The world’s biggest fan-art competition, March Art Madness, has challenged its competitors to pit some of gaming’s greatest heroes against their natural rivals. The result has been some impressive, and unexpected, combinations.
The international contest is the brainchild of the up-and-coming comic book publisher Saturday AM. The single elimination-tournament allows its contestants to show their art to a handful of judges who critique and score each work live on YouTube.
For those who have advanced far in the contest, like Canadian artist Tyler Nokes, the experience can be both challenging and encouraging.
“Making it this far and hearing what experienced creators have to say about my work has been a huge confidence boost, but the best part of it is getting the prompt for each round and envisioning the many possible pieces to be made based on it,” said Nokes. “I want to say the biggest challenge is staring at a blank canvas and stressing over where to start, but honestly it’s the waiting between rounds that drives me mad.”
Many of the artists have found that the contest has forced them to expand their artistic abilities in new ways.
“With each different theme I was trying new things that I have never tried before!” said Alyssa Holmes, whose latest work of art features Chun Li in a battle against Scorpion. “Plus, when I saw all the amazing art from each round, it inspired me to try harder, and go further out of my comfort zone with my art!”
But while it may be a unique challenge, March Art Madness also helps its contestants get used to what it’s like to work under strict deadline. Hungarian artist Mano Megyeri, whose fan art pitted Death Stranding’s Sam up against Mewtwo, said that while the contest might be unusual in nature, it’s format is not too different from what an artist is required to do on a professional level.
“They’re basically the same thing,” said Megyeri. “You throw me a task, and I complete it before the deadline. March Art Madness is instructive for beginners and a pretty good way to test our advantages and limits.”
The contest provides more than just the ability for artists to test themselves under pressure — it also provides a new way for artists to be discovered.
Frank Simmonds, who is hoping to build his career as a professional artist, believes that the contest is helping him showcase his unique blend of traditional and digital art. He thinks the contest as a whole helps promote new artists and diversity in the art field.
“I feel that March Art Madness is a shining demonstration of allowing diversity to be promoted, and there’s a great sense of community forming immediately through the competition and all of Saturday AM’s content,” said Frank. “I’m glad to have found more appreciation for my own artwork among competitors and visitors alike. It’s a definitive example of how people from many walks of life can all become connected by art.”
Of course, it’s not just the experience and exposure that’s driving these artists — the contest has a prize as well. The winner will receive an Apple iPad and an Apple Pencil. Others contestants will still receive prizes from some of the contest’s sponsors, such as Spectrum Noir, Celsys, and and Panda Mony Toys.
But in the end, it’s not the prizes that drew the artists to the contest.
“Win or lose, my whole journey as an artist is based around the sequential arts, so a growing comic publisher like Saturday-AM has not seen the last of me,” said Nokes. “I’ve been eyeing this year’s ‘Summer of Manga’ event for a while now and it would be a great opportunity to get one of my one-shot ideas out there.”
This article was originally posted on thegamer.com and can be found in its entirety here.