What does a visual effects artist do in his spare time? Thats a trick question, cause there is no spare time to be had in this industry :) It would be more accurate to ask what one does when he should be sleeping!
Speed Modeling Challenges is the answer. The concept is a simple one. A time limit, usually an hour or two, and a theme are established at the start of each weeklong challenge, you’re then free to create what you want within those constraints. Its purely a modeling challenge, meaning that lighting and texturing are excluded from the time limit, aswell as the judging process. A simple render and wireframe are required for judging.
I tended to push the renders further than they needed to be pushed, but for me, the whole point of taking part in the challenges, was to polish my modeling aswell as my lighting and rendering skills.
Many of the topics were inspired by real life objects. I take no credit where it isn’t due for the design of some of the objects I recreated in 3d. When you’re pressed for time, its just easier to model from a reference image, than to either wing it, or sit and design something yourself.