March 12th, 2005

Bob "Uhhh..."

Art gankers strike again.

What the hell is with copycat artists? No, I'm not talking about tracing or even pose copying. I'm venturing into the sticky field of "style copying".

I know the arguments for and against. I know that you can't copyright a style. I don't think you SHOULD be able to copyright a style. I don't think you should be able to walk around going "OMG ONLY I MAY DRAW EARS OF THAT SHAPE!" or "OMG ONLY I CAN HAVE THIS PARTICULAR COMBINATION OF COLORS / MARKINGS!".

HOWEVER:

Legality is one thing. Common courtesy (and self-respect!) is another. If you're a decent artist and you have to come up with a design for, say, a lion character and you KNOW that there is a lion character out there with a very unique and appealing design, what would you do? Copy the existing design right down to colorscheme and markings and then make a variation or two and call it "original"? Or have some bloody self-respect and true originality and CREATE SOMETHING NEW?

I'd think the latter. Artists are supposed to be original, right? Especially the good ones. And yet, we get things like this:



Comparison courtesy of estarial. The bottom drawing is Evana's character, a white lion (not tiger) with unusual markings, which has been around the 'net for some seven years. The top two were created in the past week, by talented artists who knew full well how much style-copying bothers her. They called their characters "ligers" (lion-tiger halfbreeds, which DO exist), but to many people that came across as a weak justification for drawing, essentially, a white lion with with unusual markings.

And I believe they should have known better. It's not illegal, it's not even "wrong"... it's just kind of lame, and disappointing.

Frisket gets a lot of this crap too - funny how many fox characters with astrological half-moon markings on their tails have cropped up since hers became well-known. VERY funny, considering that half-moon markings aren't exactly an obvious design feature.

I'm not going to go art-Nazi here and say that copying someone's unique stylistic flairs should be a breach of copyright. That would be ridiculous. I'm even going to add that I think the original artist overreacts sometimes. Someone copying your style is annoying, yes, but it makes them unoriginal and thus, in my opinion, unworthy of your artistic respect or time. It doesn't warrant leaving the 'net in a huff, unleashing your 'art minions' or starting massive flamewars - it's not the end of the world.

Style-gankers are only hurting themselves. For every five people who come along and go "what a cool design!", there'll be one person who'll see the blatant similarities to an existing artist's style and lose a little respect for the ganker. Invariably, when someone makes a comment along those lines, the gankers are so instantly defensive that you can practically smell their niggling guilt in the air.

It's easy enough to say "you can't copyright a style" - I know, I've said it - but you also can't look at the comparison image above and tell me that's originality.
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