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Draw Becky card contest: Dissecting the entries

 
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Canetoonist



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PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2009 3:29 am    Post subject: Draw Becky card contest: Dissecting the entries Reply with quote

I've learned some things so far based on the results of the Webcomic Beacon's "Draw Becky" contest (Here's a link). Most of it may be subjective:

1) Size matters.

There seems to be a positive correlation between how big Becky is compared to the background and how well each entry did. In retrospect, the card art is supposed to focus on the character, not the background. Duh. Embarassed

2) Positioning matters too.

Half of the entries (1, 2, 4, 5, 6) have the same basic positioning: Becky facing slightly to the right, but looking at us. It's debatable, but for me at least, the farther down the entry, the more obvious this positioning became.

#4, the winner of the contest, used this "formula", but the closeup nature of the image and the dynamic pose hid it well (more dynamic/lively poses tended to do better than less lively ones).

3) Shading did diddly-squat

All but one or two people used some form of shading (8 and 1). #8 ended up getting tied for third. More complicated/realistic art tended to actually do worse than cartoony, simple art.


There may be more to glean from this contest, and the above points are really unscientifically determined...so I could use some input on this.
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Alexander Hamilton



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PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2009 12:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I voted for the top two entries. ( : I think part of it may have been how the art looks at a smaller size. After all, you're less likely to click on the thumbnails that don't catch your eye. So, the closeups would do better in that regard. Also, detailed artwork is just, in general, harder to pull off. So-so detailed and soft shading will lose against a confident but more cartoony look. At least, that's what I think.
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munkymu
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2009 7:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Proportions matter more than any of the other stuff, except possibly size.

The two winners had really appealing proportions and nice flowing lines. Their shading, especially of hair, actually followed the flow of the hair rather than being a messy hodgepodge of airbrushing. The winner didn't have all *that* simple shading, but because it was actually good and fit with the picture it didn't look complicated or overly detailed. Some of the other people went nuts with the burn and dodge but it didn't do shit for them because they didn't know how to make it look like hair.

If you can't analyze the design elements and understand what looks appealing and what doesn't, you're going assign undue importance to things like shading. "This person has complicated shading but didn't do well! That must mean that people prefer simple shading!" Unfortunately, if the person in question shades like a monkey and has an unappealing design to boot, what conclusion can you really draw other than "people who know what they're doing are going to win"?

As for positioning, that's just basic composition. I assume the template had the beacon on the right. That means the character goes on the left. Having them face into the picture feels a lot more natural than having them face out. 3/4 pose is more dynamic than straight-on. So the majority of people would have taken that route anyway.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 08, 2009 7:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Have to admit, the order of that list is exactly how I would have ordered them in terms of artistic quality and visual impact.
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Canetoonist



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PostPosted: Wed Dec 09, 2009 12:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

munkymu wrote:
Proportions matter more than any of the other stuff, except possibly size.

The two winners had really appealing proportions and nice flowing lines. Their shading, especially of hair, actually followed the flow of the hair rather than being a messy hodgepodge of airbrushing. The winner didn't have all *that* simple shading, but because it was actually good and fit with the picture it didn't look complicated or overly detailed. Some of the other people went nuts with the burn and dodge but it didn't do shit for them because they didn't know how to make it look like hair.

If you can't analyze the design elements and understand what looks appealing and what doesn't, you're going assign undue importance to things like shading. "This person has complicated shading but didn't do well! That must mean that people prefer simple shading!" Unfortunately, if the person in question shades like a monkey and has an unappealing design to boot, what conclusion can you really draw other than "people who know what they're doing are going to win"?


Thing is, none of the entries are poorly shaded (I think?). It's just different styles, yet for the most part the styles that were more intricate did worse.

munkymu wrote:

As for positioning, that's just basic composition. I assume the template had the beacon on the right. That means the character goes on the left. Having them face into the picture feels a lot more natural than having them face out. 3/4 pose is more dynamic than straight-on. So the majority of people would have taken that route anyway.


Yes...but the top entries were those that either could overcome that inclination or, in the case of entry 4, disguise it. Entry 7 and 3 do somewhat poorly despite breaking the format, but that's likely due to being too small and not very dynamic.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 09, 2009 1:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Canetoonist wrote:
3) Shading did diddly-squat

All but one or two people used some form of shading (8 and 1). #8 ended up getting tied for third. More complicated/realistic art tended to actually do worse than cartoony, simple art.

Questionable. Simply because the inclusion of shading did not, in itself, have a clearly evident effect on results doesn't mean that it was irrelevant; the two winners handled their shading in a far more competent manner than some others, giving the character a sense of volume and life that was lacking elsewhere. I don't think it's any coincidence that #8, which simply skipped shading altogether, was more succesful than those entries with far more basic, inappropriate or poorly implemented attempts.
Shading's a tool, after all, not a feature. It's just as easy to detract from an image through misuse as it is to add to it.

Canetoonist wrote:
Thing is, none of the entries are poorly shaded (I think?). It's just different styles, yet for the most part the styles that were more intricate did worse.

There's more to the quality of an image than technical competence; many of the entires, regardless of the quality of work in itself, used a style which was unsuitable, and so far less successful. The task called for a strong, iconic image, so a style such as that attempted in #9 was simply inappropriate, regardless of how well it was undertaken. If one is asked to design a twenty-storey office block, to use a nerdishly architecural analogy, one does not adopt an extravagantly baroque aesthetic, because, regardless of whether you are a world-class master or dribbling incompetent, the style is simpy not efficient, appropriate or visually engaging when applied to that particular brief.

(For the record, I actually prefer the shading on #10 more than #4. It's more solid and confident; the clash of bold block colour and gradient shading on #4 just serves to flatten a bit the image for me.)
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Canetoonist



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PostPosted: Wed Dec 09, 2009 2:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Traitorfish wrote:

Shading's a tool, after all, not a feature. It's just as easy to detract from an image through misuse as it is to add to it.

...

There's more to the quality of an image than technical competence; many of the entires, regardless of the quality of work in itself, used a style which was unsuitable, and so far less successful. The task called for a strong, iconic image, so a style such as that attempted in #9 was simply inappropriate, regardless of how well it was undertaken. If one is asked to design a twenty-storey office block, to use a nerdishly architecural analogy, one does not adopt an extravagantly baroque aesthetic, because, regardless of whether you are a world-class master or dribbling incompetent, the style is simpy not efficient, appropriate or visually engaging when applied to that particular brief.


That was pretty eloquently put Smile...

I was stretching a bit with the shading thing, it seems.

Summing up/putting it all together:

1) Closeups worked better because they focused on the character, not the action/background

2) Shading (and any advanced technique) only works if the drawing calls for it/if you can pull it off. Otherwise, it may be better to skip it entirely. Positioning, proportions, on the other hand...very important, pretty basic actually.

(Really, though, all of this is sounding like common sense in retrospect.)
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 09, 2009 4:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Canetoonist wrote:

Thing is, none of the entries are poorly shaded (I think?). It's just different styles, yet for the most part the styles that were more intricate did worse.


Contrary to popular belief, discovery of the airbrush, smudge, dodge & burn tools does not normally lead to good shading.

Canetoonist wrote:

Yes...but the top entries were those that either could overcome that inclination or, in the case of entry 4, disguise it. Entry 7 and 3 do somewhat poorly despite breaking the format, but that's likely due to being too small and not very dynamic.


The top entries were those that were of good size and design. I'm betting the composition had far less to do with the voting than you suspect. For example, if composition was that important, why didn't Entry 07 do better than Entry 02?

Canetoonist wrote:

(Really, though, all of this is sounding like common sense in retrospect.)


Oh yes, the rules of art are ridiculously easy to learn, and insanely difficult to apply. In hindsight it's always "yes OF COURSE my thing wasn't dynamic enough and had terrible values, I see that now" and yet the next time you think you're following all the "rules", everything comes out just as bad as before, and then someone who seems to be operating on an entirely different set of rules comes and flattens you.
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Canetoonist



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PostPosted: Wed Dec 09, 2009 7:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

munkymu wrote:


The top entries were those that were of good size and design. I'm betting the composition had far less to do with the voting than you suspect. For example, if composition was that important, why didn't Entry 07 do better than Entry 02?



Well, they aren't that far from each other. :p
You're right, size and design are the most important parts. Still, with size and art being equal, having Becky break the composition mold seemed to have a non-negligible effect. Entry 1 is particularly glaring, though. It's "bigger" than entries 3 and 9, well drawn, in a good pose, yet it is low on the totem pole. Maybe the style is too realistic?

munkymu wrote:


Oh yes, the rules of art are ridiculously easy to learn, and insanely difficult to apply. In hindsight it's always "yes OF COURSE my thing wasn't dynamic enough and had terrible values, I see that now" and yet the next time you think you're following all the "rules", everything comes out just as bad as before, and then someone who seems to be operating on an entirely different set of rules comes and flattens you.


That is a slightly depressing thought. I'm assuming the cycle will end, since someone did do the flattening?
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 09, 2009 8:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Canetoonist wrote:
Entry 1 is particularly glaring, though. It's "bigger" than entries 3 and 9, well drawn, in a good pose, yet it is low on the totem pole. Maybe the style is too realistic?


Entry 1's values aren't very good, so it comes across as flat and bland. And Dungeon Legacy guy is notorious for stiff figures. He actually did a decent job on this one.

Canetoonist wrote:

That is a slightly depressing thought. I'm assuming the cycle will end, since someone did do the flattening?


Really? I find it fascinating. Art is like this enormous, endlessly entertaining puzzle. Every time you think you have it figured out, it surprises you.

I don't know if the cycle ends, but one's knowledge of the rules becomes refined over time. And eventually, flatteners are exciting rather than depressing because they give you a bunch of new stuff to think about.
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Canetoonist



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PostPosted: Thu Dec 10, 2009 7:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

munkymu wrote:

Entry 1's values aren't very good, so it comes across as flat and bland.


Ah, okay.

munkymu wrote:


Really? I find it fascinating. Art is like this enormous, endlessly entertaining puzzle. Every time you think you have it figured out, it surprises you.

I don't know if the cycle ends, but one's knowledge of the rules becomes refined over time. And eventually, flatteners are exciting rather than depressing because they give you a bunch of new stuff to think about.


When you put it like that, it sounds a lot better. Very Happy
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