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Appropriate Use of Reference Images

Printed From: Pixel Joint
Category: The Lounge
Forum Name: Resources and Support
Forum Discription: Help your fellow pixel artists out with links to good tutorials, other forums, software, fonts, etc. Bugs and support issues should go here as well.
Printed Date: 06 July 2022 at 6:53pm

Topic: Appropriate Use of Reference Images
Posted By: Damp
Subject: Appropriate Use of Reference Images
Date Posted: 17 March 2022 at 11:15am
Part of my process in learning pixel art is understanding community feelings about meta conversations surrounding artwork.

Recently I've been thinking about reference images. How much of a transformation is really required before you can really claim the work as wholly your own? Note I'm not talking legally here, rather more the ethical courtesy artists show photographers and other artists.

I drew this today:

Here was the reference image:
(uncredited, probably stock image found on google images)

Sometimes I use several reference images and bring parts from each. Sometimes I make significant compositional changes. Here I obviously made very few changes. So, I thought it would be a good example for this topic.

What are your thoughts? How much do you feel you need to transform artwork before claiming it as your own in a finished product (portfolio, game, etc.)?

How about something like this tool:
or this:

If used as a final image? If used as a starting place to later clean up?
Just use your own photograph?

Posted By: maruki
Date Posted: 06 April 2022 at 3:56am
I once had the same questions and I talked over to some folks on discord and the general consensus was that: it all depends on what you are going to use your art for and who you are.
Generally, parody and studies are considered legitimate and original works of art because even though they come from references, they show the intentionality of the artists.
And I mean, if we think a little, everything comes from a reference, or an amalgamation/combination of references. Of course, using a piece or a photo as reference is very different from tracing, but what about those artists who have a hyper realistic style and manage to "copy" a person into a drawing? The key is the intentionality, imo.
If you are worried about backslash or something like that, you can always disclose what your references are. If you are worried about selling your artwork, you can work to add lots of styling as your artist signature. If we stretch too much our responsibilities as artists, no work from any master artist should be sold as original work because they were made from live references, ie observing people (and for sure the people observed oftentimes are not credited). I mean, there was this time when a very popular pixel artist was outed as having traced over other artists' art (generally photographers from instagram), and they were selling their artworks prints as original, and claiming making a fortune. It was a bit inconvenient at the time for them, but today no one cares. Another famous case is Ilya Kuvshinov, - who traced over - many famous artworks and just added his face style at the end - this didn't pose a problem for his career apparently as he even worked in a GITS sequel.

In the case of the tools you showed as example, the generated crab couldn't be used as a final image, imo. But if you cleaned it up, added textures that are proper to your style, added your intention as artists, then yes, it is a final piece.

Posted By: Damp
Date Posted: 09 April 2022 at 9:35pm
Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this. It's helpful to me. I was starting to think no one would reply. So thank you for taking the time. Hopefully a few more people will chime in so I can get a better estimation of what the consensus is. Though I appreciate you also sharing your understanding of the consensus.

Posted By: specialmin64
Date Posted: 11 April 2022 at 2:44pm
I agree with maruki that this depends on context. If you're a professional concept artist/illustrator, then your finished product should look unique (and even then, there might be leeway), but I won't crucify you for uploading artwork to social media of a crab that kinda looks like another crab. As long as you're humble and acknowledge inspirations when appropriate, I think it's ok. I'll also agree that images generated by running a source image through a filter aren't artwork (unless the "artist" is the program that generated them).

Small tangent, if you're a fellow dark souls-head: apparently lots of character designs in soulsborne games are "inspired" by the manga/anime "berserk". And I mean really inspired (sulyvahn's beast, the skeleton wheels, bloodborne's hunter's mark, among others). It seems even professionals rip each other off sometimes!

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