone remain online for the complete voting session or has he/she voted a handful of times before they need to go offline, is the voting working for everyone consistently, etc.

    In the end it is of course about having the chance to practice creating pieces around a prompt and creating valuable portfolio pieces, that is the most important.
    However the current voting structure makes less sense to me than the judges making their selection and narrowing it down to 2 winners. Just my two cents 🙂

  • Hi @nadyart and @carlianne, perhaps we put a poll on the forum to see if people prefer the original way of judging versus the current student voting method?

  • SVS OG

    Hi everyone! I too am late to this conversation. But a couple of things: One is that I really liked your explanations, @carlianne, especially about the prompt. It makes a lot of sense, even though I really do wonder what Lee would have said since he came up with it! Mine wasn't even one of the pieces that took this positive approach to isolation, but I'm still curious.

    I also think you explained the subtleties of concept vs. rendering very well, Carlianne. I would also argue that there is a sort of third category, that is, those which have a "primitive" style yet are quite aesthetically beautiful. Maybe some would argue that that is technical skill, and I would accept that.

    The other thing I would like to add is that I too prefer a more critique-heavy format. I have to admit that "Sweet 16" format means that my favorites are often pitted against one another early on, while the adjacent bracket doesn't interest me as much. Also I confess my decision-making skills are not so sharp late at night and I have coin toss moments! I'm not so sure the participants benefit from either of these things, because they don't even know. So in general I prefer the more critique-heavy formats because we don't learn as much from the voting process. Some could argue that in real life the selection process is arbitrary and we should get used to it, but we can confront that once we get so far. And of course, critiquing 120 pieces is close to impossible and I applaud Will and Aaron for even trying! But somewhere in between there must be a happy medium that we could all benefit from, even if our piece doesn't make the cut.

    This time I got lucky, because even though my piece wasn't chosen, I understood from the critique what the problem was in a way that will help me improve. The last time I entered, I honestly had no clue what was wrong. Naturally I would like to make it in, though, because then I would get more critique!

    In any case, it's good to have prompts and deadlines, and I really appreciate the effort the guys put into this every month just so that we can have them. And regardless of formats or winners, the energy we are all putting into this, and the way we are all spurring one another on, is a very positive thing. I don't think I could work in "isolation" without it!

  • @Jeremy-Ross I think I would agree with this, but at this point, the contest gets so many entries that I'm thinking a bit of stasis in the format will help it continue to be monthly. The poll before this voting format was pretty clear in how popular the format was, and if it helps svs promote subscriptions to classes, then weighting the popular preference seems logical.

    They finally found a format that works, people have said how much they enjoy it (even though I didn't attend the live critique i would of course watch it since there are always helpful things discussed and it can be very motivating), and I'm guessing it will be beneficial to stick with it for a little bit. Maybe those that don't mind it now can ease into it even more with time. Bringing in guest judges and changing the format again means more work making it happen and they have put so much work into arranging for artists to come and share their process that it also makes sense for the contest to have a different spin. With Jump Into the Studio, I think it was by suggestions offered here on the forum (I did not notice too much diversity there because i am a little behind on what's going on in the industry), and it is dependent on

    If it seems like a popularity contest sometimes, that's just an emphasis on the inherent unfairness in the industry like @NessIllustration talks about, so it isn't out of place. I have had a really hard time voting sometimes, especially if it's between two of my favorites. In that situation it becomes painfully clear how arbitrary it all is, and that's just one vote! So it has been an interesting thing, to experience how bad I am at being objective about art. My bias is toward work I happen to connect with and I really can't shake it. So I certainly won't mind seeing this in the choices of other judges. The podcast episode on the Caldecott makes it really clear that this happens on every level, even at the top; the sheer number of books to read for the Caldecott makes it impossible for fairness to prevail! I cannot imagine absorbing so much material, let alone having a coherent opinion on anything after reading so many picture books. An entrant to any contest has work to do to understand the context of decisions made.

    So then when I consider all the offerings of svs: podcast episodes twice a month fantastically illustrated, the monthly contest, and Jump into the studio, I really think it might be unsustainable! I hope it's not. I also hope they do what they need to do to keep the contest monthly, because it sets up a nice rhythm for my work. if they can't, I might set some kind of monthly thing up for myself.

    A contest is like a job in that way, i think, and it's so much more calming for me to think of it from the other side than to pay too much attention to how I would want it to be set up ideally. The Caldecott thing is so big for librarians (I was a librarian, but not a children's librarian) and even though I obv love picture books, being selected for that 15 person committee sounds like a very severe punishment to me 😆

  • @carolinebautista

    I would agree that I worry about changing it would be too much work for them. I would rather have the contests monthly in this format than less often or not at all. However, they have been changing how they do the sweet 16 format every month.

    When they did the poll months ago, the two winners did get a critique, and the final two were picked by the judges, not by audience vote.

    I didn't mind when the audience narrowed it down and the judges picked the final. I was also okay with just the finalists getting a bit more of a detailed critique.

    In fact, in the contest details it says "Winner 1: video crit, plus the chance to do a paid illustration gig" I would argue that the winners don't get a video critique anymore.

  • @carlianne

    I definitely agree with each thing you've pointed out here! Especially the last thing. But it seemed like everyone liked it so much, it was like 90% or something in the poll preference for the voting format.

    I do think the format has been at least more consistent over the last 6 months than it has been in the past where it depended on whatever suited the entries and situation best. And the opinions of whichever two happened to be the judges. And then whatever extra images they felt it would be useful to talk about. And since I wasn't at this one I am unclear about who the judges were, but my impression is that Will Terry is kind of new to judging the contest and hasn't been as involved in the past, maybe not until December. I could be wrong on that though. So it seems like there is a bit of flexibility they need just to put the contest on! My guess is that they can't always know if there will be a scheduling conflict a month ahead of time, especially if so many things are scheduled for that same time. I doubt Lee White would have missed the critique normally since he decided on the prompt.

    While I think changing the format to be simpler could definitely lead to more consistency (I mean, i thought it was dealing with so many finalist images needing critique and administering the voting that led to the inconsistencies in the voting sessions) it seems like they have always needed leeway to change it to what they needed it to be to make it happen.

    I don't want anyone to be misled in terms of what they're looking for in the contest entries, or the format of choosing the winners. It's so hard to put your work out there, and it still is for me each month. So these are all thoughts I have after experiencing that sinking feeling six times now. 😞 This is definitely not me trying to correct anyone here, so I don't want it to come across that way (please tell me if it does, I do not mind - you can do the first downvote ever on this forum), it's just a collection of thoughts in having worked through each contest unsuccessfully, trying to manage it so that I can continue putting my work out there, trying to find some self-defined success within the process.

    And I'm definitely guessing. I just know that they set this up based on the preference shown in the poll, and that it's possible that for the contest to continue the entrants need to be extra flexible in seeing how it plays out as part of entering the contest.

    Edited to add: I think this live critique was locked into Thursday because of Jump Into the Studio and using the same time and day of the week, when it wasn't something they used to do. I have found the Jump into the studio sessions really amazing, so that's why i am not too worried that Lee White wasn't there. I'm sure that to many people it felt like completing an assignment for a class, and then walking into a new one? I will watch it as soon as the video is posted.

  • Ultimately does it really matter? Its just a bit of fun. Everyone has the opportunity to use this forum to get a ton of feedback, so who really cares who wins the contest? The judges give their opinions, take 'em or leave 'em.

  • Hi @gavpartridge, it is definitely fun for me! Personally, I enjoy the voting format! This discussion is certainly interesting too in hearing other’s perspectives. Appreciate everyone’s input.

  • @gavpartridge You mentioned the contests are just fun and it doesn’t really matter. The only reason it does matter is that we are paying participants. There is no one being considered in the judging who is not a paying subscriber. Compared to previous contests, the value is diminished without the critique. It seems to be the general rub from those who responded here that the in-depth teaching via critique is the key missing component. I fully agree that the contests are a blast! I love seeing everyone’s take on the topics and working within a deadline toward a portfolio worthy piece of my own.

    Most people (including me) love a lighthearted approach and jokes and fun. Consistency, clarity, and teaching just need a little tightening up especially when the subscriber numbers are higher. I am not leaving or “taking my crayons and going home” as I stated before. I am certainly not trying to spread negativity. I am only making theses statements as I have to consider value and $$ as I am making my choices. SVS is a blast. But I did not join just to have fun. I joined because I am serious about the stated purpose. I want to be better smash those goals to be a working illustrator.

  • @JennyJones Respect!. Thank you for your insight and positivity. I enjoy the the jokes and fun we all have in the live critique and format. This post is simply to voice my frustration in the aspect of confusion with the judging. It isn’t intended to be negative or target anything positive or negative about SVS or it’s owners.

    I too am vigorous in my approach to get to where i don’t even know where I can be and hopefully have fun along the way. I am currently frustrated in confusion how the judges approach these pieces. I am learning through the judges and this thread that it really comes down to what they like first and foremost. If it is this way, though I may be a little depleted, i can progress and manage my frustration in knowing that this is how it is.

    A gain thank you for your post. Much love. ONE!

  • @carlianne Much Respect! Thank you for your inspiration. You have answered a question that I didn’t even know I was asking. Connecting the dots I see the points of interest being content and technical skill. I would also like to add, after Will confirming it, “judges bias.” What they are simply liking adds to the mix.

    So maybe the hope for me now is that there is a healthy balance between the three.

    As for Isolation and determining what is positive or negative. I have my own belief that i think it could be both. The covid isolation may have been negative for individuals but ultimately, arguably, for human kind. If a character makes a negative situation positive and we are seeing that are they no longer isolated? - With all love

    Regardless on my beliefs on isolation. The conditions changed from prompt - to lee- to will and hey i can take it on the chin, It just seemed as if that standard push some out while it was neglected for others. Please understand i watched and love everything submitted. So this is not directed to anyone artwork.

    Thank you again for your patience and for your time. With much love. ONE!

  • @gavpartridge RESPECT1 Thanks for your insight. The focus of this thread isn’t to question the fun or the winners, but the miscommunication of this months prompt and to better understand if there is a technical perspective to the judges critiques, a personal perspective, or a mixture of both.

    Thank you for your response. Much Love. ONE!

  • @JennyJones I don't know about you, but these questions do really matter (so thank you @dafoota for starting this discussion) because I need to be smart about how I spend my time. My entry can be anything I need it to be - an svs class assignment, a portfolio piece, a personal piece - but that insurance that I'm learning with my time by making the prompt a secondary thing might just guarantee I never win. So I completely see what you're saying about not

    Every contest entry takes time and sometimes it's not a good fit. It really might not be for me.

    Maybe you can post your isolation entry into the featured student thread.

  • @carolinebautista Wow. I’m out on a limb but your reasoning/discernment seems top tiered!

    I thought about posting for students to give feedback, but it just seems like more of hassle. Here are my thoughts. I would have to discern through feedbacks that are helpful, some that are of topic, and some being bias heavy. I also know because this community is so positive I suspect that it would be difficult to actually get strong constructive criticism.

    I have not went this route and I’ll heavily consider it. With no disrespect to the wise students I’ma go to the source first type of person.

    With much love and respect. ONE!

  • @dafoota I agree it can be positive, and also that what that word means is probably different for each individual, and so I understand the feeling of bait and switch.

    What I was trying to say though is the definition of Isolation itself notes that is generally negative. From Webster dictionary:. "ISOLATION stresses detachment from others often involuntarily." So when we think of the word the first feeling you get with that is a negative one.

    Now Lee was pointing out like you said, that it can be positive and that's totally valid. But I think what Will was trying to say, was if you put a person alone in a space. If the feeling matches "isolated" with more of a somber mood or feeling. Then it can work. But if it's happy which doesn't immediately read as isolation (but more relaxed or alone) then you'll need to do more to show the disconnect of that person from others. Like Braden's for example.

    It doesn't mean that you or others were wrong for showing happy or anything. Just that when he looked at it, as an outside observer, it didn't immediately read as isolated to him. And you're right that this can vary from person to person, but that is also part of why it's really important to share your work with others and ask what they see and get feedback.

    And also, he was critiqing these at a lightning pace, and gave his gut reaction. With more time they might have been more consistent or said something else.

    Hope that helps

  • @JennyJones fair enough.

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    Hey, wow! I go on vacation for a week and then all this pops up! You guys keep me on my toes! : )

    This month was a little bit unique in that it was my topic, but I happen to be out of town for the judging. I saw the top 16 before I left and loved them! But it was absolutely possible for Will to have a different take than I would have. That is just how it worked out this time and I do understand the confusion.

    Ultimately though, I still want to stress that the contests main goal is NOT to get in the top 16, the top 8, the top 4, or even to win. The main point is for you to get a portfolio piece out of it that fits exactly where you are going in your career. For example, if someone was going to be a concept designer and work mainly on characters, they could submit a great character sheet with turnarounds and expressions. Would that win? Nope, probably not. But that would be what that person needs. I do not want you trying to cater to the judges because that would defeat the purpose of this. The purpose is to move YOU forward in YOUR career. That is why we don't clarify too much when giving these prompts. Too much information and it would start to look like we were art directing the contest.

    I understand that winning feels great too so ideally you would get a portfolio piece AND win too! But that should never be the goal. Keep entering your best and keep on painting!

    Let me know if you have any questions at all. I'd be happy to answer them.

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