Finished Portraits from the April Giveaway

It’s taken me quite a while to actually get to the writing portion, but I’m finally sharing the portraits from the most recent giveaway. The original giveaway was back in April, which somehow feels like both an eternity ago and just last week. I guess pandemic life warps time in strange ways. Anyhow, according to the giveaway widget dashboard, this is my sixth real contest on the site (with one test raffle). And this one set a personal record for participation with 1,352 actions by 348 users! Just because I find it interesting, here are the giveaways I’ve had so far:

My dashboard on gleam.io

This may not be enough of a sample size to make real scientifically sound conclusions from, but I can make some pretty general conclusions from these experiences. The first that jumps out is that some people are actually interested in getting free portraits! That’s a relief, because I really wasn’t certain at first if anyone would want something like that. Another is that people really weren’t interested in a free copy of my first book. That makes sense though; who is really going to go wild for a memoir-style, anecdote-driven book by an unknown artist that doesn’t present itself as a how-to/instructional? Although I’m proud of it, it’s definitely a niche book.

Behind the scenes, I can also see the impact of sharing giveaways to other websites. I haven’t done a detailed analysis, but going back to my WordPress stats during the months of past giveaways, I can see significant referral traffic from online-sweepstakes.com, Facebook (via giveaway groups), contestgirl.com, truesweepstakes.com, sweepgrab.com, and Reddit (via r/giveaways subreddit). Of those major traffic sources, online-sweepstakes.com, contestgirl.com, and various Facebook raffle groups are easily the heaviest hitters. Not every giveaway has utilized all of these sources though; it’s been a gradual build to find and link to them all. This giveaway from April for example was the first to use Facebook groups and that was clearly a big boost. Next time, I’m going to try to devote a couple hours to link up all of them right away to see how that impacts things.

So, back to this giveaway’s results. The winner was an extremely nice person who was excited about the prize. We talked about a couple possibilities via email and he really seemed to like the idea of a beach scene with his family. It sounded like a really cool idea…the only issue was my limitations as an artist. As I’ve written about before, scenery and backgrounds are not strengths for me. But it did seem to be the winner’s favorite idea, so I decided to give it a shot. But I also decided to do a more people-focused portrait more like what I often share on this site. Although the giveaway was really only for one thing, I figured if they turned out decently, I would just give both portraits to him. I’m a pretty rough critic of myself sometimes, so maybe he would like it even if I wasn’t so sure.

I’ll share the final portraits first, discuss them a bit, then add some progression .gifs:

This was the “safety” portrait that I mentioned. It’s one right in my typical wheelhouse; head and shoulders portrait, enough size to make out facial details. This sort of drawing feels like putting on some old comfortable sneakers for me. I’m pretty happy with most of it and there wasn’t any particularly challenging portion. I could have done better on the shadows, but I think it’s fine overall. The details are good; nose, mouses, and general shape are on point and I think their friends and family will be able to recognized them. I really felt it was important to this one too, just in case the other didn’t work out…

And this is the more adventurous portrait. It’s a scene of the winner and his family at the beach, but the challenging part was that the winner wasn’t actually in the reference photo (he was taking the picture). I had to do a bit of improvising based on other photo options and his description of how tall he is compared to the others. Even though overall I would designate this as “not a bad effort,” I do have a lot of areas for improvement. Let’s pick this one apart, shall we?

I think the people are actually fine; not masterpieces, particularly without facial features to lean on, but a solid job I think. The scenery though…definitely rough. First impression when I look at this, I can see right away my lack of patience. The beach was rocky rather than sandy, and my rocks are not well done. I mean, they’re actually mostly non-existent. The water is similarly unrefined. I did a poor job selecting and blending natural-looking blues, and the admittedly difficult area where the water meets the beach just sort of doesn’t exist. The sky was supposed to be sort of overcast, but that certainly didn’t come through. And the mountains in the distance are just blocks. Overall, it looks fine if you don’t spent too much time examining, but it’s easy for me to see the flaws.

Fortunately, I’m not the intended audience. Based on his reaction over a few emails, the winner absolutely loved both of these. It’s clear these portraits meant a lot to him, and I found the entire experience to be inspiring. What I mean is, to have positively impacted someone because of something I made is…hard to put into words. It makes me want to create more, inspires me to replicate the effort. I know my drawings are well-liked by my wife, kids, mom, others close to me, and so forth. But to make a stranger happy, to have made something that it seems they will treasure? That’s a new one for me. Or at least, as far as I know, it’s a new one. I guess I don’t actually know how other portrait recipients have felt about theirs.

Anyhow, here are some progression .gifs. I haven’t abandoned the idea of sharing progression videos! I know it seems that way, since I did a couple, then immediately went back to .gifs for the Witcher and this one. It’s just that videos are more time-intensive to make and time has been in shorter supply lately. But I will get back to those if people like them. Also, I made some tweaks to the .gifs (longer delay, cross-fading frames).

So, as I either said or suggested already, I’m going to do another giveaway soon. We’re in the process of moving, so I’m not sure when exactly that will be. But for anyone who made it this far (this post sure did become lengthy), is that something that would interest you? Oh, also I’ve started adding a little “materials used for this artwork” section at the end of art-related posts. I know it’s been asked before what sort of pencils I use and all that, so I thought I’d start including it. Note that these are affiliate links, so I might get like 5 cents or something if you buy after clicking on one. It doesn’t affect the price you pay or anything like that, though.


5 comments

  • Jon your illustrative style isn’t completely realist to begin with, being too hard on yourself. Beautiful drawings, the fact that you made someone happy with them should be what’s most important. I get it though we as artists will always only see the flaws, but sometimes you really got to relish is that other persons happiness 🙂

    • Thank you Matt, you’re probably right about that – I am such an easy target for myself though! Haha, only sort of kidding there. I try not to dwell and beat myself up too much, but at the same time I like to be honest about my thoughts on these things. A tricky balancing act I think.

      But it’s true, by far the most important thing is that the person it was for liked the result. That’s definitely the biggest win and I’m thankful for it for sure.

  • I agree that if the person you did it for is happy then that’s the most important thing. However, I enjoy your analysis as it brings more knowledge to the outcome than just the visual image, and it teaches me something.
    The eyes are very good; clear, distinctive and alert. These people are looking right out at us. I also really like the grey jeans on the other image, the guy second from the right, as they are definitely ‘worn-in’ and comfy looking. Great movement in the clothing and the focus is definitely on the people not the land/seascape.

    • Thank you Claire – I’m sure I’ve type this somewhere in comments before, so apologies if I’m repeating myself. But, small impacts mean a lot to me. Sometimes I wonder if I write too much/go overkill on some of these artwork posts, but then occasionally someone will say they actually got something from it. It probably sounds silly, but knowing there was that little ripple for someone validates it! It makes me feel like I’m part of a little art knowledge swap or something, because I’ve gained the same from other artist sites like yours.

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