Music of the Month; I’m cheating a bit here

It rained today. Screw the sunny music I was going to use, let’s go with this.

Reason? It wasn’t just raining today, it was thunder and lighting as well. ’tis also one of my favourite songs.

It’s going to be busy summer. I still aim at two posts per week, but lately not only my own schedule has been killing me a little bit, but my editor’s personal life also went through renovation. Life has a tendency on meddling with planned things like that. To add to this, the next few weeks will be living hell now that I’m going to finish with deadlines for the current project I’m involved with, which also means that I’m going to be involved in a new project that will kill me and most likely force me to work on graphics and we all know that I can barely do logos. Oh well…

To mention some more recent events, industrialised plagiarism lifted its ugly head this week because of Marimekko. Kristina Isola, the designer who plagiarised Maria Primtšenko’s, did nothing new or extraordinary. She did what people deem like a huge evil act is something we allow film directors, musicians, game designers and God knows who else to do on regular basis. The buzz here is mostly because the design Isola did became rather popular. Again, nothing new. However, I have to laugh a bit at Primtšenko’s grandson, Ivan, who says that The designer most likely didn’t do it on purpose.

I’ll tell you one industry secret on designers; almost all of them lie and plagiarise intentionally. They won’t tell you about it, because they hope never to be caught. They call it with other names, like being inspired or that they got the idea from somewhere. The customers allow this to happen in most cases, and by extension the industry allows it to happen. I repeat; this is industrialised plagiarism.

Quality design stems from professional craftsmanship. Be it industrial or whatever else. Isola certainly has enough experience and skill to be a craftsman, but because almost everybody turns the blind eye at plagiarism, she chose to be stupid.

To understand the origins is to understand the coda

In many ways imitation is flattery. Imitation teaches us, nurtures the methods we employ and widens our perception on the subject. Yet, if we only continue with imitation we very soon step into the realm of plagiarism. By just imitating we won’t understand the underlying elements or the reasons why those elements exist in the first place. In visual arts we all can imitate the lines and colours of the Mona Lisa and understand nothing of it. After that we are unable to do anything else but copy those lines and colours all over again, perhaps in slightly different composition but still empty inside. The same example can be drawn into anything.

The best way to learn, and thus understand, anything is to go back to the point of origin. In regards of design to understand why a chair is shaped like it is throws us back to the ergonomics of human body; how the curves go, where are the points of support and so forth. It’s almost useless to start looking for examples first, as they will without a doubt only lead into an imitation of the example. When that imitation is made into (figurative) flesh, it becomes plagiarism.

And in some cases, this plagiarism is greeted with applauses and admirations, especially from those who have no idea of the origin. It is, due to lack of any better words, ‘evil’ to abuse others’ ignorance.
There are numerous things that are more than their origins. Renaissance, for example, is not just a rebirth of arts and science, but something much larger overall. Nevertheless, understanding what the Renaissance was at its core allows us to do nothing less than what is in spirit of it. Baroque is another example, where simply understanding why Caravaggio’s paintings looked like why they were, why the lights and shadows played their game with the intricate details, we can completely understand the rest of the era and create/produce something that is nothing less than Baroque itself.

To make something that is pop art of the 50’s we only need to see where it mostly came from; comics and visual package designs, but also from various avant-garde visuals from the 20’s and 30’s . Andy Warhol was an excellent thief, who didn’t understand what he was stealing, but managed to engineer a method to plagiarize small photos into larger scale. He is an example of person who blatantly stole and never stepped forth to give credit for his works, and yet he was (and sadly still is) hailed as some sort of genius. It’s a double standard.

Youngsters are encouraged to remember names and works of the past. We all recognize Mona Lisa the second we see a glimpse of it just as we recognize the Hokusai. It has been an age tested tradition to take masters’ works and allow the new generation to admire them. Being influenced by their works is unavoidable, as we can’t choose any other way to teach a thing without examples without forcing pupils to experience them first hand, to make them into examples.

However, if we teach only the masterpieces, the body of works from a selected period and admire the masters to an extreme while encouraging them to work in imitation, then why are we judging these same people years later of stealing and abusing their inspirations? Modern English is similar in spirit, where first we teach patterns and ways to form sentences only to start cracking on children who say I’s rather than mine, eated rather than ate and so forth.

While we seem to hate see plagiarism, we also encourage it and allow ourselves to further indulge into it rather than coming up something new. Influences aside, it’s all industrialized. The line between being influenced and directly ripping off may be thin and foggy, but plagiarism is nothing less than taking someone else’s work, their ideas and sweat, and call it your own. Why is this sort of thing taught to an extent, then later on hated on outside those few selected individuals?

Perhaps it’s human nature to copy what they are influenced by. Monkey see, monkey do. But what if we were to teach the origins at first, allow the students to create images based on those origins and see what they have thought through that. This way we would have nothing less than originality based on uniform origin; the core idea. After this the examples should follow. Now that these students truly understand the core, they can appreciate and understand the works themselves.
What period of art we live in at the moment, I have asked few times from teachers across the board. It looks like nobody has an answer . Calling past modern is awkward, and we have already passed post-modernism as well. The problem with art movements and periods is that very rarely we, the people living at that time period, name our own era. During the 1900’s we have seen multitude of movements, but it’s far more likely that during the modern era of last century we have just managed to keep book of them far more efficiently as globalization took more foothold in the world. Just a small search in the Internet shows that at the moment we’ve seen more than dozen art movements within the last ten years, and none of them have become anything major. Perhaps in the future the latter part of 1900’s and early 00’s will be called the era of Electronical art movement due to the advent of computers and electronic games, and how vastly they spread into almost every household in the modern world in mere few decades. It wasn’t uncommon for houses not to have computers in the 90’s. Now, it’s completely opposite and everybody has a connection to the rest of the world.

I raise this point because at any time a name has been given to an era, this world has been modern in its own terms. At the current modern world we most likely have the exact same challenges as the past arts with plagiarism and over imitation and people struggling with similar matters. Who knows what were the original works that inspired the masters of past and how many of them were lost, much like almost all of Warhol’s inspirations?

I recently finished with the chair design I mentioned a little bit over six months ago during summer. The project was stretched a bit longer, but as February goes by I intend to completely tell you the hows and whys of such a piece of furniture exists, where the influence and inspiration lays in. It’s an original work, but I’m one hundred percent sure that a similar chair exists somewhere, or at least a very similar one. This is because it has a point of origin; a shared coda.
I would rather do products that are similar because of their idea and function rather than do similar products that mimic and imitate the appearance of another. While imitation is admiration, it gives no freedom to allow you to use it as your own.

Tracing and plagiarism

Some time ago one of my old drawing was a victim of plagiarism. This said work was my own redesign of a video game character in itself, so the matter gets more stranger colours because of this. I wouldn’t cared a bit if the design was taken and used in a new picture, but the only thing that was basically made was that it was retraced with Photoshop, colours and effects taken out and sabre replaced with a sword design. This was blatant rip-off, thus I took matter in my hands and hammered down the other guy until he withdrew his picture.

I dislike plagiarism and tracing personally. I do see their benefits; tracing is the best way to assimilate wanted styles and techniques. Tracing can be used to make counterfeits in order to create fake works of art in order to make some illegal money. Nevertheless, using them as examples of one’s skills is shooting one’s own leg. Internet is filled with tracing guides, especially animation tracing guides, which is completely idiotic task anyway when you can just take a screencap from Blu-Ray source. Even without BD source, who would want lossy fakes? Nowadays most proper illustration programs have a tool for tracing anyway, so tracing a screencap is made even more redundant.

Print a picture you really like, colours and all. Then take a fountain pen, dip it in ink and start tracing every black and dark line you have. You’ll start noticing every little error and slip that the picture has, everything that could have been a little bit better and where the author has let his own pen slip. But Aalto, my image is completely computer generated image and has no black lines or such, tells the reader. Here’s a point; every computer created image has lines. Start tracing them.
If you can’t understand lines in a picture, then you can’t really understand the work. There has been a lot of times when people just ask What’s that and see nothing but lines. Tracing is perhaps the best way to get used with lines as you draw them one by one. People who use their skills just to retrace other people’s pictures are stupid people misusing their time and skills.

Tracing is basically plagiarism. The author usually doesn’t even try to to save his face and declared I just love this and wanted to create the exact same thing. I get it, you love a picture a lot, but if you love it so much and want to make it, create it by yourself. There are numerous artists who basically have traced comic book pages and then heralded as genious, and the original comic artists have been left in the dark. This isn’t just stupid; it’s also wrong.

Redesigning isn’t plagiarism as it has original effort and ideas behind it. Warhol is a good example of an artist who takes what others have made and labels those works with his own name. DeviantArt is filled with these modern day Warhols tracing their favourite screenshots and circlejerkin to the fact how a stain of hair is succesfully replicated in Photoshop, or if you want to actually be an illustrator, in Illustrator.

My pieces of artwork may be derivative, but nowadays it’s nigh impossible to be completely unique, partially because of this mindset. However, being a derivative designer/artist is always better than just a stealing bastard who mimics not only the style in question, but the work itself. Tracing itself does result in an artwork, but this artwork is by all means a fake.

I was actually thinking to post slew of traced works from Deviant here just to make a point. However, I decided against it as I don’t mean to offend anybody. I mean, these people are thieves as it is and they defend their works to the last stand. Posting the artwork of other’s they’ve traced would only give them more presence and would most likely fetch more spam than I’m already getting. Actually, this is one of the rare posts where I showcase my own opinion outside Personal posts, and I’ll allow it for once.

Tracing has very little room to manouver around. At the very core it’s copying an existing product without a proper license or anything. I can understand the reasons behind tracing, but calling them your own, or actually thinking that you’ve done work with it, is complete and utter bullshit.
Thievery is thievery, even when you’ve put all of your blood and time into it.