Sunday, June 3, 2012

4th Annual Young Artists Contest

   It's hard to believe that this will be the 4th YAC this summer.  I started this contest for artists ages 13 to 17 in 2009, mainly for my young daughter, who was feeling that she had no chance of winning anything in any of the contests that she saw being sponsored by deviantART itself or its members when there were so many gifted artists everywhere she looked.  It then occurred to me how blessed I had been that, when I grew up in Japan, there were city-sponsored art competitions twice a year for children in elementary and middle schools.  I participated in as many as I could and enjoyed them thoroughly, and the prizes and recognition these contests gave me did wonders for my self-esteem as well as saving me lots of money for I was always awarded a new set of watercolors in tubes for each of the gold prizes and silver prizes I had won in these events.  In fact, I never had to buy watercolors past 4th grade through middle school.

   With struggling economy and budget cuts everywhere in the school systems, arts and arts-related events are not getting their share of funding.  And it occurred to me that I wasn't seeing art contests on deviantART sponsored by individuals that were specifically meant for young artists.  I am still bewildered why this is...

   I ran the first YAC in the summer of 2009 in hopes of encouraging and giving recognition to young talents. I decided to focus on the 2D art done in traditional media only for this, mainly because I was seeing a lot of digital art by young people who totally lacked fundamental skills and clearly struggling to achieve their inner visions on their monitor screens.

   I had my friends donating mostly gift/request art and journal features with a few 3-month subscriptions thrown in for prizes for the first YAC, but we still received some 150 valid entries and some were spectacular.  It was evident that there were a lot of talented kids with passion for art out there.

   Second year on, I decided to run the contest on what the deviantART calls a "group".  It made the organizing of the event a lot simpler and gave me less of a headache, but I still dealt with questions sent in from kids who were simply too lazy to read instructions.  90% of the questions every year receive a reply from me: "Please refer to the contest rules."  But the good thing about YAC by the second year was that, based on the response I got on the first YAC, interest level was up and so was the sponsor participation.  We now had more subscriptions, journal features, gift art, etc.  The prize chest became substantial.  I had also made good friends who were reliable adults, dedicated to this cause as I was.  Things ran much more smoothly and everything was enjoyable.

  Now that I've been a professional artist for a couple of years, I've made more friends in the field, and I am getting more response from these friends as I post a call for donations and sponsorship.  The prize chest is starting to fill nicely, and this is just the first day of donation-raising campaign for me.  I've heard back from many of the previous year's judges who are all willing to help out once again, and new donors are stepping forward.  I am feeling truly blessed to be able to give back to the art community in this 'forward' way by encouraging the younger generation of artists.  I am pleased to say that many of YAC winners/graduates are continuing to pursue art in higher education after graduating from high school.  This will be my first year to invite some of the YAC winners/graduates on board the judges' panel to help me out with the process.  I am so excited that this event is growing each year in so many ways.

   Young Artists Contest on deviantART begins June 16, 2012.

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