Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Artists as art thieves

Back in June I posted a blog about image thieves (which you can read here). I talked about the fact that most image thieves are non-artists, most are making no money off the theft and that most are ignorant of copyrights and the impact their theft has on the livelihood of artists.

But there is an increasingly alarming trend happening and that is artists stealing the works of others. Those people I will refer to as cannibals from here on out.

Before I continue I just want to say that I'm not judging or trying to call anyone out. I'm trying to educate. It became painfully obvious that education is needed after a recent issue with a Facebook app designer using art without permission or compensation. Some of the comments left on a forum during the debate showed me that most people don't understand copyrights.

On to the cannibals: The theft I'm referring to is the highly unethical practice of taking the work of another, be it a photograph, painting or drawing, and painting over top of it and calling it your own. With the growing popularity of digital painting this technique is becoming a big problem and I think a lot of that comes from ignorance of copyrights or more specifically a widely circulated copyright myth which is if you change X% of the picture it becomes an original. Wrong! This misconception is shared by laymen and amateurs alike and it is 110% FALSE!

Again I don't think most of the guilty cannibals out there are committing this act maliciously. Although there are a few unscrupulous artists running around I'll give the benefit of the doubt and say most mean well.

The "paint over" technique has become a very popular tool with art directors and instructors but has become a crutch for others. Using references, photos or otherwise, is perfectly acceptable. Even painting over your own work or photographs is OK (Tim Bradstreet, best known as a Punisher cover artist, has this technique down to an pun intended!). It's the act of lifting someone elses hard work that makes it cannibalism. It's hard enough as an artist to make eke out a living. That's why it is such a No-No when another artist commits such a grievous act regardless of intent.

And if you are an artist trying to make a name for yourself cannibalizing others works tells potential clients some very important information about you, none of which are good:
1. You are lazy
2. You lack creativity
3. You lack ethics
4. You are a cease & desist letter waiting to happen!

Again, not passing judgement. Just putting things out there the way they are. And please note that I am not referring to collage art, digital or otherwise. That is an entirely different thing and one that I know nothing about.

Think before you art!

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