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AIP 25 entry

AIP 25 Student Competition Results

Student Competition Jury Comment

Last February, on a chilly winter evening, a warm winter late-afternoon and a balmy summer morning, ASAI held its second annual Student Competition. As confusing as this may sound, the disparity in temperature, season and time of day created no confusion among the jurors and facilitators. We were spread around the globe, all huddled simultaneously over our telephones and computer monitors, focused intently on the submissions, engaged in a jury process that continued well into the late evening, early evening and early afternoon.

The cast of characters included:
Jurors — James Gurney, Rhinebeck in New York; Frank Costantino in Winthrop, Massachusetts and Jeff Mottle in Calgary, Canada
Facilitators — ASAI Executive Director Tammy Horch-Prezioso in Phoenix Arizona
Technical Coordinator — Jane Grealy in Brisbane Australia and
Moderator — Gordon Grice in Toronto, Canada

The process began at 7 pm (Eastern Time). Early glitches in the connections kept us tinkering and chatting for almost an hour but, thanks to the expertise of Jane and Jeff, everything got ironed out and the session proceeded from that point, without a hitch. Tammy ran the "slides" from Phoenix, while the rest of us watched, marveled and commented, through successive elimination rounds until the final award winners had been selected.

It's odd to consider that such intense conversation can occur among a group of individuals separated by thousands of miles and at very different points in their seasonal and circadian rhythms, but as you will read in the jurors' notes, the discussion was prolonged and animated. This is partly a testament to the efficiency of the technology, the dedication of the judges and the high quality of the work submitted. But I would like to think that, even more so, it's an indication of the power of art to blur barriers and stimulate discussion.

The idea of an ASAI student competition was hatched many years ago, when the continuing success of ASAI's professional competition (now entering its 26th year) and our renewed focus on education had convinced us that a second competition — one that encouraged young illustrators — was a necessity. Now, the Internet has made it, at last, a possibility. In the two years that the Competition has been held, the number of entries has increased and so has the global reach — this year's submissions arrived from five continents.

There can be little doubt that architectural illustration is a global endeavor in every respect. The result has been an exposure to ideas and techniques that has increased the awareness and quality of the work and of the profession. We look forward to a continuing increase in the coming years.

Award of Excellence
Alexander Daxbock, Technical University of Vienna

Frank Costantino
Ex Libris Library on black board: A flawlessly executed drawing, stunning in its spareness, yet intricate in its digital detailing of the building’s design, captivated the jury with its elegance. Despite the juror’s initially questionable reaction to so much negative area, the astute positioning of the figure to the ground helped accent the highly textured, shadowed, and populated section drawing, with a minor touch of muted green for some elements. A very sophisticated use of digital techniques deserving of the juror’s unanimous Award of Excellence.

Jeff Mottle
A bold composition draws the viewer into this magnificently detailed architectural section. The controlled use of light and shadow adds an amazing depth to the architecture, while the texture and hand drawn accents reinforce the structure's angular elements.  The artist's stylized treatment of this section and great use of light make it one my favorites.

James Gurney
This digital rendering of a library is set against a large field of blackness, almost giving the feeling of a spacecraft of knowledge having landed in a region of emptiness or ignorance. The composition, with its assertive use of negative space, was risky. It was helped by the nearby cross section of the adjacent building and the tram, which gave just enough context. Because the structure was so small in the composition, it invited enlargements at a variety of scale and prompted considerable discussion among the jurors. The image had interesting detail at all levels of magnification, though the details were not always logical or illuminating from a structural perspective, giving the rather intriguing impression that the designers were not going to give up their secrets in the way a blueprint would. Still, if I represented an entity funding the project, or a citizen hoping to use it, I would have wanted the rendering to explain practical considerations, such as where I enter the building, what holds it up, and how I could find the books inside it.

Award of Excellence
Neill Scheiter, Drury University, Springfield, Missouri

Frank Costantino
Sunset Skyline and Riverfront Facility: A drawing immediately engaging the jury because of its seductive coloration, the limited palette proved to be so sensitively handled that its merits became more intriguing upon deeper review. Although most of the background and skyline was derived from an existing photo-context, the drawing was unified by planes of subtle gray overlays within a seeming hand-drawn line. The perfect highlighted values for the skyscrapers’ reflected light, and the stronger interior light glow from the waterfront building, clearly identified the focal points. The scanned hand-drawn pastel sky and water treatment provided a hybrid quality to the assemblage, giving this piece a level of artistry and a humanistic touch.

Jeff Mottle
The strength of this illustration lies in its uncommonly well executed combination of digital and traditional illustration techniques. The deliberate use of light and tone to add depth to the scene and focus the eye on the subject matter has been masterfully executed. The overall mood of the illustration further adds to this fantastic perspective.

James Gurney
This portrayal of a city at dusk sets an immediate mood by carefully controlling the gamut of colors to dull reds, oranges, and grays. Fading light touches only the tops of the far skyscrapers. A remaining glow in the sky is reflected in the still water in the foreground. The lights of the structure in the front center have come on, reflected softly in the water. Throughout the center of the picture, the grays are thoughtfully handled by keeping them extremely close in value and avoiding detail. Even though the city view was evidently derived from aerial photography, the result is a strong, simple design, playing one area of artificial illumination against another of natural illumination, and carefully controlling the attention of the viewer. The sense of line and marker-like textures, even though they were apparently realized digitally, gave the rendering a warm, inviting appearance. The lighting on the far buildings might have been more believable if attention had been given to the fact that on a clear day in such a late-day environment, the buildings would be lit only above a certain height. Lighting some of the buildings all the way to the ground would only be possible on a partly cloudy day, but no clouds are shown.

Award of Merit
Ian Tsui, University of Queensland.

Frank Costantino
Pencil Drawing of a Pavilion: A superb use of graphite in an unusually strong composition and adroitly chosen point of view, this designed drawing of a curved pavilion structure was an immediate stand-out from the first round. With an excellent technique and compositional bravado, with a controlled handling of the media on a visibly patterned paper, with its narrow value range and use of negative space to convey light, the drawing almost suffuses color through its black & white tones. Even with plentiful digital figure silhouettes in various gestures, they were sensitively arranged in the drawing space, and varied well in their darker values. The jury recognized that the organic nature of the design, perhaps more difficult to conceive and execute in digital form, is convincingly portrayed in this well-balanced, hand-drawn delineation.

Jeff Mottle
A high level of mastery was shown in this excellent pencil illustration. The artist has shown a deep understanding of composition and scale, drawing focus to the architecture with thoughtful framing of the subject matter. The careful placement and posing of the silhouette figures further accentuates the structure's importance and scale.

James Gurney
This outdoor ribbed structure in a park-like setting makes skillful use of the pencil, a medium that’s not comfortably suited to such a subject. The slope and curvature of the ribs varies gradually as the sides of the structure rise to a repeated gable. The structure goes back convincingly in perspective, with well considered foreshortening. Small groups of figures, drawn in silhouette, animate the scene. We see the far sides of the ribs through the spaces of the near ribs. The organic lines of the tree trunks, foliage, and dappled shadows give a welcome contrast to the strict geometric order of the structure. The picture might have been improved by a closer attention to consistent tapering of branches, a downplaying of the heavy, horizontal branch from the tree at right, a clearer sense of the light’s direction, and a sense that the structure was existing in the same dappled light condition as the rest of the scene.

Award of Merit
Daliya Safiullina, Montana State University and Kazan State University of Architecture and Engineering, Russia

Frank Costantino
Axonometric Plan of a Church: An effectively conceived graphic for portraying a church design, this was an unusual and arresting drawing, with its bold arrangement of numerous elements comfortably weighted in the lower half of the composition. The range of contrast between the highlighted plan and elevations, the slightly tinted-green splattered background, and the white line sketch vignettes, all merged into a fully descriptive work of the design. With an almost overlooked title reversed from the toned field (revealing its Russian context), it also conveyed an iconic quality referential to the building type. The jurors agreed that the drawing was a very emotive and expressive piece of work.

Jeff Mottle
A finely detailed piece of work with a wonderfully emotive, albeit somber, quality. The masked texture effect was masterfully used to bring this composition to life and add a sophisticated depth to the composition. Overall a very strong illustration.

James Gurney
This rendering shows an axonometric downshot on a church set on a corner lot, with elevations below it, and perspective drawings scattered around the margins. The rendering, with its ruled white lines on a dark gray board, gives the structure a stark moodiness. There is only a hint of color, a faint green in the spattered tones, applied in loosely-frisketed areas to help organize the broad areas of the picture. The rendering would have been even more effective if it had been give more of a scale reference, using figures or vehicles, for example, if the trees had been more naturally rendered, and if the curving walkway had consistently overlapped the straight walkways.

Jury for Student Awards

Frank M. Costantino, ASAI, SI, JARA, FSAI
Frank Costantino is an architectural illustrator, watercolorist, teacher, and writer. A Hugh Ferriss Memorial Prize recipient - and other Juror or Category Awards - from the American Society of Architectural Illustrators, he is one of only two professionals in the world with the Ferriss Prize and an Arthur Ross Award from ICA/Classical America.

Award-winning artworks from his thirty-five year career appear in more than forty-five books or catalogues. Since 1987, twenty-six of his illustrations have been juried into annual ASAI exhibitions.

As one of ASAI’s founders and President Emeritus, Mr. Costantino received the American Institute of Architects Institute Honors in 1995, and was recognized with an ASAI Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007, for his numerous contributions to the Society. A signature member of the New England Watercolor Society, and member of New York’s Salmagundi Club, he regularly conducts seminars around the country in architectural and fine art watercolor.

Jeff Mottle
Jeff Mottle is the President and Founder of CGarchitect Digital Media Corporation (, the leading online magazine for architectural visualization professionals. Having worked in the industry since 1997, Jeff has been involved in developing and speaking at conferences around the world including: Mundos Digitales, IMAGINA, VisMasters DMVC and the American Society for Architectural Illustrators conference (ASAI). He is immersed in many areas of the industry and actively pursues initiatives that help promote the growth of the field, including CGarchitect's yearly Architectural Visualization competition and 3D Awards. Jeff has also written articles for 3Dworld Magazine and has been quoted in Business week. He frequently acts as an expert judge in industry competitions and publications, including Ballistic Publishing's EXPOSE and ELEMENTAL books.

Jeff has worked for a number of companies including London based design communications firm, Smoothe, and more recently, as business development manager for VisMasters, an online software marketing and resource company for design visualization professionals.

James Gurney
James Gurney is the author and illustrator of the New York Times bestselling Dinotopia book series, which has been translated into eighteen languages in thirty-two countries. He designed the World of Dinosaurs stamps for the United States Postal Service and has worked on assignment for National Geographic magazine, painting reconstructions of Moche, Kushite, and Etruscan civilizations.

His unique blending of fact and fantasy has won Hugo, Chesley, Spectrum, and World Fantasy Awards. An exhibition of the artwork from Dinotopia began at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. will appear at the Delaware Art Museum in early 2010. His most recent book is Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn’t Exist (Fall, 2009). Gurney lives in the Hudson River Valley of New York with his wife Jeanette and his blue parakeet Mr. Kooks—a living descendant of dinosaurs.

Additional Jury Comment (Edited)

Frank M. Costantino, ASAI, SI, JARA, FSAI
After the considerable delays in setting-up for conferencing this jury review, the selection process was a gratifying culmination to a protracted evening’s work. The four award-winning works represent a superior range of talent and skill in creating such outstanding visual imagery.

From the twenty-one student illustrators that submitted works for jury consideration, it took three solid rounds to narrow the field to seven contenders for more serious consideration and recognition for awards. Quite a few watercolor works had survived into the late rounds, but with these premiated images it was evident to the jury that the watercolors were technically proficient works, but were all derivative of pre-existing buildings, drawings, or designs; likely given as assignments for mastering this medium.

An important consideration in a quite lengthy analysis during the fourth round was an eerily familiar aspect in a wonderful Beaux Arts watercolor elevation. With some diligent and quick internet searching, it was found that the work was a totally derivative piece, and which the jury unanimously agreed did not measure up to the higher standards of other students’ illustrations of their own designs. It was also a factor for the jury that the attribution for the original work was not indicated in the student’s submission text, which credit the jury felt was a serious oversight.

The jurors would have been very inclined to select an excellent watercolor example, but no submission in this media obtained a level comparable to the quartet of superior works that were finally chosen for inclusion in ASAI ‘s catalogue. The jury did agree with the observation of one juror that “these student drawings spoke more to me than most illustrations I’ve seen and juried.” The AIP 25 Student Competition Jury was privileged to review the submitted works from students around the world, and wholeheartedly encourage students in their continued investigations and studies of various mediums, and persistent efforts towards mastery in their works.

James Gurney, Creator, Dinotopia
I was honored to be selected as a jury member for the student AIP competition. We were guided in the process by ASAI veterans Jane Grealy, and Gordon Grice, with Tammy Horst-Preziozo who managed the GoToMeeting software so that we were all looking at the same images at the same time. We had difficulty getting the full video conferencing software working, so we handled the voice discussion as a conference call.

There were 21 entries of many different kinds of buildings. We were not told the names of the contestants, nor the sizes, mediums, nor any other specific constraints of each project. This is a good thing, and it leveled the playing field, so that we could evaluate each entry on its own terms. We were instructed not to judge the aesthetics of the architecture itself, but rather to look at the aesthetics and clarity of the rendering, and its evident mastery of the medium.

Following are the final four. None of these stood out as a sole winner—all had qualities we thought worthy of commendation. In the following comments, I share what I took to be each piece’s particular merit, and if it’s of any use, I’ve also offered a couple of comments about how they might have been taken to an even higher level.

In the judging process we had to exclude one Beaux-Arts style watercolor rendering of a building façade, which had made it all the way to the final round. With a little internet sleuthing, we discovered that it was an academic copy of a historic rendering. While academic copies can be valuable learning exercises, they should always be marked as such, with clear attribution to the source of the copy. Because the work wasn’t original, it didn’t match the parameters of the competition, and had to be dismissed. We all were hoping for a finalist in the Beaux-Arts / watercolor realm, but in future, we hope all contestants will make sure to submit works that are completely original.

The jury process we followed worked well overall, and I really enjoyed hearing the comments of the other jurors, but at the same time I would have appreciated the chance to look independently at the entries beforehand, and to be able to control the view and the scaling of them in making an initial reaction. Also, the series of rounds of weeding down the images made sense at each stage, but didn’t really allow us to keep a balance in the final selection—so that we ended up with three out of the four in essentially black and white, and some of the ones discarded early might have been worth reconsidering once we saw what came up in the final pick.

Anyway thanks to all for your flexibility of scheduling and technology. I think it all worked out well, and it’s encouraging to see what the young generation is coming up with.

To view last year's AIP24 results click here

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