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Thread: Discussion: Using reference effectively and responsibly

  1. #1
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    Question Discussion: Using reference effectively and responsibly

    I thought it would be a good idea to open up a thread to discussing this topic here so we can leave the finally finished section to actual artwork and criticism.

    Don't tell someone off for expressing their opinion here. This is a serious issue that deserves some thought.


    What should the role of reference be in original artwork and concepts?

    What qualifies as valid reference material?

    How can reference be incorperated ethically into original artwork?

    When does a peice of art cross the line of "referencing" another artist's work and "plagerizing" it.

    play nicely, now....
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    For direct image referencing... there's a line that can be easily crossed. If your directly referencing an image just for study and fun, it's hard to yell at someone. Yet many times artists will directly reference something, put it on the forum and not even state they used reference. If you don't state you used direct reference your basically lying to everyone... i find that distasteful.

    Although, I do you CAN add stylization to a referenced image-Using the image as the back bone for your creativity.

    It's a touchy subject...

    Not always easy to say what is right or wrong.


    Also refereeing another artist's work... i find annoying... unless say it's a popular piece of art and your doing... like a "remix" for lack of better terminology. I've seen many artists copy Joe mad's work and try to pass it off as legit original work.. and that seriously infuriates me.

    I'm guessing this topic was made because of Carlo's work referring another artists work for his own piece. I'm honestly not sure what i think about this. He obviously has skill... but needs to tap other sources for some of his 'power'. I think i would appreciate his art much more if he did do this... I have much more respect for someone that toils with their faults instead of taking the easy route.

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    Good idea. Well I'm just going to repost my question from carlo's thread since after 160 responses it will probably be overlooked and I really would like a answer from one of the administrators or any of the professional concept artists floating around.

    Anyway I am curious, It's ok to reference other concepts as long as the end result is unrecognizable from the original? If I were a concept artist looking for work in gaming and I referenced a mech design or some art that Manley or Feng or any of the other big names around here did and a potential employer saw and recognized where I got some of my designs from, How would that effect my chances of getting the job?

    It seems like two schools of thought because another one of your founding members, James Zhang said this awhile back

    "Pay Attention to detail and costume. Pose is nice, but remember that design is most important. Be original. Do not use existing designs from ANYWHERE. Chances are...employers will recognize it. On a design you are particularly proud of, show the design from start to finish. Sketches, finals, colors, close ups, references, details, equipment, etc... "

    I'm all for inspiration but I'd hate for somebody to look at my work and say this reminds me of.... Or this looks just like...
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    I use reference for inspiration mostly. Just to get me into a mode of thinking, like putting on music. If I want to draw a car, I'll flip through some car books, make a sketch here and there, but its reaelly just to get my synapses firing in a different order.
    "They were born, they grew up in the gutters, they went to work at twelve, they passed through a brief blossoming period of beauty and sexual desire, they married at twenty, they were middle-aged at thirty, they died, for the most part, at sixty. Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbors, films, football, beer, and, above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds."

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    When it comes to referencing other artists, its a lot more effective to look beyond any one of their drawings/paintings/sculptures and try to understand their thinking process. How do they depict certain kinds of form in space, why do they use the details they use, and why do they choose a particular method in creating their art? If you can start to figure this stuff out, then a little piece of that artist lives in you (cue the smarmy music), then when you sit down to do a new piece of art, you can think "What would so-and-so's approach be?"

    In response Eric's question, it all depends on what you do with that direct reference. If it seems like its just a small part of one of the pieces in your portfolio, (as in Carlo's case) and it looks like you know what you're doing otherwise, they might overlook it. However, they will look at the rest of your work with skepticism. How are they to know whether or not the rest of your work is legit? For all they know, everything else could be stolen from pieces they themselves haven't seen yet. Its pretty apparent when someone has skill or not. A faker might be able to pull one over on the viewer a few times, but eventually someone will notice the source material or the inconsistencey in their work.

    As far as James' quote, I'd agree with him for the most part, except in the case of historical or real-world reference. I'm sure he had to incorperate a lot of historical costume reference into his concepts for "Gladius". Those kind of connections are the kind you WANT the viewer to make. For instance, if you're working on a space fighter thats designed to take out slower moving surface targets, you might want to visually reference an A-10 Warthog because they are similar in purpose. I mean. look at the (original) Star Wars movies. Part of what made them so easy to relate to was that the designs looked a lot like their modern day counterparts. THe storm troopers carry modified WW2 sub-machine guns, Their helmets resemble nazi helmets, etc.

    so if you gotta steal from somewhere, steal from real life. No ones gonna bust on you because the head of your robot resembles the can-opener motor form their "obscure small appliance parts" handbook.

    A great resource for real world tech reference is model kit catalogues. No where else will you find a wider variety of vehicles and stuff in the same place. And the photos of them are great because showing the detail is what sells the kits.


    I have much more respect for someone that toils with their faults instead of taking the easy route.
    nicely put, Davi.


    -Sean

    BTW, where did you get this quote from James, Erik?
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    I saw Carlo's sexy babe, was completely amazed by it, and then came back to see the huge debate.

    I think most of the points people brought up have to be applied depending on the situation.

    My own opinion being that I really don't think Carlo did any bad, at ALL. I do agree that he obviously borrowed from a previous design, and that he could've posted the reference. But the picture is "fly" on it's own merits.

    Given that this was a "fun drawing" to begin with, him posting that small bit of arm he reference would have only taken up more bandwidth, and added little for me personally.

    I also think that some people were right when they pointed out a bit of player hating. Carlo borrowed the design of a bit an arm for a non professional piece that he reinterpreted and rendered in his own stlye.

    And I think some people were right in pointing out that depending on the person borrowing and the source that's borrowed from, everyone's reactions are totally different. And that's as it should be; that's life. That's why we have judgement skills.

    A professional of Carlos' level has nothing to prove. He's just sharing some of his hard work with everyone here. A noob like myself, has a lot to prove; people don't know my skill level, so any unreferenced "borrowing" will seed doubts in my ability.

    If you were allowed to walk through Carlos's studio and flip through all of his pictures and sketches, would you expect him to stop and and explain and provide reference everytime you came across a picture he borrowed or copied any small element from somewhere else.

    I'm glad he put the picture on the board. And I'm glad someone pointed out that he borrowed the arm from another design. Carlo didn't deny it. I was impressed how well he incorporated the design into the rest of the arm that he created!

    I'm sure some people here know, "Hey Joe" by Jimi Hendrix, and probably slightly fewer know "Hey Joe" by the Birds, or Byrds, or whatever. The Birds wrote the song. Performing the song made Jimi famous. He didn't write the lyrics and he didn't write the notes, but he performed it in a way that made it HIS song after that. Some people can do that with music. And some people can do that with art. Just my opinion.

    P.S
    I think Coro was pissed with some peoples' belief that "any" sort of copying is a sin, even though it's a time honored tradition encouraged and practiced by most "great" artists. Whereas some of the borrowing done by others who've been "caught" here at ConceptArt has just been plain old stealing, with no doubts as far as intentions;and few skills as far as execution. Putting Carlo's piece in with that group of people is just plain stupid. And in that I can understand Coro's initial reaction to this debate.
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    I'll jump in here, just to clarify that tracing someone else's work isn't referencing, it's just that: tracing. And that's wrong. When I see tracing, the work's value plummets. I prefer substance over style, and originality is the paramount goal.
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    Arrow Sean you beat me to it...

    Originally posted by chukw
    originality is the paramount goal.
    Chuk, That is beautiful.

    And It is very tangible. Difficult, but Tangible.

    -Joshua
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    I have a question. Not an accusation please, because I understand Carlo's piece was just done for fun. But lets say that design was for a game/anime. Is there a legal danger if an actual production model were based off of it? I guess what I'm asking is, I understand where the cut off is in coping 2d art, but where is the line when it comes to similarity in design? How much does it have to look like a Porshe before Porshe can take you to court?


    Also, I'd like to point out that regardless of how you feel about declaring/posting your reference, if no mention of it is made and someone else produces your reference in the same thread, it almost automatically puts you in a bad light even if no wrong was meant. I've never seen it happen where it hasn't started some huge debate/witch hunt. So I think it's always in your best interests to mention when you use reference, especially if that reference is publicly available.

    But yeah, I think Carlo puts us in a bind. I think if a lesser artist had done what he did, we would have totally torched him mercilessly. But because we were all sitting there thinking "this is, without a doubt, the most awesomest thing of all ever," we are all a bit confused. We all know copying is bad, but what happens when you copy something and then make it 10,000 times cooler than the thing you copied it from? I mean, clearly the lesson here is "cover your tracks better, foo!" but that doesn't answer the question.
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    What an great thread. So much different debate by one piece. After reading almost all of it, the lesson I learned and came away with is that it pays to be awesome. If you are an amateur or beginner, pay your respect, if you are a pro, you don't need to justify a damn thing, just keep making great art. Just good incentive to get as good as Carlo.
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    I've actually heard from a well known professional artist that they often use pieces from other artists in their work for gaming companies, just to flush out ideas.... i understand why they would do this.. could be easy to quickly copy paste some images together just to get the show on the road... but it doesn't seem like something i would personally do.
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    It doesn't seem like something you would do, BUT, what if you had a deadline? Time i'm guessing is the driving force for that situation.
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    also, the CONTEXT of the piece in dispute is another thing to consider...
    i mentioned this in the other thread too, but this was a FUN piece, a class demo that he decided to finish and share with us as just that: a fun piece of artwork that had no baring on anything else.
    now, if he had come on here saying: hey! look at my work, please hire me! then sure...rip him a new one...but if youre just having fun with a design to share among peers...i dont see the problem.
    the fact that he made the design BETTER than the original (IMHO) shows hes not a fuckin hack...the boys got some serious talent.
    i do believe its wrong to rip other peoples work for use in your own personal gain...but to share art and designs among friends and peers is totaly different ..again, IMHO.

    thats about all i have to say..

    peace.
    -------
    I wont fail now
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