Friday, August 04, 2006


This morning my cell phone rang. When I answered, a professional woman’s voice started to speak, saying, “We have important, personal business for—”

And then the professional voice broke down, to be replaced with a Speak & Spell-sounding voice grating out “Damien Jones.” The professional voice then resumed, telling me to call their business office about important, personal business for (back to Speak & Spell) “Damien Jones.”

I didn’t call. I didn’t even stay on the line to see what number I was supposed to call. The inhumanity of having a machine call me, coupled with the arrogance to not even provide a hint as to what the “business” is about, suggests that it is some telemarketer who got my name and number from some list and is cold-calling.

But of course, if I’m writing about this here, I must have a point that is somehow related to fractals. And I do. What was so undignifying about the whole incident is that when my phone rings, it’s a demand for attention, so I reasonably expect that whatever it is should be worth that attention. When instead it’s just some money-grubber’s attempt to get their hands into my wallet, it’s annoying because it’s just wasted time.

...this brings us to fractals. Lots of people (myself included) have galleries at community sites like Renderosity or deviantART. I’ve got a web site of my own, I don’t need Renderosity, so why would I bother to post there? I think it’s because I want some feedback, some attention. Posting something there is the equivalent of ringing the cell phone. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when very few people pick up. After all, I’m just wasting their time and they’re probably very annoyed with me for doing so. Maybe I should be more selective in what I put there.

It’s easy to bash Renderosity or dA for all the puffing, lightweight comments that get placed on images (or the myriad other serious problems these “community” sites suffer from) but I think this is only a gross manifestation of the same desire all of us have who post artwork anywhere, even on our own sites. We want attention. We want you to come and look. This is what artists do.

Maybe I was too hard on the telemarketers.

Probably not.


Blogger cruelanimal said...

I like your analogy, Damien.

In communities or forums like Renderosity, after a time, one begins to doubt the genuineness of the feedback. One wonders if the comments are phoned in, automated -- like a computer telemarketer.

Once such doubts surface, I suppose then an artist has two choices.

1) You hang on the line and keep your gallery open at the community. At least your work will be occasionally seen. A painting locked in a closet serves neither the artist nor the viewer. And maybe, even ideally, your standing gallery will serve other purposes: to inspire new artists, to provide an alternative aesthetic to the prevailing one(s) in the community, to simply give pleasure to strangers who wander in, and so on. It’s a trade-off you accept for having an audience or even the possibility of patrons.

2) You hang (it all) up and delete your gallery. The initial excitement of getting a call/comment is negated by the rote nature of the process or the questionable sincerity of the intent. You feel like you’ve been had. There’s a sense you’re being sold something -- whether it be a credit card or the presumed obligation of a return compliment. In the end, you wish no one had called or come by your gallery in the first place -- because, really, no one did. Silence and void become preferable to being patronized.

8/04/2006 11:54 AM

Blogger Damien Jones said...

Let’s be clear—lest anyone think I’m being unfair to Renderosity—this sort of feedback rut can happen anywhere. Any community site, any small group. If you don’t get good feedback, you end up with things that please the public but are artistically weak. Bad feedback (by which I mean lacking quality, not lacking sycophancy) is worse than no feedback, because it’s not real, it’s not sincere. Giving someone a glowing review when they haven’t really earned it is like “letting” them win a race by slowing down at the end until they pass you. Once they discover you didn’t compete honestly, they will feel robbed of their victory… because they never really had a victory.

Right now, I’m still in camp #1. I keep a gallery on Renderosity with a few images in it, and I post to it occasionally. And it’s for the reasons you indicate: if everyone who feels the way I do just leaves in disgust, what is left? To a large number of people, the scene at Renderosity is all there is.

8/04/2006 2:03 PM

Blogger peapodgrrl said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8/04/2006 5:29 PM

Blogger peapodgrrl said...

I couldn't agree more, Damien. If I am not sincere in my praise for an image, I keep my mousepad shut. I won't lie, although I must admit to often shaking my head at an image which has garned forty-seven yards of praise. But if that's how it is, rock on.

I have learned that people absolutely do not want critiques and I will honor that. Speaking for myself, I won't accept a crtique from someone whose art (or eye) I do not respect. This makes true critiquing a sticky deal.

There have been times through the years where I have been specifically asked to be brutally honest about someone's work in a private dialogue, and those are the only times I make an exception.

Yes, we are human, and we abhor vacuums. We like feedback, acknowledgement. Creating art is such a solitary, sometimes lonely pursuit, it's natural to want to reach out and have someone remind you that your work is giving pleasure.


8/04/2006 5:31 PM

Blogger Garth Thornton said...

Damien wrote "Posting something there [Renderosity] is the equivalent of ringing the cell phone." Sort of - people go to Renderosity to see pictures, but nobody buys a cell phone for the purpose of being called by telemarketers.

Terry, I think you're being overly cynical. There are plenty of people who only leave genuine feedback there. It may not be useful, but it's not sycophantic. The problem is, how can you tell? The standard advice is to consider the source. The reality is usually somewhere between the two extremes.

I think what many hobbyists are looking for is tips on how to get various results from the programs rather than art critiques. I don't think that public forums are a suitable place for serious criticism anyway. It works best privately, either individually or in groups, with sufficient understanding of where people are at and how to help.

8/05/2006 5:43 AM

Blogger cruelanimal said...

“Terry, I think you're being overly cynical.”

Perhaps. Or maybe I’m just describing an advanced state of alienation that some community users reach after a time.

Alienation is the accurate word, too. The process is not unlike the “alienation effect” that was central to the dramatic theory of German dramatist-director Bertolt Brecht. He used techniques designed to distance the audience and keep them from emotional involvement in a play through jarring reminders of the artificiality of the theatrical performance. Through such disassociation, Brecht hoped the audience could better comprehend political truth.

Of course, not everyone in art communities becomes alienated. Plenty of longstanding users take pleasure from such forums and thrive on the experience. And, yes, many members are obviously dedicated and genuine -- and often go out of their way to help others.

But, all the same, some participants become alienated. Perhaps they start to see a community as more focused on social interaction than on art. Perhaps they begin to question the sincerity of the feedback they are receiving. Perhaps they find the artistic worth of some images topping the charts of hot lists and page views and comment tallies to be questionable. Whatever the reason, once they’ve seen through the illusion of the community -- seen what goes on backstage, as it were -- then (as in Brecht) certain “truths” are perceived and alienation sets in.

Once something like this occurs, what is left but the two choices I outlined above?

8/05/2006 8:33 AM

Blogger Philip Northover said...

My impression of Renderosity was too many people too wrapped up in themselves. To me, it wasn't really that much of a community. It did have one very funny moment, when Dr. Legume, of the Church of the Subgenius, had a gallery there. To put it mildly, his artistic sensibilities did not jibe with the majority's. And they didn't hesitate to tell him so. Naturally, he had his small group of admirers who seized on the chance to defend him and call the majority a bunch of hidebound idiots. Legume himself would sass back from time to time. The whole thing was a scream. He really was a kook though, and I think finally one of his Mr. Fluffers efforts crossed the line of acceptability and got him kicked out.

8/05/2006 11:04 AM

Blogger peapodgrrl said...

I remember that, Philip. :) Funny moments like that can make be a refreshing change from the mutual admiration society. :)

About a year ago, they decided to make the postings in the gallery "pure", meaning no post processing or mixed media. No Poser, either (which was the only thing they may have been right about.) Anyway, I said, "I guess I am not wanted here because I post process my work to within an inch of their lives." Nope, my stuff was fine, they said. I thought that was amusing, yet hypocritical, and I told them so.

A huge debate ensued, and they took another vote and decided to let the LaVey Satanists like me stick around. What silliness!

8/05/2006 4:26 PM

Blogger Keith said...

I was in the middle of some of that old controversy on Renderosity. It was a learning experience for me. I asked for critical comments and for a while a few people provided nothing but. Well, I asked for it, but it was not that much fun. I finally realized that I was missing the point. Community is the name of the game in that place. There is nothing immoral about hanging out in a community and it's not an artistic sellout. It's just a place to hang around.

At this point, I don't care. Umm - that's not completely true. I do like complements as much as anyone, but I am not addicted to them like I was and I don't define myself by them. If I get 50 gushers, great. If I get 10, cool. If I get something critical, you have my attention, but I may or may not aggree with you. I don't need to see your resume for you to be honest with me. In the world of subjective abstract art everyone has an opinion, even if it's a yawn, and I am free to agree or disagree.

8/09/2006 10:03 AM

Blogger John S. Meade said...

Aloha folks!

Actually you were lucky to get the speak'n'spell entity to interject and give you a clue... Research is afoot to make a bot appear entirely natural and not just in the delivery of some marketing [message | dreq] but in the actual engaging in conversation. You won't know.

It's following the uusal tech evolutionary pathway. Text, then speech, then conversation, then 2d visual then 3d...

Bit's and snatches have already been introduced as "science fiction" such as Simone or the personalized billboards in the Minority Report. But they ain't that far off.

The stuff (the fractal art as opposed to ...say, the AI research) I've done has all been pretty much like taking dictation from the universe. And it all pretty much starts out "Hello Steve! This is the universal. You won't believe what I have in store for >>you<< today!!" So I guess that's why I haven't tossed anything (splash) out on renderosity or (sploosh-ploop!) dA.

On the other hand, I could probably put up with the oh-that's-a-nice-tree comments. I mean instead of the usual tightly coupled uncontrained truth (oh-wow-look-at-that--the-universe-is-laughing
at-him-behind-his-back) AGAIN!!

Don't worry folks! It's only a small figure of speech. You can't really turn your back on the universe. Go ahead try...(Camptown ladies sing this song -- doodah) ... oh back already? See? couldn't do it... right?

Come on doesn't anyone else remember how magical it was when the speak'n'spell came out. The chips in it were made of sand -- it's not like god commanded the stones to call out or anything. It was a wonderful and amazing (and magical)thing.

8/12/2006 9:05 PM


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