May 30, 2024

"ANIME ART ISN'T REAL ART" - IS IT TRUE? || SPEEDPAINT + COMMENTARY



Published May 26, 2023, 1:20 a.m. by Monica Louis


Anime art is a form of art that originated in Japan. It is characterized by its colorful, often exaggerated style. Anime art is often used in anime and manga, as well as in video games and other media.

Some people argue that anime art isnt real art. They say that its too simplistic, or that its not true to life. But I believe that anime art is a valid form of art. It has its own unique style and can be just as complex as any other form of art.

Anime art isnt just about drawing pretty pictures. Its about telling a story. Anime artists often put a lot of thought into the characters and the world they live in. They create detailed backstories and histories for their characters. And they use their art to express their own thoughts and feelings.

Anime art isnt just for kids. Some of the best anime artists are adults. They use their art to explore complex themes and emotions. Theyre not afraid to tackle difficult subjects, like death or loss.

Anime art isnt just for entertainment. Its also used for educational purposes. Anime can teach us about other cultures and help us understand complex concepts.

So, is anime art real art? I believe it is. It may not be traditional art, but its just as valid and important.

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Hey guys, it's Celestia, and in today's video, we're gonna be talking about the reasons that people  

think-- and please hear this in the voice of the awful high school art teacher that I'm sure you  

all had-- "anime isn't real art". To be clear, I mean the anime art style, not actual anime as a form of  

media, as the latter is generally under much less scrutiny by the art world simply because so many  

within it write it off as "cartoons for kids" and leave it at that. But while it's easy to dismiss  

those art teachers saying anime isn't real art and say "okay, well, you're wrong," and move on with your  

life, it might actually be of some value to still question why they're saying it in the first place.  

I mean, if you search "art teacher anime" on YouTube, you'll find storytimes upon storytimes talking  

about that creator's experience with being  told the same things by their supposed mentors,  

and their comment sections will be full of other artists telling similar stories of their own. So  

while we can write off all of those art teachers as being assholes along with the rest of the fine  

art world that shares their belief, I think it's  worthwhile to think about where that belief comes  

from, given just how prevalent it really is. So let's talk about it, and hopefully in doing so,  

I can provide some validation to all of the young anime artists about to go back to high school this  

month and hear the sh*t spewed at them for a whole new year. First, let's just be crystal clear,  

here; anime is far from the only style of art that faces this kind of ridiculous scrutiny from art  

purists seeking to define what is and isn't art. It wasn't the first, and it won't be the last. Abstract  

art was amongst the first genres to fall victim to it; critics claimed that if art was supposed  

to be an artist's interpretation of reality, and  abstract was, by very nature, intended NOT to depict  

reality, then it wasn't real art. Still, to this  day, the fine art world continues to fight with  

itself over whether or not that's true, some with respectful, informed debate, and others by throwing  

around the words "meaningless, nonsensical," and "my kid could do that". The art of comics and graphic  

novels was soon to follow, being dismissed as childish, for kids, oversimplified, over-stylized, and  

a sensationalized and commercial form of art that shouldn't be taken seriously. Then came digital  

art, which artists and art critics everywhere were quick to jump on as being "not real art" because it  

had no actual, physical, tangible form. And because it was too easy to create with all of the tools  

that digital art programs provided-- and don't get me started on NSFW art being called  

"not real" because it's fan service or sleazy  or requires no skill, because so long as you're  

drawing boobs, they don't need to be drawn well, or fan art being called "not real" because it's not the  

artist's original character and is therefore just an "unoriginal ripoff"-- there are a million instances  

of this happening, and unfortunately, there will probably be a million more. I've made multiple  

videos discussing the legitimacy of digital art to fight back against people claiming that it's  

not real art, and I stand by those, which are  linked in the description and the iCard above,  

because I still feel that the points I made were perfectly valid. But in time, I've come to realize  

that in presenting those arguments, I was missing the bigger picture; I was arguing within the  

confines of art purist mentalities, not outside of them. I was trying to convince people who believed  

in policing and limiting the definition of  real art that digital art should fall under  

the protection of their criteria for it, but I  should have been arguing against the existence of  

that criteria to begin with. I shouldn't have been saying "based on your definition of real art, here's  

why digital art should be considered real", I should have been saying "who gave you the right to define  

real art at all?" And that's what this all comes down to for me; it's why abstract artists are still  

being shunned in so many fine arts circles, it's why digital artists aren't even being CONSIDERED  

in fine art circles, and it's why art teachers are telling impressionable kids that anime isn't real  

art. It's because art can't be defined, but everyone is trying to define it anyway, and everyone thinks  

that their definition is right, and that everyone else's work should be judged by it. To me, the  

question is no longer how to defend art against the criticism that it doesn't fit the criteria  

for being real, but rather why we're so adamantly trying to define that criteria at all. But before  

we get into discussing those reasons and whether or not there's value to pursuing or considering  

them, let's talk about the overarching questions still looming over the whole topic: is there any  

definition of art that we can all agree on? Well, there's no shortage of options. Some say that a  

work of art is the selective recreation of reality for the purpose of communicating some aspect of  

what it means to be human or how we perceive the world. Others say that art is considered to be the  

process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses  

or emotions. Socrates, with all the vagueness expected of a philosopher, said: "Art is the  

painting of things as they are, rather than what they appear to be." What all of those definitions  

share is the idea that art is, on the most basic of levels, an artist's interpretation of something  

through their work. This something, of course, it appears, is the aspect prompting the most debate;  

does the artist have to be interpreting something deep and meaningful for that interpretation to be  

considered art? Do they have to be interpreting reality for it to be considered art, or can they  

be interpreting imagination? The manner in which they interpret it is another point of contention;  

do they have to interpret it in a manner that's recognizable to the viewer as reality, or at least  

as the subject matter it was intended to reflect? Do they have to interpret it through a currently  

accepted medium? As you can see, the problem is that the bare-bones definition of art that most  

of us can agree on doesn't answer any of those questions, and that's why everyone is constantly  

in the process of arguing over it. The writers at visualartscork.com put it exceptionally well;  

"There is no universally accepted definition of art, although it is commonly used to describe something  

of beauty or a skill which produces an aesthetic result. There is no clear line in principle between,  

say, a unique piece of handmade sculpture and a mass-produced but visually attractive item.  

We might say that art requires thought, some kind of creative impulse, but this raises more questions.  

For example, how much thought is required if someone flings paint at a canvas, hoping by  

this action to create a work of art, does the  result automatically constitute art? Even the  

notion of beauty raises obvious questions; if I think my kid's sister's unmade bed constitutes  

something beautiful or aesthetically pleasing, does that make it art? If not, does its status change if  

a million people happen to agree with me, but my kid's sister thinks it's just a pile of clothes?"  

All of this was, effectively, a very long-winded way of saying that people are sh*tting on art  

styles and mediums because they don't meet their standards for what defines "real art",  

all the while failing to provide a quantifiable  and unilaterally agreed upon definition at all,  

because it's impossible to. But where does that leave us? Unfortunately, on a fundamental level,  

it leaves us where we normally end up on this channel: with the knowledge that there's no one  

single black-and-white answer to a question that we're all aggressively seeking to resolve. But now  

that we've gone over why art purists are so intent on policing what is and isn't real art, let's take  

a brief moment to go over why so many of them target anime and comic styles of it in particular,  

specifically in the case of high school or even post-secondary art teachers aggressively insulting  

anime art. I feel like that in particular is  a more nuanced issue than it's being given  

credit for; I don't think these teachers are being deliberately malicious or mean, although I'll  

concede that some of them are probably approaching the issue with the perspective of The Simpsons  

newspaper article "Old Man Shakes Fist at Cloud" and reprimanding these kids these days with their new-  

-fangled animes and their comic strips. In my opinion, these teachers do, for the most part, mean well.  

I think a lot of them believe in the very valid  notion that in order to make good stylized art,  

you should learn the fundamentals of realism first so that you know how to emphasize and  

exaggerate certain aspects to fit more stylized formats accurately rather than incorrectly.  

I agree wholeheartedly with that, but there are two problems with the way they go about teaching it:  

one, that high school students drawing anime are probably not trying to do so professionally, at  

least not yet, and they shouldn't be insulted or reprimanded for drawing anime before realism on  

the basis of "you can't improve that way", because improvement isn't their goal - they're having fun.  

If they're refusing to do assignments that are based in realism or are doing something else that  

might be counterproductive in terms of actual course material, that's another thing entirely,  

because the curriculum is there for a reason, and whether they're there to improve or not, they ARE

still taking that class, and they do still have to do certain things in order to finish it. But some  

teachers will give students the freedom to pick their subject matter on some projects and then  

STILL criticize them for drawing anime-style work, which is not cool. The second problem is that a lot  

of these teachers aren't actually saying "learn the fundamentals first, learn stylizing second", they're  

saying "this particular form of stylized art isn't legitimate, stop drawing it", which is both untrue  

and potentially capable of doing real harm to the creativity and passion of young aspiring artists.  

Some art teachers have also used the following arguments to denounce anime art: that it's  

simpler and easier to replicate than realism and therefore does not help you grow as an artist to  

draw or study, and that because all anime art is the same, it stops young artists and students from  

developing their own individual styles. I think both of those points are horsesh*t. I was drawing photo-  

realistic dogs when I was nine, and then drawing anime art that looked like someone paper shredded  

a picture of InuYasha and then tried to tape it back together when I was 12. Different artists  

find different subject matter easy or difficult, often in large part because of the amount of  

experience they have drawing it, and I don't even understand how someone could not find the second  

point hypocritical. All anime art is the same so drawing it prevents you from developing your style,  

but drawing or painting realism will help you develop your style? Really? I could walk into a  

beginner art class of people painting a still life study of an apple and not be able to distinguish  

any clear style between any of them, just the same as I could with a bunch of people drawing fanart  

of the same anime, because it's about genre and experience. Individual style is developed over time  

as an artist spends more and more of it creating their work and consuming the work of others,  

and studying all relevant genres is integral  to that process. Saying "I can't tell any of my  

students' anime art apart" as a bad thing while also saying "I can't tell any of these still-life apples  

apart, so you all did a great job on this study" is enough to show the flaws in that argument.  

These teachers are recognizing the importance of studying realism while also not criticizing their  

students for not having their own stylized manners of interpreting it yet, because they understand  

that style is something that comes with time, and that eventually, all of those apples would be  

depicted more uniquely, still within the style of realism, as the artists creating them honed their  

skills, but they aren't applying that to anime,  which is the clearest possible representation of  

their inherent bias against it. Art teachers, though, are not the only ones out here on their soap boxes  

yelling that anime art isn't real art; artists, art critics, and art consumers are all also known to  

be perpetrators of this particular opinion, and they share it just as loudly. "It's childish", "it's  

for kids", "it's too simplified", "it all looks the same", "it's easy to make", "it's just an uncreative copy of  

everything else in the genre", "it has no meaning" - the first pile of reasons are easily dismissed.  

They're given by people who don't see the value in anything that doesn't conform to their personal  

idea of what art should look like. But that last reason, that's the one that interests me, because  

it's the common denominator shared with all of the other types of art that fall victim to this  

criticism, too: meaning, it seems is something that art critics and purists weaponize against artists  

everywhere, claiming that for art to have value or be considered "real", it has to have a deeper  

meaning. Ask them to tell you what constitutes a deeper meaning, though, and most of them will  

struggle, because the same people who will look at Starry Night and call it a masterpiece will look  

at Miyazaki's work and dismiss it as meaningless despite their own failing to actually discern  

objective meaning from either. But you ask them "what's the meaning behind Starry Night beyond it  

being Van Gogh's view of the night sky", and they'll tell you the meaning is in the piece's ability  

to show us the way that he viewed it, which is so different and unique compared to the way that we  

may, ourselves, view it. But if you then say "well, this is how Miyazaki viewed this field of flowers,  

or this temple, or this river, and it's different  and unique compared to the way that you view it",  

most of them will fail to give you a plausible reason why that's different, because meaning in art  

is something that cannot possibly be quantified. How can we possibly discern what gives a piece  

meaning, or how much meaning it has to have in order to be considered "real art"? If you were to  

put two portraits of the same person side by side, one being a traditional oil painting and one being  

an anime style depiction, most art purists would immediately demean the anime piece as meaningless,  

despite both pieces having literally the  exact same meaning - or lack thereof. They're  

just depicting a person. Part of this is due to the inherent pretentiousness of the art world; as Oscar  

Wilde put it, "the cynic is the one who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing", and  

that appears to be the case for the majority of these critics. They'll look at the oil painting and,  

based on both their subconscious preconceptions and their learned knowledge and understanding  

of what is artistically valuable, they'll then  consider it to be more valid and real as art  

because they'll inherently associate it with work that's worth a lot monetarily. It's a bias that's  

difficult to avoid, of course, but it seems that in a lot of cases, there's no effort MADE to avoid it  

at all. Many of these critics are well aware of it and simply believe that it's pertinent to judge  

art's quality based on how much it could be worth. And yet historically, art having high commercial  

value has also been, at times, considered to  be detrimental to its meaning. For example,  

Andy Warhol: he was an artist who found immense success creating commercial art and, to an extent,  

forcing people to view commercial art as having more artistic value of its own merit than it ever  

had before. But he spent his whole life fighting to be seen by high art circles as a serious artist,  

and as Klaus Honnef says in his book "Warhol", "in  spite of his growing success in the world of  

advertising and glitter, he still wanted to be  recognized as an artist-- as a pure artist, whose  

pictures would stand as a monument to himself, and would increase or even exceed the value of the  

goods he portrayed. It is a well-known fact that Warhol used to hide his commercial paintings when  

visited by art collectors, for even in New York in the 1950s, commercial art stood for bad taste,  

routine mass production, and mechanization. Warhol  was probably aware of this in the early stages of  

his success, but even after his breakthrough as a true artist, he maintained a separate studio  

for his commercial work next door to his creative studio". Fundamentally, Warhol's work wasn't all that  

different from anime; it was quite straightforward in what it was depicting, and the meaning behind it  

was not the priority so much as the manner in which it was depicted. The aesthetic value was  

considered first and foremost, which was a large part of the reason that fine art collectors and  

critics were so quick to demean his work  as meaningless and uncreative. And just as  

Warhol was known as the Campbell soup guy as a result and not the guy who did an entire series  

based on dark and thought-provoking subject matter, like his interpretations of convicted criminals  

or electric chairs, anime artists are known for uwu cutesy schoolgirls and not masterpieces  

like the art of Howl's Moving Castle. But that sentiment right there, that's the thing that  

I feel is so complicated and conflicting  here; Warhol's work of Campbell soup cans  

should not NEED to be redeemed by the fact that he also created work with deeper meaning. An anime  

artist who draws a lot of Hatsune Miku should not need to be redeemed by the fact that they  

can also create gorgeous landscapes or compelling narratives. Both types of work should, in my opinion,  

be seen as artistically valid and valuable. And I'm not saying you have to like both types equally;  

if you love Warhol's "Most Wanted Man No. 6" piece and have no interest in his "Heinz Tomato  

Ketchup Box" because you find meaning in one and not the other, that is entirely your prerogative  

and your right. But you shouldn't be able to say that one is art and not the other, or that Warhol  

is a legitimate artist because of "Most Wanted Man No. 6" and DESPITE "Heinz Tomato Ketchup Box". On  

that note, it's also worth mentioning that meaning itself in art is the subject of some debate.  

If art needs to have meaning to be real, then what about cases where the artist themselves  

intended to depict no deeper meaning when creating their work, but their audience DID interpret  

meaning from it nonetheless? Is it the creation or the reception of the art that matters most?  

Once again, these are questions without concrete answers, and that in and of itself should tell  

us how little ground art purists actually have to stand on when they claim they know what makes art  

real or not. Personally, I don't believe that art should have to have meaning to be considered real.

I think a lot of that stems from the misguided idea that an artist needs to be suffering or sad  

to create real, authentic, genuine work. It's  something that has, historically, led to a lot of  

artists being glorified for their mental illness and told, either alive or posthumously, that their  

work was better because it depicted their pain, because art depicting something that elicits an  

emotional response in a viewer is deemed as more compelling, more provocative, more stimulating, and  

more valuable. And while I don't fully agree with that, I can at least see where it's coming from;  

the ability of a work of art to make a human  being feel something that they otherwise would  

not have felt is not without value, and it is  undeniably impressive. But not only do I not  

think it HAS to be able to do so to be considered real art, I also don't think the genre or style in  

which it's created decides whether or not it's capable of doing so. It's easy to say anime art  

doesn't convey deeper meaning while looking at the cover of a shojo romance manga, but what about when  

looking at the Sun Project? It's a four-person art collaboration fronted by Mimi N, and is devoted to  

illustrating social issues, depression loneliness, and other hard-hitting problems and experiences,  

all in an anime style. And if you look at  these pieces of art, you will feel something,  

and it'll probably hurt. So I don't understand how people can say that anime art can't have meaning,  

because even if I WERE to agree that art needed meaning to be considered real, I still wouldn't  

agree that that meant anime was automatically not real, because the style does not preclude  

the meaning. My traditional, realistic paintings of flowers are taken much more seriously in fine art  

circles, but the pieces that I've used to convey the most meaning have been done in an anime style.  

And doesn't that say enough about how the art community really views the significance of meaning  

in art? But all of that said, intellectualizing the issue doesn't necessarily stop us from emotionally  

experiencing it in an entirely different way. I  know, on a conscious level, that my anime style  

art is as artistically valid as my realistic  work. But it doesn't change that when I tell  

strangers who ask what I do that I'm an artist and then they want to see my work, I show them  

my traditional paintings, because I know that's what they'll find more impressive and legitimate,  

and I want to be taken seriously. I know, logically speaking, that at least as far as my own opinion is  

concerned, my art doesn't need to have meaning to be real, but I still feel like the work that I do  

in my art journal expressing complex thoughts and feelings is the work that I should be more proud  

of, the work that makes me a "real" artist compared to the fanart or cute anime girls that I post on  

my Instagram. Knowing these things doesn't make me any less insecure about my art; I completely  

understand why Andy Warhol struggled so deeply with this, and why he so desperately wanted his  

personal work to be seen and valued more than his commercial work; not because I agree with him and  

think that his commercial work was less valuable, but because I relate to the painful, agonizing,  

lifelong struggle that results from the internal battle every artist fights just to be able to take  

pride in their work, especially through the  lens of how they know society will view it.  

It hurts me when someone asks what kind of art I make, I tell them "oh, anime and comic style stuff,  

mostly" and their immediate response is "...oh", and I can see them lose respect for my work and my career.  

And no amount of rationalization can really  change that; it's something that all artists in  

fields that are looked down on are gonna have to deal with, and I can offer nothing more significant  

as consolation than "same, dude, and I'm here for you; this whole community is, so reach out and let  

them build you up more than others can put you down". Ultimately, all of this brings me back to my  

original question: if we can't objectively define art beyond the most basic of criteria, is there any  

merit to trying to do so anyway? I understand the desire, I do-- I am very much the kind of person who  

overthinks every aspect of everything until I feel I have the highest possible understanding of it,  

and I absolutely see the appeal of being able to establish more conclusive parameters when it  

comes to what is and isn't art. I would like to be able to say that that banana duct taped to a wall  

in an art gallery shouldn't have sold for $120,000 and give some quantifiable reason why not,  

but at the end of the day, someone paid that much for it because they thought it was worth that,  

and regardless of their reasons, why should  my failure to see it as art mean it isn't?  

Someone paid that amount of money because they thought it was, and by way of that alone,  

wasn't it? I guess what I'm asking is what we as an art community really stand to gain from  

restricting the definition of real art. Best case scenario, we arrive at a conclusive definition of  

art that excludes certain mediums or genres in the process, which doesn't bring us anything good  

or valuable other than the definition itself,  but does exclude and alienate artists who are  

trying something new or different. Worst case scenario, we over-police what is and isn't real  

art so much that the community's creativity is thoroughly stifled no one tries anything new or  

experimental, and artists everywhere are miserable and hesitant to share their work for fear that  

the public will see it as not real and insult it. I just think that attempting to limit the definition  

of real art can only really do harm with very  little payoff to justify it or balance it out.  

I would rather just let artists and art lovers  make those definitions for themselves based on  

their views and experiences instead of fighting each other about it in an attempt to reach some  

impossible, intangible conclusion. I know that I just said, for all intents and purposes, that  

if I can't say what isn't art, I also can't  say what IS art, which means that I probably  

shouldn't be asserting with the confidence that I am that anime is. Which is fair. But what I mean  

in conclusion, I suppose, is that people who think anime is real art are valid. People who think it  

isn't are valid. People who feel that they have the authority to share that opinion as if it's  

a fact and police what art is and isn't real based on it are not valid. And I would rather err on the  

side of being too inclusive of what is art than the side of being too gatekeepy about what isn't.  

And that brings me to the end of the video! Those are all just my opinions, and as a result  

I would love to hear yours in the comments to both expand my perspective and further the discussion.  

Do you think anime is real art? What even makes art "real" art to you? What value does meaning have when  

it comes to that differentiation? Please let me know, because while I don't answer comments often  

anymore for a multitude of reasons, I do read them all, and I find this topic particularly fascinating.  

Before I end the video, though, contest updates! This month's contest theme was summer, and as  

always, the entries were gorgeous. They really made me nostalgic for the good old days when  

I could leave my house and experience summer. It was actually kind of comforting to live  

vicariously through the scenarios they depicted, because seeing how all of these different artists  

visually defined the word summer so beautifully was almost like flipping through an art book of  

their experiences. I'm so amazed by the work that everyone submitted, as always, and I'm so happy to  

congratulate amo_reads on Instagram for winning first place with this exceptional piece that  

aggressively makes me want both boba and a trip to California, and laychell_digital on Instagram for  

winning second place with this heartwarming piece that takes me back to the warm childhood vibes of  

enjoying the beach with your family. Thank you to both of you for submitting your fantastic work,  

and congratulations again! Unfortunately, due to a multitude of circumstances, August's contest was  

officially the last of them, at least for the  time being. The biggest two reasons were that one,  

people were concerned that community vote was unfair, because artists with big followings could  

just get those followings to give them more votes than their competitors as a result. I did a poll  

asking if you guys would prefer that I judge  it myself, and while the majority did vote for  

my personal judgment, there were an exceptional number of comments saying that neither option  

really worked for them. They suggested to have a jury of fellow artists judge it, or to make a whole  

selection of criteria to vote on with multiple  winners based on that, or to have a community vote  

winner and a personal choice winner, or to write a code that forces all entries to be anonymous,  

and a lot of similar suggestions. They were all really good ideas, but none of them took into  

consideration that I work 80 hours a week, minimum, on my channel, and I just don't have the time to be  

devoting to thorough, criteria-based judgment, or managing a panel of artist judges. I also usually  

only have one prize to offer, which means I can't offer multiple based on different categories, and  

I also can't code for sh*t. All of this meant  that no one could agree on a fair solution that  

I could actually provide. The other reason was that the site I was using to host the contest  

was charging me $70 a month, and there  are no cheaper alternatives that allow the things  

I need, so given that that's $70 just to run the contest and another $100 to  

ship the prize, it just-- I can't afford it. All of  that in mind, I'm really sorry; I did try to find  

every possible solution here, but at the moment it's just no longer feasible for me to continue  

running these contests. Instead, I'm gonna go back to tablet giveaways; they're not as much  

fun, but they still let me give one of you guys an awesome tablet every month, so that's something.  

As per my old rules, which are more than open to new suggestions for next month, please comment  

"I am not to be truffled with" on this video for a chance to win an XP-PEN Deco MW drawing tablet, the  

same as last month's first place prize, linked in the description. The winner will be determined by a  

random number generator and contacted on October 1st either via a response to their original  

comment on Youtube or via any social media account they include in their comment as a preferred point  

of contact, at which point they will have 72  hours to respond and claim their prize before  

it is then redrawn and offered to another winner. Anyway, thank you guys for watching, and special  

thank you as always to channel members Cafe Soleil, Joseph Solomon, Unknown Code, Abyss Reborn, Dalth, and  

Lucian Is Apa, as well as patrons Batman, Kyle Low, blueswanson, thisistotallymyname, Uni Tea, Cora  

Feere, Jamesha Walker, Jason Oliphant, and ShiromeArtiste for their support. I hope you enjoyed  

today's video-- please leave a like and subscribe if you did-- and I'll see you in my next one!

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