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. ;)


  1. I know this is gonna open a whole 'nother can of worms, but I think the reason we see SO many scantily-clad wimminfolk, vs. the nudie hot male in art, is partly historical. Women have traditionally been subject matter, especially where 'metaphor' is concerned, back in the day when only men did art for a living.(The Greek/Romans were a proud and nearly singular exception.) It wasn't that long ago! We were 'muse', and we still are. We are the reason men go to war: to protect wife and family and then MAYBE country. We get their bravado up. And let's face it, women frequently manipulate via sex. Flash a man a tit, and he'll stop dead in his tracks, no matter what he's doing. (Okay, that was a bit of generalization, but do I lie?) Unfortunately, this is still a male-dominated industry, even though it need not be. I don't like it, however I DO see it changing, by degrees, as more and more chicks compete for the same jobs guys do. As long as men continue to be the primary bread-winner, though, I don't see this predisposition changing to a 50/50 sort of scenario. But I'll settle for 40/60...heh...

  2. I didnt say this comment :
    "unfortunately the audience is mostly dudes... so convince girls to buy the mag or get dudes to like the beef"

    also, I dont think drawing sexy males are hard. Its just seems like of the few female artists that I follow that draw males almost alaways draw the effemitate kind of which I dont like in that way. Example, the are used for this blog or what they advertise for a lot of the vampire type stories is what I see a lot and I dont perticularly like and cant really indorse something I dont like to a group of men who also dont like it.

    Maybe I should check up on IFX's gallery site to see if any male arts on their gallery. I should send in some Male art and see if the Mag will bite.

    Foreign entertainment seems to have a closer balance. Just from observation and my buying habits, never worked in the industry.

    however, if your boss (in my case professors) and peers are male, its hard for them to 'get' what why we like some stuff. I've gotten a lot of blank stares at my stuff and I know i'm not that bad (animation class). only 1 male teacher knew how to help and critic if it was something that most male demograpic wouldn't care for

  3. Whoops. Sorry, Cetriya.. you're right. It was next to one of your tweets so I mixed it up. Will fix.

  4. Oh cool! Thanks for having my tweets be the subject of discussion :D I recently made a post about how I felt about the fantasy industry and how it relates to women.

    To sum it up, I think there are as many women in the fantasy biz and industry as there wants to be. Personally, I've never been dissuaded by either subject matter, "society" or anything other than my own likes and dislikes.

    Also, I tried to make the point in my post of us girls coming up with our own side-genre of fantasy! I think that would be really cool. It could have unicorns, bad ass women, tips on being a women in the industry, hmm... hell- tips on just BEING in the industry. I think we get too wrapped up in whether something is "for women" or "for men", so we forget to just wonder if we even *like* it at all. Personally, I enjoy reading articles without a feminist twist at every turn. For instance, if I were reading an article about making it in freelance, I'd rather hear about how to network, how to find contacts and how to get your first gig as an *artist* over slanting it toward being a "female artist". I think that's the most balanced and fair. If some things are leaned more toward a male perspective, I don't get offended at it as much as I just realise that's the current reality of the situation and I just try to deal ;)

    As an aside, if there were a fantasy magazine directed toward women readers- I'd like to see guys "not trying to be sexy, but manage to pull it off anyway", like a guy just happens to have his shirt off because it's really hot out and he's taking a drink of water. That's hot to me ;)

  5. Also I just wanted to add that I generally can tell if an artist is male or female based on their artwork alone. Not necessarily by subject matter- though go to DeviantArt and do a search on "robots" and you can clearly tell which gender drew what and only be surprised some of the time (generally surprised by the guys drawing something cute over girls drawing something super detailed). One exception though is Dan Howard. I really thought Dan was a girl (though I'm not sure 100% if he is or isn't, but going by just Dan, makes me think guy) because he draws women in a very realistic way. Slightly rounder, sometimes pudgier bodies, but still doing kick ass things like flips, kicks, stuff I could never do in my wildest dreams ;)

    I'm not sure why, but there is a difference between the way men and women approach art. I've heard that genetically, women can see colours better than men, more clearly and brightly. Even though there are things to consider like monitors, I find that a lot of women do like painting in brighter, flashier colours than men. A lot of the things are more subtle, but if you know what to look for you can see it. I don't think these differences are bad or wrong, just... different.

    As far as why men seem to rise to the top in art, well, that's not just art. Look in any industry or profession, even female-centric ones like make up, fashion design and even horseback riding! I've thought about this a lot and the main thing I can come up with is that men are more competitive at the highest levels than women. It's shown time and again and in fact the only industry where I see the opposite in true is runway models. I think women may be predisposed to want different things out of their career. I say this of myself- I only want to be noticed and looked up to within my genre, I don't have any interest in being the *best* artist in all of artdom. Though I bet if you ask a guy the same thing, you'd get a different answer. Not to say I don't try to be the best *I* can be and that I don't judge myself against my peers (which include men), which I do, but being the all time best ever isn't a motivating factor for me.

  6. You questioned again why so many females are on covers on magazines, and why men are not objectified.

    I think I gave you pretty good answers to these earlier but I got like no reaction.
    I have studied marketing, and so I sadly know exactly why things are that way they are.

    It ISN'T enough to just stear people up! When they don't know where things come from and WHY certain decisions are made they have nothing at hand to fight it!

    - Azurelle

  7. And it's -> Azurelle <- again!

    I have another question for you: I am not lined up with the female artists you want to support. Obviously, I guess, because I make many fairy tale themed paintings.
    May I add that in my private collection there also is a bunch of sexy men? And I do have much more but do I have to share them to qualify myself to the ones that deserve being supported for being "different"?

    When it comes to work I obey to what clients want to adress their favorite targeting groups. No obeying, no job. That's the deal. And I also enjoy painting women, yet do I not often objectify them!

    You see there is a difference, and I bet I am one of the worst female game geeks you've ever seen, which you, I bet, can never make out only by looking at my art. :/

    On top of that it's cool when you like to share "your" men, but I am a little more specific about "my" men so I don't really wanna blame you for judging what's currently in my gallery, I just think that you are stereotyping some things too much and lacking of some important facts.

    Last but not least please don't take my crit personal. I am all up for supporting you guys - therefore you need information, which is what I can give.

  8. Char Reed:

    Hey, I just read the post you linked to. It's possible that Melissa and I don't make it clear enough that, regardless of what criticisms we may post in Artemisia, we LOVE this industry. We do. Personally I eat, sleep and breathe fantasy art and am pretty much thinking about or working on it 24-7. I have been ever since I was little. Nothing could ever dissuade me from that. I'm also not interested in letting society dictate what kind of art I do and so I don't really think women need our own "side-genre" of fantasy. I think we belong in the main genre of fantasy with all its varieties and subtleties. I think for the most part, we ARE here. I just don't think enough people have caught up to that fact yet, and it shows sometimes.

    That's why I don't quite agree with you on the idea that there are as many women in the industry as there want to be. I still think that little things, like the assumption that girls don't really play video games or like sci-fi for example, inadvertantly keeps some girls out. If they're being sent a message that these things aren't really for them, then they're less likely to discover the awesome world of concept art and 3D creation behind them.

    The thing is that Melissa and I talked about it when we first started Artemisia and at the time we didn't think it would be appropriate to make it about the two of us, abour our specific work and lives. We both have our own blogs and galleries for that. So if it seems like we're getting "wrapped up" in whether parts of the industry are for men or for women and if it seems like everything we write here has a feminist slant, well...that's because that's what Artemisia is for. It's what this particular blog is about - it doesn't mean it's ALL we think about or write about. If we want to talk about our art, our process and our tips on life in the industry, we go outside of Artemisia. We didn't want to make Artemisia all about us.

    Maybe that wasn't the right move - do you think women would want to hear a more personal perspective from Melissa and I?

  9. Azurelle:

    There are lots of awesome female artists that we left out of the list, so please don't think it was anything personal! Melissa and I fangirl tons of artists - it would be impossible to list them ALL. Your name just slipped our minds at the time. It's not a judgment on your beautiful work!

    I'm also sorry that I didn't get around to replying to your comment in Monday's post yet - I've read it, but I'm working serious overtime at work right now and I've also pulled a muscle or twelve in my neck and back this week, which means sitting at the computer any longer than I have to is very painful. I've been stealing moments at work to write up responses on Notepad but I hadn't finished replying to yours yet. I will respond properly tomorrow - promise!

  10. Char:

    I'm actually more in agreement with you than you think. I definitely think that the ultimate in equality here would be if we didn't have to think about it in terms of Men vs. Women. But the way things stand now... it's usually about the men. We felt that women deserved a fair shot, and we also felt that we wanted a place where we could discuss these things, as they relate to women. Because there aren't many places out there that do.


    Anne, hon, I didn't even see your post until after I'd written this, and I was wiped by the time I was done. You have some good points, but I, too, have spent some time studying marketing. Just because things ARE one way doesn't mean they *should* be, and doesn't mean that that makes them right. People keep saying that things are marketed the way they are because that's what makes money. Part of my point--which I may have failed in pointing out--is that maybe changing mindsets and how things are done would make MORE money because they would appeal to MORE people.

    As for not mentioning you: The kind of art you do falls into a sort of inbetween zone. I happen to be a fan of Linda B, and Marta D, and the other fairy artists--just as much as I am a fan of the "non-girly" artists I listed. Just as much as I'm a fan of artists I DIDN'T list, like Meredith Dillman, Sam Hogg, Liiga, Ursula Vernon, Erin Kelso, etc. And I'm even a fan of *gasp* BOY artists, too!

    Unfortunately a list that long of our favorite artists wouldn't have served the point--which was to point out that not every woman out there paints pretty fairies. That doesn't make the pretty faeries or their artists BAD.

  11. Heyas!

    I really like this blog and I think the discussions it creates makes it the most interesting part.

    Louisa, I really see your point about women not having a "sub-genre", to a degree. I know I contradicted myself by saying I like things to be equal, but I wouldn't mind if a sub-genre were created. I guess what I was talking about was in terms of marketing more than the balance of the fantasy world order or anything- lol! Just like women like to subscribe to Vogue or ... um, other girly magazines? Shows how much I know! It would just target a more female audience. If you look at the current market, there is a higher number of guys interested in the fantasy genre than there are girls. I think a way to combat that is to help bring girls into the market by targeting things that they like but adding a fantasy twist. That way the girls who may have been turned off by stigma or the greater society can look at it and go, "Oh cool! I really like this!" I dunno, I just think it has it's place just as much as the more "boy targeted" fantasy magazines. Fight fire with fire, right?

    What I'd really like to see out of this blog is basically more of what already exists plus more targeted interviews with other woman fantasy (and even sci-fi- is there such a thing??? LOL) artists. The interviews don't have to be about them necessarily being a female artist in the industry, unless the conversation naturally sways that way, but just tips on how they made it individually. I just find those stories so so inspiring and I would love to pick their brain on tips and stuff too! I do feel a kinship with other female artists and I think it's great to network with them :)

    Melissa, I really like this blog and I think it's a good idea to help bring female artists together. I'd love to see a community grow from this blog much in the same way as the G spot on CA.org :) I think that would be great!

  12. Melissa, Louisa:

    I do not feel personally insulted or anything because I was left out, I am just a little angry that people don't see my boy work because I get commissioned for so many fairs. :/

    The other thing:

    "Just because things ARE one way doesn't mean they *should* be, and doesn't mean that that makes them right."

    I do not think that this is right. I do just say that in my point of view, money explains the world.

    "People keep saying that things are marketed the way they are because that's what makes money. Part of my point--which I may have failed in pointing out--is that maybe changing mindsets and how things are done would make MORE money because they would appeal to MORE people."

    Since you have studied marketing, too you know that clients eg companies HATE taking risks. They rather drive the safe way and do what everyone does, just a little more appealing, a little more sexy, and aim to raise sales this way.
    They are too afraid to lose parts of one targeting group by trying to win another. When you lose parts of one group but win parts of another, you have not made more money, but you have done more work.
    Who, for Gods sake, does want to do more work now a days without getting paid for it? :/

    - Azurelle

  13. PS: What I mean by losing one tragt group for winning another. Look at the banner of your blog. It is a perfect example. You would get new customers from it, from a new target group.
    But you would also lose men from hetero target groups.


    Because without meaning to be offensive, even I, being a woman, think he looks a little gay and that you have painted better ones.
    I think he is not a good example of how cool male art should "be" to show that not every pretty man has to look gay, which is one of the main problems when talking about men in art.

    - Azu

  14. Char:

    Ok, I see your point a bit more clearly now. In theory I think it's a good idea, but I'm wary because previous attempts by the gaming, fantasy, etc. industries to target women have a history of seemingly not being able to aim higher than the average twelve year old girl (unicorns, sparkles, excessive amounts of pink and purple and I've rarely seen a female oriented game with a goal more ambitious than "become the most popular girl in school!"). Which can work, for some young girls, and get them interested in video games but it's a rather painful form of stereotyping and when they grow up, the problem remains in the adult oriented industries. I guess what I would like to see is the removal of the stigma that fantasy/sci-fi/horror is just for men altogether, without creating a whole different genre of "girly" fantasy/sci-fi to begin with, because then I feel you've still got that division and there's still stigma against women being involved in the mainstream stuff.

    Oh, and there are definitely women in sci-fi. I work with one! Plus, look at all the women who WRITE sci-fi!


    We will just have to agree to disagree on the marketing discussion.

    As for our blog header "losing" hetero male customers...well firstly, we aren't a product that we're selling and secondly, we were never targeting men to begin with! We have always been aiming our blog at women. There are quite enough genre websites out there that target men, or both men and women. We don't need to create another.

    I am not offended because quite simply, my guy is alone in that painting and that banner. Since he's not making out with a member of either sex, nothing about him is gay OR straight. He's just there. He's pretty, and he's provocative and he's sensual but none of those are indicators of his sexuality. I am sure that plenty of people believe that a pretty guy automatically means he's homosexual. I agree with you when you say that there are more than a few hetero guys who would be uncomfortable picking up something with him on the cover. They are welcome to their own biases. I am not interested in indulging them.

  15. Louisa-

    Exactly! If you let other people (probably guys) decide what adult women with an interest in fantasy like, then you probably will get nothing more than the average 12 year old girl's version of such. However, if women our age made something- see the promise there? Hmm... All this *talk* about making something like this makes me want to actually give it a shot. If nothing else, just to see how it goes.

    Oh, and I forgot to mention in my last post that I really like podcasts like W.I.P. and Ninja Mountain and the way they talk about the industry. I think if you and Melissa wanted to go in that direction with this blog, that would be awesome. Just for contrasts sake, if you've heard the podcast Sidebar, I just find it really long and boring, mostly because they don't talk about art as much as they like to chitchat with the artist. If I just wanted to hear about someone's past or what kind of music they like in general, I'd pick up a tabloid. When I go to a blog or listen to a podcast about art, I want to hear about- art!

    Hopefully that gives you an idea of what at least one reader would like to see out of the blog if you two added some personal touches :D