Are you a budding digital artist looking to showcase your creative talent?

The School of Digital Arts (SODA) at Manchester Metropolitan University is hosting the See Yourself in SODA Competition 2024, a fantastic opportunity to have your work exhibited, help you grow as a creative individual, gain invaluable industry insights, and kickstart your career in the digital arts.

We caught up with two previous winners of the competition, Summer Owen (BA Animation) and Toby Conniff (BA Photography) about why young creatives should seize the chance to participate. The pair, who both went on to become SODA students, shared their experiences with us and some hints and tips for those considering entering this year.

Summer Owen and Toby Conniff at the School of Digital Arts (SODA)

How did you find out about the competition and what made you decide to enter?

Toby – I was looking into studying at Manchester Met when I saw a post about the competition on the SODA Instagram account. I entered for fun, thinking I’d never win, but a couple of months after I submitted my entry, I found out I had! I’d never won a competition in my life, I’d never come first place in anything before.

Summer – I took photography in college and loved it. For a long time, I had been looking at coming to SODA, I thought it looked so interesting and had great facilities. I was scrolling through the Instagram page one day and came across the competition. I’d also never won anything before but thought I should give it a try.

How did you go about creating the piece you submitted?

Toby – The theme of the competition the year I entered was ‘The Games We Play’ and my piece was inspired by a Star Wars crossover event in Fortnite, which I was playing at the time. I used a combination of videogame photography and the mobile version of Adobe Photoshop to create it. You don’t have to have the most expensive software or anything like that to enter.

Toby Coniff - SYIS - Ready Player 9
Ready Player 9 by Toby Coniff

I never would have won the competition without my passion for gaming. In fact, my love of games translated into studying here now, because I included two of my entries to the competition in my portfolio when I applied for SODA.

Summer – It felt a bit daunting to apply at first. I had never submitted photography work before. I’d got great grades but had applied to other competitions and never got anything back, so I thought I wouldn’t get anywhere with it. I was so glad I’d tried after all when it got back to me that I’d won, I was so surprised!

A photoshoot I’d done around that time was about technology, which was that year’s competition theme, so I thought I could submit something from that. My style of illustrating is abstract, I like taking an image and writing all over it to change it into something new.

In Your Head by Summer Owen
In Your Head by Summer Owen

What advice would you give to people thinking about entering this year’s competition?

Summer – First of all, you don’t need to worry about having professional equipment. You can even produce digital art on your smartphone if you like.

I’d also say that everything you make as an artist will have a purpose and you might not think so at the time, but everything you create does matter. I had no reason to share my piece with anyone at the time and it could have just sat in my portfolio. I thought I’d try and submit something and see where it got me – and it got me here! You should always be proud of your work at any level, don’t overthink it – just be creative, be expressive.

How would you approach this year’s theme, ‘Future’?

Summer – The Future theme is really interesting and I imagine that when thinking about how to interpret the theme, a lot of people will think, ‘where am I going to be in the future? What’s the world going to be like?’ – but you also could spin it a different way and think about the way you imagined the future in the past. What did you think the future was going to be like when you were a kid – and how did things change? You could have wanted to be a ballerina, for example, and ended up being an architect.

Toby – A lot of people approach the concept of the future with fear but I say don’t fear the future, embrace it, it can mean good things as well as bad. To quote the film Dune: ‘Fear is the mind killer – you must not fear’. This goes for your worries about entering the competition, too – in the past, I took competition entries too seriously so my advice is, rather than being too stressed, take a relaxed approach. People can become stressed about doing things perfectly but that doesn’t matter, all that matters is what you choose to do and try and how you live your life. No matter what background you’re from, what kit you have, none of that matters – just be true to yourself and create something.

How to enter

Entering the See Yourself in SODA Competition is straightforward. All you need to do is visit the official competition page to find out more about the submission guidelines and deadlines. Make sure to read the instructions carefully and let your creativity shine!

Mark the deadlines on your calendar, brainstorm some innovative ideas, and start working on your submission for the See Yourself in SODA Competition 2024. Remember, this could be the first step towards a successful and fulfilling career in the digital arts!