Monday, March 25, 2013

Why Do people confuse diversity with originality?

I see it time and time again. Especially from people who try to talk youngsters out of doing a particular style they are into. The current target is anime. (Cartoon is out of the picture for now...)

"Anime is not original."
"Do your own style."
"Do you have your own style?"
"Do realism, don't do anime because ..... (list 1000 reasons.)

So you are basically saying... Do cartoon or realism, your choice, just don't do anime.

Because it's what Japanese do, you are not Japanese, are you?
Why don't you tell them don't do Disney style because it's not their style?

May I just categorize that as a form of nationalism rather than true logic for an artistic development?

What really develops a style?
Is anime really that bad or just a national enemy because it's an iconic style from Japan?

For the sake of the argument, these words will be identified as such: (according to my understanding of the public conception of their meaning when they say the above statements.)

  • Style: A visual arrangement of drawing, painting elements that forms identifiable, consistent iconic features for a series of art pieces by an artist or a group of artists. 
  • Realism: Painted, drawn art styles that very closely, accurately resembles natural, real life subjects. 

OK, let's establish the agreement here I have with this type of view point:

1. Do realism: YES
Every artist who do study art should try at realism, and get good at it. It is the foundation of all illustrative based work.

2. Expand yourself: YES.
Do go beyond what you know right now, study different stuff, different styles, don't just stay around your little box, whether it be anime, cartoon, disney, or realism.

  • I have seen people who can do realism claiming he or she can't draw cartoon. WHY? Because he or she has become so used to realism they can't deduct information from realism to simple lines. 

I also warn against an elitist mind set that can possibly prevent further learning. It's everywhere. Even the most humble artist can have that dark corner. Artists are elitists to begin with, other wise we won't work so hard to master a skill. But if being "elitist" prevents you from widening your skill set, you should be aware of it, and make a choice for yourself, while keeping respect for others.

If a person thinks Disney or Anime is the best style there is, he/she won't bother to learn another style, if they force themselves to try at it, usually they quit without getting it completely, and then bash it, failing to appreciate the actual ingenuity of the style itself and the reason it's well accepted. 

3. Develop your own style: YES.
Developing a style requires a base to start with, like a painting, you start with tubes of colors, or color palette on a computer. There are styles you take from, and merge with to make your own styles.

  • A person can develop multiple styles of their own through out their life time before they reach somewhere they feel happy to stay with. A natural style development includes interest, admiration, challenges that bring satisfaction, and that changes with time. In my years of observing, I find most youngsters move away from the first style they used as base and end up somewhere really different naturally. There's almost no need to sharp-turn them, which is making them abandon the style they were doing and adapt a new style quickly. 
  • However, sharp turning students' style development direction is a good thing, because it causes expansion temporarily. I don't disagree with sharp-turning them and tell them to try different styles immediately. The thing I disagree with is how the elitists do it. 

Now, disagreement:
1. Anime style is not original: YES and NO. It all depends on time period trend, whether you are judging it in its time or outside of it.

Anime style is limited, especially its an established style for animation, based on the trend in the industry.
Can I say Disney is not much better just because tens of thousands, even millions also draw that style without reinventing it because it's a style that's very practical, useful for animation, cartooning, and very it's successful?
Doesn't Disney have it's own acceptable variation with each show? Anime is the same, as well as the so-called realism style.

Can I say Marvel and DC has established a market style too, that renders anyone who draws and follow that trend also less original than perhaps a cartoonist who invented his own scribble style, but will be required to follow it if they desire to enter the industry?
Can I say there's a certain expectation you would have for hyper realism sci-fi?
Or a certain expectations of fantasy elements in all concept art for those MMO RPG games?

Are they less original or are they just designed for the trend and needs of the industry?
Designed for being pleasant on the eyes, being easier to adapt, or designed for excitement?
Can I say even the old UPA cartoons had a particular market trend where everyone must tilt that door or window because of inspiration from Picasso?

Some styles are market trend styles.... they are designed to work for a team. Certain styles work for a team, cross countries, certain styles don't. Anime style is one of them. Formula has its uses. And studying successful formula can't hurt.

Does doing anime make you less employable? 
In certain industry, yes. So artists should study all sorts of styles and find out their range, find out what is preferred, tolerable to them, what isn't. And just choose jobs they can enjoy. Other wise, why be an artist?

Does doing realism really make you more original or creative than anime artists?
I say no. In fact, realism is the style with the most limitations, most rules, and also, the most variation because nature itself is a master we reference. It's the bases for all imagination to work. It's much needed, but knowing how to apply all the techniques doesn't make one more original. But the artwork will sure look awesome, even if its the oldest idea, the most impractical design possible.

Originality for a piece in concept has nothing to do with originality of visual style appeal. Most people seem to have that confused.
An awesome artist who can draw and paint a realistic mermaid with unusual decorative design has originality in design, not the originality in style appeal.

A really original drawing style will be VERY iconic, it might not look pretty, but it will always be recognized, like Yugioh, that's why I like to use his style as example. But is he better than the 5 star realism artist? Not really.

In fact I don't think most people are that interested in an very original style unless that original style just have the right combination to create the next classical trend/era. Most of the most original drawing style stay on the lower end of the popularity scale during their time... Like Van Gogh. His painting style was not appreciated until he died.

In a sense, it's almost better to be less original and more trendy. Originality's value in the market? Maybe 1-2%.... People want something they can see and understand immediately, and just want it a tiny bit different from everyone else so people can tell it's YOU. That's it.
If you are 2-3% different from everyone else, you are not human anymore, you are an ape.... either you are now a monster, or you are a specimen to be studied and marveled at.

To train originality for a style really ought to do with how you combined what you learned your own way. Learning anything in particular only gives you the tool sets, not the originality. Therefore... it's almost better to know more than less, if your plan is to survive as an artist.

In fact, if you enter the industry for art... you might find its not much a place for an artist, it's more of a place for art technicians. Clients often have a very specific vision based on existing series and styles, and even subjects. And your client base depends on how wide, how willing you are to do different styles.

You can be really good at one thing (a market trend style) and be specialists and work in a big company, or you can be one who knows a lot of different styles and adapt any work situations. Or you can just do what you like and hope that people who like the same finds you. Each path isn't easy, how you want to walk it is a completely personal choice. But if you are truly the next Van Gogh that will start the movement of the next era, hats off to you, I am not sure if you will make it in our time. I can only wish you the best.

I personally think the word "Originality" is really overrated, overused, not understood enough in the USA society of arts. 

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