Saturday, March 5, 2016

eHow's How to Draw Women Video Tutorials

     While researching 'how to draw' books, one of the biggest things I've noticed is the clear lack of representation when it comes to different ethnicities other than your stereotypical white European/Caucasian. Not only are different ethnicities never addressed (except when talking about sex appeal, trying to make women more 'exotic') but they are rarely seen as characters in the book itself. Diversity in the authorship of these books is almost nonexistent as well, most of the time its just up to you to pick which straight white male of the bunch you want to listen to.
      Anyways, last night I was browsing the internet and just out of curiosity I tried to search for tutorials specifically for women of different ethnicities. One of the first results was the video below, "Beginner Drawing Lessons : How to Draw Asian Women".

Beginner Drawing Lessons : How to Draw Asian Women
Uploaded: 5/18/2009
Artist: Bill Connolly (although I do want to point out that they credited him as "Expert: Bill Connolly" in the video's description and he does call himself 'cartoonist and artist extraordinaire' in the video)

     I couldn't believe that this was a legitimate video at first. The art was so poor, the character didn't even look Asian and the artist didn't even mention anything about Asian characteristics concerning face structure, there was no anatomical/educational material supporting his aesthetic choices. He just drew it without explaining himself. Despite it not looking remotely Asian, I still feel the drawing definitely has a streak of racism to it, whether the artist was aware or not, with the big slanted eyes and calling the video "How to Draw Asian Women" vs how to draw an Asian women, or at least reminding people that there is diversity in ethnicities and to never generalize any group. Overall the video is a giant mess with too many bad/questionable things going on. However, I did find it hilarious how he gave up towards the end with her body and hands. I was amazed that a video like this has been allowed to stay up for almost 7 years. After finding this video I snooped around the internet hoping that this man was either some kind of a troll or 'comedian' but unfortunately I only found even more of his straight-faced drawing tutorials.
     Sooooo once I knew this was a real video, it was only a matter of time until I got sucked into the Suggested Videos list of eHow's Horrible Drawing Tutorials.

Drawing & Illustration Lesson: How to Draw Women
Uploaded: 5/15/2009
Artist: "Expert: Danny Page... a professional cartoonist and illustrator. His work has been featured in many art galleries, exhibitions and conventions across the West Coast."

       Once again the quality of the art is the first thing that catches my eye. Most of the time if you are trying to create a full figured character, you'd want to build from the inside out. Starting from the head and going down (in pen no less) is a horrible HORRIBLE habit for a beginning artist to adopt. Construction lines? Who cares! Anatomy? What is that even? So after I got over the initial shock of the artwork, I went back to watch the video again, this time paying closer attention to what the artist actually had to say...and boy did he say a mouthful.
1. drawing women is 'no easy task' (which is a stereotype that has been perpetuating in cartoons from at least the 30s and 40s)
2. women's body is in 'no way in shape or form like the male body' (I'm pretty sure human females and males are the same species)
3. need to draw women in feminine poses to make sure people know its a women you are drawing (???)

How to Draw Anime, Manga, and Cartoons: How to Draw Hot Anime Women
(video found on eHow's eHowArtsAndCrafts channel)
Artist:"Expert: Michael Weisner... a professional illustrator and 2-D animator."

         This video's title was pure clickbait that I was not able to stop myself from ignoring. The art is a little bit better this time (but still by no means should any of these guys should be calling themselves 'an expert'). This video didn't live up to my expectations. I ended up being mostly confused. The finished character isn't really 'a hot anime woman'. I guess the big boobs make her 'hot', but the style is definitely not anime. The artist didn't have much to say on the topic, he didn't explain himself either. But for some reason he did enjoy filling time saying really obvious things, such as:
-'you will need a pencil and paper to draw'
-'another important thing for [your drawing] to have is arms'
-keeps saying that he's adding detail, doesn't explain what the details are           
       There was no content, only fluff, which further helped solidified my beliefs that the title was purely for clicks and views only. Also I just noticed this in the description, "Anime women designed to be attractive can really sell your project." Sigh. Sexualizing anime women for profit? Wow, I never heard that one before.

      After a while I got bored looking at poorly drawn tutorial after poorly drawn tutorial. I noticed that all of them had been uploaded by eHow. So I decided to research them a little to see why in the world they were giving such poor artists teaching positions.
      eHow is an online content farm. They hire tons of freelancers to create their 'how to' instructional videos and articles on a wide range of topics. However there's more to that. . .

    "It was in 2009 that eHow was noted as having changed its method of identifying content to contract for creation. The company moved from human-identified lists of potential content to the use of a computer-based algorithm, a move that increased revenue by a factor of 4.9 times per article or video created. Getting rid of the human editors who formerly identified and approved content to be produced increased profits for the company by a factor of 20–25 times. The automated program combines search data, internet traffic patterns and the rates of keyword use and uses this information to determine what internet users want to know and also calculates how much money advertisers will pay to appear on the same page content created. Another algorithm, called the Knowledge Engine, then works out what exactly internet users want to know about the subjects identified and details exactly how to approach profitable subjects and what its potential subject longevity is. The machine-created subjects are then proofread by freelance proofreaders for 8 cents each, to ensure that they are clear enough for bidding on by freelance article and video producers. Content producers are then paid about US$15 per article or US$20 per video to produce the product. This change resulted in the Demand Media making an estimated US$200 million in revenue in 2009, including from Google's advertising income."
 (**author's note:  notice all three of these videos were created in 2009 or later)

   "Demand Media and eHow in particular have been criticized for large amounts of low-quality content and for operating as a content farm, paying contributors low rates for content intended to rank high in search results, rather than focus on quality information, with poor quality articles intended mainly to drive up search results rather than inform.
     In 2010 and 2011 Google implemented changes to their algorithms intending to reduce the ranking and impact of content farms. These changes led to a 40% drop in traffic to Demand Media sites[like eHow]. Demand Media responded to the algorithm changes, saying their business model remained solid.
     Jack Herrick, former owner of eHow, started up wikiHow after concluding that the wiki method of content creation would ultimately produce higher quality work. He described the difference between eHow and wikiHow as "eating a McDonald's burger vs. a wonderful, home cooked meal"
      Search engine DuckDuckGo's CEO Gabriel Weinberg has criticized eHow, along with other Demand Media websites, labeling the company a "content mill," because of the website's search engine driven content, low article quality and low writer salaries. DuckDuckGo filters out eHow content because of Weinberg's perception that Demand Media produces low-quality content designed specifically to rank highly in Google Searches for the purposes of promoting advertising. Another search engine, Blekko also regards eHow as spam, blacklists the site and filters eHow results out. Wired magazine has also criticized eHow and Demand Media, calling their content: "slapdash" and a "factory stamping out moneymaking content""

       Ahhhhh, those sexist/racist drawing tutorials actually make much more sense now. Plus I was happy to see my suspicious of click bait for the last video to be correct. These videos poorly pander to what the algorithms perceive as topics artists are interested in. This corrupt view of catering to audiences explain why the videos lack so much content. The artists aren't fully participating in the videos because these aren't their videos, they are simply doing what they have been asked to do in order to receive their compensation. The most interesting part, I thought, was how the algorithms are able to figure out "what exactly internet users want to know about the subjects identified and details exactly how to approach profitable subjects and what its potential subject longevity is". Now I understand why that last video was called "How to Draw Hot Anime Women" (it totally had that computer generated vibe). Now I know why there are so many poorly 'how to draw' women tutorials, because its a topic that will never go away, men and women will keep asking Google for help and eHow will do what they can to get the eyes of those budding artist on their content. Who cares if they are helping artists develop bad habits and skewered perspective of females? This low standard of content allows untalented artists to prosper, since they are more than willing to draw questionable subjects in return for money and a global audience, and as always, sexist depictions of women seems to be a subject that they are more than happy to help contribute to.

 Information regarding eHow is quoted from Wikipedia.

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