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    Making controversial art hurt art career?

    Does creating art that deals with controversial topics (dark, sexual, violent, political, etc) hurt an artists career in any way?

    I've been told that if an artist creates anything outside of the normal/acceptable (not particularly what was explained) that it would hurt their chances of getting hired, and that they should work under a pseudonym to make that sort of art.

    Does it make a difference what sort of field your going into? Are animators expected to be more mainstream with their topics, and fine artists not so much?

    Any thoughts on this?
    Thanks

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    Use a pen name?

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    Why use a pen name?

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    Quote Originally Posted by MythrilWolf View Post
    Why use a pen name?
    ...Because it isn't your real name?

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    So making certain forms of art would hurt your career? You have to use a pen name?

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    Quote Originally Posted by MythrilWolf View Post
    So making certain forms of art would hurt your career? You have to use a pen name?
    Well, you might not have too, but I bet if you're trying to work for Disney they don't want someone who draws ultra-violent porn.

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    If I understand it right, though, massive black creates work for children's companies, and a lot of their site's portfolio is geared towards adult audiences. It has naked women, ugly violent monsters. They do create adult content that's definitely not appropriate for children, but are still hired to do work for content meant for kids.

    But I still hear from people every once in a while that if you create certain risky content, people wont hire you. I'm just looking for more opinions on this. Is it true that people wont get hired just because they create work that has certain content in it, or are people just so scared of not getting jobs they jump on the pseudonym band wagon without even thinking about it?

    Interview with Justin "Coro" Kaufman http://www.schoolism.com/interview.php?id=27
    They start talking about the content they make and for who around 00:34:00 to 00:36:00

    Last edited by MythrilWolf; October 18th, 2011 at 09:31 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MythrilWolf View Post
    If I understand it right, though, massive black creates work for children's companies, and a lot of their site's portfolio is geared towards adult audiences. It has naked women, ugly violent monsters. They do create adult content that's definitely not appropriate for children, but are still hired to do work for content meant for kids.

    But I still hear from people every once in a while that if you create certain risky content, people wont hire you. I'm just looking for more opinions on this. Is it true that people wont get hired just because they create work that has certain content in it, or are people just so scared of not getting jobs they jump on the pseudonym band wagon without even thinking about it?

    Interview with Justin "Coro" Kaufman http://www.schoolism.com/interview.php?id=27
    They start talking about the content they make and for who around 00:34:00 to 00:36:00
    Well, I never thought that Massive Black exhibits a dead shark in chloroform.

    And I guess Jeff Koons made some pretty penny by making controversial stuff.

    Last edited by gogidolim; October 18th, 2011 at 10:47 PM.
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    Never heard of Jeff Koons. He's got some pretty interesting stuff.

    But I wonder if he, and many other fine artists, are given more leeway since fine artists are expected to create controversial things? I have a feeling that might be the case. That's why I asked if it just matters what industry you're going into.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MythrilWolf View Post
    Does creating art that deals with controversial topics (dark, sexual, violent, political, etc) hurt an artists career in any way?
    That rather depends on what the career you're going for happens to be, doesn't it. If you're really keen on Christian illustrations then perhaps a gallery full of covers to heavy metal cds isn't going to help that. On the other hand, if you're going to do editorial illustration then controversial political art isn't going to hurt you any.

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    Quote Originally Posted by vineris View Post
    That rather depends on what the career you're going for happens to be, doesn't it. If you're really keen on Christian illustrations then perhaps a gallery full of covers to heavy metal cds isn't going to help that. On the other hand, if you're going to do editorial illustration then controversial political art isn't going to hurt you any.
    Well, I figured artists could just create works with a variety of topics and then make a portfolio specifically for each company they apply to.

    For example if a concept artist made a wide variety of works on many topics, but saw an opportunity to work for a game company on a horror game- they could make one specific portfolio to use when applying for that job specifically. One that had scary, bloody monsters and whatever. Then after they do that job, and see an opportunity to work for another game company, but this time the game is a kids game for girls, they could make a portfolio with cutesy character concept art. Would the work they did for the previous horror game affect whether or not the latter game company would hire them? That's the sort of thing I wonder about.

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    It hurts if you're not really for that job. Meaning if you spend all the time illustrating muscle chicks, you may not be suited for soft fluffy animal covers.

    If you're worried about content that is highly controversial (embarrassed to even show your mom you do this), use a pen name

    I mean if you're not embarrassed to tell mom you make violent zombie concept art. It's fantasy, no big deal. If you're drawing lesbian tango with donkeys and monkey sacrifices, then use a pen name

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    Subject matter doesn't dictate someone's capabilities, so I think someone who makes muscly women could make fluffy animal covers.

    Catering to the networking of more then one identity/persona on art websites might take up more time and energy then it's worth. If one doesn't need to then I don't see why an artist would. I'm getting the general vibe that most people think they have to use pseudonyms and good reasons to worry about why they should, but I see no proof as to whether or not people actually lose jobs if they create certain content. So I'm asking around.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MythrilWolf View Post
    Subject matter doesn't dictate someone's capabilities, so I think someone who makes muscly women could make fluffy animal covers.

    Catering to the networking of more then one identity/persona on art websites might take up more time and energy then it's worth. If one doesn't need to then I don't see why an artist would. I'm getting the general vibe that most people think they have to use pseudonyms and good reasons to worry about why they should, but I see no proof as to whether or not people actually lose jobs if they create certain content. So I'm asking around.
    Well, the fact of life remains, people can be judgmental. If you want to be absolutely sure someone doesn't, in error, judge you as bad, based on seeing not so mainstream content of one genre or another, the only way to do it is to not generate it (or not generate it under the same name).

    The question you need to ask yourself, rather then if it actually happens, or how much, is if it is worth the risk. The more talented you are, the more you;ll end up in the spotlight, the more people will scrutinize what you do, *and* the higher the likelihood some crappy person will get jealous, and want to try and make it difficult.

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    Just do your furry porn under a pseudonym and stop worrying.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    Just do your furry porn under a pseudonym and stop worrying.
    Ouch... you know diet coke up my nose really hurts!
    *tsk* *tsk*

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    Quote Originally Posted by Conniekat8 View Post
    Well, the fact of life remains, people can be judgmental. If you want to be absolutely sure someone doesn't, in error, judge you as bad, based on seeing not so mainstream content of one genre or another, the only way to do it is to not generate it (or not generate it under the same name).

    The question you need to ask yourself, rather then if it actually happens, or how much, is if it is worth the risk. The more talented you are, the more you;ll end up in the spotlight, the more people will scrutinize what you do, *and* the higher the likelihood some crappy person will get jealous, and want to try and make it difficult.
    I think at the end of the day maybe it boils down to this. To be honest, not dismissive, I don't feel like any reason given here is really a good one. At the end of the day creating a pseudonym feels like lying and hiding and robbing one's self of credit they deserve. It's enough effort as it is to network, let alone network as two different identities. Since many artists create portfolios specific to the employers needs (regardless of whether or not they make controversial work), it seems silly to have to go through all the extra effort to not only not show the client the controversial work but to have to create a whole new identity.

    But if employers are that prejudiced and irrational that they would judge an artist based on subject matter rather then skill, then it seems one wouldn't have any other choice but to go the pseudonym route. And if that many artists are afraid and willing to give into the prejudice, then pseudonyms not such a harmful route to take. Except that it creates an expectation of artists who will come after them. That people who are easily offended or intolerant will make the hiring process personal instead of professional, and will not hire an artist because that person made art they didn't like (privately in their own spare time or for a company), and that the artist should give in and take the effort to make a whole new identity. And why on earth can't these companies just ask the artist to adopt a pseudonym for that particular project or something of that nature?

    And at the end of the day I have been given no solid proof that artists have been denied work. Except for one loose example. Which I do appreciate but it's a nameless"my friend" example, and isn't really something I can look up or look into. I gave an example. Massive Black. They do both Violent, sexual stuff obviously meant for adult male audiences, and yet they also do childrens stuff. Yet everyone still tells me pseudonyms are the best route. Because they just are.

    Just do your furry porn under a pseudonym and stop worrying.
    I don't make furry smut. I asked this question because I wanted to expand my art to include issues that matter. How transgender and transexual people grow up and live in our society. What does it truly mean to be a man or a woman? That explores not only gender roles but those constantly blurred and blocked out harmful things called genitalia, that god forbid if any child sees it'll blow their fucking brains open. How kids grow into adults and learn the harsh lessons of life. Bullying, rape, sex, peer pressure, individuality, etc. The horrors experienced by people who have night terrors, which can be very graphic experiences. The complexities of mental disorders and diseases, and how they are misunderstood and treated. What soldiers experience during war and the morals involved in combat, invading another country. Religion and the many ways it can help pull people out of the darkest places in their lives or shove them into it.

    I just wanted to make art that was brutally honest, because that's reality. It has both beautiful and disgusting things, and I wanted to write and draw stories that included all of it. Not blocked out genitals, non existent tits, or black/fake blood, or simulated sex. Not to shock people. But because that's real, that's life. And as long as the stories are targeted toward an audience that can handle the content, I dont see why I shouldnt be able to do it and also work freelance or for a company that handles more vanilla topics, or controversial topics in a very safe way.

    I apologize if I come across as rude or arrogant. I'm just very passionate about this, and I hate to be made to lie so that I can create stories that don't hold back their punches. The irony is awful.

    Last edited by MythrilWolf; November 1st, 2011 at 02:58 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MythrilWolf View Post
    Subject matter doesn't dictate someone's capabilities, so I think someone who makes muscly women could make fluffy animal covers.
    Well, it's not necessarily about how capable you are, but whether the company wants that when a parent/child Google's the artist's name and gets bombarded by images of shitting dick nipples, Pokemon fetish porn and werewolves raping little kids and whatnot that the artist also has drawn. I mean "controversial topics" can be different to different people, and more people are willing to understand if you have done work for a horror comic/game etc than if you draw rape fetish images on your free time.

    Actually I remember an interview of Jhonen Vasquez (the guy who did the Invader Zim series) in which he was asked whether he had gotten any trouble from the fact that before the series he also did "Johnny the Homicidal Maniac" comic, and yes, people actually had found out the comic while expecting it to be same stuff as the cartoon and then being shocked that it wasn't and bombarded him about it. I don't remember whether any parent bought it to their kid and if something came from it (I think it was after the cartoon had ended), but yeah. At least a pseudonym generally lessens the risk that people come to whine to you if you ever choose to move to more cleaner work.

    EDIT: Generally said if you feel uncertain that you want your name attached to some work, use a pseudonym, if you don't mind, then don't use a pseudonym. No one's trying to force you to use one, many just prefer to, as their controversial content may be much more controversial than yours.

    Last edited by TinyBird; October 19th, 2011 at 04:11 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TinyBird View Post
    Well, it's not necessarily about how capable you are, but whether the company wants that when a parent/child Google's the artist's name and gets bombarded by images of shitting dick nipples, Pokemon fetish porn and werewolves raping little kids and whatnot that the artist also has drawn. I mean "controversial topics" can be different to different people, and more people are willing to understand if you have done work for a horror comic/game etc than if you draw rape fetish images on your free time.

    Actually I remember an interview of Jhonen Vasquez (the guy who did the Invader Zim series) in which he was asked whether he had gotten any trouble from the fact that before the series he also did "Johnny the Homicidal Maniac" comic, and yes, people actually had found out the comic while expecting it to be same stuff as the cartoon and then being shocked that it wasn't and bombarded him about it. I don't remember whether any parent bought it to their kid and if something came from it (I think it was after the cartoon had ended), but yeah. At least a pseudonym generally lessens the risk that people come to whine to you if you ever choose to move to more cleaner work.
    I'm not creating fetish, but that's besides the point. The point has been well made that companies would probably worry about their reputations, but I've had a hard time finding evidence that artists really lose/are denied jobs because of making controversial content. Except for heresay. I'll keep digging to see if I can find anything.

    I remember the theories on why invader zim was canceled and read some interviews too. But I seem to remember that most people just think the show was canceled because of kids looking for jthm comics, and that the truth was that the show was canceled because the show didn't attract the right demographic and had low ratings. So I have thought about the invader zim issue, but I'm shaky on this example.

    I understand what you mean. I appreciate your opinion and everyone elses. I know no one's forcing me to do anything, I'm just frustrated.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MythrilWolf View Post
    I remember the theories on why invader zim was canceled and read some interviews too. But I seem to remember that most people just think the show was canceled because of kids looking for jthm comics, and that the truth was that the show was canceled because the show didn't attract the right demographic and had low ratings. So I have thought about the invader zim issue, but I'm shaky on this example.
    I didn't mean that as an example why it was cancelled, but as an example that whatever controversial stuff you create (though yours doesn't sound very negatively controversial compared to my examples) on your own name can come knocking back after you're done and finished with it, including hatemail etc.

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    Make sure your portfolio is balanced. Don't only display the dark real stuff, show also the vanilla stuff, if you want bout kind of jobs.
    Your portfolio should express your strengths, and what kind of jobs you'd like to take.

    If you do bout super serious things and super cute things. I suggest you keep them in separate portfolios. And maybe have one of them under a pseudonym.
    People on the cute end, tend to be more shaky and easily shocked. Brutal pictures might scare them away. And not to mention that kids will google your name.
    People on the realistic end often find cute stuff to be silly and stupid, and take it as a sign you're not serious, but they handle it more than the cute-end people handles serious/brutal art..

    As awesome as Frazetta was, I seriously doubt anyone would hire him to do children's book stuff with fluffy kittens and cute colours. Not that he wouldn't be able to, though just that he would not be made for that job, so to speak.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lady Medusa View Post
    Make sure your portfolio is balanced. Don't only display the dark real stuff, show also the vanilla stuff, if you want bout kind of jobs.
    Your portfolio should express your strengths, and what kind of jobs you'd like to take.
    This is my feeling too: art that matters, or that is honest, will express not just the horrors, but also the immense beauties, of the universe. With such a balanced portfolio I do not see how anyone can really complain.

    Of course we live in a world that has become overly politically correct and paranoid, so you never know. I don't know what employers are looking for. All I can say is that if I were an employer, my question would be whether you can do the job I want you to do. What other art you do in your free time I would consider to be none of my business. Controversy doesn't scare me: in the arts there ain't no such thing as bad publicity. At least, that is what I think.

    Suppose I want to create a Disney-style cartoon for kids. I look over your portfolio and decide to hire you. Apart from the Disney stuff, you also do (let us suppose for the moment, just for argument's sake) Japanese-style manga porn featuring boys and adults.

    Now I am not sure why this should worry me. Chances are that no one will find out anyway, but so what if they do? I can just imagine the newspaper headlines all over the country: "Disney animator draws kiddie porn in his spare time." Yes, and what of it? Everyone will flock to the movie to go see if they can see some hint of your dark hobby in the film, including armies of people who would normally not go within shouting distance of a kid's cartoon movie. Without a doubt the web will abound with pages that show, or supposedly show, frames with outlines of genitalia on Mickey Mouse (or whatever). The self-anointed protectors of our morals will shout and scream, the liberals will furiously defend the film, the skeptics will laugh about the paranoids, and so on and so forth: all of it free publicity for what would otherwise be just another run-of-the-mill kiddie's film.

    But that's just me. I think in the real world employers might well be more discerning and worried about bad press. Quite unnecessarily so, but there you have it.

    If you want to make "serious" art, it might be an idea to go in for fine art rather than illustration.

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    I don't think the major children's companies - nick, disney, scholastic, etc. - would have any problem finding good artists that have 100% clean backgrounds if they so chose. Now would they be the absolute best? Maybe not, but they'd still be competent and if I had to be paranoid about whether someone would slip a phallic symbol into my production, I might go for good and safe over great but with controversial subjects, and if they were the same skill level, I wouldn't hesitate for a second to ditch the one with the controversy. Are you really that good to say that you're willing to risk bad PR so you can draw something controversial and have it posted under your own name?
    I can gather from this is that you believe certain companies would distrust the professionalism of artists who create controversial content. That you believe they wouldn't just be afraid that the artist's work will be associated with their company or whatever, but that they might actually think the artist would act unethically. I can accept that it's possible a producer might worry over that.

    I really can't give you a definitive example because I'm not willing to violate a professional's privacy. They are not a friend, they are someone I heard speak, so I'm not comfortable revealing that.
    I understand. I was frustrated that I couldn't get a more definitive example, but I won't hold it against you. It's not like you would lie to me, there's no reason to. I just wish I could look up and see this example for myself, but I'll just have to keep researching on my own.


    You don't get to decide what other people's children see or should see. That is rather arrogant.
    Never said I did. And if I somehow even remotely implied it I take it back. It's no one's job except the parents.


    You don't get to dictate how an industry runs, particularly as an entry level artist. No one has said that's fair, only that's the reality of the situation. If you get to be the next Chris Sanders and can work like him, then yeah, you probably can get away with pushing the envelope of doing non-mainstream material, but until then, don't ask questions if you're just going to get mad at the answers you get. It wastes everyone's time if you're going to just disregard everything that's said; that's what's arrogant about this post.
    I know I cant dictate how the industry runs, but that doesn't mean I cant voice my frustration. I can only tell by people's reaction to my question that it's a pretty normal expectation that artists create pseudonyms when they create controversial art. Everyone's voiced their opinion that it's very probable that certain industries will be turned off by it. I asked for opinions and thoughts, and I got them.

    Now you just introduced another idea: if you are entry level artist, you cant do controversial art but if you've been in the industry a while then you can. Another thing to think about and look into. That it may be possible, but you have to be experienced.

    So basically:
    -Its safest to make art under a pseudonym one way or the other.
    -If your an entry level artist controversial art isn't as much of an option as it would be for a seasoned pro.
    -what kind of controversial stuff you make and how extreme it is and why you make it makes a difference.
    -be varied
    -Dont show employers art they aren't interested in or would be turned off by.

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    I'll say it again. And with Dan Dos Santos video he had mentioned this before. (Paraphrasing)

    If you're drawing strengths are for certain kinds of art, it's unlikely you'll get the other jobs. You look at the art Dan Dos Santos draws but you know what he's more suited for. You probably won't go to Dan asking him to draw Lisa Frank style, and fluffy stuff.

    You can try keeping your portfolio balanced, but if you're on the web you don't have that many pieces to show (well you can, but you're there to make the impression). If your portfolio looks scatterbrained you're not exactly helping yourself either ...

    Here's another option as well. If you're not on pro level, then stop worrying about that and worry about drawing better. You haven't even shown your art

    If you're doing this for personal enjoyment, go draw whatever the hell you want.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Arshes Nei View Post
    You haven't even shown your art
    S/he does have Sketchbook though: http://conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=185330

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  30. #26
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    Though you began the thread by asking a question, it looks like you'd actually made up your mind already and were hoping for someone to simply agree with what you'd decided to do anyhow.

    I see a lot of good advice here that you seem to be fighting. ;-)

    I push pixels for a living, and I love it.
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  32. #27
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    My personal experience is it doesn't matter much. Of course, I wouldn't know about the jobs that I never got. I don't really do highly controversial art (just harmless Shambler encasement sex pix), but I know of artists who do and still work for giant game companies.

    Also, an art director looking for talent has probably seen it all already, and might be more tolerant of (well made) "deviant" art than the shocked average joe on the street. Perhaps artists understand that they're in the same boat (HMS Expression), too.

    Jamen jag tror att han skäms, och har gömt sig. Vårt universum det är en av dom otaliga spermasatser som Herren i sin självhärliga ensamhet har runkat fram för å besudla intet.
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  34. #28
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    There is not just one "art industry," there is not just one kind of "art job," and there is not just one kind of "controversial art." So, the only possible answer to your question is, "maybe, sometimes."
    Make the kind of art that you want to make, the way that you want to make it, and then find/create a market for it. If what you want is job security, become a mortician.


    Tristan Elwell
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  36. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by TinyBird View Post
    Thanks,

    ...so the OP is worried about the wrong thing right now.

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  37. #30
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    If you don't know what the boundaries of society are then you won't go very far as an artist. You'll be preaching to the choir of your societal sub group. Part of being a good artist is knowing what to do as well as being able to do it. If your taste is so outside the norm as to offend people who view it then yes, you won’t be hired to do work no matter how good you think you are. Very few people can get past this. Joel Peter and Gerome Witkin come to mind and even then they are not considered mainstream.

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