Pre-Challenge #1: Creative Play!


Season Four’s first pre-challenge centered around top sponsor CND’s newest launch. The Creative Play polish line encourages nail artists to “Play outside the box.” We tasked our Top 24 with creating nail art unlike anything we had seen before.

Contestants were asked to hand paint a work of art on five nail tips. They were allowed to use polish, gel-polish, and acrylic paint. In addition, they had to upload step-by-step photos to Nail Art Gallery showing us how they made their entry.

Amber Dunson (Bossier City, La.)

I love Greek mythology and the myth of Medusa is one that is very interesting to me. It’s better than any soap opera, with love, lust, jealousy, revenge, and sadness. Medusa was once the beautiful priestess to Athena, who was the daughter of Zeus. Medusa fell in love and married Poseidon but Athena was jealous and angry so Athena put a curse on Medusa. She turned her golden curls into venomous snakes and made it so that anyone who looked into her eyes turn to stone. Medusa was forced to run away and live in solitude because of the curse. It’s a very tragic story but I loved the idea of creating my own Medusa. Her green skin and venomous snake hair are scary, cool and fierce. I’m scared to death of snakes myself but even I can’t deny they are beautiful creatures. I believe if you can find something positive in something you fear it makes it a little less scary.

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Ashley Thornton (Stoughton, Wis.)

This was actually very difficult for me, as I typically only work with gel paint, however, I chose to do this whole piece entirely out of acrylic paint to truly challenge myself. That’s why I’m here right? I did five versions of this set before picking the piece shown. This piece is essentially about how our biggest inspirations and creative genes can be sparked by the smallest or simplest tool, like color or polish. We can see this represented in various parts of this piece. The skull represents a creative version of myself, paintbrush at the ready. The small bottles of CND polish spill over from the winds coming down, causing it to pour into what becomes a sea of vicious waves. Pirate ships battle crashing waves as they prepare to raise their flags for war. The waves slowly turn a faint green, then darker and darker. Small leaves appear in the wind; vines appear from the now shallows below. Everything becomes still, the smell of fresh bloomed roses fill the air, a robin chirping in her bed, awaiting newborn babies, bright purple roses flourish upon soft green grasses, and looking up at the beautiful sky above lies another portal, to our versions of beauty, dripping the creativity of life to share with the world.

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Brandy Sucher (Tempe, Ariz.)

While I was sitting there trying to figure out what I should do I placed all the nail tips by each other and saw that it made a wonderful tail design so I used that to my advantage. I decided to paint a peacock because they are beautifully colored animals and I wanted to incorporate bright colors into my piece. I also chose the peacock because they symbolize vision, royalty, guidance, protection, and watchfulness. I feel like the peacock is a very suiting subject for this first challenge because of what they symbolize. I also got inspiration from impressionist painters and tried to add a little of that technique to my piece. This was a great challenge for me because it has gotten my creative juices flowing and it got me to try something I haven’t done before. I am super excited with the outcome of the final piece! For this piece I used a white gel polish base and everything was painted using acrylic paint and it was finished off with a gel polish top coat.

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Cate Widemire (Wickliffe, Ohio)

Run through, catwalk, runway, fall fashion masterpiece! Thinking like a fashion designer has inspired my nail art to showcase the ultimate clothing design patterned on five nails. In order to construct my creative play through artistic expression, CND’s Craft Culture fall 2016 collection aligns with my clothing design fashion. Starting with sketches, the design comes to life. Measuring, cutting, sewing the pattern creates a clothing masterpiece. Fitting the model, making the final alterations and last minute details showcase the great fashion reveal. The denim pocket on the final nail represents my interpretation of what this fall fashion line means to the designer. I have challenged myself and exceeded my own expectations in this first pre-challenge. Thinking outside of the box made me visualize like a fashion designer and all my nail art intentions came to life of these five nail tips.

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Dana Cecil (Dover, Ohio)

I created a mural of symbols representing just a few people and things that push me to succeed in my career. I painted them into a beautiful mess of spilled out polish  I love black and white anything, so naturally, I made a fun checkered background.The hummingbird is a symbol for my maternal grandma (passed 2010). She loved hummingbirds and has passed that onto me as well. I’m always trying to get them to land on me! The apple is a symbol of my paternal Grandma (passed 2009), who had her whole kitchen decorated with apples! It’s a fond memory, and something I always relate to her. The four leaf clover represents my crazy ability to stumble upon these lucky greens wherever I go. I find them so much, that I have quit picking them because I feel they become unlucky when they are picked. The “MOM” tattoo is easily explainable. My Mom means a lot to me, and she’s one of my biggest fans. The bling is a symbol of my amazing marriage, to my amazing husband. Without him, I wouldn’t be so happy in life. He’s my #1 fan! I included a cute black cat, because I love cats!  My cat Mykey is one of my best friends. The words “Jolie Fleur” not only represent my skincare business, but they are also a symbol for my two daughters. “Jolie,” meaning pretty, for my youngest’s middle name, and “Fleur” meaning flower, for my oldest’s name, Lily. My nail business means so much to me and I love designing nails, so I had to include my hand with a nail polish brush. After all of that, only one thing was left: glitter!  I wanted to be in this competition so much!  To finally have it in my hands after three tries feels amazing. I want to take my skills to the next level with you all. I want to compete!  I can do this and I want to continue to succeed with bigger and better nail designs!  TOP 18 PLEASE!

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Deanna White (Fairview, Alberta, Canada)

I had brainstormed for a couple days and came up with an idea for my first challenge. When I got to work on it I just was not feeling my concept. I decided to take my pup Griz for a stroll around the lake near my home to relax and clear my head. It was a truly beautiful day. The birds and bugs were out in full swing and I experienced an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I have had a lot of amazing this happen in my life in the last month. I married my best friend and beau of nine years in a beautiful ceremony with our family and friends. I opened up my very own small spa which has been a goal of mine over the last couple years and I was selected to compete in Nails Next Top Nail Artist.

Gratitude for a beautiful time in my life and a beautiful day is what brought me my new inspiration to appreciate the little things. Some of these little things being bugs. They play such an important part in our ecosystems. They have the most beautiful colors and details. Some bugs don’t get the love they deserve even with all their hard work. I chose some subjects that are a little “outside of the box.”

Hard work is what it takes to be Nails Next Top Nail Artist and not unlike my winged friends I’m not afraid of hard work. I’m very honoured to be in this competition and I have a lot of gratitude for being chosen. I will not make light of this opportunity and will continue to work my hardest.

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Jenna Jupin (Odense, Denmark)

I was inspired by Pandora’s Box. The old wooden look is made with acrylic paint and the details are made with gold gel-polish.

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Jessica Scarff (Cape Coral, Fla.)

I got this challenge the day I was leaving for the Premier Beauty Show in Orlando. Being there for the weekend gave me the inspiration for these nails. Seeing all the crazy hair designs and colors made me want to add that to my set of nails. My theme behind this is a gypsy woman. I used all gel-polish for the base and hand painted with acrylic paint for all the details on top of the background. I went back in with gel-polish to give the embellishments in her hair a little more life so they stood out more and didn’t get lost in everything else that was going on. She has big free-flowing hair, as a typical gypsy would, to go with her free-flowing personality, letting her heart be her guide. The colors in her hair show that she is wild and fun. She has flowers and feathers and a dream catcher wrapped in her big luscious locks.

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Jessica Warzyniak (Crown Point, Ind.)

Having almost free reign for this challenge was very intimidating. I couldn’t find inspiration right away, so I began to creepystalk (totally a legit word, I swear!) the other competitors. Every one of the Top 24 is so crazy talented that I started to get very nervous. Their social media accounts are filled with gorgeous nail shots, candid family moments, and other awesome bits of their lives. My insecurity got me thinking…that’s not reality. Reality is usually a hot mess, so I got to sketching. I knew I wanted to celebrate creativity by being as candid as possible so I began sketching bits of my life. Then I decided to snap a photo of myself at that moment. There I found my nail design. This is what my creative process looks like… baby sleeping, both of us still in our pj’s, messy hair, doodling in my notebook. It is easy to seem perfect on social media, we can edit our photos and captions to give the illusion of perfection. I want to show my reality. My truth. My “never before seen” moments. I decided to really push myself with this piece. Realistic painting is something I am not comfortable doing, so I studied paintings at a local gallery and watched a bazillion tutorials before I began. Seventeen hours of work later, I was finished! The background is a mock of the NTNA logo, dreamy and perfect, and the portrait, real and raw, is a recreation of that photo I snapped. I like the juxtaposition of the dream and the reality in this piece. I also LOVE that this is just a simple piece of my life on some nails, but it says so much.

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Jonny Pham (Sydney)

Almost immediately, my mind wandered to Mother Nature. There are limitless possibilities when it comes to the world of nature, with its extraordinary combination of colours, textures and forms, so for me this challenge is a perfect opportunity to celebrate the beauty of nature which can be often overlooked by our busy lifestyles. With this art work, I wanted to take my audience on a journey with Mother Nature to surrealism, taking them to a place of peace and serenity. As you can see, I painted a silhouette of Mother Nature at sleep as this closely relates to me and probably some of the audience. When our eyes close, our imaginations ignite, and our mind wanders to many places with no rules or boundaries. That, to me is the essence of creativity. We need to have the courage to  let our imagination go on an adventures without any fear or apprehension, so I added a surrealism side Mother Nature where she is surrounded with leafs, flowers, butterflies, and ttransition of different seasons. Creativity is in the eyes of beholder, and I want to take the time to applaud all the contestants for taking this massive step onto the world of nails, channeling our inner creativity.

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Katey Laurenson (Auckland, New Zealand)

I present to you some unique parts of my heritage and kiwi culture “kiwiana.” I love New Zealand and I’m really grateful for this opportunity making Top 24. My inspiration really comes from the love of how unique we are as kiwis. It was hard to narrow it down to five tips as we have a HUGE assortment of kiwiani but I’ve included the most cherishing parts and memories of my younger years growing up in NZ. what would Kiwis be without Jandals and paua, our flag and tiki, mr 4 square man (extremely Kiwi), a Kiwi and maori art and our world famous buzzy bee. The biggest inspiration is a piece of advertising that even our youngest generation today knows, the Kiwi Burger Song. “Kiwis love Hot pools, Rugby balls, McDonald’s, Snapper schools, World peace, Woolly fleece, Ronald and Raising beasts. Chilly bins, Cricket wins, Fast skis, Golf tees, Silver ferns, Kauri trees, Kiwi Burger love one please… Mcdonald’s KiwiBurger. The classic New Zealand burger. Cause We love All blacks, Thermal daks, Egg & Cheese, Walking tracks, Beef pattie, Marching girls, Tomato, Lettuce and Paua shells, Gumboots, Ponga shoots, Floppy hats, Kiwifruits, Beetroot, Buzzy bees, Moggy cats, Cabbage trees, Onions, Kakapos, Kiaoras, Cheerios, Jandals, Sandals, Ketchup, Coromandel’s, Swanndris, Butterflies, Mustard, Fishing flies, Hokey pokey, Maori haka, Kiwi burger. That’s our tucker!”

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Katie Barnes (Warwickshire, England)

The first NTNA pre-challenge was to create a hand painted look that encouraged us to ‘play outside the box’ when it comes to nail art. I started brainstorming in my inspiration book with lots of exciting ideas. When researching Creative Play by CND, the main detail that stood out to me were bright, fun colours. I love watercolour designs especially by Rongrong DeVoe who specialises in fashion based watercolour flecked designs and I drew inspiration for my bright design from this artist’s work.

I wanted to use creative playful twists throughout my design, which featured the world (to symbolise the semi-finalists for NTNA Top 24 from all over the world), the UK (where I am based), and USA where (Nails Mag is based). The design features bursts of creative colour, a Creative Play nail polish bottle exploding with colourful and bright, abstract patterns and inspiration to symbolise a Nail Tech’s creative mind working and bursting with ideas whilst creating their masterpieces. Next to this bottle, is a second Creative Play Nail polish bottle that has been spilt, creating a puddle of bright colour around the base. I also featured a nail tech hand holding a paintbrush covered in paint to resemble the workings of a nail tech creating their colourful masterpiece. The last part of this design was two clocks, as I have a slight obsession with clocks so I had to feature them. This symbolises the two different times of UK and LA time which I have worked with throughout the challenge. I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to create this playful and bright nail design and what skills I have learnt on the journey and I hope to be able to have the opportunity to create more.

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Kimberly Harr (Everett, Penn.)

Thinking out of the box comes naturally to me and I knew I had to do something very colorful and fitting of my personality. I wanted this piece to really show just how “out there” I could be. I used white as my background because it is the presence of all colors, hence the rainbow. I am a very colorful person and it was very obvious to me that I had to incorporate a rainbow of sorts. Rainbows are a symbol of hope and promise, symbolic of supernatural beauty. The light bulb has been commonly used as a symbol of a great idea or Epiphany, that’s why I chose to showcase it. The light bulb is the “cocoon” from which my playfully creative mind is emerging with great effervescence. The bubbles symbolize my artistic ideas bursting through the bulb, allowing my mind to be set free to create art that is of my own unique caliber. I gave wings to my brain, so that it may fly and be free to explore the universe and its potential. My art has persevered in many ways in my life, and this task interprets that very well for me. Pushing my mind to it’s limits and beyond. Pushing me to always be in competition with myself. Pushing me to never give up.

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Konstantina Tsihlas (Athens)


 I believe that sometimes things are not what they seem and you need to take a second look, so I decided to create a design that you can see in two different ways with different emotions. In one way you see a man and when you turn the tip upside down you can see a woman. I had so much fun with this challenge!

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Liina Leino (Helsinki)

I immediately thought of my school when I read the title “Creative Play.” I attended Steiner School, where art and culture are present all the time. The usage of different art materials was part of our daily curriculum; water colors, aquarells, pastels and oil paints, of which oil paints and aquarelles are closest to my heart. Luckily gel paints are similar to oil paints in many ways, so I got to choose some of my favourite artists to be part of my project, like Van Gogh and Monet. I think of the whole history of art as a continuum, never ending creative play. I decided to create a linear history of art on these five nail tips, starting from a cave painting and ending in modern surrealism. I enjoyed working with this project very much, although it was really challenging to create water marbling, since nail polish isn’t my strongest area. This work also reminded me why I love nail art so much, I fell into my stress-free zone as I painted such highly detailed and colorful paintings. That’s why I keep on playing.

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Lisa Bennett (Bakersfield, Calif.)

Balance. . Peace and chaos. Darkness and fear; Light and exuberance. Color dims and becomes shadow… Light illuminates the reality.. to me creative play is about using your imagination to view the world from a unique perspective, to spark ideas  and absorb into another reality, a place to be free from the confines of the everyday norm. My design shows the duality of imagination, the core of creativity. The dark deep ocean under the moonlight, inhabited by creatures unkown. The flip side is the sunrise over the sea, revealing the glee of leaping dolphins, free to play and explore the vast possibilities of their domain. Two moments captured  in the same space, depending on your viewpoint.

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Liza Waitzman (San Diego)

For this challenge, I really wanted to create a design that would have some kind of connection to the subject at hand, “Play Outside the Box”. The subject left us very open-ended and let us do just about whatever we wanted to, but I wanted it to connect somehow. When I think of CND, the first thing that comes to mind is Ms. Jan Arnold! She is the mastermind behind what CND is and I felt like I had to give her recognition in some way with my nail design. It was then that I decided to make Jan Arnold the centerpiece of my design. The challenge was not only asking us to think outside the box, but to have creative play. I wanted to create something fun and playful and also show the bright and vibrant colors this new line features. I thought it would be interesting to take Jan’s signature paparazzi pose and recreate it with various aesthetically appealing geometric shapes surrounding her. I wanted to show depth and contrast with various colors, shapes, and patterns. More importantly, I wanted to pay tribute to the woman behind CND. This is how I enjoy “playing outside the box”.

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Marianthi Tsitsopoulou (Athens)

In this specific attempt, I tried to combine the two poles of expression; delicate color fade outs with industrial geometric shapes. I believe that contradictions of this kind make both styles stand out. I like textures and optical illusions, this is why I chose the cateye polish to outline my designs; i love the depth it gives to the design and the tricks it creates with the light as seen from different angles. It is like life, something may seem obvious and stable, but different eyes see it differently and interpret it according to their angle.

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Seantrese Eddy (Jacksonville, Fla.)


Toody Tolley (Johnson City, Tenn.)

For pre-challenge #1, I wanted to incorporate Creative Play lacquer in a unique way. I watched CND’s advertisements for the new lacquer and pulled the phrase “Go psychedelic, just go play!” I then Googled psychedelic images and came across some vintage, psychedelic band posters. From the moment I saw these, I knew I wanted to paint a psychedelic NTNA poster. I’m known for my water marbled designs and incorporated this into my design by using it as the border of my poster. This was my first time painting a nail art mural and it was very challenging, but loads of fun! I hope you enjoy my vintage NTNA poster and will consider me to be in the Top 18.

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Tracey Lee (Eindhoven, Netherlands)

What a way to start off the NTNA competition, with Creative Play pushing us to “Play outside the box”. I have created a handpainted design showing how this competition is pushing me to “break” through my creative boundaries. The NTNA logo is shattering any creative barriers I may have had. Notice how plain the creative barriers were, just plain white, while hidden behind it is a party of color, technique, and possibilities. I have completely fallen in love with the trend at the moment here in Holland with Zentangle, Zendoodle adult coloring in books. This encourages adults to be creative in a relaxed and harmonious atmosphere. I have incorporated that into the design too. Only when you are truly relaxed can your creativity come to life. I have used shadowing to create some depth and interest in the design so that you can really see the possibilities of each element. Lines are just lines until you add shadow, then they become textured and interesting. “Creative Play” encourages color and dimension and through the “zentangle” design with bright, vibrant colors, I attempted to bring the two together.

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Tracy Vinson (Forest, Va.)

For me, I am TERRIFIED of panting people and graphics (lettering). So…if I am to remain true to the challenge, I knew I would have to tackle these two things right out of the gate.  I cannot imagine my life without music. As a former professor of Piano Pedagogy, I have a deep appreciation for all sorts of music and creative geniuses. I have painted for you the following musicians from left to right: Ludwig Van Beethoven, Michael Jackson, and Prince Nelson. Each of these artists have brought light and love to all of those who have enjoyed their music. By sacrificing their personal time, talents, and creativity, they’ve left a piece of their lives with all those who listen, and see them perform. It’s my hope I can do the same with my nail art. I trust I can leave a person feeling encouraged and their spirits uplifted after my paintbrush has danced across their nail. I hope you enjoy my “Music Masters” piece.

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Trisha Johnson (Shelby Township, Mich.)

Bright and fun colors, crazy and cool shapes, tons of glitter and metallics, and of course ME, are all what immediately came to my mind upon receiving the Nails Next Top Nail Artist Top 24 pre-challenge theme of Creative Play! When asked to “play outside the box” with our nail art, there were so many ideas bursting at the seams, and mostly thought about my entry video when I mentioned finally stepping out of my box, to be able to create nail art like never before. I would use all three mediums allowed (Creative Play polish, Shellac brand polish, and Wildflower acrylic paints), to hand paint a portrait of myself with all my colorful and creative details, that have been bursting out of my mind, across all five stiletto nails. I discovered my artistic abilities in high school, when I had a very eclectic art teacher, and I loved line work and dots, and therefore needed to include that in my challenge piece as it is part of my roots. The boxes throughout the piece are symbolic of the theme, CND’s new polish line advertisements, and all my ideas flowing freely! I’m a colorful, non-stop, creative soul, that can never have enough hot pink, glitter, and excitement in life!

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Valerie Ducharme (Laval, Quebec, Canada)

In the beginning, all is a question of vision and inspiration. Then, when you think about it, you realize that it’s listening to your gut. Creation is the beginning of everything, the universe as we know it. It’s another dimension, it’s a breath of fresh air, it’s an image that we have in our minds that takes form when something is described to us…

I took a look at the amazing Creative Play collection from CND. I looked at the colours and the videos. From there, I got the inspiration and I started to choose my base colours. They reminded me of pleasure, happiness,holidays, and celebration. They opened the door to endless possibilities. Unfortunately, once we get to be adults, we can forget our creative side. We must learn how to listen to the child in us, the one with the pure soul, the one with the new eyes, the fascination for all that is around us, the one that knows how to create. Being creative is child’s play if you just listen to your inner child, if you just allow yourself to reconnect.

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