I'm astonished by your enthusiasm and value your input. It seems that the community is very important to you.
I think that it's fair to say we have a member base of diverse levels of icon-making experience.
I started this community because I was shocked by the low number of users making Babylon 5 icons.
I think it a good thing that some members are using the challenges to improve their skills. It is also a good thing to engage the interest of experienced iconmakers (so as to maintain their interest in/motivation towards making Babylon 5 icons).
The concern with all of this is, basically, everybody needs to be able to participate in the challenges. We really do need every entry we can get.
Based on your comments, I've come to a few decisions:
1. Gold winners still get to decide what we make, but, I'll impose a restriction on one of those challenges. I'll decide the restrictions (so any queries can then be directed squarely at myself).
2. The other challenge will not have any restrictions. In this way, members still have to apply their creativity in choosing from those caps and "iconing" them. It should also mean that some members are less likely to feel the weight of direct comparisons where a single cap has been used. In addition, it may motivate those who need a cap to "speak to them" (something to which I can certainly relate) because there'll be more caps, increasing the odds.
This community is supposed to be enjoyable. We have a common interest (indeed, interests). Yes, the best received icons win the Gold, Bronze and Silver Awards, but, if you're prepared to do your best on an icon (as members are doing) then it is valued regardless of whether it wins. Somebody who comes last this week might win Gold in a couple of months and go on to make hundreds of Babylon 5 icons. Those icons will not only benefit us athestically, but might even encourage someone to give Babylon 5 a look.
Points about this community:
Should be enjoyable
Should reward and encourage
Should help to, ultimately, promote interest in Babylon 5 amongst the user base and beyond
It is by very definition a community, we are all different and unique - these very things make us valuable here.
Yet more ideas.
The sister community babylon5icons may be used to post tutorials and other artwork. I'm working on some brushes for it. It is very quiet and so is an ideal place to link things for easy reference (without interfering with the flow of the excellent iconsharingnet). I'm going to work through icon_tutorial for posts of interest.
Hopefully, everyone can gain something positive by making icons and submitting them as entries to the challenges.