Thursday, August 14, 2008

Critics vs Creators: Bring it on!

Noah Berlatsky has an interesting blog post on the role of the critic that he titles Critics Vs Creators, responding to cartoonist Scott Kurtz, who has a bit of a manifesto going. I quote a bit below:
All of the progress I’ve made in my work, be it writing or art, was accomplished through getting it wrong the first time. My father always told me that the first brush stroke will never be perfect. There’s only so much you can learn from reading books on writing or art theory. You have to create and get your hands dirty and see what works. You have to take risks and you have to fail.
Noah responds in a point by point refutation that is, given that we are talking about blogging here, both well reasoned and well crafted. So why the hell am I chiming in on this you might ask. Good question. I'll try to answer that.

Noah responds right off to what he calls the "artist as tragic hero" which, I hate to say, is not something that I really see in Scott's post. I do see artist as "defensive creator" which I recognize as I've been there myself many times, but not tragic hero. It is a sad fact, and the underground classic book "Art & Fear" addresses this many times over, that most artists talk themselves out of ever even failing. You do need the arrogance to put that pen/pencil/brush to paper and get that first line wrong a million times so that it eventually becomes right. Most artists can't get themselves to that point.

I do think that most artists don't want some sort of criticism, because you're usually criticising decisions that they agonized over making, but that most artists NEED some crit, even if they pout, yell, and are generally assholes about getting it. The finished piece is the finished piece, and the best critique can't change that fact. But it can change the next piece, the next two pieces, the next ten.

Thematically as well, most artists are very good about being able to justify what they do and why they do it, but they generally are so far inside their own head that they don't see the sub-conscious themes, the inadvertant stuff that comes out during the creative process. The "public" is usually able to see that far better than the "too close to the work" artist. Artists typically do want an audience, but I'm not too sure that they all want to please that audience. In fact, there are as many reasons that people do art as art itself, so challenging the viewer and eliciting that negative is just as valid as doing something very pleasing and generating the positive. Art is about communication, as Noah points out, but who the hell knows what is being communicated? Personally, as much as I love comics, I can't take one more indy "Oh look, I love porn" autobio mini comic.

[The criticism leveled at the work also always has a measure of the reviewer as well, and that is something that you have to take into account. I know that there are certain movie critics that don't like science fiction, so I'll be damned if I going to listen to what they have to say about "Clone Wars". Know your sources if you're the audience. Wait, come to think of it, do I really need someone to tell me anything about "Clone Wars"?]

Certainly being a webcomic artist is daunting because you can pretty much get hit by anyone in the world with their opinion. And it may make your day or totally piss you off. For Scott to write "Ultimately, we can’t chart our course based on what our readership or critics thinks is working. We have to go with our gut." Is both true and not true. Yes, you can go with your gut and do the work that you want, but no one may want to ever read the thing. If you're trying to get readership, then hell yes, listen to your audience, because they will vote with their wallets and clicks and that, friends, is how you actually make money.

No whining allowed.

3 comments:

Alan David Doane said...

"Certainly being a webcomic artist is daunting because you can pretty much get hit by anyone in the world with their opinion."

Not true at all. Don't enable comments, make your email address public or have a message board. Don't surf the net looking for comments on your work. Problem solved.

Anonymous said...

...and you pretty much wrote that whole blog post and didn't really say anything.

inkdestroyedmybrush said...

hey, i was trying to say that I agreed with parts of both, but its not my best. ah well. not everything is a classic.