It was a day like any other, and I was just surfing DeviantArt, browsing the many deviations in my inbox. While I did so, my eye wandered to something that was called an 'tutorial on manga anatomy'. As usual, I was curious about the content. And as the preview image was pretty small, I wanted to check this out. It seems like this girl, let's name her Abbey (it's not her real name, but I think calling her 'that girl' is so damn confusing) had made a tutorial on male manga anatomy. Nothing wrong with that, you'd say. But I've been following Abbey for a while already. I originally met her in the forums, asking for feedback on one of her fanart drawings. Mostly anatomy related stuff. I gave her some tips. We talked a bit. And I followed her soon after, as I thought her art looked pretty promising altogether.
Now, I didn't know Abbey in real life. But she was a beginning artist, nowhere towards a level that she could actually be explaining things the right way to other people. But not even that bothered me. The thing that did bother me, however, was that she asked money to download her entire tutorial. The deviation page offered only a preview -- from which I could already see some large anatomical mistakes. To download the entire thing (which said to include a video tutorial), you needed to donate some DA points (which are actually money) to her account.
So... okay... people ask money to download an 'anatomy tutorial' which isn't right at all? At that point I began to wonder why. Why would you ask money to teach people stuff the wrong way? Are you so bent on earning money? Or haven't you got a clue on what your own skill level is?
Anyhow. I tried to be kind. I mean; I helped her before and she appreciated that. So why not help her again?
So I put a comment underneath the deviation in which I pointed out some things that were absolutely wrong in the preview image. Not everything. It wasn't my intention to discourage her, as she was just a beginner. Just a few things that really bothered me and were really REALLY wrong. It wasn't meant to put her down. It was meant to help her out to make better tutorials. And I didn't even mention the whole money-thing. A few hours after I responded, one of Abbey's loyal 'fans' responded. How the hell a 'lowlife' like me could insult her. I tried to be reasonable. But the girl (no older than 15 -- according to her profile) wasn't up for a discussion. When she started insulting me on a personal level, I soon stopped replying. I thought that might be just one fan, but I couldn't be more wrong. There were more.
Sadly I never got a response from Abbey herself. She removed my reply and deleted the deviation soon after. The discussion was obviously done with. And as I was blocked and removed, I suppose she didn't like me anymore. Well... so much for being helpful on DeviantArt, I guess ~__~
Okay. I admit that I might've just let this go. That I maybe shouldn't have replied to her drawing. But it just bothered me.
Why would people charge money for tutorials that won't even teach you the right stuff?
Bad habits are easy to learn, but hard to forget. So why make people learn bad habits? And even charge for it as well? I can't understand at all. The 2 most logical explanations that I could think about was that Abbey either greatly overestimated her skill own level, or that she was so bent on earning money that she didn't care about this as well. I see both of them happen a lot.
Back in the old days, before the internet was widely available, the only way in which you could teach art was either by joining an institution (like a school) or having an art gallery and holding workshops. Those were nearly the only ways to get attention, as print media was expensive, so only large institutions could afford to promote themselves that way. Either joining an institution or having a gallery meant that you needed to at least have teaching papers for art (and in order to get those, your skill level was tested) or that you have to be good enough to actually have your own art gallery. The same went for publishing. While in the old days, you could only publish your books when you could find at least a publisher, nowadays every person can put stuff out on the internet and ask money for it. In a way, this is more fair. But with the internet market expanding rapidly, the amount of crap published often makes it hard to find the real quality pieces. And often popularity isn't a good indicator of skill level, whereas there are highly popular artists that dedicate themselves to a fandom which is very widespread (and those people often aren't able to make another type of art), and artistic masters that don't get the attention they deserve because of poor marketing.
The point is; there used to be a certain skill factor that kept the real crap out. Because publishers only published what they thought 'would sell', and educations just had certain quality standards in order to justify the amount of money students should pay. A standard that doesn't exist anymore.
I guess this rant kinda makes is sound as if I'm some sort of elitist against the open culture of the internet.
But I am not. Not at all!
I honestly embrace the principle of online sharing, user generated content and open source. Hell, as a programmer I've even contributed to open source projects myself. I think the openness is one of the greatest things of the internet, which led to great websites such as wikipedia or systems like linux. The point is... once the internet became popular, a lot of dumb people went there. I mean; real dumb people. The kind of people that have hardly enough brain cells to breathe. And those people started making art tutorials. And once they found out that you could make money by making art tutorials, they started uploading minimal screenshots with 'anatomy tutorial here', in the hope that people would buy it from them. And people did, and ended up totally disappointed.
Not that this goes for unpublished artists alone, though. The best example in this case is probably Christopher Hart. A self proclaimed artist, whose books almost entirely consist of drawings not made by himself (Seriously! Have you ever checked the lists of artists that worked --almost for free-- with him, just to get a glimpse of his fame?).
I can still remember being a 12 year old kid, interested in drawing manga. As the internet wasn't yet available here at that time (I sure feel old now), some friends bought my one of his books for my birthday. In the hope that would help me get better at drawing. I read it throughout and followed the steps. But somehow my drawings never got out as good as his, and I was clueless of why this was. It wasn't until I was much older and getting the hang of learning real human anatomy, that I saw the many mistakes that were in those books. How Christopher pretended explaining how manga faces work with simple 'guidelines' (as he called them). But without taking into account the 3 dimensional shape of manga head.
In short; once you learned those tricks, you could indeed draw a manga face. But only with that specific eyes/nose/mouth, and only in that specific angle. You got the illusion that you were learning how to draw, but the only thing you learned was a simple trick. Unlike what you thought; you weren't much wiser. You still didn't have a clue as how anatomy worked. You just copied a drawing with a few 'guidelines', which you couldn't reproduce properly! And on top of that, you were highly frustrated that you couldn't make those awesome drawings other manga artist could make. What did you do wrong? You followed the tutorial, didn't you? And you started to blame yourself for 'not having real talent' while all you did was looking for knowledge at the wrong place!!!
As I told before; bad habits are hard to unlearn. I ended up pretty frustrated by those manga tutorials. I continued drawing in my own style, until I couldn't get any further by myself, and eventually stopped drawing and continued writing. It was only after years, that I got fed up with the typical manga style, that I came to enjoy a style that was closer to realism. Which led me to learning realistic anatomy from from books from guys like Loomis and Hampton. And I immediately realized how I could use that knowledge to make manga as well. But was already over 20 years old by then. And the only thing I was thinking was; WHY DID I NEVER KNEW THIS BEFORE???
Although Christopher Hart is probably one of the worst manga drawing 'instructors' out of there (and no, I am not ashamed to say this), he sure isn't alone. Unlike many people out here, I've never been a real fan of Marc Crilley for the same reason. It's true that he makes cute drawings. But the proportions are pretty much off. And the worst thing is that he's unable to explain why he does certain things. Take this, a tutorial on a 3/4 face. Although the end result looks pretty neat, he fails to explain about why he does certain things. Why are the proportions that way? What happens when I turn the face? Why does the side of the face have bumps? Now compare it to this video, based on the Loomis method (it's realism, but hey). Same face, but better explanation (in case you wonder, the guy has separate videos on eyes, lips, etc). Got it now? The only credit that I can give Marc Crilley is that at least he does't charge money for his video tutorials. They're all free.
So what does make a good art tutorial?
Do we all need to go to an art institution to learn proper art? I don't think so. But I do think we should keep in mind to check a lot of tutorials before we accept things to 'be that way'. And look for explanations in why things are in a certain way, rather than just accepting stuff and try to remember every single detail. Things like anatomy are pretty logical, once you remember the basic shapes. And in the end remembering just a few basics will be a lot easier than remembering a bunch of 'guidelines' for every single position a manga face can be in. Same goes for stuff like light and colors. Try to look at the physics behind lighting and shading, instead of remembering a set of rules for every specific situation. It'll make it easier for you, even if you're in an unfamiliar situation.
The price for an art book doesn't always tell how good its contents are. Although there are certain quality standards that must be met in order to get published, it doesn't always mean it's good quality material. So before you purchase an art book, make sure to check its ratings. Either on Amazon/eBay (or wherever you're buying them), or on specific art sites. This also goes for stuff here, on DeviantArt. Be a critical customer. Know what you're paying for. If there's no preview available, then check the replies underneath the deviation, or ask for a preview. If people expect you to pay for stuff, you should at least know what you pay for.
As for free tutorials (on DeviantArt); try not to take them too serious. Some of them are good, most of them are mediocre, and some are really bad. Often those tutorials are about people explaining their view on a certain subject, or their method of painting. It could be very interesting to take a look at, or become inspired by. But don't see it as an 'absolute truth', because it often isn't. It's nevertheless good to look at, to get inspired by. Because... it's free. Why not?
What I like most, myself, is people like Proko or FZD school that make tutorials for free. Of course they have their motives; to sell their products (or in the case of FZD -- their art education). But they give you the opportunity to enjoy free tutorials, and pay only if you're interested and want to see more. And to be honest, I think that's a great way of marketing in the modern internet age. Customers are nowadays very critical on what they purchase. The time that we just bought something and 'hoped it was good' is long gone. Review sites are everywhere. And it has become really important what customers think about your product. So giving customers an option to enjoy your product, and leave them willing for more, is an extremely good way to market your stuff. I mean; look at the sofware industry. They're using this principle (trail versions, or free versions of a program) already for a very long time. And although the payment model changes over time, I still think this is very good way.
So what about you?
What do you think makes a good art tutorial? Do you think there should be quality guidelines for art tutorials, or does the usefulness depend on the target group (the reason why Christopher Hart is still popular by kids, maybe?). Do you think it's justified to pay for an art tutorial? And if you paid for one; what made you willing to pay for it? What made it so good? Or did you ever purchase anything that you had different expectations of?
I'm happy to hear about your experiences.
And, in the meanwhile; if you're still looking for a few decent free art tutorials, here on DeviantArt, take a look here.
Everything written in this journal is entirely based on my own opinion and experiences. Yours might be different. The name of the girl in the example was entirely fictional, though the event itself really happened.
Oh... and I'm not a native English speaker, so there could be mistakes in this text. Please forgive me for that.
Edit: Since this has seemed to hit the frontpage again, and there are people that simply don't know how to behave: Every deliberately hateful or hurtful comment will be immediately reported to staff and the user will be blocked without any further notice. I'm up for a reasonable discussion, but I've totally had it with all of the senseless hate just because something hit the frontpage.