I created freestyle line art for the Composing Tracks Design Contest run by Sisphus Industries and won the Judge's Pick award. They gave me a free Sisyphus table!
Have you heard of the Sisyphus table from their 2016 kickstarter? Their trailer is amazing, and the table is even more mesmerizing. People can create their own designs by algorithm or freestyle, and they can share their tracks and playlists with the larger Sisyphus community.
Sisyphus Industries held a Composing Tracks Design Contest in 2020. I was already running out of ideas to do at my desk during quarantine, so I decided to try my luck at freestyle line art. Freestyle is really hard for me because I rarely trained or practiced sketching. In Adobe Illustrator lingo, I was more familiar with graphic design tools like Image Trace and intersecting shapes than I was at using the brush or pen tool.
The judging criteria was just based on 3 points:
I spent days thinking of the right picture to draw using sand because the ingenuity criteria really stuck out to me. As a side story, my sister and I, both avid escape (room) artists, did a VR Escape Game in Orange County, California. While we preferred physical escape rooms where we interact with real objects and admire production value, we saw that one huge advantage with VR was that VR can create collaborative puzzles where players see different clues on their own screen. Creating different perspectives in the same experience was something only VR could do. Therefore, for the Sisyphus contest, I wanted to show “What can sand do that pen and paper can’t?"
In my opinion, the specialty with drawing on sand came from the texture. It could change the line thickness and create multiple overlapping layers, giving it a 3D feel. When I decided to go with the “Wind Temple” design, I started with the clouds in a doodle style, spacing it out enough to give the line a uniform thickness. I overlapped it with a solid outline of the temple and made thin zig-zags (supposed to look like “hatchures”) on the roofs. It completely covered the cloud drawn right under it. While the distinct textures rendered successfully on the sand, I actually just guessed the line spacing in Illustrator, since none of the contest participants owned a table to test their designs. I just got pretty lucky.
I spent approximately 10 hours drawing the SVG in Adobe Illustrator after deciding my sketch on paper. In retrospect, I could have finished drawing a lot sooner because I spent a lot of time figuring out how to freehand one line. The no-so-secret secret was to not draw it all in one line. Instead, I used the pen tool to drop a few anchors, dragged and converted the lines into arcs, and repeated. If I accidentally created new lines instead of continuing off the single line, I manually connected the two paths in Illustrator (so clutch).
I submitted my design under the alias Starch (SARina CHen…it almost worked…).
Sisyphus gave me the surprise email with the subject Congratulations Sisyphus Track Contest Winner 🥇! :D I was really happy because I tried to go for the “most votes” category, which was just a popularity contest. I was going up against professional artists who maintain their social media, and I was feeling discouraged for not having comparable non-organic/referred reach. Fun fact: did you know sea sand contains roughly 4% salt? Okay, well, I’m glad Sisyphus gave out multiple awards.