Scottish student wins local art contest

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A picture may be worth a thousand words, but how about a piece of digital art?

Hugh Ebdy‘‍s work “Apocalypse Book” is apparently worth at least that -- and $400. The 21-year-old Scottish architecture student recently won first prize in an art contest held by Pittsburgh-area fantasy fiction enthusiast Scot Noel via his website, His prize was $400 and an original short story based on his piece written by bestselling author Jane Lindskold.

The challenge set forth by Mr. Noel was to create artwork that could inspire an original fantasy fiction story, and Mr. Ebdy’s piece certainly does that, provoking more questions than answers.

“Hugh’s piece was a strong contender from the moment it came in,” said Mr. Noel, who lives in Grapeville, Westmoreland County.

In the digital painting, a woman holds a bright red umbrella as a large reptile scales a crumbling building in a post-apocalyptic cityscape. According to Mr. Noel, the red umbrella was a key element for the judges, creating the type of intrigue necessary for a good story.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Ebdy noted that it was one of the last things he added, deciding that the piece needed a focal point.  According to the artist, the woman is following the beast, which scares away other threats while failing to notice her. He dubbed the creature “Arcadia” and the woman “Liddy.”

Mr. Ebdy studies architecture at the University of Dundee in Scotland and said he began branching out from traditional art a few years ago.

“I was looking for a way to expand my repertoire” he said, adding that the extra income he occasionally receives from his artwork is particularly helpful to him as a student. 

“Apocalypse Book” is completely digital, a medium in which Mr. Ebdy said he has no formal training.

Mr. Noel operates a web design company with his wife, Jane, and decided that a short-story writing contest would be too time-consuming. He was partially inspired by his own second-place finish in a writing contest early in his career, citing it as a springboard to years of work with game company DreamForge.

Mr. Noel runs  in his free time, using it as a place to share his own writing and that of others in the science and fantasy fiction community. There are no ads or fees. “Its not there to make money,” he said.

The contest drew 185 submissions ranging from paintings and digital art to altered photos and even sculptures. Most were from the U.S., but submissions came from as far away as Bulgaria and Ukraine. The second-place winner was Rafael Gonzalez’s piece titled "Spell of Flight." Melvin Costaniano's comic-inspired "Angel's Blood" won the popular vote.

“We were really encouraged by the response we got,” said Mr. Noel, adding that he will write short stories for the second place and popular vote winners. The stories are slated to be finished by year‘‍s end.

Albert Anderson: or 412-263-1454

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