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So You Want to Join an Art Contest?

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Must Save Jim by 7hekro600

Have you ever considered entering an art contest online? Are you someone who's ready and raring to go as soon as a new one posts to your favorite website, your fingers twitching with pent-up excitement at the chance to compete and show your metal to the world? 

As an artist who lives for the contest scene, I can assure you that you're not alone. I've found several amazing digital artists who contribute to the fray of awesome, and were gracious enough to answer a few questions about their experiences over the years of competition.  

Angga Tatama

How long have you been creating art, and how long have you been participating in contests?

I liked to draw since I was child, but professionally I've been working for about 5 years. About the contest, I do not follow it very often actually. But I will participate if the contest is appropriate with my style of drawing.

How important is winning to you? Contests can usher in quite a few feelings, so what is your immediate response to winning/not being selected? Is there a tactic you use to move on to the next contest?

Because I enjoy the process, I think if I lost I wouldn't be so disappointed. I could post my artwork into my portfolio. So nothing is wasted. But if I win of course I would feel happy.

Angga Tatama
Illustrated by Angga Tantama, Assassin's Creed: Unity

Has participating in contests helped you in some way: launching your career, meeting other artists, etc.?

Yes, of course joining contests is very helpful. You can learn a lot of things, like increasing your ability, trying to be better from the other contestants and more. When the contest is interesting, it makes you excited. It would be useless if it didn't.

Asher Benson

Have you placed in any contests that you’re profoundly proud of? If so, what happened to your artwork? Did it become the sole property of the company hosting the contest or did you retain some if not all of the ownership?

Yes, I was very fortunate to take first place in the Fairytales Gone Bad contest hosted by DeviantART.com with a piece I called "Malice and Friends". I would have to say, though, that the contest entry I'm the most proud of was for the Outcast Odyssey competition. I didn't place, but I was so happy with how much I had progressed after all these years, that it was a win-win for me regardless.

Asher Benson
Illustrated by Asher Benson, Capt. Cable V. Lightleg

Has participating in contests helped you in some way: launching your career, meeting other artists, etc.?

I truly believe most of my progress skill-wise has been due to my participation in contests. I have participated in over 60 contests over the years, and I plan to continue to do so. I've made many connections, and it's a great way to push yourself to make art. Sometimes you have a case of artist's block that only a contest can really get rid of.

Do you prefer larger contests or smaller community-based ones?

I prefer the bigger ones actually. I understand that there's a bigger chance of you placing in a small contest, but in the back of my mind I worry as to whether that particular contest will have enough participants. There are instances where they've been canceled simply due to the lack of participation, and I love seeing a project through to the end.

Bruno Cesar

How long have you been creating art, and how long have you been participating in contests?

Well, my family has always been very artistic—my father met my mother in a painting class—so I’ve been born in this artistic environment, seeing my parents painting, sculpting for hobby. So I always followed their steps, but I only started to take it more seriously at age 16, when I got my first commission in DA, and being in touch with artists from all around the world helped me to see that it could be a real career, despite everyone telling me it was impossible to live as a professional artist. So I started to participate in several contests, challenges in various communities like DA, Conceptart.org, Gameartisans, 3Dtotal and several others.

Bruno Cesar 1
Illustrated by Bruno Cesar, Battle for the Tribute

Do you participate to win, or is there another reason that factors into your participation?

Well, winning is always cool, but honestly it’s not exactly my drive. I like to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone, so I’m always competing with myself before I try to compete with others, and I what I like more in contests is to meet new artists and learn new things with them.

"Winning is always cool, but honestly it’s not exactly my drive..." —Bruno Cesar, Artist

Have you placed in any contests that you’re profoundly proud of?

The contest I’m most proud of is the Dreamscape challenge on GameArtisans. It was a hard time for me, I was low on jobs, starting to question myself if it was really what I should do with my life, and then out of nowhere I won the first place! It was a small challenge, but I saw so many awesome entries, and I had no hope to win it; but as I saw the results it got me motivated to keep painting.

Has participating in contests helped you in some way: launching your career, meeting other artists, etc.?

Sure! One thing I always loved about the illustrators is that most of them are humble, down to earth people, who love to help each other, even in a competition. Most of the artists I keep in touch with I’ve met in contests, collabs and challenges; but one challenge that really launched my career was the 152 Brazilian Artists Pokedex Project, where I met several amazing artist, and became friends with most of them. I was the last one to enter the collab because no one wanted to draw the Dugtrio and a friend of mine asked me to join. On the day of the launch I got many e-mails requesting commissions, some job proposals because people loved the solution I gave for the dugtrio.

After that I decided to create some other collabs, then I created the “Grupo das Collabs” which was a placeholder name, but It stuck! Then we created hundreds of collaborative projects during those two last years, it helped lots of artists to launch their careers, meet new friends and learn more from the feedback of other participants. It’s really something I’m proud of.

Bruno Cesar 2
Illustrated by Bruno Cesar, Kingdoms: Captain Sark

Did you ever feel too nervous to join a particular contest? Did anyone reassure and inspire you to join regardless?

To be honest I was nervous to participate in the heroes of the storm contest. Anyone who knows me well know that my biggest influence is Samwise Didier from Blizzard. It is thanks to him and his awesome art in Warcraft 3 that got me drawing more seriously, and it made me find out that the profession “Concept Artist” exists. 

Since I was a kid I loved to draw the games I wanted to create. I didn’t know it at that time, but I already wanted to be a concept artist; so I was really nervous to know that Samwise could make a sketch of my painting. I was panicking with the initial sketches, but some friends helped me with their feedback and gave me more confidence in the composition I decided to use, so I must thank them here: Paulo, Gabi, Manola, Cinthia, the guys from the Dente. Thanks a lot for your support. Keep being awesome!

"Quoting Shia Labeouf “JUST DO EET!”, it can’t hurt to participate, just show your art around." —Bruno Cesar, Artist

For someone starting out, how would you encourage them to participate?

Quoting Shia Labeouf “JUST DO EET!”, it can’t hurt to participate, just show your art around. Of course there will be some terrible people who will try to get you down, but there will be also some awesome people who will want to help you, give some advice, feedback and you can make new friends, so just show your art around, be nice with the other artists and always be open for critics. It’s the only way to learn and improve.

Marga Donaire

How long have you been creating art, and how long have you been participating in contests?

It may sound cliché, but I've been creating art since I could hold a crayon. And I keep doing it!

How important is winning to you? Contests can usher in quite a few feelings, so what is your immediate response to winning/not being selected? Is there a tactic you use to move on to the next contest?

Winning the first prize is important, but you can also win in other ways. You can learn a new technique or improve your skills inspired by other’s works. You can get useful feedback, meet new people and make friends. I don't feel bad if the quality of the winner is higher than mine, I can always learn from this! Sometimes we may disagree with the results, but we shouldn't let this affect us. We must keep working.

"I don't feel bad if the quality of the winner is higher than mine, I can always learn from this! Sometimes we may disagree with the results, but we shouldn't let this affect us. We must keep working." —Marga Donaire, Artist

Have you placed in any contests that you’re profoundly proud of?

Sure! The contest “Lightning Returns” organized by deviantART and Square Enix. It was an amazing experience and I'm really proud of it. 

Marga Donaire
Illustrated by Marga Donaire, Son of the Dragon

Has participating in contests helped you in some way: launching your career, meeting other artists, etc.?

It always refines your skills if you give your best. And it can also be crucial for your career because many companies follow competitions in search of new talents. In my case this is what happened. Of course, work is also a distraction, and you can always meet interesting people.

"Many companies follow competitions in search of new talents..." — Marga Donaire, Artist
Marga Donaire 2
Illustrated by Marga Donaire, Wilhelmina

Did you ever feel too nervous to join a particular contest? Did anyone reassure and inspire you to join?

The truth is that I felt really nervous when I joined the one I won! I was a big fan of the company and it was very, very exciting.

Regardless? For someone starting out, how would you encourage them to participate?

It's a great chance to let others know you while you grow as an artist. Take every opportunity to learn, work hard and always bring out the best from every competition; one way or another, you always win. 

Matt Howerter

How important is winning to you? Contests can usher in quite a few feelings, so what is your immediate response to winning/not being selected? Is there a tactic you use to move on to the next contest?

Winning is freakin' awesome, just no other feeling like it really. Losing sucks but it's not the end of the world. It's worth it to continue on even if you don't win. You get to interact with a lot of talented people and they get to see your work.

Matt Howerter
Illustrated by Matt Howerter, The Ugly Truth

Has participating in contests helped you in some way: launching your career, meeting other artists, etc.?

They haven't launched my career but they have gotten me work. Exposure is a real benefit to these things, and yes, I've been able to mingle with some really talented people because of them.

Did you ever feel too nervous to join a particular contest? Did anyone reassure and inspire you to join regardless? For someone starting out, how would you encourage them to participate?

I don't think about that kind of thing when I'm participating in contests. I'm thinking about how many people are going to see my work, and hoping to meet some really cool people. For people thinking about doing a contest, I'd say go for it. Just get you mind in the right place before you do: Go for the win, but expect to lose. Have fun, and always keep making art.

Reidun Rian

How long have you been creating art, and how long have you been participating in contests?

I have been drawing on a hobby basis my whole life, and started drawing digitally about 7 years ago and never looked back. I really cannot say how long I have been participating in contest (not very serious ones for the most part), but I have been joining contests mostly after I started drawing digitally.

Reidun Rian
Illustrated by Reidun Rian, Explorer

Do you participate to win, or is there another reason that factors into your participation?

I know it sounds terribly cliche, but I don't participate to win. I get inspired by contests, and I find it to be a very good way for me to improve my skills and it is great practice to have to draw after certain guidelines. And I love browsing through all the entries on DeviantArt. Seeing how people solve the criteria for the contest is inspiring and is a great way for me to learn to be more creative in my works. 

Have you placed in any contests that you’re profoundly proud of?

The one I am most proud of didn't place. I submitted to a Blizzard contest they had for Gamescom, I never heard anything and pretty much forgot about that contest until a former classmate noticed it on a screen (that probably showed all/most entries) at Gamescom. That was more than a win for me. 

Suva Degei

How long have you been creating art, and how long have you been participating in contests?

Well I guess I've been at it since I was a little nipper, but only got into digital art in the last couple of years. Especially within the last year. Contests are relatively new to me. I never considered my work good enough to enter until recently. It was always so intimidating to see the quality of other entrants. 

Suva Degei
Illustrated by Suva Degei, AZ vs ZT

Has participating in contests helped you in some way: launching your career, meeting other artists, etc.?

We'll I'm by no means a professional artist, so hopefully one day I can say a contest has helped launched my career. That would definitely be a huge achievement for me. As of now I'm very thankful for the access to challenges and competitions because the competitive aspect has certainly driven me to push myself further and try harder. I can easily say I'm a better artist for it. It also happens to be a great distraction from the monotony of day to day labor. 

"I'm very thankful for the access to challenges and competitions because the competitive aspect has certainly driven me to push myself further and try harder." —Suva Degei, Artist

Did you ever feel too nervous to join a particular contest? Did anyone reassure and inspire you to join regardless? For someone starting out, how would you encourage them to participate?

Hah, story of my life. I've spent the last couple of years stalking the competition forums and wishing I was good enough to enter. I think it was just a matter of reaching a point where I felt I was good enough/not too self conscious to enter.

I reckon seeing as I'm in the same boat as a lot of others who aren't professionals and don't think they're good enough. Just go for it. It seems the community, for the vast majority at least, are really positive, helpful and willing to share their knowledge with you, and just by putting yourself out there, you'll find you're rapidly improving and quickly becoming a far better artist for it.

Thomas Némery

How long have you been creating art, and how long have you been participating in contests?

As far as I can remember, I was always drawing in my childhood. At five years old, I was (and still am) a super big fan of Star Wars. And I was copying a lot of frames of my comics.

Then, I moved to a lot of things like crafting costumes using cardboard and scotch, doing mini STAR WARS movies with my friends, creating one page long comic strips (because I hadn't the will to finish them...), sculpting digitally with Zbrush, modeling 3D environments with GtkRadiant for a game called Jedi Academy, painting traditionally and digitally, creating CG movies with 3ds max and Nuke within the school etc... Quite a long process !

It has been for two years now that I am learning digital painting throught the internet by watching very useful YouTube channels such as FZD, Level Up!, Sycra, Sinix design etc...

I have been participating in contests for one year now. My first one being the Disney Art Challenge.

Thomas Nmery 1
Illustrated by Thomas Némery, Goblin Cook

Did you ever feel too nervous to join a particular contest? Did anyone reassure and inspire you to join regardless?

In every contest I apply now, I go in with a winning spirit. Because there will be a lot more talented artists than me, it will give me even more motivation to improve my skills, because I will try to reach their level. That's why for me, a contest is always fun to be a part of. 

Of course, for the first contest I attended, I was a bit nervous, because it was the first time that the « world » would see my work and since I was only painting digitally for one year, I was afraid that it would look ridiculous to people. But after the challenge I had a good general feedback, so I was reassured and knew what to work on to correct my mistakes. 

The only thing that matters is that you had fun doing it and that it makes you improve your skills and meet awesome people.

Thomas Nmery 2
Illustrated by Thomas Némery, Must Save Jim

For someone starting out, how would you encourage them to participate?

Just go! You should not hesitate one more second. Participating into a contest can only be beneficial for you. Your art isn't good enough? It will be improved by your super motivation. There are too many talented artists? You can be one of them. All you need is the determination to surpass yourself. 

Also, if you "lose" every time like me, and you think it is a waste of time, don't worry, you will improve a lot by each contest because you have the motivation to impress people and deliver something that is remarkable, that you are really proud of. And who knows, maybe one day after several, hundreds, thousands of contests, you will certainly see some drastic skill improvement and build new unforgettable relationships!

Vince Chui

How long have you been creating art, and how long have you been participating in contests?

Creating art since I can remember. I think everyone starts off drawing even when they're small. Just that not everyone keeps drawing sadly. I think I only started to participate in contests in 2008. For the Udon's Street Fighter book. I only submitted the one art piece. I recall it was the first time I got my Cintiq. It was a lot of fun. 

Illustrated by Vince Chui Zombie Easter Rabbit vs Monster Eggs
Illustrated by Vince Chui, Zombie Easter Rabbit vs. Monster Eggs

Have you placed in any contests that you’re profoundly proud of?

There's one I got into with Alberto Ruiz's art books a while back that was fun.
I love Alberto's work so I was felt really lucky when he choose my work to be part of the book series. Alberto Ruiz: EYE CANDY vol 2.

"Create a network of art friends locally and online if you can. It will help you grow and motivate you." —Vince Chui, Artist

For someone starting out, how would you encourage them to participate?

Mostly PEER PRESSURE helps. If you've got art buddies who participating, it can really motivate you to get to enter and get it done on time!!!!

Create a network of art friends locally and online if you can. It will help you grow and motivate you. You learn from each other, inspire each other. It's a big help.

Wenart Gunadi

How long have you been creating art, and how long have you been participating in contests?

Well, I`ve been creating art since when I was a kid, though I don't remember when. I think most of the artists start creating their art since they were a kids, and I`ve been participating in contests since I started to attend college. At that time I began to seriously study art and design by taking a design major.

Wenart Gunadi
Illustrated by Wenart Gunadi, I Got His Butt

Do you participate to win, or is there another reason that factors into your participation?

No, I don't participate to win, but that doesn't mean I won't give it my best shot!

My motives in joining a contest are to gain more knowledge and get know some of people who are actually experts in this kind of thing. When we join a contest in a forum, like Dominance war for instance, we can learn a lot from the artists who share their creative process, where the concept come from, technique, etc. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, if you're still assuming that you have no business trying your hand in a contest, we're all here to tell you different! This is your chance to shine. Your hard work and effort is appreciated and valued by others. Your peers are out there and they're ready to compete with you. Don't be afraid to join in the fun. Be it a win or a lose, you're walking away with more than you originally came in with. As one contest closes, another will surely sparkle and catch your eye across the horizon.

I would like to take a moment to thank all of the wonderful artists who took time out of their busy schedules to fill us in on the contest world: 

I recommend you take a look at their fabulous artwork. These amazing people are a true testament to the benefits of contest participation. Hopefully you have found their insights as helpful as I have. 

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