Just wanted to get this off my chest. No need to reply or even read if you don't want to.
It's been about 2 years since I first came across deviantART (dA) and I gotta say, at the time I couldn't have been more excited about it. What a cool idea, a site for artists, by artists where we could share our work and improve together! I would even say that it was the impetus for me to start creating digital work at all... rushed out and got myself a fancy Wacom tablet and everything.
At the time I thought that I could work on my art, upload stuff, and people would from all over the world could see my work! Now I wasn't expecting hundreds of views a day, or even dozens, but with time and persistence... who knows? And after that maybe even a Daily Deviation!
All of that would be nice, I thought, but even if that doesn't happen I can post stuff and my work will be out there for everyone to see and critique. I'll improve and be part of an international artistic community.
On top of all that, I can browse the work of some of these great artists, y'know pick up tricks and inspiration from some of the leaders in the field. It looked like there were even some industry pros who had dA accounts. Plus, if someone wants to, they could even buy an actual physical print, and I'd even get paid for it! Very cool... I thought.
So after adding dA to my homepages and checking in on the site for about 2 years just about every time I sit in front of my PC how do I feel? As of this minute, bitterly disappointed.
I never did get around to posting a lot over on my dA account and didn't get any sort of following or recognition, (I just recently broke 1000 page views,) and that's actually fine with me. I don't need that to justify my art. Though it would be satisfying to know that somewhere out there people are enjoying it.
Now what must be said is I don't hold anything against dA as a website or a business. I have heard a lot of people criticize dA for many different things and I don't really believe most of what they say, (dA is not trying to steal the ownership of your art through their shady Terms of Service when you sign up!) For the most part I feel like they really do try to provide a forum for all types of artists to come together and share their work. dA provides the print service, advanced critiquing options, convenient ways for you to follow artists you like and collect artwork you admire. They even recently added an in browser, fully featured, drawing program called Muro, (I tried it briefly and although Photoshop doesn't have anything to worry about, it's a neat little app if you don't have any alternative.) They're also trying to run a business and as such they have to make money. To that end I can only assume they are successful.
What I am disappointed in is the dA community for letting us all, and in the end themselves, down. dA receives thousands upon thousands of submissions every day and as such they really can't be asked to police every piece of 'art' that is submitted. Again to their credit, dA has decided to be very inclusive in what sort of things could be considered art. There's categories for just about any type of art you may be interested in, from Anthro to Artistic Nudes to Interface Designs to Artisan Crafts. Given all this it's up to the community to monitor themselves and as a group decide what kind of art website they want to be a part of. So, what kind of website have I become a part of?
Well right off the bat I can tell you I don't think I've hardly ever seen one piece of useful criticism on dA. My work doesn't get a lot of comments, but after reading a lot of comments on a lot of other dA submissions I've rarely seen anything more than, "OMG that's soooo good!" or "Dooooood! Nice! P.S. i luuuurve ur avatar!" And for anyone who thinks that this is to be expected, simply because dA users tend to skew a little young I say 'So what?!' I was young (and immature,) once but when the situation was appropriate I could be perfectly articulate, thank you very much!
Okay so fine, no one is going to ever get any constructive feedback and it's just a big ...love in (I had plenty of other ways to describe 'love in' but this is the most polite.) What I find even more disheartening is the lack of actual art on deviantART. Now I don't want to get into the whole topic of what is art and what isn't... if you really want to draw nude pictures of Sonic the Hedgehog or take self portraits of yourself with your eyeliner streaking down your face, that's fine with me. I may not enjoy it, I may not 'get' it, but if you and your peers think is art, then I'm not going to disagree.
What my problem is, is the volume of things that are submitted that nobody thinks is art, including the user that uploaded it. This includes but is not limited to: so called 'demotivational posters' that contain nothing more than a screen cap from a popular show or movie and a few lines of text; reposts of pictures people found online of their favourite singer/ actor/ lion tamer; snapshots that you took of you and you're friends that night you were all really bored; crappy, grainy shots of your private parts taken with the webcam of your laptop... well the list goes on. Some members have even gone so far as to post in the description things like, "I know this isn't 'art' and is against the rules but oh well... I just wanted to make people laugh at this/ shock them/ turn them on." Some other's will even go on to say, "Hey, why should I care, other people post a lot worse on here than this." (Remember kids, two wrongs don't make a right...)
And that's not even the worst part. Sure any website, especially one the size of dA, is going to get users who don't know, understand, or flat out don't care about the intention/ culture/ guidelines. But rather than gently nudging or reminding these users about what they should do to avoid problems the community instead encourages and praises this behaviour and this is where we've really failed ourselves. Any of the comment sections for these sorts of inappropriate submissions is full of fan girls and boys chattering on about their mutual love for the subject matter, (or creepy perverts in the case of nudes.) Occasionally someone will chime in to remind people what is and is not appropriate for dA (usually politely, but not always) but these commentators are universally shouted down as trolls and haters.
On top of that I've come across something entirely new and sad at dA. On more than one occasion I've swung over to the site to see that someone has 'favorited' one of my submissions or 'watched' me, (not a common occurrence for me, really.) Now imagine my confusion when I surf over to the kind individual's page to leave a heartfelt 'thank you,' only to see that not only have the watched me, but they've also watched 10,000 other users... in the last 4 hours! Turns out that some individuals have turned getting page views and popularity into some sort of game and are using 'bots' to automatically go through dA and 'watch' thousands of random users. So now rather than the excitement of knowing someone else is enjoying my work I have bots trying to get page views from me, artificially bumping up their stats. This is downright insulting to all the people that really do put a lot of work into their art and post it in the hope that someone else will appreciate their passion and talent.
So what is my future at dA? Well nothing's really going to change for me. I'll still submit work from time to time. And there's still an amazing number of very talented artists that I admire that are active dA users and I'll continue to follow them. dA has also become a invaluable resource for all the talented and generous individuals that submit stock photography that we all can use for free.
I'm not quitting dA and I'll continue to visit just about every time I sit down in front of my computer. It's just time for me to accept that dA isn't ever going to be all that I thought it was, or could have been.