Buffy Casablanca Poster poppy wreath  RS

All this talk of icons, editing platforms and fanart the last week, plus icontests and enjoying other people's work, has made me hungry got some thinky-thoughts a'flowin:


Imagine voting at any fanfiction awards site (WGA, SunnyD, RWSA, NRFTW, NAFTA, AoLA, etc) where all the work is listed anonymously. I am of course excluding juried situations which are sometimes but not always "blind". (In many cases IRL, this may be as much to protect from biases for/against gender, ethnicity, color, etc.)

Can you imagine a list of fic nominees with titles and no authors listed? Of course not. I can't either.  But we do it all the time - on a weekly basis in fact - at icon challenges.

In fact, on one level it might be argued that whenever we publish work using pseudonyms, screennames or what we oldsters used to call "pennames" ("keyboardnames"?), then those stories are de facto anonymous in the real world, but that's another conversation altogether. (Or is it? Anonymity and women not being given credit for their work has always been a feminist issue. Are we protecting ourselves by using pseudonyms in fandom, or just playing into larger cultural patterns? I suspect that's a discussion for another time but worth pondering.)

In the past I've been kind of a fiend to obey the rules of which clearly state that icons must not have been previously posted anywhere else, and we're not to let other people know which are ours. The icons are all posted without the creator's names to allow for "unbiased" voting, right?

I got so anxious about it I even teasingly mock-scolded one of my friends *cough*kikimay*cough* (poor woman!) on the subject. I tried to figure out how to make my icons "less recognizable" by not using certain fonts or framing devices, etc. This was especialy challenging with Photobucket, which has a primitive editing suite with a very finite number of choices. When anonymity was becoming a consideration over artistry in my choices, I realized it was becoming a problem.

I was also certain I was alone in my anxieties on the subject until I saw a comment by someone else in fandom, who makes beautiful icons the way I make breakfast for my sweetie -  that is to say, on a regular basis - express concern that one of their icons was recognizable. As it happens, I have guessed some of their icons correctly on a couple of occasions; and other times I've assumed it was their's and got it completely wrong. No one person "owns" a particular character, color scheme, font or effect, as it happens, although we each have preferences.

Not that knowing or not knowing mattered to me. Did I vote differently because I thought I knew which icons this person did? No, of course not. I voted for the work in front of me.


More conversation - and icons - a'comin' . Here's a little appetizer:  
  

[Now that you've had a taste come on in for more...]



I'm confident of this because quality of the work is paramont to me. It has to be. I've had occasion to be a judge or on selection committees since college for written publications, fandom awards, and independent film festivals, going back a couple of decades to college. I had to learn and am still learning to walk that tightrope of constructive criticism that is fair and impartial but doesn't lose sight of the fact that there is another person waiting anxiously for feedback.

That doesn't mean I get it right all the time, or even most of the time, but it's something I keep sight of pretty fiercely. When I've been a fiction judge or a beta, I may LOVE an author. They may be my dearest friend in the world - in fact, I've been Muse (beta) for several of my best friend's novels and at least one book of poetry for several years - or at any rate someone I trust, respect, treasure.

The fact of my feelings for them has to yet to win anyone a first place or even a runner-up award. Even when it comes to nominations, I'm not going to throw a name out there if I don't believe the work has sufficient merit.


And I expect the same in return because I trust the folks on my f'list to have enough taste, discernment, and intellegence to vote for the work, not for me. I trust that they are bringing all of their talents, experiences and hard-earned skills in art in any medium to bear when they push the button. In fact I'd be horrified if I won an award for crap just because it got the most votes and I feel certain anyone reading this would as well.

Now does that mean I'll haul off afterwards and say "I didn't vote for your work, sorry, I liked this other one better"? HELL NO. Not unless asked specifically ask me. Which nobody does, btw. Not even me. I am more apt to wonder why  the hell you voted for me when so and so's work was so much better. Which is, in essence a slur on your tastes and criteria because they are different than mine. See how tricky that can get? When in doubt, shut my mouth.

Just to be clear, this is NOT a manifesto to the hard-working fandom icontest mods "Change your rules!"  Goodness, no. Your comm - your rules. Period and end of sentence. As long as I participate in icontests I will abide by those rules. I like the challenge, surprising myself; I like getting the juices flowing, I like the focus that prompts provide and I love seeing what other people come up with. And I'd be a liar if I said I don't enjoy winning now and then because I do. I like it, my ego likes it, my tender little heart likes it.  Who doesn't? But I can't let any concern about being recognized or winning/not winning because of that inform my artistic choices. The fact that I've recently been introduced to four new online editing sites gives me a much wider sandbox to play in; but at the end of the day there are still certain choices or stylistic qualities that are recognizable signatures

The bottom line here is, I love you all, I cherish you my darling f'list, but when it comes to having to vote in contests I am ALL ABOUT THE WORK. Period. Whether there's a name attached to it or not.

Now that you've made it this far (no fair cheating and jumping all the way to the end, 'kay?), let's have some tea and cake more icons just for fun!


Why yes, I FINALLY made some icons of VampWillow (excluding my "Lesbian Vampire Seal of Approval Icon, of course). I know it's an iconic image but somethings are iconic for a reason., It's a great shot and I had to start somewhere, right? Also I have been trying to keep the wonderful Willow fans on my f'list in mind. You're welcome. All made entirely or principally in Photobucket unless specified. 1-5 are by reverse order of creation.

1) 2) 3) 4) 5)


6) 7)   8)

I was using #6 for a while as my primary Willow icon but traded it in for one by spikesredqueen. I still like it - no fancy effects except what was already onscreen plus increased saturation and brightness - but the resolution leaves something to be desired.  #8 was another possible entry for the recent slayerstillness prompt (negative space) that I missed.


9) 10) 11) 12)

#9 is actually about a year old, another one I have mixed feelings about. LOVE the Buffy hairporn, the quality of a pencil drawing rather than photograph but again, there's the clarity issue. I tried that one again and couldn't get anything better in PB; the cap is just a tad too dark for my liking.

The "steal" from Never Leave Me in #12 is definitely deliberate. And it's not intended a a shipping statement on my part but anyone who ships the two of them is more than welcome to snag it for their own nefarious purposes. Willow's life changed forever when Buffy "took notice" of her. (Consider icons #1-5 "Exhibit A".)

Oh, interesting thoughts! :D I read somewhere that anonymity is secrecy in public and I always thought of it (and of Internet nicknames and such) as a kind of protective mantel but it sure has its drawbacks. *nods* Still the purpose of those icon challenges is definitely doing the best work you can, not the most unrecognizable one. If people guess that's their business.
I read somewhere that anonymity is secrecy in public and I always thought of it (and of Internet nicknames and such) as a kind of protective mantel but it sure has its drawbacks.

It's definitely the proverbial "double-edged sword"!
Actually I don't know why the icons have to be anonymous. As you point out the fanfics aren't. (Also I don't do icons so I don't eeven insights in the communities who share icons)

I also try to fairly judge artworks. I can recognize some authors - ahem - from their style and I like that: it means that every author has some kind of signature and that art isn't anonymous at all. But I try to be fair because I know what it means to create a fanwork, you spend time and try to do your best and it's something that you do for free and pleasure, sure, but that doesn't not diminish the quality. So every ficwriter/fanartist etc. should be rewarded when their work is good. If you enjoy the art than tell that to the artist, that's my philosophy.
So every ficwriter/fanartist etc. should be rewarded when their work is good. If you enjoy the art than tell that to the artist, that's my philosophy.

One of the frustrations is not knowing who did what (most times I don't) and therefore not being able to tell someone when I like their work - or if I want to snag something for myself. So I have to ask the moderator unless the submission threads are opened.
I do wonder about the vastly different rules in icon contests vs. fic... hmmm

As to voting and nominating - I am right on board with you. I might love someone to pieces, but if I like another story better than theirs...


Gabrielle
I do wonder about the vastly different rules in icon contests vs. fic... hmmm

I suppose I could have posed the question to dragonydreams and starry_night directly...*ponders*

As to voting and nominating - I am right on board with you.

When I was writing this I kept remembering a conversation we had not too long ago, in the context of fic and you said (loosely paraphrased) that the work comes first - always.

I don't think having the names out there in icon contests would make much if any difference in the results, do you?

Edited at 2014-05-04 01:45 am (UTC)
No, I don't think it would matter at all.

I would wait before talking to dragonydreams though - today one of our dearest fandom friends passed away. You probably have never heard of emeraldswan but she was a vibrant part of Willow fandom and we're all still reeling.


Gabrielle
I saw dragony's post about emerald last night and left a brief comment - what does one say to someone you barely knew about a friend of theirs you never knew except "I'm sorry"? I had never heard of her before last night but I cannot imagine the pain and shock everyone who loved her must be feeling right now.

My condolences to her family and to you as well, dear.

I like these icons! I really like the Buffy/Willow hug #9, the pastel colors are lovely! Also the cap used for Willow with her eyes shut is a rare one, I don't think I've seen one like that before and I love the different variations you used but my favorite is the first one.

Also, I am with you on voting. I vote for the work not who did it whether it's fanfic or art, etc.
Oh thank you! The colors of #9 is probably the thing I'm happiest about, I just wish the clarity were better esp Willow's face.

the cap used for Willow with her eyes shut is a rare one,

Is it? I have to admit that I don't remember if that's DW in The Wish or Dopplegangland.

my favorite is the first one.

Mine too! Although #4 comes a close second, the b/w one. (I have a fondness for really saturated colors and that includes rich, dark blacks.)
I can sometimes guess who the artist is in some challenges. Especially the artist who have a distinctive style, but there are still sometimes that I'm completely surprised. Do I let the fact that I might know the artist color who I vote for? Absolutely not!!! I judge the icons on several factors; 1.) Quality... are they well made, with no noticeable flaws. 2.) Coloring 3.) Cropping and 4.) My personal taste.....this usually means the icon I can't keep my eyes off. Who made the icon has nothing to do with my vote.
1.) Quality... are they well made, with no noticeable flaws

That puts me out of the running. *lol* Srsly I just voted at the current OWL challenge and all I could see in mine were the flaws that I managed to NOT notice before. UGH

My personal taste.....this usually means the icon I can't keep my eyes off.

Oh yeah, it's those "intangibles" that's a combination of the technical qualities you mentioned, plus emotional impact, or that indefinable "It" factor. Mood and emotional impact are very important to me - does the icon "tell a story"? I often find that there will be one or two that just POP when I look at the entries.

When I look at icons from other fandoms that I'm not familiar with I wonder if I'm "missing" something re: emotional context/impact?

Most time I can't keep my eyes off of an icon it is because of all those thing both you and I mentioned but for me it is also color. I love a pretty colored icon.
I love a pretty colored icon.

Both of our default icons being very good examples of that - my eye makes a beeline whenever I see yours. (i have no idea how valyssia made the one I snagged; I wish I had that skill.)

So things I love in icons: strong use of color. It can be rich jewel jewel tones or pastels (but not drab or washed out), or monochromatic but with strong and dramatic contrast of light and dark. Achieving balance and symmetry via asymetrical compositions. Facial expressions tend to be very important to me in icons. Use of unusual or under-used shots. Fonts and text that work with rather than against the image - unless subversion of the image is the point - and color-coordinated font colors.

I like textures and effects but not when they're used for their own sake. Vintage effects used with subtlety

And yeah, prettiness. Pretty female faces especially. At heart, I'm kind of shallow.
I don't think there's anything wrong with having a recognizable style - I mean, that's something artists strive for!
I don't think there's anything wrong with having a recognizable style

Which - duh, right? Even if you don't consciously strive for it - if you're imitating someone else, as a visual artist or a writer, your style will emerge.

But we also prize the concept of "originality" very very highly in modern art (ie since the Renaissance and esp since the emergence of 20th century modernism). Never mind that no one creates in a vacuum and we all get it from somewhere else.
So I can get it on one level - it's fanart, we're working with copyrighted imagery (so not entirely original), and it's done for free (fair use but still a somewhat illegitimate air) aka it doesn't "count" as real. It's "kids stuff" blah blah.

But all of that is true of fanfiction as well. The question my post was implying and maybe I should have stated outright was "Why do we approach/treat the two differently even within fandom?" (We say "icon dump" but never "drabble dump" for instance.)

Or I could've, you know, ask the nice, hard working admins of the icontest comms. That would have been an idea *ponders*
who makes beautiful icons the way I make breakfast for my sweetie - that is to say, on a regular basis

Awwww! Seriously, tears. Heh.

Also, I think you ought to make more Willow icons . . . not because she's one of my favorite characters in the history of fiction, but because YOUR WILLOW ICONS ARE GORGEOUS.

YOUR WILLOW ICONS ARE GORGEOUS.

Oh my goodness, thank you! Coming from one of my favorite Willow fans (and artistic Muse) that really is quite a complimentI

I also have some W/T ones I've been squirreling away for "the right time" that no one has seen yet.

I have to admit, I made the VW ones a couple of weeks after the Slayerstillness round "love song for a vampire"; I didn't enter it because I 'wasn't inspired by vampires'. Then I made these and thought damn, I could have killed - pun completely intended. But Aly is just so striking as VW and whoever was responsible for her look and for the camerawork made extra sure of that; so really it's just me being all "gay now".
Your icons look lovely, hun!

Also, I'd like to say that I agree with you. I do love all my friends, but that doesn't mean I will vote for them because they are my friends. I will vote for them based on whether or not their story is most awesome. :D
Thanks muchly sweetie! You're one of the "Willow fans" I had in mind when I posted these, so your seal of approval is reassuring.

I will vote for them based on whether or not their story is most awesome. :D

Otherwise we'd never cast votes for fabulous stories because we don't know the author. (like, I don't know eurydice72, and "A Stone's throw from yesterday" was one of the most memorable stories I read last year.)

Of course there's still having to deal with feeling guilty or rather awkward afterwards if we didn't vote for a friend's piece. It's not the guilt it's the embarrassment that's the worst. *lol*
I really like your VampWillow icons, especially #2 and 4 for the great colouring and contrast respectively! And LOVE #9 - 10! <3
especially #2 and 4 for the great colouring and contrast respectively! And LOVE #9 - 10! <3

Thank you! Those are my favorites too; I also like #6 (Willow in Bargaining with a ball of light energy in her hand) and used it as one of my pics for a while then swapped it for one of spikesredqueen Willow icons; but I may bring it back again.

#10 is super-simple: a crop of a PR pic of Sarah and Aly during Fear Itself; probably brightened and sharpened and that's it. Sometimes simplest really is best!
Sometimes simplest really is best!

Indeed, when the base image is excellent quality you only need to focus on cropping. :D

#10 is a perfect example of happiness and fun times. <3
when the base image is excellent quality you only need to focus on cropping.

Exactly. I was saying something similar to Spikesredqueen about her wonderful fanvids from 10 years ago that she's posting on her journal; that when you get the right shots and can match the edits to the music and build a story you don't need fancy effects.

It's too easy to fall back on effects as a crutch; when I'm not satisfied with a batch of icons i'm making that is often what happened.

#10 is a perfect example of happiness and fun times.

I do have more "fun" icons than I let on. I need to let those out to play.

Edited at 2014-05-14 06:15 pm (UTC)
It's too easy to fall back on effects as a crutch; when I'm not satisfied with a batch of icons i'm making that is often what happened.

Ditto, no matter the amount of fancy effects if it doesn't work right from the start. :)

I do have more "fun" icons than I let on. I need to let those out to play.

Please do, I'm all for more fun!!!!!
no matter the amount of fancy effects if it doesn't work right from the start. :)

I don't know about you but my energy level has a lot to do with it as well; I can go for hours playing with images and having a ball and then there comes a point where I know I'm crashing because I'm trying too hard, or piling one effect on top of another and making a mess of it.

Please do, I'm all for more fun!!!!!

Well "snarky" is probably the more accurate term. I think you are going to like some of my snarky Riley icons very much. :)