So, I shared my submissions for Week 1 and 2 in the Nails Magazine Next Top Nail Artist competition with you, but things got pretty hectic around these parts and I neglected to share my Week 3 and 4 submissions, what I would have submitted for Week 5 had I not been eliminated and also my Last Chance design. I want to show all that to you now, and put it up for posterity, and I'm also going to talk just a bit about the competition!
Week 3 - Sponsored by Orly
Objective: Create a French Manicure with an LA theme
You can read what I had to say about my submission in-depth here, but long story short, I decided to base a manicure on the LA handsign, where the fingers showing would be the feature nails. For the French part, I used an elongated smile line with a swoop down one side, and for the art, some LA themed silhouettes and block letters. It wasn't very complicated, but I was really happy with my concept. Unfortunately, the photo used for the voting wasn't using the handsign, so the concept wasn't really easily seen. The judges did see the LA pic, so my concept got across to them. Below is the pic that shows all the nails. Disregard the bit about voting.
Week 4: Sponsored by INM
Objective: Using any medium, create 5 nails that explain where you come from
For this challenge, I used gel, acrylic, gel polish, acrylic paint and striping tape to make this Scotland set. My favorite parts where the tartan and the whiskey glass. While I was working on this challenge and the one after, I had bronchitis and a herniated disc, which together are not fun, so I did have a little difficulty focusing and there were some parts, like Nessie, that I just got to the point where I didn't care nearly enough. At certain points throughout weeks 4 and 5, I had several moments where I just wanted to throw in the towel, but that would have been plain dumb. Overall, I was extremely proud of this set. When put up against most of the other competitors, it's clear it wasn't even close to the best, but I was thrilled with it. Prior to this competition, I'd never done so much as a 3D bow, and to have accomplished this, I was proud. If I had it to do over again, there are things I'd change, but for the state my lungs and back were in, I'm pretty impressed with myself. To see the video I created for this set, please check out my YouTube Channel!
Week 5 - Sponsored by Entity
Objective: Create a wearable set of 10 nails inspired by Entity's first marketing campaign to wear to their 10th anniversary party.
I was eliminated before these were supposed to be submitted, but I was done with them before the elimination, so I do have pics to share. As I said above, I was feeling crappy this week, and so my work suffered. I started out thinking, "I can use any medium whatsoever, this is MY challenge!" but of course, I hit the wall and got worn out and basically got lazy. I hate that it happened, and I have no excuse, but I did. I cut my own nails off so that I could apply clear acrylic so that you could see through the tips. I went to the craft store and found some magnets and painted the Entity logo on one, and then sculpted some angel wings to another and basically the idea was that the manicure was wearable when the wings were off and only the magnet with the logo were on. Then for the party you could wow the room by sticking the angel wings to the other magnet as a conversation piece. I really liked the logo, it was the most precise hand-painting I'd done so far in the competition, but I felt like the wings looked kind of like a bow. I'm sort of glad these weren't judged, because I cringe every time I look at the pics of these.
Last Chance Design Lab #1 Submission
Once you are eliminated this year, you go into the Last Chance Design Lab where you will go head to head with the person eliminated either before or after you. In this challenge there is one judge, CND's Jan Arnold. If you are familiar with me, you probably understand that I literally was elated/terrified at this prospect. For my week, we had to hand-paint a portrait of a relative and I chose my daughter. Ok, prior to this exact challenge I had never painted a face. Like, ever. And I was Scared. So. Bad. I had a little panic attack then sat down and just painted. I tried three times on two nails. The first nail looked like Gwyneth Paltrow got hit with a board to the face. The second looked like my daughter kinda, but maybe 20 years in the future and following a major stroke. Then I painted over the second little by little till it was completely different. I liked it in the end, and was pretty shocked it looked like an actual human face. When I sat down and decided to not hide behind any other design elements. I just went for it. If I was gonna suck, I was gonna earn it. I didn't win that challenge, but I'm honestly really proud of my nail. I'll be honest, since it was solely Jan's prerogative, it was like getting a knife to the heart. It's a good thing I trust Jan's opinion implicitly, much like fashion designers and nail artists the world over do. I was like, "who am I to question her expertise?" It was just an honor to be in the position to have my work in front of her.
Here is a collage of all three tries. Gak, you have permission to laugh.
Overall thoughts on the competition:
Obviously, this was a huge deal to me. I almost didn't enter. When I finally decided to enter my audition, it was when I got the "Last Call" email (they later extended the deadline) and I said "Why the hell not?" When I got the email that I was in the Top 24, I honestly was sort of shocked. I thought "this is as good as it gets, Karrie. Enjoy!" Then after two pre-challenges I was in the Top 12 and I wondered to myself how it could have happened. I know I'm a good manicurist, I take great pride in client satisfaction and in a beautiful set of nails. I also know I'm a better than average nail artist. In the real world, that is. In Salon Land, there aren't many who can do, or will take the time to do, what those of us in the competition do. On the interwebz, I am a novice. So, basically this whole thing was bewildering and confusing. I didn't understand how I could still be standing. To get to the Top 9 was far beyond where I thought I'd end up.
Week after week our work was put in front of industry leaders and other nail movers and shakers, and they gave us critique on our work. The email blasts with the submissions go out to countless other pro and amateur nail artists. Where else can you get that? Honestly, there aren't many situations where you can get that sort of exposure along with professional guidance while you're sitting in your own salon.
In my audition tape, I correctly predicted that a situation in which challanges were imposed upon me would motivate me and help me to push myself to places I didn't think I could go. Before NTNA I hadn't done an acrylic nail since my State Boards. I had never painted with acrylic paint on a nail. I had never sculpted 3D elements from gel or acrylic. I had never painted a portrait. All of these things I never thought I'd be able to do 8 months ago have all happened. It helped me to realize that all the things I think I can't do now are all 100% possible. You can see above that in just three tries I was able to go from painting a face that looked like it was done by a 5 year old, to a face that maybe was done by a 10 year old. Haha. But in any case, it's improvement. It's progress and confidence in a tangible form for me.
The judging seemed very fair, also. Each week I would discuss my thoughts on all the submissions with my family, and usually my thoughts were pretty similar to the judges comments. They were clear about what was good and what needed worked on, and the criticism was extremely constructive.
I'm pretty realistic about my own weaknesses and am extremely open to critique, so this was nothing but a positive experience for me. Nothing but great things came from it and I am SO glad I sent in my application after all. I'm not sure if I'll do it again next year or not. Right at this second I am exhausted and can't even begin to think about taking on this job again. Every Friday someone is eliminated and a new challenge given, then three days later on Monday the previous week's challenge is due. It overlaps and basically takes up your entire life. Worth it, for sure, but exhausting.
For now, I plan to build on the skills I learned these past few weeks and see just what all I'm capable of. I'm pretty excited about it! I'm still following along eagerly, rooting on my favorites, and I suggest you do, as well!