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Random Artsy Thoughts

With gaming done for 2010 and conventions bearing down on me (including, have I mentioned, Confuzzled, nudge-nudge wink-wink?), it's time to start doing some heavy duty thinking about art (as opposed to just cranking out comics, which is what I was doing before November went all pear-shaped).

Honestly, I can't say I'm happy with the current state of furry art; the always-tenuous community seems to fragmenting more than ever, and certainly the fun-and-happy-but-not-X-rated toony art that I prefer has receded further into the background. I could expound all sorts of theories about why, but without any real info to go on they'd amount to little more than "Those ding-dang furries keep liking the wrong stuff!" ... which isn't useful.

I am particularly disappointed with the current situation at ArtSpots, which recently had a makeover I didn't care for and now seems to be having a traumatic identity crisis, at least going by its forums. Again, I could expound all sorts of theories, but I don't have any real useful thoughts as to what to do about it — at least not that are likely to be embraced by the folks in charge over there. They have a vision and they're trying to pursue it, which I can't fault them for, even if I think there are some fundamental flaws in that vision.

I won't rant about FurAffinity; I've done that enough. I will say that for all the wrong ways it rubs me, it is where the users are, and what good is a website without users? But it also has so much friggin' baggage. I don't feel comfortable just sending anybody over to look at my FA page, for fear of what they might click on while they're there and then associate with me. What I want, what I've always wanted, was a place to share my art with like-minded folks in a community atmosphere, that I didn't mind also sharing with mixed company.

Feh. It's frustrating. I'm not prepared to throw my own hat in the ring with yet another furry art site attempt, but the idea is tempting. I can't tell if a worst-case scenario would be chirping crickets, or having to spend all of my free time attempting to wrangle a bunch of neurotic and demanding furries instead of actually being able to enjoy the website. I'm also not sure that if you take out all the pr0n and refrigerator art, furry actually has enough going for it to sustain itself.

-The Gneech



(Deleted comment)
Dec. 21st, 2010 01:24 pm (UTC)
We can talk in more detail about it at FC if you're interested, but I think the move away from a gallery-style site (particularly with the disassociation of comments from individual pieces, which I'm happy to see has been returned) has really been a hit to how useful the site is to the individual artist.

As for what the future direction is, I really don't have much of a useful guess. It's already taken a left turn or two from what I was hoping for when I signed up.

I don't want to downplay the importance of the whole "learning and improving" focus of the site, because I do think that's important, but I don't think that's going to work as a "selling point" to bring people in. Rather, it's something that will happen organically and more-or-less without prompting once artists are together. It's just a thing we naturally do!

Instead, in an imaginary world where I was running Artspots, I would work on a laser-like focus on these aspects:

  • Go back to the gallery model, allowing the artists to group pieces the way they like via thumbnail. The current "last thing first and only the last five or so" makes it hard for an artist to point at the page and see "Look at all this neat stuff I've done!" But artists pointing other artists at the site is a vitally important way to bring in more quality users.

  • Have some pre-defined categories for that gallery model that can tie in to other parts of the website. Primary example: have "Sketchbook" be a category on each artist's page (or at least an option for each artist's page) which is then also fed into a "Sketchbooks" stream on the site. Other categories on a user's page could be "What's New" (automagically populated by the last n things the artist posted, regardless of what other category tags they put on it), "Commissions," "Available for Print," etc.

  • Definitely bring back the viewer/favorite info for the artists. With the possible exception of the comments, this was in many ways the single most useful tool-for-artists part of the site there was, by helping us learn what people responded to and often why.

  • Some sort of an "artist's blog/journal" would probably help foster the community aspect. I realize there's a certain amount of "C'mon, it's not a blog!" here, but I look at DA and I can't argue with success -- having a space where artists can interact on a personal level with their viewers, friends, and other artists really brings a lot to the table. Look at me, for example: I am just not that prolific with the art on a daily basis, but I love to talk about it. Being able to "talk art" on my page or on another user's page, on a one-to-one basis rather than "cluttering up the forums" with such a discussion, would give me more of an impetus to come back regularly instead of just those times when I have something to show.

  • This one may be purely a matter of my own asthetics, but I'd lose the yellow ochre and sans serif. The place looks entirely too serious now. The previous look, with Seurat in the corner and a lot of friendly blues was much more warm and inviting, and looked like a place where that happy toony art would be right at home.

  • One thing: have "Browse" be the home page, not a giant splash page of Seurat that doesn't actually tell people much about what the site actually does. Then have a big "Make your own spot today!" button in the upper right-hand corner of the Browse page. That could have a picture of Seurat on it. ;)

  • Finally, as much as it may annoy, I'd look into revenue streams, both for the individual artist, and for the website. That bandwidth ain't gonna pay for itself, and I think almost everyone is fine with that. It could be a print-on-demand service, or internal-only banner ads (Artspots users plugging their own stuff to and via other Artspots users, sorta like the old Keenspot newsbox), or something. After all, what defines a "professional" is that they get paid for what they do. It's a real-world indicator that yes, what this person does has value, and it's really something that should be integral to your identity as an artist rather than something that gets pooh-poohed.

That's the gist of it, anyway. :)

-The Gneech
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 21st, 2010 07:19 pm (UTC)
Well, that's what I meant when I said I didn't have thoughts "likely to be embraced by the folks in charge over there." An art archive/portfolio site is exactly what I want, but with a "clean only" policy. A DeviantArt-like site I can send grandma to is absolutely and precisely what I want — preferably without the hacking, bugs, and Facebook-like nature.

I understand that's not the direction you want ArtSpots to go in, and that's your prerogative. That doesn't change the fact that it leaves me out in the cold for what I'm looking for, and so I'm exercising my God-given right to gripe about it in my journal. :)

-The Gneech
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 22nd, 2010 03:31 am (UTC)
I'm not sure we're entirely agreed on what we're referring to by "happy toony art," either. When you say "one-off fun things," are you talking about sketches, or finished pieces? Brian Reynolds can slap together a 'toon that any industry professional would be happy to have his work next to — but most of us aren't Brian Reynolds!

There seems to be a fundamental contradiction in your stated goals that either hasn't been resolved or I'm just not parsing. "Happy fun toons is srs bizness" doesn't compute. Mind you, I'm only barely a professional myself, but if I were in the market, I wouldn't want to be trying to impress potential clients or otherwise showing off surrounded by a bunch of WIPs or refrigerator art, regardless of genre. Are you looking at a model where the pros put their showoff stuff on a gallery somewhere else and then toss everything else onto ArtSpots? Or do you just want a giant G-PG art jam? 'cos if you want a giant art jam, why have such a Madison Avenue art design?

Do you see my confusion?


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