Is HeroMachine art?

Someone on the "Star Wars: The Old Republic" forums posted the following:

Maybe I'm just going through a stage of Male-PMS, but I feel like being really blunt here. The people who post screenshots of there person made with HeroMachine and call it their artwork, well, there are several things wrong with this:
1.) HeroMachine is not your program, your just using a public device. You cannot call it your art if you didn't make it. So you spent hours slaving over the hardest efforts to click a button many times to get a poor rendition of something that vaguely resembles a person with a generic stance that never changes.
2.) It's beyond unoriginal. I've seen it a lot around here, and it just irks me! It is so much more beneficial to ask someone to draw it for you. It benefits you in that you have a genuine piece of artwork that somebody actually put effort into. It also benefits them in that it helps them with the experience. Computers don't learn to draw from reference sheets and imagination, they get it from a billionaire who programs it into them.

I think it's an interesting question -- are images created in HeroMachine art? Why or why not?

(Image © Fiona Katauskas.)

38 Responses to Is HeroMachine art?

  1. Gero says:

    I think the guy who posted this should try to make something in heromachine. I’ve seen characters/objects created on this program that are just amazing. From what this person is writing, it sounds like they’ve never even seen Heromachine, let alone used it…

  2. Hammerknight says:

    Lets see, people stand cars on end and they never made the cars, but they car it art. People glue trash together and make lamps and they didn’t make the trash, but they call it art. Sound like someone that was charging people for their drawings lost some business to hero machine and is not taking it very well. Just because you don’t make the items that you are working with doesn’t mean that you are not making art. I do all forms of art and I enjoy HM, because it gives the opportunity to people that are not good at drawing to show what they have on their minds. I just wish that people could show happiness easier and faster then they can show hate. And everyone wonders what is wrong with the world today.

  3. Vampyrist says:

    I believe it is art, as you provided us the canvas and paint. We have used what you gave us to form what we call art. The opinion of “Art” also fluctuates between person to person. As they say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. And with HM3, we can create almost anything our little comic loving heart’s desire. If we are proud of what we have created, then that to me is art.

  4. MartianBlue says:

    I would say… most definitely, it’s a form of art. On one hand you mainly use preset items to create, but you have extensive control over them from size, to shape, to location. On the other hand the option does exist to use general shape insignias to use as line work or shaping to create something unique, such as guitars, helmets, whatever.

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, I personally find some things people call art, well… lets just say I’ll never understand it.

    By providing a set of tools for use to create, doesn’t make it any less creative, just more accessible to a wider audience.
    I’ve got the demo for champions-online downloaded, just so I can play with the character creator for concepts, which I then recreate on heromachine, because it’s more versatile. If your willing to put in the time, your only limited by your imagination. How is that not art?

  5. Tango says:

    Just because one does not use conventional tools doesn’t mean the end product is not art. Art is the imagination given form of some kind, and if someone can realize the objects of their imagination with HeroMachine, I think it’s unfair to criticize them for it.

  6. Tango says:

    As for vaguely resembling a person, I’m not one to flaunt, but I put considerable work into this little number to ensure that it more than vaguely resembled a Mr. Rondo Hatton:

  7. Jake says:

    Pretty nice Tango. I never thought of giving the brows a skin tone line color. I’ll have to try that out. I think you could make him even better if you layer the eyes to be behind the flesh eyebrows. Also, you might want to stretch his hair a bit to reach his ears. Very well done.

  8. MScat says:

    Its true there are different deffinitions on art here are two that i think sum up the whole lot:

    1) “Art is anything that has deliberately arranged elements that in a way to affect the emotions and senses”

    2) “Art is anything created by an artist using a medium”

    These two definitions are very broad in meaning which is good when describing something so broad as art. The first definitions brings to mind the fact that art is meant to affect the emotions or senses (it doesnt say in a good way) That means that if a person walks away from the piece totally disgusted the piece still fulfilled its purpose of invoking an emotional response. The second definition really show us that the only people who have a right to call something art is the one creating it. The ones who observe art does not have that right (but they do have the choice on the art they choose to recognize) Art comes in many forms some are made with the viewer in mind others are made with the artist in mind. Beautiful pieces (like the Mona Lisa) were created with teh viewer in mind, it was made in a way to appeal to the eyes. Other forms of art that were made with the artist in mind are ones that the creator makes as a way of expressing himself or to earn some kind of payment. In that since i think that heromachine does qualify as art but it is more for the artist instead of the viewer.

  9. The Imp says:

    The guy that posted the comment on the SW forums is a douche.

    I think Hammerknight hit the nail right on the head with his post.

  10. Joshua says:

    Can a creative endeavor generated from HeroMachine be considered “art”? Well, that’s above my pay grade. However, what Jeff has done is provide a valuable service to those of us who can’t draw a stick figure. What I’m sure all of us don’t appreciate it is this person saying that the work Jeff has put into HM is a “poor rendition”. Jeff, we here thank you for assisting us in creating our unique visions. Oh…one more thing: “Computers don’t learn to draw from reference sheets and imagination, they get it from a billionaire who programs it into them.” I assume Jeff programed HeroMachine, so is he the billionaire? If so…Jeff, can you spot me $100? πŸ™‚

  11. If you don’t consider HeroMachine to be art, think of it as “interactive expression”. There are many artists who design works and invite the public to manipulate and re-interpret them.

    Don’t see how using HeroMachine as a template is any different than other drawing styles and pop art forms. Look at all the anime / manga and fan art that is out there. Go to CGHUB. Though beautiful and brilliant, over half of those are Photoshopped.

    I love HM because I work with databases and spreadsheets all day. It’s a nice outlet.

  12. NEON_N64 says:

    LOL This guy is just bitter. His problem has nothing to do with art.

    He says: “You cannot call it your art if you didn’t make it.”

    That kind of have some sense, I think a drawing made entirely by yourself has more value than a design assisted with pre-drawn items (Hero Machine).

    But eventually he says: “It is so much more beneficial to ask someone to draw it for you.”

    WTF! That makes no sense and and contradicts his original argument.

    I think Hero Machine somehow “hurt” him. Maybe, as has already been said, he was charging people for their drawings and HM “took” his customers.

    Or maybe, he’s feeling obsolete… Probably the guy thinks of himself as an “artist”(a way to differentiate himself from the rest of the people), maybe he has formally studied drawing or at least dedicated a lot of his time to draw, and suddenly, anybody can use HM and make a decent to great looking illustration despite not having made the same effort he did. Now, thanks to HM, the “unwashed masses” can be artists as well, so he’s not special anymore. And of course, this upsets him.

    Or maybe… I’m thinking too much about this πŸ˜€

    The point is that… haters gonna hate.

  13. haz says:

    We often approach the art question as though “art” is a quality intrinsic to the product in question. Something either is or is not art. Who’s asking the question doesn’t come into play.

    I hold a different view. I don’t think art is intrinsic to the product. Whether or not something is art depends, in part, on the person asking the question. For one thing, it depends (again, in part) on what that person thinks art is. Some people think art needs to be meaningful, or to be aesthetically pleasing, or to have taken a certain degree of skill. And the real kicker is that all of these criteria people use to define art are, in themselves, subjective terms. We’re dealing with layers upon layers of ambiguity.

    I don’t think everybody’s wrong about art or that everybody should (or even could) get together and come up with a master definition that will settle things once and for all. I think that when I look at a Kandinsky and feel like I can’t breathe, it’s art. And when my grandmother looks at the same painting and wonders why the hell it doesn’t resemble anything, it isn’t art. I think she’s wrong and she thinks I’m wrong and we’re good with that.

    On the same token, the person who arranges the paint chip display at Home Depot probably doesn’t think that’s art. He’s not trying to get anything across, not expressing himself through color placement. He’s just arranging little pieces of paper by hue. When I look at the display, it’s art, because it moves me and because I think it is.

    The other aspect of this question is what is MY art, and I think that’s more what’s sparking the little hissy fit from the Star Wars forum. I think the person takes issue with the fact that people are creating something using pieces made by someone else. So if I draw a character (of mine) all on my own, it is entirely mine. It’s probably also pretty terrible, but such is the fate of the artistic slacker. Now, if I use Photoshop brushes someone else made, how much of the character is mine? Is there a magic ratio of my original work to tools from someone else that I have to hit? I don’t really have an answer for this one, but I see it as being more at the root of the problem than the definition of art itself.

    Good lord, that comment got away from me. Shutting up now.

  14. X-stacy says:

    Dude, Hebert, you’re a billionaire? Share with the group, man!

  15. Jeff Hebert says:

    I know, the billionaire comment cracked me up! I actually posted a brief reply along the lines of “where’s my money?!”

    Good thoughts from everyone, keep ’em coming. It’s an interesting question to me — bringing up “found art” or sculptures that are collections of objects made by someone else was a really good point I hadn’t thought of.

  16. Jeff Hebert says:

    Oh, and I don’t have anything against the guy who said that, at all. I didn’t take it as a “hater” thing at all in any way, that totally didn’t even occur to me. Motivations are much less interesting to me than the deeper question of what qualifies something as art.

    I will say, there’s a definite design sense that’s much more relevant to the effectiveness of the image you can obtain with this software that’s completely outside the bounds of anything I as the original creator of the pieces can provide. That totally comes from the person putting the character image together. And you can clearly see in the contests that some people genuinely have this design sense in spades and some … well, some do not.

  17. NEON_N64 says:

    I’ve been visiting videogame boards for the last 5 years or so. Every couple of months I find an “Are videogames art?” thread, and obviously, the question “What is art?” is unavoidable.

    And well… I’m bored of it πŸ˜›

    But it also got me thinking about another question…

    Why are we (humanity in general) so interested in dividing things into “art” and “not art” ?

    It’s just a label after all. So why do we tend to “defend” the title of art for the things that we consider art?

    Calling something “art” won’t make it any better, and calling it “not art” won’t make it worse. So why do we put so much emphasis on it?

    Is there a word for something that is “not art” ???

  18. Shade2075 says:

    I have been studying advertising, Fine art, Visual Communications, Art history, and Photography, for a long while know and have come to the conclusion Heromachine does count as art.
    However it is not solely the work of one person being the pieces have been generously been provided by Jeff. The fact is you use a basic system that many artists use which is collect/combine/convert/create.

    Color schemes are decided
    Orientation is planned
    Creations had to be first imagined
    If Major Museums can call Andy Warhol an artist
    Then yes its art

  19. Jake says:

    @NEON_N64: The word you’re looking for is “nart.”

  20. Kalkin says:

    I think that people wave that word around way too carelesly. In these days people who ask the question: “Is it art?” are a bunch cultural elite snobs, who’d like to keep ‘art’ to themselves as a symbol of their unquestionable superiority to everyone else. Heromachine is art, because people actualize ideas in their heads with it. Heromachine is just a convinient tool for expression. People could as well cut little pieces out of newspaper pictures and glue them into cool mosaics. Just think of Andy Warhol. His pop art consisted of taking various pieces of commercial crap, which he clipped to pieces and put together in an innovative configuration, and the critics loved it. I’ve made numerous interesting images with Heromachine. I could’ve drawn them with a pencil, if I had bothered, but luckily I didn’t have to. Does my vision suddenly stop being art just because I use an ‘easier’ media as means to my expression? I think not.

  21. THE_GRAND_END says:

    Regardless of whether or not this can be considered art, I consider it a resource for simplifying character discriptions in D&D, I use heromachine to give examples of what I see when I see my characters I’ve brain-stormed out and written descriptions for, but could never get a key detail right, and hero-machine seems to offer a close rendition of what it looks like…

  22. knight1192a says:

    Art is in the eye of the beholder. I have to disagree with this person that what people make on HeroMachine can never be seen as art. For instance, didn’t you select a person back in like February or March as a contest winner because they not only took the contest concept (Greek Hero or God as I recall what the contest was) and made their entry but made a full fledged comic using just HeroMachine to do it?

    It takes time just to make one figure, forget about adding in a background or even equipping them. Yes HeroMachine provides all one needs to make their character, but it’s still up to them what to use and how to make it look. And with HeroMachine 3 there’s even more work to do as you may choose to take positioning into account. You don’t just whip something out in thirty seconds (ok, maybe if you’re an expert or you’re just taking static poses and no color). Add in equipment and background and your increasing the time it takes, perhaps marginally so, so you could be at it for an hour or so to get things just right.

    How much longer does it tkae to produce a comic? We’re talking positioning of the characters and their appearance on each page, if it takes say an hour to create a single page with a single character then you get a baseline for how long it’d take for, say, a thirty two page comic (can’t remember how long theirs actually was). If it takes an hour per each character on the page, then it could well take most of a week to produce just thirty two pages.

    But again, art is in the eye of the beholder. Who hasn’t heard of some of these modern art pieces that really would never have made it as art a hundred years ago because they really aren’t all that original. I could go make myself a turkey and swiss on white bread with lettuce and tomato, then take a couple bites out and place it on a blue plate placed on some pedestal in an art gallery and call it blue plate lunch and there would be a bunch of art snobs who would go gaga over it. Something anyone could do for a few bucks and they’d be willing to pay thousands of dollars just because I called it art? Or how about I take a three foot by three foot canvas and mark it somewhere near the middle with a red pen, making just one tiny red dot? Neither of these is what I call art, but there are plenty who not only call it art by are more than willing to shell out far too much for them.

    But the person brings up a problem in their second point. Just get someone else to do it for you. While this is possible, it’s not always possible. And if you don’t like what they did you may not have a choice but to live with it. HeroMachine gives you the option to create something yourself. You can then take that to someone else and let them get a more detailed idea of how you want things to look.

  23. spidercow2010 says:

    If collage is art, HM is art.

  24. C. Baize says:

    Is it art?

    Is it MY art?

    In the sense that I only put the pieces together in a way which suited me.
    It’d be like getting dressed in the morning and calling THAT art.

  25. Myro says:

    Have I ever really thought of HM as art? Not really. It’s fun, and pretty useful for getting a costume idea realized, and sometimes I marvel at the technical expertise displayed by some of the creations, but I guess I never really thought of it as art. I do like Atomic Punk’s use of the term “interactive expression” for what HM does.
    Having said, the SW:TOR poster is being an asinine troll to write HM off completely like that.

  26. Scorpidius says:

    Personally I think the New Heromachine can be classed as your own art.

    Where HM2 was more rigid in it’s capabilities, (as in you clicked on an item and it went where it needed to go, you could not move or manipulate it, so maybe that could not be classed as your own art, as it was easy for someone else to put together the same looking item.

    HM3 is a completely different monster.

    With the now added manipulation and movement of objects, the multiple objects you can click etc, this now leaves the door wide open for the user to do what ever they like on a blank canvas. This has to be classed as people’s personal art, becasue as we have seen, there are some very talented people out there using HM3 and creating, not just great looking characters, but all sorts of objects and the like.

    Some of the stuff I have seen has blown me away and I think HM3 is really opening the imagination floodgates in a lot of people.

    So my answer to mr “Male PMS” is, go take a look at HM3 Alpha (yes Alpha, it’s still in a very early stage!) have a look at it, have a play with it, and see the endless possibilities. Let your imagination create anything you like, and yes, be proud of what YOU created, because it is YOUR artwork and imagination that created it.


  27. thejay says:

    This arguement goes way back when CGIs were invented: If your computer can make a yellow circle covered by a blue rectangle, is it art? Well, for me HM is like the bastard second cousin of Pixar and Dreamworks, and nobody asks them if they’re really doing art.

    The real question is – is it good art? Does it make any sort of impact on the world? Is that stunning and original imagery that comes out of there? Frankly, I don’t think heromachine is quite there yet, but HM3 comes a bit closer. And hey, it’s only an alpha.

  28. Rosco says:

    Don’t hedge your bets people. The products of Heromachine are so obviously artwork that the poster of this is likely to be a troll; also notice that, in case he couldn’t get people riled up with his opinions on art, he made sure to use “there” instead of “their” and “your” instead of “you’re.” Note also that he doesn’t suggest that we draw the things ourselves to be real artists, but that we pay someone else to draw people for us. In the latter situation, we’re taking a much less active role (altho the description we send the artist is also our artwork), so someone with serious objexions to calling HeroMachine heroes art wouldn’t tell you that you should be even MORE passive.

  29. Me, Myself & I says:

    I imagine that part of his perspective is that, without this tool, could the people making these images still do it. While valid, this is not the way I choose to look at it.

    Personally I view HM as a tool that allows someone to create. How they use it is up to them. The truth is that some could do so easily and some would have difficulty. As with any skill, those who pracice get better while those who don’t practice do not improve. As far as artists go I would consider myself no more than an amature at best. Perhaps with a good design sense and a lot of potential if I nurtured the skill but that is about it. What would concern me if I was trying to develope my artistic talents would be if I used HM as a crutch and never tried other things. I think what I accomplish with HM is indeed artistic. Easy art perhaps and not entirely unique but art none the less.

    So let’s put the question another way. Is it art if it is the only medium you can use or do you need extra skill elsewhere. Do we need to be defined as “artists” before we can create art with HM?

  30. Bael says:

    I say yes. Hero Machine characters are art.

    First, Jeff’s work on Hero Machine, the individual pieces, are definitely art.

    Second, any user’s efforts are art in their own right. That particular moron misses the fact that Hero Machine, from a user’s perspective, isn’t the art, but the medium for the user’s efforts. Look at music. All the notes are easily defined, but the art is in the arrangement. Hero Machine is the same thing.

    Finally, if Christo gets NEA grants to drape sheets all over Central Park, then I think that Hero Machine would definitely meet any governmental definition.

    ‘Nuff said.

  31. Moognation says:

    Wow! I didn’t know you were a billionaire, Jeff! Would you adopt me?

  32. Gargoyle323 says:

    I believe that “art” means different things to whoever you ask.Britannica Online defines art as”the use of skill and imagination in the creation of aesthetic objects,environ-
    ments,or experiences that can be shared with others”.Another
    take is that art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way to affect the senses or emotions.I believe Jeff has given us a forum(which I am very
    thankful for)in which we can show our creativity,and that we
    can share with others. Is this considered”fine art”?Probably
    not. But from what I have observed on this site are people showing skill and imagination to effect peoples senses. I would call that”art”.Again,my thanks to Jeff,who shares his art with us so that we can create our own take on art!

  33. spidercow2010 says:

    Excellent discussion, but I find I no longer care if HM is Art or not. I enjoy doing it, I enjoy seeing what others have done, of being inspired by others to try something I hadn’t thought of… y’know, the standard wheeze among anti-elitists is, “I don’t know much about Art, but I know what I like.” In this case I can say that without feeling like a schmuck.

  34. SG says:

    I will post this quote from a tv show, and leave it at that.

    “Well, what makes art, art? Cuz I say it is? If I had known it was that easy I wouldn’t have gone to all this trouble.”

  35. MURO says:

    as annoyed as this guy is I get his point, the person didn’t draw or come up with the fundamental concept and I think he’s pointing out the tone of false confidence and possibly even arrogance from some people, not really doing the entire concept. but here is where the truth/lies with the word art…

    The Campbell soup can was already drawn and designed but when someone added a different color to it became a very infamous pieces of what is classified as POP art. Before comics had a genre, it was not even respected as a true art form as most things are before they become mainstream.

    When I hear art I always look at if its, Modern, Bauhaus, Contemporary, etc. So for this, I classify it as “Customized” art. We just live in a time now where mostly everything is customized.

    I was always under the impression a concept artist draws, then a scene artist, a colorist and then the 3d guy.

    the 3D Art is based on an already developed concept, taken a bit further. The same way it takes time to extend the Hero Machine concepts.

  36. Neon Sequitur says:

    Art is the pursuit of perfection.

    That’s all the definition of ‘art’ I’ve ever needed.

  37. PsyckoSama says:

    Art is self-expression simply put.

    This is art.