Friday, December 31, 2010

"Happy New Year, Pilgrim."

I did this caricature of John Wayne just recently so that I could give a print of it as a Christmas gift to my stepfather, as he's a huge fan of The Duke. Originally I was going to do it in my usual approach: inked line art, then coloured up in Photoshop. However, I was rather pleased with the way it looked in the pencil sketch (which I also rendered a bit more than usual), so I thought I'd treat the finished art as more painterly, still colouring it in Photoshop, yet with a looser treatment overall. Anyway, it was certainly a fun piece to work on. The film I viewed as reference to sketch from was Rio Bravo, in which John Wayne stars alongside Dean Martin and Angie Dickinson.

So, that's it for my posts of 2010 - See you all in the New Year!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

But Is It Art?

The above painting was just named 1st place winner in an art contest by The Toronto Star newspaper. When the image of this winning entry was published a couple days ago, the usual fawning accolades from the the ultraliberal* artsy fartsy community followed in the comments section. But then somebody rained on their parade by pointing out that this prize winner was clearly derived from a photo of Toronto streetcars in a winter storm that comes up near the top of a Google image search when you enter "Toronto-streetcar-snow".

(*For the record, I consider myself a liberal, but not an ultraliberal, which I think is just as wrongheaded as being an ultraconservative.)

And here is that very photo, taken by photographer Brian Labelle, which he'd had up on his Flickr site for some time. Yet, according to a follow-up article in The Star, the artiste will only admit to having been "inspired" by that photo, and only as one of dozens of others she was supposedly referencing in order to create her award winning painting.

Well, I'm just not buying her disclaimer. The "painting" is clearly a direct rip-off of Brian's photo and, in my opinion, hardly even qualifies as a painting either. For you see, I am able to get pretty much the same result by simply running Brian's photo through a Photoshop filter or two, which gives me the following image:

It seems to me that the artiste's painting is little more than a paint by numbers from a projected image (with a similar Photoshop filter) of the photo, with little square strokes of acrylic paint used in place of the pixillated squares. Voila - instant painting!

What personally irks me so much over this controversy is the fact that, not only is the artiste unwilling to admit to outright plagiarism, but the number of ultraliberal artsy fartsy types who have rushed to her defense, insisting that it's only "Similar, but not the same", and could have just been painted from the same location, that's all. Furthermore, they seem quite comfortable to accept it as original art, still worthy of winning the prize money of $2500.00.

As an instructor in a college animation program, one of my duties is to keep a wary eye out precisely for this sort of "inspiration". Unfortunately, there is a very fine line between a student being influenced by another character design that exists, and being guilty of outright plagiarism. I really hate having to make that kind of judgment call, but it's part of my job that I take very seriously. My advice to all students is to err on the side of caution. While it is considered okay to copy the art of others as part of the learning process, NEVER keep anything you like, nor any sketches you have directly copied from anything you like, within view when you are working on an actual Character Design assignment. Believe me, I have uncovered about a dozen or more situations over the last few years where I've had to have a tough talk with the students who, in my estimation, crossed the line. In many of those cases I have had to give a grade of zero for that particular assignment, especially when the same student has a reputation for being a repeat offender. Trust me, a grade of zero can seriously impede the chances of passing the class, when additional assignment grades may not be very high either.

Anyway, this situation with the streetcar painting has provided me with the ideal opportunity to address this sticky subject, as it also applies to the animation course at Sheridan. Frankly, I can't imagine how anybody who considers themselves an artist could be so blatantly derivative of work not their own, and not suffer from a guilty conscience. As far as I'm concerned, it shows a distinct lack of pride in one's own abilities.

Addendum: Here is a slideshow of the other winning entries. Personally, I think any one of entries #2, #3, or #4 would have been a more worthy 1st prize winner. I favour the cartoon depiction of Toronto's Distillery District, modeled in plasticene, but then again, artsy fartsy judges don't like cartoons.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Doodles

Looks like this blog is once again long overdue for an update. Unfortunately, what with grading student assignments as the fall semester ends, as well as getting stuff done for Christmas, I just haven't had much time to do much new art to post. I'm afraid that these latest doodles are the best I can offer at this time, sketched yesterday while having lunch out and reading my newspaper. Hopefully I can do some more finished art in the couple weeks I have off before school starts up again.

In the meantime, I'm going to just relax now on this Christmas Eve by sitting back and watching Bell, Book and Candle, which, while technically is not a Christmas movie per se, does take place over the Christmas season nevertheless. It stars Jimmy Stewart and the yummy Kim Novak, who plays a sexy witch as I've caricatured her below.

Merry Christmas, folks!