Sunday, October 6, 2013

The End of an Era: the exit interview

Given that we've had the finale time capsule gallery, both myself and Peter thought we'd share a couple last thoughts about the site before we pseudo retire from blogging (for the time being).

We went with the terribly unoriginal format of 10 interview questions. We would have loved to come up with something a bit more creative, but time is not a teacher's friend in September... As we are both teachers that was that.

So I give you our exit interview...

ART Evolved's founders Peter Bond and Craig Dylke way back in the year 2004...

1. Why are we stepping back from AE?

ART Evolved simply deserves more time invested in it than either Craig or myself can commit.  Growth is inevitable and both of us have evolved into full time teachers - lesson planning and marking instead of updating galleries and writing ARTicles!  There is just no room for ART Evolved right now.
With these new time commitments, I found it harder and harder to dedicate the time to develop my art.  Even the creation of a sketch for an upcoming gallery became a chore.  Without the time to immerse myself into the wonderful palaeoart blogshere – reading, commenting, discussing – I began to feel disconnected.  I stopped blogging in September 2011, and really only participated in the AE galleries after that.  It stopped being fun.

While there are multiple reasons, they all combine into a lack of time for what this site needs or deserves. When both myself and Peter started this site we were young freelance substitute teachers, with oodles of energy and time at our disposal. As we both made the upgrade to proper permanent teachers, the energy and time dried up.

Personally I’ve also found that my own real attachment to the site (and its galleries in particular) has diminished too. In the early days I was still working on my artistic skills in 3D software, and the regular dead lines of the galleries gave me a challenge to strive and push myself towards. As I’ve matured as an artist (in no small part thanks to the encouragement, feedback, and support of Glendon, Matt, David M, Bond, Trish, Sean, and Albertonychus to name some I owe an artistic debut to but NOT all, sorry if you’re not mentioned), I’ve found that these deadlines are no longer motivating me the way they once did.

2. Why did we start ART Evolved?

It is just a funny thing how these “great” ideas begin. It all began with a drawing of Centrosaurus by  Manabu Sakamoto. Myself and Zach Millar while commenting/discussing with Manabu all said it would be cool to set up a fun Ceratopsian drawing challenge amongst the three of us. The rather successful palaeo-art Boneyard had been held at The Flying Trilobite not too long before this discussion, and it got my brain thinking. There were a lot feeling that palaeo-art was a rampant but under represented aspect of the palaeo online community at that time. I thought why not expand this Ceratopsian drawing challenge into something bigger, and so I enlisted my usual partner in crime Peter Bond to help me out.

ART Evolved started its conceptual life under various other names (I recall me and Bond spent a good 3-4 hour Skype conversation working on the name… sadly none of the old names survive, not that they were any good :P) originally envisioned to be a travelling blog carnival. However in looking at the hit and miss nature of the Boneyard at that time (it has since gone extinct not once but twice after a brief resurrection), we started to think a more permanent base of operations for these palaeo-art galleries would be a better idea. So the blog ART Evolved was created!

ART Evolved evolved (ha!) from a concept Craig had to build upon the Boneyard Festivals (monthly online roundups of all things palaeo).  Craig and I began blogging in 2006, sharing art and making friends with talented artist/bloggers (Glendon, Zach, Mo, Sean, Brian, David(s), Darren, Manabu, Mark, Scott, Raven, Trish, Dinorider, Emily, Nima, Blacknick, Angie, Jenn, Rachelle, just to name many – sorry if not mentioned!)  What a wonderful world!

By mid-2009, we realized is that there really wasn’t one place online where amateur and professional palaeoartists could come together and share their work, ideas and techniques.  We wanted to create such a site!  I remember spending hours on the phone with Craig discussing this new blog/carnival/site idea, trying to come up with a meaningful name.  After going through tons of ideas (none of which we can recall!), we chose ART Evolved: Life’s Time Capsule.  With invitations to many of the above artists, we launched AE with the Ceratopsian Gallery!

3. What kept you coming back to the site/project of AE every month?

We tried hard to create a real community feeling, and what I loved most about the site was the discussions that grew out of the community commenting on posts.  Personally, I also loved the concept of the monthly galleries, and seeing many artists’ different interpretations of a single subject was thrilling!

For me it was a twofold appeal. The first was I had a new artistic goal/challenge every two to three months, and you can see my art really develop and improve for the most part over the 4 year run of the site. The second was the interaction and discussions I’d have with other artists. For myself the gold age of AE was the live blogging art in progress period, we enjoyed in the middle of the site’s existence.

4. Describe highlights of your AE experience.

Pink Dinosaurs was a very special and epic achievement for myself and Bond, ART Evolved itself, the online palaeo-art community, and even just Dino lovers everywhere. We had such a tremendous response to this event, and we raised a little bit of money to boot! Thinking back on this project still brings a smile to my face.

Becoming a Blog of note relatively early in the site’s existence was an awesome achievement, and speaks to the quality of all our contributors.

Finally being featured in Earth magazine was another early highlight of AE’s run.

The number one highlight for me was the Pink Dinosaur campaign in 2010.  Over 60 artists submitted 250 drawing of pink dinosaurs, raising $500 for cancer research.  I was so proud of the palaeocommunity for jumping onboard with the cause and making the campaign work!

Rallying the AE community to defend one of our own from an evil Art Thief on DeviantArt was incredibly satisfying!  We were really a force for good.

Craig and I had always hoped that ART Evolved would become well-known, so I am also proud of our featured article in Earth Magazine and being listed on Blogger’s Blogs of Note.

5. What was your favorite piece of art you submitted?

One of my favorite submitted pieces of art is Archaeopteryx Pair in the Featured Dinosaur Gallery.  I’m proud of my Burgess Shale and Arambourgiania Family Unit pieces too.

As I’m typically not happy with my older work, I have to say Karoo Sunset was an early achievement in my AE art era. Beyond that I was quite happy with the marine pieces I did for the Dan Varner tribute. 

6. What was your favorite gallery?

 I was a big fan of the palaeo-environment galleries as they let people do almost anything they wanted, and still be in the theme. 

I love the Pterosaur, Ceratopsian, Feathured Dinos, and Sauropod galleries.

 7. What did you feel was left unaccomplished?

Involvement from more and more contributors, both amateur and professional, plateaued about halfway through ART Evolved’s four year run.  I would have loved to see the site expand bigger than it is.

I had always hoped we would get more things written on the site by authors/artists than just Bond and myself. Now we certainly did have many members post the odd thing here and there (especially during the Gregory Paul incident), but I’d always hoped it would be a hub site that people would post about work on their own sites, and thus link everyone to both the group and individual’s work.

I also wish I’d figured out a way to get more researchers involved, and have actual scientific input into the mass palaeo-art process. I completely understand that scientists have incredibly full plates, and that this was a mad man’s dream. However I dare to dream, oh yes I love to dare to dream :P

8. Where do you see your art evolving in the future?

Personally I’ve been finding I’m drifting into working for the board gaming industry. I do hope to return to palaeo-art one day, but at the moment the ability to make some income from my art has allured me away from my palaeo-art obsession (I also probably burnt myself out on it, having been doing palaeo-art almost exclusively since 2006). 

I see myself focusing more on technique and colour theory as I try to improve in painting.  I look forward to doing plein-air painting and experimenting in oils.  Somehow, I need to find a better balance between work and art.

9. What do you think of the online PaleoArtCommunity in general?  How it has evolved?

The community is amazing and wonderful, generous and inspiring.  I relish any chance of meeting face-to-face (Glendon in Toronto, Mo in London, Craig in Vancouver)!

There seems to be a definite move towards facebook and DeviantArt, and away from traditional blogging.  I see it in myself as I slowed down, and finally stopped, blogging.  There is more and more amazing art online, and protecting the rights of the artist (as Craig writes) is the new battleground.

I love it. I’m glad that for a brief few years to have been at the forefront of the movement. In the last couple of years I’ve noticed that the community has moved to various art focused websites rather than blogs, such as Deviantart. The only negative trend I’ve noticed, is due to the low demand for official palaeo-art, there is a very high edge of competition between the ever growing pool of artists out there. I don’t feel this if the fault of the artists, but more reflecting on the sad trend in society to demand more art than ever but disregard/undervalue  artists’ efforts to make it.

10. What are your parting words?  How do you feel after ending the galleries?

Thank you for real fun run everyone! This site has played such an instrumental role in helping me hone and develop my own art. I hope others benefitted from the fun and interactive pool of artists as much as I did.
A part of me feels rather sad that this era has come to an end, but yet it feels like the right time to bring things to a close. I’m a fan of the concept end things on a high, and AE certainly has been one big art rush for 4 years. So on the one hand this is us saying goodbye to AE, in reality there is nothing stopping us or someone else from bringing the site back to life someday. We are not actually shutting down. It will be some business as usual here, just no galleries.

Who knows, if the demand builds back up, or me and/or Peter suddenly find we have the time to organize them, the galleries may yet return in the future.

Until that hypothetical day though, once again my thanks and well wishes to you all for creating this fantastic site! May your art reach back to eras long ago, and your futures be full of prehistory!

It is bittersweet to step back from ART Evolved.  While the run has been fantastic, it has felt more of a burden in the past few years.  Craig and I are super proud of the site and its many amazing contributors and I will miss the lively discussions on therapod lips and arm feather arrangements!  While the entire site isn’t shutting down, the galleries will be ending for now.  ART Evolved will remain online, but mostly dormant.

 It has been an amazing 4 years, and I want to thank everyone who contributed their art and themselves to ART Evolved!  Keep your passion of palaeoart alive and take that journey to the Past as often as you can!
So what should we make next, Craig? J

Craig and Peter in July of 2013