Thoughts on art swipes

I was just thinking how back in the day swipes were like the kiss of death for an artist. It was the easiest way to prove that you were a no-talent hack. Guys like Rob Liefeld and countless other people who don't work in the industry anymore made careers off of swiping stuff and always got hell for it.

Fast forward to today and a lot of artists are using photo references for their artwork.

You have one group of artists that actually creates the photos and are copying their own photography ala Tim Bradstreet and Alex Ross.

Then you have the other group that flat out just copies pictures out of magazines and other photo sources ie. Greg Land and Jae Lee.

Wouldn't the latter be considered just as bad as the old-fashioned swipe? Sure Jae Lee is more talented than Rob Liefeld, but he's still copying a lot of his artwork from something as opposed to imagining it himself.


I don't mind it if the artist is honest about what they did, or if it's more of an homage. If, for example, an artist "swiped" an iconic spider-man cover (say, amazing fantasy #15) using daredevil and gave credit to Ditko somewhere in their art...that's fine with me.

Is the photo swipe just as bad as the art swipe, though?

Is the photo swipe just as bad as the art swipe, though?

For me, it depends. If it's an Alex Ross type photo...using a live model for reference, that's ok. If it's an image of something another artist has done ---- and no credit is given ---- that's pretty damn shady.

Yeah, i used to think tim bradstreet was great...until i watched that clip of him on the dvd of punisher. He fucking TRACES his photos of a guy dressed exactly like Frank Castle. Then inks it and signs it. WTF? A 10 year old can trace a fucking photo!

To Tim Bradstreet's credit, he at least designs the photo.

Film poster artist extraordinaire Drew Struzan also uses a projector, yet no one gives him shit about it and people diss the next guy whose likeness aren't 100% perfect, lol.

Guys like Greg Horn and Greg Land just copy pictures out of magazines.

I'm fine with it. As long as its not blatantly obvious to become a hindrance to the story.

I judge the final product...Bradstreet and Ross' stuff looks good and tells a story. Liefield and even Jae Lee's stuff do NOTHING for me. The unoriginality of Liefield is just the punchline on a bad joke.

I don't care if someone made a comic of photos retouched in photoshop, if it looked good. I would not call that person a penciller or say that they drew well, but that is not the point of comics.

I care because I'm an artist and it's bullshit to have another guy pretend to draw photorealistic and be considered the standard of quality and be faking it.

'To Tim Bradstreet's credit, he at least designs the photo.'

yeah, he's a great photographer. I thought he at least drew the photo, but to trace it and call yourself an artist is bullshit. Alex Ross I think at least draws his references by hand, not traces directly off the photo.

The quality of the outline of shapes in a piece of art does not an artist make, and in most cases is among the least important attributes. Composition, coloring and the inclusion of fine details and textures are all important attributes of art that are in no way trivialized by tracing.

To tell the truth I cant believe this is even an issue. It's like the question from Chasing Amy - is what the Inker does considered art? After all, he's 'just tracing.' lol

I don't see why Jae Lee should get a ton of flak... he also inks his art as well and his style isn't necessarily typical. It seemed to me Greg Land probably did art swipes but then he has that cheesey romance novel style.

'all important attributes of art that are in no way trivialized by tracing.'

spoken like someone who does not draw. Anyone can trace a photo or arrange a little composition of images. Anyone. An artist can draw that shit.

If you said "penciller" I'd agree with you, but there are a lot of different meanings to the word "artist".

Greg Land is a straight up thief, who I'm surprised has not been sued by the countless photographers and magazines he has stolen from.

I have to say that I also look at the finished product. If an artist can make a meaningful panel with good components and interesting symbolism and themes I don't particularly care how the artist got there. Realism isn't particularly important to me since i enjoy very stylized art as well.

That being said, it is nearly impossible to make an interesting panel with a magazine swipe.

To me (not an artist) lower levels of this seem pretty similar to writers stealing the backbone of a story. Which can be done in both good and bad ways.

For example Romeo and Juliet is the most stolen story ever even Shakespere stole it from the myth of Pyramus and Thisbe, but many of these versions are interesting because the writer makes it their own.

On the other hand you have pure plagerism which sucks balls. Like the Fast and the Furious which should be called Point Break with the word race substituted for Surf.

bottom line for me - if i like the end product it's ok. i will support that book. if i don't like it, i don't buy. simple.

heck, many of us in real life everyday swipe stuff - do we get called on it? taking pens from work, photocopying with work copier, using co. email for personal emails...yes, we are not professionals at this and have ppl pay for our swipes, but simple, if you don't like it, don't buy it. stop the b!tching.

there are artists like brian wood who adds photos into their work. i take it that's diff.

'If you said "penciller" I'd agree with you, but there are a lot of different meanings to the word "artist".'

I said draw. you know what i mean. Learning and having the ability to draw straight from the hand, maybe a little reference here and there, is a God given thing and truly a wonder. It really doesn't take anything to arrange pre existing images.

"It really doesn't take anything to arrange pre existing images."

There, I would have to disagree with you, particularly where it comes to storytelling. The ability to draw is like the ability to play an instrument. Telling a story is more like writing a song.

What about guys like McKean? Some of his covers have almost nothing hand drawn, but they are amazing. Are 3d computer artists not artists because they can't draw?

How about this distinction: Guys like McKean usually get credited with "art by".

What about swipers who are still credited with "penciler"?

Mckean can draw and paint. Arkham Asylum was not computer generated. He's done a lot of fine art.

'Are 3d computer artists not artists because they can't draw?'

In a small way yes, but they know they are not the same as someone who can draw and paint the real way. Computer artists are useless without a computer. A real artist can make art with their hand and eye alone. Even 3d art has someone who can draw to design a lot of the stuff they do before they do it digitally. Or they swipe.

There are many untalented people who can do something that looks good because they know how to use a computer. Yeah, it can be considered art, but not by people in the know.