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Hapiel
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Quote Hapiel Replybullet Topic: What art should be allowed in the gallery?
    Posted: 21 November 2017 at 9:50am
Hey guys,

In an ideal world... What artwork should be allowed in the PJ gallery, and how should we decide if something is in or out?

What do you think of no tools pure pixel art? Rough works and oekaki? Semi transparency, index paintings, sprite rotations etc.

What should the quality standard be like, and how do we decide if something is good enough or not?

Feel free to ask questions, post examples, share your frustrations and ideals.

This discussion will help us decide what kinds of artwork the gallery will feature in the future.
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Quote eishiya Replybullet Posted: 21 November 2017 at 11:11am
I go to the PJ gallery to look at polished, finished artwork. I don't mind work with gradients, transparency effects, etc in general, but I prefer not to see it here, unless I can filter it out. I definitely don't want to see any sort of rough or oekaki work here because that's 100% NOT what I come here for, but if there's filtering...

I think a little bit of noise and jaggies is alright if most of the submission is clean and polished, but if just about every shape is jagged and there's noise everywhere, then I feel like that's just an unfinished artwork at best, and doesn't belong here. I don't think it's unreasonable to limit the gallery to polished work. There's no shortage of outlets for WIPs and rough work (including the PJ WIP forum!), the PJ gallery doesn't need to be another one.


This is probably not possible given how PJ's codebase seems to be, but what I'd love to see are these features:

1. The ability to tag works with things like "gradients", "semi-transparency effects", etc and perhaps other, less controversial things, like "nudity", "sprite", "mock-up", "illustration", "wide pixels", tags for specific palettes (C64, DB32, NES, etc), etc and to allow users to auto-hide works with tags they dislike from being displayed in searches and on the front page (challenge-related stuff notwithstanding), as well as browse by these tags. Some of them could be fixed tags that users can check at upload time, some could be free-form tags that people can optionally enter in a text box. This would make browsing PJ a lot more pleasant, and it would allow the site to be inclusive of more kinds of pixel art without it being a bother to people more interested in a more specific kind of pixel art.

2. Automatic colour counting, along with the ability to filter/search by colour count (or better yet, colour count ranges). This could be as simple as automatically populating the colour count field client-side with some JS that analyses the image once it's selected, and the user could still change it if they want. Most people don't include the colour count just because they don't feel like checking or don't have an easy way to, and this is a fairly trivial task for a computer, at least with smaller images. With indexed GIFs and PNGs, it would even be quick for larger images. To avoid lag, this feature could only engage for images under a certain size, and perhaps only for non-animated images. When a user has both a preview image and a full-size image, the higher colour count of the two should be used.
It could also be done server-side, perhaps as a queued-up script that runs during dead hours, analysing submissions flagged as "not yet checked", i.e. submissions that were added or had their images edited since the last time the script ran.

3. The ability to upload a "pure" version of an artwork along with a "dirty" version, and for viewers to easily toggle between the two, which would be great for people who want to show off both the "raw" art and how they look in their project with all the bells and whistles. Alternatively, if there's tagging, just make it allowed to upload two versions of the same work as separate pieces as long as the differences are in "purity" and the two submissions are tagged appropriately. If this feature sounds too specific, then maybe it could just be a feature to allow sharing two versions of a submission in one, with separate sets of tags for each version. For example, one version could be the mock-up or animation, the other version could be the tile and sprite sheet, as it seems like a lot of people like to share both.


All of these basically amount to "make it easier for people to see what they want, and not see what they don't want." Without that, I'd like to see PJ remain* strictly for "pure", polished, finished pixel art, simply because that's a category of art I'm sometimes in the mood for, and PJ is the only place I can go to get that.

* I say "remain", but I guess I mean more of a return to the strictness of 3-4 years ago. Things have gotten a lot looser recently. And again, if I could filter it out when I'm not in the mood for it, I'd be more welcoming of it on PJ. The lack of a filtering ability is what makes me wish this place were stricter.
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Quote jeremy Replybullet Posted: 21 November 2017 at 9:50pm
I think we could be more lenient when it comes to submissions with NPA elements, but on a purely case by case basis rather than opening things right up.

Quoting myself from Pixelation on the same topic:


I feel comfortable with everything on the left broad definition side, less so with the right.

The spectrum shows highly controlled/intentional work in the 'pure' space, with less control as you go further out, but the two sides aren't all that equivalent, to me. I think the left is about lack of refinement, or 'finishedness'. Noise is a common signifier of sketchy work, but the attention to pixel-placement in cure's Incommunicado piece is obvious and far greater than much work that fits comfortably in the middle.

The right side is much blurrier, and ranges much more than the left. You often see work using partial transparency for water/glass/other elements here the pixel-perfection is maintained, but new (imo dull, ugly) colours are generated outside of the control of the artist. Another example is Fessler's squirrel mockup, where the gradient is clearly delineated from the pixel art. I'm pretty comfortable with both of these types, it's really about whether the automated bits are unobtrusive. Things get messier for me when elements like glows, gradients, and shadows are integrated more deeply. I'm not a fan of detailed pixel work being disrupted, you often get muddy colours and unwarranted attention drawn to higher-resolution, unnaturally smooth elements.

It really is a case-by-case basis thing for me. I'm willing to be way more accommodating when the artist clearly has great pixel chops and is exploring the boundaries of the medium, than I am with somebody slapping a gradient on something out of laziness.


In my view, the principle should be is there clear pixel-level control over this piece of art? In some cases in the past, we've rejected work that was 'dirty' in a really minor way, out of sheer bloody-mindedness dan fessler's squirrel mockup and paul robertson come to mind. We absolutely don't want to become DigitalpaintingJoint, but there's gotta be some grey.

For example, slapping a CG gradient on the flat background of this piece wouldn't affect the pixel-level detail at all. Does it look any better? IDK, but I don't think it's a big deal.


My argument comes down to "it's ok for competent pixel artists to push the boundaries", which is maybe kind of elitist??? I think you ought to have a good understanding of stuff like manual AA, cluster theory etc. before you branch out.

If we want this art form to evolve beyond (a fake idea of) the restrictions 80s video game artists needed to deal with, we need to be more open. I always go back to cure, cos he's got a rock-solid understanding of the fundamentals (he wrote PJ's guide!) and is therefore able to get away with pushing the boundaries. I think it's great!
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Quote Hapiel Replybullet Posted: 22 November 2017 at 6:11am
I think one of the major challenges is that we have different standards for different qualities of artwork.
If something is really great, but uses a gradient in the background, I couldn't care less. If something is bad and uses a gradient or semi transparent area, I would use this as an easy motivation to reject this. The same applies to rough/oekaki.
Ultimately that would mean that decisions remain very subjective. Would more user voting solve for what should be in and out in that case?

Is it fair to expect higher quality at the further ends of the PA definition scale?


As for tagging artworks:
I love search ability, and for this more tags is better. However, to make it practical to submitters, I think less is more. Would people be able to correctly select the "hybrid" or "rough" tags? Would people feel offended if we were to correct them on these?

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Quote MrHai Replybullet Posted: 22 November 2017 at 10:10am
I generally agree with eishiya. I think one of PJs greatest strengths is its limited scope. There are plenty other places online where you can submit and look at all sorts of other art - but if not for PJ, where could I go to look at "pure" pixel art? I've said this before, but to me PJ feels like more of a curated collection than a free-for-all gallery.

However, unless you allow everything there will always be edge cases, so manual review is essential. I agree with jeremy in that I think it should be ok to push and play with boundaries to some degree.
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Quote wasteboy Replybullet Posted: 22 November 2017 at 3:52pm
It is definitely important to push the boundaries of what is considered pixel art especially since there has never been a clearly defined line, however, having said that i don't think pj should be any more lenient than it already is, anything that breaks the "rules" should be kept separate but it would be nice to have alternative approaches featured in some way
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Quote skeddles Replybullet Posted: 24 November 2017 at 10:08am
What's the point of creating art within restrictions if you're just going to break the restrictions whenever you feel like it?


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Quote Zizka Replybullet Posted: 26 November 2017 at 4:00am
I agree with eishiya and Mr.Hai. If we strip PJ of its limited scope, then it wouldn't be PJ anymore but yet another art hosting website. I personally wouldn't accept the piece posted by jeremy with the gradient. If you start accepting one, you have to accept all of them then we'll get swamped with gradients.
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Quote cure Replybullet Posted: 26 November 2017 at 10:20am
Originally posted by skeddles

What's the point of creating art within restrictions if you're just going to break the restrictions whenever you feel like it?

Abiding by a set of artificial rules is less important than focusing on intentional pixel placement and making that the core of the work. If we're talking about NES or C64 games, yeah, it's silly to break the restrictions, because the restrictions are related to the hardware and essential. If you're doing an NES-style mockup, it's only necessary that you capture the spirit of the style by approximating the restrictions. The problem with this argument is that it relies upon a pre-existing and immutable set of restrictions that doesn't exist, there are varied and conflicting personal definitions of the term "pixel art."

Originally posted by Zizka

If you start accepting one, you have to accept all of them then we'll get swamped with gradients.

Only in the absence of any and all moderation. Personally I think the gradient enhances Jeremy's piece without detracting from the pixel-pushing in the slightest.

Originally posted by MrHai

unless you allow everything there will always be edge cases, so manual review is essential. I agree with jeremy in that I think it should be ok to push and play with boundaries to some degree.

I agree, in the end moderators must be allowed to use their own reasoning and discretion to decide what fits in the gallery and what misses the point entirely.

Originally posted by Hapiel

I think one of the major challenges is that we have different standards for different qualities of artwork.
If something is really great, but uses a gradient in the background, I couldn't care less. If something is bad and uses a gradient or semi transparent area, I would use this as an easy motivation to reject this. The same applies to rough/oekaki.
Ultimately that would mean that decisions remain very subjective. Would more user voting solve for what should be in and out in that case?

Is it fair to expect higher quality at the further ends of the PA definition scale?

Luckily we already have quality standards, so bad art should be sent back for revision either way. I see what you're saying though, and agree we tend to be more forgiving of "rule-breaking" if the artist is proficient in the craft. I don't think this is unfair, I think it takes a bit of proficiency to incorporate certain tools without overpowering the pixel-pushing. Newbies are more likely to use these tools as a crutch to compensate for a lack of pixel fundamentals.

Originally posted by eishiya

3. The ability to upload a "pure" version of an artwork along with a "dirty" version, and for viewers to easily toggle between the two, which would be great for people who want to show off both the "raw" art and how they look in their project with all the bells and whistles.

I like this idea too, a sensible compromise at least. An easy toggle would be much smoother than clicking outgoing links.

The tag/filter system I'm less interested in. I look around me and see a society whose news and opinions are filtered through an extreme partisan lens, so that two people using the same internet experience separate realities, and what's more, newsfeeds are becoming so individualized that we might soon be consuming news and media in our own personalized realities. So in general, I like the idea of people with different opinions occupying the same reality more than I like segmentation and bubbles.


And I agree with everything Jeremy posted, especially the nice things he said about me at the end



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Quote Hapiel Replybullet Posted: 28 November 2017 at 12:03am
I agree with you on all counts, cure!

But this moderation still remains a thing. How do we set (internal) guidelines on what "good enough quality" means, or what "effects not overpowering pixel-pushing" means?

Just a few days ago I received the following question in my inbox, after I rejected something with a semi transparent area:
" 1. Are pixel gradients not allowed even when being made by a tool in a pixel-specific software like Aseprite? Are they allowed when they are hand placed?


2. Same question as the previous one, but about semi transperancy, which in this case I don't really understand why it is forbiden if the semi transparent shape is hand drawn, what's the difference between picking a color with or without an alpha value?"

Neither seem to ever happen, hand placed gradients or hand place transparency looking areas. Still, I think it's about time our guidelines will be about the end result, not about the tools you've possibly used for it.

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Quote Irenaart Replybullet Posted: 29 November 2017 at 6:37am
There are no semi transparency and should not be in pixel graphics. Alpha is either 255 or 0. It is one of the fundamental rules of pixel graphics. One is work with semi-transparent layers that in the end you will merge with non transparent background; but leaving semi-transparent pixels in the final image has never been in the spirit of pixel art.
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Quote Beaker Replybullet Posted: 29 November 2017 at 2:40pm
I'm certainly in the minority opinion. I tend to favor more openness, since it allows more challenges to the established norm. Pixel art is much different now than what it was 15 years ago, and even more different than what it was like 25 years ago. Some of it is because of figuring out what works and what doesn't, but most is because of changing tastes in style, and even problems arising from that. Hardware changes like going from CRT to LED has changed pixel art a lot as well, and you can even see it in some people's gallaries on PJ.

In my case, I have a fondness for dos era, and while I would like to be able to figure out how to make something that feels like it could have come on a 3"1/2 floppy, I recognize that PJ not the place for making a tileset that could be mistaken as coming from the original XCOM, or heaven forbid, making a new location in The Oregon Trail Deluxe (to be fair it does look a bit better on a CRT).


Getting back to more practical matters. I can see the reason for the no semi-transparency rule, but I also know that it can be hypocritical as well. A lot (if not most) indie pixel art games will use semi-transparency for shadows underneath a character, and for shadows of other things. Sometimes that's done programmatically or as a separate shadow sprite, but sometimes not. For instance, if you wanted the shadow to be animated with the character's animation, it would be easiest to include it in the sprite itself, and to include the alpha there as well. At the end of the day, you can render the transparency against a fixed background to get around the alpha channel issue, but then it's also not being honest to what art you're actually making. I think keeping the no semi-transparency rule will be ok, and when someone comes along and refines and expands on the use of the alpha channel, that rule can change then.

In terms of actual suggestions, I don't know what the algorithm is for acceptance is in the public queue, but if it's not already, it should be baised towards good judges. So when a piece is accepted/rejected, those who rated it accordingly get their influence rating boosted, so the next time they rate yes/no, their vote is counts for a bit more.   Obviously the effect would have to be capped off and their influence rating would have to decay over time, but it's something that could improve/speed up the public queue if it's not already implemented.
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Quote Hapiel Replybullet Posted: 30 November 2017 at 2:19am
Summary of the results of part 1 of the survey

Thank you all for submitting to the PJ survey. There have been 133 responses in total!

Results of the first 3 questions:
1 means: Everything is welcome
5 means: Should be restricted (good quality only, pure pa only, properly presented only)


Average: 3.5



Average: 3.484848485



Average: 3.5


Any comments on the subject of the pixel art standard?
I've reduced the 44 answers to this question to this short list of wishes, with behind each the number of times this particular wish was expressed (as I interpreted it)

As long as the focus is on pixels, exceptions welcome! 8
No zoomed works 5
pixel art has changed (indie games) 4
PJ needs to be somehow newbie friendly 4
Two/three (pa/hybrid/wip) categories 4
PJ is special for purity/fear of change 3
PJ needs to welcome (almost) everything 3
PJ submission needs custom bg color controls 3
PJ needs consisency, not stricktness 2
Criteria should be individual effort and progress, not result. 2
Demoscene/index paintings should be more welcome 2

The gallery can be used for critique and thus for bad work 1
Quality standard in gallery should be higher 1
Tools are irrelevant, end result should matter! 1
Badly presented work should not be in gallery 1
NPA needs to change to HPA "hybrid pixel art" 1
Guidelines rather than rules 1
Exceptions should have full disclosure 1
No point in complaining about color counts when no dirty tools are used 1
No oekaki/sloppy work 1


Please discuss these results, how you interpret them, how you think PJ should move on now. I'll post my own thoughts in a few days.

.
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Quote DawnBringer Replybullet Posted: 30 November 2017 at 4:03am
[purist rant]

Without standards and restrictions PJ has no purpose. How about catering to the loyal veterans and those newcomers who are willing to do/learn good pixelart, rather than whoring out to the NPA masses of failing prospects. For what purpose? To gain more users? To achieve a reputation of "friendliness"? Get real, PJ is the curator of pixelart, not your safespace buttkisser.

Understand this, if nothing else: People who are unwilling or uncapable of learning good artistic and development basics, will almost without exception fail as artists and either be stuck in ignorance or soon abandon the trade. Translation: If PJ lowers it standards, it will be flooded by junk posted by noobs that will learn nothing and soon leave. Meanwhile it will only frustrate veterans and competent artists seeing their works and objects of interest obfuscated by a forest of trash.

I know there's a contingent at PJ who desires more laxity...and it's quite frustrating. There's zillions of sites out here where you can post and view anything you like! Why raze the last bastion of pixelart only to become one of those? And if you feel so home at PJ that you rather stay here than go somewhere else...ask yourself WHY you like it; maybe it's because it is good as it is, and not like those other places!?

And remember, there's always the forums: we can post and discuss all the hybrids and digital arts we want there. In fact, it could be useful with dedicated digital arts / game development etc. categories in the next version.

[/purist rant]

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Quote Irenaart Replybullet Posted: 30 November 2017 at 4:25am
@DawnBringer; 
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Quote yrizoud Replybullet Posted: 30 November 2017 at 5:39am
Originally posted by Irenaart

There are no semi transparency and should not be in pixel graphics. Alpha is either 255 or 0. It is one of the fundamental rules of pixel graphics. One is work with semi-transparent layers that in the end you will merge with non transparent background; but leaving semi-transparent pixels in the final image has never been in the spirit of pixel art.

I disagree because when you see rich antialias in a scene, you see parts where the author judged the edges too sharp, and he manually softened them. Thye same assessment and skills can be applied at edges of game sprites, using alpha channel of varying opacity. IMO it's very similar.
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Quote PixelDust Replybullet Posted: 30 November 2017 at 5:46am
The first thing I can deduce from the survey is that people seem to like the number 4 a lot which is a clear indication
the love for quality and pure pixels with the occasional side
hybrid pixel art
but it seems most of "intimate" PixelJoin'er don't want anything to do with NPA, me included

but NPA is a broad group of things some of which is completely fine as long as it is true to pixel art in its nature (Index painting, dither layering etc.) and on the other hand using filters, brushes, gradients out of a sense of laziness is a big no-no

as long as the color count of a piece falls below 33 I am completely happy I'd rather "look at bad pixel art than good art turned pixel art"
PixelJoint is perfect the way it is, it's hard for people to adapt to change so as long as that's what it gets build and improved upon every one will stay happy(well at least most will be)
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Quote MrHai Replybullet Posted: 30 November 2017 at 6:21am
I have to say, DawnBringers "rant" really rubs me the right way.

He also mentioned the forums, and I agree - the forums are the perfect place to keep one's own sketchbook, ask for feedback, experiment. We don't need a "WIP" or "NPA" section in the gallery when we have the forums.

I'd love for the forums to be promoted more on the main site. I actually think my biggest wish for PJv4 is for the site and forums to be better integrated. Things like displaying active forum threads near the chatterbox (maybe optional), clicking on a persons name in the forums bringing you to their gallery profile, etc. I realize forum software is a different beast than the site, but hey, in an ideal world...
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Quote Zizka Replybullet Posted: 30 November 2017 at 8:08am
Without standards and restrictions PJ has no purpose. How about catering to the loyal veterans and those newcomers who are willing to do/learn good pixelart, rather than whoring out to the NPA masses of failing prospects. For what purpose? To gain more users? To achieve a reputation of "friendliness"? Get real, PJ is the curator of pixelart, not your safespace buttkisser.


I couldn't agree more.

Meanwhile it will only frustrate veterans and competent artists seeing their works and objects of interest obfuscated by a forest of trash.


Totally.

There's zillions of sites out here where you can post and view anything you like! Why raze the last bastion of pixelart only to become one of those?


Exactly.

I'm personally relieved that most members tend towards the 4-5 side of the spectrum which confirms that the community wants to stick to a purist approach to Pixel Art.

All in all, DawnBringer said it all. What's even better, is that, generally speaking, the community tends to side with his stance which is certainly reassuring as PJ isn't going to turn into DeviantArt anytime soon.
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Quote Hapiel Replybullet Posted: 30 November 2017 at 8:31am
@zizka, I'd like to remind you that 44% of voters did not vote for 4 or 5 on the purity scale, 56% is only a small majority. The average is 3.5 and the most common feedback expressed in the survey comments is to be open to some degree of hybrid art.
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Quote MrHai Replybullet Posted: 30 November 2017 at 8:59am
Well, how do you interpret '3'? Only ~21% voted 1 and 2. The median is 4 (which is where I feel we're at right now).
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Quote Zizka Replybullet Posted: 30 November 2017 at 1:21pm
Well, to say "most" for a 56% result would be pretty accurate I think.

The median is 4 (which is where I feel we're at right now).


Well, if we are indeed at 4 now and the average is 3.5, it means we're pretty spot on with the way things are right now, generally speaking.

Regarding the "3", I think it might be why some surveys only have sort of two general positions with a clear divide sort of like: [1: strong disagreement 2: Disagreement] & [3: Agreement 4: Strong agreement].

Having a 3 there (in the original quiz) sort of muddles things up as it doesn't help with the actual decision making based on the poll (or doesn't help much). If you need to make a decision between A or B, being told "A or B is equally is fine" doesn't help in making the actual decision. Unless I am misunderstanding which is certainly possible.
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Quote JerryPie Replybullet Posted: 30 November 2017 at 10:42pm
I'm curious what most people considered hybrid pixel art in this survey. A few different examples:

1. Artificial programmed lighting or gradients would be one version. (seen in almost every pixel art indie game.. Unity/Game Maker lighting fx)

2. Dan Flesser's index painting in something like chasm. (totally achievable in mspaint, but the creator admits to using extra tools that may not be generally acceptable here at PJ)

3. etc.
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Quote Zizka Replybullet Posted: 01 December 2017 at 3:17am
(seen in almost every pixel art indie game.. Unity/Game Maker lighting fx)


I don't think that's a reference. Making a game is whole different story (costs, deadlines) than making art for a gallery.
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Quote JerryPie Replybullet Posted: 01 December 2017 at 11:20am
Originally posted by Zizka

I don't think that's a reference. Making a game is whole different story (costs, deadlines) than making art for a gallery.


Not really sure what you mean. I was just asking what most of the people on the poll consider "hybrid". Jeremy mentioned gradients above, and others have discussed index painting.

Although the poll is over, it would be interesting to see where people stand more specifically on these things.

- Personally I think index painting is fairly legitimate, because the areas that really count still need to be hand done for the most part. It still requires you to have a good understanding of what looks good.

- Gradients (in the case presented by Jeremy) don't bother me a whole lot either. But IMO it's straying away from pixel art more than index painting. As far as my personal taste, I'm only concerned with the finished product being true to pixel art, not how you got there.

- But gradients & artificial lighting such as this: http://pixeljoint.com/files/icons/full/carbonvalley_rain.png do bother me. When I mentioned programmed things, I was meaning screen captures like this:
https://i.imgur.com/ar8Mmzi.gifv
(Possibly programmed animation, forgive me if not)
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Quote cure Replybullet Posted: 01 December 2017 at 1:29pm
Originally posted by DawnBringer


Without standards and restrictions PJ has no purpose.

I don't think anyone is advocating we remove all standards.

Originally posted by DawnBringer


rather than whoring out to the NPA masses of failing prospects. For what purpose? To gain more users? To achieve a reputation of "friendliness"? Get real, PJ is the curator of pixelart, not your safespace buttkisser.

PJ is a gallery, not the curator. There is no curator, just as there is no curator for the entirety of oil painting. There is just a community of pixel artists that extends beyond this site. As for "NPA", no one wants Non Pixel Art on this site, just a less letter-of-the-law interpretation of "pixel art."

Originally posted by DawnBringer

If PJ lowers it standards, it will be flooded by junk posted by noobs that will learn nothing and soon leave. Meanwhile it will only frustrate veterans and competent artists seeing their works and objects of interest obfuscated by a forest of trash.

Which is why it's important to maintain quality standards.

Originally posted by DawnBringer

I know there's a contingent at PJ who desires more laxity...and it's quite frustrating. There's zillions of sites out here where you can post and view anything you like! Why raze the last bastion of pixelart only to become one of those?

No one is asking for traditional art or other forms of digital art to be admitted, just less stiffness with works that occupy the inevitable gray area on the borders of pixel purism.
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Quote Adarias Replybullet Posted: 01 December 2017 at 2:29pm
I find it interesting that people are so quick to conflate technical restriction with quality.  I have never noticed any relationship whatsoever between color count and artistic ability.  PJ has been filled with submissions of dubious merit since the earliest days, and the vast majority of these haven't broken any particular rule.  The best pieces have also always risen to the top.

It seems to me that excluding high-quality pieces made very much in the spirit of pixel art because of a gradient fill or a few semi-transparent pixels is counterproductive insofar as it excludes the majority of contemporary game art and animation, which has always represented a large portion of the pixel art community.

Obviously I'm not interested in letting in garbage, or works that have nothing to do with pixel art.  Tools used lazily and without consideration for pixel-level technique should be sent back, sure, for the same reason that opaque pixels used lazily should be sent back too.  Surely if we can tell the difference between Fool's art and some absurd scribblings, we can tell the difference between transparency being used to enhance an otherwise tightly-pixelled piece, and transparency being used for lack of skill or dedication.

With regard to indexed painting, I generally would think of it as being against the spirit if it starts and ends there, but many such pieces are heavily hand-tooled.  There are so few capable artists still working with these techniques that I wouldn't worry about the site fundamentally changing were they allowed in.
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Quote JerryPie Replybullet Posted: 01 December 2017 at 4:18pm
Originally posted by Adarias

With regard to indexed painting, I generally would think of it as being against the spirit if it starts and ends there, but many such pieces are heavily hand-tooled. There are so few capable artists still working with these techniques that I wouldn't worry about the site fundamentally changing were they allowed in.



I agree with you. It's not necessarily the purist form of pixel art, but I'm in the camp that "the end result is what matters".

Take this AMAZING work from Elk:
http://pixeljoint.com/files/icons/full/elk_dragon_final.png


A few people in the comments were suspicious of the sky.

(I'm not accusing Elk of index painting, this was just the best example I could find of outstanding pixel craftsmanship where some may have questioned the process.)

If a piece like this was ever turned away from PJ, I would be very upset. Index painting is only as useful as the artist is talented.
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Quote neota Replybullet Posted: 01 December 2017 at 5:04pm
I think Pixeljoint has a focus that is at least in part academic; an interest in what the theoretically optimal ways to make and think about pixel art are. That is in large part what might be endangered or obfuscated by ill-considered acceptance of hybrid works.

I don't mean to imply that hybrid works are per se unacceptable; I think to ignore index painting is similar to only using a pencil and refusing to pick up a brush -- it's a choice that expresses certain values, not an unconditional bad or good. (Although if you have NEVER picked up a brush / NEVER indexpainted, it would be by definition an uninformed choice)

Rather, scope creep is an inevitable danger, so I believe the definition of 'acceptable hybrid works' would need to be nailed down very hard, if the consensus came to be that we should have them.

It seems reasonably obvious to me that such a definition cannot be made in terms of tools, only in terms of result. So on that, I agree with JerryPie. This should not be construed as a statement that tools are irrelevant, just that it is generally impossible to use them as a standard given that what you see is just the result.

Regarding the list of specific statements, I think "PJ needs consistency, not strictness" is incoherent. Consistency is the result of strictness, AFAICS.

EDIT:
I find it interesting that people are so quick to conflate technical restriction with quality.  I have never noticed any relationship whatsoever between color count and artistic ability.  PJ has been filled with submissions of dubious merit since the earliest days, and the vast majority of these haven't broken any particular rule.

So you're talking specifically about color count? I have noticed a fairly consistent trend both from the inside (making pixel art) and outside (viewing pixel art): more colors / more pixels -> less optimization (especially, sloppier and more unbalanced clusters).

Can be compensated for with more time put in (and IIRC Elk's work above is an example of that).

I agree it is not a guarantee. More like a helpful precondition.
absolutely.
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Quote Zizka Replybullet Posted: 01 December 2017 at 5:39pm
Why is there a need to be more flexible about guidelines by the way? Where does that need stem from considering other, all-inclusive websites serve that purpose already. Why not simply use deviantart which doesn't have any restrictions as opposed to wanting to change the modus operanti of PJ? I'm honesty curious as I can't wrap my mind around it.
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Quote Hapiel Replybullet Posted: 02 December 2017 at 4:47am
Originally posted by neota




Regarding the list of specific statements, I think "PJ needs consistency, not strictness" is incoherent. Consistency is the result of strictness, AFAICS


That is how I summarized the text I read, perhaps my wording is wrong. What I read, and meant to say:
Pj needs rules that allow for a less strict definition of pixel art, but then apply those rules consistently.
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Quote cure Replybullet Posted: 02 December 2017 at 3:20pm
Originally posted by Zizka

Why is there a need to be more flexible about guidelines by the way? Where does that need stem from considering other, all-inclusive websites serve that purpose already. Why not simply use deviantart which doesn't have any restrictions as opposed to wanting to change the modus operanti of PJ? I'm honesty curious as I can't wrap my mind around it.


I think we're talking past each other. Let's establish what we both know. DeviantArt's purpose is to host a gallery and community dedicated to art generally. PixelJoint's purpose is to host a gallery and community dedicated to pixel art specifically. There are no other notable sites that serve the same purpose as PixelJoint. It is essential that PixelJoint maintains its focus on pixel-pushing, which is the manual placement of individual pixels and management of their relationship to surrounding pixels.

Personally, I don't want a gallery that "doesn't have any restrictions." I want a gallery that requires pixel-pushing be the dominant and driving force of the work. No one, myself included, is looking to create another deviantArt.

Now where we differ-

Pixel art, in my opinion, has hazy borders on all sides. Maybe you disagree, but probably we just disagree on where and why we should draw the borders. Here's v2.0 of the chart Jeremy posted earlier:
https://i.imgur.com/NivaN4D.png

It is simplistic, but serves to illustrate some core concerns. On one end the pixels are too haphazard to constitute what any pixel-pusher would call "pixel art":


There is too little regard paid to the placement of individual pixels, the focus switches to expressive lines or pixel density. It's no longer a targeted strike, it's a carpet bombing. On the other end, it's a different version of the same problem:


Too little regard for the identity of individual pixels. Then there is "hybrid" work, which combines techniques from different parts of the spectrum, stuff like glows and gradients, either alongside or overlapping traditional pixel-pushing. In the strictest sense, which PJ enforced years ago but has since dropped, this means a single layer of transparency on an iso car window was a disqualifier.

Hybrid work is a balancing act. I think a background gradient is fine when it is alongside plenty of pixel-pushing, which remains the focus of the work:


The individual pixel relationships are still the main focus, and I would even argue that the use of the gradient is a continued focus on individual pixel relationships, in that a dither is inherently noisy and can detract from the intended focal point, whereas a smooth gradient allows the intentional pixel relationships in the foreground to take center stage. But what about more intrusive gradients? Here's a sprite I made with a ridiculous amount of colors:


Whether or not this work is kosher depends on our criteria. If our concern is color count, it fails the test. If our concern is with the use of specific tools, it fails, but it is not difficult to create smooth gradients manually, only time-consuming. I used to do this when I was first starting out, with MSPaint in one window and a calculator for determining midtones in another window.

I think the core concern is this: Does the work maintain the identities of individual pixel clusters? Similar to Jeremey's sky gradient earlier in the thread, large expanses of solid color are given more visual interest, without sacrificing cluster identity. I think it is important to note that the focus is on the identity of the individual cluster rather than the individual pixel, because pixels lose their individual identity within larger clusters with or without a gradient.

Similarly, this scene is full of glares and shadows, but they don't overpower the underlying cluster relationships:


This example is more complex than simple gradients, because the effect overlaps the pixel art, instead of being restricted to particular clusters. And it too is a balancing act. It seems to work best with crisp, low-res art, which has cluster relationships too blatant to be confused by lighting effects. And the strength of the effects should be moderated. In the following examples, things are starting to get a little out of control:


The first image (by Cutlaska), is starting to get muddled near the horizon, due to the effect's strong opacity. The second image (Swords & Sworcery) is a true hybrid. Half kosher pixel art, half blurs and gradients that have no relationship at all to pixel clusters. Cutlaska's piece is right at the limit of what I'd accept in the gallery, Sword & Sworcery is just over the line. I don't believe the slippery-slope argument applies to the previous examples, because they all maintain a focus on cluster relationships throughout the entire work, but here I think it has some merit.

In closing, I'll answer your initial question:
Why is there a need to be more flexible about guidelines?

Assuming guidelines means PJ's submission rules, there's only one I really take issue with:

6. Any art you post should be PIXEL ART! Pixel art implies that each pixel is placed by hand (no filters, paintbrushes, gradient fills, etc).

The wording of this rule has already changed once as a result of our community's continued and deepening understanding of the medium, there's no reason it should be immune to change going forward. I think the realization that the cluster is the core building block of pixel art is the most significant development in how we understand the medium in the past decade. Along with the community's increased focus on result over tools, this is the basis for why I think works inaccurately dubbed "hybrids" are completely within the spirit of pixel art. And on another front, I think works like these explore the expressionistic and impressionistic capabilities of pixel art.


Works like these will necessarily require the subjective judgment of moderators, as they always have, to determine if they show enough control at the level of the individual pixel to meet the community's standards. Not only the intentional placement of pixels with the pencil tool, but also intentionally leaving happy accidents that are the result of processes beyond the complete control of the artist.

I hope this helps explain my thinking on these topics.
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Quote Hapiel Replybullet Posted: 04 December 2017 at 5:26am
I myself strongly agree with Cure's explanation. A new direction to me could be to focus on "the manual placement of individual pixels and management of their relationship to surrounding pixels." Every work should have the focus on this, but is not necessarily limited by this.

Of course I'm still interested in more arguments and opinions, I hope this discussion is far from over!

What we haven't discussed much yet is the quality issue.

This is probably the hardest to deduce from the survey, as it seems to me to be the  most subjective. Nonetheless let's get the numbers:
The average score for quality importance (out of 5) was 3.5
at least 78% of voters think there should be some degree of quality in works (entering a 3,4 or 5).

I believe PJ used to have a higher quality standard. Nowadays, unless a picture has very specific issues or NPA elements, most work can get in. I've been in favor of letting much in, as I was not sure it's up to the moderators to tell what's good and what's bad. Good work gets rated up any way. On the other hand, I have heard, before and during this discussion, that people find the barrier too low. Also, having a standard encouraged me to go to the WIP forums and improve, when I was younger. Do we want to be a community based on showcasing, or based on growing?

Some of the survey reactions which stood out to me:

PJ needs to be somehow newbie friendly 4
Criteria should be individual effort and progress, not result. 2
The gallery can be used for critique and thus for bad work 1
Quality standard in gallery should be higher 1


I'd be interested in setting the standard higher, but I'd have a few conditions/wishes:

PJ rules need to be clearer, PJ rejection messages need to be improved!

The route to the WIP forum should be easier. The forum needs to be more integrated, and perhaps other tools (tutorials) are required to make it as easy as possible to learn and improve. Also we might need to improve WIP forum activity some how.

Quality standard needs to be flexible. The rules/guidelines need to be written in such a way that nobody feels offended if their work doesn't get in, but another 'bad' piece does. However I advocate for lower requirements for first submissions, personal improvements or effort, and challenge entries.

At last I wish that user voting in queue would be more directed. Voters need to be told what to look for, and what impact their voting might have. At the moment, I'd say that sadly voting system is near useless and I might take votes in cosideration for 1 out of 20 pieces I review. Works either get upvotes or no votes at all, except for perhaps one or two users who's stronger opinions are lost between the other votes. This has to do with the way the votes are counted too, and can be improved upon.


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Quote DawnBringer Replybullet Posted: 04 December 2017 at 6:05am
I don't care about votes (Trump anyone?) I'm still waiting for a single coherent argument in favor of laxer rules and why the benefits of that would outweigh the problems. And until that minimum criteria has been met, a change should not even be considered. Isn't that fair enough?
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Quote cure Replybullet Posted: 04 December 2017 at 6:29am
Originally posted by DawnBringer

I don't care about votes (Trump anyone?) I'm still waiting for a single coherent argument in favor of laxer rules and why the benefits of that would outweigh the problems. And until that minimum criteria has been met, a change should not even be considered. Isn't that fair enough?

You could always address the arguments I put forth above and take part in a constructive dialogue on these topics. Implying they're incoherent then ignoring them isn't going to further our understanding. Personally I'm still waiting to see this "slippery slope" argument supported.

And to be clear, the rules aren't the real issue, it's the vague and arguably inaccurate description of pixel art within the sixth rule that's the core concern.
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Quote Hapiel Replybullet Posted: 04 December 2017 at 8:21am
Originally posted by DawnBringer

I'm still waiting for a single coherent argument in favor of laxer rules and why the benefits of that would outweigh the problems.


I see a problem every time we disapprove quality work which does not meet one of our arbitrary rules. Work which shows an understanding of pixels and pixel art, and would enrich the gallery and community.

This goes for some demoscene work, some works by established artists but beginner pixel artists, some works with hybrid elements. Some times the owner is happy to submit a new clean version, some times they disappear which I think is a shame.

Also, in regards to hybrid art, I think a lot of progress has been made in the last couple of years, and I am personally very interested in how gradients and layer effects etc. can help pixel art to remain interesting and relevant. I wish PJ was a place where we can discuss, showcase, and attract artists in this genre, for all of us to learn from!

I don't want PJ to be the guardian of "purity". As has been said many times, this concept of PA and NPA is product of PJ, not a universal constant. I don't want to have to argue about what is the "right" and the "wrong" way of making art, I want to enjoy all sorts of engagement and interaction about my interest which is pixel art! PJ's long term influence has made me inherit some of it's core arguments (such as that less colors is always better), and I've repeated them blindly. In fact, I still do some times, as an excuse to send back bad pixel art. I would like to prevent future generations of pixel artists to make this same mistake.

Some times I log on to twitter to check out the pixel art community. It is very active, artists get fast response, there are daily challenges, a lot of overlap with the indie game community... I love to see that! There is no moderation of any kind, yet this does not seem to have a bad influence on the quality of pixel art. Quite the contrary, pixel art principles are even taken in consideration in other art forms!
I'd love to have this kind of active scene, I'd love for pixel art to continue developing and I'd love to be recognized as a welcoming community. For this I think it is important that we consider adjusting our standard.

/personalopinionrant
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Quote Zizka Replybullet Posted: 04 December 2017 at 9:41am
I don't think twitter and the PJ gallery serve the same purpose (at all) and should therefore be treated as very different entities.

Anyways, it's not that much of a big deal. Whatever ends up being decided, there'll be some people who are disappointed. Personally speaking, if I find PJ has lost it's focus on pixel art, I'll leave the community and try to find somewhere else which stands for what PJ used to be. On the other hand, more flexible guidelines will bring new members as well. Whatever changes happen, some people will approve while others will disapprove.

I don't know how the moderation will end up making formal decisions with clear and observable changes. I mean, as a moderating team, I wonder how you guys will proceed to set up the new rules and their actual wording as well as how and when they will be implemented.

@Cure: I read your whole post and I do understand it and respect your opinion.
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Quote Hapiel Replybullet Posted: 04 December 2017 at 10:07am
Don't get me wrong, if I wanted PJ to be twitter, I would probably be on twitter right now which I am not. I enjoy PJ much more for many many reasons, obviously they are very different. But that is not to say that we shouldn't look at other success communities, and consider some of their features!

Also, you make it sound very dramatic. Nobody is arguing to loose the focus on pixel art.
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Quote jeremy Replybullet Posted: 05 December 2017 at 2:58am
In a lot of ways, what I'd like (and I think what cure lays out in his post) is basically a formalisation of what's been happening anyway. In the past few years we've seen a fair bit of work that makes extensive use of 'dirty' tools, particularly colour reduction. Likewise, I see plenty of stuff that obviously uses partial transparency/blend effects but goes unnoticed. The sky hasn't fallen as a result, we aren't seeing a glut of substandard work being propped up by computer-generated effects, instead perfectly ordinary pieces get accepted where previously they'd have been rejected in an imo overly strict way.

As I said in my earlier post, this idea of 'pure' pixel art is totally artificial. Index painting has always been a thing, people have always used dither brushes etc. The line between manual and automatic is inherently fuzzy, so a black and white set of rules don't make sense. I think it's much better to look at principles like 'attention at the pixel level' than to struggle to justify which tools are old/inefficient enough to be authentic.

To try give an example I did this dumb gladiator for a pixel dailies challenge on twitter. I didn't read the restrictions closely at first, and realised that it was the wrong size and had one colour too many. I then just floodfilled the red with the dark grey effectively a kind of manual colour reduction. This resulted in new cluster relationships and higher contrast, which were unplanned and weren't tweaked much if at all. Should this be allowed? It's far lazier than cleaning-up digital painting.


To me it's much more exciting to focus on the evolution of things like cluster theory I really think the pixel art being created today is better than it ever has been, people are being much more open about their process, and I'm excited to see how the boundaries of the art form can be pushed further. In essence, I don't want good work which clearly passes the pixel art 'sniff test' to be rejected for using a partially transparent layer to tint a fishpond blue or whatever.
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Quote JerryPie Replybullet Posted: 05 December 2017 at 2:06pm
Originally posted by jeremy

I don't want good work which clearly passes the pixel art 'sniff test' to be rejected for using a partially transparent layer to tint a fishpond blue or whatever.


On that note. I've seen some amazing work get turned down and potentially permanent PJ members leave forever.

I think everyone can agree there has been a decline in new/active members over the years. I don't have any numbers to back this claim, but that's the reason for adjusting my own stance. (I have always been in the pixel purity camp.) Life happens, and some of our most talented purist's have slowly been trickling away for various reasons.

I think we can share this space with anyone who loves pixel art. Plus if you don't like a certain piece due to the artists techniques, you can always vote it down. I would happily change my stance if the opposing argument convinces me growth will occur. I just want an active and vibrant community on PJ. (That is 100% my main concern)
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Quote neota Replybullet Posted: 05 December 2017 at 6:51pm
In a lot of ways, what I'd like (and I think what cure lays out in his post) is basically a formalisation of what's been happening anyway.

+1. This is a totally normal way of developing a standard. You let the community figure out what is needed and abstract new principles from that.

I then just floodfilled the red with the dark grey effectively a kind of manual colour reduction. This resulted in new cluster relationships and higher contrast

This is a perfect example, because I'd consider this unambiguously acceptable. Supposing you did it another 10 times with various superfluous colors -- you might end up with something where the colors don't quite work together. I would call that sloppy -- but still pixel art, and probably worthy of PJ if it was decent quality before the fills.

A similar case might be selecting all pixels with particular colors and then floodfilling that whole selection to tint or otherwise modify the ramp. It's not pixel-level modification, but neither does it harm pixel-level detail.


To me it's much more exciting to focus on the evolution of things like cluster theory I really think the pixel art being created today is better than it ever has been, people are being much more open about their process, and I'm excited to see how the boundaries of the art form can be pushed further.


IMO clusters are an extremely fundamental part of pixel art (and possibly many other forms of art), so I'd like a definition centred around .. hmm.. "overall unified clusters which each nevertheless have a unique individual identity".

Something like that. Cure's rainbowy sprite IMO demonstrates exactly what the most extreme case that would still fit within that rule would be.


absolutely.
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Quote Zizka Replybullet Posted: 06 December 2017 at 3:34am
Regarding the quality level, I think we should aim for higher standards than lower ones. Just my opinion since you asked.
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Quote king_bobston Replybullet Posted: 07 December 2017 at 11:47am
A couple of stray thoughts I want to throw in (they aren't meant as complete arguments or counter arguments, just points I think aren't considered enough together with many repeated arguments I've seen here and elsewhere - don't expect them to be coherent);

If the end result doesn't show a clear use of "dirty" tool usage, it can't be forbidden to use them in that way anyway. So I don't see the point in arguments that focus around that aspect too much.
This includes things like "tool [X] should be forbidden" or on the other hand "If we can't see the use of [insert 'dirty' tool name of choice] and it's allowed because of our ignorance of the use of it, it should be allowed for pieces where it's clearly obvious it was used on".

If PJ gets more open to accept a broader field of works it doesn't give any guarantee we will lose the reputation as 'purist' site, that stigma can go on forever, long after it changed.
I think that's a pretty important point I haven't seen stated, if the argument is to lure in new users.
In the worst case the site died before the stigma could lift.
(I'm well aware this doesn't apply to people who joined and then left, they are two different although related things, that as far as I see things don't invalidate each other.)

In regards to twitter (or any other site with lots of artists), I think we should aim to increase difference rather than get more similiarities in order to give potential new members reasons to come here (doesn't need to be related to permissions of the new pieces).
Old members know what aspects PJ can offer and we know each other in here, which is also a contributing factor to come back.
But why would someone who's happy with twitter (as example) come here? They would need to know that they can get something here, that twitter (and co.) can't provide.
I don't think "we're a nice bunch, come hang out with us!" is a good marketing gig (although I do think it's important to keeping new members once they joined).
To compete as showcase gallery, we're simply too small.

Personally I remember joining because I heard this place is a bunch of elitists that rip my stuff apart.
Before joining, I was very frustrated since I didn't see what the hell is wrong with my Pixels and how other, great looking pieces even work.
So I finally joined PJ.
What I found was a rather nice bunch of peeps, that helped me to understand what I didn't before so I pretty much instantly improved a lot.
I still remember the MP3-Player I made and how it looked before I made a WIP thread vs how it looks after I posted into the gallery! It might not have looked like much for people that saw it but to me it opened a whole new world and enabled me to gain access to learn way more about pixel art on my own. Maybe even one of my biggest "aha" moments.
(In case you prefer more literal statements on what happened rather than how I felt about it; I learned about clusters and banding which enabled me to not only improve my pieces but analyse other pieces better .)

On that note, I also remember a lot of people joining (back when I was more active) that asked for harsh critique and seemed to get dissapointed and stopped posting after a while after not receiving much apart from one liners.

I think it's kinda full of ourselves to talk about what pixel art as a whole should be viewed, including outside this community, vs how our criteria for accepting new works is. I do agree that we have a big influence on that - but I've never really seen anyone outside of PJ change their mind on what "pixel art" is through one internet argument.
I see both sides of the discussions talk like that a lot, I don't think we should be too concerned with our influence outside this site - and on the other hand I don't think we should automatically call any kind of piece we don't accept as non-pixel art either.

To non-pixel artists the definition will also probably always just be "art that has visible pixels", as sad as it might be which makes me pretty frustrated when talking about pixel art with non-pixel artists but that is probably off-topic

My views personally about why to participate in current PJ is that people that know their trade can give you feedback. What I wish to increase is the "helping each other grow" part to be bigger. What pieces actually get passed in the gallery is secondary for me to what kind of people they attract.
I rather miss out on an awesome artist that only comes here once a year to post a stunning piece but doesn't participate with the community at all than to miss someone not-so-awesome accepting and giving feedback.
(Ideally I'll take the cake and eat it though, if that isn't obvious. I'm not trying to imply that it has to be an "either, or" case and neither that it isn't - that would be it's own meta-discussion with little benefit - rather I'm just stating my preferences).
Which is a bit hypocritical from me since I don't give as much feedback myself

And now I realise I could have spend the time I took to write this to give someone else feedback.. Too late now anyway
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Quote Hapiel Replybullet Posted: 12 December 2017 at 12:19pm
Thanks for your thoughts Bob! Some responses of mine:

Originally posted by king_bobston


If the end result doesn't show a clear use of "dirty" tool usage, it can't be forbidden to use them in that way anyway. So I don't see the point in arguments that focus around that aspect too much.


One could of course argue that we could increase the inspection. Right now I'm only zooming in and using color counting tools, but I can imagine we could develop tools to recognize other "dirty" tools better.


Originally posted by king_bobston


If PJ gets more open to accept a broader field of works it doesn't give any guarantee we will lose the reputation as 'purist' site, that stigma can go on forever, long after it changed.


Plausible, but that's not much of an argument not to change. The stigma will ultimately change faster than when we don't change ourselves.

Originally posted by king_bobston


In regards to twitter (or any other site with lots of artists), I think we should aim to increase difference rather than get more similiarities in order to give potential new members reasons to come here (doesn't need to be related to permissions of the new pieces).


I think we're already very different from other art community sites and will remain to have special needs and wishes. However, some things obviously work very well among all platforms, such as organizing challenges and collaborations, sharing knowledge, storing favorites or being able to discuss artwork. Every feature needs consideration, and I would encourage to explore ones which are proven to be useful.


Originally posted by king_bobston


On that note, I also remember a lot of people joining (back when I was more active) that asked for harsh critique and seemed to get dissapointed and stopped posting after a while after not receiving much apart from one liners.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on how we can encourage more and better critique!
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