That’s what I get for trying to be constructive on the internet…

I haven’t posted in a while. There’s a lot going on with me personally but in the spirit of not dwelling, and hopefully succeeding in my attempt to blog unhindered by head trauma this time, I figured I would talk about something else. Art-related!

I recently made a comment on a piece of art I saw on Deviantart, which can be seen here:

It is a “grown-up” pic of the PowerPuff Girls, by an artist on Deviantart whom I very much respect.

I commented the following on his/her piece ( I actually don’t know the artist’s gender):

ME: I obviously LOVE your work. Your colors are amazing, expressions spot on, technically perfect. My only critique, and it’s not one solely directed at you but at many who do this sort of fanart, is the oversexualization of the PPGs. I realize it’s fanservice and all that, and I myself have had to do work like that (not as good obviously) but I dunno… I kinda wish the Power Puff Girls had remained cute little girls, not sexual icons.  All the same, wonderful job on this. Strikingly well-done. 

ARTISTThanks for your comment. I am just a little confused about your definition of “over-sexualization”. Why can’t they be just sexy and cute? Do u find my interpretation of PPG sexually arousing? Do enlighten me a little.

ME: It wasn’t meant as an offense, please be reassured. Forgive me for saying so as I might be mistaken, but I’m noting a bit of defensiveness in your tone, and I just wanted to reiterate that I wasn’t trying to put down your work in any way, as I have been a fan of it (particularly your astounding coloring skills) for a very long time.  

In this case, my problem is with the generalized trend to “grow up” the Power Puff Girls… they were originally intended as innocent, crime-fighting little girls. Here (as in many other cases), they are depicted with large breasts, skin-tight clothing, and you can definitely see that the shorts/skirts reveal parts of their rears. And no, I’m not sexually-aroused. I’m just noting that I find it unfortunate that most depictions of “girl power” and by relation, the imagery of grown-up PPGs,  necessarily have to carry a bodily component. Their powerful nature becomes nothing more than an enhancement of their sexuality, as though their worth as women lies only in that angle. I suppose one might argue that they can derive power from their sexuality, that’s another issue as well, which I would find agreeable, if it weren’t for the inherent “pinup” nature of the image. Of course, I am perhaps taking this far too seriously… it’s a fun piece. But if I offered an honest comment, it’s because I admire your work, and do take it seriously. 
On that note, the execution is amazingly well-done. I am not questioning your talent, or your skills, or your rep, or anything of the sort. I am not in any way as accomplished as you anyway, but I still think there is space to have respectful conversations about content, though if this isn’t something you like doing, I can accept that. As I said, I offered my opinion, and heck, this is the internet. I’m an insignificant voice, but because I enjoy your work so much, I thought I would be honest. 
Take it or leave it. 
Cheers, Liz.
I mean, most people will tell me “it’s the internet, forget about it.” Sure, but let’s just go with it anyway, for the sake of discussion.
To begin, I had to say that I was flattered that this (rather famous and brilliantly-skilled) person actually took the time to respond to me, among the flurry of unanswered comments. It’s a rare privilege to get to communicate with your favorite artists and one of the great things about D.A. remains that the gaps between artist and viewer are made smaller through comments. It’s a really nice thing about that community. That being said, I found myself a little disappointed. My issue is two-tier:
About the content:  To be fair, I haven’t received a response yet (and I don’t know that I will) and perhaps I am taking it too seriously. Still, I feel that the nature of my comment was twisted into something else, and thrown back into my face. I realize the piece was a “fun, pinup-style” depiction. I’ve done many of these myself. I guess my issue was that this was about the PowerPuff Girls… who were originally just “little girls”, and this collective trend online to grow them up, and necessarily make them sexy. I don’t see the point. There are sexy images for the sake of being sexy images, and that’s fine. My problem is with those images that force a sexual identity on characters or people who weren’t meant to be sexual (ahem, ponies anyone?).
When I was young, The PowerPuff Girls were a source of fun and laughter for sure, but they were also positive female role-models of sorts. They were little girls just being little girls (playing games, going to school, pillow fights, arguments with their sisters) and who happened to beat up bad guys. They each had their own relatable identity, they were different from one another, and they fought crime with brains and brawn. Bubbles was the innocent one, Blossom the confident leader, and Buttercup the tomboyish tough one, and every little girl or boy could enjoy them for their fun, differing personalities and adventures.
What I find disappointing in artwork like the one I commented on, is that the girls’ once diverse identity is reduced to boobs, ass and pouty lips. Images that “grow them up” are fun for sure, but they say nothing about their stories, their enemies, their character development, their own unique angles (unless you count hairstyles and clothing color). And so sure, maybe it was a fluff piece. Those are fine and dandy, and I’ve made my fair share too. But in drawing the Powerpuff Girls in this non “canon” way, their identities are erased, aside from their sexuality and value as visual objects. And sure, they’re fictional characters and calm your shit down, Liz. Maybe I’ve been too sensitive about stuff like this lately… but regardless, I feel my discourse was polite and respectful, but the artist sort of reacted negatively. Became what I define as defensive.
This brings me to another issue:
About criticism in general:  I feel there is this rampant trend of artists NOT to be able to accept criticism of ANY sort whatsoever. That’s because criticism is hard. I struggle with it every time it happens. I had to take a bloody course at school on how to handle it, and it was brutal. But in the end, you learn to detach yourself from your work and you try to learn from your mistakes and/or challengers and eventually come to be confident enough in your process that you can decide what comments are keepers and what comments you should let roll off your back. It’s VERY useful, even though EACH time, receiving criticism is a challenge. I find that too many artists out there merely thrive on the obligatory back-pat and cookie… and in fact, they take it for granted. One example of that, is that of all the hundreds of comments this artist had received… he/she replied to MINE because it challenged him/her. Why weren’t all the positive comments regarded as just as important? Because flattery becomes meaningless and stagnant in terms of artistic purpose, though it is unseemly, in my opinion, to take one’s audience for granted.  (On a related note, this is part of my Deviantart “ethos” if you might call it that, is that I reply to of my comments, no matter how long it takes me…. and as for negative ones, if they have any substance and/or explanation, I reply to them with great care.) As artists, our audience has a unique perspective from which to help us improve, or consider new angles. I feel it’s important to try and surpass the admittedly difficult knee-jerk reaction of defensiveness (which I’ve most definitely been guilty of) and to try and consider another point of view. And hell, it’s normal to get attached to your art, particularly pieces which you are proud of. It’s never easy to hear naysay about something of yours you actually like. But still… I feel that supreme confidence in one’s work (no matter how astoundingly gifted you are) will lead you to stagnation. Considering criticism (I’m not saying accepting it or living by it… just CONSIDERING) with an open mind is often a very constructive exercise.
That being said, in this case… whatever, it’s the internet. I tried my best to be open and honest, but sometimes it backfires. And maybe the artist actually WAS looking for an explanation of mine, and maybe he/she WILL respond more positively to my answer. Who knows. Anyway, thoughts on this?
That’s what I get for trying to be constructive on the internet…

10 thoughts on “That’s what I get for trying to be constructive on the internet…

  1. It’s definitely a great pinup, but I agree with you. Just because a chick has superpowers doesn’t mean they HAVE to have giant tits and skimpy clothing.

  2. Bran MacFeabhail says:

    Technically, the picture is fine; good technique, whatever. I just want to know what’s wrong with putting women in pants. Skin-tight, thigh-high boots? Do those exist? Are they practical at all? I can’t imagine Buttercup in a romper like that in a million years. In my mind, Buttercup grows up to wear a sensible jumpsuit, combat boots, and a belt knife haha Please draw this?

  3. I think they were being a little rude. “Do u find them sexually arousing.” That sounds like a snyde remark to me. If an artist can’t take criticism, they are in for a lot of heartache.
    I haven’t been to DeviantArt in quiet awhile. Unless I look in specific categories, all I see is fanart and comics. I mean, that’s all that’s on the front page when I log in. I’m sure it’s very popular, but not my thing at all.

  4. I think you were very tactful, and perhaps aided the artist in confronting the shortcomings of their portrayal. I was a bit disappointed, too; why can’t some female heroes be flat-chested? Can’t Buttercup totally rock out pants? Or, as a complete subversion of expectations, maybe Bubbles enters a Goth phase and Buttercup becomes more “girly” but still awesomely independent?

    It might hurt the artist’s feelings, but if they care about their craft, they will accept your criticism with grace, in time. I don’t think you should be worried, and it was brave of you to offer concrit (and it was nicely phrased, too!)

  5. I think you did a great job with both the initial critique and the response to their bristling at it. You were tactful and respectful while clearly outlining what you meant. And for what it’s worth, I agree with you entirely. I’d just for once would like to see more “grown up” characters as “normal” and not overly sexualized. Hell, I wouldn’t even mind to see a slightly heavy one once in a fucking while.

  6. OMG If I have to see another artistic nude photographer on DA with galleries upon galleries of nudie pics talking about “Art” and the intrinsic “beauty of the human form” when I know he’s half masturbating on his computer I will just choke of my vomit and die.

    That said, artists will always be defensive about their work esp if they spent a lot of time working on it like this one did. Sometimes talking the feminism lesson is best left for a crowd who is more accepting of it. :/

  7. I was recently thinking about “forum culture ” and your post brought up a lot of these issues… I was just trying to picture how this kind of conversation would have happened in person, because people communicate so differently from how they do in person.

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