Saturday, October 1, 2011

Don't drift - paddle!

There is some interesting discussion out there in blogworld about the “new” route to success in this business, part of which concerns the apparent shift away from the requirement that an art licensing artist has well developed drawing skills. Not very many years ago there was zero chance for success without those skills, but the continuing refinement of design software has opened up the field to some of those who did not spend their childhood sleeping with crayons under their pillow. This is not to say that the design standards are necessarily lower, or that average work will get you licensed - actually quite the contrary - but there are more ways to get there. It is now possible to express artistic talent through software, and like any sea change this has its share of detractors, and some are declaring it invalid.

Go read this interesting take on it from the UK’s Blue Strawberry here, and then come back…

Not too sure about their Real Artist conclusion but I love the idea of “product drift” in design software, though I would be inclined to call it a user access shift but let’s just run with the first tag.  Drift concepts have application in a variety of disciplines, one of the more familiar is language study (linguistic drift), where it relates to how a language can retain a basic format but exhibit certain significant variations, or drift, in various geographic areas. You writers should be familiar with that. Probably more applicable for us is the enormous category of “concept drift” which is the domain of mathematicians, computer scientists, statisticians, and other areas of study we really don’t want to fully understand. It deals with the inevitable effects of a dynamic datastream on a predicted target variable – in short what you thought you knew (the target outcome) actually changes as you collect new data, therefore the model you are using to predict that outcome needs to adapt constantly to reflect the new information and accurately predict a new outcome. (I know you theoretical math people are choking on that, but it’s the best I can manage in one sentence… and hey, we’re talking art licensing here…)

Machines and software find this almost impossible to do, because it requires them to “learn”, however our brain should be able to accomplish the task – if only we will let it. If you have been in this business for a while, don’t give up your advantage by struggling against the drift. This is a product driven business, and it is not so much about how you get there as where you end up - best to save the art snobbery for the galleries. If you need to change your way of thinking and working (your model) to get that product on the market (your target outcome) then you should take a deep breath and adapt. You can consider it a difficult time or an exciting time for Art Licensing – the choice is yours to make.

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