I know that I’m making my “DeviantArt Story” a little late, and really sad stuff happened in between – such as the deaths of Robin Williams and Richard Attenborough. But I think it’s time to come to terms, and to share with you my DeviantArt story. Far it be from me to make it more “tragic” and therefore, more “unique” than the others… but as I recapitulate my story here this far, at these two years in this (mostly) wonderful site, I came through so many transmutations that maybe Kurt Russell would want to set me on fire. Lousy 80's jokes apart, let those who would bother read my story, for this is the story of my artistic life of lately. I’ll keep myself from bothering you with the story of my life: this is my DeviantArt story.
I keep on telling to people that I joined DA not as an artist, but as some guy who had made some wallpapers and wanted to share them to the world. I joined on an afternoon, on 19 of May, in 2012. I wanted to create a name with the word “within” on it, since it’s one of my favorite English words. I could have gone with other words like “gravity”, “punk”, “milliard”, or “Heliosphere”, but “within” was subtle enough. “Drifter” comes from the fact that I actually walk a lot here in my city of Rio de Janeiro (and beyond!). People who read me here knows my issues with this city and even its people, but for all its flaws, it is still my city, and I love it very much. As soon as I published a journal post accounting my arrival, I started publishing my wallpapers. But the funny part was that those wallpapers were not purely original works. They were (copyrighted) images that I took and published on the site. Of course that I would adapt them to fit at your desktop: some images were originally squared, while others were vertically rectangular. My intent was to perfect them into a horizontal rectangle, so you could use them as your desktop. Some images were quite simple, like the Sandvich from “Team Fortress 2”, or Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in The USA”, in which all you had to do was to stretch the sides of the image. But other images required time: you couldn’t just stretch them, as you had to create some continuity to the sides, based solely on the content of the image. It’s like those cases in which medics have to create new body parts for a patient from his other body parts.
It was like that for my wallpapers to “Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Film For Theaters”, “Jack-Ass, the Movie” and The Who’s “Who’s Next”: I couldn’t just stretch them, so I created new sides for them, making the images rectangular but horizontal. Of course I knew there were some copyright matters… but I thought I was “safe”, since for every time I declared the original work was not mine – that is, that I didn’t owe the picture, for I just adapted it –, DA would understand. And in fact, artists of DeviantArt don’t have much trouble with artists publishing wallpapers like I did. I published a wallpaper of Elvis Presley with Frank Sinatra, based on a photo that was almost certainly copyrighted, and both Sinatra and Elvis’s fans offered to have it featured on their groups. They knew it was not mine, but they knew I wasn’t claiming anything. I would also publish my own original photos, and I even made my way to Rage Comics and stamps. The point is: I wasn’t a good draw. So instead of working on my talents and developing them, I would just make wallpapers. I had my few watchers; I had my reputation among TF2 fans… I was happy the way I was. More than that: I was proud of being a deviant, as I felt myself to be part of some sophisticated internet club, different from places like YouTube or Rotten Tomatoes; in here, I felt surrounded by artists, and this lifted up my morale.
But my life here was soon to change… drastically.
Besides music, my favorite subject was “Team Fortress 2”. The game that redefined my life as a gamer, “TF2” has my respect. Of course I clashed with the decisions that Gabe Newell and his team would take several times, like the hatefully beloved “Meet The Pyro”, and the phony cash-grab “Expiration Date” (not to mention that). As I said: we keep buying hats, and “Half-Life 3” gets further and further away from our plain of reality. But anyway, “TF2” was (and maybe still is) my favorite subject. I love the game, I love the characters, so I found coherent to vector (that is, to trace) several ads of the game. Achievement images, webcomics, ads for guns… I would follow the idea I used to have before: if I just declared it’s a wallpaper and that I didn’t own the original image, everything would be alright. And alright things were... for a time. One member, who apparently didn’t read the description and understood a wallpaper with the Red Scout to be 100% mine, featured the image on her journal as one of the finest wallpapers of the month. I was flattered - assuming she understood what I did -, and I moved on with my life. Things however got serious when this same wallpaper, months afterwards, received an invitation to be featured on the highly exclusive DigitalBrilliance, which is about as Copacabana Nightclub as DeviantArt will ever get.
Without understanding the gravity of the situation – I was walking blindly into something massive –, I accepted, basically misunderstanding the height of the group. And this was when, in no time, the wallpaper got THOUSANDS of views, and several faves; it had gotten a Daily Deviation. This to me was a reality shock, a point of divergence in my life here in DA. It was for the better, I’m sure of that… but by God, it hurt so much, like a necessary evil. In that moment, I didn’t know what the hell a Daily Deviation was; I remember of seeing some arts with the DD banner, some of them with two, but I wouldn’t give them too much thought because it didn’t concern me, for I didn't even know what that was. But as other artists will confirm you, getting a DD is like a really big deal. As I heard once, a DD is not an award, for it’s closer to an incentive for the artist to continue with the good work. Nevertheless, people take DDs seriously on DA, and it so happened that who gave me the DD was the same artist who featured the Scout wallpaper on her journal, months prior.
And from there on, I got a level of popularity I didn’t even dream of having. My best wallpapers would get 40 faves tops; that one got 400, and counting. People started watching me, giving me llamas. And with the popularity… came the haters. To turn them off, I would basically disable the comments on the art. But then, they would pop at MY account, hitting me with their ironies. And I kept on telling them, maybe pointlessly, it was just a wallpaper, and not an original art: I was not clamming (stealing) anything. Several groups wanted to feature the art, but I started to refuse, given the growing popularity of the piece was bringing not-so-wonderful side effects. And then, it happened: my wallpaper was featured on yet another journal post, and this time, not for the better. I remember like if it were last week: “okay, this is what I hate about being a fan artist”, was the title of her long text, condemning my DD. She was a well-meaning artist, and she was mostly angry at the DD my wallpaper got, instead of the wallpaper itself, declaring there were several other TF2 fanarts that were more deserving of receiving a DD; she featured them all on her essay as well.
I panicked. I didn’t know what to do. I contemplated deactivating my account. I even read how a deactivation works: it was brutal. But I took a breath, and I decided to do one step at time. First, I talked to her. I explained her things, what I used to do in DA, and how I wouldn’t claim those works to be mine: I was only adapting them as wallpapers. And there was always a free, unmarked wallpaper at thedrifterwithin.deviantart.com for everybody: Jack-Ass fans, "Toy Story 3" fans, Carl Sagan fans, The Who fans... specially "Team Fortress 2" fans. She deeply apologized: again, she was well-meaning, and she said I should be proud of getting a DD. But I have my priorities: if that DD was a magnet for insults, then it should be no more. I deleted it. My first Daily Deviation… and it didn’t last a day that it was. Along with it, I removed all those unoriginal wallpapers that could land me into trouble. I rebuilt myself, and I started to focus on things I had a talent to... and I started to see new talents within myself. A whole new chapter in my life in DA. I started releasing my own drawings: they may be pedestrian (or as I say, “minimalistic”) and shade-less… but they’re mine.
I also started to focus on Typographic art: visual messages for which I could transmit my ideas. And sometimes, I use public domain images to aid me in backgrounds: sites like Pixabay help a lot. I try not to abuse of it, using my own talents as most as I can. I release some GIFs, and I take photos as well, most of them from my old, worthy Nokia N95. I don’t have one art that can be categorized as breaking the rules of the site: if there is material that I did not make in the art, this material is in public domain, and it’s there to merely be a part of the art. I started tracing my own body, from photos I take from myself (it's embarrassing, but it's worth it). Several artists declare that their lives changed on DA after receiving a Daily Deviation, and my case was not different: the DD changed my life as well, for the best. My wish is to get another Daily Deviation... but this time, for one of my original arts, copyrighted by me. I don’t image myself deactivating my account, and I have seen several people – even my watchers – going away. I remember when there was that controversy that modifications and tracings were starting to be more accepted, some months ago… and this was when DA was set on fire like if Willem Dafoe and Gene Hackman were investigating three missing kids on the site.
I remember (okay, another crappy 80’s pun, will you let me?) there was this artist, Maleficus-Animus, who was highly prolific and respected. He had the “Hearts of Men” series of art… and when we conversed about trolls, he said: “btw, your name just inspired me my next art: the Heart of the Drifter”. I was euphoric: he was going to make an art based on my name! I never pressured him into anything: I waited as a gentlemen. Sometimes, I would check his art, wanting to see if the new heart was done. What would be its description? Would it be accurate about my persona? Would he actually mention me? I waited… and waited… and there it was: he left the site, maybe being one of the many causalities to the whole acceptance controversy.
And I was left feeling that the Drifter, although improved and more grizzled by the experiences of his winters, never truly received his heart.