11 November 2011

Art Today - Opinions vs. Expertise

First off, my apologies to Mr. Cliff Cramp after a short but spirited conversation we had over 2 weeks back. I said some upstartish things that not only were less than sparkling, but I formulated an opinion that normally I would definitely not agree with.

A nasty incident on the Internet recently brought me back to my senses. I will not name people or entities but refer to them only by their first initials.

A popular webcomic, X, came under fire a few months ago because the author, S, decided to incorporate side-stories because his normal artist, G, has been going through rough times. Keep two details in mind:

  • The makers of Webcomic X make no money off what they are doing. None of the so-called fans are paying them.
  • Author S has made it clear from the start of Webcomic X that he was going to encourage outside artists to work for him, so none of the "fans" should have been surprised by what happened.
Still with me so far? Now fans are allowed to comment on each of the pages as they crop up. Of course, since this is the Internet, 1) Etiquette is an illusion, even though there are some rules governing the comments, and 2) Comments that aren't even germane to the page or comic flare up like wildfires.

Having engaged in nasty debacles on deviantART many, many moons ago, I've learned to be VERY careful about what battles I engage in on the Internet. People can be very nasty and rude, and even when foul language is not involved, stupidity is pandemic. So ordinarily, I keep my mouth shut. However, the slew of complaints leveled against Author S and his artists who worked on the side-stories really raised the hairs on the back of my head. Surely, everyone is entitled to make opinions, but some opinions are better informed than others. Quite frankly, most fans of anything, whether of Star Wars or some obscure band, don't understand the processes that go into creation. Out of professionalism, we creators try to keep our mouths shut, but that does not mean we believe that the customer - or consumer, more accurately - is always right.

Back on track: Webcomic X arrives at a side-story that I've been anticipated for a while. Author S has chosen Artist B, whose work is not stunning, but at least I know his style is unique to him. He isn't trying to mimic anyone, just to satisfy the demands of ravening "fans," and for that, I commend him, and I commended Author S for choosing him. However, most of the "fans" are outraged as usual. "His style is ugly!" they rave. "Stop making these side-stories and bringing in these horrible artists!..." and so on and so forth.

At first, I wasn't into Artist B's style, but it grew on me as the pages kept going. And I'm already riled up from the "fans" criticizing what I feel they don't understand. So finally, I posted my one and only comment, not knowing how well it would be received.

And of course, I'm attacked from all sides:

  • "Great... another one of THOSE..."
  • "Your comment makes no sense! How can you make assumptions about what you don't understand?"
  • "So just because I'm not an artist, you're telling me I'm not entitled to an opinion? I don't have to be a doctor to know my dad just had a heart attack. I don't have to be a mechanic to know something is wrong with my brakes."
  • "Pal, you're as arrogant as hell. Get over yourself."

Mr. Cramp, sir? I can't come into the studio today. I've come down with a nasty case of Foot-In-Mouth Syndrome. I'll have one of my friends shoot over my project for the next meeting. Talk to you later, Mr. Cramp.

Folks, just because I know my dad had a heart attack, does that automatically mean I have the know-how to operate on him? Am I suddenly a mechanic because I realized, "Jeez, my brakes aren't right. I'll just pull my car apart myself and put it back together. Easy cheesy!" Okay, I've spotted a flaw, but does that mean I have the authority to fix it? Not without the proper knowledge and experience, I hope!

I never told these "fans" that they weren't entitled to their opinions. The only thing I was questioning was expertise: Can we as fans explain in a non-savage manner what is wrong and HOW to fix it?

Apparently not.

Then the "fans" further complained that another artist, M, had been rejected to do the side-story for political reasons. They complained that he still should have been on board, despite the differences.

Folks, if Author S has a disagreement with Artist M, and he doesn't want to invite him, that's his discretion! It doesn't matter if M is "better" than B - it's Author S's story, and he has the executive decision as to whom he brings on board. (And trust me, Author S even addressed that same issue on the website regarding M - it just would have never worked - end of story).

Sigh.

Anyone is entitled to say they want, but not everyone has the expertise to back up their opinions.

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