What Our Ocean Awareness Contest Judges are Looking For
January 18, 2023

Featured artwork: “Climate’s Calling” by Kennedy Kirkland (Kentucky, USA)

Every year, thousands of participants submit entries for our Ocean Awareness Contest. We are sure all of these participants have shared these same thoughts: What goes on inside the mind of the judges while choosing the winning pieces? How can I make my entry stand out in front of the judges?

On our quest to support your Contest participation, 2022 Future Blue Youth Council member Areesha Fatima asked Contest judges Free Marseille, Andy & Hanji of Puckerbrush Animation Studio, and Holly Morin a few questions. Here is what they had to say:

What is that one thing that makes a piece a winner; what is that differentiating point for you?

A winning piece, first and foremost, addresses the specific theme of the Contest. Some pieces are good but don’t win because they miss the mark on being in line with the year’s theme.

“The Emperor Has Clothes” by Ziming Chen (Shanghai, China)


It is important that the piece is well-executed technically as well as conceptually. If the concept/story is clear and beautifully depicted, then it has the potential to be a winning piece.

We prefer that creators use original material rather than simply using art or video footage from other artists and content creators. Individuals submitting to this year’s contest definitely should look to previous entries or other sources for inspiration. But they need to remember to make things their own.

What are you hoping to see in this year’s submissions?

We always hope to see artists who express themselves using creative imagery. It is common to see work that uses stereotypical imagery, but the best work brings something new and memorable. Humor and wit are always pluses!

“What’s Cooking, Good Looking?” by Isabella Sowma (Florida, USA)


We have seen many turtles, whales, and mermaids. It’s great to have those components if that is what speaks to you as an artist, but we will always look for submissions that integrate these things differently, or show a new and unique perspective.

We are hoping to see creative, original works that have a strong message with action steps that go beyond just personal consumer choices, but also collective solutions that will actually have an impact on the problem. Try to make your entries as accessible as you can for a broad, global audience.

Any last piece of advice for the applicants as to how they should explore the given theme?

We encourage you to think for yourself and to express your own thoughts and ideas. Take time to think about your feelings, and try to express them in a way that stays true to you. This is not a homework assignment. In school, you are often asked to recall what you’ve been taught and to regurgitate that information… and then you’re graded on how well you can repeat what you’ve been told. With art, you get the chance to speak for yourself. There are no wrong feelings.

Do your best to be honest, but also recognize that it takes labor to create something impactful. You may have to practice before you are able to execute the final piece. You might need to watch some YouTube tutorials. Take the time to do that. Even if you have good intentions, at the end of the day, make sure you put in the time to make something good.

Present your work in a way that shows it in the best light possible. For visual art, please do not photograph your work in your bedroom, under some random yellow lamp, with other objects in the photo, etc. Take pride in your work and document it professionally.

If you’re not having fun, odds are your piece is not going to win. Make sure you’re excited about your work. You should look at it and feel proud. Make stuff that you’re inspired by. Have fun with it and don’t be afraid to take risks!

We hope this information helps you with your Ocean Awareness Contest submission. We are ecstatically waiting for your amazing work this year. Happy participating!!

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What Our Ocean Awareness Contest Judges are Looking For

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