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