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1424 No. 1424
I was going to post this in the thread on critique in /off-topic/, but I was disappointed that it was closed before I completed my final draft. Some people may consider this beating a dead horse, but I feel that there is still something that a reader may be able to take away from this. Some of the bits (particularly the numbered parts) are gamed from my friend's article on how to give critique, since we share many of the same ideas and opinions on the matter. The first half is essentially about morality, and the second half is about Better Critique.


Forgive me if I'm wrong, but right now this argument appears to be, essentially, "is the critiquer wrong for giving a critique to a person who may or may not want it" or "the person is wrong for not wanting it in the first place." This is a pretty difficult question. I think we can all agree that it is certainly better for someone to take a critique gracefully, and that people should act this way. However, should it be in the viewers hands to essentially, force people to take critique because of this statement, or in an extension of that argument: run people off the site for not doing so? Is it okay to run someone off the site for not responding to critique gracefully? It's a complex problem.

We can all agree that no one likes whiners who think they are hot shit and spam the word 'style' like it absolves them of everything. However, I do think that people are wrongly assigned this status more are more common than not. Also: people who are of this mindset are mostly inexperienced, and as people, we should be obligated to teach them that it is incorrect instead of taking what is essentially the easy way out. Because:

Critique is first and foremost, to help people. If they don't want to be helped, that's their problem (more on this later). In the same vein, as critics, we are free to say what we want. However, a lot of people here take the "if the artist can't take it, then it's their problem, and they should suck it up and stop whining" which is honestly an outdated view on criticism. In the same vein, the "if they can't take it, then we don't want them here" process of thought.

How this ties in with the topic at hand: Distinguishing between "they asked for it" and "they didn't ask for it" and the morality of trash-talk. If the person specifically asked for critique (ie, posted in /workshop/, or mentioned it) and you took the time to write the critique, and they respond in a defensive manner, then they basically wasted the time you took writing the critique. This is their problem. If you wrote a critique for someone who didn't ask for it (ie, posted anywhere else on the board, with no comment) then you are making the decision to use your own time for someone who may or may not use your critique.

Like any type of communication, the point of critique is to share information. Anything you can do to make it easier on the artist is a plus. No, we're not here to backpat people, but I've noticed that a lot of people here are new to writing critiques themselves. So what I have to say is:

1) You aren't there to be rude. I have to remind myself of this, especially when I'm critiquing something on the lower end of the skill scale.

2) You aren't there to be nice, either. I see a lot of advice to sandwich criticism between compliments, but more often than not this leaves me a lot of situations where I'm obligated to lie. Sometimes I honestly don't have anything I like about the piece, or simply a lot more things I find wrong with it than good about it. Instead, use the tone of your message to show it's not personal. I usually like to wish people good luck, or some other form of friendly greeting both at the beginning and end of critiques.

3) Yes, anyone can critique, in the same way that you don't have to be a film director to know when you're watching a bad film. If it looks wrong, then it probably is.

However, it is important to remember to:

4) It is also the critiquer's responsibility to be consistent. Recieving inconsistent critique can be incredibly stressful to an artist, because they can't sort the information properly. For example, criticism that strikes them as being subjective, but is delivered as objective. While we're here, I'd also like to address what I call "one-liners". Instead of a true critique, people will just say "I think ______ looks wrong" with no context or explanation whatsoever. This often leaves the artist more confused than not. An artist that is new to recieving critique will make assumptions, and attempt to defend themselves instead of asking for clarification, and this is where the lynchings start. Let's be clear that it is the responsibility of the critic to clarify what they are thinking without prompting, with phrases like "______ looks wrong, even if it's supposed to be intentional I think it was pulled off rather badly." You don't have to write a 3-part essay for every comment, as long as you're able to make your point clearly, without floundering about.

To the artist: If you don't understand a critique, there are two possibilities: a) The person giving the critique really has no idea what they're talking about or b) You're not advanced enough to understand the critique. If this is the case, I find it best to get a second opinion from a person that I generally trust (or to put it simply, THEY STUPID or YOU STUPID).

The bottom line is: If the critic can't be consistent, and at least ATTEMPT to be objective, throw that shit on the ground.

5) It's important to be able to distinguish between technical issues and taste issues. Particularly with things like stylization (when is it incorrect?) and aesthetics (when is a drawing lacking in aesthetic value?) - it can be quite difficult. But that's a struggle we all have to deal with. Work hard, and get to a point where it's much easier to make that distinction.

To wrap this up, all I have to say is: It is okay to not want to improve. An artist is not defined as "someone who wants to constantly progress on their technical ability". And keep in mind, a significant amount of great art has been produced by people who choose to isolate themselves, and it is not OUR responsibility to run off anyone who wants to do so, but is still interested in sharing. As critics, it is our right to critique. But not to ridicule.
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>> No. 1425
Some bits that didn't fit in anywhere:

i. Obviously, when you tell people they can do better, you always run the risk of them deciding it's not worth offending you. When this comes to something scarce (critiques), there is obviously a moral issue, because it's a legitimate risk. However, my reasoning on posting this is that a) it is my job to share information and educate people, and if it can be done better, I will expect that of them and b) there is a sliding scale of critiques - in the middle are the ones that are a good point in the right direction, at the top of the scale is the good stuff, and at the bottom are the critiques that hurt more than they help, and I would like to eliminate as many of these as possible, and hopefully promote clear, concise messages that help both parties.

ii. I have this impression that critique is basically charity, because it honestly takes up so much time (the same reason why they are in short supply everywhere). I always try to get some heartfelt appreciation when I get some on my work.

iii. I'd like to stress that it is very possible to give focused critique that identifies major problems and either points them out without offering solutions (this is okay!) or even just admits the critique's own biases while attempting to be objective to the best of their knowledge - without consuming ridiculous amounts of time. It honestly shows.
>> No. 1426
Serain, my dear, you forgot to add citations and references in your essay!
>> No. 1427
>> No. 1428
Got there literally a second while I was making urls. I FIND THIS HIGHLY IRONIC LAUGH WITH ME


>> No. 1429

trolling aside, I agree with you
>> No. 1430
I'm just going to sticky this if nobody had a problem with this.
>> No. 1431
I am very honored and pleased. I worked real hard on this.
>> No. 1432
Hmm, you've actually made me consider all my past critiques and wonder whether or not I've actually helped someone, or if I just made them want to never draw again. I'm definitely taking this into consideration next time I offer a critique.
>> No. 1433
I think that people can always use a little reminding that there's a big difference between offering constructive advice and stomping on another person's (figurative) dick. Text-based communication, especially on a style of message board where anonymity is the norm, is very easy to misinterpret, but it's really not hard to pause before shooting off a response to something that offends your sensibilities and consider whether there might be a more productive way to word it, or if the initial poster meant something else entirely.

It's always fun to stomp on another poster's dick, just as it's annoying to have someone explode in response to a reasonable criticism, but both are still outbursts, and they make anyone who's new or sitting on the fence in regards to posting on a board less comfortable about trying to share their own opinions there.
>> No. 1434
I honestly think almost all critiques that are given with the right intent are helpful. I wouldn't worry too much about it, myself. I'm not implying that you think this, but I'd like to stress at this point that it's not so much an essay about "Don't hurt people's feelings, THERE ARE SO MANY WAYS" so much as one about being as objective, smart, and thoughtful as you can be, and hoping it turns out for the best. Sometimes it doesn't and people still flip a shit. Fuck those guys.

What's worst about that is that I used to be one of those people who would jump on a drawing and rip it to shreds. It was decent advice, to be fair, but in presenting it in that format I also stopped myself from thinking critically about the piece. For example, telling an artist to lrn2anatomy is technically correct, but I learned to think deeper about things like "Is this artist really attempting to think about the figure in three dimensions, or just copying symbols*?"

As I mentioned, you always run the risk of people deciding it's not worth offending you, but you know what, I WILL EXPECT BETTER OF PEOPLE, ANON OR NOT. I learned the hard way that you won't earn the respect of anyone worth earning it from by acting like an internet tuff guy.

*this is briefly mentioned in WTP's tutorial (the third source link).
>> No. 1435
Can I raise my hand and ask an honest question here while probably bringing up dead horses and possibly sounding like an idiot?
>> No. 1436
It's not like anyone can tell you whether your question is going to be bad or not unless you tell us what the question is
>> No. 1437

Well, what exactly are the lines drawn for style?
I can understand outright animu being frowned upon, but what about a more cartoony approach like Joel's? (please don't kill me, I'm honestly curious)
>> No. 1438
Gosh. This is actually a very difficult and complex question, spanning way beyond the stance tf2chan takes on 'style'. It is something I think every artist (including myself) struggles with. I briefly touched on the subject on point 5 in the original post, but I will expand further on stylization. There are three major points in this essay: What is stylizaton, unintentional vs intentional stylization, and incorrect stylization. This is also a rough draft, so bear with me. I may expand on some parts that need expanding later. As always, feel free to discuss. I also hope this answers your question, as well as educates others on 'style'.


1) First of all: what is stylization?

Stylization, to me, is a standard group of symbols, deviations, or shortcuts that an artist makes when representing reality. This can be applied to most things. Line weights, pointed noses, large heads, dull/bright colors, blocky painting, JJ Abrams' undying devotion to lensflare - are all legitimate examples of stylization. To limit length and relevance, I'm simply going to address cartooning, specifically of human figures, in this essay.

There are certain groups of stylizations (such as anime) where figures typically follow particular trends - for example, large eyes, diminished noses, exaggerated hair, and thin, somewhat uniform body types are some that come to mind when someone says "anime". There is generally less emphasis on western shilouettes and more on frills, color palettes, and interchangeable aspects like hairstyles to define one character from another.

Team Fortress 2 is the complete opposite. The art style relies very heavily on shilouettes and exaggerations bone/muscle structures to define characters - this is particularly important in game design, where you have to be able to identify what class a person is and what team they are on from across the map and respond accordingly. As mentioned in the commentary for the game, the shilouettes are designed to also draw attention to the weapon the character is holding (ex guns are always held in front of the character, melees stick out to the side, and their shape is always very clear, even from a far distance.) Color palettes have little variation from character to character, but the body types and facial aspects are so different that no one would have any trouble distinguishing one from another. When game critics mention that TF2 is groundbreaking in that it's a fps with personality, they also take a jab at games like Crysis have issues - all their main characters have nearly interchangable builds and heights.

Neither of these ways of stylization are "Correct" ones. They actually have much in common - use of symbols, exaggeration/minimization of certain aspects of the human form, and approaches to deferintiating characters. However, I believe that some anime and TF2 are clear examples of deliberate stylization - and in almost all major aspects, deliberate stylization is almost entirely superior to unintentional stylization, which brings me to my next point.

2) Deliberate Stylization vs. Unintentional stylization

This is where I agree and disagree with the chan's general stance on anime and stylization. The root of this dislike is that many new artists start learning from anime, and therefore are riddled with holes in knowledge. They start by copying anime, instead of studying from the source of anime (real life), and therefore only transposing symbols (a certain way to draw an eye, perhaps, or a generic face shape). In short, they cannot distinguish between what the symbol of the eye represents and what an eye is actually supposed to look like (please read Scott McCloud's book, Understanding Comics, or click on the second link on the previous post >>1371).

When people try to reconcile the simplistic symbols they learned from anime or any other cartooning style with the entirely different (and I would have to argue, more complex, and infinitely harder to copy via symbol-learning) mass-based art style of TF2, usually disaster occurs. This particular problem is VERY common on this board, as well as /fanart/, in certain ways. It happened for me. Faces are one of my weaker points as an artist, and I am usually able to approximate facial structures via a very complex database of symbols I use, but I struggled for a large chunk of time with tf2's particular facial structures, some of which I still haven't completely nailed down yet, and have trouble imagining the features in three-dimensional space, as I should be.

A similar thing happens when artists try to switch from anime to semi-realism. second part of her essay (link is in the comments) talks about "Patterns and Anti-patterns", and cites a common stylization anti-pattern that artists transitioning from anime to semi-realism have.

The point is (and I know I've gotten a little bit off-topic here) that all this talk of pre-learnt symbols is a clear example of unintentional stylization in newer artists. By learning symbols from pre-existing styles instead of doing foundation work (studying from life, thinking critically about the human figure) they shunt themselves into a box, so to speak, and make it difficult to learn other styles, or create new styles that are not derivative of the previous one they learned.

TF2chan, in particular, has a major beef with unintentional stylization (specifically tied to newer artists that derive from anime-specific symbols), but tf2chan users generally are not very clear about WHY they dislike it. I'm under the impression that many of them do not actually know. The 'dead horse' aspect you mentioned comes from the accepted idea that 'Style is not an excuse, don't use it if you're bad' - but this is only one very small facet of the larger question. "JUST HUDDLE TOGETHER, KEEP THE ANIME OUT."

However, there are still ways for style to be wrong, and not all of these stem from unintentional stylization.

3) When is Stylization Incorrect? What happens if a style is lacking in aesthetic value?

This is the part where things get REALLY subjective (as if they weren't enough!) Disregarding clear examples of using 'style' to cover anatomy flaws, a good old standby rule I use is: If it looks wrong, it probably is. Every critic's worst nightmare is the artist that goes "But it's supposed to be like that, I'm attempting ______ style", or something to that extent in defense of their drawing. The best way to counteract this is to try to attempt to see it from the aritst's point of view, pinpoint what looks wrong and why it looks wrong within the confines of what they specified - and hope that they can see your point of view as well.

I'm not sure who Joel is, but yes, 'cartoony' styles can be just as wrong as 'anime' ones - but the wrongdoings are more difficult to spot for newer critiquers who are not familiar with what they should be looking for. Typical problems I have with artists badly attempting a 'cartoony' style: Stiffness, flatness of the figure, symbols (again), lack of true anatomical understanding, and lack of aesthetic value.

While we're on aesthetics, I will assert that it is important to admit your subjective preferences, especially when critiquing style. I have seen a few styles where the exaggerations are very deliberately done, but I don't find particularly attractive. It's subjective to the point where I can't really criticize the artist.

Sometimes a style is straddling the divide, where it's attempting to exaggerate proportions but not quite there, and instead just makes the viewer feel that the artist is mucking up the anatomy. In this case, I like to say that "If you meant to stylize it, I think it should be stylized further, but ____ looks wrong when the rest of the anatomy is correct." I ran into a similar problem with my TF2 Girls drawing (http://tinyurl.com/3efzndc) where some of them looked a little too thin considering how the rest of the image was drawn, but I ultimately concluded that there should have been more stylization to achieve the look I was going for (which I fell short from), instead of less. Style is one of those things where someone goes "there's something wrong with this picture but I don't know what", but it is very possible to pinpoint those things, even if they may be more nebulous than expected.

So where is this line, precisely? I would have to say that it's not really anywhere, in the same way that there isn't a huge distinction between the stuff in /fanart/ or /fanfic/ and the stuff in /workshop/ besides one of them boards means you're specifically asking for crit and the other doesn't.

4) The Importance of Style

One shouldn't take away from this essay, or TF2chan, that Style Is Bad. I personally wasn't very read-up on the term myself until a short while ago, so I was afraid of the world of a long time. Style is, in fact, critically important for an artist, to define and differentiate yourself from millions of people, to show that you have something new and creative to share (or even just an impressive way of repackaging old styles!), and to explore the boundaries of art.

My stance on style isn't nearly as militant as igpd's (http://icrit.org/style.html), but I can agree with him in that studying from life will do nothing but help whatever style you aspire to. Unlike him, though, I disagree about HAVING to learn realism to a near-perfect extent before attempting ANY sort of stylization whatsoever.

Many great modern artists do not have the exceedingly solid foundations similar to Picasso that he discribes, but enjoy a very complex and concrete 'style'.

Most importantly, do not wait until you know what direction you want to go in, or what you want to be, to start arting! Just go make stuff. I find that it's the process of making things that you will discover all that stuff like what kind of style you want to have.
>> No. 1439

Your essays are good.

We're not against stylisation in and of itself; we're against "style" being used as an excuse for an artist not to learn certain basics of art and drawing, anatomy being the most common one. Anime is particularly maligned for this because it's the most commonly used crutch, but any style can be just as bad - like how Joel was using a cartoon style for the exact same thing, to make up for shortcomings in his basic artistic knowledge. This is what we get pissed off about, basically.

If someone tells you about a shortcoming in your art, you have to put your hands up and admit that you might have done it wrong and be gracefully accepting of any advice they give you. Even if you disagree, it is not becoming of anyone claiming to be an artist to throw your hands up and deny that there is anything wrong with your work, spit your critics' advice back in their faces or try to claim that your mistakes are deliberate.

There is nothing wrong with style.

There is something wrong with using style as an excuse to keep doing it wrong and as a blanket argument against anyone pointing out your mistakes.

I hope this clears things up a bit.
>> No. 1440
I briefly touch upon this near the end of point 2, but since this was written at 5 am, I may have not made my stance completely clear. My issue with this mentality is that it tends to be a more knee-jerk reaction to anime symbols in some art circles (especially those with a high concentration of artists who have just migrated in from that very style, including this one!) I don't think I misrepresented the general mindset.

My specific problem with it is not that it's wrong (it's not) but that it is a simplistic argument which villifies the word 'style' and generally leaves newer users with the wrong impression (that anime=bad), while at the same time, only addresses one small facet of the larger arguments of 'what is style', 'how is style used', and 'how can I tell if someone is stylizing something incorrectly?' It talks only about how people use the word as an excuse (these people tend to be glaringly obvious and also glaringly new to art) when there are much more complex issues regarding style to deal with. When that argument is your only line on what the broader population thinks of 'style' as a new poster, I can completely understand the confusion.
>> No. 1441
Hi, >>1414 >>1436 here.
Thank you, Serain and Dr. Tanner, very much for the clarification on style.

It was very well thought out and made sense to me as both an aspiring artist and a critiquer.

Admittedly, I was puzzled and even a bit intimidated of the chan with the whole "Joel fiasco", but I now understand the reasoning behind it all a lot better.

Thank you once again for your time and effort, I'm sincerely amazed and a little bit envious of your essay writing skills.
>> No. 1442
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Just gonna leave this here.
>> No. 1443
oh wow, I have nothing constructive to say here, I just came to lol at that. Really, really hard.
>> No. 1444
I'm making it my spray, thx OP.
>> No. 1445
Three months later, and this thread is still very relevant reading for tf2chan members.

Being thoughtful and avoiding dogpiles/shitstorms is everyone's responsibility. Let's make this a place that people want to visit.
>> No. 1446
What kind of people do we want visiting, if I may ask?

Because I know I'd rather not settle for Deviantards and the like. I'd rather see the chan up and die before having those running around here en masse.
>> No. 1447
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If you ask me? People who are friendly, enthusiastic, mature, talented and/or eager to learn, like 99% of what we have now. The same people who can be turned off of a community because tedious, childish arguments erupt with annoying frequency. But that's just my two cents.
>> No. 1448

I don't think you're going to see that 1% of pointless, childish arguments go away. These things pop up in every internet community I trawl around on a regular basis and yet, as baffling as it is, they continue to thrive. Tumbles is a great example of things regularly devolving into childish shitfests on a daily basis and yet people continue to use it and participate in its community.

If 99% of people here are already the crowd we want, then like-minded folks will always follow. If people are going to judge this community by that 1% and not look at the whole picture then they probably shouldn't be here, to be perfectly honest. It's really a close-minded kind of attitude and I don't feel that is something this community needs.

There will always be shitstorms. People thinking they're fighting for a valiant cause when it is in fact pointless. I don't think it can be avoided. I feel like at this point the only thing we can do is urge the mods to have a faster response in dosing the flames and not be the ones to feed them.
>> No. 1449
Be specific when you give crit. I've actually heard professional art teachers tell their students they're not drawing, say, their anatomy spot-on, but never identify what specifically isn't working, and thus the student never learns.

Unfortunately even with a trained eye or a knack for detail, not everyone always sees what's wrong. If you always automatically knew what was wrong, you wouldn't be asking anyone for help.

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