Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When Artists Rest in Stasis

A bizarre situation, indeed.

I'm specifically speaking about artists on any skill level who are caught in a perpetual state: a state lacking in improvement, and sometimes, succumbing to regression.

Two cases of such a feat have caught my eye in the past year. These online people were relatively close to me. For both, I met them years and years ago (before/at the beginning of high school), lost contact with them, and recently found their work again. I've decided to write about them. I won't mention names, but it's much too hard to describe their situation without at least a description and background.

-long post warning-

Misguided Comfort Zone:

Upon first finding this person on the Internet, back in my preteen years, I was amazed. It started a small obsession for me, which guided my art in a strange, but temporary, direction. Their art primarily existed (and continues to exist) in the realm of fan art to a popular franchise. The dinosaurs and characters they drew seemed so distant and professional to me. From my point of view, I could see this person taking their talent and skill into a career one day.

Now, at least six years later, I found myself thinking of them again. I looked them up online, and lo and behold, still around! And rather active at that. This thrilled me to no ends, and I instantly rushed to see their art.

It is an oddly tragic thing to idolize artist's work one day, then years later look upon it with surprised confusion and worry. They had hardly improved. In six years, their subject matter, skill, and style remained the same. Some aspects had even relapsed.

For instance, instead of improving anatomy, lighting, shading, and an expanded understanding of digital art tools like Photoshop and Corel Painter... They focused on developing a more painterly digital technique. This technique itself is a difficult thing to grasp. It can be done extremely well, but only after the foundations of art creation are understood. Yes, it is very apparent their recent art is more painterly. But without a full, well-rounded grasp on such aforementioned skills, their works lack integrity that one would expect after six years.

That isn't to say this artist is a bad person. Quite the opposite! They're very polite and amiable. In the past few weeks, they have finally begun expanding their subject matter, so I am curious as to how they will address more realistic approaches.

This in complete contrast to...

Improvement is Unnecessary, for [Self-Proclaimed] Mastery is Already Achieved:

When I first met this person, I could really connect with them. We were both young and breaking into our teens - out to take the world by storm. To me, they drew really cool dragons and art in general. We would roleplay our characters together, talk about art, and blab about random crap.

Unbeknownst to my teenaged Internet self, this person led a ridiculously psychotic online life.

They suddenly contacted me a few months ago. I hadn't spoken with them in probably four or five years. I was pleasantly astonished to meet them again, instantly curious about their artwork, and they eagerly guided me to a couple pieces.

I found myself feeling the same as I did with the previously mentioned person. This person had not improved. In a way, their skills even deteriorated.

With further investigation, I discovered their other online life: the one I must have been too blindly naive to notice way back when. They self-proclaimed themselves as a Master Artist sent from God - born with holy talent. Supposedly, they began consciously drawing at the ripe age of two. Those dragons and characters they drew?: a majority were copied off the style and scheme of a popular artist. They developed such a conceited attitude, that when they asked for comments about their art, they completely ignored any and all critique, suggestion, or help - even from professional artists (whose art was then called, and I quote, "shitty"). Their excuse circled around the idea that their art is already perfect. It is strange that they see themselves as divine, and then fish for compliments in every aspect of their life. If perfection is achieved, what would they care about what others think? One moment they say no one else matters, and the next moment they squeeze positive feedback out of you. Those who have provided even the slightest negative feedback have been ignored, cussed at, or argued against.

You might think I'm kidding, but the sad truth is that I am not.

As for their art specifically, the transparency of their artistic deterioration allows me to see who this person really is. They consistently avoid drawing hands and complete faces. Cartoony, simplified, and always identical facial features float around sporadically in their sketchbook, detached from completion. If they draw a torso, that torso is guaranteed to lack at least the head, legs, and hands. Sometimes, this goes so far as to forget about the arms, or even gravity. They boast a professional grasp of art but what they deem as professional is widely known as a fear of change and development, under the guise of self-proclaimed 'perfection.' Their understanding of anatomy is incredibly childish. They say they use references: art books, photography, life studies, and such. But looking at their work, you would never guess this.

It seems they unfortunately fall into what art professors call 'Drawing what you think you see / what you wish to see, and not what you actually see.' This is more common a trait than you'd like to think, but most growing artists pop out of this box. It is easily amended with some honest training, willingness to improve, and an open mind.

...Which this person lacks. I have never seen a worse case of narcissism.

Two entirely different personalities, yes. Should these people ever visit my humble little blog and recognize themselves, know that I don't regret what I've said, for it's true. To the first person - you're awesome because you are still working towards improvement. I'm excited about what you have in store for the future. To the second person - grow up.

If anyone out there is curious about the subject, feel free to comment here, drop me an email, or message me on AIM. I'm always open to discussions. =)


  1. So I have to say you have me genuinely curious as to who these artists are, if only because I've observed something similar. So many artists I used to admire and hold in such high esteem now seem at a standstill. I remember wanting to be just like them years ago, and now I find myself...well, mildly horrified that I did.

    Now I suppose it's all well and good if that person doesn't plan to do anything with their art and they just kind of do it as a hobby, but I think what's most disturbing to me is the fact that so many want to make money doing their commissions and yet, at least with the artists I've observed, they're so opposed to criticism and actually learning foundation-level skills. Which was admittedly how I used to be (and probably how most people start out, if I had to chance a guess.)

    My two cents--you has them.

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  3. Only one comment about the first case, as I've seen the second case many a time.

    Sometimes a bit of deterioration in style can be because the artist is exploring something new, even if the step into the bright waters of the new ocean is hesitant. One should not look down on mistakes, at least if the artist is trying something new. From what you said about that artist finally changing subject matter, it could be because they've realized they were stagnating and are trying with hesitant steps something new. No one is a master when they first begin something, of course.

    I can see potential in the first case to learn something. The second case, though, someone already too proud of their work... only will some great defeat be able to get through to that person.

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