Tuesday, February 16, 2010

TAD offers scholarships for Women in Art!

Hey all! I just noticed this while browsing ConceptArt.Org this morning before work. I've been following the first few scholarships handed out to their partner school, The Art Department, and now Jason Manley has announced that two full rides and two half ride scholarships have been set aside exclusively for female applicants!

You can view the post here here and apply to TAD by going here and clicking on Apply Now. All female applicants are eligible for the scholarships.

I'm not planning on going back to school full time (at least not for a while!) but I think it's a great move on TAD's part to support female artists in the industry.

In other news, the deadline for submissions to Exposé 8 is coming up. February 22nd - that's less than a week away! (Side note - crap, I really need to finish my submission...) Here's the link - good luck!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Article Round Up!

Drive-by post! This week we've gathered up a few links to various articles and cool stuff we've seen recently. We'll probably do this again from time to time for stuff that we like that, for whatever reason, doesn't make it onto our Twitter (like when Louisa finds something awesome during the day only to realise she's managed to wipe her Twitterfox settings at work and can't remember the password to the account, for example).

Twisted Princesses: A Darker Take on Disney

We're used to seeing the Disney heroines as glittering, gracious, smiling beauties. Well, some of them may be smiling in this macabre art series, but in a way that is likely to give you nightmares.

Why Strong Female Characters Are Bad For Women

The title is misleading - take Strong Female Characters with a heavy dose of irony and then have a look at this interesting read on how mainstream movie writers still aren't quite grasping the concept of creating a compelling female role model.

Can Marvel-Disney Help Close the Comic Book Gender Gap?

A look at what the Disney buyout of Marvel might mean for marketing comics to women.

Fangirl Invasion, Part One: The Changing Face (and Sex) of Fandom
Fangirl Invasion, Part Two: Hollywood Takes Notice
Fangirl Invasion, Part Three: The War of the Sexes Hits Geekdom

Ok, the use of terms like Invasion! and War! tends to annoy me because it seems to imply that women are forcing themselves in and taking over where they don't belong. I am slightly tired of news articles declaring that Twilight is the new Moses, parting the seas of testosterone and bravely leading thousands of young girls to the Holy Land of Geekdom. Because gee, it's not like girls existed in fandom BEFORE Twilight, right? On the other hand, hey, at least they're finally making it to the party and I do have to (grudgingly) admit that Twilight is bringing more young girls to conventions, the fantasy genre, and helping them to realise that BOOKS ARE AWESOME.

Epic Worlds Without Women?
The Epic Fantasy and Female Characters, Part Two
Fantasy and Female Characters, Part Three

Another three part article series in which fantasy authors Kate Elliot and Ken Scholes discuss female characters in fantasy and how they handle them in their own work.

Two mentions of Disney is kinda of like a theme, right? So I'm going to round this post off with a Princess painting meme that's going round that I think is pretty adorable.

Princess Coloring Book by *Artsammich on deviantART

The challenge? Take a Disney princess colouring book page and colour it in the style of a Masters painting. Ryan Wood kicked off this idea here with his portrait of Belle in the style of an Ingres painting, and Sam Neilson took up the gauntlet with the beautiful painting of Jasmine above. I have a soft spot for the heroines of Disney - they were some of my earliest childhood idols and anytime before I hit my teens you could guarantee that my favourite film was whatever the latest Disney film was. (Well, except for Snow White. No taking candy from strangers, you vapid dummy!) So I was thrilled that a few more of the awesome artists on my watchlist picked up the idea and ran with it. Here are a few more for your viewing pleasure!

Aurora by Katie DeSousa

Cinderella by Lois van Baarle

Belle by Adelenta

If anyone has seen (or done!) any more of these, let me know in the comments? I'm kind of addicted - I may even have to do one myself.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Featured Artist: Liiga Smilshkalne

Artist Profile
Name: Liiga Smilshkalne
Job Title: Freelance Digital Painter
Client List: Northeast Games, LightCon Inc. Butterfly Fan the Inferno, and oodles of private commissioners.
Education: Bachelors Degree in Economics and Business. Currently studying for 2nd Bachelors in Politics. No art related education.
Years Experience: 7+ years
Favorite Medium: Digital
Specialties: Fantasy, somewhat realistic figure painting, whenever possible with a surreal or macabre twist.
Accepting Private Commissions? Schedule varies, please inquire.

Contact Info
Website or Web Portfolio: http://liiga.deviantart.com
Email: smilshkalne@hotmail.com
Twitter: none
Online Art Communities: deviantArt, GFXArtist, Epilogue -- listed as "liiga" on all of them.
Prints: http://liiga.deviantart.com/store/

Artist Liiga Smilshkalne (pronouced "League-ah Smeelsh-kuhl-ne") is no stranger many of us who have been around the various online art communities over the last few years. Her captivating artwork tends to ensnare you like the delicately detailed webs she often paints. Her work has been featured in artbooks, such as Exotique, but recently she's seen a fair amount of exposure of a different sort.

Her painting, "Sunlight" (shown above) has become one of the more prominently displayed images advertising the online game Evony. The game has received criticism over it's blatant use of cleavage in it's advertising (among other things), which seems to be everywhere, thanks to Google ads. Liiga and I talked a bit about the Evony ads and what she thinks about them, below.

I think my first introduction to your work was the painting “Captured” over on Elfwood back in 2003. It seems like you’ve been around the digital art scene for as long as I’ve been, but it’s hard to dig up information on you. Tell us a little about how you got started as an artist? Where are you now, in the art industry?

I first got my hands on an easel, paper and paints at the tender and impressionable age of 3 and never quite let it go since then. I started painting digitally around 16, not long after getting a computer. Since it only came with MSPaint, I was originally extremely impressed by the amazing pixelation skills that the artists behind the digital paintings online must have had. After looking into the subject a little more, I came across communities such as Elfwood and Epilogue and the various digital drawing/painting programs out there. Well and it kind of went from there - not having a scanner readily available certainly facilitated my interest in digital painting as well, but mostly I was attracted to the interesting technical aspects and being able to learn a lot from others over the internet. Then I promptly set out to post on various art communities, and eventually commissions started happening. Right now I am gleefully working on mostly private commissions as well as the occasional game related project. Since I am still quite busy with studies at this time, it's the kind of art related employment that I am currently perfectly happy with.

Your work shows an unapologetic love for transparent things and incredibly tiny, delicate details. Who or what are your biggest inspirations, artistically?

I wouldn't be able to name a few specific artists that I've been inspired by, it is instead a long list of changing impressions by many people of different styles, depending on what I am focusing on at the time. At the moment ones that stand out for me the most are Brom with the way he handles colors and values, Ursula Vernon and her awesome texture work and daring imagination, Dali for being, well, Dali, and Lindra Bergkvist with the way she handles skintones.

Other than that, I am perpetually inspired by nature. I am lucky to live in a place with a giant meadow and small forests around, so there's plenty opportunities for observation. Having spent a good chunk of my childhood in the countryside that might be where the fascination with drawing tiny details stems from.
Well and translucent stuff is just awfully fun to draw like that, 'cause lighting is one of the things that I find technically captivating.

You do a lot of paintings that are for website designs—which is fairly unusual compared to how most website designs are typically put together. How is it different from just doing a regular painting or illustration? What kinds of things do you have to work around or keep in mind when working on website illustrations?

The sites I have done design so far have been related to fantasy games, so that makes the perfect excuse to do the whole design in a painterly style - which is helpful since I know more about painting than web design.

The main difference from a regular painting is, of course, that there will be content that is more important than the painted bits. Then there is also the whole technical side - how feasible it is to code, what will work with this or that browser, how large it should be, what happens when the content changes size etc.
Since I'm not much of a coder, I usually work closely with whoever is doing that part at the very beginning while brainstorming over what kind of design to have and how it would work, and the end when the images have to be sliced and otherwise prepared for the final presentation. And in between that lies the actual painting, which is more or less as painting usually goes.

A few months ago you licensed your painting “Sunlight” to the creators of the online game “Evony” for use in their ad campaign and game. The game’s advertising has received a lot of attention, and some criticism, for their overtly sexual messages. Perhaps complicating the situation, “Sunlight” is a self-portrait. Did they give you any idea, going in, that that was what they were shooting for? How do you feel about your image being viewed as a sexual marketing ploy?

The whole Evony thing turned into a bit of surprise, because I didn't expect that they would be quite so aggressive and suggestive with their campaign as a whole. Of course it isn't entirely lost on me that the painting itself has a certain amount of sensuality to it - it is mostly the context of the whole thing that was somewhat surprising, and amusing. 

I have read some of the online discussions about Evony's advertising campaign, and I do agree that the whole progression of the ad contents from the somewhat more timid fantasy figures to what appears at a first glance to be a lingerie ad was less than subtle. On the other hand, the whole concern of objectification of the female body and sexuality seems blown a little out of proportion. I mean, compare to a painting or a photo that depicts a person with the focus on some kind of external quality they possess - be it beauty, ugliness, green skin or three noses. Certain objectification will be inevitably present, because that is the whole point. Now one may argue that when the focus is on sexuality that it gets a little underhanded by appealing to the carnal desires, which I partially agree with - mostly because in this case it has absolutely nothing to do with the product being marketed anyways. However, the extent of concern that some people have expressed regarding the whole thing seems to imply that the ad and the image in it depict something far more explicit and sinister than they really do - although the suggestiveness has been heavily played up with the context of the ad compared to the original, I don't find it offensive in any way. Instead, I'm taking it as a compliment and getting a good chuckle out of the whole commotion - and of course, I don't mind the free advertising that came with it.

I noticed on your dA page that most of your recent commenters have been people who found the image after viewing it in the “Evony” ads. Have the ads increased your site traffic? Have there been any negative effects from the ad?

The ads don't directly state who the author of the image is, so the increase in traffic isn't that large, but enough people managed to find it that the increase was noticeable. There haven't been any particularly negative effects other than having to write more e-mails and notes than ever before, confirming that the image was licenced in a legitimate way. But it really just shows that people care, so I wouldn't call that negative either way. 

While browsing through the comments on it, I found it interesting that so many of us (and I’m including myself in this) saw the ad and immediately assumed it might be stolen, then contacted you about it. I can’t decide if that’s a good thing because it means that more people are aware of the problems of art theft and are willing to support the artist; or a bad thing because it means artists in general have become that cynical. What’s your view on it?

I believe it is a good thing. Image theft is hardly a recent phenomenon on the internet anyways - so a little bit of cynism in this regard and readiness to assume the worst and investigate is a million times better than collective apathy towards it.

What’s with the penguins?

This one gets asked every now and then. The penguins are a sort of romantic art exchange I do with someone special - other people give each other flowers, we give each other penguins. And we can share our penguins with the rest of the world, too, so hey - bonus!

Do you have any advice for other women out there who might be interested in getting into fantasy art commercially?

To not be afraid of drawing boobies? I do believe that it is more useful to think of oneself as an artist who happens to be a woman than a woman who happens to be an artist in this context, because one's artistic ability is the main variable here. Nevertheless, it is always beneficial to be able to identify which parts of one's perspective and approach to art are related specifically to gender, so that they can be used in a beneficial way. Oh and don't be shy to look at men for figure reference purposes - it shouldn't be just guys that get to look at girls like that.

Image Credits:
Above: "Sunlight" ©2007-2009
Liiga Smilshkalne
Below Left: "Rhea Dragonsblood" ©2008-2009 Liiga Smilshkalne
Below Middle: "Defiance" ©2009
Liiga Smilshkalne
Below Right: "Emerald Conundrum" ©2009 Liiga Smilshkalne

Monday, September 7, 2009

It's All About Who You Know

Firstly, quick newsflash - Massive Black are having a Labour Day sale on streaming classes, DVDs and downloads! It ends Tuesday September 8th at 11am Pacific Time, so if there's something you've had your eye on, better snap it up quickly. Go here for more details.


It's not just about being able to do the job - it's about knowing the right people in the right place at the right time.

Anybody else been told that? I know I have. Almost every time we had a professional from the CG field in to speak to us at university, we found out they got the job through a friend of a friend, a colleague of a colleague (and occasionally through alcohol, but moving on...). It was often stressed on us just how important networking and connections would be in building our careers and getting us from job to job. Great! So how should we go about that?

*crickets chirp*


At some point I think most of us are faced with the somewhat herculean prospect of going from an inexperienced nobody to somebody with a wealth of useful contacts and resources at their fingertips. At that point everyone is a stranger, you have no idea where the best places to start putting yourself out there even are, and you also happen to be in a profession known for shy and reclusive personalities. Which probably includes you. Excellent.

It can be doubly scary when the people you want to network with are the same people who blow you away with their talent and art wisdom on a regular basis and whose artwork and tutorials you have probably spent hours staring at, slack jawed in wonder. Kind of awkward, introducing yourself to someone about whom you know you have uttered the phrase, "I want to marry this person" and/or, "I want to steal their brain."

For the record, neither of these are a good opening line for an introduction. Just so you know.

As a much younger artist, my networking prowess consisted of typing "fantasy art" into Google and dropping in on sites like Epilogue and Elfwood by pure chance. My sense of isolation was increased by the fact that social media wasn't nearly as prevalent as it is now. The artists I really wanted to talk to seemed aloof and untouchable behind personal fortresses websites and apologetic notices that they received too many emails to be able to answer them all.

From that clumsy beginning I slowly built up my list of communities to frequent, the best places to display my portfolio, and friendships with other artists, and as slow a process as it was, all those people who told me that getting to know people was so crucial were absolutely right. Few artists evolve in a vaccuum. Surrounding yourself with creative, supportive, encouraging friends and mentors will help you grow as an artist and keep you sane in the process.

Things are much easier now. Online portfolios and interactive communities go hand in hand. Forums like CGTalk and ConceptArt.org along with Twitter, live painting websites and the mighty blogosphere make great artists much more accessible and approachable - you get to talk with them, hear their advice, watch them work, and best of all you get to do it without feeling like you're intruding on their privacy.

So without futher ado, I present to you a list of the blogs and Twitters of some truly talented and awesome women, who are incredibly friendly and helpful to boot. Enjoy!

Alice Duke

Anne Pogoda

Christine Griffin

Char Reed

Charlie Bowater

Constanza Ehrenhaus

Dani Jones

Diane Özdamar

Dona Vajgand

Ellen Million

Elvire De Cock
http://kokoahouse.wordpress.com/ (French only)

Irene Gallo

Jennifer L. Meyer

Jessica Douglas

Julie Dillon

Katie de Sousa

Lois van Baarle

Marta Dahlig

Mélanie Delon

Melissa Hitchcock

Meredith Dillman

Michele-lee Phelan

Nicole Cadet

Nicole Cardiff

Rebecca Morse (French & some English)

Sam Hogg

Selina Fenech

Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

Ursula Vernon

And a bonus - live painting channels! Check out their pages for broadcast schedules and show descriptions.

Jana Schirmer (Livestream)

Charlie Bowater (Livestream)

Dona Vajgand (Livestream)

Dani Jones (Ustream)

Melissa Findley (Ustream)

Char Reed (Ustream)

And in case you didn't already know, you can also find Melissa and me at the following locations.

Melissa Findley

Louisa Gallie

EDIT 08/09/09: Added a couple more names to the list! Do you have any suggestions? Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Clearing Up Some Misconceptions

I’ve been thinking about some of our reader comments lately, both on the blog and on Twitter, and I thought I’d try to clarify our position on some of these things. It's hard to respond to some of these in less than 140 characters :)

Artemisia is about fantastic art, but that covers a wide range of topics. “Art” was something we left fairly broad, because we wanted the opportunity to talk about all kinds of art. Whether it’s the obvious sort like fantasy illustration, book covers, concept art; or things that involve art: like movies, video games, books, conventions, etc.

“Fantastic” is also something we left fairly broad. Both Louisa and I are genre artists. She specializes more in video games and conceptual art, where I lean more heavily toward illustration and graphic art—but we both share a love for sci-fi, fantasy, even sometimes horror, genre art. We work in what we loosely call “the Industry”, which if I had to define it would be something like: those who produce genre art for money.

“From a Female Perspective” is where things get a little sticky sometimes. Obviously both Louisa and I are female. We are not ALL females. Our views are not going to be shared by all women—but we do spend a great deal of time talking to other women who work in the industry, asking questions, gathering information, and trying to draw informed conclusions.

Gender equality is something that the world has struggled with for centuries. I’ll be the first to say that I don’t believe it’s possible. Men and women are never going to see eye to eye, primarily because society won’t let us. And that’s a GOOD thing. If we thought alike all the time, if everything were perfectly balanced, I think the world would be much less interesting. Stagnant, even.

That said, we also think that there’s such a thing as too much imbalance. Right now our industry is so male dominated, it’s like sitting an elephant and a house cat on opposite ends of a balancing board. Sci-fi, fantasy, horror are produced and marketed mostly by and for men. There is a subtle but clear line of thinking that seems to say that women are only interested in fantasy if there are pretty fairies, elves and unicorns, only interested in games that involve dressing up fake people in cool clothes, only going to read fantasy if there is a heavy dose of romance in it, too. While those statements may be true of some women, some of the time, they are not true of all women, all of the time, and they certainly aren’t true for us.

We believe that it’s important to even that up a little, and the only way to do that is to get people to THINK about it. To think about why certain choices are made, and to hopefully help people realize that it might be time to start thinking a little outside the box.

For example: A few days ago ImagineFX, the magazine, started a poll so readers could vote for their favorite cover out of their first 48 issues, in preparation for the release of their 50th issue. Louisa and I have pointed it out before, and it became even more obvious once all those issues were laid out side by side on a single page. Of the 48 covers, three featured couples, two had monsters, one had a landscape, two featured masked male comic characters, and one had a single barbarian male (of the not exactly supermodel or body builder variety) staring out at the reader. The rest of those 39 issues? A single, usually scantily clad, sexualized female subject. Most of them were pin-ups; those that weren’t were of the pretty, soft, fairy tale sort of female.

We complained. ImagineFX didn’t bother to respond, but some of our readers did.

@charreed said: “I don't mind all the ladies on the cover of Imagine FX. I'm a lady and I like looking at fantastical woman :)
When it comes right down to it, neither do we, Char. I can appreciate female beauty, too. The problem that we see, however, is that the imbalance in the covers suggests that ImagineFX’s primary audience is male, and that any female readers are going to be interested in pretty fairy art. The assumption is that putting a male on the cover is somehow going to disinterest the male readers, or scare off the female readers.

@cetriya said: “I would think it more, its easier to design for females where you have to watch out not… make the males 'gay' looking”[sic]
Why do we assume that it’s okay for women to have to look at sexualized female characters with their tits and ass hanging out, posing tantalizingly… but it’s not okay for men to look at male characters posing somewhat more tastefully but just as objectified? Why do we assume that it’s HARD to draw a good-looking man without making him appear effeminate? I see guys draw tough, sexy male characters all the time. I see women do it, too.I never see those images on the cover of ImagineFX. Why not?
@charreed also said: “… unfortunately the audience is mostly dudes.... So convince more girls to buy the mag or get guys to like beef ;)”
Honestly? Of all the artists I know, the majority of the ones who subscribe to IFX on a regular basis are female. So we ARE buying the magazine. You might ask “why, when it’s so obviously marketed to men?” Because ImagineFX isn’t a gaming magazine, or one meant for guys to …er… enjoy in the privacy of their own bathrooms. ImagineFX, in theory, is for ARTISTS. It’s a trade magazine, with tips and tricks for artists—both male and female.

It might come as a surprise to many people to know that there are a LOT of women working in this field. One of our goals here at Artemisia is to find and promote those women—precisely because so few people are aware that we’re even here, and working. Even fewer seem aware of the fact that many of the women in this industry aren’t drawing pretty fairy girls in dresses. That particular market IS huge, and it’s been popularized by female artists like Linda Bergkvist, Melanie Delon, Marta Dahlig, and Benita Winkler; but there are more women who are doing awesome art that is comparable to what the guys in this field are doing.

The problem is that they are so overshadowed by the men who dominate the field that they’ve become almost a myth. Artists like Terese Nielson, Trish Mulvihill, Nicole Cardiff, Socar Myles, Anna Christenson, Jana Schirmer, Cris Griffin, Julie Dillon, Nei Ruffino, and Laurel Austin are some of our favorite artists here at Artemisia—and I’ve seen many people who assume that they are male simply because they don’t paint typical “girly” art. (Actually, small confession: until about three minutes ago I thought Julie Dillon—who goes by jdillon82 on deviantART—was male. So I’m an idiot, too.)

As women, working in this industry, it makes sense that we would be interested in magazines, art books, etc. that talk about the industry, give tips and tutorials, or are just inspiring because they show what so many of us are working on. It kind of sucks when you realize how little the creators of these magazines and books value your interest in them because you don’t happen to think with your penis.
Faerywitch said: “As for more males... Girls, when there are more girls you complain, now you have more guys and you complain!! ;) Now, seriously, again, I think it is catered to the people that spend the money.
She’s talking about Louisa’s post the other day about character design in video games, and how video games are marketed to men and ignore female players.

Yes, we do complain. And we will continue to.

It’s not really about the precise ratio of male characters versus female characters. It’s about imbalance. It’s about objectifying one, but not the other. It’s because we are here, we DO spend money on these things, and there are more of us than the industry seems to believe. We want the world to know that. We want them to stop stereotyping us, stop pigeonholing our gender, and start putting things out there that we enjoy because we are a part of this industry… whether men like it or not.

There’s a lot more to discuss here, more than I have time to go into right now. Expect some posts in the future on topics like video games and female gamers, conventions from a woman’s point of view, and what it’s like to be an objectified female AND an artist. Expect some interviews with some of the ladies I’ve mentioned here.

And expect us to hold what occasionally might seem like contradictory or conflicting opinions… we ARE women, after all. ;)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Heroes and Heroines: Assumptions in Character Design

So Jason Chan is doing a cool new series of downloadable video tutorials for Massive Black DVD. Volumes one through three are on various aspects of character concept design for games - exploring style, designing heroes and villains. I can't wait to have a chance to download the full videos (Jason's "sketches" usually look like art I'd be proud as punch to call finished pieces) but for now, we've been checking out the sneak peaks that MassiveDVD have put up on Youtube.

It's this snippet of the Heroes volume that I wanted to talk about today.

The excerpt focuses on the female character he works on in the tutorial, which is pretty cool in itself, but some of the things he talks about considering when designing a female character were...interesting. It kind of goes back to something I said in my opening post on Artemisia, about how otherwise smart and talented people can come out with some surprisingly biased comments. The video is about five minutes long, and well worth a watch because the highlight is really watching Jason sketch as he talks theory, but here are some of the quotes that struck me the most.

"The first character we did, he relates to the player because he is similar to the player in some ways. The second character relates to the player because he is what the player wishes he could be. The third character relates to the player because she is something that the player can admire."

"So, a lot of the time female characters are sexy and strong, and it's almost like trying to sell love to the player audience. You know, you want to care for this character, maybe find her attractive, but also you are playing the character so she should be strong. So it's kind of a mix between attraction and the hero badass type of character where you feel powerful."

"You can also mix the female character with the weaker character for a horror game, and instead of making her strong you can make her weak, to drive that fear. The problem with it is that there could be a disconnect for male players and male audiences, because they do not feel that they are this female character. In that instance you make it more of a voyeuristic experience where you're guiding this character or you're watching over her."

"For female audiences and female players this character represents the hero, superhero type of character we just did, you know, it's who the female audience may want to be like. You know, she's strong, she's beautiful, she can do anything."

So. A couple of things here. I actually like that Jason goes in deeper here and talks about more than just what the characters look like, because it gives me some idea of what goes into a character designer's mind and why it ends up that female characters are usually rarer, or underpowered, compared to the men. Let me run through a few of the issues I had with Jason's process for designing female characters.

One. That he automatically assumes that the player is male. He talks about female players later, and possibly in more depth in the full video, but it's clear that his primary target is a male audience and that a female character is not seen as somebody a male player can relate to, or want to be like, but an object to covet, to admire, or to protect. Jason mentions that male players may feel a disconnect when playing a female character, but does he reverse the role and consider that female players may not feel fully immersed when playing a male?

Two. That he considers physical beauty a key characteristic in designing a female character. Look at the words he uses, "sexy, beautiful, attractive". I wonder if he considers looks as much when designing the male characters? Is it just as important for them to be good looking as it is for the female?

Three. That the woman is his pick for being the weakest character, allowing players to act as rescuers or protectors. Was there any such consideration for the male character - even the one who looked like a regular guy? It's true that at a similar level of fitness and training, a man will still have a physical advantage over a woman. But put a young, everyday guy of average fitness next to a woman who works out at the gym daily, takes martial arts classes and/or has a military background and who do you think will fare better in a fight? And stand Jason's average guy in jeans next to his warrior woman - tough enough to wear heavy metal armour and carry a blade as long as her leg, but out of the two of them, she is the one who is a candidate for being a weak character?

Four. Ok, so when you're only designing three characters, there is going to be a gender imbalance (well, unless "Other" is on the menu which hey, it's fantasy right?). So having two male characters and one female isn't a big deal on its own. But I can't help feeling a little let down by the fact that you have a variety of male characters and then you have...The Female Character. Just the one, and she is supposed to be the avatar for all the women who might play that game. She can do anything, because she has to do everything!

I feel I should add that out of the eight or nine character concepts Jason has produced for this series so far, I've only seen two who are female - a hero and a villain. So when you take a bigger pool, you do get a greater imbalance of male vs female characters. Again, I feel it goes back to the assumption that most gamers are men, and so women don't need more than one or two characters to represent them, and those characters have to do all the representing. We don't get as much in the way of variety.

It's obvious that Jason puts a lot of thought into his work and considers every step of his design process carefully. I wonder how certain ideas that can feel so very flawed to one person can make perfect sense to another, so much so that he doesn't seem to think about them - it's just instinct to design a female character with this mindset and a male character with another. Maybe that's the problem with a lot of character designers out there (in game art and in illustration in general). Do some concepts and assumptions about our audiences just become so ingrained into our world view that we don't ever really stop and take a close look at whether they're still appropriate, or relevant?

What do you guys think?

Monday, August 17, 2009

"Lovely and Talented"

We’ve been a little quiet here, lately. It’s a problem that we’re working to fix. In the meantime, however, I wanted to write about something that bothered me recently. It’s a little thing. The kind of thing you probably don’t even think about, and yet once you do, you’ll catch yourself saying it and wonder why. Proof, I suppose, that sexism comes in many forms. The worst are the ones that we don’t even think about.

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from someone who wanted to use my work. He promised to attribute it, and to include the phrase “by the lovely and talented Melissa Findley”. I’m aware that he meant it as a compliment, but for some reason it got me steamed. When I get angry about something, I usually try to figure out WHY it makes me angry. And once I put aside the fact that this person didn’t know me, has never seen me, had never even interacted with me, and that he meant “lovely” as a platitude (false flattery, with me, often gets you the opposite of what you want), I started to think about the phrase itself.

I’ve said it myself. I know I have. Usually about other artists I’m promoting. Also, I only say it about women.

I ran a Google search for the phrase “lovely and talented.” Turns out it’s been applied to just about every female actress, musician or artist at some point in time. It’s vary rarely been applied to a male.

“Lovely and talented.”

There are deeper implications to those words than there might seem to be on the surface. Lovely implies many things. That the person is physically beautiful is the obvious one. That they are polite, sweet, kind, nice to work with. “Lovely” can mean many things… but my question is: why do we feel the need to qualify a woman’s skills by implying something first about her looks or personality?

I suppose just saying “talented” falls flat. “The talented Louisa Gallie,” for instance, just doesn’t have the same ring. When there are a wealth of other words that could be applied along with “talented”, though, why is it so commonplace to compliment a woman on her looks and/or personality rather than her skill or intelligence or diligence?

How do we introduce men? We don’t say “the lovely and talented Jason Chan,” even if he is “lovely”. We might say “the amazing and talented” or “experienced and talented” or “young and talented” or “smart and talented” or “driven and talented” or “ dedicated and talented.” (Actually, we have said all those things. Or other people have. I ran a Google search for “and talented Jason Chan”. It’s an interesting experience. And I’m not picking on Jason. I have a lot of respect for the man.)

For women, though, “lovely and talented” seems to be the phrase of choice. Although in my searches I ran across more than a few “beautiful and talented”s as well. The “amazing and talented” type of compliment was more rarely used for women, even if those sorts of compliments were better deserved.

So, again, I have to ask: why do we do this? Is it just one of those phrases we use without thinking? I know I did. Not anymore.

If you’re a female artist, or have ever had that phrase applied to you in any way: speak up. How do you feel about it? Does it bother you? Does it just roll off your back? Or have you honestly never thought about it before?

I hadn’t thought about it. But now that I have, in regards to me, I would wish people would find another phrase. I have few illusions about myself. “Lovely” is not a word that fits me comfortably.