Serpentine Path – Serpentine Path

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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.

Minsk – With Echoes in the Movement of Stone (interior artwork)

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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.

Sadistic Hallucinations – Atrocious Retaliation

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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.

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.