Thursday, December 10, 2009

blah blah Elfwood blah blah blah...

I guess I should start this out by referring to my previous post where I talk about online galleries and social networking sites. In it I talked about my disdain for art sites that were moderated and made mention of my particular dislike for Elfwood. I would like to take the time to elaborate on the dislike. Vent a little. Publicly. 

So I've heard people talk about Elfwood for years. One day a year ago I decide to get a gallery there. I upload a bunch of stuff, Zombie Sam, Fannie the Flesheater, Sgt, Rot. Y'know, the regulars. Months later they are approved. Apparently I hit the site right in the middle of an overhaul or something. 

So one day I upload my Frankenstein's Monster pic:

Here's the response I get:
* - Rejected: 'Frankenstein's Monster'
Reject: Copyright Violation.
Elfwood's rules state: 'Direct tracings of or copying artwork that is not your own is not permitted. All such artworks will be immediately removed from your gallery, and any further infractions will result in your suspension from Elfwood. This includes instances of copying from photos, magazines, screenshots, screen captures, etc'. If you upload copied pictures again, the moderators will be forced to report you to the ERB which may result in your gallery being suspended. This item is copied from*

Here's the image they send me:

That image was painted by the ultra-talented Thomas Blackshear II and was for the United States Postal Service set of Classic Movie Monsters stamps.

Both works of art, along with thousands of others, were referenced from this publicity shot:

First of all I see why the image would not be allowed. No biggie. It just bugged me that they thought I "copied" someone else's art rather than use a photo for reference so I sent this reply:
 *REquest for further explaination for the rejection of Frankenstein's Monster. The image was not copied from the painting, it was referenced from a publicity photo. The same photo the mentioned painting was referenced from.*

The moderator's reply:
*I'm sorry, but I agree with the moderator in question that the picture is a copy from that link submitted Elfwood has a strict copy rule, whether it be tracing or freehand copying, so your image will not be allowed in Elfwood. The general rule of thumb we have is that if it's recognizable where it's from, then it most likely will be rejected as a copy. If you want to read up on more concerning that rule regarding copying and copying vs. reference we have 2 articles from our e-zine with examples that explains the rule:
The rule also applies to parodies, since they're often judged to be copies as well. The reason I'm mentioning this is that when looking at your gallery just now I remember a report we've recently received about your gallery. You have 8 parodies based on celebrity photos and war propaganda posters that are all considered to be copies by Elfwoods rules. You will at some point be contacted by the ERB (Elfwood Review Board) about them. While they're very creative and beautifully executed they're judged to be copies and as such you will be asked to remove them.
Elfwood Head Moderator and Forest Manager*

OK, so apparently I raised too much of a stink and she just "remembered" getting "a report" about my gallery. Convenient. My response:
*...And not that it matters but the drawing was referenced from the attached publicity photo. The same photo the painting you refer to was referenced from. 
So if the others aren't allowed why were they OK'd in the first place? *

*Moderators are humans and they make mistakes, which is why we have the ERB  (Elfwood Review Board). They deal with anything already published in Elfwood that may violate the rules, and they work mainly from reports received from the public. When we received the notice about your other pictures being copies (parodies) I contacted the moderator in question, whom wasn't familiar with those sources.*

That was July 1. I did not respond after that. I figured I would prepare my arguments and take on this omnipotent ERB. My chance never came. But if the Head Moderator said my stuff was not allowed surely the ERB would be beating down my virtual door with virtual pitchforks and virtual torches. That never happened. Why? Because of this:

What is this? This is the screen you get after you upload an image. This is where you choose a few keywords for your art. See that highlighted section? "Parody". I never got contacted by the ERB because parodies are allowed. I guess Monica was right when she said "Moderators are humans and they make mistakes". Point proven.

Fastforward to November 23. I upload my latest piece "When Giants Attack...Cincinnati". 

I got this email on Monday:
*- Rejected: 'When Giants Attack...Cincinnati'
Reject: Other reason...
Sorry, all pictures based on existing visual media, such as movies, cartoons and 
computer games [Godzilla movies in this case], are Fan Art and, provided they are not copies, should be uploaded to your Fan Quarter account. Your artwork is very good, you should definitely consider openinng a Fan Art gallery though.*

Here is my response:

*Just a little clarification: First off, thanks for the compliment. Secondly, I know it is impossible to read one's tone in an email so this message, when read, may seem angry please keep in mind it is not. Frustrated yes. Angry, no. 
The creature in the image is not Godzilla. It is a commission piece asking for a "Godzilla-like creature". I know a lot of Godzilla fans that would be slighted by your classification of my monster as Godzilla.
This is not the first time I have had my art called "Fan Art" by an Elfwood moderator. This is not "fan art" because, for one, I am not a fan of Godzilla movies, and two it is a commission piece, both of which take "fan" out of the equation.

"Fan Art-Usually, it refers to fan labor artworks by amateur artists, or artists who are unpaid for their fan creations--so that, for example, professional comic adaptations of the Star Wars films would not be considered fanart while a version done by an unaffiliated fan would be. -"

"Fan Labor- ...most fans provide their creative works for others to enjoy without requiring or requesting monetary compensation. Fans respect their gift economy culture and are often also fearful that charging other fans for products of their creativity will somehow fundamentally change the fan-fan relationship, as well as attract unwanted legal attention from copyright holders."

I am a professional artist and illustrator. People pay me to draw and paint pictures for them. Everything I do I make money from. Even the art I create for myself is sold as prints and t-shirts. The above definitions have not applied to me for several years. 
It has become painfully aware to me that your site is designed for amateur artists. It seems as though professionals have no place here because our efforts and paid commissions are delegated to "fan art". You guys really need to work on your classification process. 
Thank you for your time. 
Billy Tackett*

Notice I said "It has become painfully aware to me that your site is designed for amateur artists". This is what I just read from Elfwood's About Us page:
*" ...Elfwood's mission is to provide a place for amateurs from all over the world to share, teach, and inspire a new generation of dreams...
...We strive to promote the creation of art and fiction as a serious and meaningful hobby for the young generation, introducing them to painting and writing, helping them to create their own material and finally giving them the option to publish what they have created. This is a value we cultivate at the site in relation to young people. It is our goal to continue our work with young amateurs in the field of art and fiction... 

...Letting all amateur fantasy artists and writers show their work for free, helping them to get a name and reputation, as well as useful, creative comments and new contacts...
...We intend to keep Elfwood as a free-to-join site, without any fees or strings attached, giving new and upcoming artists an unparalleled opportunity to publish their material here...
...If you are an amateur fantasy artist, we would love to feature some of your work on this site....*

Boy, do I feel like a dumbass. Here I was bitching about the how unprofessional this site is! 

Here's a little bit of advice: This site is specifically designed for amateurs. Nothing wrong with that...if you want to stay an amateur. you will not get a "name and reputation, as well as useful, creative comments and new contacts"  from Elfwood. if you want "useful, creative comments" talk to a professional. Want new contacts? Talk to a professional.

Everybody starts somewhere. If you want to evolve professionally or creatively you have to rub shoulders with people that have traveled the path before you. Elfwood may be good for making friends but that's about it. Here's my final evidence for that:

Elfwood offers tutorials. I decided to scan through and clicked on one titled Painting Hair in Photoshop by Kelly L. Johnson. Zipping through the images the tutorial looks pretty standard until I get to the finished product:

The hack used a photograph! No this isn't the reference, this is supposed to be the final product. Again: the HACK ARTIST IS PASSING OFF A PHOTOGRAPH AS HER FINAL PRODUCT! And the tutorial has been online since 2006!! And people are leaving comments complaining that they will never be that good. It's a photo, morons!!

You want good tutorials go to deviantArt... no, better yet go to and read their tutorials and spend a few hours going through the forums. There's some pros for ya!


Kelly Smith said...

LOL! I have laughed my butt off at this! I would have never pictured YOU at Elfwood of all places in a million years! And now you see why! You are WAY beyond Elfwood!

Tracy said...

I know first hand how frustrating sites like Elfwood can be, believe me.

Hearing that you were stressing out about Elfwood is about as crazy as hearing Steven King stressing out about being snubbed on Fanstory.

Not that that has ever happened, but if he did post work there I can only imagine a fiasco like the one you describe here.

billy tackett said...

Kelly: I have galleries set up everywhere! When I got the Elfwood account I didn't look at the other galleries, I just signed up. Next time I'll do some research.

Tracy: Thanks for the compliment! Actually being snubbed doesn't bother me too bad. I've been subbed by better people so I've developed a tough skin. What bothers me is the ignorance of the people who are supposed to be in charge. These people have no idea! Even when given proof they still don't acknowledge! And the bullshit tutorials! They are not helping amateur artists. They are doing the exact opposite. it's sad really.

mike said...

funny thing, with me, i had the exact opposite experience. I joined elfwood when i was an amateur. i have always gotten good traffic and comments on there. when i was starting out, i often went to the different art forums at the time and got ridiculed by the pros there. really with galleries (and forums), especially online ones at that, there will never be a perfect one. i still get fraggin pissed at all the dumb things that epilogue has done to my gallery over the years.

and it is funny to think of your work on elfwood, thats like the deftones showing up a christian high school dance to play.

-mike bielaczyc

billy tackett said...

Mike, I think the closest to perfect is deviantArt where moderation is minimal. You decide which galleries you want to look at. Moderation = abuse. Peace must be kept and someone must be in charge but to leave the decision about what art is acceptable in the hands of a select few is stupid.

Epilogue and Elfwood are exactly the same only one targets amateurs and the other targets "pros". But Epilogue is far from being a professional gallery. Some of these guys may make some money but they are far from professionals. All the truly professional artists I know that had galleries there have forsaken them because of the moderation and unprofessional actions of users. I know an artist who makes thousand$ per illustration that had some of his most popular and award winning pieces rejected so he left. And professionals will not make fun of others art. Everybody started out at the same place.

If you want to get some good professional input on your art go to These guys are professional artist and illustrators helping out others that want to be professional. Check out their forums and see some of the input given on art that has been submitted for critique. It's not entirely free from bullshit but it's the best I've seen.

mike said...

wanna know a weird coincidence? after reading this article i clicked over to elfwood and they have me as the Member of the day today on their front page. strange strange.

yeah i like deviantart, but at the same time i hate all the crap that gets put up. but i guess that goes back to the beginning of the whole bad idea of moderation.

i'll check out conceptart. i think i have seen some art on there that really amazed me.

Anonymous said...

I used to have an Elfwood page back when I was in Middle School, man I haven't checked that site in over a decade, and you've completely explained why.

For a long time now I've been heavily considering creating my own professional site to promote my work as I get close to completing college, and your two part article really hits it home to me just how important it is for me to do this. Also I had no idea about until you talked about it. Thank you for one of the most useful blog articles I've read in a long time. That really helped me out.

billy tackett said...

Mott, no problem.
Back many years ago I ran a sign painting business. I tried to stress the importance of a sign and logo. That was the first impression a potential customer got of your business. Now that we've entered the age of the internet the same applies to your website. Domain's are so cheap now there's no reason not to have one. I've been with Yahoo for years now and have had 100% issue free service. I think Blogger now offers a domain service now.

Maxine said...

Hi Billy

How about updating this post... as an Elfwood Support person, I did reply back to the original topic, via your original EW Support message - thanx - maXine :-)

billy tackett said...

I did get your response and I am going to update. It's just with holiday commissions and the holidays themselves I'm a little short on time.
Plus it did take you over 2 weeks to respond. I've only had 5 days thus far so sit back, relax and enjoy the holidays.