No use in denying it; we all love receiving them on our work! In fact, they can be a real source of butthurt in our community if we do not get them. But what do they really mean?
The bottom line? Maybe they don't mean much.
deviantART has given us these nifty little statistics like page views and
's so we can gauge others' level of appreciation for our work. I've learned through watching and learning, conducting polls, and talking with people that a lot of people feel pressured or bribed into giving favorites, which tells me that favorites really do not have meaning except perhaps to judge one's influence in the community. So, why are we (myself included) sad when we do not receive as many as we once did in spite of a lot of care put into technical improvements?
I think that favorites have become a source of bitterness in the community. Let's be real; I have seen some really, really bad pieces of work get more than 800 favorites recently while amazing pieces got maybe 50. Other times, it seems more fair. But, approaching this disparity in terms of bad versus good artwork completely misses the point, and going down that road will only lead to more negativity.
A positive way to support one another
deviantART is an art site. The point of being here is to learn art and to grow as an artist. This isn't (or shouldn't be) Facebook or MySpace.
The single most powerful tool we have at our disposal as members of dA is each other. The feedback you receive from fellow artists is what helps you grow. When we create our art, we become really close and attached to it, and sometimes having an outsider's perspective can help us see what is really great as well as what we can do to improve.
I therefore want to emphasize the importance of a good comment.
Commenting on someone's work (and I do mean more than just "Great job!" or "Amazing!") can give them a boost to keep creating. It can also give pointers to help people learn. I am not saying that we all should take 15 minutes to critique every little thing about every deviation we want to add to our collection; none of us has that kind of time. A simple, "Hey, you did a really great job with your shadows on this piece; they're not too heavy at all!" really goes a long way toward supporting the artist.
I remember a really long time ago, !bitchinblack pointed out to me that my models always looked like they were floating because my shadows weren't correct. I was actually thrilled to receive this critique because it meant I could get to be a better artist; I still remember exactly which piece it was and what she said. Thank you, Miranda.
Another thing I should note is that a critique or comment isn't the same as an attack. An attack would be, "Your artwork is terrible, and it's just pathetic that you don't know how to do shadows yet." Being guided in a way that helps you understand that the shadows could use some work, such as, "You painted the shadows in black, but I feel that is too harsh. Have you considered using a darker green shade from the background?" is a critique.
Getting over ourselves
I know that one reason a lot of us (myself included) do not leave detailed comments is that people generally don't want to hear what they can do to improve. Sometimes even when people beg for "harsh" critique, I refrain from giving it because people are sensitive, and I don't want to look like a bitch (or at least, not more so than usual!
). And I've had more than one friend get upset with me for giving an honest appraisal of their work even in response to their request for feedback
Newsflash: None of us are perfect artists. We could all use a little help. And honestly, regardless of whether your critic is the world's worst photomanipulator or the world's best photomanipulator, he or she has something valuable to say.
Some people will point out that a critique is just one person's opinion. That's sort-of true. I mean, if lighting is inconsistent or colors are not blended, then that's a fact, but it is ultimately up to you as to whether or not to accept the critique.
I wonder if it would be more conducive to community building and feedback value if those of us who are willing and open to receiving critiques to help us grow were to say that in our Artist's Comments? I really admire artists who say, "Critique needed and wanted!"
Even if you are leery of giving an honest, full-blown critique, you can leave a thoughtful comment on the work and concentrate on something you DO like. Positive comments can be as informative, if not more so, than critiques because they let the artist know that you appreciate what they have done and that their hard work has paid off.
Also, not to beat a dead horse, but I know the time factor is a concern as well. People just don't have time to leave a lot of thoughtful comments on others' work. But, really? How long does it take? It takes me one minute-- okay, MAYBE two if I am really being thoughtful-- to say something nice about someone's work or to leave a tip for making something even better. Even if you fave 10 and leave 1 comment, that's better than nothing.
Reaching a new level of artistic maturity . . .
Fave all you want to. Don't get me wrong; having someone collect your art is great.
But, also stop to give a comment or two that is more than just "Amazing, dear!"
You're supporting your fellow artist a whole lot more by helping him or her learn how you see their art. You'll make more friends that way, too.
Thoughts? Should we launch a "Project Critique" type thing in photomanipulation, where you can win prizes for critiques made to others' work (with their permission) or something?