Once upon a time, on a little internet island named dA there lived a naked tribe of artists. They dressed in nakedness and painted themselves with bodypaint, revelling in their creativity and their nakedness.
One day, the most clever of the artists, who also had the biggest head, created a magical tool called the 'airbrush' tool. And it was wonderful. With this new tool he painted portraits and artwork on his naked hiney. All the other naked tribesmen and uncensored women rounded round his round posterior to gaze and marvel at the creations.
One of the tribesmen spoke... 'I wish to do the same as our most clever, and big-headed kinsman, where can I illegaly download this airbrush tool so that I too may paint portraits of my favourite anime characters, game characters and ponies?' The most clever of the artists replied, and he shared his secrets, and soon, all of the tribe, with various levels of skill, adorned their peachy posteriors with pedantically painted portraits of people, and all was good.
Only... it was a bit... samey.
*closes book* So there you have it.
Now what on earth am I talking about? I've been on dA aaaaalmost as long as it's existed, which is a long time, so I know stuff, so when I say that being on dA can brainwash you into trying to create one particular art style, trust me, it's as close to the truth as I can aim. That's right- if you're an artist here, you'll most likely end up trying to produce in a certain style. (I'm not going to show examples, it might seem like flaming someone. You probably understand without examples)
dA makes you think: COLORING IS AIRBRUSHING:
The truth: The airbrush is -one tool- and can only do so much.
The style people most frequently aspire to use is a style of -coloring-. You see, all the 'best art' has been airbrush-painted to death. (I'm talking about pictures which you would define as 'airbrush' or 'painting' - not cel-shading or comicbook art) A highly detailed, airbrushed picture can look awesome- so you want to do it too, right? Thing is- everyone else thinks so too.- you see the problem.
Do it for fun, to improve your skills, because you feel like it---- but don't do it just because it's considered the most 'awesome'. Chocolate cookies are awesome but there are 12 in a packet and they make you sick if you eat too many. Try some other flavours. They might suit the occasion more. Not everyone likes chocolate, anyway!
dA makes you think: COSPLAY IS SATURATION ENHANCEMENT:
The truth: You can do a lot more with a camera.
Another similar case is cosplay on dA. A lot of the anime cosplay shots you see have the colors brightened and have the anime's logo in the corner to make it look more like a cover. It looks good... and the popular people do it- but be aware... you CAN be more creative than this.
If you go to other sites, like cosplay.com - you'll find more raw shots. If you look on asian sites, you'll find everyone likes to take their photos from above and adjust brightness levels to reduce blemishes and make their eyes pop. Different sites end up encoraging different styles.
dA makes you think: ORIGINAL STYLE IS BASED ON NOTHING BUT REALISM:
The truth: This is the most damaging thing you can possibly think!
The same thing happens A LOT when people try to create their own art style. People are often scared of 'copying' and try to build something from thin air- all the while chanting a mantra of 'realism is best, realism is best- even for an anime style I should pay attention to realism instead of the series I like...'
NO. As Stan Lee, (if you don't trust me, trust this guy) has said, "a style is everything you do wrong". If you aim for realism you end up doing more things 'right'- which means you have no style atall. Your mistakes are most likely going to be flat eyes, boring hair and hard to identify characters- and THAT will be your style (as well as the style of everyone who thinks like you). Here's two self-portraits in the 'original' styles I see most frequently on western sites and conventions. Yes, a racial divide does exist (caucasian people more often try to use what they consider 'westerness' to define their style instead of a typical anime face)
Needless to say if you're mixing something like that with over-airbrushing, you've reached the epitome of dA averageness. You might be skilled, kudos. You might draw fish-people with umbrellas for legs dancing on rainclouds- original concept, I admire that. But I would be far more interested in you if you painted in a less average style.
I know there are other 'artistic standards' that permeate dA (and other sites! It's not alone) too, so maybe you can have fun and point of the ones that you've noticed. -If you can't think of anything, at the very least I hope I provided some good advice =3 (and if my advice is useless, Stan Lee's is good!)