I think a lot of serious artists wouldn’t be caught dead on deviantart. According to wikipedia, it has over 25 million members, and a suffocating 140,000 submissions a day. One might as well get “amateur” branded on one’s forehead as put up work there. It’s got more in common with facebook than a real online gallery. Popularity is determined by social networking, and appealing to the lowest common denominator. The current most popular all-time submission to deviantart is a toy stuffed unicorn! I’ll save you the trouble of looking it up just to depress yourself.
If you are a serious artist and put up your best work, I guarantee it will be trounced by a cute kitty photo, or anything in the “artistic nude” section, which appears to be a repository for light porn. Sharing fine art on deviant art is humiliating and dispiriting. Some of the absolute best work I’ve found on there had only a handful of views, and one or two “favorites”. Some of the artists had given up and showed no activity on their account for years.
But deviant art is the best platform I’ve seen to share art with others, comment, and get feedback. In order to help get recognition for fine art I created a group – the Fine Art Asylum – in which I showcase the better fine art and otherwise out-of-the-ordinary work I come across. Needless to say it’s not very popular, and easily dwarfed by groups devoted to unicorns, faeries, furries, fan art, kitties, and the most abysmal dreck imaginable. I’ll just flip that on its back and say my group is “exclusive”, though I don’t really mean it.
If you follow my blog you know I’m highly critical of a lot of big-name, brand-name, contemporary art, and come to think of it I find more that satisfies the hunger for art at deviantart than I do in the top-notch art venues. Here are 6 pieces that I find compelling (there are hundreds more). More than six might overwhelm me and you as well. If people get something out of this – and likely even if nobody pays attention to it – I’ll share more work from my group in the future.
But before I get started, keep in mind that the “Soft kitty – Warm kitty” below has been viewed nearly 10,000 times in the last 2 years on deviantart, and has over 1,000 “favorites”. That let’s you know why serious artists might get dispirited when their real art gets swept under the rug.
6 Featured Artists
You can click on the pics to go to their page on deviantart.1. The above work by Daniel Mmaczynski of Poland is a really sophisticated image that comes out of the tradition of Francs Bacon, but with its own stylistic innovations and unique twist. The rounded wall is reminiscent of the curved armatures Bacon would have figures poised on, but Bacon never painted a swimming pool with someone doing laps in it, with a blue sky and water in the background, and a plane leaving a vapor trail. This kind of painting requires skill, a thorough knowledge of 20th century painting, and an understanding of contemporary reality.
This piece has only received 446 views in nearly 3 years, only has 21 favorites, and is only featured in my group.
2. This Expressionistic painting by Adam Hyde arrests my attention with it’s heartfelt simplicity. A hand, a bottle of liquor, a pack of cigarettes, and a book and some papers. The title says it’s about a breakup, so it’s easy to imagine the the subject might be down in the dumps, and thinking, smoking, drinking, tapping his fingers…The rough handling of paint and modeling give it a kind of tragic/heroic clarity.
This piece has all of 3 favorites (one is mine), and 69 views on deviantart. It’s only shown in my group.
3. Not really a fan of still lifes, unless as peculiar and complex as the one above by Patricia van Lubeck of New Zealand. The scampering jumping spider confronting us through the lens of the glass, that magnifies it, is particularly interesting. Once that grabs your eye, you might start to notice things like the merging of the long shadows of the glasses and spider, and then finely wrought details like the semi-translucent nosepads. It’s a whimsical piece about seeing and perception. One can only imagine what the spider sees when looking at you through your own glasses.
Only in my group, and only 32 likes in nearly 4 years.
4. I think of this drawing in particular when I think about composition. Artist, Matthew Bailey, has a very subtle and sophisticated sense of composing images. The delicate lines of this amusingly named “Ladybug” are mesmerizing. You’ve got an unsettling grasshopper or cricket head on an attractive female body with knee-high boots. That can’t be ignored. But it’s not a one-liner piece. It’s a harmonious balance of rectangles, circles, curves, AND lines. The while line on the sole of the boot paralleling the lines of the rectangle behind it is something in itself to behold. Somehow the figure is more successful because there ISN’T a neck. Lastly, notice the reflection in the insect’s eye, which could be of the artist or the viewer.
5. A dramatic portrait by Meredith Santoro, of the U.S, harkens back to the likes of Egon Schiele, but it reads as having been painted by a woman, and the piercings place it firmly in the present. What makes this image powerful is the use of the shape of the opaque black hair to frame the face and body as ethereal, negative space. While the hair has thick outlines, including the strong vertical ones that make bars across the face and torso, the lines articulating the body and facial features are comparatively light. The light ovals of the fingernails and the orange shape on the tip of the nose stand out. It’s sensual, in a dark way.
This is another piece that is only featured in my group, and despite it’s obvious strengths, has garnered less than 300 views in over 4 years, and just 40 favorites.
6. I wasn’t sure what this painting by Gottfried Helnwein was about the first time I saw it, but I could recognize it was serious work. It might have eluded the appreciation of all but 210 of deviantart’s more than 25 million members in nearly 4 years, but I don’t see how one could just ignore something like this. In real life this painting is enormous, at over ten feet wide. I still am not sure what this is about, but the chiaroscuro (light and dark contrast), and especially the part of the child’s face in shadow are striking. This artist probably studied Caravaggio, because the way the machine gun intrudes into three dimensional space is a pictorial device the old master either invented, or took to a whole new level. Maybe this is about mass shootings in schools, children being raised by television characters, and the crossing over of cartoon violence into real danger. The child seems like he could be taking orders from the mouse, but, I don’t know that there’s a precise, literal interpretation, or that there should be.
You guessed it. It’s only in my group.
The real purpose of this post is to give recognition to the artists (who are members of my deviantart group), but, as this is the first of hopefully a series of similar features, I wanted to give the context of the very limited appreciation fine art gets on deviantart, and more more importantly to establish that there is nevertheless a surprising amount of exceptional artists .