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Not sure if this has been asked here and I am posting because this seems an appropriate place to do so, especially because of circumstances where artists have drawn commissions and referenced or copied photos and the commissioner became angry thinking they were receiving "original" art and it was actually copied.

Commissioners - if you commission someone and they [legally] reference a photo, pose, or other art do you feel ripped off?  Say you commission someone for your character in a laying down pose - the artist uploads it/emails it and you find out they referenced/copied a pose from a stock photo - do you feel like the art is worth less/you didn't get your money's worth because it wasn't 100% from their head?  Say they TOLD you they referenced--"oh, I used this pic I took of my S.O. because I couldn't get the angle right" or "i used a stock photo for the pose of your wolf"--do you care?  I'm doing a commission right now where I am using a photo I took of a friend with her permission to help me nail my anatomy and perspective - I intend on citing this when uploading the work and showing the commissioner.  I worry that the commissioner might feel disappointed because I couldn't draw this "by myself" and if "i wanted a copy of a photo I'd print it myself and draw my char's head on it".

Do you as a commissioner care if the artist is referencing from life/photos to do your work?  Especially if the artist does not normally do this or has not before cited references?  Would you feel disappointed or would you be glad that they are making the effort to find a resource to ensure the drawing is "better"?  Does how much they copied make a difference - if they took an entire photo, copied it exact but made changes to colors/markings would that be worse than using it as a starting point and altering it significantly to make it up to your wants? And finally, does the difference lie in how much like the reference it looks like?  Due to stye, ability, and all sorts of factors some people can reference a photo line for line while others you may not tell due to their style that they even saw a photo. And of course, what it is they're drawing. Hard to copy line for line a photo of a real life gryphon or anthro, eh?

Sorry this was long but I'd love to hear from commissioners as well as any artists who may have faced an issue with having referenced/copied* a photo and had a commissioner complain.

*when I say copy I mean legally, from a stock site or citing their references, their own photos, etc.  Not just the first pic that turns up on Google without permission.  Obviously it can be a whole different matter if a commissioner discovers their commission was a traceover of a Google photo.

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( 73 comments — Leave a comment )
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Mar. 24th, 2009 01:35 am (UTC)
I don't know. What if the character needed to have its hand a certain way and I used my own hand to reference it?

Personally, I don't give a poop.
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 24th, 2009 01:41 am (UTC)
I use my dude to pose (live no photos) for my sexy lady drawings ohhhhhh yeah

I freely admit this and no one really seems to care. To me, it's what the artist does with what they're given, that matters.
Mar. 24th, 2009 01:45 am (UTC)
I actually think I'd feel a bit ripped off if the artist didn't use reference material, granted they weren't familiar with the subject matter and referenced professionally. Especially after I've discovered just how incredibly fast I improve and draw accurately using live models and photos I recently took.
Mar. 24th, 2009 02:29 am (UTC)
Ah, I didn't bring up the subject matter. :P I always try my hardest to NOT use reference because for years I thought "copying/reffing = bad and unoriginal" (i try to use it when I need it now or to practice). Whenever I came upon unfamiliar subject matter thought..oh man.. my efforts at drawing it without any help were laughable. I know if I asked someone to draw something they weren't strong with I'd want them to at least practice by copying photos/reffing whatever it was I wanted so the commission didn't come out in poor quality because it was obvious they just didn't know what they were drawing. Ever seen dogs drawn with backwards front leg elbows? Ouch! Even if the actual commission wasn't referenced I think you have a point, at least practice to be more familiar with the subject.
(no subject) - kriscynical - Mar. 24th, 2009 02:34 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sabarika - Mar. 24th, 2009 02:52 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kriscynical - Mar. 24th, 2009 03:01 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sabarika - Mar. 24th, 2009 03:06 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kriscynical - Mar. 24th, 2009 03:13 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sabarika - Mar. 24th, 2009 03:16 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - spiffystuff - Mar. 24th, 2009 03:32 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - meradragon - Mar. 24th, 2009 03:51 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 24th, 2009 01:46 am (UTC)
Particularly if they shoot their own reference as in your S.O. example, it's perfectly fine. Artists and illustrators shoot their own reference all the time in order to get things right. I'd rather have a (legally) referenced piece than an image that looks weird because they didn't use reference to get a pose believably right.
Mar. 24th, 2009 01:59 am (UTC)
Yeah, seconding what's been said so far. Referencing gives hugely better looking results, so I'm all for it! I'd prefer something be referenced at least lightly, it's much more likely to look good. And I certainly don't mind if something is heavily referenced.
Mar. 24th, 2009 02:01 am (UTC)
i think, one, everyone, commissioners and artists alike, need to read up on the fair use policy and derivative works etc. http://www.artslaw.org/ (it's not THE best site to explain these concepts, but it's the most handy at the moment).

two, be honest and up front about your process when it involves derivatives or sampling.

that being said now, it's really a matter of a. what the artists think works like this are worth, and b. what a commissioner is willing to pay. and not to get into a big debate over a topic i'm sure has been discussed en mass by now, the practice of using other material (like photos) to make new material is of course not new and is widely practiced. in fact, in school, we were encouraged to take as much of our own ref material (even to the point of making scale models) to get the picture right. sure you can struggle through it, but when you're on a dead line and it needs to be "right" or you're not going to be paid, knowing the art of taking and using ref material is invaluable. to what extent does it become debatable, or a crutch, or outright theft is a whole discussion all it's own.

THAT being said...

if you're worried about their reaction, ask. or let them know. though really, in my opinion, it shouldn't matter. and honestly, unless it uncited work from third-party sources that are blatantly "traced" with little or no creative input what so ever, i've not seen it as a big deal. being able to conjure the perfect image right out of your head all the time essentially "blind folded" is rare. drawing from our heads is important, but we were taught that it also takes the skill of drawing from life and drawing from our own prepared material that complete the tool box for successful art. doing everything out of your head could easily become just as detrimental as always drawing from photos.

wow, that was more than i originally planned to say. the long and short of it is, no, it shouldn't matter. it doesn't matter to me, with in reason.

Edited at 2009-03-24 02:02 am (UTC)
Mar. 24th, 2009 02:44 am (UTC)
thank you
First, gracias for the link. I lost that one. And excellent points. Too many artists (furry fandom is what I refer to since it's what I'm familiar with) grow up using other artists as their base of reference and when they do use photos they find Google to be the easiest way to get those. They don't understand that you can't just take any photo from the web and copy it, then sell or display or redistribute your results. I've used Google image search plenty of times and done lots of sketches from the photos I found, but never once did I upload them without getting permission and citing my references.

On your second point - agreed! Honesty is best. I love artists that not just cite references but also make comments on how they used them or what their method was in integrating their reference into the art. Never once have I seen an artist who openly admitted to referencing and felt "oh, that's disappointing because they couldn't come up with that without the aid of a photo or life ref, guess I'll un-fav them".

Re: thank you - sabarika - Mar. 24th, 2009 02:44 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 24th, 2009 02:04 am (UTC)
I think the only time I would mind an artist using reference is if I'd commissioned a realistic picture of a character, and the drawing I got just looked exactly like the photo referenced, only painted over in Pshop with a bandanna slapped on its neck or something :p That would be lame.
Mar. 24th, 2009 02:05 am (UTC)
If it's wholesale copying from someone like Starfinder, then yeah I'm going to feel cheated. A random dog head from Google and then a pic of someone sitting put together and painted over with body hair on top of fur, lol...no. If the person is just referencing poses or whatever, it wouldn't really matter. Odds are people still do that without telling the commissioner and the pic still looks great, so it's really needless to get all uppity about it.
Mar. 24th, 2009 02:16 am (UTC)
Except that, believe it or not, thats what a lot of major illustrators do. Now they don't take their images straight off of google- Most use their own stock photography. But that practice of "cutting the head off / slapping it on" and drawing directly overtop- Especially in digital art- Is done more often than you suspect.
(no subject) - kriscynical - Mar. 24th, 2009 02:23 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hellebore - Mar. 24th, 2009 02:31 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kriscynical - Mar. 24th, 2009 02:38 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sabarika - Mar. 24th, 2009 02:59 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kriscynical - Mar. 24th, 2009 03:03 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sabarika - Mar. 24th, 2009 03:12 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fenmere - Mar. 24th, 2009 03:33 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - vulgaris - Mar. 24th, 2009 03:55 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chronidu - Mar. 27th, 2009 09:11 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - foxhack - Mar. 24th, 2009 07:59 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 24th, 2009 02:09 am (UTC)
Frankly, I don't care either way. I'm really not sure what else I can say on that subject. xD
I have to use photo references for poses sometimes, and I understand it an be a necessary thing, especially when a commissioner requests a pose you have no experiance drawing previously.

Only time I'd mind it pretty much the same reason given by houndofloki. Which sums it up for me. x3
Mar. 24th, 2009 03:08 am (UTC)
Awesome, because I'm not sure if you got the sketch I did of your commission, but it's the one I'm talking about. :P I have a photo of a friend I used for the pose but it's.. well.. she's not an anthro cat-dragon. XD Is this OK? I can show you the photo but I promise I'm not trying to cheat you out or something. ;.;
(no subject) - casteddreams - Mar. 24th, 2009 04:01 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sabarika - Mar. 24th, 2009 04:25 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 24th, 2009 02:10 am (UTC)
Tracing and copying are very different from using references. If someone told me not to use any references for gesture or, say, the way weight is distributed on a large character, I'd tell them to find another artist - and good luck finding an artist who is a serious commercial artist who uses no references. I take shots of my body contorted into different positions and of my hands, especially, and of my pets, zoo animals, etc.
Mar. 24th, 2009 02:12 am (UTC)
If you [or any artist] has ever taken an illustration course in college, you already know that the majority of illustration is either based on photographic reference or the skills you developed using photographic references. Any professional illustrated image you see is usually a composite of several referenced photographic images.


There is no point in [a client] getting upset over a commissioned piece of work being based on a photographed pose- Infact, [the client] should be greatful that the person they commissioned is knowledgeable enough to understand that the most accurate and complex poses are drawn from a model and not from "the mind" alone.

You already pointed the legal side out so I won't repeat what you said, lol gonk.

THIS ALL BEING SAID, using the same photograph for multiple commissions is generally frowned upon.
Mar. 24th, 2009 02:26 am (UTC)
Took the words right out of my mouth.

And... major. MAJOR. Icon. Love. Hard Gaaaaayyyy~ ♥
(no subject) - b_dogskennel - Mar. 24th, 2009 02:55 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sabarika - Mar. 24th, 2009 03:09 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - b_dogskennel - Mar. 24th, 2009 03:21 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sabarika - Mar. 24th, 2009 03:22 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chronidu - Mar. 27th, 2009 09:15 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 24th, 2009 02:15 am (UTC)
I'd rather have them use a reference, state the sort, be legal and all that jazz then have them try to do it themselves and screw up the anatomy, honestly =/

I actually feel like the commissioner is better when they look at a ref for a pose, because at least the feet will lock right instead of looking broken or the body will have a natural curve without looking like a snake, you know. That sort of thing.
Mar. 24th, 2009 02:18 am (UTC)
I don't find a thing wrong with that, unless, say, the final work ends up so close to the stock photo that it feels 'copied'. By copied I don't mean traced. I mean no originality went into the work.

Mar. 24th, 2009 02:40 am (UTC)
Considering professional illustrators do it all the time? Not really, no.
Mar. 24th, 2009 02:51 am (UTC)
Well, if someone commissioned me to do art and then chewed me out over using reference material - I'd simply respond by sending them a sketch of what the pose would have looked like WITHOUT a reference. I may have majored in advertising but I DID still go to school for art and DID still have to take some illustration courses - and even my most talented illustration professor still stressed the importance of references. (Honestly, whenever I see someone bitch about artists using references, it basically says to me "HEY, I HAVE NO CLUE HOW ART WORKS!")

Like everyone's already said, there's a HUGE difference between referencing and then outright tracing/painting over. IMO, tracing and paint-overs are GREAT learning tools - BUT I feel that those methods should never be used for commission work. If I got a commission that was an outright trace or paint-over, I'd feel pretty jipped (unless it was something cheap and it looks really good; I ain't gonna bitch over a $10 or $20 picture.)

In my own practice I've loaded up a picture in Photoshop and then done a quick "stick figure" gesture drawing on TOP of it, just to get the basic anatomy of the pose down, but after that I only go back to the original photo for reference. To me, there's nothing ethically wrong with that. But if I were to go ahead and sit on a layer over the photo and then trace every last detail - muscles and features and the whole nine - THAT breaches the line between "referencing" and "tracing".

And then as a commissioner - if an artist needs reference material to get something right then shoot, go for it man! As a matter of fact, I'd probably feel really weird if they ASKED me if it were all right for them to use a reference; I pretty much expect artists to, and would rather they ref'd then either mess up a picture completely OR stress themselves to the point of hating what they're doing by trying to blindly get a pose right.
Mar. 24th, 2009 03:08 am (UTC)
(Honestly, whenever I see someone bitch about artists using references, it basically says to me "HEY, I HAVE NO CLUE HOW ART WORKS!")

This x Eleventybillion.
(no subject) - fatkraken - Mar. 24th, 2009 03:12 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sabarika - Mar. 24th, 2009 03:14 am (UTC) - Expand
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