Crystal Canvas Rookies: Our Contest for Emerging Artists.

03 Apr 23
9 minutes

Fostering young talents is one of the aspects of our core value of #GrowTogether. After all, we believe that it’s not just our own growth that is important, but our whole gaming community’s as well. That’s why we decided to partner with Crystal Canvas to create Crystal Canvas Rookies, an art contest that helps emerging artists promote their work, get feedback from TSG experts, and win awesome prizes.

The contest saw 77 submissions from 23 countries in two categories: Character and Environment Design, with the theme of myth and legends surrounding forests and water. 

How did it come to be?

“The idea for the contest came to be back when I was studying at the University of Fine Arts in Poznań. Computer Games and the world of art have fascinated me since I was a child. I was disappointed by how modern art regarded video games and digital art as a whole. I decided to do something about it.” Alexandra Lison, the contest’s curator, explains, “I decided to do something about it, and that’s how The Crystal Canvas Prize came to be. The name is inspired by the change in the medium used by artists, from traditional canvases to liquid crystal displays. I believe traditional art lovers are wrong to be distrustful of digital art. They’re skeptical of new technology, but they often fail to recognize that digital artists still use traditional techniques. This forced video game art to be developed outside these institutions. This means a lot of gaming industry artists are self-taught. Modern art became difficult and unobvious, requiring education to understand. Traditional art became stale. Video game art thus became a place where grassroots movements were able to combine tradition with modernity.”

The Crystal Canvas Prize became an annual highlight of the Poznań Game Arena, but Alexandra wanted to do more, especially for those who were just starting out in the digital art world.

“I’m glad that people have stopped questioning the place of video game art in the landscape, and I’m happy to have been a part of that process. The avalanche of the popularity of digital art has on one hand, helped many artists grow, but on the other, has made it harder for young artists to gain recognition. Luckily, patronage is an integral part of art, and now, thanks to TSG, artists could try their hand at creating artwork for Crystal Canvas Rookies.” Alexandra adds.

A Lot of Character

“Even though the contest was directed to emerging artists, I can tell that what they presented are really high-quality concepts, in which they put a lot of effort and hard work – which is not always seen even among professional designers. That’s why I think cooperating with new generations is so refreshing, and both sides can benefit.” Adrianna Foryś, member of the jury and Senior 2D Artist at Ten Square Games tells us. “What amazed me was how they interpreted the myths from their cultures. They made truly coherent entries, from beautiful illustrations to amazing descriptions,” she adds.

Other than Adrianna and Alexandra, the jury was made up of industry veterans.Tsvetelin Krastev, and David Mullich, as well as TSG employees Michał Pilch, and Alex Pieniążek.

“Picking the best works is always hard. The level and diversity of the designs have eclipsed my expectations. What the Rookies lacked in experience, they made up for with their creativity and interpretation of the topic at hand. The main theme of “Myths and Legends” was awesome in combination with the great international interest in the competition. Artists always add their experiences and emotion to work. In myths, which are archetypal and diverse depending on culture, yet at the same time universal and common for all people in how we view the world, we could really appreciate the aesthetic perceptions from around the world.” Alexandra Lison explains.

Eventually, the win in the Character category went to Malwina Werner, with Artur Michta and Liza Daragenskaya completing the podium. 

“At first, I was completely shocked! In the morning of the day when results were to be posted, I remember trying to not bring my hopes up. I didn’t believe for a single second that I could win, as I started to think about concept art as a possible career path for me only in January this year, and Elga was my first ever concept art-related project. So now it feels absolutely amazing knowing that my work was appreciated by professionals from the gaming industry!” Malwina Werner tells us.

The artwork was inspired by Polish history and culture, setting Elga in the Polish nobility period with a fantasy twist to it. “My creative process was quite long and messy,” Malwina laughs, “since I didn’t really have experience in that area. I researched a lot of myths, creating mood boards to find my idea, which I then spent a lot of time on to make sure I really felt it.”

“My work is based on Slavic mythology which has a lot of forest creatures. Licho is a demon connected with nature but living among people, so it wasn’t an obvious option for me to choose. Licho’s nature gave me an opportunity to try new things and experiment a bit” Artur Mich, 2nd Place Winner in Character Design explains, “I’ve made day and night versions of Licho’s look. You can see the second one in my final illustration. With the night form, I could play with some lights and floristic accents that not only show the creature’s true identity but also create a dark atmosphere saying that we actually should beware of the ‘old lady’ standing in front of us.”

A Diverse Offering

In Environment Design, Nasiha Hasić’s “Watermill” took first place, with works from Mamiantsa Rasoanaivo and Yuichi Hisada taking 2nd and 3rd. Daria Fiedulova, Dario Uroić, Elizaveta Menshikova, and Mateusz Witkowski took home honorable mentions.

“When I received an email about my winning first place in the competition, it felt quite surreal. Since also I have been dealing with something at that time and I felt quite stressed out, getting the notification was sort of ray of light in some dark times.” Nasiha tells us.

Nasiha’s artwork was inspired by childhood visits to her grandfather’s village home “There was this one old mill that wasn’t in use anymore and always shrouded in shadows. Having never had the courage to wander into that old shack, I realized there must be some myths and legends around places like that, and I found some that fit my initial idea perfectly.”

The extent of the contest’s diversity is also shown in the work of the 2nd place winner in the Environmental Design category, Mamiantsa Rasoanaivo from Madagascar.

“My work was inspired by the mysterious mountain of Ambondrombe and the history behind it. Legend has it that the mountain houses the spirits of the dead, so I really wanted to interpret that myth.” Mamiantsa explains. “So I took some reference photos and created a mood board to get a general idea of what I was going for. I then made sketches and thumbnails to catch the angle and value before trying some color variations and refining the final piece by adjusting the lighting, shading, and adding texture if needed.”

Daria Fiedulova, Dario Uroić, Elizaveta Menshikova, and Mateusz Witkowski took home honorable mentions in the Environment Design category.

A Great Opportunity 

“I think art contests like CCR are a great opportunity for beginner artists (and every other kind of artist) to explore what they’re capable of and try their skills in a variety of genres. What they give is a timeframe that teaches you to plan your work and a brief that can really make you push boundaries of themes done before and do them your way!” Lizaveta Daragenskaya, the 3rd place winner in the character design category, explains.

“The idea of supporting rising artists is just wonderful because this contest has given artists like me a lot of confidence.” Mamiantsa adds.

#TeamTSG couldn’t be happier hearing feedback like that.

“Many artists don’t know they gain artistic fulfillment working in mobile gaming like Fishing Clash and Hunting Clash. They have the wrong perception that it’s all about drawing fish and animals, but our locations and events show that their creativity knows no bounds. We have shown that in our video about The Art of Fishing Clash as well as when we changed the visual layer of our games based on player feedback.” Daniel Stojanowski, TSG’s EB Specialist and one of the organizers of the contest, explains.

“That’s why we wanted to use this contest as a means to show digital art in mobile games. I think we were successful in that. Another goal of ours was reaching beginner artists, a group that’s often overlooked in these endeavors. Having talked to our winners, and seeing the number of submissions from all around the world, I can say we were successful in that too.” Daniel adds. “I would like to thank everyone involved in the project, as well as the participants. We’re positively surprised by the results that we have managed to achieve. This makes us feel secure in saying that Crystal Canvas Rookies is sensible, and its second edition is merely a formality.”

In the end, that’s what it’s all about for us. #GrowTogether doesn’t just apply to team TSG. We believe that a strong community built around game development, digital art, and related fields will benefit us all in the long run. That’s why, except for tablets, our winners won portfolio consultations with some of #TeamTSG’s most experienced pros, allowing these talented rookies to grow their careers in the right direction.


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