Maybe You already have Your own opinion this subject. But I would recommend You to read this article to the end before making any hasty conclusions. This article is about the question, whether graphic works of different painters and animators who paint smileys and koloboks are of any artistic value or not. We will also view these works as a piece of art with all that it implies: copyright, plagiarism, vandalism and so on. Finally we’ll make some conclusions and decide, whether graphic smile are a type of art or are they made just for fun. Should You changes Your point of view and comments this article, I will be very pleased, because it's actually the main target of the article.
Koloboks … smileys … there is now a big variety of them: funny, angry, kind, amusing. Where do they actually come from? I’ll reveal a secret to You – they are painted by people and have their own creators. This fact is incontestable. But not everyone thinks about it. Smileys are easy to copy, save, paste, send in an e-mail. Works of different painters are usually collected in some kind of storages, where the site owner shows all the items "collected" by him together, as a big heap. I’ve even got some letters from some owner who has “fairly collected and sorted” a big amount of smileys and offered me to publish this "best smileys collection" at my site. So they belong to everyone but their creators. I used to show my next work trying to get to know the site visitors’ opinion. It was half-done and I wanted to know a better way to finish it. But after a short time this work was to be seen everywhere in the internet, although I asked not to use it because of its incompleteness. Now I only show the finished ones. No contemporary site or forum in the net can exist without smile. Using popular graphic works the majority of administrators don’t even think, that they break a license or infringe a copyright, pasting a popular smile picture into their programs or into a blog or site engine. One of the most common delusions in the net is that smileys are multiplying, that they belong to everyone and that no copyright exists, because the creators have no supporting documents. According to the copyright principle provisions everyone who has created his work doesn’t have to license it, it belongs to him anyway. "The fact that a piece of science, literature or art is created means that the copyright to it comes into force. There is no work registration or other kind of legal formalities needed for the copyright to exist. " (Law of the Russian Federation 09.07.93. №5351-1 "On Copyright and Neighbouring Rights" Article 9.1.). The fact that they use works not for profit can’t be seen as an excuse. It happens mostly because of frivolous and incredulous attitude to graphic smileys. I often have to deal with program and script creators who ask for my permission for using my works. So, the majority of them can't imagine how difficult it is to create a graphic smiley. It sometimes happened that for using my works in their rental products I had to place their (!) banner on my site and get an unnecessary program as gratitude. Everywhere You face only complete disrespect for the animators’ work.
There are some already existing styles and trends in graphic smileys. Every popular author stands out for something among the others. His style and works are easy to recognize and there are admired by visitors, who form a kind of a "fan army”. Recognition depends on talent, working capacity, and less on different whims of third parties. If someone paints, but his paintings are popular only among his friends, they may actually dissemble. Nearly everyone may express his positive or negative opinion on painters’ works. It is one of the most difficult tests that every beginning painter has to go through. His works will be either liked or reduced to powder. Many beginning animators do not put their signatures under their works. So they can know, whether people like their works or not without being trampled. Sometimes criticism can’t actually help to find mistakes and to draw right conclusions. And not everyone has strength to accept it and to move on. When the works are finally popularly accepted by fans, they blend into the mass, or their author has already lost his interest to the subject and he doesn’t care. But it doesn’t always go this way. Bright painters mostly stand out from the crowd at once. Having seen such a picture You won't confuse them with anyone else. Many people note, that works somehow resemble their author. Works are usually made according to the authors attitude to life, sense of time in animation and other personal characteristics of the author. Animation and mode of behavior often copy or imitate the author’s or his ambience’s ones. As one of animators said by discussion of this question: “More over: smileys – they seem similar (?), but some of them are so appealing that one can stare at them indefinitely (hoping that the smiley will perform something else), others drive You insane – just like people!” We have already discussed copyright, but it’s not as simple as one might think. Smiley’s success and consequently its popularity depends on many aspects. Some of them are work idea, concept and character. Surely graphic execution, completeness, style, animation and so on are unavoidable. But a smiley is based on concept, on its IDEA. A smart smiley is like an aphorism. It’s short, juicy and there’s a great depth of meaning in it. (Un)Fortunately copyright doesn’t concern characters and ideas. "Copyright doesn't concern any ideas, methods, processes, systems, techniques, concepts, principles, findings, facts” (Law of the Russian Federation 09.07.93. №5351-1 "On Copyright and Neighbouring Rights" Article 6.4.). It has its positive and negative sides. Some unspoken rules regulating usage of one author’s good ideas by others exist among painters. If there are any limitations, they must be discussed and respected. (Nearly)Every beginning painter begins with remaking someone else’s works. That’s exactly what I’ve begun my career with. I had no notion of ethics and copyright. But when I succeeded as an animator I gave up on others’ ideas and admitted having remade some works and separated them from my other works. But some ideas are so smart and even brilliant that any effort to remake them results in a waste of time. There are some stereotypes in the net and some smileys become timeless unchangeable classic. That’s why a permission is usually asked for when someone is going to recycle others’ ideas. If the agreement is reached old heroes appear in a new look. Is it bad or good? Let’s beat the matter out. If two authors start to paint a still-life with an apple and a glassful of milk. Both paintings are based on the same idea and concept, but they are different. Whereas two smile expressing the same can become a matter in copyright dispute. And there are no rules or laws written on this subject. Only good sense, Your authority among other painters and conflicting parties loyalty can help You reach compromise. Although there is no menace of administrative punishment according to the law. This is an unwritten rule among graphic smiley painters. You accept it if You want, but if You don’t want to accept it You’ll take the consequences Yourself. It is one of difficult but civilized conflicts. There are some others.
Many homebrewed "designers" feel obligated to remake finished smileys for their own needs. They are absolutely sure they are allowed to do it and don't understand what they have done and what are the components of crime. They post their archives with someone else’s works signing as author of “optimized” smileys. He actually has spent a lot of time looking for smileys in the net, collecting and remaking them. But there is nothing more depressing than to see Your work in any kind of second-class “porn-fecal” action. smileys are usually changed, disjointed and it results in something perverse made of them. There‘s no secret, that such works are of poor value, represent something wretched and is in great demand. And You can change nothing if You see Your heroes making love, with primary sex characters, ugly faces or doing actions with flooding of fecal masses and blood. You can’t stand against it. It will be popular and it will carve out a niche for itself and find its fans. It’s really bad, because it can damage Your image and You’ll get letters from Your true fans with questions like: "Where did such a lasciviousness come from?” Some fans can even ask You to paint more such smileys from this set, thinking You are the real author of them. There are also such people who want everything at once, but instead of the difficult and long way of painting something new they choose the simplest way. They take a finished work, change the graphic palette, colors, add some pixels and present the work as their own one. Than they make justify themselves saying: “My smileys are free of charge, and that one (I won’t say who it is) does it for money. I don’t ask money for smileys and can do with them everything I want. Smileys belong to the net, they have no author! Don’t You believe me, than go to law against me!” and so on. There is a big amount of such plagiarists. But fortunately one has got a head on one’s shoulders and can distinguish between the origin work and a mere apology for it. They won’t be respected or top-ranked. I’ve recently read a forum, where a questions of copying my works was discussed. Someone thought that if one adds some pixels to my kolobok, changes its color and patents (!) it, it will become his authorized work that I won’t be related to. The subject about copyright we’ll discuss in detail in one of the next articles.
In the contemporary internet it’s hardly to join the ranks of animators without special skills and certain abilities. Thrust and wish are not enough. If at the beginning of my work I only relied on my instinct, later I began to study some specialized writings on animation to learn the subject better. To know in which direction does the body mechanically move by collision, walking, fall. Of how many frames a fast or slow animation should consist. What an invisible kolobok background is made of which actually forms the general impression: gesture, hair or arm movements and so on. You should also study the GIF formate that You are going to make smileys from, and it requires a combination of creative attainments and shrewdness. At the first time I could hardly rule the painting process. My knowledge gave me no opportunity to present a new work, and I deleted everything without having released it. Now I present everything connected with concept and format what ensures a big increase on the way from the idea to the finished work. Painters spend a lot of time for every smiley draftsmanship. For example: Having invented a new kolobok character, You try to paint some main frames for it. Now he is laughing, than he became serious. But You can spend many hours connecting this two points, smoothing the animation between them, painting background layers. Immensity and changes in hero's inertia don’t happen by oneself. A hard work is usually divided in hundreds small picture layers, that form dozens or hundreds finished frames. GIF format contains frames which You see as a result put together. But the animation painting process is objectively close to the process of making real animated films. First You need to choose a concept. Then You paint hundreds of pictures, edit them and get an animated cartoon as a result. To draw a smiley is surely much easier than to draw a cartoon, but I’ve just compared two processes. You should also take into account working hours for every work… Do You still doubt smileys are a sort of art, although a small one? If You still do, visit galleries of top-ranked animators, have a look at their works and just think for a second how could You live without these funny, amusing faces. If You see Your favorite smiley anywhere in the net, think about who has done it and how much time did the author spend working on it? Does it have any author at all and what do You know about him?
We have spoken a lot about smiley as an art, but I haven’t mention any painter or animator name. It’s no accident. I think that it’s very difficult to mention within the frame of this article one, two or any amount of names. I would like to write one more solid article or even a set of such articles to this subject. Should You have any information about he history of graphic smileys, about painters, interesting events or something like that, send me please an e-mail, I will be very pleased. And may be not only I.