View Full Version : Is it or is it not your original art?

Victor Osaka
04-12-2014, 03:17 PM
So, can one call their ArtRage artwork their own if it is created from a photograph or some one else's artwork? Like downloading a painting or photograph and using a smudge tool to manipulate the image and calling it your own. Or even downloading a piece of art and using it as a trace image and replicating it with your own strokes.

I am curious what you all think about this.

Personally, I think if one has derived their art work directly from someone else's art - it should be stated so. But, I am beginning to see images that have obviously been "copied" from some other person's art. Easily identified by layering them and turning the top image on and off.

I am hoping I won't be labeled a trouble maker for this question I hope I have enough "street cred" to even ask this question. :eek:

p.s. I am a college professor.

04-12-2014, 04:45 PM
It's been debated here (and elsewhere online and off) many times. You'll find that opinions are going to vary greatly on certain aspects of it. As for my own opinion, I think if you're working directly from your own photographs (meaning you took the photograph yourself), then you're fine. It's really nothing more then mixed media as far as I'm concerned, with that. If you're grabbing other peoples images or artwork (be it from a magazine or from an online source), and making changes to them, then you're walking a line. It'd be one thing, if you're making a statement by doing a collage to create something completely new, with the context of those creations being different then the one you're creating. If, however, you're taking an image and simply editing it... Well, that's where we run into a lot of debate. Because at what point does a tracing/manipulation become an "original work" in itself? And even if it is classified as an original piece of its own, does that mean the source material, used as the bases to build upon, should be left aside uncredited?

Personally, I don't chance it unless it's just meant to be a study for practice, and even then I do what I can to give credit and mention the use of references.

D Akey
04-12-2014, 11:26 PM
I agree with what was said by Someonesane. But there's more that I want to put a light on.

For the moment let's not just look at work that can be copyrightable because it's a thing that people do to generate money. That makes it a civil legal matter. Let's look at Art as idea and learning Art as having needs to build a visual vocabulary. And doing a picture as a skill to be learned much like rhetoric can be learned in order to synthesize and communicate an idea.

It's complex, Victor. If when you are teaching, you are using these kinds of internet opinion threads, or books, or journals or anything else as reference as sources for part of your teaching, do you scrupulously cite references or do you occasionally just pass on the information with "Some people maintain that (x, y and z)", or "it's hotly debated" etc? And do you distil things you read into a personal synthesis yet teach someone else's thoughts that earlier than you got to the same conclusion you are at, and do you always cite those source people who may have said the exact same thing previously? Or do you just teach the material as if coming from or distilled through you?

I imagine you choose citing or not based on what serves you to communicate. If it's important that students know, as if for example Plato said something because it's part of the study of the evolution of an idea, then you would cite Plato as the first source. If it's more a part of general wisdom or knowledge, you wouldn't probably because you're teaching something broader. And if Joe Blow said what Plato said centuries later but in a somewhat different context, do you cite him or Plato or the hundreds of other people who have also said it with slightly different spins, with the myriad quotes and misquotes?

Sometimes you provide arguments in order to generate thinking, to teach the students how to use their brains and evaluate things for themselves. Same with Art and creativity.

How do people teach and learn?

Let's say you are teaching a class in your specialty. We assume you have been over that ground many times in many ways. So you are a personal matrix of all these concepts that exist in the field. You have lots of experience thinking in this area and thus you as teacher are assumed to have synthesized many things, original to you but based on the ideas of others, into your own conclusions on the topic. Conversely students, or people who have very little in their experience, in order to get a handle on something naturally jump to find people's work that is already concrete and in their opinion well-formed. And then they will keep adding other ideas until at some point they can kick start their own creativity.

Total originality in a vacuum is asking to become frozen. And now with certain computer assists, people with less experience in Art can suddenly be rocketed to a much higher technical ability. And if they are putting in strokes, they're learning what they need to know to get the effect they want. It's like having a teacher standing over your shoulder as you paint. Color, values, composition etc are all being exercised. For some it is enough to master something they can manage and that is sensible to set progressively higher goals with copying as a starting point. And some may stay doing that because it pleases them. Others will go far beyond that because that's where their inner artist will want to go because that's where their interests lie. For many this is a hobby.

I personally don't think it's as big a deal whether some retired farmer taking up a hobby (or whoever) copies as part of their fun or learning. It is always good to cite sources because it's fair to the original photographer or artist. But that info is often not available. So I personally don't sweat it. I leave that 'sweating' up to the people involved. If you are personally concerned, I would bend over backwards to contact the original artist and ask permission or I would change the original and make it indisputably my own. Professional artists steal all the time and they know how to change things just enough or a whole lot. It's a matter of expediency.

An awful lot of people are teaching themselves or cobbling together an education from the internet by seeing what others are doing. And the visual resources on the internet are endless. And without having a teacher in a school situation, there's really no other way to learn than to copy.

Crediting the source if that information is available is proper. However, like everything, there are levels. And there are a lot of people who are learning to paint where it is 'for educational purposes'. So copying a painting by the masters like Rubens or Leonardo or Sergeant or some Japanese prints etc is a time honored thing, done from way before computers ever existed. In the case of a direct copy I would personally have to say that crediting sources should always be done whenever possible.

Often times, the line is drawn between whether someone is selling their copied work. If money is getting generated, then it moves into a different category and it becomes much more of an imperative. But as an artist, if one is stopped at every turn, they'll stagnate or just not do art anymore. The doors to creativity need to be open.

04-12-2014, 11:39 PM
Victor, your question is justified. But as far I've noticed this AR comunity is more about the fun of making/using art than about braging rights :-) . This program is so fantastic that even developers are sometimes surprised by the findings of users (maybe not, but they are sure responsive)... What you come up with , i think, it's more an issue of common sense, and respect or... the lack of it. For sure it is not nice to take credit for someone else effort, for just a twist of it, in art or in any other domain.... But than again... for most people beauty kicks in at some point and there is the urge of reproducing it (owning it), so copy is the first step,... and then, for the curious individual, , tehnique rises its head, questions and unrest is pilling up... the need to be different, unique... creation is being conceived and art is born. Just my point of view.

04-13-2014, 05:03 AM
My personal opinion about it is IF I use a photo reference that isn't my photo and just draw it 'as is', that to me isn't cool. If I use a reference I modify it, add something or leave something out and I always change the colors.
Having said that I do think it's wrong to just trace it and use the color sampler tool and use the same colors.

Victor Osaka
04-13-2014, 06:39 AM
Really nice to hear all your thoughts on the topic. In my world (photography) the issue is always a hot debate. But, here it is different. And for a lot of people who create digital art painting . . . it is a hobby and they are not deliberately trying to fool anybody.

I also agree that the internet has made it easy to learn the craft by downloading and tracing another's work. Yet, tracing or applying a filter to another's work should require a citation of sorts - IMO. To simply say nothing about the true source of one's art, in this situation, is simply bad etiquette.

I guess I became curious when I happened upon several paintings that were just too good for a beginner. Curiosity had lead me to download a photo of the original master work and the painting in question. They simply used a brush to alter or blend the strokes. In the past, I've had to research the assignments of some students only to find their "original concept" works were not really their own. Just a couple of students have tried to pull a fast one on me!

It is good to hear everyone's thoughts. Thanks!

04-13-2014, 04:16 PM
I generally try to ask permission if I can find an owner, if I cannot. I put a small disclaimer that I found the image on the internet and if it belongs to that person, then please let me know so that I can give credit where it was/is due. I also do that when creating fan art anime. I try to always give credit when I can.

Highly debated... but ultimately, anyone can steal anything if you make it digital. There's enough photography editing software to make anything possible.

D Akey
04-14-2014, 04:18 AM
It's nice to know that students have not changed since I was in 3rd grade doing reports copying articles verbatim out of the encyclopedia. Hahaha. Ah, the perennial favorite -- Trying to put one over on the teacher, with a pinch of testing limits and/or genuinely not knowing any better. And therein I suppose lies your original question. I suppose as teachers, one has to keep hoping the light finally comes on for those students who clearly have not yet been bitten by the bug of passion for what they're doing.

You know, this last generation or two have really come into a whole different world though. I watch and realize that somebody keeps moving the target. And areas that I used to bust my behind to do and learn no longer require nearly so much effort. And as a result I keep wondering whether those labor intensive exercises that clearly necessitated using the mind in certain ways forced me to develop in areas that the computer no longer asks people to even consider. And whether or not all those 'long handing' processes were more a distraction to what is actually essential about picture making.

I recall getting really focused on rendering things to make them look real. But oddly, I didn't have teachers that valued or taught things like composing. I came to be an illustration art student when slickness of technique was paramount (like airbrushed jukeboxes and Cadillacs with fins and vignettes of uniformed waitresses on roller skates holding a tray of burgers and root beer and campy stuff like that), and montages which were the stuff of lucrative movie posters were selling lots more than creating real environments. The other thing that was important to illustrators at the time was being able to do people's likenesses -- essential for movie posters. Genre art was not happening here on the West Coast, and Frazetta and Boris, and book covers were in a niche all their own on the East Coast.

There just wasn't a market for duplicating scenes that photography (and now 3D computer rendering) could do better unless you were doing marker comps for advertising. But later I realized that composing scenes, or designing pages where text was an integral part was something I had to scramble and teach myself. But it would have served me greatly to have had that taught in school. So my rendering skills were really developed. Picture making -- not so much. But what I described was what was selling back then.

(I'm not the teacher here) It's hard to fault photo (or other) students who suddenly can render a photograph as a painting (may or may not be a cheat) because that availability is part of their world. They may not be learning what you want them to experience. But it's sort of natural because many will not see painting skill as an end in itself or desirable other than as one more way to create a look for an image much like stippling or using another filter. The world is changing and we don't want to give classes in how to play the organ at the silent movie theater. Some precious things become merely yesterday's news. Sure, it's all good to know. But where are the priorities. And what is the point of education. That becomes the bigger question, as I see it anyway.

With rendering being far more commonly assisted by computers, and styles are often driven by what the computer can do, that and the images being joined at the hip with photography, one wonders what are the things that are going to really be the areas these new students are going to take to the stars. It's a natural evolution, albeit painful for us old school artists.

Speed seems paramount as always, maybe more so now. Visualization assistance also seems like a place for artists to land in the commercial world. And if the artist is tethered to the photographic reference, then why not just go with a photograph. So your photo students will benefit from that. Art students will then have to do things that straight photography can't. Things that are more directly wired between the creative brain and the page for people to come to a shared vision. And so for my expectations about what is going to be important is to use any and all tools available to get messages out (whatever those messages are). And fastidious adherence to 'rules' of image creation and technique will be less the issue than what did you finally come up with on the page or canvas.

I'm not talking about painting for pleasure. The pleasure of it is an end in itself. I'm talking about those who seek to make a living at it.