INKBLOTS: The Developing Dilemma of Deviant Art

deviantartA couple of weeks back I wrote an Inkblots article “The Dilemma of Deviant Art” informing the ink artist community that they may want to simply be aware of the strict policies concerning copyright at Deviant Art (DA) and it’s repercussions for not obtaining a “proper license” to use material from another artist (the pencillers, in this example) before posting it on their site. This led to further discussion on The Inkwell Yahoo Mailing List Group where I’d first discovered about the artist who’s DA page had been deleted due to said violation of their policy and he further contributed to the discussion thread. The next day David Brothers of Comics Alliance posted a follow-up article “Deviant Art versus Comic Book ‘Inkers’. Wait, What?“ with reader responses emphasizing the limitations in the policy in regards to, not just inkers, but all collaborative measures such as jam pieces/remixing and colorists portfolio samples. This article was mostly duplicated at Comics Related “Is Deviant Art Anti-inker”? and I replied to a blog response on the matter at Dwight Williams’ ‘On the DEWline’.
A few days later fan-favorite artist Tim Townsend addressed the matter on his DA journal “LISTEN UP! (regarding the DA/ anti-inker thing)”
in order to calm the community, reporting that there’s been a bit of an uproar with inkers in arms against what seemed to be an anti-inker mindset at DA when there shouldn’t be (no surprise, though, why that happened when you read the titles of those previous-mentioned articles, ha!) He agreed that the admin’ who replied to my original inquiry “chose his words poorly and has little to no understanding of what inking is” and he relayed that a spokesperson at the site’s administration department said “that the admin’ involved has been away for the last week and will address the matter head-on upon his return”.
I wasn’t aware of the controversy but I think it’s great that artists are talking about this. While there hasn’t been an official response from DA at this time as far as I know, I want to reemphasize that as the founder and director of the Inkwell Awards, the sole inking non-profit advocacy who’s mission is to promote and educate about the oft-misunderstood craft of inking and to recognize it’s ink artists, my reaction to hearing the DA admin’s policy response was one of surprise (as I’d recently started a DA page of my own, now subsequently cancelled by me), and my goal was to simply and responsibly inform the community. I did so after confirming with an informed friend that I wasn’t doing any harm with posting my article. Never did I imply that DA was against inkers or that this was a universal DA ‘inker-cide’. I wasn’t suggesting a boycott, either, so much as give a plain heads-up to members and potential members to consider and choose their own options. I have learned over the years from artist friends and associates that DA is a wonderful, dedicated, and beneficial art community, which is why I originally joined. But in my opinion as an ink artist of over eighteen years is that this admin’ was indeed misinformed if not seemingly ignorant of the craft and that the presented policy, as is, would only lead to other occasional page wipes, something I still find to be severe without any investigation of the ‘offender’ for benefit of the doubt considering the circumstances. Unlike pencil art that can be conceived without a script, unless the entire art is by one artist, inking (and coloring, etc.) is a collaborative process where one is reliant on the work of another artist to display one’s own skill in that craft. This is how inkers display their portfolios with samples of pencils and inks side-by-side. Each artist of an overall work has an equal claim to it as long as the artists are credited. (the artist originally penalized was not selling the work as ‘his own’ as prints, or whatnot, so that scenario wasn’t a factor and he always credited the pencillers.)
So for what it’s worth, I think DA needs to tweak their policy with an addendum so that artists can properly acknowledge the other artists who contributed to a piece (for an inker, the penciller; for the colorist, the penciller and the inker unless one and the same). As long as the inker who wasn’t part of the original art process (such as subsequent blueline/vellum/lightbox versions) doesn’t try to sell the work on DA without authorization from the original artists and s’he’s credited the work properly, I think that they should be able to display their work on DA. Should crediting be wrong or non-existant or there’s unauthorized selling of said work, then I could see some discipline being activated (although in my humble opinion I think that the heavens shouldn’t fall on them for just one offense, but that might just be me). This would limit any knee-jerk reactions to a lone complaint that might appear on occasion and may not ultimately even be valid. And wouldn’t that make this venue better and stronger in the long run? I think there’s a great opportunity here but it’s DA’s ball now so I’m curious to see where they run with it next.

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