In part one of this blog entry, I discussed my biggest artistic influence in regards to the videos that I have been making for my independent project. This influence just so happens to be an artist on the internet and not a “recognized” or “professional” artist. I apology for the tacky use of “”s, but I have started to find myself becoming a little bit more exhausted with a lot of the pretensions that come with academic art. This is not to say that I have something against academic fine arts, because I have been thoroughly enjoying my Visual Arts studies and the education/resources it has been giving me. It is definitely a niche I am comfortable in and am fascinated by, but unfortunately it has a lot of flaws that just become more pronounced the longer my run as a fine arts student becomes.
For this post, however, I only want to focus on one issue: professional artists. Since my first year, I have had it pounded in my head that professional artists are those who show in exhibitions in galleries and museums. They are artists who are recognized for their passion and integrity, and that I should strive to be like that. A professional artist. I should not rush into a job such as teaching after school because struggling to make it as a professional artist is more worth my time. My own goals seem irrelevant to my educators, whether it be art therapy or teaching, because I should aspire to be a professional artist. I should live off of what I create. This is the ultimate goal that I should strive for.
I just cannot buy into that mentality. What people do with their art education should be their own decision, and telling students that their goals just do not compare to the goals that our academic program idealizes just seems a bit off to me. A large part of this is because I am not of the opinion that in order to be an influential and important artistic figure that one needs to have their work sitting in the white lights and white walls of a gallery space. Influential art can be found in so many places outside of galleries and museums.
Okay, that was a very long-winded way of trying to reach this topic: art on the internet. So, I have made it clear that I am not a huge supporter of the idea that “professional artist are the artists - they are relevant, important, and something we should aspire to be. I am not saying that they are unimportant, however - I should clarify that many professional artists create beautiful work that inspires and fascinates me, that makes me think and evokes intense emotional and intellectual responses.
I think what I am trying to say is that art can come from any little nook or cranny, and that artists should be valued for the work they create and not their professional status. Art on the internet is one of those nooks that I am personally endeared to. Being somebody who was a creature of the internet throughout childhood until today, the web is a world I feel connected to through online communities. Forums, art websites, chats, image boards - I have dipped in and out of these age 12, when we first got internet at my house. There was something enchanting to me about being able to speak with somebody in a different hemisphere. Then along came deviantART, and as a teenager fixated on the idea of becoming a professional poet who published books in all kinds of language and inspired generations (what can I say, I had big plans in my youth and certainly wasn’t lacking in ego despite my mediocrity), I was immediately addicted to the community. There were so many talented and mind-blowing writers who could turn words into something beyond a simple exchange of language. I became a part of their circle, and we all read and criticized and supported each other.
This is what really started my endearment of artists on the internet. There were quality writers in that little niche of mine, many of whom were worthy of publication and still are. But they are still not published. They are people who write because they love it. But does this make the quality of their work anything less than published, professional poets and authors? When you look at a lot of publications today, you should immediately begin to question the “professional” standard.
But that is writing, and I want to talk about art. There are, however, many similarities between art and writing. While it’s sometimes easier to draw the line between high and low quality in writing (because in many cases it should adhere to standards of grammar, narrative structure, plot and character development, etc), and I find myself more capable of saying “this should have been edited a hundred times more before it ever reached publication because the writing is atrocious” than “this painting should have been redone a hundred times over because it is a poor painting,” I certainly believe that the art existing in galleries now can be matched in quality and evocative style by artists on the internet. The academic process of rough creation - critique - finished creation - critique - final copy is mimicked in forums and art websites. Whether it’s for sculptors, digital painters, coders, video artists, and so on - there are genuine talents that exist outside of the professional sphere, and the internet gives us immediate access to their work. It’s wonderful! There are circles for critiques, for growth, and for understanding artwork made within their internet communities and without, and that is a value that deserves recognition from academia, in my opinion. I’m sure many of the people who read this will understand the value of internet art circles - tumblr is a great forum for posting original artwork and getting a response, and I see that in action on my dashboard all the time. It’s art education without the BFA attached - no deadlines, no grades, just steady learning and progress from people across the globe.
Write-ups and research for papers usually include strict guidelines on research, and I have always been taught that artists on the internet or any artist with a link to a store on their website is not a true professional artist and should not be referenced in our writing. They are only trying to make money (which no professional artist does, of course - I mean, people like Damien Hirst don’t milk their audience for cash at all), or they are not validated by other professionals. I want to see this mentality changed. I want to see somebody link to an etsy shop that does impressive textiles or clever resin-cast jewellery for their research, or reference a vimeo user with a diary-style video series. There should be recognition for webcomic artists who create stunning narratives and artwork on a bi-weekly basis, or a guy who independently coded, wrote, designed, composed music for, and produced a video game over the course of five years.
This was a bit long-winded and full of tangents, so I’ll do a TL;DR:
-Art on the internet is valuable. Artist communities on the internet are fantastic. There is a culture of art education that exists among people who create and learn out of pure desire to create and learn, which is exactly what they (we) do. The work and the results deserve academic recognition regardless of whether or not those who post work or critiques/responses are recognized professionals who do not link to shops on their websites. If we study traditional artists from way back in the day who worked on commissions for churches and the wealthy, why is there so little recognition for people who do online commissions for original characters and niche communities?
We need to re-evaluate the academic standard and give credit/recognition where it is due, regardless of professional status.
(I will be following this post with a list of online artists and writers that I find to be spectacular within the next few days. Thanks for enduring the rant of a creature of the internet who just so happens to be art school scum.)