The pixiv High Schoolers Illustration Contest 2023 sponsored by pixiv was held from July to August and, after a thorough review process, the winners have been decided.
The judging process took longer than usual as all the entries were equally impressive. The enthusiasm for the submissions never ceased during the deep discussions that continued until the very end of the judging period. We are pleased to announce the winning works and the corresponding critiques from the judges.
*Each “critique” is a summary of comments from the panel of judges and the awards ceremony.
The Grand Prize
This is the prize awarded to the work selected as the best illustration among all the entries. The winner will receive 200,000 JPY in prize money. And from the 1310 entries, the work that came out on top was...
The Panel’s Critique
Saito: As a representation of the theme “musubu/connect”, this is not just an illustration that shows the characters holding hands, but also connects various other things, as well. For example, by using the same colors for the characters’ clothing and the folding screen, one can feel the connection between the two and the characters almost look like they’re part of the picture. Also, as for the morning glory flowers (the Japanese name, translated, means “morning face”) drawn on the folding screen, this can be read as an expression of “morning face” according to how the morning light is hitting the surface… But I’m probably reading too much into it. (laughs) I think that it’s a stylish illustration that incorporates the interesting meta of “drawing a picture of a picture drawn on a folding screen.”
Ogipote: As soon as you lay eyes on this illustration, there’s something pleasant about looking at it. When it comes to putting a picture together, I feel that this artist is a head or two above the rest. The one thing that I attach particular importance to when I draw is the sense of balance and I think they’re already on a professional level when it comes to that. The selection of information was also well executed. Not only is it a composition in which the viewers' eyes naturally go to the part of the piece that the artist wants to stand out, but the balance of the colors also feels very nice. The accent colors of the fluorescent blue and fluorescent green are dispersed throughout the image with a nice sense of rhythm. This artist has a natural flair that I’m almost envious of. This piece completely exceeds all my expectations.
Hanabushi: Everyone on the panel unanimously voted for this piece to be awarded the Grand Prize. The elements are well organized and there is nothing out of place. I completely agree with it being described as “pleasant”. I think that anyone would agree that this deserves the top prize.
Fuzichoco: Put simply, their skill as an artist is insanely high, and I really can’t find any fault in this piece. Though there’s an effortlessness to this piece, it’s actually rather difficult to draw linked hands like that. I have no confidence that I’d be able to draw it that well. (laughs) It has the beauty of a Japanese-style painting; the beautifully calculated composition of the empty right side of the piece is worthy of note.
Silver: This is probably the artist’s second go-round in life. (laughs) It’s too amazing that a high-school student going through life the first time around could be able to deliver the quality of this work. Even if I focus on just the extraordinary depiction of the folding screen, I can’t enthuse enough about how well done the changing of the colors from top to bottom is, as well as the different coloring for each of the four corners. It’s clear that great attention was paid to detail in various parts of this piece and I, too, can’t find any fault in it. If the artist can already create an illustration at a level of perfection this high, it makes me want to see just how much more they will grow from here.
Illustrator Panel Awards
These are works selected by the panel of judges, all active creators, based on each of their unique perspectives as illustrators themselves. Each winning illustrator will receive a 30,000 JPY Amazon gift card.
The Naoki Saito Award
Saito: The moment I saw this, I found myself falling into the optical illusion that the sky was falling and was surprised by the boldness of this piece. It made me think, “How marvelous! I’ve never seen anything like it before,” in an exciting way, and it does a wonderful job of depicting both the brightness and melancholy of youth. There is a deep quality to the colors of the sky and clouds that I can’t get enough of. It’s an illustration that I just wanted to look at forever.
Silver: Even the title is superb. “This is not the end. What comes next is up to you.” It just tugs at your heart. I want them to turn this into a movie. (laughs)
Fuzichoco: They certainly have potential as a copywriter, too!
Saito: They drew the broken red string between the boy and the girl, and at first glance, it looks like it’s a representation of unrequited love but there’s something deep about the title containing, “This is not the end.” Then the “What comes next is up to you.” feels like they’re looking down on you… It kind of irks you. (laughs) But there’s a strong feeling of a young man and woman growing up, living their lives, and that made it a really interesting illustration to me.
The Ogipote Award
Ogipote: When I first saw this, I immediately thought about how beautiful the composition and color scheme were. Even when you zoom in, you can see how delicate the drawing of the clothing and figures are. The fact that this was drawn without any compromises in taste is what I like a lot about it. I practically fell in love at first sight, but after seeing the name of the artist, I recognized them as someone whom I gave a critique to last year… In that way, this is a piece that I can feel “connection”. (laughs) Of course, I don’t mean to make any assumptions, but I’m truly impressed with how much they’ve improved in this one year and couldn’t help but think, “I’ve created a force to be reckoned with, if I do say so myself.” (laughs) Of course, it’s 100% their own effort.
Silver: That’s a story that raises the value of your critique immensely, doesn’t it? (laughs) The painting of the skin color is really pretty in this piece.
Ogipote: I totally agree. The children’s hands are also done very well.
Fuzichoco: Wow, you're right. Look how soft they look.
Ogipote: With its religion-like world-building and mystical atmosphere, it’s kind of like: art nouveau meets Buddhist art. In that sense, I can feel the artist’s aspirations toward deepening their way of expression; on the other hand, I feel they are also the type of artist who can give companies exactly the illustrations they ask for. I think they’ll be really popular if that’s the path they choose to go down.
The Silver Award
Silver: It’s just so cool. Even though it’s hard to see where the theme of “musubu/connect” fits when first looking at it, I think it depicts the significance of the food chain and therefore the cycle of death and rebirth. Like how bigger creatures eat plankton… That it shows the life cycle at the bottom of the sea gives this a real sense of depth and I think it’s really good.
Fuzichoco: It’s the kind of picture that lets you imagine what stories are behind what you can see. There’s a character making a teru teru bozu (a paper doll children make to pray for fine weather), and in the back, you can see a large number of them hanging, allowing you to feel a sense of the long passage of time.
Silver: This artwork is clearly at a pro level. There aren’t a lot of people who can draw this kind of composition. I certainly can’t. (laughs) Not only the arrangement of the motif, but the use of color in the background and foreground, as well as the balance of colors in all four directions is all very well thought out. If you use the same colors in all four corners, it’s easy for the piece to become boring, but this artist skillfully uses various tones of the same black color. Thanks to the white and blue being similarly deep in tone, this piece was completed with a sense of gravity, depth, and scale.
The Hanabushi Award
Hanabushi: The moment I saw this I thought, “I love it!” The two of them look like they have a close relationship… That means the artist was able to portray them as “humans'' and not just as “characters”. This isn’t a piece that overly prescribes or subscribes to a certain idea of what a smile should look like through familiar symbols and motifs. It could be said that illustrations, in a way, are a type of creative expression that draws on symbols and motifs to depict a scene or moment, but I feel that there’s something more in this picture that feels very real and visceral. Instead of using more “subtle” techniques, it has more of a “This is what I’m doing and how I want to do it!” kind of energy to it and it left quite a good impression.
Saito: Ah, yes, like instead of “borrowing” ideas from here and there, this is something that they pulled out from their very self.
Fuzichoco: The scenery has a rather nice atmosphere to it, doesn’t it? The way the orange of the setting sun hits the right side of the electric pole, for example, tells me how observant this artist is. Also, if you zoom in, you can see that the lettering on the newspaper has been carefully drawn, telling me they took great care in creating this work.
Ogipote: It seems like this artist usually draws motifs that are “catchier”, but this time, instead, their work is delving deep into something else. It’s marvelous that they brought this to the table for the contest.
Silver: When someone illustrates a simple motif with such care, it just pulls at something in your chest, doesn’t it? I feel that they honestly drew what they truly wanted to draw.
Hanabushi: To be honest, they still have room to grow technically. For example, the shoulders could use some extra work in terms of shape and design, but despite that, this is a piece that’s rich in mood, warmth, and energy. It has a unique atmosphere that only this artist can bring out and that’s what makes it so attractive.
The Fuzichoco Award
Fuzichoco: I was mesmerized by this illustration’s bold composition, as it doesn’t show any of the characters’ faces at all. Suppose we were able to see the bride’s face, then this picture could have ended up looking disorganized. The way the artist cut off this picture was done very stylishly and turned out very nicely. Plus, when you zoom in you can really see the attention to detail in this piece. I can feel the artist’s attention to detail in this drawing from the mother’s wedding ring and the clip on the kimono, for example.
Silver: I didn’t even know that clips for putting on a kimono even existed. (laughs) I get the sense that they really like kimonos. The way they depicted the material and texture of the white kimono is very well done.
Fuzichoco: I agree. The layering of the various colors within a pale color scheme... The motifs of the bride’s kimono and the mother’s black kimono, roughly speaking, are nothing more than black and white, so drawn normally it can easily become dull, but I think one of the highlights is the intricate and beautiful coloring done by adding detailed color inserts. The black sleeve on the right is paired with the black hair on the upper left, creating an exquisite balance of light and dark. This just goes to show that despite the pale coloring and not showing the faces, this is a piece that catches the eye through the careful accumulation of detailed design elements.
The Corporate Sponsor Awards
The works featured here were chosen by our sponsors. Each of the artists will receive a variety of creative production-related goods and other items from each respective company. Here are the comments from each company.
The CLIP STUDIO PAINT Award
This detailed illustration captures your attention. When you look at every aspect of it, from the timeline revealed when you look at the polaroids, the small stuffed toy tied to one side of the bag, but not the other, how the shadow enters the room… It’s a piece that has a depth that makes you want to discover the meanings of what you see scattered throughout the image.
There are various hints that help imagine the pair’s past and their future, and each has the potential to change the way you perceive them. We feel that this work is perfect for the summer, a season where one’s heart tends to be capricious.
Yet, despite the fact that each of the components is so well drawn that we can imagine in this way, we think the artist’s high skill level is what manages to pull every element together into a single illustration as a whole.
The Copic Award
From the facial expressions so carefully drawn that you can almost hear the words they’re saying to the small objects you can imagine being used in the characters’ daily life, this illustration made us feel like the characters would start moving and a story was about to begin. Also, even though it’s a piece that captures a part of someone’s ordinary life, the use of bright colors and sunlight makes this piece look like it is sparkling. We chose this piece thinking how great it would be to see some of their analog work.
The KADOKAWA Kitora Award
The girl on the right is somewhat fancifully depicted with the sunlight shining down on her, while the girl on the right is depicted realistically, and in the shadows, giving the viewers a sense of the struggle and anguish of life.
In fact, the vertical composition with a spacious blank space in the foreground is a well-thought-out formation that conveys the feeling of not being able to take a step forward toward to a brighter destination.
The background, intentionally drawn roughly, elicits a nostalgic mental image of, “Summer used to look like this, didn’t it?”
The compositional ability to portray the connection between the two girls, who are different from each other, in a daydream-like, enigmatic setting is brilliant and we look forward to seeing more of this artist’s activities and achievements in the future!
The Wacom Award
The ZOZOTOWN Award
The realism and the expression of the characters in this work tugged at our hearts.
We also love that the concept of this piece was realistic rather than fantastical fiction or an unrealistic theme.
To add to that, the caption, “Let our song echo throughout the world,” evokes the story before and after what’s happening here, so we felt that it has the power to pull us into this illustration.
We're very much looking forward to Hakobe’s future activities.
The Pocari Sweat Award
The CalorieMate Prize
The Nuverse Award
They made very good use of white, black, and yellow and this piece makes quite an impact. The shape of the necklace the character is holding and the heart shapes strewn around here and there are so vivid they just jump out at you. It’s a fantastic piece of work that lets you feel the love imbued in this piece.
The Maruman Award
This piece inspires a kind of excitement for the story that is about to begin, starting from this first page; this feeling is drawn out by the way lighting was used here to show hope and the future.
We felt that this piece was very radiant and captivating, one that can only be drawn by a high school student living in the prime of their youth.
We look forward to their future activities.
The CHUNITHM Award
That the character was drawn in pop colors stood out for us.
The world-building that ties the character to the rabbit in this space setting, combined with a dynamic composition that makes good use of depth makes for a wonderful piece. We’re looking forward to this artist’s future endeavors!