NTMI: Good morning, everyone! We're honored today to have with us Ankharis, author of the "Silly, Silly, Silly" comics, and a very influential figure for all aspiring Neopian artists. Welcome, Ankharis.
Ankharis: Thank you, and it's an honor to sit for this interview. I hope I can live up to that intro.
NTMI: I think so! But let's get started at the beginning... of Neopets. How did you find it, and what got you on it?
Ankharis: Well, it was fairly accidental. I had never heard of Neopets back then, in December of 2000, and I was chatting with one of my friends online, sort of goofing off, when I noticed a link to Neopets on some site or another. I wish I could give you more specifics as to where I saw it, but I honestly cannot remember. I thought the name was quite odd, so I went to check it out, and the whole thing struck me as very sweet, so I told my friend and we went over to create pets. Neopets was certainly a very content-filled site, so there was a lot to see, and exploring and getting one's bearings was quite enough to occupy a long stretch of time. The initial attraction, though, came from the large selection of very cute virtual pets, and the idea they had their own little world to dwell in.
NTMI: Were there any particular species of pets that attracted your attention more than others?
Ankharis: Certainly! To be honest, I found most of them really odd for one reason or another, and at first I was thinking "Nah, who needs this?" A lot of the pets struck me as Pokemon knockoffs. Then, however, I saw the Gelert and immediately liked that one a lot. It was far and away better than the others in my view.
NTMI: What did you think of the human pets?
Ankharis: They weren't there, actually. I am not sure when they were removed, but there was no sign of anything human up for adoption when I first arrived.
NTMI: So what was the big news when you did get there?
Ankharis: Oh, boy... The Battledome! That thing was in beta testing, and everywhere you went, it was Battledome Battledome Battledome. It was apparently the start of when people really started clamoring and grabbing for items that could turn their pet into the killing machine all Neopets were obviously intended to be. Heavy sarcasm on that last bit about killing machines, there, in case it doesn't come across well in text. But that was definitely what seemed to be everywhere. The Battledome. People were drooling for the chance to put their pets to use as pitfighters.
NTMI: It sounds like you had a different view of your pet than that.
Ankharis: Yeah, very much so. My pet was certainly never intended for gladiatorial bloodsport. When I first saw the Battledome announced, and let it sink in, and looked at how Neopets was doing, I said to myself "Well, when that thing opens it's going to be the end of an era. People sharing through imagination will give way to people strutting about touting their numeric achievements. Brains and creativity will slide downhill while obsessive point-managing will become the new vogue. Not to mention hacking and abusiveness is going to escalate."
NTMI: Did you see that happen?
Ankharis: Yeah, I'd say so. It was a pretty rapid decline, too.
NTMI: Well it would seem obvious that you didn't participate in things you didn't like, so what did you spend your time doing?
Ankharis: Well of course I went straight for the Battledome! No, seriously, at first, there was so much to explore, that I have to admit, I was lost amid amusements. A lot of my time I spent just casing out the way things ran, watching things from afar, browsing past art galleries and caption contest galleries... Just looking around, and of course playing games. Back at the beginning, the quest for Neopoints was a lot of fun, and watching them pile up was a thrill. It's amazing how one's perspective changes over time. I remember when getting 500 Neopoints seemed like a fortune. That was fun, actually!
NTMI: Lol, so figuring out the economics of the system intrigued you. But did there come a time when the earning of money seemed more trouble than it was worth, and if so, any idea why?
Ankharis: Wow, did it. Something you have to understand about me is I am a loner by nature, so for the first 7 or 8 months I was on Neopets, I really didn't speak to anyone much. And, as a result, I didn't have any perspective. Working myself to death for Neopoints was great as long as I thought 1,000 NP was a fortune. But as soon as I gained some perspective from talking to others, and realized people were sporting quantities of Neopoints that were mountains next to my molehill, I felt like a fool for being so thrilled over my teeny little gains. Definitely, another route to making a fortune was needed. Because when I found out what kind of sums were kicking around out there on the site, I felt like I was working to get nowhere.
NTMI: Then you began a new project. What was it?
Ankharis: Well, first, I explored the Stock Market and realized that it could give me more money than everything else I was doing put together, with about 1/100th of the trouble. That was a very nice discovery, as it also seemed to be underused by others. You could just tap that thing for thousands, each and every day, once you got yourself going. But, by far, the most enjoyable venture was that I started selling artwork. I knew I had to get myself out there, as I wanted to be asked for business instead of having to go after it, so I entered the art gallery a couple times (1 2 3 4), and waited for a bite.
NTMI: Somehow, I have a suspicion that the idea of doing artwork was not just a spur of the moment idea. Would I be correct in saying that you had done a fair amount of it before you happened upon Neopets?
Ankharis: Oh, yeah. I've been into art my whole life, and have been using it for bread n' butter for years, in traditional media and digital, so doing Neopets artwork was something I knew I would enjoy a lot. After all, the pets themselves were really fun to draw, not to mention very basically constructed, so I could concentrate on other things aside from form, which came pretty easy. I was certainly looking forward to it.
NTMI: How well did your career of art for neopoints go, then?
Ankharis: Well, both good and bad. I let the first pictures go for a very small amount. However, you have to take losses in the beginning to get your name out, and I knew that if I wanted new customers, I had to have some old customers. So, I cut people some slack, and tried to have fun with the whole thing in the beginning. In time, though, things went very well. I realized that if one concentrated on selling art for Neopoints, then it wasn't even necessary to mess with things like the stock market or games. (A good thing, since the Space Invaders clone known as Swarm is fun the first few times, but after time number 20 starts feeling like yardwork.)
NTMI: How did you figure your rates?
Ankharis: Well, at first, I had a policy of letting anyone who came to me make offers. People would ask my prices, and I'd tell them I'd only listen to offers, not extend any rates. This was partially due to good business practice (the hope that someone will shoot you an inflated price) and also because there was an element of fun bartering to it, and it was neat to watch people kind of squirm a bit. That sounds awful, I know, but a little bit of edge like that turns something as mundane as a business deal for Neopoints into a mini-adventure all its own. My first work ended up going for 20,000 NP, with some smaller priced works after for about 5,000 apiece, but then thereafter I was continually raising prices, since the demand was continuous.
NTMI: Then you must have had a lot of money coming in. Where did it all go?
Ankharis: Well, at first, it was "The Quest For A Million Neopoints!" *dramatic music* I was obsessed with the idea of getting one million banked, and it was like riding a roller coaster, because while I have always been pretty good at saving, let's face it... You want to spend some, too. I would splurge constantly and buy exotic eats for my pet, and sometimes would weaken and just go off buying neat looking items for nothing more than their shelf appeal. But after I got over the charm of buying little .gif images of pancakes and all, it was going into savings. Well... Except for what was probably my biggest vice... Training.
NTMI: Training. That sounds like your pet had high stats?
Ankharis: Well, compared to the higher pets in Neopia? No way, some people had these insane stats up near the thousands, or higher. I can only assume they have somehow found a way to have a computer surgically implanted in their cranium so they need never leave Neopets. Or, heck, maybe they had their craniums surgically grafted to their computer, just as an excuse never to have to leave the house. I don't know. By the time I finally froze my own account on Neopets, though, my pet had stats of around 150 per, with I believe 250 hit points. I'd say among people who trained vigorously she was moderate.
NTMI: I always figured they got it from when you could get faerie quests on demand. I mean, getting two stat points every couple of minutes, for finding some items... but at any rate. You certainly had good stats, and I know you must have spent a lot on that training. But why? You never intended to fight her in the battledome, surely.
Ankharis: Well that's a good point, there. I used to get asked about that, in fact. Why the stats if I didn't want to fight? The reason is, I'll admit to being a sucker for games of pretend. I had a certain vision in mind of my pet, and I wanted her stats to reflect that vision, even if they were never going to be put to use in Battledome fights against other players. I know it might sound sort of odd to some people, but at the same time I think a lot of other people will understand. Not everything we do should be engineered to compete with others. Sometimes we do things and achieve things just for our own fun.
Ankharis: Plus, what else was I going to do with all that money?
NTMI: LOL, very good point! But somewhere in all this, you started writing for the Neopian Times. What prompted that?
Ankharis: Oh, the Neopian Times! Well, truth be told, my favorite things on Neopets were the art gallery and the comics section of the Times. Not because of trying to get in, but rather, because I genuinely love to see what other people create there. Entering the times with my S3 comics came because I could think of endless little gags involving Neopets, and I wanted to share them. My one article, though, was actually entered by another user under her name, and someone else pointed it out to me. When I discovered the theft, I wrote in, and the article was redirected to credit me. Otherwise, I never would have submitted an article. That article, along with the others I wrote, actually had been posted on my personal website.
NTMI: So you wrote comics for the Times (and one article that snuck in), did art commissions for people, and what else as far as work posted there?
Ankharis: Well, really, that was about it. Aside from the art gallery and the Times, I don't think I submitted much else to the Neopets site. A number of my pictures were used as Beauty Contest entries by the people who purchased them, which was fine with me, of course. Sadly, though, some of them were taken and used without permission in the Beauty Contest, by people who did not purchase them.
Ankharis: So that ended up being another unwilling submission to Neopets, but in that case, the staff told me flat out they wouldn't do anything about it.
NTMI: In other words, anyone could submit art from anywhere into the Beauty Contest with no penalty?
Ankharis: Well, I'll tell you what happened. After seeing the art being used in the Beauty Contest (It's still in there, by the way) I contacted Neopets, mailing them explaining the art had been used without my permission. Nothing was ever done. Finally, I got Felicia's ear, and she informed me that while they had warned the people who did it, they wouldn't be removing the art or taking away the trophies and prizes gained. I sent more mail proposing some solutions on how to handle such a situation without blatantly leaving the cheated artist out in the cold, but, no response. In that case, Neopets clearly sides with the villains, as I don't consider a "warning" much of a penalty if it doesn't come with any actual loss.
NTMI: Not hardly. I've read plenty from people upset about art theft, so there may be some social stigma to it- but if they cared about that in the first place, I'd think they were unlikely to do it. Back to the Neopian Times comics, though. I'd like to ask a few technical questions. How long would it take you to draw one?
Ankharis: Yeah, that's a way more pleasant topic, as I really do fondly remember doing those. Oh, I'd say the average S3 comic took about an hour and a half. I tended to always sit right down and run through them from start to finish, so I got them over with pretty quickly.
NTMI: Did you draw them by hand or on the computer?
Ankharis: I have a Wacom tablet, so they were done completely on the computer. In fact, all the artwork I made concerning Neopets was created 100% digitally.
Ankharis: Had I discovered the place a year earlier, it would have all been done by hand, though.
NTMI: Sounds like you much prefer the computer over traditional hand drawn methods, then.
Ankharis: Well, I have to say, yes and no. I actually like the outcome of real media more, because, let's face it, it's boundless. When you draw a stroke with a pencil, that stroke isn't defined by a grid of pixels. It's as infinite as anything else we see in nature, so therefore real media has endless dimensionality to it. Digital artwork doesn't have that going for it. It tends to be more sterile, and it doesn't hold up under close scrutiny. But, the advantages of speed and intuitive creation offered by digital is just immense. No cleanup, no mess, no scanning... You can just sit there and think, and draw what comes to mind. I'll admit, once I tried it, I was hooked. No mistake, though, when I am looking at artwork, I prefer real media.
NTMI: So, if I could sum it up, you prefer digital artwork as a sort of "quick sketch" which lets you exercise your creativity, but prefer more traditional means when you want a "lasting work of art"?
Ankharis: Aieee, you kind of have me cornered, there, because I'm going to have to say, you're overestimating my resolve. *laughs* I'd really be hard pressed to tear myself away from digital artwork, because even though it suffers like I mentioned, the advantages are just incredible. I mean, when I think back over my life at how many times 9/10ths of the time taken to do an art job would be consumed with prep work, selecting media, lengthy re-do work, and cleanup, and how nowadays I can do work so much faster, spending all the time creating and not so much time bowing to the demands of physics and correcting accidents... Well, let's just say if I'd had a digital tablet my whole life, I'd have probably four times as much artwork and none of the aches and pains. I'm converted, I'll admit it. But then again...
Ankharis: I also still do a lot of art jobs such as metal painting, wood carving, sculpting and other projects that cannot be substituted digitally, so I guess you could say I keep one foot in each arena.
NTMI: Hey, it's variety that keeps things fresh! Speaking of variety though makes me wonder about something you said earlier. You remarked that you knew how to "draw the form" for Neopets, but that you could see potential for more. You've told us about how you did it for Neopoints, but would I be correct in saying that you had something even more in mind than that? And if so, what?
Ankharis: Well, what I meant when I mentioned form was that the Neopets themselves, the way they are designed, are extremely simple. They are composed of geometric primitives, so laying out a picture starring Neopets is extremely easy. That's the form part! Usually, that's the part that trips people up in art, when drawing complex subjects. Bad form is what makes a character have misplaced eyes or arms of uneven length. Sorry, started to geek out, there. But about what you said, yes, I always did see a LOT of potential for Neopets that was just never explored. In fact, with the plots Neopets has had (especially the one with the Neopets trapped in the elevator by the evil AI) I felt like they really dropped the ball, and didn't make the outcome as satisfying as they could. I mean, as people who write stories for the Neopian Times have shown, players envision their pets as being very deep personalities. So...
NTMI: ...why couldn't art do the same thing?
Ankharis: Exactly. Or, more precisely, work art and writing into the same medium. One of the things I always wanted to work on was a continuing series of Neopets comics, trying to detail and highlight characters. To make things character-driven. I developed plans for such a series, but I ended up scrapping it when I quit Neopets. To be honest, though, it will probably get a makeover and come back someday as an original comic.
NTMI: Ideas are endlessly recyclable! One thing, though, that a lot of people have trouble with is getting ideas in the first place. What do you recommend for that?
Ankharis: Wow, I'm probably the wrong person to ask... I say that because that's actually always been the easiest thing for me. The work of putting things into visual form is 99% of the job for me, the actual concepts and ideas, character interaction, plots, those are pretty much there, waiting to be harvested. I can definitely make a recommendation, though, for people who find themselves stuck for ideas. This is a well-known principle, and by gosh, it works.
NTMI: And that is?
Ankharis: That is, when you're trying to make a story, don't let events drive the story... Let the characters drive the story. The idea is, learn to envision the characters as living, breathing, thinking personalities, and have them react to things. If you think of a lot of the most popular comics, the settings and locations are never that exotic. Usually, the characters are in a very mundane setting, in fact. Often just sitting around their house. The thing that makes the magic is what the characters do and say to one another, and how they react to one another. So, if creators just take time to close their eyes and imagine they are the character, and imagine what they think and feel, and how they react, they may find that their work will take on a new life, and the ideas will come flowing.
Ankharis: A good check for this method is, when having something happen, ask yourself "could just any character be doing this, or would it really only work well with this character?" If you hit the this character answer, then you're probably letting the characters drive the action. If just any character could work in the scene, then you're creating a gag-driven comic where the characters are secondary.
NTMI: A very good point! I think you've definitely pointed out the main core to any story- it's the interplay of internal character conflicts and external situations which create the ideal story. Moby Dick is just another fish tale without Captain Ahab's internal desire for revenge.
Ankharis: That's exactly right, and without the specific characters, the well-loved Peanuts strip would basically just be, at any time, two kids with overly large heads sitting in a static locale.
Ankharis: Not to say that isn't bizarre enough on its own.
NTMI: LOL humor by absurdity, perhaps! But on to another piece of advice- or perhaps comment. I know you ran into the problem of art theft, and that you had words with the Neopets team about how they should handle it. But what about other artists? As an artist, how did you handle it, and how would you recommend other artists handle it when they are ripped off?
Ankharis: Okay, well first, let me say that, aside from being nearly monosyllabic, Donna was always very good about dealing with art gallery thieves. On a number of occasions, I had my pictures taken and posted there, and each and every time, when I reported it, she gave me the credit, and the prizes, and I believe she even canned the villains for doing it. It was with the Beauty Contest that the real problems existed. Now, if you mean when other artists rip you off? You know, to be honest, I never had that happen! I had people take pictures and alter them (as in the case of the Beauty Contest) and I sometimes had people just flat use a picture, but as far as I know, I never had any artist lift an idea or a pose from me. I know I'd hear that ranted about a lot... They stole my pose! They stole the way I draw ears! They drew that knee just like I draw knees! Well, to be honest, it comes across as really idiotic, so here is my advice...
Ankharis: If you're an artist, and someone borrows your methods, or lifts your poses... Shrug it off. The mere fact that they have ripped you in such a trivial way means the person doing the stealing isn't a real threat. If they were, would they need to lift your method for drawing ears? Do the healthy things, go badmouth them to your friends, maybe draw a picture of the thief being sat on by an elephant, but for goodness' sake get on with your life. Your best work is always ahead of you, and if you turn into some crusader with a "these people drew work that looks marginally like my own" gallery, you're just wasting your life. You'd be better served trying to push yourself to the point where people can simply no longer copy you. Or, better yet, you should be trying to achieve grand things so it won't even matter to you what nibbly copycats do. Mind you, theft of full pieces you made is one thing, but for the stuff that usually passes for art thievery? I think people need to keep perspective a bit better.
NTMI: In looking over your own experiences with Neopets, it's obvious that your own perspective about things shifted as you learned and experienced what Neopets had to offer. We were leaving you with selling your art for neopoints being your big enthusiasm. How did that turn out in the end?
Ankharis: The worst! It couldn't have gone more badly. The rotten truth started to be unveiled when a friend of mine one day mentioned to me that Neopets said it was against the rules to sell art for Neopoints. Well, that struck me as odd... After all, selling it for money, sure, I could see that being illegal, but for Neopoints? That seemed strange. After all, Neopets HAD all the Neopoints anyway, it wasn't like they were losing anything. So, I wrote a letter to their legal department asking a series of questions, and much to my shock... I learned that yes, indeed, making Neopets artwork for Neopoints WAS against the rules. I had it straight from the horse's mouth. It was a bit of a crushing blow. Pretty much took the wind right out of my sails. I didn't take anymore jobs after that, and just finished up what I had on the docket.
NTMI: So all that happened in way of "punishment" was that you got an official verdict?
Ankharis: Yeah, I was never punished in any way for anything, the whole time I was at Neopets. And I know, you may be saying "Hey, what's wrong with the official verdict?" In fact, a lot of people reacted that way, they didn't understand why I was so stricken by it. But the reason was simple. It went deeper than that. The legal department also informed me that it was, in fact, against the rules for people to make ANY Neopets artwork that they didn't intend solely for submission to Neopets. And, as anyone who has read through the Neopets policy can tell you, submission to Neopets means you're giving them all rights to your work. Simple translation: "You can't make anything unless you're giving it to us."
NTMI: And since you are someone who does art for a living, you basically felt the shackles of an unpaid slavery being fastened on you?
Ankharis: Hey, no way, I was a willing slave! No shackles needed! *laughs* See, I had read the rules, so I knew, for instance, that all the S3 comics I was making were being given to Neopets lock, stock and barrel. I didn't mind! And, when they published that one article the thief submitted, I knew that if I let them publish it instead of asking it be removed, I'd be giving them that as well. However, what this meant was that, according to Neopets, all the work I had done for other people and was displaying on my website was, according to them, a breach of the rules. At this point, it might not seem bad, but one thing that has always been extremely important to me is to be beyond reproach. So if Neopets was telling me that I couldn't even display my own work on my own website if it starred their characters? That was, to me, nothing short of an insult.
Ankharis: Likewise, it also meant any comics I decided to do, and show on my own site (publication in the Times isn't reliable enough to be a sole venue, sadly) would also be a breach of the rules.
NTMI: But after your neopoints for art was over with, what did you do next?
Ankharis: Once I found out that Neopets was calling foul on anyone independently managing their own work on their own sites, it was over. The fun drained out of Neopets like the blood from the heel of Talos. As big a place as Neopets is, and as much fun as it can offer, an all-encompassing slap in the face like that was enough to make me realize that it was just another business proceeding in a cold and soulless manner. The sad thing is, that's not the way they had to do things, either, but it was their choice.
NTMI: If I might add an editorial comment of my own, I'm not sure it's very good advertising, either. Fan art (and fiction) is a great way to spread the word of your creations via voluntary (unpaid!) work.
Ankharis: Indeed it is! And I think we can all agree that the number of fan sites that have been shut down on the grounds of the rules are too few to even count. And, that's what I'd hear from people a lot... "Hey, why does it matter? It might be against the rules, but they aren't enforcing the rules, so why worry?" Well, the reason I worry is because rules exist for a reason: Because someone anticipates using them. Think about it: If Neopets decided to enforce that rule and go around freezing accounts or legally challenging websites, how many people could they shut down? Anyone who had sold Neopets art. Anyone who posted Neopets art on their site, even if it was of their own creation. Anyone who gave someone a piece of gift art, for goodness' sake! That's a lot of power that Neopets is reserving for itself. One has to ask why. And, further, one has to ask what it says about how they regard their players. Plus...
Ankharis: Even though right now they stand off and allow it, what will happen on the day when they decide to clamp down? It's something to consider. Do people really want to place their fantasies somewhere when, due to a legal clause, those fantasies can be wiped from the face of the Net? My answer, and the answer of a lot of other artists, was no.
NTMI: I suppose such a clause could be challenged in court, and might even be successful. But then, who wants to go to court to prove it- is it worth it- and even if it is, would you have the resources to fight it? I can see it would be trouble any way you look at it.
Ankharis: Well, I think you just summarized it all nicely right there. Little Sally, age 12, from Maine, isn't going to have a prayer of taking on a California-based multimedia firm to protect her Shoyru comic.
NTMI: So did you decide to leave after that, or was there more to your decision?
Ankharis: There was more. I was also outraged (and had been for a while) that Neopets had that "giving up all rights" clause in their rules, which meant that a lot of kids who were sending work to Neopets were giving it up forever, when they thought they still owned the rights. It wasn't so much the fact of the rule which bugged me, but rather the way Neopets skirted it at every opportunity and buried it in the extended (wordy legalese) version of their acceptable use policy. You can see hints of it in various entry rules, but they worked hard to keep that nasty little clause (one which anyone submitting should have been made aware of) buried well and truly. So much so that when I used to alert people to it, they'd deny its existence vehemently. I just haven't ever had much patience with people who try to trick kids. Neopets could be far more open with their policies.
Ankharis: In combination with that, yeah, I was pretty much headed for the door. My last actions for the remaining time I was there revolved around alerting people and giving people options. One of those options was a conversion table I made for turning pets into regular animals, for people who wanted to essentially take their creations out of the hands of Neopets. That proved really popular and generated a lot of mail.
NTMI: They've come up with a non-legalese rewording, perhaps since you left:
NTMI: "By submitting material in any manner to Neopets, you (and your parents) are automatically granting us permission to use those materials for free in any manner we can think of forever throughout the universe."
Ankharis: Yeah, they had that then, but two things were wrong with it. One, while yes, it did tell people that Neopets would get the right to use the work, it didn't encompass the fact that the creator would NOT be allowed to use the stuff anywhere. Secondarily, many people I talked to said that the "forever, throughout the universe" part made them assume it was a joke. So, like I said, yes, the rules are there, but very vague, and clumsily put forth. I think Neopets owes its younger users a fairer warning. Maybe it's just me, though.
NTMI: It's an interesting question. Certainly a good faith effort should be made, but how do you determine good faith? If a majority of users don't understand it, is it because they've been misinformed, or is it because they're somehow too ignorant to figure it out no matter what?
Ankharis: Well, I don't think it's a matter of ignorance... A lot of the people who I knew that didn't understand it were far from ignorant. I guess as for determining good faith, we could look at how much of a good faith effort Neopets puts into other areas... Liiiike, maybe, removing stolen artwork from the Beauty Contest.
NTMI: In other words, after your experiences in other areas, you were skeptical of giving them any benefit of the doubt in such cases?
Ankharis: No, I'm happy to give them the benefit of the doubt. But, even after such a fuss was raised over it, and it was made obvious throughout the art community that there was a hidden edge to the Neopets policies that was meant to harvest work, and even after a bunch of artists left, Neopets did nothing. That sends a really loud and clear message to me right there: Neopets feels their current policy is working well for them, and they know other artists will always come along.
Ankharis: If they had actually made a change, or even addressed the point? Heck, I'd applaud them. But they did nothing.
NTMI: Nothing that I can find. So, you decided to leave. I've thought about it myself, though not for those reasons. However, I have made personalities for my pets and that makes me reluctant to abandon them. Did you not have that problem with yours?
Ankharis: Glad you brought that up! Actually, I have to admit, I can sympathize with you completely, because if I had indeed first made the Neopet then given them the personality, I, too, probably would have been more torn up about leaving. (I think I still would have, being as I am, but it would have been harder.) I only ever had one pet on Neopets, Buttersplotch. If you'll remember, earlier, I said that when I was looking through the pets available, the Gelert struck me. Well, that was because Buttersplotch had existed as a fictional character of mine long before I ever went to Neopets, save that she had been a dog. So, when I saw the Gelert, and saw that it came in yellow, I thought "Hey! I'll port in Buttersplotch!" So the truth is, when I left Neopets I didn't leave anything behind, I merely walked out with my character the same way I walked in with her. All the other stuff, her as a Gelert, the stats, the belongings... It was all costumery and thus not impossible to abandon.
NTMI: I notice that you didn't give her away, though, but left her to be frozen along with the account. Was that simple lack of care, or did the idea of a "Buttersplotch Gelert" being out there seem unappealing to you?
Ankharis: Certainly not a lack of care, I promise you. The reason I wanted her frozen along with the account (and believe me, the offers to adopt her were many and repeated) was, if anything, born of emotion. As a creator, I have always been extremely attached to my characters, so even though I could stick one of them in the guise of a virtual pet for a time, the notion of leaving them there once I was gone was a bit too much. I guess that shows me up to be a little weak there, because I just wouldn't be able to stand the idea of the character being in the care of someone other than me. Even though Buttersplotch will definitely be appearing in upcoming art and comics, if I'd abandoned her Neopets self, it wouldn't have felt right. In truth, leaving her behind would have felt more like abandoning her than removing her along with myself did. I looked at it instead as her coming with me.
NTMI: So life goes on for Buttersplotch in greener pastures, as it does for you. Do you think there would ever be any way you would become involved in Neopets again?
Ankharis: Well I have actually! I still have friends from Neopets, and I still slip the occasional piece of Neopets artwork to them from time to time. I just never sign anything.
Ankharis: But as for playing again? Nah, there would be no reason. I have other things I am involved in, and if anything, I want to encourage other creators away from Neopets. I couldn't do that if I was still on there.
NTMI: Yes, I daresay you're right. But as you do look back on it, do you ever have any regrets about what happened? Anything that you wish had been different, or that you had done differently?
Ankharis: You got it! I wish Neopets had made the very few, minor changes they would have needed to make to turn the site into a truly creator-friendly place. If they had, I'd probably still include Neopets in my list of haunts, and who knows what number S3 would be up to by now? I regret that a lot, actually, because as I said earlier, Neopets is something that I see endless potential in, but I see that potential being squandered by soullessness and a lack of creativity on the part of the administration. Neopets could certainly be a lot more than it is, and that fills me with a lot of regret. (I regret vicariously, it seems.)
NTMI: But now that it is no longer one of your haunts, what ARE your online haunts?
Ankharis: Actually, currently, none that are publicly known. Some of the other artists and myself have kind of circled the wagons and are moving on to creator-owned projects. Sadly, I stay so busy with work that I don't get to do things as quickly as I'd like, but I'm currently working on a site that will hopefully start showing some signs of life in the next few months. Until then, though, I guess you could say I'm haunt-less.
NTMI: What sort of role does your art take when it comes to work?
Ankharis: A pretty good role, actually! Art's always been a very productive sideline for me. Not only can I sell pieces on the side for extra income, but it's amazing how often art can extend your ability in other areas. For instance, with regard to web design, being able to just tackle logos, photo-retouching and aesthetic issues yourself can really save a lot of money. I try to keep art from becoming the main gig, though, because I am very worried that if I did, it would cease to be fun. Also, since art is rather emotional, it makes for a lousy career when you're feeling down, since bad feelings can bring your artistic drive crashing down as well.
Ankharis: It's better to keep your main job something technical, I think, and keep creative endeavors as something you aren't hemmed into doing each and every day.
NTMI: I can certainly see your point! Ok, one last question- or maybe two. Just what does the name "Ankharis" mean, and why did you choose it for Neopets?
Ankharis: Good question! I wish I knew. *laughs* No, really, it's just a name I came up with, derived from the word Ankh, which as folks probably know is an old Egyptian symbol. Just to clarify (yes, I have been asked this) Ankharis isn't my real name, of course. It's actually the name of yet another fictional character I created, and I just adopted it as my Neopets handle because I was a bit fond of it. But there's no real meaning behind it, I just liked the sound and look of the name.
NTMI: Ah hah! Well at last we know. And is there anything else that you'd like us to know, but that we haven't discussed?
Ankharis: Yes, actually, there is something I'd love to clear up if you don't mind. It's about Neopets, and it's a positive thing! A lot of people I know from Neopets are always stepping very carefully around me, or apologizing to me when they show me Neopets artwork, saying things like "I know you don't like Neopets, so I hope you don't mind me showing you this." The truth is, I DO like Neopets, the pets themselves. I really thought they were lovely then, and I think they are lovely now. Especially the remodeled Zafara, and the Kyrii. Sadly, I apparently got a reputation as being an anti-Neopets crusader, when all I was doing was saying that Neopets needed to change its administrative tactics. So to everyone out there, don't hesitate to show me your neopets art if you take a notion, I'll enjoy it as much as any other art.
Ankharis: And a plug for my upcoming site: the domain and site are up and running, but, sadly, there is nothing there yet! I'll be working on it in the coming months, though, and if someone out there liked my old work from Neopets, they'll probably enjoy what's to come later, as it's also going to be a bunch of little cartoony animal critters running about having adventures. You can find the site at www.arkawn.com and watch a cheesy little Flash animation showing the site name. More to come, though! And if anyone ever wants to e-mail me, it's firstname.lastname@example.org in case they don't know.
Ankharis: Oh, and by the way, the Neopian Times index is truly useful, as well as ambitious! You've done great work.
NTMI: And thank you for the compliment. Your upcoming site sounds great, too. Thanks so much for your time today, it's meant a lot!
Ankharis: Well thank you for having me! It was an honor to be interviewed.
Would you like to read all of Ankharis' Neopian Times Submissions? Just click here to check him out in our database!
Also, if you have art by Ankharis on your page, let me know the url and I will add it here!