indivisual artist: hallmarks of dialog

by Art Chantry:

two blockheads. this is the sort of thing that sends contemporary amateurs into shivering fits of anger and jealousy. one of these people OBVIOUSLY ripped-off the other, right? i mean how can two images be any more alike and NOT be a ripoff? how many times have i heard that sort of argument? it’s enough to make shep fairey roll over in his professional grave.

—stealing vs taking? even “intent” doesn’t clearly define that diff. when that’s your break point, you are in serious trouble. i think it’s high time we forget about “ripoff” and just do our work. there’s no way we can ever protect ourselves against ripoff. even tho i use found imagery in my work, i have been ‘ripped off’ a thousand times more than i have “ripped off”. my ideas are like candy to other designers. trying to protect our stuff in courtrooms becomes ridiculous. forget about it.—AC

these two book covers were created about 2 years part. the classic asimov novel (i, robot) cover was from around 1964 (illustrator unknown). the hoffer classic (true believer) is from 1966 and it’s by the infamous brilliant and eccentric illustrator tomi ungerer. beyond the fact that both illustrators got lazy and simply drew a primitive blockhead figure, there really is nothing similar at all here. but, the coincidence of that blockhead motif is still enough for the uninitiated and unknowing to shout “THEFT!” at the top of their lungs. silly, isn’t it?

since the advent of the computer, all the amatuerism and DIY effort has brought in a huge majority of unprofessional arrogant “artists” claiming authorship on every tiny crude idea that pass├ęs through their primitive fingertips. it’s enough to make you wanna puke. back in the ancient old days (say, a decade back) nobody gave a crap. the idea that we wrote this language of design together as a culture allowed people to use visual “words” used by other “authors” with impunity. therefore, the vague idea that somebody may have used the image “blockhead” to convey a mutually agreed upon definition was considered essential to communication. nowadays it’s a lawsuit.

we live in a post-modern era where the rote style is appropriation. we don’t invent new ideas, we take old ideas and place them in new juxtapositions. that’s all any visual artist of any kind has done in our culture for over 60 years, now – at least since WW2. it’s the hallmark dialog of our period. it’s a classic ‘decadent’ style. we are all wallowing in variations of copycatism today. to think you aren’t is the height of hubris and arrogance and stupidity.


as a child, we don’t “INVENT” walking by ourselves. we watch others walk and then imitate them until we walk. then we slowly learn to walk the way WE desire. nobody calls this copyright violation or copycatting or theft.

when a writer learns to write, they read other writers and copy what they do. every american writer studies hemingway, then we all try to write like him. eventually, we drift away, but a little bit of hemingway remains behind to influence even those writers who drift further way than imaginable. nobody calls that “ripoff”. it’s just how we live and learn.

so, how come in graphic design spheres (especially if a computer is involved), every single person has to reinvent the wheel from scratch? because copyright law sez so. and corporate money has driven copyright law into a hugely profitable arena – all to their benefit (not ours). copyright law is written by corporations to protect their vested interests – not the interests of the indivisual artist. anybody who thinks otherwise is a fool.

it’s like romney and his silly money. he earned that fair and square and you are just jealous, right? the mere fact that he built his financial empire on a system designed by a community of people over decades and centuries, the fact that he had a head start because he was born rich, the fact that he didn’t create anything new but simply manipulated the system to gain profit? none of this seems to register


the minds of his defenders. the truth is he built upon the shoulders of predecessors. he copycatted. nobody seems to wanna sue him over rights infringements – or even consider such a thing. so, how come everytime some DIY genius draws a cliched picture of obama, we all sue each other?

it’s high time we wised up in graphic design land and listen to von dutch (who disavowed all copyrights).

his basic position was simply: “once i finish a project, it’s fair game. go ahead and copy my ideas, it’s yours. i can just come up with more. you can’t.”
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AC:one man’s ethics is another man’s transgression. me, i’m not a terrorist, i’m a freedom fighter. i think it’s time you expanded your reading. i come from the position that this stuff ain’t ART. it’s language. that changes everything. personal rights need not apply…

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