Sunday Mailbag

December 27th, 2009 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: I have been looking for a platform on the Net to publish my works and, what is more important to me, get a little feedback on what I am doing. I have been considering Flickr, DeviantArt etc., but I am quite confused about the implications of the copyright terms behind them. I also have been thinking about opening an old-fashioned (but always good) blog, whereas building my own website from scratch still sounds premature to me. So I am asking your opinion: what do you think would be a good internet publishing platform for a wishful beginner?

A: As far as the copyrights associated with publishing on some social sites,  I have heard horror stories about relinquishing your copyrights when you post images on Flickr and Facebook, but for the most part I believe that they are not true. The last info I heard about Flickr was that images posted there automatically were marked as copyrighted (All Rights Reserved), which means they cannot be used without the permission of the copyright owner. You can change that manually into several different license arrangements.

There was a brew-ha-ha not so long ago when Facebook changed its terms of use that seemed to say their licenses on “user content” did not expire if the user deleted their account. That turned out to be much ado about nothing.

Many of these these of internet social sites use variations of the Creative Commons licenses agreements. In any case you own the copyrights to any images you create unless you specifically give permission for another party to use them. Of course that hardly prevents people from stealing and using them, but it is against current copyright law to do it.

Copyright issues aside, neither of these two social networks seem like good solutions for your needs: a place to post your work AND to receive feedback and (presumably) critiques.

DeviantART seems a better fit. It seems to be exactly as you describe you need: a place to post your artwork and get feedback from other DeviantArt members. Is is worthwhile? I don’t know as I’ve never used it. I would expect the key is getting your artwork in front of other people who do work in a similar way, either by subject matter, style or some other common denominator… if you do sci-fi fantasy art you’d want to belong to a sci-fi fantasy club or something like that. I don’t know how it works, if you get good feedback or if it’s a gigantic waste of time.

Starting a blog seems like a good thing to do. It’s free (unless you really want to go crazy and self host a custom one) and you can post your art on it as you see fit. The trouble is getting people to see it and have them give you good and honest feedback. Asking for critiques and advice on the internet is a tough thing to do. First you need to get people who’s opinion you would value to look at your work, then get them to spend the time and energy critiquing it. That’s asking a lot of people and their time. You might get some good feedback and you might not. I personally do not critique the work someone posts their artwork on their blog unless they are specifically asking for a critique from readers (and I can find the time, of course). Not everyone who posts art on a personal blog wants critiques… some just want to share it, so be sure you specifically request such when you do.

My suggestion is to search for forums and organizations dedicated to your type of art. Using the Sci-Fi Fantasy example, search out communities dedicated to that type of art, and then post your work there as well as advertise your blog and ask for critiques.

For caricatures, I would heartily recommend the International Society of Caricature Artists. They have a members-only forum where you can post work, ask for critiques and see other artist’s work and works in progress. There is sharing of techniques, advice, etc there. Searching for keywords in the forum archives alone is worth the membership fee of $50 for your first year ($60 thereafter) which also includes their quarterly magazine Exaggerated Features. That’s just one example of a community dedicated to a specific type of art. Another good one (that’s free) is The Drawing, which is an amalgamation of illustration, cartooning, animation, painting, comics and just plain old drawing. I haven’t been there in a long time, but I understand it’s still chugging along and there are lots of participants.

Thanks to Alessandro Munari for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!


  1. John says:

    Hey Tom,

    Is the International Society of Caricature Artists worth joining if your interested in improving your ability to capture likenesses rather than pursuing the goal of doing actual caricatures? I ask because I would like to become better at portraiture, but I don’t see myself ever really doing caricature work. And yet, so much of being a good caricature artist depends on one’s ability to quickly capture the essence of a likeness and those elements that define the subject’s personality. Could I benefit from membership or would I be seen as a pariah? Just joking.

    Thanks for your help.


    • Tom says:

      John- I would say no, joining the ISCA in an effort to improve your portraiture would not be the best way to do that. I’d seek out a portrait art forum for that. You are right in that learning to do caricature would benefit one’s ability to capture a likeness in other forms of art dealing with faces, but that’s a little like learning Italian cooking in order to develop the stove-top skills to improve your French cuisine.


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

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