First I'd like to congratulate everyone who was able to complete their image in time for the deadline. I know it's not easy to do when trying to balance other obligations and recreation time. Even though participation was low in this challenge (not a lot of images and comments in WIP threads), we all stuck with it and got it done. Great job.
(Also, apologies for the wall of text below)
Picking a winner is difficult when there are only a handful of completed images submitted. I want to say everyone is a winner, but since prizes were promised I have to determine who we need to mail stuff to. So, I've made a decision. However, I'd like to offer some discussion of the work submitted and give my rationale for who I chose as winners. In order by the timestamp the work was submitted ...
- I really like the information that you provided with your card and tying the card to the game of Hearts gave an excellent back story for the card and design. Overall, great layout of the card and the dark card is an interesting alternative design. I think the illustration could be made more interesting with more highlights to counter the darker areas of the card. Some lighting on the face, for example, could really accentuate the character and make it pop away from the background. Also, watch for tangents in your design. The strands of hair touching on the borders or card text is distracting from the illustration.
- Just so you know, I did my illustration just for fun. My illustration was not considered in the final judging. If anyone cares to critique or offer suggestions for improvement, you can leave them in my thread.
- This one amuses me for some reason. I can't tell if the pirate is surprised, happy, or gleefully watching someone being torn limb from limb by a giant octopus. I read the comments in your thread and the same was mentioned, but I actually think it works well like this. Not all illustrations have to tell a story and are just fine leaving the story up to the viewer to determine. To improve the image, I'd have (maybe) tried to add some sort of accent to give it a little more punch. Some bright colors or trinkets of interest on his costume would maybe draw the viewer in for a deeper layer of internal story telling.
- I really like the character and warm colors that you used in this. You have a noticeable skill with lighting and it shows in this piece. Great details in the face which draws the eye directly there. Unfortunately, you altered the design of the card too much to be considered (it was all in the rules) and also didn't run a WIP challenge thread (kind of the point of this exercise). So, I didn't consider this a valid entry to be considered for prizes. Sorry, it's a great illustration and I encourage you to participate in the next one.
- This one followed a classic layout design of a face card with the mirrored character. These are difficult to pull off well so I commend you for giving it a go. I've been working on an illustration in the same style and have been having issues getting things to look, for lack of a better term, "not weird." What works on yours is that the lace background looks really elegant on the card and the area of the head has good contrast to draw the viewer into those big eyes. If you could find the time to work on the missing right arm and lack of contrast in the lower half of her body I think you could improve this 100%. I'd start by moving her elbows and arms out more so there is more mass towards the middle of the card. An addition of some sort of shoulder accessory (fur showl, shoulder adornment, jewelry?, etc.) to bring a little of that mass upwards would help too. Finally, she has a bit of a vacant gaze in her eyes that I'm not sure if it was intended or not. You should try some other positions of her eyes to see how it looks. Try looking at the viewer ... it might work.
- One of my favorites even though I have no idea what is going on here. I'm not going to hold that against you though. It's abstract-realism and that's OK with me. Great textures, lighting, and design. You can almost feel the pressure constraining the heart if it were to suddenly start beating. Creepy cool. If I were to offer any criticism of this I would recommend trying to get away from blacks as a dark value. Try some other color combinations and see if it looks more alive and less 'muddy'.
- I liked your idea here and really feel that the concept has potential. The club theme is echoed in the 'lure' and you only just missed on getting 4 creatures in there. So kudos for the idea. So, to improve this ... I'd play around with the layout some more before committing to finishing touches. You should have at least recognized that the club could have been echoed better by turning it so it showed face up. Getting a forth creature in there would have helped with the idea also. You have plenty of space available there in the middle and it all ended up as a black ink splotch. Which is unfortunate, because that's all you really notice about the card at a quick glance. More emphasis needs to be put onto the character, creatures and the lure. The gimmicky splotching around the border aren't doing the image any favors either. Best to save that for images that make sense to use it (which in my opinion are few and far between). Hopefully, you stick with this and continue to improve in future challenges. The idea alone, is worth the effort to pursue this further. Good luck.
And so, having said all that ...
I hope you all appreciate the critique and explanations of what I was considering while picking a winner. Don't get used to these critiques for the next challenge, they take a while to write and I just don't know if I can do that for everyone if we had had fifty four participants (like I was expecting). Finally, without further ado, I award prizes and honors to:
FIRST PRIZE - jats, Jack of Clubs
SECOND PRIZE - Silental, 2 of Hearts
THIRD PRIZE - dawnlincoln, Queen of Hearts
Clear your PM boxes and make sure you have it set to accept incoming messages. Someone will be contacting you shortly with information on how you can claim your prizes that were offered. For future challenges, (and your information) I doubt there are going to be prizes unless participation goes up exponentially. There really wasn't enough participation in this one to justify the costs, but I think it's only fair to award the prizes since they were offered.