First... If you are timid, ultra-defensive, or psychotic about things said about race, ethnicity, gender, or money, please do not come in here. Stop now, read no further. Judging by reactions from the last time this subject was brought up elsewhere, there is a chance that it could send you into a rabid, yes foaming at the mouth, self-righteous fit.
Also, just to clarify before you start reading this, everyone should know what I mean when I say "White", unless you came into the world yesterday. And when I say "Asian", I'm speaking of our Far East girls, the ones romanticized and fetishized the most in mainstream Fantasy Art, primarily Japanese and Chinese. I realize that Russia is in Asia. When I say "Asian", I'm not talking about effing Russia. Russians girls are White girls. And when I say "Black", I mean anyone of that racial group/ethnicity, regardless of what country they actually come from, Jamaica, Africa, Australia, doesn't matter.
This is also not the topic to define the differences between or preferences between terms of American vs. Eastern Indian, Latino vs.Hispanic, White vs. Caucasian, or the super fascinating wide range of skin tones of Black people everywhere and who really is or isn't "Black". For the love of God, please save that for your Google, and fun with friends. This topic is about the art.
I just wanted to get that out of the way, because it seems whenever we're discussing these topics there is ALWAYS at least one person who, for whatever reason, immediately pretends to be completely obtuse. Not have a clue as to what we're talking about. OR who gets really super anal and technical as to the ethnic definitions of the entire population of the peoples on the continent of Asia. Me thinks this is usually to derail the topic. Please do not do that. If you don't have any answers or insight, please just leave the conversation to those who are actually interested and curious, if there are any.
Anyhoos, onward. The last time this was discussed online and I was actually present, was on a Yahoo art group and it got surprisingly hostile, pretty fast. Lots of people reacting very defensively to a basic "where are the other kinds of people" query. Their comments were basically comprised of two responses-- "I'm not going to compromise my work/style to be politically-correct" and "People do what they are comfortable with, who are you all to say anything about that?"
Yes, this was good ol' times, you know it was.
Now, sorry to say, these people were missing the initial point of the topic. Entirely. No one was telling them what to draw or paint. Some of us were just asking WHY there was so little variety.
I recently posted this:
or, if you don't have FB:
This is actually something that gets discussed on a fairly regular basis by my circles of friends, who are all geeks and artists/art lovers.
What brought on this latest round of chat on this was actually Jason Manley's Open Letter post to the CA forum.
The talk about the old guard controlling the art schools, who gets in and who doesn't, what gets to be called art and what doesn't, all of that and how changes needed to be made...all of this brought on our latest discussion about how this is all true, yes, but you have to wonder how much difference changing out the old system would make, when the artists who're emerging from the new schools will still follow the same “rules of Fantasy Art” that have preceded them decades before.
We often browse the shows and sites looking for new and interesting things and the lack in female figures that aren't all the same is pretty obvious. Albert says this is because all the artists are sad, lonely men who have no idea what a woman looks like. Yes, thank you, Albert. And Beth says it's because the artists are playing it safe with the markets they sell to. Ah, yes...thank you, Beth.
Yes, the Fantasy Art comm has come a long way, but how far has it really come? When so much of it is still the same? If society has changed so much, and the Art, even the Fantasy kind, supposedly reflects changes in methods and culture, then where is the overwhelming evidence of this in the work in regards to the women depicted in the work?
Dunno. Perhaps contemporary Fantasy Art exists in such a vacuum that it's not really affected by changes in time or society. Perhaps the themes and figures presented have less to do with the people who are cranking out the artwork, and more to do with the business of art and the money.
I decided to put down my thoughts and a few personal experiences as an example of one art-lover's perspective on the reasons given as to why there is so little change or variety.
Here is a compilation of the main reasons some artists, past and present, gave for the lack of variety and diversity in the women in art:
#1 Comfort level. Aka Drawing What You Know
#2 Comfort level. Aka Fear of Being Offensive
#3 I don't have any models.
#1 This is the "I don't draw people of outside my race, because that's not my culture and I don't know how".
Hmm... this is the part where I have to reach over and snatch the "A" off your chest. What kind of Artist are you? You don't know how? Artists have to STUDY. Either you do that or you do not. You may feel like you were, but no, you weren't born with some instinctual knowledge of how to draw kick-ass White girls with D cups. You had to actually learn that. By looking and by then practicing--that's called study. Just like anything else you might draw, including other types of people. As an illustrator, you're supposed to be able to render just about anything, with study and practice.
From personal experience, I find this reason to be a bit of a fail. I only say this because of the artists that I knew who are not Caucasian, who worked on a few types of female forms, including the non-typical and races not their own. It's true that some artists of any race will stay with their own race for the figures in their personal work, but because I have seen for myself that some people readily experiment outside of their own, and actually learn how, I can't say that I believe all that much in Reason #1.
And what is the reason for lack of body types? A lot of the mainstream work is very bland in this area.
I wanna reiterate that I'm not talking about personal, self-reflective type art here. Frida painted herself over and over for a reason. It had nothing to do with what the public wanted or public opinion. And when I think about my own self-portrait, I'm not thinking about using Zhang Ziyi or Heidi Klum. I get that people do not create personal work with OTHER types people in their mind's eye. Got that. I'm talking about entertainment here. Illustration and concept work, and other work that is meant for sharing with the public, the masses. Besides, unless you can pull off self-photos like Marko "The Sensation" Djurdjevic, no one wants to buy your self portrait anyway, right? Right. (Everyone has seen the sexy photo, yes? )
I also realize that some people are limited in their actual physical locations. Perhaps there is little or no diversity where you live, went to school, work, etc... That is entirely possible. However, this is also a fail as a really good reason. One word: imagination. For example... I grew up around quite of few guys who loved to draw. One in particular was actually very good at it, and I'd say by 10th grade or so, his knowledge of anatomy was pretty astonishing and he would turn out these poster sized drawings that were insane. Well, to me they were (this was tenth grade, and anything larger than my 9 x 11 pads was "gianormous and insane" to me). But a lot of his work featured (what I recognize to be very typical and cliche), cheesecake comic girls. And well, the boy had some imagination, because I was actually there, and I can assure you that were NO such warrior superbabes in or around our social circles. What's my point? I guess my point is with a tiny little bit of imagination and initiative, people can create pretty much whatever they put their minds to. Even a 10th grader.
Yep, I'm almost positive that most artists did not grow up with fantasy goddesses with 20 inch waistlines and DDD boobs, or mutant fire-breathing beasts, but they somehow find it possible to create entire works of art around these themes. Kudos to having an imagination!
#2 This is "I'm worried I wouldn't depict another race well, and it would offend the viewers."
"Hey, I wouldn't know what to do with'em."
For the first one, I don't know if that is con circuit thing or what, but I heard it from two convention artists... they expressed some interest in more ethnic diversity in their work, but said they were worried that they wouldn't get the look "right" and it would turn off viewers, or people would actually get angry so they didn't try it.
Really??? I have to something to say about a lot of the art I've seen both off and on con circuit...if White and Asian women all over the world have not become massively offended and angry and decimated you all by now, I think it's probably gonna be safe for you to experiment. Carry on...
For the second one, this is the most hilarious I think. This is basically, "If I go with a Black person, what would I do with them? Wouldn't it have to be an African theme, or jungle?"
Oh no noes, don't laugh. This is for realz. I have heard this more than a few times, from different directions. Hey...you know it has to be an African theme. Because as we all know, you have never seen or heard of any Black people anywhere else, doing anything else. They've just been over there... holding down Africa. Sorta.
And what in God's name are you supposed to even do with the Latinas? Total panic. Wait! Does anyone have a low-rider!?!
I notice that there is no such confusion as to what to do with White females. I believe this is because everyone already knows it is perfectly normal, natural and actually quite heritage for White women to be wound around the leg of some warrior, walking a dragon on a leash, straddled over a large rock in the mystical forest in her authentic chain mail bikini, wielding a sword twice the length of her body while wearing her best high-heel thigh high leather boots in her bra and panties, or just naked in the middle of no where for no real particular reason at all, why? because she's a wiccan that's why, and that's how they roll.
Yup...*nods*...that's where it's at, ladies...that is happening FOR REAL...
#3 "I can't find any models."
Hey, dude. You work from photographs.
That's what I pointed out to a fellow artist pal. Unless you are one of those arteest, who only draws and paints from live models, then, "Lack of diversity in models" is another reason that doesn't seem to quite hit the mark, given the amount of artists who actually work from photographs. And given teh internets. The readily available, vast, endless internets. Sooo many pictures...
Unless you actually live next door to dragons and mutants or Batman, then "I can't draw what I don't have a model for" reason is kinda also out, is it not?
Of course there are still those artists who prefer to take their own pictures of their own models. I hear ya. I never went anywhere without my Polaroid. Until I broke it.
Anyway, while there are surely some artists who live in "white-bread" areas, there are many others who do not, or at least travel to places where there is a plethora of different and interesting beauties who would work as models. Who apparently don't take advantage of it.
From my own experiences---> ...the Chair of our Art department and my painting professor, who is White, had not featured any "African American" females in his work that I had ever seen. But one day after a class he asked me if I would model for him. (gah, I just had a flashback, and I'm terrified because I'm pretty sure my big, dumb, head is hanging on a wall somewhere in Italy right now) And I wondered why he had not asked any of the many other Black girls who he'd known from his classes or the department before me, or one of the others from my classes. There had been opportunity I'm sure. He just failed, for whatever reason, to take advantage of an opportunity to use those girls in his work.
From my own perspective, even when I did not have a physical model, I made an effort to find something to use anyway. I dunno, it just simply has never occurred to me to only draw one type of girl, or one type of guy. I wouldn't even know how to scale my brain down like that. I always wish I could draw everything I see. I always felt like art was this great free-for-all and that I had so much to choose from and the only thing standing in my way was skill and lack of practice.
So the small pool of ideas/styles it seems like many very talented artists draw from when they create their women, has always made me wonder if everybody went to the same schools, where teachers slapped them when they drew outside the lines, thought outside the box.
This is my current favorite theory. I believe it's the true culprit of Overdone. People are catering to the largest demographic in their market, and they are doing whatever sells, regardless of how common it may be.
If it's money, just say it's money. Puhleease tell me it's the money. Personally, I would MUCH rather believe that there a hundreds of talented artists out there who actually experiment but have stockpiled and are hoarding countless pieces of brilliant artwork that are odd and different-- are not putting it out there to show for fear that it will not sale or interest anyone. Rather than believe that the artists don't do anything different because they are just indifferent to different. And this is all Fantasy Art is, or will ever be.
One other point for the money----> ...One of the guys who I thought was really talented, and I always thought he would work in the biz....well, after he "went pro" I noticed a remarkable decline in his experimenting. I think this is just because he got bogged down creating only what was most popular/mainstream. I found him on MySpace sometime last year and just thought, well...meh. His skill has really taken off, no doubt about it, but the subject matter is nothing I haven't seen before, everything I am bored with, and nothing I would buy. Sorry, dude! :o/
And those are the main four reasons that we've been given for the lack of variety in the women shown in Fantasy Art.
Having more theories on it...
The racial makeup of the artists doing the work and the art collectors would have to be a factor in this of course, and judging by the attendance at shows the majority is still White males. However both the artist and attendance number for girls and Minorities has gone up so much, I would expect to see this reflected way more in the art, which I don't. (If anyone has any general info on the racial and gender makeup of the artists, please do share it. I'm positive this is a factor, I'm just not sure how much.) I'm hoping eventually the slow but steady changes in the demographics of the artists and collectors will catch up to the artwork.
I have always just done art as a pastime because I am just compelled to do it, it's something I personally just love and probably spend too much money on...but I'm starting to think I may have to actually start doing it For Serious. Putting junk out there, just to attempt to contribute to filling the huge, gapping void.
I have to wonder... that even though CA and other art comms are making efforts to improve and assist the Art world's hard-working artists into a new, more improved community, that unless a lot more of these artists decide to take some initiative and explore outside of the box, then a lot of the actual art will mostly continue to remain the same. There won't be a massive group of artists bringing something new to the table, there will be a massive group of newbies, bringing a lot of old to the table. Woohoo.
Look at how long it's has been around, look how much of it is still all the same. Why is it not expanding it's definitions of "fantasy" (or pick your genre) in ideas and concepts, why still so narrow?? I realize that designers and illustrators have to stick to the general parameters set by the job they happen to be working on, esp for character specific things like book covers, but what about the rest? What about playtime, people?
If it is supposed to be "fantastic", and if you decide to play around, I submit to you a Black girl with a dragon is more fantastic....an American Indian girl casting a spell as a vampire is more fantastic. Because at this point those are in fact more "imaginary, unreal, or odd", according to the actual definition of the word "fantastic", than those same themes with Caucasian girls in them, cause we have loads of those. Could we get a Hispanic girl? Polynesian? I don't even really care which type anymore at this point. OMG, I don't care if she is sitting on a stack of old tires in an abandoned WalMart, munching on a severed arm, (file it under Horror) at least she is in the game!
I'm not saying ALL art is this typical/predictable, I'm saying a large amount of it is. And if you pulled random people who would know out of the community and asked them separately to create a list of what they think is the most seen/over-used/cliche themes in Fantasy art, and compared their answers, the lists would come pretty close to matching. And we're collectors of ALL types of art, we love it all. Traditional, digital, old school, new school, Fantasy, Horror, SciFi, regardless of who the artist is, doesn't matter, we just love great art. (well, I don't do the anthropomorphic or furry stuff, no offense) It would just be really, really super great if we could find more stuff that features other types of people.
Again, this was not meant to offend anyone, just point out some other persons' point of view, and thought CA is a good place to ask these questions since it is such a huge forum. The last groups of "professionals" reacted badly to any sort of questions like this even being asked, and immediately became self-righteous, and it was all very "you can't tell me what to make".
FYI: I'm not actually telling you what to make. I'm telling you what is MISSING. What, overall, there is a lack of, and what some people are actually looking for.
What you decide to do with this small bit of info is entirely up to you. You may decide it's too few people to care about, or that you are just plain not interested, or you may decide to actually experiment. Who can freaking know? I'm just putting it out there. Again.
I do already have a small personal list of favorite artists that do have a kick-ass sense of variety or have a piece or two that shows some diversity, that I have collected, but I've started putting together a catalog of artists who have new and/or interesting themes going on in their work and who feature Minorities and people of color. Even if it's just one character or piece, I'll take it, add them to the list. The biggest favor I can do for my friends and fellow collectors after I actually track down such artwork, is to compile all the info into a SciFi/Fantasy Art catalog and share it with them. If anyone has any links they could share with me on this, please post them here or email.