I thought the technical aspects of most of the entries were up there, a lot of my decision making boiled down to thematic relevance and what sort of message or feeling I got out of each entry. Thanks to everyone who participated!
Third Place (1 point): GrieverJoe
I thought your entry was the most original of the bunch, coupled with good composition and rendering. I like the idea of multiple enemies that complement and contrast one another. A couple things are holding it back: one is technical/rendering inconsistency. I didn't like how soft and feathered the lion's fur and the robed guy's robe are, given the hard nature of the rest of the rendering. Thematically, it's hard to understand the relationship between the bosses and the protagonist without prior explanation. Mechanically, it's difficult to imagine how the protagonist is intended to interact with the bosses to defeat them.
Second Place (2 points): Lamb
Your entry has good theme relevance, and I like your daring use of saturated pinks and oranges, contrasted with the lighter greens (I'd love to see the references that you used in picking the color scheme =D). The reason it didn't place higher was that I thought you could have pushed the motion illusion a little harder, either with blur or some other technique. Despite being an action shot, it looks weirdly static. And while the characters have an interesting design, and are non-stereotyped, it means that it's a bit difficult to identify character motivation, or even which of the two is the protagonist or the boss. maybe even the dragon is the boss?
First Place (3 points): astrapho
I thought your entry fit the theme the most self-evidently, with great use of textures, color, and composition. The rendering is rough hewn, but I like that. there's a feeling of efficiency in its creation; it feels like concept art. The expressions on the monster and protagonists really sell the intended relationship between the characters.
I think the best thing about your pic is the composition. the symmetric/central setup with subtle asymmetries works great. shifting the colors saturation or some other change would have been useful to push the bosses back and push the protagonist forward. Be careful with the anatomy. I'm guessing the lines on the protagonist's arms are meant to suggest the brachioradialis, but i don't think they're in the right position. and if you're going to use that level of detail, there should have been more delineation in the robed guy's hands. not a big fan of the gradient background...maybe a little more suggestion of an actual environment, or something might have been useful.
Sorry, yours was a close runner up =( Things I like: I thought it was pretty ballsy of you to render something as difficult as a fight in the middle of a torrential rainstorm. Lots of things to worry about in terms of rendering accuracy. The colors are great too, I like the blues and oranges set in the grey setting. I think ultimately though there are things that look weird to my eye, like how there's circular ripples from drops on slanted surfaces, lack of shadows on the water surface, the density of the rain the air compared to the rain drop density bouncing off surfaces. Similar to Lamb's entry, I'm not really getting a good sense of motion/action despite what's being depicted. I think you could have spent a bit more time thinking about the composition to emphasize what's going on.
dat horse face:
Like I said, great technical execution. I love the character designs...vaguely Russian/eastern European =D hoc dicto, I feel like the pic lost a little something in its transition from sketch to final product. in the monochrome sketches, the monster appeared much more massive. with the lighting washing out most of its body, all you see is the head, and it just looks smaller at first glance. Looks like you skimped on the monster a bit, but even so, you could have made its design a little more interesting in terms of silhouette/shape, even if you didn't have time to render. The sled looks a bit too small to comfortably carry the two protagonists, and the perspective of the sled looks a little wonky to me, I cannot put my finger on it. The guy on our right looks like his face is in profile, when it feels like it should be 3/4.
Regarding motion, definitely you're not limited to blur, but if you wanted to go that way, consider blurring trailing ends of things, like the sword arm of the orange girl, the lower torso of the black girl, the little chunks that are falling off the dragon. alternatively, you can push the background back by blurring that, and the distal part of the dragon. Remember that you're on a digital platform, if you don't like it there's always undo =p if you don't want blur, speed lines are always cheap and easy. even if that's coiffed hair or something, i'd like to see the wind affect it, same goes with that orange dress. Looking more carefully, I'm guessing that the dragon is being cut in this image? that's not immediately clear. Id' suggest a little more secondary motion, like the ends of the dragon bending in the direction of the black girl. Aside from what I mentioned above, there might also be some perspective issues, like with the orange girl's sword arm ( I think maybe it should be angling away from the viewer more even if it's being held to the side), but they're not major issues.
obviously incomplete. thematically, i'd like to see both a protagonist and a boss character, I think. would love to see this sketch brought to its conclusion though.