The Lonely Artist pre-blog-discovery
When I got back into animation two years ago, after 4 years as an "Artist" (ugh), I quickly discovered the world of animation blogs. There are all kinds of blogs: production blogs, blogs focused on fan-boy ranting, I-just-made-a-drawing-and-here-it-is blogs, analysis and criticism blogs, and blogs for sharing cartoon-miscellany. Anyone with a computer and internet access can create a blog or post comments, which has created an incredible flood of content (not all of it worth your time). Thankfully, this also means there is a lot of quality information and commentary out there to read and a thriving community that makes the physical isolation of being an independent animator less palpable.
The blogs I follow might be described this way: my friends' blogs (it's good to know what they're up to), blogs that provide valuable information and insight (Animondays), blogs that have a strong critical viewpoint I appreciate (The Splog), and blogs that expose me to things I would otherwise miss (CartoonBrew).
My biggest reservation about blogging is the inevitable nasty side of many posts and comments. The blogosphere is like a large, crowded room and when someone in that room provides rude "criticism" things can get awkward fast. Where exactly is the line between rude and reasonable criticism?
One of the most important functions of this "crowded room" is to provide support to the little guys: the students, the frustrated artists, the independents. While it's reasonable to make thoughtful criticisms of a studio product, at what point is an artist's ego fragile enough that we should avoid going out of our way to provide negative feedback? You wouldn't walk up to a three year old working with crayons on his kitchen table and poo-poo his choice of color. I believe the same kind of "protective zone" should be extended to non-professionals or professionals doing personal projects: respect their desire to create and provide negative criticism only when it is asked for and can be constructively received. Leave the wrestling-match of serious criticism to work that has entered the wider world in a more public way; but please keep in mind that individual artists have been involved and resist the urge to slam, insult or generally denigrate their contributions. If someone's heart was in it (and even schlock can be made with dedication) tearing them down does no good. Why not congratulate their effort, make your point, and encourage them to improve? I'm looking forward to the "future of animation", and it won't come from base negativity.
Here's to a supportive, positive, and, yes, sometimes critical blogosphere: may it make us all better artists and, more importantly, happier people. Keep your elbows sharp and your skin thick but don't forget to smile and say hello.