Contrive – “Slow Dissolve”

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This artist did try to move some things around, but unfortunately not enough. At first glance it seems like it’s just drawing inspiration from this famous picture of Rob Bottin and his legendary FX from John Carpenter’s “The Thing”, but when you lay each piece of art on top of each other in Photoshop, it’s clear that everything lines up. There’s a few instances where the artist tried to squish a face around here or there with some transformation tools in the software, but ultimately this is a case of cutting from a copyrighted photograph and pasting it into the artist’s digital file. Then the artist most likely used photoshop filters as well as classic tracing and paint-over methods to make the artwork appear “drawn”.

At the end of the day, though, the artwork is stolen from someone who owns the rights to the photo, not to mention the classic FX design from the movie itself.

It is 100% okay to use the Thing as inspiration or jump-off-point for your own creatures, of course. We have all been inspired by Rob Bottin’s creature designs. But it’s not okay to take a photo off of Google and use it for your album cover in this way.

Suicidal Angels – Bloodbath

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Today’s post comes with a bit of a heavy heart. The artist in question here is legend in the field and I can’t really make this post without expressing my disappointment on a personal level. The disappointment stems from the fact that it is clear that the artist has incredible skill and examples like this post must be because of time-saving reasons (or laziness). But that simply is not an excuse to cut and paste from another artist. I’ve been a HUGE fan of this artist since I was a teenager, so it’s not pleasant to highlight this example, but it’s my belief that this one does cross the line.

As far as the art industry goes, it’s my opinion that it’s a cardinal sin to directly cut and paste from another artist that isn’t in the public domain. I don’t really care how minor it is. It’s well known that ALL fantasy, science fiction, and horror artists have copied something from Frank Frazetta at some point in their lives, but I feel like when you cut and paste from him (or any artist) and use his strokes in your album cover, you at least need to give him credit (which clearly has not been done). This example here is what is called a digital paintover. The source art was copied, then pasted into the artist’s digital file and then slightly painted over to make it cohesive with the rest of the art. A little blood was added as well, obviously. Then he flipped it in an attempt to not draw a direct comparison to someone that might recognize the original painting. When you line up the two examples in photoshop on 2 different layers, they line up precisely so there is no way this was done by sight alone.

On a side note, there are other examples of Repka copying poses from Frazetta, but they either looked like he copied them by sight  or changed enough of them (over 80%) as to not appear to be plagiarism. Another interesting thing that I have seen this artist do is actually take his own art from past album covers and add them to new artwork for new clients. I’m honestly at a loss with that one. Is it possible to plagiarize yourself? If a band hires you to make original art and you take huge chunks of art from your past portfolio and reintegrate them into new artwork, where does that lie ethically? I can’t even begin with that one.

It goes without question that Repka is a talented artist and he could easily have painted this on his own. In this case, however, he stole from Frank Frazetta.

Enforcer – “Live by Fire”

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This is a particularly lazy example of an amateur designer using another living artist’s artwork to make their own work look better. If the artwork on the right was hand-drawn and only INSPIRED by the artwork on the left, I’d have less issue with it. But due to the fact that the design was copied and pasted into digital software and only slightly adjusted, it’s a definite case of plagiarism.

Note to designers: You can use old art and posters from before 1920 as it falls into the public domain. A movie made in 1976, though, is still the property of someone and you can’t pilfer movie poster websites for your own gain. Especially if you are just going to take elements from them whole-hog.

The Legendary Pink Dots – The Gethsemane Option

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Once again, Joachim Luetke’s artwork for Obzen was wholesale cut and pasted onto this band’s album cover.  In this case, it is even more blatant than the previous example shown on this blog.  The artist in question doesn’t appear to have a lot of experience in design according to my research, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is plagiarism.
Most designers will try to  defend their choices in how they pull from their source images and sometimes they are absolutely in the right. For example, anything pre-1920s is considered the public domain and free for use. This is why you see a lot of Gustave Dore or Hieronymus Bosch pilfered for heavy metal art usage. It’s still pretty cheesy to take from those sources, in my opinion, but it is perfectly acceptable.

Taking artwork from a metal band’s release from 2008, however, does not fall into the public domain.

Young Wolves – “High and Mighty”

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This is a case where a piece of artwork was taken, slightly adjusted in photoshop, and then used in it’s complete form. Unless the band has directly spoken with the rights holders for permission, this is a pretty blatant case of plagiarism. Not a very subtle one, either, as many people are quite nostalgic for Bob Pepper’s artwork from the 70s and 80s and are certainly familiar with this artwork.

Necromantia – “Crossing the Fiery Path”

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This example is a bit more oldschool. Most of the examples on this blog are from the modern era where it’s so easy to just take any image from Google or Instagram and use it for your own gain without crediting the source. Obviously plagiarism is not limited to the modern day, though. The trick with plagiarism that people seem to get confused about is that it takes many forms.

In this day and age, many people would say, “Well, at least the artist painted it himself!”. True, he did paint it, it doesn’t even appear like he traced it. But the composition, palette, character, concept and style is completely stolen. He didn’t just use the pose for reference (which would have been fine), he just took it all.

Dying Fetus – “Reign Supreme”

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This example right here is basically the #1 reason that I decided to make this blog.
As an artist myself, I just got so tired of seeing other artists try to make a name for themselves on the backs of others. You can’t just cut paintings apart and paste them into your own document and call them yours. “Design” is a broad term and certainly there are a lot of examples where cutting and pasting from another source is acceptable in all manner of design work. But this is not one of them.

It’s unethical, illegal, and the client you are working for (not to mention the label) can get in pretty big trouble by doing blatant stuff like this.

And even if this wasn’t illegal, it’s just lame.

Unearthly Trance – “Stalking the Ghost”

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This is an example where the designer did actually change a lot of the details (various folds, some of the hands, etc), but I still take issue with it because it pulls from a painted work. I don’t care if something is traditionally painted or digitally painted, it’s just not cool for designers to think they can just take everything whole-hog from other artists unless permission is granted or citations have been made. Pushing around a few pixels and running it through some filters in Photoshop is not acceptable and not enough has changed in this case. It still uses the 3 figures in the same poses (just flipped), and what’s even more egregious is that if you look closely enough, you can even see the back of the woman’s head just above the “beasts” head in the plagiarized image.

Deadsquad – “Dosa Menjalar”

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This artist has completely stolen artwork from another living, working artist. There is plenty of evidence that all of this artist’s work is essentially a soup of other artist’s work as well.

It shouldn’t need to be said, but it is not acceptable to pilfer other artists’ works for your own gain. It’s not “design”, despite what some amateurs may have you believe. If two designers accidentally grab the same stock photography through legal means, that is a minor “oops!”. It’s a little bit of dirt on the chin for your portfolio, but nothing will be harmed other than the egos of the two artists picking the same stock photo for their work.

This, however, is just theft.

Deadsquad – “Demi Logam Mulia”

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This artist, Gilang P. Vergiawan (aka Praver Art Studio) is a real piece of work. For starters, let’s just get this completely out of the way – this artist is what we just call a complete hack. I have a feeling that I will be posting about him a lot on this blog, because I am just shocked at the level of theft that this artist is actually doing on literally everything he’s done. I don’t even need to write much about this one as you can see he stole concept art from James Cameron’s “Avatar” and added it to his piece without any adjustments.

Even his bio on his facebook page (as of this writing) is copied from a bio on another blog about surreal artist, Tomasz Alen Kopera.

“Gilang Praver was born in Bandung, Indonesia in 1993. He attended the Indoesian High School of Arts in Bandung, where he deepen his knowledge of art. Tomasz he drew on paper, mix media art, photography, graphic design, custom lettering, and now he is struggling with his digital paintings. Realm, Fantasy, Dark, Mystism, Sci-Fi, Identity of Living Things, Universe are his inspiration. Each painting motivates thought, challenging our initial response. Sometimes darkness will prevail, at other times, light. He is celebrated in visionary art circles for his acute attention to detail, mastery of color and bold use of subject matter.”

Presented unedited, you can see that he even forgot to remove “Tomasz” from the text. The last sentence can then be googled to come up with this link, where you can clearly see the same text being used.