[ Follow-up Journal Here: mpsai.deviantart.com/journal/T… ]
I don't usually do call out threads, but today I'm feeling sassy. Besides, the subject of this journal, TomPreston, blocked me a while back. I guess for being a "troll"?
I had seen his comics on the front page nearly every day and didn't think much of them, however after he wrote A Harsh Lesson I began to critique his work. Partially because I wanted to see if he'd practice what he preached (he doesn't) but mostly because he has the ear of many young artists and is sending them many bad messages. Over time critiquing him became an exercise for myself on the nature of comic making, and I got into interesting conversations with various people in the course of posting them.
I stuck to mostly his long-form comic work, and stuck mostly to critiquing writing and occasionally the art.
It came to a point where he seemed to have turned a corner. He cleared his block list and asked for critiques and redlines of a comic page, which I happily participated in and enjoyed doing. But then he started to relapse, constantly complaining about people still thinking he can't take critiques when he only once made the effort, and I guess telling him it was unfortunate to see him return to this over-defensive song and dance was the straw the broke the camel's back. I still see his comics on the front page, but I can't say anything about them.
But then there's this journal: tompreston.deviantart.com/jour…
Since I can't write a response on it, Tom, I'm writing one here on my own page. Though I doubt he'll see this, or if he does he'll ignore it, but much like my critiques it's more for myself and other people than it is for him, seeing as he's insisting on being a lost cause at the moment.
Where to start?
"Maybe I'm old fashioned, but making art has never been solely about the technical expertise."
It's actually the opposite. Art used to only be about technical expertise. It's only been the last 100 years or so that it's become more about emotion and feeling (the modern ideas of art are thanks in large part to the development of psychoanalysis. Did you know Freud was a contemporary of and huge influence on Dali?)
Where yes, the focus of art is more on emotion now I sometimes feel that gives some people an excuse not to put any effort into their art.
And on a semi-related note one thing that frustrates me after the blocking is seeing TomPreston and his various fans excuse anatomy problems or writing problems or really any problems in TomPreston's work with the phrase "it's a CARTOON."
Okay? No. I sometimes get the feeling that TomPreston doesn't actually respect comics and sequential cartooning because he really wanted to be an animator. He's working in a medium he doesn't really understand or respect and thinks he can use the medium as an excuse for shoddy craftsmenship.
Now don't get me wrong, I have many of the same problems he does. I have trouble drawing my characters consistently (though I'm getting better, I think.) I have alot of trouble with backgrounds and perspective. I often find myself using too many straight on angles and mid-shots and sometimes feel like gnawing at my own hands to break myself of the habit. But you'll never catch me saying "oh I'm just a cartoonist, it's only comic books, it doesn't matter."
He's passing down this attitude to impressionable youth who think "cartooning" doesn't have to take any effort or skill. It's already a bad attitude that exists, just look at several newspaper comics out there. It's not an attitude that needs to persist.
"I make comics because I like telling stories. I like to see people laugh at my character's foibles. I like to build their suspense, and hit them with twists and turns. I want them to feel sad or happy during key events. I want my audience to enjoy what I produce. That has been, and always WILL be, my overall key goal as a cartoonist."
In my opinion where TomPreston needs the most work and discipline is in the writing department. His long-form SYAC comics ("A Harsh Lesson", "Persistence of Vision", and "Portfolio Day") were all meandering, unfocused, poorly paced and didn't really accomplish anything.
I've called him out on what I call "wasting pages" and "wasting panels" a few times, and the one time he responded was to tell me he felt I had a very binary and "bare bones" approach to comics. You can tell me whether you agree with that or not.
How many of you remember Mage Knights? I know I'm being self-indulgent using myself as an example, but I'm speaking from experience here. It was a short one-shot comic I made to practice digital comic making and how I was going to print things. It was basically a test. It's only available for purchase (though the first 5 pages are here, though I was considering just uploading the whole thing on dA in my Scraps)
It's 15 pages long.
In 15 pages I introduced the two main characters, four secondary characters, five minor characters, established the motivations and personalities of the two mains, the personalities and outlooks of their rival teachers, the personalities of the other two secondary characters, introduced a conflict, had an action climax, and wrapped up everything at the end.
TomPreston told me that's not enough time to write an interesting story.
I was also interested in reading his Alex Ze Pirate series, but it turned out to not be plot-driven, it's just a bunch of random scenes and scenarios with random barely developed characters who have not been properly introduced to the audience. Disappointing to say the least.
When he finally starts posting new pages for it I'd like to see if he used the more defined style he ended up drawing on his improved critique page.
"Now then, despite me saying improvement is not an ultimate goal for me, I still recognize it as something to keep in mind in the back of my head. Many people have told me that artists change their styles gradually over time (which is true), but those same people seem to disregard this when it comes to me because I am not changing fast enough for their liking."
The problem here is TomPreston seems to actively be resisting change. Just recently he posted a comic about how he can't experiment with his art because he has to maintain the same style for a webcomic despite having no professional obligations. Although just before that he posted a comic he drew on a 3DS, and with a limited toolset outside his comfort zone he made something better looking than most of what he's doing right now.
It exposed that he can do better, he just won't.
"It's gradual, and sometimes it can take years for this stuff to show itself. Jim Davis, for example, has taken close to 30 years to perfect his style"
That's because Jim Davis doesn't draw anymore. He just copies and pastes character models. Hell, he probably has a team do it, I doubt he has to lift a finger these days. I remember when I was a teenager a friend of my brother's suggested doing exactly that with comics to me. I was so flabbergasted and almost offended by the idea.
And besides which no one "perfects" their style. Even an amazing artist will continue to evolve, especially in comics/manga which requires one to draw constantly.
"To sum things up:
1. Improvement for improvement sake is not my ultimate goal, never has been.
2. I acknowledge that I will improve, but gradually over time and not overnight."
Improvement should always be an artist's goal. It can happen organically but you should also keep it present in your mind and strive to push yourself now and then, otherwise you'll fall into stagnation. Artists are like sharks, if they don't keep moving they die.
Okay that was kind of a dumb analogy but you know what I mean.
"3. You can offer feedback and criticism.
4. I am under no obligations to follow your feedback and criticism if I feel it doesn't help me towards my goal."
Well I can't offer you feedback and criticism, Tom. You blocked me from doing so. You've blocked many people from doing so. Yes I know you get trolls but not everyone who points out a flaw in your work is one. You attract this attention with your attitude that you're a knowledgeable artist while never practicing what you preach. And because you could do so much better than you do now but proudly defy your own potential, and then celebrate that same act of self-sabotage. I'm not sure what your goal even is if it's not the improvement of your craft.
In conclusion it's alright if TomPreston has no will to improve, but the fact he attempts to write instructional and inspirational comics for young artists is something that heavily conflicts with that. It's debatable what kind of responsibilities people have if they become a role model, especially if they didn't mean to become one, but in my eyes you have a responsibility to at least attempt to set a good example.