Over on Sarah Darkmagic, Sarah has been highlighting the type of art she likes to see. She displays images, frequently with a focus on females, and states that she likes art that tells a story, that draws the viewer in. She mentions each piece specifically and what she finds intriguing about it. This is fantastic. This is a great example of how to better both art in general and the art of our hobby in particular. I’ve felt for a long time that the art of D&D needs to be more inclusive, something Sarah generally does a great job pointing out. A wider cross-section of people should be able to experience the art of our hobby and not feel objectified or exploited. RPG art is, in my opinion, best when it exemplifies the best aspects of the hobby, Adventure, Exploration, Devotion, Honor, Courage and a dozen other powerfully evocative states of being, all of which lend themselves to the concept of inclusivity.
So, how, as bloggers and as internet citizens do we empower artists, make our voices heard, and shine light on the idea that RPG art needn’t be oversexualized material that is appropriate only for a thin slice of viewers? I think the best way to do this is twofold.
We, as bloggers, need to raise awareness. Much like what Sarah Darkmagic is doing, we need to spotlight such art so that others can experience it, to know what we’re talking about and to spread the word. We need to create a vocabulary of the art we want more of, to educate consumers of art and creators. We need to make sure that those artists who are producing material that tickles our imaginations while still being inclusive get seen.
We can’t, as reasonable humans, expect artists to read minds. If we want something from them, if we want them to alter their focus or to use less exploitative imagery, we need to make our voices heard. Artists, to a certain degree, are creating art not only for themselves but for the public. Art is a medium to be shared. If the artist is including elements they think are desirable, they can’t be blamed if no one ever tells them differently. As an artist myself, I can say definitively that I desire feedback any time my work is put forth for public consumption. Were anyone to stifle that feedback, I would be disappointed.
The reason I love this image is because it has a real sense of tension. When you can see the enemies faces, but not the heroes face, it makes it easy to put oneself in the heroes shoes. That’s exactly what we do all the time in RPGs so this image starts off great. I also love the gradiant, lower left to upper right, dark brown to white and back to darkness. On a visceral level, it is simply powerful.
So where does it go wrong? When we’re talking about being inclusive and having art that is based on some semblance of believability, we shouldn’t only talk about including believable women. It sort of weakens the entire movement. While I love what Sarah Darkmagic is doing by spotlighting the really great art that depicts women in a more dignified manner, I find it surprising that she finds it unacceptable to comment on some small issues in this piece. We like to talk about women wearing appropriate clothing for adventuring and that’s great. Sarah is pretty big on this, pointing out armor that covers breasts and whether or not too much skin is exposed. But in the case of this man, holding a white rabbit, something you’d only find in arctic conditions, she finds it undesirable to point out that he is shirtless. This man would be freezing! One could argue the lack of shirt is representative of his exposure, both to the elements and to the enemies. But this is a subtlety that is easily abused in the case of women. Ultimately, I’m not sure the lack of shirt furthers the goals of the image. Do I love the image? Yes. Could it be more inclusive? I think so.
But when talking about inclusive art, is it wrong to say this image could be moreso? Should a person who makes such a comment be told to go away and make their own blog? Is it a good idea to create an “agree with me or leave” environment when it comes to furthering the goals of exclusivity? As an artist, it’s not simply important to allow criticism, it’s vital. As long as the criticism is provided in a mature fashion, I find it hard to rationalize creating an environment where it’s not welcome. It does artists a disservice to try to shut down maturely expressed critical thought. To make reasoned critical thought unwelcome is to stifle creativity, both for the artist and the viewer. And good art should never strive to do this. I’ve not met an artist who would find this acceptable.
To sum it up, lets get together. Lets promote inclusive art and lets talk about it. Lets share our thoughts. EVEN those not everyone may not agree with. Lets do it in a mature fashion. Ultimately, I think this will benefit us as artists and as consumers of art. And if you don’t agree. Go start your own blog.