The internet offers artists a host of advantages previously unavailable. Cheap tools, free education - the list goes on and on. Unfortunately those boons have come along with certain cultural pitfalls. In today's post I'm going to talk about about the competitive nature of art on the internet, and propose some alternatives.
The internet vs. the commercial art world
As a concept artist at a game studio, it's safe to say that great things happen on teams. I am more creative due to my team mates. Moreover, I am able to play my specialized role and contribute to a much larger final product. On my own I could never create a video game. Despite all of these positive aspects of teams, art on the internet is often very solitary.
It's a safe bet that you've seen or participated in an online art challenge. Despite the overwhelmingly cooperative nature of the commercial art world, the internet offers a different arrangement. On sites like conceptart.org you're often given a prompt and a deadline, and let loose to compete against your online art peers. Even if there's no physical prize, this format brings out a competitive spirit in artists. Public portfolio reviews, critiques, or general forum behavior can bring out a similar thorny nature for artists.
The result, in my experience, is that artists are conditioned to be secretive and territorial with their artwork. Competitions are won by standing out - not by sharing and collaborating. If your only access to art education is on the internet, this can provide a very one-sided view of art culture.
One great aspect of teamwork is the sense of camaraderie and shared knowledge. Good times and bad are experienced as a group. This arrangement leads to an atmosphere of sharing: techniques and solutions are more valuable when your teammates know them as well. Working on teams also creates a sense of social accountability. Like having an exercise routine with friends, working with peers encourages everyone to push beyond their comfort zone. Ultimately, a 'bad drawing day' is much easier to bear when you're surrounded by other artists.
Where is your team?
The preceding list lays out a strong case for working on an art team, but you might not know where to begin. It's easy to find solitary competitions on the internet, but it's not as easy to find collaborative efforts. The best answer I can give is to start anywhere. We all have access to social networks, which make the communication part of the equation much easier. Better still, though, is a group that meets in a physical location. Starting a club at your school or college is a great way to work on a group project. The end result is less relevant than the experience along the way. Even though you might end up with a nice portfolio piece or two, the interactions with other artists is your real reward. If you plan on entering the world of commercial art, a little practice ahead of time is a great idea. And most of all, it's fun!
Have you ever participated in an art team? If so, where did you find them? Did you have to create your own club? We'd love to hear about your experience in the comments.