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Drawing the Red Line

Amelius at 11:48AM, Jan. 20, 2019

Let's be honest, we don't always appreciate someone pointing out our mistakes. Criticism may be important for artists growing into their craft to find the right areas to focus on improving through a little outside guidance, but not all critique is made equal. Frankly speaking, a lot of people suck at offering critique, yet they insist on giving it anyway or worse, use it as a shield for delivering patronizing insults. When another artist whips out the red pen and draws a better version right on top of ours, one can't help but feel a twinge insulted, especially when one didn't ask for any such input. We know, intellectually, that they are trying to help by showing us exactly where we went wrong, but emotionally it can feel a bit condescending. Especially when it is clear the real problem the artist has is simply you aren't drawing in the style they approve of.

Maybe you haven't had this happen to you personally, but it's a popular practice especially in regards to Marvel and DC comics, and especially manga. I'm not inclined to drive traffic to the incredibly rude blogs I've seen on the subject by mentioning them by name, but they mainly focus on re-drawing any comic book character they find objectionable for displaying the barest hint of stylization. (Sometimes it's about the poses, with re-draws that feature their own anatomy issues!) My problem with blogs like this is that they focus on shaming artists that have breakneck schedules to push out issues for having to go with what they have. While it can be fair to riff on all sorts of work in good fun (see my enjoyment of MST3K) there is a sort of mean spirited and unreasonableness that tends to permeate these blogs. I do not feel they do this “in good fun” and can be down right vicious and petty. Furthermore, many of their redraws reek of the same sort of Werthram Comic's Code era prudery that stifles creativity and leads to stagnant, samey art. Worse still, they aren't even fans of the comics they are criticizing, which is a huge problem when you're running a comic-critical blog and don't know that what you're tagging as “Female Batman” is actually the Huntress! If they cared even a little they could have done a quick internet search to figure things like that out before posting, thank you very much, ya fake geeks! It's one thing to point out a women don't walk like they're in heels while they are barefoot (which is hilariously bad and worth poking fun at) but quite another to decide, “Hey I don't like that this superheroine's outfit is tight! How about a formless yellow jumpsuit with no creative flair whatsoever?” And the comments all go “What an improvement, sexism is over!”(I am only exaggerating a little!) The biggest problem with these art critics that don't even read the material they are criticizing is they cherry-pick examples to make a lot of the problems seem more endemic of comic culture than they are, and an ignorance of the visual language of comics contributes a lot to their complaints. Try explaining dynamic and interesting poses to them, and they'll come back at you about how unrealistic it looks. Nobody is reading Spiderman for the realism!

Setting aside critical blogs picking apart popular works, I also saw a lot of artist resource blogs offer up redlines for artists looking to improve but unsure where to focus their efforts. This is a good thing, but sometimes I feel like the people with the red pen in their hand have a specific way they think art should look and are more interested in imposing that on the struggling artist seeking their help than helping people come into their own. Someone submits a character with a distinctly anime style, without fail, the response will be smaller eyes, a bigger nose, and generally more realistic proportions. No consideration whatsoever given to the stylization the artist was intending or the feeling they wished to convey with their art. These artists see cartoon art as a crutch for people who can't do “real art” and it's insulting to people who have put real hard work and effort into consistency and construction in their style. It's not about stylization that makes sense, but pigeonholing artists into one way to do art that they feel is right. Instead of pointing out a way to improve the stylization of eyes, they tell the artist how to draw realistic eyes.

I did have my work redlined once. I didn't take particular offense to it, but I did struggle to explain to my friend who did the correction that what they were suggesting wasn't what I had in mind for the sequence. It wasn't a correction of anatomy, but advice on a more dynamic line of action. Had the stiffness not been my sole intention with the sequence from the get go, I may have found that supremely helpful! So while I appreciated the feedback, it wasn't something I was going to redraw based on the example provided– which, I have done in the past! You really need to weigh the effort you'll have to put into major fixes and whether it's worth a few hours more to fix it or not (if it CAN be fixed!) Which is I think, one of the major frustrations with having one's art “corrected” is the assumption that the artist may now have to take things that have already gone live back to their art program and do major touch-ups, or simply take this as an advisory for future endeavors. It's one thing for a spelling error, but I need to redraw this entire pose that necessitates me re-drawing, scanning, editing and recoloring? OK I'll do it! But only if I agree that your suggestion was what I really was intending and failed to realize on my own, or will improve the sequence, or was just unforgivably bad anatomy (like the one time I accidentally drew a character's hands on backwards because I couldn't find a reference for a stretching pose with arms clasped behind their back!) Is it worth the time and effort fixing this, and does the problem stem from a one-time slip or an ongoing issue with drawing the thing you're being prompted to fix? I'd say then it's a good idea to come back to it later when you have a better handle on that thing, and just push forward trying to make the next page a little better.

How about youse all? Have you ever had someone fix your art with red lines without asking?

Is it something you've ever sought out in the interest of working out your art issues?

What is your reaction when you see a style you admire getting the redline treatment, with an artist picking apart all the supposed flaws? Does it make you look at the style differently, or grumpy about the person making all those alterations? (I'll be honest I'm in the latter group!)

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BronsonMoses at 3:02PM, Nov. 10, 2022

I believe that no one has the right to criticize people's creative work. Creativity is self-expression. There are no standards, benchmarks, or role models. Everyone creates as they see it. What is the point of correcting someone's drawing or sketch? Any creative product is unique, and that's the whole point of any art. The example you gave is complete nonsense and a violation of the artist's personal boundaries. The creator drew a comic that doesn't have to match reality. Why was it necessary to draw a real duck and point out proportion errors? By the way, I recently ordered Christmas caricature cards for the whole family at I think it is a cute addition to a gift.

AmeliaP at 12:53PM, Jan. 24, 2019

Plus. All critics are more about the people who criticize than the thing they're criticizing. Just a few people are capable of giving a helpful critique. Too many people around seeing the reality without putting themselves in others' shoe. And, geez, the critics should relax... If they stop complaining for the whole week, maybe they can stop this negative pattern in their lives.

AmeliaP at 8:26PM, Jan. 23, 2019

"Especially when it is clear the real problem the artist has is simply you aren't drawing in the style they approve of." It's GOLD! Yes, agreed. "Have you ever had someone fix your art with red lines without asking?" Yeah, art directors, editors, art teachers... even agents XD. But they're polite. Other artists? Nope, but I suspect they're more polite with their female artist buddies, then I've never had an artist fixing my work. "Is it something you've ever sought out in the interest of working out your art issues?" I'm ALWAYS working on my art issues, but there are some issues that won't disappear easily. My current challenge is noir composition, slow visual narrative pace, better color theory... a lot of things.

JaymonRising at 12:04PM, Jan. 21, 2019

That's why I'd rather not trust haters to rebuild what they destroyed: they were never fans of their own honest free will to begin with, they're haters! If they HAVE to ask if there's "anything they can do to make up for it" it's because they only know how to hate.

Ozoneocean at 9:05AM, Jan. 21, 2019


Abt_Nihil at 6:05AM, Jan. 21, 2019

I couldn't agree more. Lots of great comments here too ^_^ Oz: You can draw guns for me from now on... >:D

bravo1102 at 2:21AM, Jan. 21, 2019

One of the worst things a reviewer can do is totally dissect something and totally miss the artist's point and vision. That's where you put the red pen behind your ear and ask questions. But then everyone would love to be the stern, nasty editor just once and blue or red pencil EVERYTHING. (Insert maniacal laughter here)

bravo1102 at 2:14AM, Jan. 21, 2019

Praise in public, criticize in private. Always start with what was done right. Suggest improvements. If the critique can't come up with a way to make it better, best not to make that critique. The whole point of any review is how it can be better. But you have to understand the intentions of the creator. That's the thing with art, one artist's imagination won't necessarily mesh with another's. So rather than jumping in with the red or blue pencil (blue is traditional for proofreading) find out what the artist was striving for first.

JaymonRising at 9:02PM, Jan. 20, 2019

"they aren't even fans of the comics they are criticizing" ಠ_ಠ.

Ozoneocean at 8:57PM, Jan. 20, 2019

I despise people who try and "fix" art in their own image or point out mistakes for fun. It's really just bullying. It's pathetic. Millionare Rob Liebfeild can take that more than most people because he's super successful but it even gets a bit much with HIS art. A lot of his stuff was done in a rush and had to be done fast so he just hid the feet instead of strugled with them, and naby of the anatomy issues are often just there because they're NOT accurate drawings: the image is supposed to suggest something more visceral like speed, horror, strength, shock etc, which is HELPED by the roughness and inaccuracies.

Ozoneocean at 8:53PM, Jan. 20, 2019

I've asked Monique MacNoughtan AKA Coydog to have a look and fix my art before, she used blue lines rather than red though XD That was for realistic drawings of horses. She's the horse expert so I went to her. I've had a go at fixing some of Tantz's pics before- mainly just guns I think, because that's what I'm better at :)

Ironscarf at 8:16PM, Jan. 20, 2019

I never offer critique unless someone specifically asks for it. On occasion when I've seen this, I've felt like stepping in and pointing out where their supposed correction has gone wrong (and it usually has) but that would just be contributing more unsolicited pointlessness. Either make something of your own and show us all the path to greatness, or you know - don't.

usedbooks at 6:23PM, Jan. 20, 2019

I've never seen this. But I agree with Lothar. Editing old pages is a huge waste of time and effort. Only edits I'll do are typo corrections before going to print. I have had people I actually know assist me in fixing drafts. I always have to solicit the advice/help. I definitely don't have enough of an audience for anyone to nitpick/care. It's even rare for a reader to catch typos (I appreciate when they do).

awsome owl 98 at 5:53PM, Jan. 20, 2019

Since this post was about criticism of webcomics and in it you mentioned Mystery Science Theater 3000 I started writing a comment about things that were sort of like MST3K but for comics that I could think of but it ended up getting pretty long so I decided to start a new forum thread about it. Thanks for the inspiration! Here's where I posted the topic:

awsome owl 98 at 4:25PM, Jan. 20, 2019

I haven't posted any art online in a long time and back when I made the comics I posted on Drunk Duck I didn't get very much feedback good or bad so maybe I don't have the same kind of personal experience as someone who gets their work criticized would. That aside, I feel like if you don't agree with criticisms of your work there's no real reason to get worked up. I'm not saying you personally do but I see a lot of people who get extremely angry when their work is criticized and it's always confused me. Actually, when I think about it the people I see getting mad about works getting criticized tend to be the fans of those works more often then the creators. That seems even weirder in a way that someone who didn't even create a work would go after the people who criticized it but then again I don't pretend to understand fandom in general.

Banes at 4:13PM, Jan. 20, 2019

Never seen this! It's funny that people would do it and make their own mistakes, or not understand the stylization in manga and such. Doing it with professional stuff seems somehow more acceptable than targeting free webcomics by unpaid artists...but these lines are blurring so much these days!

lothar at 3:49PM, Jan. 20, 2019

Never fix old pages .. total waste of time ... just keep going forward don't look back lik my recent page where i tryed to draw a bunch of memes getting nuked by article 13 but when i tried to draw Robbie Rotten he looked more like a random Korean guy , i keep looking at it and im like soo irritated by it but whatever , fuk it . or when i miss-quoted Hit or Miss and said "you know i never miss" instead of i guess i never miss " that kinda stuff keeps me up at nite but you gotta let it go

Anubis at 1:30PM, Jan. 20, 2019

To be honest, when I see redlines, it upsets me. I mean I am sure they mean well, but they are imposing their own style and beliefs of art on other artists. If an artist asks for help, sure, if its something someone is paying for and they redline it as part of the process of producing the product, sure, but randomly going around and doing that? noooo

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