The Scene is in our Blood
People always told me that I will never truly escape the scene, but I was pretty sure my scene days were over for good this time. I harboured a lot of resentment towards the scene for taking over a decade of my life, and with every discussion and every day I wasted in forums, I grew more bitter.
What's more, while many sceners prejudged and trashed my graphics for one reason or another, the digital art community embraced my work. My online tutorial for "Me and Louie's Sister" (www.devotion-graphics.com) received millions of hits, was made into magazine articles and was used to teach college classes. I reached the top 5 in the digitalart.org charts, I got "digged", and search engines, blogs and forums, and even my email box were full of praising words. Even more fulfilling was all the proud people who sent me their paintings, which they had created thanks to my tutorial. By teaching them my techniques, I had helped these people realise their artistic visions and unleash their own creativity, and that filled me with more satisfaction than any scene contribution I'd ever made. I decided that any graphics or design work I felt like doing would be directed towards these people in future.
During this time, my life away from the computer was looking up too. I was at my peak of popularity, peak health and fitness, and spent most my evenings entertaining attractive women or enjoying the night life somewhere with friends.
Fuck the scene, fuck you all, I'm out of here before I sink any further! That was my general sentiment on leaving and I didn't care who knew it.
Six months later I wrote an article describing my freedom from scene addiction. It's unfortunate that I offended some good people, including some close friends, but I did not write the article maliciously and I stand by what I wrote. It was a warning to anybody heading down the same path as me. It doesn't apply to everyone, I know, but there are definitely some sceners who would do well to look at the advice I gave. The scene can be a fine hobby and creative outlet when it is fun and informal, but when it takes over your life, it can destroy you inside and out.
Hopefully, people who know me are able to distinguish between Wade, the dramatic diskmag writer, and Dan, the guy behind the keyboard, and separate the shock value from the well-intended content. Time permitting, I may try to contribute some constructive and practical advice to diskmagazines in the future, i.e. health and fitness tips.
The demoscene is a very competetive society, once comprising some of the greatest computer talents in the world. It requires a lot of dedication to get to the top, and that can mean sacrificing a lot of important experiences and priorities in life. This is a mistake I made, but during my hiatus from the scene I've managed to catch up on a lot of missed experiences, fix a lot of issues in my life and determine what's important to me. Life continues to be good, though a little less wild these days, and my interest in the scene is purely fun and casual.
After I wrote my aforementioned article berating the scene as a destructive pastime, I got to read some of the responses, including those by IRIS members and Sir Garbagetruck, among others. They made fair points, many of which I could not dispute. Instead of blaming the scene for my frustration and depression, they suggested that maybe the problem lay with me taking it all too seriously. Damn were they right!
Having followed the scene from 1990, I always perceived myself as one of the veterans, or "oldskoolers", and believed we deserved more respect from newcomers than we got. In truth, I guess I felt the need to uphold obsolete philosophies just to retain my footing, and rather than adapting to the scene and moving with the times, I was stuck in my ways and wanted the scene to adapt to me.
Working alongside The Fearmoths allowed me to loosen up, try new and un-scene-like graphic styles. I had fun, and I confess, on a few occasions I even contributed to a thread on Pouet under the Shanethewolf account (as did many people actually) and found myself giggling like a mischeivous schoolboy. It helped me see the scene from a different perspective and put me back in touch with the fun and creative element that first drew me in.
No hard feelings...
I've had my share of criticism, people accusing me of scanning, or trashing my hard work because I used references. It was something I used to take very personally and helped turn me very resentful towards the scene.
However, I have been so overwhelmed with praise and recognition during the past years I don't feel like I need to explain my efforts any more. I realise, I haven't "just copied some pretty pictures", I've created techniques and painting styles that have aided and inspired many artists and illustrators over the world. That's good enough for me.
I have not copied a picture in over 3 years now, but in the scene I grew up with, painting graphics was an arduous technical challenge and copying was the done thing. Vallejo paintings and portraits were like a measuring point for graphic artists. One artist would paint a woman or dragon (or both), then another artist would try to draw a more realistic and detailed version, or present the same motif with a new style. It was like "the bob wars" or any demo effect: the best ones are often those that show more detail, an appealing style or do it faster, smaller or more efficiently.
Today things are different and I actually agree that copying is a poor and uncreative habit that should be avoided. With the advent of graphics tablets and sophisticated painting programs, most of the technical challenges have been eliminated, and never before has creativity and originality been so important.
For what it's worth, I have taken all the criticism on board and more recently I've opened my mind to new styles and techniques, have rid myself of self-imposed restrictions and "oldskool standards", and for the first time in years, I'm enjoying my hobby.
The Born-Again Demoscene...
Since cutting my scene activities, I also limited my time watching demos. I had friends keeping me updated on anything significant and I'd check Pouet every so often, but unless it had plenty of thumbs up or hype, I never bothered.
But 2007 brought many surprises. For a start, there was the ever stunning Debris by Farbrausch, Lifeforce by ASD and the C64 remake of Desert Dream, all of which gave me chills and reminded me what I loved about the scene. And for an old scener like me, it was such a joy to see Equinox, Brainstorm, Rebels and Andromeda back in town, featuring some original members. Not only that, but three of my long time role models made returns and cameo appearances: Destop, Bridgeclaw and Facet.
I was also noticing my former group mates in Fairlight and other old UK friends stepping up... not to mention impressing the hell out of me with their work!
Add all this to the rise of talented newcomers such as Still, Unc and PlayPsyCo, and the scene was looking like a fun and inspiring place to be again.
I also discovered a great forum for sceners known as Bitfellas, where discussions appear civilised and constructive, and where I recognise many old scene friends and acquaintances.
Then one day out of the blue I received an email from one of my oldest swapper friends, S7ing/Alcatraz, inviting me to join the newly reformed Alcatraz. The timing was perfect, my motivation was high, their memberlist was full of guys I like and respect. It felt like the perfect fit for me so I told him to count me in!
What a lot of sceners don't know about me is that I'm actually a pretty humble and laidback guy. You'd get that if you spoke to me, but in a public forum, I could be an opinionated and arrogant son of a bitch who regularly pissed people off.
As a diskmag editor, I embraced the philosophy that controversy and drama make for entertaining reading. I also felt that it was a great way to fire people up and incite their passion. If you don't like what I'm saying, prove me wrong, argue back, write articles... let's liven things up! Love me or hate me for it, I believe most people felt something when they read my articles, at least back in my Amiga days.
I'm not the most popular scener, but in truth there are a lot of sceners I think are smug pricks, and some are just fucking weird. I'm never going to see eye to eye with these people, and I sure as hell won't be dancing naked with any of them at Boozembly, mud wrestling, playing doctors and nurses or whatever it is they do these days. (Unless that Jessika chick is involved.)
In all seriousness though, conflicts, grudges and differences of opinion are part of any culture and help make it more diverse and interesting. When you start taking it too personally, then it's time to take a break.
I'm pretty sure there are plenty of guys who enjoyed baiting me and playing me at my own game, and I'm sure that won't stop now. So to pre-empt their smartass questions, let's fire out some answers.... Yes, I still have a great social and sex life. I am still in good health and shape (though carrying a few extra lbs after Christmas). Yes I was a member of Fearmoths. No I am not Shanethewolf, Micktherabbit, Butler, Dave or Corky. Yes, it was me who stole Parapete's bike, but he stole my bomber jacket first. And for the last time, no I don't do cam sex!
For many people, such as myself, a time out can be a good thing: a chance to get priorities in order and return refreshed. Whether it's a few months, a few years or even a decade, for many hardened sceners, the scene will always be in our blood.