Friday, 13 December 2013

The Artist's Voice: Rachel Dukes on Creative Credit and Exposure

There's a lot of crap that pisses art students off. We're an angsty bunch, the whole lot of us, griping about professors giving us poor critiques and wine bottles that run dry too fast (not to perpetuate stereotypes, but...) Anyway, we like to complain. Some of us would even claim that such disenfranchisement with the world at large is what drives their artistic practice, that they're pouring their soul out onto their canvas, dripping long streams of oil paint as if it were the lifeblood of society being sacrificed in Art for the good of Humanity.

Thank goodness I'm only a humble cartoonist.

One of these complaints is significantly marginalized. It lacks, by and large, a voice, though there are certainly a number of us who sit around and whine about it. It's a line we are fed on a weekly if not daily basis:

"It'll be good exposure."

...which is the world's way of saying "Look here, I need something drawn, or painted on, or otherwise creatively endowed, and all I can do is stick figures. So, if you wouldn't mind pouring your heart and soul into this until it's up to my standards, I won't pay you per se, but I'm sure somebody will see it eventually and wonder who made that." Oh, thank you. Then I'll get another person asking me for free art. Wonderful.

It's not an uncommon problem. There's definitely a part of me that wishes society would develop an Italian Renaissance mentality toward artists and just view us as one more craftsman to be hired. Instead we get funny looks when we tell people we're artists, and lines like, "Yeah, I used to draw a lot in high school." There's this overwhelming assumption that what we do isn't actually work. We must love every second, and it must comes as naturally and easily to us as breathing, and therefore it's not worth paying for. So when Tom Spurgeon posted this earlier this month, it kinda clicked.

The article that Rachel Dukes (Mixtape Comics) wrote about uncredited work making its way across the vast reaches of the internet is pure gold. It picks out all the key points in detail, nails down exactly why artists are getting screwed online. You see, it's a little tricky to get "good exposure" if nobody knows who made the thing they're looking at. Just doesn't work.

Dukes' article is a little stats-heavy, but so very much worth reading. The numbers are the real one-two punch, an overwhelming bit of insight on just how much we don't care about stealing other folks' creative work. On the one hand, I can't even count the number of images I have saved on my computer that have no credit attached to them, and on the other, I'm paranoid about my own portfolio and whether or not you can copy/save my images from it. And I have to wonder, am I going about this all wrong? Art school does some strange things to you. It tells you that you have to sell your work if you're going to get out there, build a successful practice for yourself after graduation...and it tells you that work made in class that is commercially viable is a sell-out, not worth academic consideration, not worth making. It tells us that we should make money and protect our image rights, while offering us opportunities to donate work and volunteer our skills for exposure. We have the unique opportunity to get our education in a burbling melting-pot of mixed messages. Ain't we lucky?

So, I won't pretend to have the answers. This is more of a critique, which is to say I'm taking an issue and bitching about it, this is good, this is bad, this could use improvement, and I love what you did with the green in that corner, it adds a sense of life...yeah, don't mind me, just putting my degree to good use. But give it some thought. Think about what you can do in your online life to give true exposure to the multitude of artists and graphics people whose work we enjoy every day. If it means doing a little searching to figure where a cartoon originated, it's worth the time. For Art, yeah?
The money isn't’t the point. But this is a thing that’s happening. This isn't’t just happening to me. It’s actively happening to the greater art community as a whole. (Especially the comics community. Recent artists effected by altered artwork/theft off the top of my head: Liz PrinceLuke HealyNation of AmandaMelanie Gillman, etc.) Our work is being stolen and profited off of. Right this second.
I do my best to see the positive in these events but the very least I can do as a creator is stand up in this small moment and say “This is mine. I made this.”- Rachel Dukes
The Article


pretentious Art School nugget