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.