Plagiarism is defined as “the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.” The key phrase here is “passing them off as one’s own”. I think far too often people mistake the word “plagiarism” as a strictly legal term when in fact something can be plagiarism if you take something from another artist or photograph, don’t alter it very much, and then pretend like you drew something yourself when you clearly didn’t.
While it’s (unfortunately) a common thing for people to trace from other artists’ works, copyrighted photos, rights-free photos, public domain art, and basically any kind of 2D image you can imagine…I think for something to be ethical tracing it should be expected that when you do it, you alter them in some way to make them your own. Maybe you made a nose a little longer or shorter? Maybe you decide to round out the shoulders in a way that makes something a bit more hunched…or maybe even less hunched? Maybe you adjust the arms or hands to your liking?
As a working artist, people PAY YOU to get something original out of you. They don’t pay you to go to Pinterest and perfectly trace an image.
I found out about this example quite awhile ago and I hesitated for a long time on whether or not it was right for the blog. In general, I try to keep most of the art I post on SBT to be derivative works that contain “cut and pastes of other artists” where the plagiarist literally takes a portion of the source art and adds it to their own digital file for use as their own. And I am sympathetic to many designers who use a lot of rights-free images in their works in the way of digital manipulation provided that they do it legally and ethically.
But this one just struck me as insanely lazy because the artist didn’t make it their own. They just took some stock photos and traced them PRECISELY. And then they tried to pass it off as “inspiration” when in fact each detail is so specifically traced that when you line up the images in photoshop, everything lines up perfectly. No artistry was done here other than some basic cross-hatching to make it appear like the artist in question drew them.
Even though there are precedents of professionals using tracing or pose swiping as a method to create their work as a way to meet deadlines, this one goes far beyond acceptable. It’s too close to the source photographs.
I don’t even need to write a description for this one. I have posted about Antonio Jimenez of Brutal Disorder Designs on this blog before when he painted over the album cover to Heaven and Hell’s “The Devil You Know”. It was reposted online a few times and a lot of the commentary that I saw from people was that “It was changed enough” to not be plagiarism. I disagree with that completely, by the way, but here is proof that Jimenez simply scours the web for artwork, takes it for his own use without even altering it, and sells it to bands. If you aren’t angry at seeing this type of thing, you should be. If you are a fan of this “designer”, you should ask yourself why? He didn’t paint anything here. He re-arranged WHOLE ART from another (better) artist and sold it to a band.
Is this all heavy metal artwork is to you? Don’t you think fans deserve better? Don’t you think the band who PAID for this deserves better? Don’t you think the ORIGINAL ARTIST deserves to be hired instead? I’m sure he would have happily accepted a licensing fee for use of the image. Probably at a reduced rate considering the art was already created.
If you can’t see the problems behind examples like this, as well as other examples on this blog, I truly don’t know what to tell you.
I think the name of the band is a sort of a hilarious irony when it comes to this example of theft. The original artist’s work was blatantly copied and pasted and “reborn” into the chaos that is this piece by Antonio Jimenez from “Brutal Disorder Designs”.
The problem with artists like Jimenez is that they always have an excuse. “Oh, I found this image on a free wallpaper site” is usually the excuse that I see online. A good comparison to that is arguing to a police officer that you didn’t see the posted speed limit when you get a ticket for speeding. The excuse of “well I got it on a site that says it was free” doesn’t absolve you of the theft at all. Stealing from another artist is just low-class. Legal or illegal doesn’t even matter to me, to be honest. I am not a lawyer. I just see an artist who isn’t capable of creating the artwork himself and yet still charges people money for his “skills”.
This person isn’t an artist. They are a compiler of other peoples’ artwork.
This type of plagiarism is wildly reckless. The designer seems to feel like they have “changed it enough” because it’s just used for background, but that isn’t the case here. To this designer, those are just pixels to be re-arranged, but each of those details left intact are the hard work of a very famous artist who spent decades creating unique artwork.
To take them and leave them as they were originally painted is theft.
A question I often get on my blog is “Well how do you know he didn’t get permission?”
And the answer is that I don’t know for *sure*, but we can absolutely assume so considering the original artist has passed away and I am certain the estate has no interest in doing licensing for small portions of Beksinski’s work. And even if they did do such things, the price wouldn’t be reasonable for heavy metal album cover usage as it would cut into the designer’s fee far too much.
Couple all of that with the reckless cutting and pasting that this artist does constantly (as shown on this very blog), the only conclusion is that this artist is a chronic plagiarist.
Today I have two posts by this artist and what’s amazing is that he’s using a legendary artist like Zdzislaw Beksinski as his personal repository to take from. Both posts today have the same problem in the fact that this designer feels that he can just take another artists brush strokes as his “greebly detail” and use them for his album covers and layout. It’s direct and unquestionable plagiarism as the artwork has not been modified enough and in the case of this one specifically, it still basically looks like the same IDEA even though he photoshopped different details into the tower. Even the most casual Beksinski fan would see this artwork above and pick it out as his work.
The highlighted area is just for frame of reference, but I’m assuming that this entire piece has other elements lifted from other Beksinski works.
This artist’s entire portfolio, and it is massive, is entirely based off of finding pictures on Google and editing them to his own needs. Most of the time, the source art is completely left intact, which is completely despicable. His favorite method seems to be finding pictures of prop and movie FX artists and taking their gory FX dummies and using them for his album covers, which he sells for under 100.00 dollars. The case above, though, was one that I immediately recognized as the cover to Heaven and Hell’s “The Devil You Know”, which is a very iconic cover. He actually did attempt to smudge some stuff around, but it’s clear as day when you look at a few specific details that he did a lot more than draw inspiration from this piece.
This artist is a good example of why I started this blog. This artist takes from other people who are more talented and more creative than he is, he steals from them, and crudely edits on top of them to appear like they are his own. And because of his ridiculously cheap price, he’s apparently amassed quite the underground following of people who either don’t care that he’s a thief or think he’s creating these pieces all by himself.
This isn’t uncommon at all in many industries. The most familiar term I can think of to describe his art, though, is “knock-off”. He’s not the original artist…he’s the guy who comes in and tries to do what the big-boys are doing for a tiny fraction of the price.
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.
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.
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.
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.