Elfwood was maybe the place where i spent the best part of my teenage years from ages 15 to 18. It was cool. It was fantasy. And the best part - it was free.
What in retrospect i deem to have been the most beneficial part of elfwood was the gumption it gave me. Being part of an interactive art community was novel, exciting - and gives- perhaps unknown to me at the time - incentive to draw. Seeing other people's artwork, being able to comment, them adding more artwork in a few days, they consequently commenting on your own work - created a healthy creative cycle. It was not so much the constructive criticism which sparked this avid art-race, as was the constant inner strive to put better, more original, more technically correct art up there on those green and grey galleries of the cyber zones i learnt almost by heart. It was every artists' (albeit fantasy artist's) dream. The interaction was something bewildering.
When i joined elfwood, there were 390 galleries in Lothlorien. I had stumbled on it quite by chance, being an avid fan of fantasy art and a dabbler in the field myself. For a long time, things went smoothly and i posted regularly. I made friends with other regular posters, whom i know shared a keen similar interest in the Elfwoodian community.
However things were to change. The galleries mounted to over 1500. The closeness was lost. The quality, alas, was lost even more. Suddenly, any Tom Dick and Harry could join Elfwood and did join Elfwood. People who filled their pathetic hoarding of webspace with four (the minimum art-piece requirement for each gallery) dismal black and white sorry-attempts at sketching of legolas or some other cliche fiend from the pit of 'trendy' fantasy. Browsing Elfwood became pretty frustrating, as uncovering true talented artists became increasingly hard due to all the overlying, pervading crap.
I am not an elitist, nor do I expect the art to be judged and deemed 'worthy' or 'unworthy' as it is for instance on the strict Epilogue.net. However one cannot help but be painfully aware of the fact that the popularity of Elfwood was ultimately its downfall.
Things got even worse. As is required of an increasingly large net community, moderators were appointed. These were just random volunteers. Every set number of galleries would have their moderators. Suddenly, it all went very wrong. Nudity, not even a relatively innocent display of it, was not allowed. Any sexual allusions were of course consequently banned. For a community made up mostly of teenage depraved fanatasy fiends, this was a travesty indeed. And slowly but surely, many of the best and oldest members just stopped updating... just stopped bothering. Many galleries now sit like skeletons gathering cyber-dust with a curt note from their artists at the top in the bio saying 'I'm afraid I will no longer update' or 'Sorry but i will not reply to comments any more'. There is little more offensive than being told that one's art is 'not acceptable'. Also some moderators were stricter than others.. hence the spreading of unfairness.
Some of the cooler art on elfwood was the weirder, more original art. Alas, so it is no more, as in the elfwood submission rules it suddenly described elfwood as being a place not accepting of 'freaky, weird art'.
A story of a net-community gone bad, perhaps. Of the horribleness of a hierarchy which took over something budding and creative and new and in trying to control the sheer size of it (which was much like a many-egged omelette trying to good-naturedly ooze out of its pan) stuffed it into prepared pigeon-holes.
Alas dear withered Elfwood i will roam your raped galleries no more.. only in the trivia and knowledge of E2 i will find solace.