Buffy Casablanca Poster poppy wreath  RS

Not-daily 20in20update & icons thinky-thoughts: CONGRATULATIONS ROUND 1 WINNERS!

It's all over but the shouting: Congratulations to all the winners of Round 1 btvsats20in20 challenge (listed in no particular order): sweet_lyri, bangel_4e, oh_cheezit, rua1412rua1412, sweetiepebbles, spikesredqueen, and undeny! And thank you again bangel_4e for creating this community, doing all the thankless work and making it look easy (and pretty!) and answering my endless silly questions with utmost courtesy and kindness.

You know how these icon challenges are often anonymous? Well guess what, kids? By the time the actual voting rolled around I forgot who the heck made what anyway (except SRQ made the Cordy icons, & debris4spike made the Spike icons: everything else went into my brain's blender along with the anchovies and came out as sauce).

Not that it matters. If I love you and hug you and make you cookies and set the sun and the moon above you, it doesn't mean I'm also gonna vote for your icons when the time comes because it's the WORK that matters. What does affect my vote is: Do I remember an icon when I look away from the screen? Do I still remember that icon an hour later, a day later? A handful of these icons have lingered in my memory from the moment I first saw them.

How did they do that? is another factor in my voting decisions, I admit; hopefully less so as I become more knowledgeable myself. But I'm more likely to wonder how they did something if the icon itself works for me artistically and emotionally in the first place. In other words, the effects are there for a reason, not just for their own sake. Do they work as icons, as something I would want to actually use for myself? Some of my personal Best in Show icons that didn't get the awards love but deserved to IMHO:

[I have thoughts...]
mercurialdragon's Provided Texture, and AC 4-5. The guy It's hard to find nice Xander icons, let alone genuinely beautiful ones. AC4-5 are genuinely lovely to look at, and the tight crop in AC4 amazes me. But Provided Texture might be the icon in this round that really blew my mind, and certainly was my favorite for the Theme. One of my favorite sequences in the series, Xander's dream in Restless, is given the full meta treatment in 100x100 pixels. Is he looking out a window or in a mirror? Either way he's trapped, and I can feel the flopsweat here. Brava.

Another Xander icon I loved: undeny's Freshman icons: Earth Tones icon of Xander ("I ask myself, what would Buffy do?") cleverly interprets the theme; the trees look like a pattern on his shirt. And like Mercurialdragon's icons it's lovely to look at, rich blacks, muted tones, high quality image, balanced composition of an image that I rarely see in icons. Also their Strong icon uses effects to simultaneously blur and emphasize Buffy's motion as she whips around, and NS+Mono is just pretty. Plus the odd off-center crop takes a page from Edgar Degas's book - and as it happens it's a damned good book.

federica74's Illyria icons AC2 & AC4,  the latter one most especially. Like mercurialdragon's PT icon, it's both beautiful and very meta, very emotional (and in the case of the Illyria one, I don't know what's going on because I haven't watched AtS; I don't have prior knowledge to affect my reaction to it.) I find myself once again wondering how they achieved those effects, and I've never seen that "mesh screen" effect (texture?) used in quite that way; once again, perfect balance is achieved in an assymmetrical composition. Lovely, rich, coloration in all of these.

spikesredqueen's Catagory set for Cordy got awards love, but it's her Artist's Choice set that lingers most in my mind. Again, it's conceived as a series and works both as a piece and as individual icons; and there is just something about that sponge-painted effect or, to mix my metaphors, the strawberries and cream-colored overlay (since I don't know when something is a "texture" and something is a "layer", I'll just call it an "overlay" and cover all my bases, m'kay?). It's delicate and feminine and Cordy can be those things too, but she's also Queen C, tough as nails, stronger and smarter than she was willing to let on in Sunnydale.

I want to give debris4spike's AC4 of Spike from Intervention a shout-out. It's such a brave choice as an icon. The normal default is to choose images that are pretty to look at; certainly that's what I do, and it's easy to do, and fun to play with an image that is pleasurable to look at. I've never tried playing with an image like this one, not sure that I could. It's an awful thing to look at - and demands that I do just that. It's true to the spirit of the show, to what I recognize of real life in it: Yes, this is horrid. But look anyway. Then look again. (You might see a man inside that monster, a powerful witch inside that geek, a hero inside that tiny blond girl. You might find flowers taking seed beneath the shit.)

Taking myself by surprise here: Do I ship Bangel? Nope. (In a not my thing now but I wanted it when I watched it because Buffy wanted him - and yeah I cried when they danced at the Prom and screamed at him in IWRY, the big dope, and no I would never deny her love for any of her lovers, even Riley, so can we just hold hand and sing Kumbaya kind of way while I read Spangel or whatever the heck the W/A ship is called? Coolness.)

Do I love the bangel_4e's glowing, luminous Bangel AC and Cat sets? Oh yes I do. I have no idea how to achieve that perfect softness without losing image quality or just becomeing "fuzzy". (And how great is that she treats the horror of the dream sequence in Amends in AC5 to the same romantic look as the other images?)  Do I want to snuggle up in Buffy and Angel's embrace in xlittledreams' Smile and Catagory 4 icons? Yes indeed - and they are very different to each other: IWRY in warm, golden-tones and filled with the promise of comfort with the shadows creeping in around them, Forever in stark and unforgiving black and white, embracing but just barely connecting anymore.

I love these as much as I love sweetiepebbles' Spuffy Catagory set, especially Cat#2 from End of Days, cut as precisely as a diamond with layers and facets and I can't fathom and crisp detail. Let's hold hands and sing Kumbaya.

Ok, on a more personal note:

Tiny confession and full disclosure #1:   I'm a little disappointed at my own showing. (Is it ok to say that?) But then I'm also still reeling from being laid off and my one income source getting yanked away right at the same time the voting occured. (Gee I don't sound bitter, do I?) so it's very probably the emotions from one got blended into the other. Hey, can we call it a mash-up?

But I'm really proud of the icons I made for this set. Mostly. I pushed myself to try new things, to experiement, to be good enough to stand tall with some amazing and long-experienced artists I admire - to deserve to stand on the same stage and be considered with them, with no embarrassment - and I think I succeeded.  Even with the one or two icons I should have pitched out the window - Blending icon, I'm looking at you - I learned something that will hopefully lead to better image-making next time around. And I met some amazing artists and made some new friends - and got some hugs and strokes. So it's all good.

One thing I didn't learn: why people like what they like and how to judge that. My NS+Mono was one of my most popular icons and one of my least favorites. For reasons. Some of my favorites, Favorite Moment, Provided Texture, Comics, most of the AC ones that I really loved, didn't do as well as I'd have hoped. comlodge has counselled me to do what I love, rather than try to guess and curry favor with voters. I think this wise advice, indeed. (I'm pretty sure Donald Trump would tell me the exact opposite, which is why he's Donald Trump and I'm not.) Because except for Blended and Cat 4, I wouldn't swap any of these icons out if I had a second chance. (If I actually did have a second chance that might be another story.)

Tiny confession and full disclosure #2: I chose Vamp Willow as my claim for Round 2. And I'm nervous, as in freaked out, really scared I'll make shitty icons. Because I want to do the character and my friends who are Willow (and Vamp Willow) fans justice. And, not make shitty icons. Again - there's a mash up of "my life is uncertain and scary right now for reasons and I'm terrified because I don't know what to do about it" and "I'm more aware than I used to be that my icon-making skilz have a long way to go." All the icons in my user pics that I made and were so very proud of months ago? My beloved Buffy & Dawn in Him icon? Now all I see is flaws - "damnit Sarah's face is all wrong, it's too pixilated, argh!"

Clearly obsessing on this shit is my way of distracting myself from what's really and truly distressing me. And maybe that sort of distraction is not of the good. (But I her nose is STILL wrong on that icon, gosh darn it!)

Now, on to Round 2 - and speaking of which, oh_cheezit has already posted her Buffy Summers season 4 entries - make the rest of us look like slackers, thank you very much - so check out the pretties!
Honey, this is incredible...the feedback (and thanks for your sweet words about my work) to everyone, the pimping for the comm everytime you make a post...this is really amazing, I wanna thank you from the bottom of my heart (I always feel silly using the word bottom, I guess I'm 3 years old!). I really, TRULY appreciate it. And I love your icon analysis, it's great!
And I'm so sorry about the job thing (lots of hugs)...damn this economy, damn everything..I understand you though...I can't find a job..not one...ugh.
Oh hello you! *waves* I just saw your other reply about fixing the error so I've deleted that section from my post. I didn't even realize it was an error for at least a full day, I just went around thinking "SRQ made Spuffy icons? I don't remember that" *lol* Mind, sieve.

Goodness, hon, no thanks necessary, it's been my pleasure and honor to pimp it and participate - it's what I do! I feel a little more intergrated into this fandom now, and I really have learned a lot and gotten a push to get better.

And I'm really glad you like my analysis - I kept cutting it shorter because I tend to go longer rather than not - I like talking about the icons, and the process, it's all so interesting to me, just like with fics or meta, but I rarely see it talked about. I love to talk, obviously! and as long as people respond I'll keep doing it.

I understand you though...I can't find a job..not one...ugh.

I have been gainfully underemployed for going on 4 years now. There's issues with my driving priviledges taken away because of seizures right when I got a job offer, I've done volunteer work and worked my butt off; people have dangled offers in front of me then yanked them away, but this work I've been doing every weekend has been it otherwise. Yes the economy sucks - has for decades, actually and has gotten abysmally worse so that even the kinds of jobs I used to find, telemarketing or telephone research, retail sales, etc, seem to have dried up.

I'm sorry it's been so hard for you too. I think it's important to keep reminding ourselves and each other "It's not just me" because it's so easy to get into that mindset, don't you think?
Yep, definitely...it's very easy to think that way...and it happens to me more than I wished...but then I have to keep reminding myself that situations suck for everyone...what can we do about it? :)
If it helps, I'm pretty sure some of the icons for which I voted (because I thought they were outstanding) were yours. *hugs you lots* Also, some of my favorite of my own stories are not the ones which get much love.

Aww, thank you! i don't mean to sound like a sour puss, or expect that people vote for me just because they're my friends - if anything I'd be horrified if that happened.

Also, some of my favorite of my own stories are not the ones which get much love.

I'll bet that's true of anybody, isn't it? I remember doing plays in community theater in my 20's and the cast would be laughing during rehearsals at inventive bits an actor came up with that the audience didn't respond to at it. It's so different being behind and in front of the curtain. Everything we make comes with a story - where we were at that time, why we wrote it, what we learned - that no one else can possibly know.

Do you have a particular stand-out example in your mind of your stories?

Yes, like you I wonder who likes what, and why? Sometimes when I look at the results I haven't a clue as to why that was the popular one, having submitted a different one, and voted for a third one!

I am just about to start my Round 2 icons .... I have one more to do for Star Trek, but inspiration is missing!!

Thank you so much for your comments - that's what I love about Spike, a character with layers ... someone who can so easily be hurt, emotionally, as well as physically.
One round of the SunnyD memorial fanfic awards I was shocked to see that quite a few works I'd nominated or voted for had won. A few months earlier, NONE of the works I'd nominated won in the Running with Scissors awards (except my self-nommed meta got a runner up nod.) So there are so many variables: what mood people are in, who is casting votes, what icon your icon is next to and how they affect one another and is the moon in Virgo or whatnot.

Honestly I have not a clue. Have NOT a clue how folks vote the way they do. I try to explain why a little bit or what attracts me, but ask me again in five minutes and I might have a different answer; there is no science. *pouts*

Thank you so much for your comments

You're very welcome! that really was a brave, unusual choice IMO, The one time I tried to work with images that were not so comfortable for an OWL challenge - Buffy in PG and Nikki and Xin Rong in FFL, my "dead slayers" series, the subject matter and my lack of skill so affected me I nearly went into tears.

that's what I love about Spike, a character with layers ... someone who can so easily be hurt, emotionally, as well as physically.

Right? That's pretty much at the base of what elisi and I were talking about re: Get it Done. This show can be so real, sometimes; characters who lack for layers are the exception not the rule. The Xander icons, for instance, really took me by surprise this round, he's not my favorite character, but I see so many similarities between him and Spike, as well as differences to each other. It's fascinating stuff, (I really am fascinated by their dynamic, how they hurt one another, how they work together and the grudging respect and self-identification, what they represent in and to each other and not in a shippy way) and I can't say "so and so is my least/most favorite male character" or do those memes that go round. So much "there, there".

Buffy is my favorite, full stop, but I am a little bit of all of these characters, if that makes sense? Especially Buffy-Spike-Willow-Tara. I get them (or think I do), each in a different way.
I'm just going to call you the Patron Saint of Icon Making, mmmkay?

Right now I have my "levels" and "hair porn" done. I'm happy-ish about both (I was going to change my levels to a blended icon, but wasn't the entire point of using these three images to make a levels icon?). I probably should be writing out a first draft of one of my grad school application essays right now, but I think I'm going to play around in Photoshop until my doctor's appointment in an hour.

And I wish you would try Gimp. Gimp is just like Photoshop but free, and you get to play with textures and brushes and all sorts of fun stuff. If you do decide to try it, I'll find some tutorials that can help and link you to my favorite resource makers.
Oh gosh, sweetie, thank you! I don't know if I deserve patron saint - Madame Ambassador maybe - but I'll accept the title as long as there's no martyrdom involved. My head would NOT look good in a plate - totally cramps my style.

And you are definitely two icons ahead of my for the next round (I'm at zero with 1 maybe) so you're making me look like a slacker. Or really procrastinating on your schoolwork, should I be worried? I expect ree-sults, you know.

And I probably will try gimp at some point. Debris4spike is now doing ipiccy along with Gimp, so I can see myself going back and forth too. I should also maybe ask kwritten for pointers is she's not too busy.

BTW - yes I love seeing my icon back at me, btw.
As a voter and not an icon maker I can tell you that it was really, REALLY difficult to choose this time. The icons were amazing and personally I voted a bunch of Willow's icons (When generally I prefer Buffy. But the Willow icons this round kick ass) and I voted both Spuffy and Bangel ones. I tried to be the more impartial I could.

This round I loved your black and white icons. They were the best and generally I prefer colored things.
it was really, REALLY difficult to choose this time. The icons were amazing

As a voter AND an icon maker, I totally agree. NS+Mono was one of the hardest, I wanted to split that one three or four ways. That is one catagory I would not have voted for mine even if I could. And choosing Catagory the black and white ones was SUPER Hard for me.

personally I voted a bunch of Willow's icons (When generally I prefer Buffy. But the Willow icons this round kick ass) and I voted both Spuffy and Bangel ones.

I've really been impressed with a lot of Willow icons I've seen lately - debris4spike's icon for btvs_hush, rua1412's for this round, and for slayerstillness. And the Xander ones I mentioned for this round - awesome. I think I push myself, when I'm voting, to be fair and look at all the characters not just the ones I love. And I voted for Spuffy and Bangel icons too - as it should be, I think.

This round I loved your black and white icons. They were the best and generally I prefer colored things.

You did? *blushes* thank you sweetie! I know you like pretty and sparkly. (I sometimes find myself making icons and thinking, Would Kiki like this?) Those icons were honestly super-easy compared to so many others, it's just Sarah's amazing face and getting the range of grey tones and the sharpness correct.
You should be damn proud of what you did. There were several icons of yours that stood out to me in the voting rounds and they did get my vote.

I trust you will do wonders with Vamp!Willow and that's because you have a little anxiety about it. That's what pushes us to work harder and go further than we already have.

I love you and I'm cheering you all the way!
Aw, thanks sweetie! I'm worried now that I came off as "fishing" for compliments. (Ok, maybe I was a little) but I don't demand that anyone vote for me except that my stuff deserves it, so it makes me happy knowing you thought any of mine truly did.

that's because you have a little anxiety about it. That's what pushes us to work harder and go further than we already have.

That's true, isn't it? And I'm not thinking of the next round as being "for me", it's for Willow and "my Willow posse" (heh, I'm possessive). But also, I haven't done a lot of Willow icons so I have to get to know her face and kind of create a comfort level with her, get to know her better so to speak.

Thanks so much for the support, dear! *hugs you hard*
This is so nice of you to do this. I like to hear the reasons behind why people vote as they do.

I agree with you on so many on the things you've said. Especially about not shipping Bangel (or any particular ship) but not letting that be an issue when voting. I ship Spuffy (and Spangel, Spander, basally Spike/anything/anyone/whatever) but I ALWAYS judge the icons on quality alone, it doesn't matter if I don't like the subject.

Don't be too disheartened about not winning anything this round. Like I said in your icon post, I LOVED your theme! It was so original and I think you did a great job with the icons :D This was just the first one though- I'm sure you'll do great in round 2. Like I've said before if you need help or a second opinion, I'm happy to help.

Also thanks for what you said about my icons- I'm glad you like them :D
I like to hear the reasons behind why people vote as they do.

Even though I realize there are intangible factors that can't be put into words or a simple "I like it, it's pretty" factor. I am often curious about how people vote how they do though, because I'd like to know how I can make my work better if it sucks, or why people like certain icons that I really don't. (I've won awards for a couple of things that I just wondered WTF? You like that one? thanks but why?)

It's interesting that with so many artists there's not more conversation about the process. A hazard of being visual artists, perhaps, whereas writers write and talk - a lot - about writing. (I think of myself as a writer primarily anyway.)

And thank you for the compliments for my theme and icons! I enjoyed the theme too; and any one of those not really-real Buffys would be a claim in their own right. I'm finding Round 2 much harder - there are some gorgeous screencaps of Dark Willow to play with but I don't feel organized or really excited yet.