Category Archives: opinions

“Art is a Free Hobby!”

please click through for the original image! used with permission.

Time and time again, I come across people who don’t believe that artists and designers should be paid for their time. “How desperate must they be,” some say, “to charge for something other people offer for free?” Or, one of my favourites, “It’s a hobby, why should I pay for something someone enjoys doing?” Or, as I heard just today, “Well if the [client] isn’t making money from it, why should they pay?”

So let’s talk about this.

It seems difficult for a lot of people to grasp the concept of value in non-tangible items, so I’ll try to make this simple. When you pay for art — whether it’s a drawn, written, painted, or designed — you are paying for two things:

• the final product


• the cost of production

The cost of production varies between mediums. Sometimes it includes a physically tangible cost, such as buying cardstock for sketch cards, or sculptor’s clay for a model, or paints for a watercolour. Sometimes, there is no physically tangible cost (such as in digital artistry or web design).

But there is always the cost of time and effort. A piece of art can take a couple of days on average — often more! — during which time the artist could be doing something else.

That is the key here. You are paying for the time and effort that goes into the piece(s) you have requested. You are paying them to be spending time on you and your project instead of using that time to make money elsewhere. You are paying the artist to not only deliver a product, but for the process and effort of making the product, as well as — don’t forget — dealing with YOU.

Refusing to pay for artwork because it is someone’s hobby is like saying that anyone that enjoys what they do should not be paid. Refusing to pay for artwork tells an artist that you like their art enough to have some, but it is still worth absolutely nothing  to you. Refusing to pay for artwork because other people offer it for free means you think that artists are not free to set their own value.

Is art a hobby? Yeah, it sure is! But it is also our business. Our business is not automatically free because we enjoy what we do. Our business is not automatically free because we could be spending time doing a similar thing for ourselves.

When art is done as a personal hobby, the artist is doing it for their own satisfactioneven if the final product is gifted to someone else. When art is done as a business, it is done for the satisfaction of someone else.

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Posted by on March 4, 2013 in art, opinions


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You’re Such a Teenager!

How DARE you suggest I'm between the ages of 13 and 18!

How DARE you suggest I’m between the ages of 13 and 18!

One of the things I hate the most in our society is how we collectively dump on the Teenage Experience. If you want to insult someone, tell them they’re behaving like a teenager — watch as they sputter, indignantly protesting that whatever is happening is nothing like How Teenagers Handle Things. They’re so much wiser now, they’re adults.

And as adults, there seems to be a point in everyone’s lives where they become the Guru of Teenage Years, benevolently bestowing boatloads of wisdom to all peoples under the legal adult age, keen on saving them from emotional turmoil and foolish decisions. When I was a teenager, they’ll say, their voice tinged with enlightenment, this was my experience, so you shouldn’t do whatever it is you’re planning and just learn from my mistakes. After all, you and I are exactly alike; the same thought process, the same personality, and identical life experiences down to the last detail.

Then the teen receiving this boon of knowledge from the heavens nods seriously, returns to the righteous and intelligent path of life, narrowly avoiding emotional and social experience that would’ve otherwise scarred them forever if not for the grace of the Guru.

does not compute

does not compute

Wait, what? What do you mean that doesn’t happen? You can’t be serious; teenagers have the capacity for critical thinking and enough autonomy to make their own decisions? What kind of upside-down world are you living in? Am I living in? Gosh, I need a moment.

Teenage autonomy seems to be a foreign concept to many people; it’s an unthinkable, impossible idea that anyone between the ages of thirteen and eighteen is capable of making decisions based on their own analysis and perception of the situation. If a teenager makes a decision an adult finds questionable, it’s immediately excused — it’s your hormones, you’re too young, you don’t understand, you’re not thinking clearly, you’ll regret this when you’re older, what’s the matter with kids these days? No one takes you seriously when you’re a teenager; remember, they’ve already navigated through those awkward years and since it’s all a universal experience, they know what’s best for you.

Especially in matters of love.

I participated in a conversation last night where the opening poster — a thirteen year old girl — was asking for help with her soon-to-be long distance relationship. Now, very little information was given; she and her fourteen year old boyfriend had been dating a few weeks, were in love, but boyfriend was moving out-of-state at the end of the school year. They had already decided that they were not going to break up, and she wanted help with navigating the tricky seas of the LDR.

Predictably, several people replied with patronising explanations of how they weren’t really in love, they were “in lust”, and they had their whole lives ahead of them, why waste it on a long distance relationship that was bound to fail? You’re too immature for this, they told her. You don’t know what you’re doing. Save yourself the heartbreak, trust me, I’ve been there. It’s hard enough to be in a long distance relationship when you’re an adult, it will be impossible for you, you’re only thirteen.

When I posted in support of her decision, along with some advice that would help her handle being in a long-distance relationship and that it was okay if things didn’t work out, the proverbial shit hit the fan. How dare I give her the advice she asked for? I should be dissuading her from even being in the relationship at all! It will end in heartbreak, which is something to avoid at all costs! She shouldn’t even waste her time! The guy’s probably scum anyway, he’s dated other people before.

The amount of rationalisation for this mindset was astounding: teenagers aren’t suited for relationships like this because they get jealous and manipulative; she shouldn’t be in a relationship that might cause heartbreak; she should wait until she’s over 19 (how this number was decided, I’m not sure) so she can experience REAL love, not the teenage facsimile of it; because she’d spiral into a suicidal depression (because that’s what happens to teenagers nowadays who get heartbroken).

an actual message sent to me about this topic.

an actual message sent to me about this topic.

It hurts my head. When did teenagers become less than real people? When did their emotions stop being valid?  Why are adults as a group so quick to dismiss any event in a teenager’s life as irrelevant and/or hormone-induced and not as “real” as those experienced by people ages 18 and up?

Look: just because something isn’t going to be relevant in a of couple years doesn’t diminish its importance in the moment. Just because the love you feel when you’re 13 isn’t the same as the love you feel when you’re 35 doesn’t mean it’s not love. Just because no one is going to care in ten years if Suzie and Celia showed up in the same dress during winter formal that one year doesn’t mean that it isn’t going to be mortifying and a socially ostracising event.

The teen years are a formative point in peoples’ lives. These are the years, in western society, that we begin to learn how to navigate through social nuances, how to deal with massive letdowns and disappointing relationships (romantic or otherwise). You learn how to love, how to be friends, how to be enemies, what your personal and social boundaries are. You learn how to juggle social minutiae in conjunction with daily activities. You learn how to have emotions while trying to keep a clear head. You learn how to lose your temper. You learn.

By shoving this holier-than-thou, adults-know-best pseudo-advice down teenagers’ throats, you’re trying to deprive them of learning experiences and relationships that will make their current lives and future selves fulfilling.  By saying that their love is actually lust, you instil the thought that love and lust are mutually exclusive events, thus barring the opportunity to learn how to distinguish between the two emotions at all. You’re saying that they should listen to you even though you are not them, you are not in their now, and you don’t have to deal with what they face on a daily basis anymore (if ever). They’re not going to turn 18, 19, 20, whatever arbitrary you’ve deemed as being ‘adult’ and suddenly be one with the universe and therefore qualified to make decisions about their lives. They have to learn, have to go through the whole process of growing up — just like you did, and just like I did.

So stop hating on teenagers. Don’t forget, you were one too.

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Posted by on February 5, 2013 in opinions


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Aren’t You Too Old for Hallowe’en?

Every year, there’s always at least one person that asks this when someone above school age comments about dressing up as something or other on Hallowe’en. The exact wording varies, but the meaning is always the same: “Don’t you think you’re too old to be having x kind of fun?”

Which always kind of baffled me. When, exactly, was an age limit imposed on having fun? Did I miss the memo? I enjoy dressing up for Hallowe’en, enjoy putting together a costume and going about the town getting candy (because oh my gosh, candy) with my friends. Why should that stop because x number of years have passed since my birth? When did I become too old for this activity? When I hit 16? 17? Graduated from High School? When I became a legal adult? When I was able to legally drink? When I have children of my own?

But by and large, I think the notion of “too old for Hallowe’en” stems from the thought that people will judge you after you hit a certain age. People stop thinking about how much fun they can have with deciding what to dress up as, how much fun it is to go with their friends, be involved with their community, and how much candy (candy!!) they can have. They stop thinking about how fun it would be, and concentrate on the fact that people will be judging them for acting silly. Then they pass it around, and soon enough, there’s the whole sentiment of old people are fuddy-duddies who can’t have a good time.

And to that, I say fie! I will continue dressing up for Hallowe’en (and whenever else I feel like, to be frank!) because it’s enjoyable. I will never be too old to play make-believe, never too old to enjoy being silly.

Long live Hallowe’en.

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Posted by on October 14, 2012 in opinions


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Preference or Problem?

Aveline Vallen

My roommate and I were having a discussion about stereotype-defying representation in the media. I wanted to share my passion about a particular character from the Dragon Age franchise, named Aveline Vallen, and expressed my frustration that people would install a game mod to make her “prettier”. Aveline (see right) is not your stereotypically “beautiful” woman. She has a strong nose ridge, a square jawline, is decidedly muscular — so muscular that she can tear down a monster with her bare hands. Her clothes, and later her armour, don’t particularly show off her cleavage or assets (heh); in fact, as the game progresses, her suit of armour becomes heavier and less revealing. It is part of her character that she struggles with her appearance, struggles with self-doubt about not being curvy and delicate and slim. It is important character development that she grows to love and accept herself, and realise that beauty is subjective, while not rejecting her feminine qualities and acknowledging that it’s okay to feel, and to want to feel pretty.

The mod – there are a few, but the main one – makes Aveline more “feminine”. It gives her a pointed chin, a small, dainty button-nose, big eyes, and slim features and build. It makes her stereotypically pretty which is the antithesis of her personal character development (outside the scope of the game’s overall plot).

While my roommate and I normally agree that people should be able to play games in the way that is most enjoyable for them, we disagree on the notion that certain things — like beautifying Aveline — are indicative of a problem.

So when does media “preference” become a “problem”? When does it change over from “personal” to “big picture”? Does it indicate the person is prejudiced or a bad / mean / jerk of a person? When does it stop being “just” a game, a book, a story, a picture, a movie and become something worthy of attention and discourse?

I believe these preferences are dangerous because media does not exist inside a bubble, and and neither does society. These preferences help shape the media we consume. If people “prefer” media that depicts stereotypically beautiful people, then that is what we see. If most of a game’s userbase modify their game so that x character is changed in y manner, then chances are that game’s developer will change that character / future characters to deliver what their target demographic desires. If people find it “unrealistic” that black people existed in medieval Europe (even though they did, they are called Moors), then all of our Arthurian legends will be all white people, all the time. Personal preference is the crux upon which media bases what is popular and what they will produce. Personal preference when it deals with social prejudices already prevalent in our society is never just personal.

Even if an individual is not racist, sexist, or any sort of prejudiced, if their personal preference is in line with preferences from others who are, it helps shape the advertisements, games, films, novels, and television shows we are provided. When media is changed so that it is more ‘aesthetically pleasing’ to the viewer or user, those changes will reflect in what we see as “good” as a society. Already dark skinned / dark haired celebrities are becoming lighter in skin and hair colour as their popularity increases. Anyone -especially CIS women- who appears in media is changed and altered and photoshopped within an inch of their life to appeal to personal preference. These preferences fuel self-doubt, self-loathing, shaming, blaming, and prejudice.

So, sure, go ahead. Make Aveline prettier and thinner and smaller. Insist that there is no way Lancelot could be black because HISTORY (but dragons and magic swords from ladies who live in lakes are historically accurate). Stress that it is just your personal preference that all women in your video games be small, waif-like, doe-eyed creatures who couldn’t scare a cat and butter won’t melt in their mouth.

But don’t think that your preference in these matters only affects you, because as a consumer you’d be incredibly wrong. Personal preference is a problem when that preference is shared by so many people that it negatively impacts how we as a society view ourselves, each other, and the rest of the world.


Posted by on October 9, 2012 in gaming, media, opinions, social justice, video games


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