Unsolicited criticism from the clueless

This really isn’t that much of a rant, but I don’t think it belongs anywhere else so here goes. I am not sure whether to be amused or insulted—both, I think. But mostly amused.

I have a little art tutorial site that gets a fair amount of positive feedback. It’s a nice site, and I write about something that I am confident I have a clue about. If I didn’t have a clue, I’m sure I’d have gotten barraged with email by now telling me so. But it’s been quite the opposite, so far.

But, today, I got a weird email that has amused me no end.

This woman, a schoolteacher in an elementary school (so her email extension tells me) sends me an unsolicited graphic of some of her artwork. I specifically ask for people to not do this, (especially not large files) but maybe she didn’t catch that part of my site. OK.

The thing that got me to thinking she was being insulting was that she told me about an art art technique that she’d used (that I specifically don’t use, and took pains to explain why on my site). She ended her email with this: “Good luck. Try using [this technique] and see if you get better quality work”. Hmmm…is she being a little insulting or am I reading too much into it? I think she’s being a little insulting. Condescending, at the very least.

I wrote her back a polite (I think) email saying that yes, I knew about the technique, but no, I didn’t feel it was an appropriate technique for what I was doing. I complimented the artwork sample she sent (said it was “nice”) and said that we’d have to “agree to disagree” since I didn’t feel I’d get a “better quality of work” by using her suggested technique.

But what I WANTED to say was:

ARGGHHHH!!! You show me the ONE technique that is like fingernails down a chalkboard to me. I am SO SICK of seeing this tacky trick—it’s so overdone and every newbie does it—badly, I might add. I am glad that I make a point of warning people to NOT use it on my tutorial site. Yes, it’s just my opinion and of course people will ignore me if they have a mind to, and that’s fine. But it’s my steadfast opinion and I’m sticking to it.

And to be honest, the artwork you sent me kind of sucked. It’s a really good example of why I abhor this specific technique. But I can’t exactly tell you that, can I?

And I’m sorry to sound arrogant, but to be perfectly honest, I think my “quality of work” is better than yours right now. And even though I think your artwork is mediocre, I’ve got just barely enough sense to not actually tell you that. I have seen other tutorial sites touting the same worn-out dreadful technique that you are so fond of and it has never occurred to me to write them and send an example of my work. Never. And NEVER, no matter how dreadful I thought they were, would I offer up unsolicited suggestions to them and make a reference to “better quality work” (as if what they are doing now is not that high quality). I might think it, but I wouldn’t write that to them, unsolicited. Oh my gosh. How tacky.

OK, so I got that off my chest. I am sure the rest of you have gotten “Criticism from the clueless”—please share!

I just looked at your cide Yossie. Nice work, by the way. I don’t see any references to any techniques that you may or may not use. I’m curious - what exactly are you talking about, if it isn’t too complicated to explain to someone who struggles to draw stick men?


Where’s the problem, yosemitebabe? I think she did realise that you didn’t use or like the technique, and was politely criticising you. You responded politely in return. That’s just how you have to deal with things. Polite dialog.

And bear in mind that she might not be clueless at all, but was giving you a simple exemplar.

Thanks for the kind words about my artwork. No, the site I list in my profile isn’t the actual tutorial site.

It’s a drawing technique, but I really would rather not describe it, for two reasons: First, it’s rather b-o-r-i-n-g and I fear it would be kind of convoluted trying to explain why this technique sucks without showing some bad examples. And I’d have to look up some bad examples on the web (some poor sod’s work, perhaps) and I just don’t want to do that.

But think of it like this: When done badly (as it usually is), this technique is dreadful on the same level as Elvis on Velvet or Thomas Kinkaide is dreadful. OK, not as bad as Kinkaide, but there is this one very popular artist who has a book out that advocates this technique, and I dislike her artwork only a little less than I dislike Kinkaide. :::Shudder::: Blech.

Oh, it’s not a big “problem”, I’m not going to lose any sleep over this woman, And of course, I had no intention of being anything other than polite with her. However, like I explained to kabbes (while you were sneaking a post in :wink: ) it’s just that this technique is a particular pet peeve of mine and it’s probably more than a little obvious on my site. And while I didn’t explain on my site that I hated it with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns, I was very explicit in explaining why I didn’t use it and why I didn’t think it was appropriate to use for that particular kind of artwork. I “warn” people to not use it. (My opinion, but then again, it’s my tutorial site.)

I think she knew exactly what she was doing. It would be kind of like going to a person who advocates Classical music and dislikes Rap music (and takes pains to be very explicit in explaining why they don’t like it) and playing them some Rap, saying, “Hey, try this style of music and your quality of work will be better! Good luck!” I mean, the Rap fan has to know going in what kind of reception they’ll be getting. Why not be more honest and say, “I read what you had to say and I disagree and this is the reason why”. Or, better yet, just not write anything at all. Figure that they are on a different wavelength and not bother.

I read your pit rant, and being a fan of Dr. Phil I feel it is my duty to tell you that you must tap into your inner self blah, blahblahbalhblahblahblahblahblahblah and also blahblah…

I feel your pain. The best part about running my metro site is the constant emails about the poor quality of the French on my site. This wouldn’t be so bad if 1) they ever offered any specific corrections and 2) the emails themselves weren’t so full of spelling and grammar mistakes…!


Here’s a thought: Ask this woman if you can use her (crappy) picture on your website, but not tell her why. Get her permission in writing and place it as an example of why you don’t like that style.
That way, you don’t have to worry about how “convoluted trying to explain why this technique sucks,” because you’d have the “bad example” you need.

And artsy-fartsy lady won’t be able to do a thing about it.
[sub]and the revenge for her condescension would be just lovely, wouldn’t it?[/sub]

What’s the technique? Please, tell, please tell! With the “IMHO” disclaimer that some people do like it and your opinion may be entirely subjective.

Example: I can not stand it when people use tortillions to create “shadows” by smudging their drawing lines. Some people really know how to properly shade and then use a tortillon “blending-stump” to dramatically increase their tonal ranges. But I have seen far, far too many ham-handed sketches of Leonardo DiCaprio done as basic outlines that were then smudged to create a blurry mess. So the sight of an otherwise competant newbie’s drawing smudged to hell makes me grind my teeth.

(I had to interview “graphic designers” and excellent drawings skills were a must – damn I saw a lot of crappy drawings of DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Britney Spears.)

Well, that’s not very helpful of them. No matter how many times the French version of our site is proofread, I still occasionally find weird boo-boos.

I don’t mind if someone sends us an e-mail saying “that term is obsolete in France/Quebec/Lebanon, try such-and-such, it’s more universal.” That is helpful. “Your grammar sucks.” Is not. Besides that, there are so many regional differences – we have our site proofread by both a French proofreader, and a French-Canadian proofreader to help dodge those issues.

(You can always see the difference when e-mails come is from France or Quebec – the France/Belgium ones are written freakishly accurate, polished, and formal. I get nervous answering those ones.)

Add me to the list of those now insanely curious about the technique.

Ditto. Also, Eats_Crayons, that would drive me up the wall. As one who learned drawing styles from comic books, intentionally blurring the lines themselves would drive me crazy! It would look like the paper had gotten splashed with water.

I always make all the lines as crisp as possible, and then use a mix of simple fillin-in and tortillion use with crosshatching.

I don’t like my pictures to look messy.

THAT’S IT!!! You have described it perfectly.

Oh my gosh, how I hate this technique. And the woman who wrote me—well, her drawing wouldn’t have been that bad, except that it was flat and muddy and completely smudged out.

On my tutorial site I showed some examples of my “crosshatched” technique (getting fine detail by just using a sharp pencil) like this. Which frankly, I like a whole lot better than smudging everything to oblivion. I think it’s sharper and clearer and you can actually get some detail.

And another minor pet peeve—this Kinkaide-like person who teaches this technique also uses the “grid” system for drawing with accuracy. It’s really not a bad drawing aid, but has its limitations (it’s really hard to draw from life using the grid and impossible to draw anything from memory or to do quick sketches, etc. It’s a slow and laborious technique, therefore most art students learn many other techniques as well.) I almost never use the grid system myself and personally think it’s best for blowing up smaller sketches to mural size or whatever. This Kinkaid-like artist pushes the grid technique like it’s THE only way to draw. ARGGGH! Once again, just by opinion but then again, it’s my tutorial site so I can spout off about anything I want!

I got an email back from the woman. She was polite. She said “Thanks for your advice. I am taking classes from [dreaded Kinkaid-like artist who happens to be local in my area].”

Well, that explains everything. Of course there is no need for me to email her and tell her how much I dislike the techniques of this graphite smudging hack that is her teacher. For one thing, I think this graphite-smudging hack is probably a really nice person in many ways. She just can’t draw very well. I can despise her technique without personally insulting her, after all!

The only thing I am afraid of is at this point is that this woman who emailed me will tell her teacher (the Kinkaide-like hack) about me. (“Can you believe she doesn’t like to smudge graphite into a big muddy mess? Do you believe that she encourages people not to use it? How dare she?!?” Oh well. I’m sure the Kinkaide-like hack will not care and will not bother with me. Thank goodness. I couldn’t take any more emailed attachments of smudged graphite artwork!

Well, actually, Eats_Crayons, I should add a little to your smudged graphite description—some newbies try to create a “smooth” rendered look by using tortillions. But they don’t quite get it (and neither does the Kinkaide-like hack who they emulate). The usually use what appears to be three or four tones, all smudged together and lacking detail. The example artwork this woman sent me was several shades of grey—wasn’t crisp or sharp and there was a definite lack of understanding of what she was drawing.

There is at least one artist I can think of who smudges graphite with tortillions, but he knows what he is doing and his work is sharp and clear and quite beautiful.

Of course, now that we know about the horrible technique, we’re all dying to know who this mysterious Kinkaide clone is.

Bien, Matt, j’ai vu votre emplacement, et vous devriez avoir honte à la qualité inférieure du Français dedans là. Si vous ne pouvez pas la faire droite, vous ne devriez pas prendre la peine de la faire du tout. Franchement, je suis dégoûté.

J’aime des poissons de Babel.

Oh, to be fair, she’s done a few things that are not too bad. Not great, but I want to give credit where credit is due. And when I compare her to Kinkaide I didn’t mean literally—(she uses different techniques, different subject matter) it’s just that many people react to her with the same visceral dislike as they do with Kinkaide. (Though I don’t think her ego is quite as large as Kinkaide’s. She sounds like she’s probably a really nice person.) Her book, however, shows way too many absymal examples of her work, which prove that she doesn’t really have a lot of skill. I’m not going to name her, though. Oh no, not me! :slight_smile:

I frequent an art board where some of her fans reside. Some of them are quite good—they started out using her technique but went on to greater things. The rest of us on the board are not fans (it’s obvious that many other artists dislike her work as much as I do) but for the most part, I think we try to conceal our loathing on the boards. Her fans are grateful to her and her book, and I give her credit for that. But her own talents are way overblown and … ::shudder:: smudged graphite ::shudder::. Ack!

Damn, 'babe, that’s a fine drawing.

Forgive me, but this is something I have to do…

Translation: “Well, Matt, I saw your location,”

No you did not. You did not see “Montreal, Quebec, Canada”. You saw his “site web”.

Translation: “and you should be ashamed in the poor quality of the French inside there.”

AAAaaaaargh!!! DE la qualité, dammit DE!!!

“Dedans là” what in the fuck does “dedans là” mean? Did you stop learning French in 1203? It’s “qui s’y trouve”.


Translation: “If you can’t make it straight, you should not take the trouble to make it at all.”

Make what straight? Oh, I see, do it right is what you meant. My god, the irony.

At this point, I should add, what the fuck’s up with the vouvoiement? I’m terribly sorry, but in 2003, you don’t call people by their given name and tell them “vous”. Unless you’re on Radio-Canada.

And you can imagine how I feel. Ce que vous nous avez dégeulé ici, monsieur, tient du viol linguistique.

Translation: “I love some fish of Babel”

Of course, raping the French language isn’t enough, you have to do it with fish also? Your perversion know no bounds.

[sub]The above in jest, of course[/sub]

Mangled French and smudged graphite—could one thread be more diverse? :slight_smile:

(Thanks for the compliment, AudreyK! Bless your heart!)

yosemitebabe, allow me to second AudreyK, that really is a VERY fine drawing!