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Submitted on
September 4
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The recent shitstorm that hit the gaming industry, and after that pretty much the entire internet after that, has left me a bit frightened to be honest.
[[ For those that spend the last weeks under a rock, go watch this and read that to view both sites of the matter and form your own opinion -- I'm not gonna do that for you ]]

Of course, we all knew that the internet could be a very nasty place. It has been a nasty place before and pretty much every single one of us knew that there places out there that are better be avoided when you're a sensitive person (or a normal human being with feelings -- however you want to call it). What the recent issue confronted us with, however, that as artists we aren't safe either. I can remember the earlier internet raids. The victims were either big organisations (Paypal, Scientology, etc) or idiots that actually did something that would probably get them into jail like torturing or murdering animals. While the consequences were often incredibly hash, it somehow still felt justified. Because, be honest; everybody wishes animal torturers the worst.

The recent examples were people like Zoe Quinn and Phil Fish. Two independent artists whose behavior got them on the bad side of the public opinion. Apparently bad enough to have their info doxxed, and rumors said they had to go undercover for a while to wait for the shitstorm to pass over. While I would be the last one to say their behavior is acceptable, and they wouldn't be people I'd like to hang out with... they haven't actually done anything so bad to justify this. They haven't killed anyone. They haven't tortured animals. They haven't done anything that's worthy of a place in jail. They're just not being liked by the general public.
And that's what concerns me. Because if that's what possible when people "don't like you". Where is the limit?

Being an independent artist

The indie title that many of those game artist were is basically nothing more that a sign to show that they're independent. Unaffiliated with a big company. In that sense, most of us are indie. We're working on our own art, our own styles, and doing our own commissions and prints. We're doing our own thing. 
Being independent mostly means that we don't have people doing our PR for us. We do our own communication and answer our own messages/inboxes for these simple reasons;
:bulletred: Money
:bulletred: Artistic integrity
While the first is pretty obvious (starving artist meme, anyone?), the latter is often a personal choice by many artist. If you got another person to answer your messages, how much "you" will be left in your communication? Will it still be as personal as you intended? As art is a personal matter for many artist, this often is a deal for many single artist, hence they choose to answer their messages themselves.

All in all, this makes how the public thinks of you be heavily influenced by two things;
:bulletred: How experienced are you in handling PR?
:bulletred: How much of a likable person are you anyway?
Artists being experienced with PR, marketing... or anything else than art... are usually rare. I'm not saying it doesn't happen. But the more creative people are, the more they steer on emotion (and less on logic). Some have experience in PR by having worked in part time jobs. Most haven't. Which leaves us to the second; how much of a likable person are you? And this all comes down to the good old thing that we already experienced in school. That some people were just liked a little bit more than others for reasons most of us were unable to comprehend. 

The thing with critique

The most heard argument for why people dislike an artist on the internet is that that "this person doesn't handle critique well".
Either meaning;
:bulletorange: The artist reacts fiercely to critique
:bulletorange: The artist ignores/blocks critique
:bulletorange: The artist doesn't improve fast enough, leading the audience to think he doesn't do anything with given critiques

I've thought long and hard about it, having had my own various experiences with critique. And up until today I'm not sure what it means to be able to handle critique well, since I'm pretty sure once you passed a certain point, you just can't do it right and people will judge you harshly because you have exposure and people somehow want to see it justified.

First of all there's a difference between critique and bashing.
Giving a person a critique means you have at least the intention of helping this person forward in his artistic career. "I think this is a great portrait, but the lighting on the nose is somewhat off" makes a simple but still good critique. It would be even better with a suggestion on how to improve it. But at least the artist now has a clue on what is off and what might need a bit of fixing. A comment like "your artwork sucks" is nothing more than burning a person down. Although to most people this difference is (hopefully) obvious, there's a large group of people that thinks anything is justified in the name of critique. And the more exposure a person gets on the internet, apparently the more it is 'justified' to make these kinds of remarks about this persons art. Because "if a person is that popular, he should be able to handle it"? 

To be honest, I've never quite understood this flaw in logic.
The point is that popularity is a thing artists don't call onto their selves. It's decided by their public so it's outside their own influence. So how exactly should this whole justification thing work then?

Should it be considered normal that people are getting death threats and are wished the worst, just because they happen to have many fans? Because if that is the case, I'd like to know exactly how many fans does it take to rule out the human emotions of a such person? 

In the end, critique is nothing but a helpful tool for an artist. Some people will use it to their advantage. Some will not. But no matter how you twist or turn words or views, an artist has no real obligation to put that critique to use. After all; the people on the internet are nothing but an audience. Expectations from people on the internet are often limitless and unreasonable. Can you really blame an artist for not being a role model when all he wanted to do is just make art? -- That seems to be the real question.

Change vs personality

The thing that immediately comes with critique, is change.
If your audience says they don't like something about your attitude, you can always change it. And of course we all change, get older (and hopefully wiser) over the years, and toughen up a bit.

It becomes different matter when people say they don't like our art. And leaves us with multiple questions;
:bulletyellow: Where do we draw the line between "improvement" and "style"?
:bulletyellow: Wasn't that art the thing that got us well known in the first place?
:bulletyellow: Is there still a sense of "self" in adapting to the environment like a chameleon?

Censorship vs protection

And with removing comments (critiques) there's of course always the issue of censorship. Because when is something censorship and when is it not? The recent issue with Zoe Quin might've been the prime example of damage control and censorship, going as far as contacting moderators on other forums to get certain messages and comments taken offline. But in a lot of other cases the issue is a lot less black and white.

On DeviantArt every person is given the power to moderate the comments on his journals and artworks. I too have used this power in the past to remove comments that I found unsuitable (mostly foul language and swearing). I've explained in my recent journal about white knights, I've also purposefully removed people revealing names of 'haters'. Censorship? Maybe. But I don't want to be the one responsible when a few thousand angry fans go to the page of such a person to do god-knows-what kind of damage.


The reason why I brought this topic up is not because I wanted to discuss the recent issue involving the state of the gaming industry or Zoe Quinn. DeviantArt has already various topics on that so if you want to discuss that issue, I'd advice you to go there. What I wanted to know is how this recent issue influenced your thoughts about your art and the public opinion.

:bulletblack: Do you think it's it's important to maintain a good public image?
:bulletblack: Do you have people to help you handle hard PR related issues, or do you handle everything yourself?
:bulletblack: How do you handle critique?
:bulletblack: Do you think some artists receive an unreasonable amount of critique? (and does that make it reasonable they lash out sometimes?)

I'm looking forward to hear your opinion on the subject Nod 
Add a Comment:
Princess-Eevee9 Featured By Owner Sep 16, 2014
I feel ashamed. I only heard about this issue on Gamefaqs but thanks to your links I spent the time to educate myself on the matter. At first I was unbelievably pissed at this woman and using her looks as a means to gain the advantage to get what she wanted. But then I started reading more and realized that she's suffering far more than hating her could ever do. Her reputation has been dragged through the mud. Possibly she'll never get a job in the industry again.
DamaiMikaz Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
It's true she did things wrong. The amount of hate she gets however seems somewhat unjustified. 
I mean; we're talking about a person that cheated. Not about some mass murderer or something. People need to place things into perspective :/
Princess-Eevee9 Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2014
Sometimes I kidding blur the lines and put little things like adultery and minor major crimes on the same pedestal as murder and the like because I exaggerate when trying to make a point. But you're absolutely right.
Starryfrogs Featured By Owner Sep 15, 2014
Whoah, I have been living under a rock. (My rock is nice and cozy. I like my rock.)
I am not a public person, at all. Hell, I even feel nervous about posting my opinion online. But I have some things I'd very much like to say regarding this matter. And I apologise ahead if not everything makes sense. Hehe.

Bullet; Black Do you think it's it's important to maintain a good public image?
I think public image is not important. Celebrities often get a lot of criticism, because people simply don't know how to behave themselves and don't understand what it means to be well-known. And because of this they do crazy stuffs. For me it is important to be kind, no matter the situation or person. So maybe someone acts like a douche, you have got no right to go all haywire because someone doesn't fit in. If you don't like how someone is, then get over it and don't interfere with that person. Your time is more precious than hating all day long and be hated all day long.
Besides, I think public image might even be a bad thing. An image usually consist of that what people expect of you and a first impression. After lots and lots of thinking I have drawn my own conclusions. Basic idea is: don't trust first impressions too much and try to look beyond your own culture and habits.
(^Don't know if this makes much sense. To me it does.)

Bullet; Black Do you have people to help you handle hard PR related issues, or do you handle everything yourself?
I think I'm a little too young for these kind of issues, but I like to handle things on my own. I have had people gossiping about me, but usually I ignore that kind of stuff and if someone asks me if it's true or not I explain what and why. Of course, I get mad about it, but that's my own problem. I can't stay mad at something that's not true and usually ridiculous (in my case). After a while these kind of issues will be forgotten. In a year I don't think I will hear many people talking about this case anymore.

Bullet; Black How do you handle critique?
Actually, I am glad whenever someone gives me some constructive criticism. Constructive criticism leads to improvement, and that's one of the things I want most: improvement. And whenever someone does not agree with me or if someone has a problem with me I'd like to know why and deal with it myself, so that I can further improve. I love discussion and I am not afraid to change my mind about certain topics.

Bullet; Black Do you think some artists receive an unreasonable amount of critique? (and does that make it reasonable they lash out sometimes?)
Yes, but most of that criticism is trolls or people that do not like their art. Most of this can be prevented. If you don't like the style or art of a certain artist, don't be bothered by it. You are not forced to like things you dislike. The same goes for music; if you don't like the song, don't listen to it.
I understand that in this case it is more than just criticism. I don't quite care whatever happened between those people. I just find it ridiculous that these kinds of fights are getting blown up while there are more pressing matters in this world at the moment.
Personally, I understand why artist need to blow off steam sometimes. It is just like being bullied (which, sadly, I have enough experience with); at a certain point you're fed up with it. But I do not find that that irritation and anger should be vented towards other people or animals. Go punch a table or something, but don't hate on another person. Write it out, tell someone close to you, but don't. post it. on. the. internet. Shitstorm guaranteed.

If someone disagrees or wants clarification, feel free to ask. :)
Exovare Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I honestly have not heard of this issue until now.
My opinion is that with great power, comes great responsibility. Now, before you say that I'm just quoting, let me elaborate.
As one gets popular, he must be more aware to say in a good public image. For example, he/she should not accidentally insult a group of people, should be able to handle criticism in a professional and fair way, and should be able to tell the general opinions of his/her fans. That is to be expected. Such is why the leaders of any reasonable group must be experienced and careful about what they're saying and doing.
Such, in the case of popular creatives, can be a difficult thing to handle, because then, that'll be the loss of self. One of the big problems is that the inherent instability of a creative being popular will inevitably cause them to fall on someone's bad side. The other is that creatives do not choose whether they are popular.
This is not the creative's fault, as that is predestined to happen at one point. Rather, it is the fans' fault for not being able to handle it. Fans know when they follow a person that that person might accidentally offend them. And while it is morally right that the person apologizes or corrects his/her mistakes, it becomes the fans' fault whenever they take the criticism too far. Such is what happened in this case.
Handling criticism like these is perhaps the most difficult thing to do. On one side, that person must respond, and on the other side, he must not respond, for responding will likely aggravate the commentor. I believe the thing to do is to acknowledge it without giving any opinions. It wouldn't be incorrect to call these sort of responses "ambiguous." This way, it reaffirms the idea that the person acknowledges everyone, including those who do not think the art is perfect, while maintaining a good public image.
HelixAbyss Featured By Owner Sep 10, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Wow, how did I not hear about this until now?

Alright, well I'll contribute to the answers :)

Bullet; Black Do you think it's it's important to maintain a good public image?

I agree with what someone else said in the comments, it is important to have a good public image, but if you are covering up who you are that is a bit too far. People should express themselves and who they are, but maintain respect as well.

Bullet; Black Do you have people to help you handle hard PR related issues, or do you handle everything yourself?

Nope, no help. I'm nowhere near well known enough to have these kinds of issues XD

Bullet; Black How do you handle critique?

Well, to be honest, I mostly receive trolling/bashing (mostly in relation to my written work, things like "this sounds ridiculous/stupid/etc.") but the one time I did receive constructive criticism, well... let's just say, after I had some time to let the words settle in, my art improved quite a bit! I really appreciate critique on the rare occasions I get it, I actually feel kind of lost when I start something new and no one will tell me what's wrong with it.

Bullet; Black Do you think some artists receive an unreasonable amount of critique? (and does that make it reasonable they lash out sometimes?)

I honestly don't know... I usually watch smaller artists who don't have many commenters. I usually see senseless bashing, which I do not believe is at all justified or reasonable, or I see people saying that everything is good and perfect.

Thank you again for taking the time to put this together, I always enjoy reading your journals!
XxNekoAnimeGirlxX97 Featured By Owner Edited Sep 10, 2014  Student Digital Artist
I've had similar views on these subjects, although I don't get critiques on DeviantArt, I do ask for them in school....from college prep art teachers and such. Critique can really help in a constructive way if done correctly. As for over-excessive amounts of critiques...well unless the critiques are unfair or completing trashing your art, then I think that artist can't vent about it and be upset or choose to ignore some critiques if they feel like they read enough already. As for public yourself , but also act professional. Always be careful of what you want to be let known. 
Felizias Featured By Owner Sep 10, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I didn't hear most of this shitstorm over in Germany. :O

Bullet; Black Do you think it's it's important to maintain a good public image?
Yes, I always prefer artists/people in general that have a good public image (and mean it!).

Bullet; Black Do you have people to help you handle hard PR related issues, or do you handle everything yourself?
Haha, lol, no. I'm a hobbyist. :lol: I'm glad we have sales and customer service at my company (forwarding agency) though. :)

I will assume you mean balanced critiques here.

Bullet; Black How do you handle critique?
I usualy read it for the overall feeling first and then filter subjective and objective informations. I can see what I did well and what needs improvement then. If I feel bad about a critique, I step back from it for a while and get back after a few days.

Bullet; Black Do you think some artists receive an unreasonable amount of critique? (and does that make it reasonable they lash out sometimes?)
Well, how much critiques they receive depends on their activity ("PR") for the greatest part and on their supporters for a smaller part.
Yes, some artists receive more feedback than others and sometimes it is impossible to see for outsiders if it's chance or activity ("PR").
shirokomo Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2014  Student General Artist
I heard of this situation while on Tumblr, but erm... I didn't understand a word of it. I honestly have no clue what happened, or why it happened. 

"Do you think it's important to maintain a good public image?"

Of course. Impressions and image are everything in this society, where people tend to judge quite a bit. However, what does a good public image matter if it isn't you? Be positive, but be yourself is my personal philosophy tbh

"Do you have people to help you handle hard PR related issues, or do you handle everything by yourself?"

Honestly I'm just a 16 year old, so I've never really experienced tough PR related issues. Although if I did, I'd either have to handle it myself or at least vent to a close friend. Popularity is something I'm iffy about anyways... 

But uh, I do remember when I got a rather harsh critique on one of my art assignments in class. It hurt me a little because I worked so hard on it, yet I didn't really meet any of the requirements. I just went home and watched some anime films and went back to feeling better the day after :^)

"How do you handle critique?"

It depends on the critique. I usually just say "okay" or "thank you" and fix what is needed now.

"Do you think some artists receive an unreasonable amount of critique? (and does that make it reasonable they lash out sometimes?)"

If you're referring to Tumblr dot com, then yes.
And this isn't even critique anymore, it's just blatant name calling and rumor spreading.

One of them gets anonymous hate for their genderbent drawings, calling them a "cisbian" (a lesbian who only likes cisgendered girls) and a "transphobe" when they're really not and they have no evidence to prove these claims.

There's another who gets called a "white, pedophilic transphobic cishet" when the artist is Mexican, has a transgender girlfriend and is demisexual/bisexual. They got so much anonymous hate after those rumors were spread when one of their images got really really popular.

It concerns me that there really isn't any real critique in that community. You're either an angel, or you're trash depending on everything you say or do (even if it's just the little things) :')
TenderVigilante Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I was also under a rock, but after reading the article, it seems like the situation was blown completely out of proportion, more likely than not because Quinn has a vagina.
To answer the critique question; I was a blacksmith for 6 years in WNC, a place where blacksmithing is beyond cutthroat.  More than thrice, I've gotten into fistfights over business matters, I've been intimidated physically, have intimidated others, had tools stolen, have destroyed others art work, had mine destroyed, so on and so forth.  In such an environment, where a great deal of money is in play and the rules of decent society do not exist, I have learned one thing for sure; no such thing as PR, good or bad.  It's a knife fight, where the last man, sometimes woman, standing gets to say what is what.  Based on my own experiences, an artist should do, say and create whatever they feel like, within the confines of the law, and then physically assault anyone who says boo when no one is looking.  Like any business, it's about the product.  Unfortunately, the enemy is almost always other artists, so, it boils down to keeping the public ignorant while you do what you must... unless the thought of having enemies disturbs you, then just be squeaky clean and friendly.  Pretty simple.
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