Many of you have probably heard in the past few weeks that I have deciced
to no longer continue my creative efforts for the scene.
I know that until recently I have not been showing any signs whatsoever of
coming to such a harsh decision. As a matter of fact, in an interview I
gave for a scene magazine somewhere around the last months of 1997 I
claimed I would become more active than I had been ever before. During the
often long periods between the pictures I released I continued to develop
my styles and skills.
My professional carreer however kept me from showing the scene the progress
I always force myself to make in order to become a better artist.
When my busy schedule at Eidos cleared up more or less I saw chances to
invest some serious time in the scene and show everybody the wonderfull
ideas I had for new pieces of art.
What initially stopped me from doing so was a gradual understanding of the
way the scene evolved, or rather disintegrated into fractions.
Recent events such as the dissapointing contents of TP7's graphics
competition, the introduction of a web-page called 'The No-Copy?-page' and
other events somehow proved to be the final drop that tipped over the
balance for me. To make my point clear, I'll start from the beginning...
When I started out in the scene back in 1992, the whole scanning bussiness
wasn't even an issue. Hardly anyone had even heard of that form of
technology. Nowadays it seems the other way around. Where there's
competition, there's bad, average, good, better, best, also in the demo
scene. As the scene-pictures in general became better and better, it became
harder for the any artist in general to keep up and stay on top. The lesser
artists dissapeared out of the charts or just kept releasing pictures of
At the same time however the Software and Hardware industry kept making
improvements too. Better art programs were made but more importantly
scanners and digitizer prizes dropped way down to the point where the
average financial income could afford them. Therefor people started buying
them. Afterall, what better way is there to show your friends your holliday
snaps, and oh boy, isn't it fun to scan in photos of people and mess around
with them, giving them giant mustaches and pimpled faces. Joy all around.
But there are always the smart ones amongst the less talented artists
struggling to keep up (or perhaps even just starting out in the tough world
of the graphics scene). They were thinking "boy, I whish I could draw like
that.. it almost looks like a photograph..... Hang on a second...
photograph, scanner... I HAVE A CUNNING PLAN!! I'll just scan in some bits
and pieces of photos, paste them together and retouch it here and there,
sign it and people will think I have drawn it. I could be famous.. a
V.I.S., my name high in the charts..."
Ofcourse the very first attempts were crude and anyone could spot the
diffirence. However the temptation of wanting to become a respected artist,
or in some cases the sheer lazyness of other people (even of some otherwise
quite capeable artists (you know who you are)) seemed too great to ignore.
Demos started using scanned art, gfx competitions started showing scanned
art, even demo-groups based all of their visuals on scanned-in images.
Calling it a new form of design.
A large part of the scene however could not respect this easy way of
producing imagery, and a lot of critizism was aired in the direction of
the offenders. The offenders in their turn initially started coming up with
lies (claiming they were honest artists, pixeling the whole lot). As the
pressure continued to increase, calling for even better and more original
art, the lies turned into cleverly constructed excuses that bended the
rules and definitions the art scene had created on it's evolutionary path.
Keep saying those excuses long enough, and their exceptance will gain
ground. And so they did. And thus the scene got devided into three areas,
those who had accepted the use of digital fakery, those who opposed to it,
and those who just did not care eitherway.
There only remains one step to mention to get to the point where we are
now at the time that I write this. (Which is the first month of 1998) There
are quite a number of artists (even some famous ones that get much respect)
that have practised so long on making a scanned image look hand drawn that
their lame efforts become almost undetectable. There is almost no way of
telling if the image is created through blood sweat and tears or the powers
of modern day technology. Usually an artist falsely accused of scanning
could prove his innocence by showing the 'work in progress' steps he had
saved along the way of the creation process. Now there are groups of
scanning people that backtrack their picture and create in between steps
from a retouched scan. Erasing certain parts to black, drawn a sketch line
here and there, you get the point. If people go to such lengths to cover up
their lies to steal away the respect people have from honest artists, then
the fun for me in the scene is over.
Another thing is that for many people the use of a scanner has become
so accepted that they see absolutely nothing wrong with the use of it.
Often their opinions is that art can be created in any way. This is
certainly true and I won't argue with that. But what I can't get out of my
mind is that this new media is so popular with people that have little or
no talent for drawing in the first place.
For me art is about two things: 1- The feeling of it. Making art is just
a very relaxing and (to me) rewarding feeling. And also a way to express
your feelings. And 2- The challenge of competing with other artists from
your genre. The challenge of trying to be one of the best, to create the
ultimate picture. Art becomes interesting when you can combine those two
things succesfully. I have yet to see a scan+retouch picture in the scene
that managed to capture those two things succesfully together.
If you happen to go and venture into new areas of creating art, fine,
but do it with honesty and determination to make something special of the
medium. Otherwise don't bother, cos you won't stand out of the bland and
grey majority. Art is something special, a bland and grey majority isn't!
Scanning in photos of people and doing some weird things here and there
and run some filters over it may feel good, and allow you to express your
feelings, but it isn't special, it doenst take true determination, anyone
can do it that way. Scanning in photos and draw on top of them, or retouch
it into a handdrawn look and claim you drew it MIGHT require a LITTLE form
of talent, but it isn't honest, and could therefor not feel good. You only
fool yourself in the end.
What people ALWAYS seem to forget is that art can come in so many diffirent
ways. Even with using scanners. However I have yet to see a picture that
was scanned and pasted and filtered etc. together that sets a standard
unreachable by others. And that's why I don't take this medium serious.
All this, that I have just desribed is so clear to me and somehow it
seems to be so UNclear to the scene. There is so much debate going on about
this, so much misunderstanding, so much lying, cheating and basically
downright crap pictures being made, that this outweighs the fun and good
things there are about the scene.
I did my best to come up with quality pictures, to set new standards for
the scene. I know quite a lot of people enjoy me efforts, however more and
more often get attacked on IRC by scene-newbies just fresh from a visit to
the no-copy? page. Telling me I'm a fake, that I scan and that I'm no real
artist. Considering the many many hours I've spend drawing my graphics for
the scene, this downright hurts. So naturally I try and defend myself.
However the moment I engage in a conversation with these people to try and
let them know they're wrong, they tell me I MUST be guilty because 'the
truth hurts' as they put it...
If I don't engage in a conversation with them they claim I'm ignoring them
because 'the truth hurts'... Now what am I supposed to do with that?!? This
is truely a situation where I can never win. Simply because the scene is
being flooded by newbies that never knew the roots of the scene.
I can't bring myself to spend time drawing graphics for a purpose that is
loosing it's own head.
As I mentioned earlier in this article, another thing that has bothered me
is the whole copy/no copy attitude.
Yes I copied work of of artists such as Boris Vallejo and Don Lawrence, but
I did it for reasons that every good artist has copied work of of other
To learn, to see and to help find your own style. When I found mine, I
stopped using other peoples drawings and paintings as a source of
inspiration. I began to find my own inspiration in ordinary things around
me, photos in the media, shows on TV, whatever.
Then all of the sudden along comes the before mentioned web-page the
'No-Copy? page'. Displaying an artist's work alongside the reference
material they've used. Nothing wrong with that. I personally found it quite
an interesting site to watch. However there are always those narrow-minded,
narrow-sighted people that are negatively influenced by this.
They immediately 'label' the artists displayed there as lame copy cats
unable to do anything by themselves. They are totally forgetting that for
countless generations artists have always used forms of reference to aid in
the creation of their works of art. Totally forgetting that EVERY ARTIST
COPIES!!!! The only diffirence is one might use a photograph, the other a
living model and yet another one the trees he or she is surrounded by.
Would you claim that Rembrandt was a copy cat when he had all those people
lined up when he painted his 'Nightwatch' painting? Or would he be a copy
cat even when he painted his own reflection in the mirror while working on
his famous self portrait? Monet a lame copy cat, sitting in the middle of
nature merely copying the things around him. Boris Vallejo a lame fake
artist because he has his on photo studio in his house so that he can take
photos of his models that aid him when he does his paintings? If that's
your opinion then consider every artist that has every lived to be lame!
(Except for maybe the odd modern artist that considers an entirely blue
canvas a work of art)
The fact is, everybody is inspired by the world around him or her. Where do
you draw the line. When is something considered acceptable and the other
thing unacceptable? What is copying and what is not?
Often people say they have more respect for people that use no reference at
all (whatever the hell that might mean, afterall even memory is
reference...). The fact is that it's just another GENRE. Just like model
drawing, or landscape painting, or whatever. Like any method, it has it's
advantages and disadvantages. Again, it's not HOW you do it, but it's what
you ACHIEVE with it. That's what makes artists out of non-artists.
And again, I have yet to see a picture in the scene that was drawn without
reference (from the mind) that managed to impress me.
Another worrying thing is that computer arists like myself that draw
everything down to the last detail by hand have a very very hard time
struggling against the scanners. There's no other form of art that has a
similar situation. For instance, a conventional painter will never be
accused of sticking a photograph on his canvas simply because he just
wouldn't get away with it. It's too easy to spot. And if he would, he just
wouldn't be taken too serious as a painter.
In the world of computers just about everything is much more easily
achievable in ways of art by letting a mechanical process do it for you.
That also brings me back to the rest of the scene.
The reason why the focus is so much on the graphics artists is that it's so
easily to keep track of. It's visual.
Perhaps the focus should be on the entire scene instead of the artists
alone. Many coders take shitloads of info and source codes from books
written on the subject. I mean go to any bookstore and you can find shelves
full of books on how to code specific routines.
Even your basic phong shading routine can be found in there. And what about
the issue of source code ripping. How many times didn't we see one demo
display a wicked and highly original new effect. So original that it is
incredibly difficult to think it up. And then a month or so afterwards
other demos started showing similar effects, only to be followed by more
and more copies of that effect. Within the space of half a year all the
demos featured this effect.
Now Hang on a sec... Wasn't that effect so radical? So revolutionary? So
difficult to come up with that no one else has ever done it before? So how
come that all of the sudden after one coder introduced it, all the other
coders seem to have come up with the same ingenious idea in the short space
of only a few months??!? Does this strike you as incredibly suspicious or
am I the only one? I'll tell you what it is, it's another form of copying!
And perhaps this form of copying stinks just as bad as scanning and
retouching. I'm sure there are some clever coders out there that just need
the sight of an effect to understand how it was done. But we all know that
it's a fact that most coders don't stop at that. One looks at just the
effect itself, another peeks at the source code, and the next one starts
ripping the code.
Or what about musicians? How many times hasn't it happend that musicians
sample whole parts of cd's and records?. Or use sample CD's? CD's filled
with the sounds of all sorts of musical instruments and sound effects. Or
hook up a sampler to a synthesizer and get their instrument samples like
that? And then they always claim that they do their own samples. What would
be their own then? The fact that they took the time to get it out of a
keyboard and into a Fast-Tracker sample? If you demand from artists not to
use any form of reference, how would this translate onto musicians? Create
all your own sounds by constructing waveforms by hand, and just using your
memory on what a guitar sounds like? Ofcourse not, no one does that.
Also music styles. I remember times that when new styles of music such as
rap, techno, trance, jungle, Drum 'n Bass etc. got popular with the crowds.
The scene musicians where very quick to pick this up (or should I say copy?).
My point is that everybody copies. Some do it to learn, others do it to
grasp a bit of fame in a very challenging environment. It's not just the
artists that copy, it's the whole bloody scene. And everyone that makes any
form of art. Artists just get all the crap for it because it's easiest to
The scene should be looking itself in the face...
I as an artist have copied from other artists IN THE PAST just to learn to
do my own stuff now, here, at Eidos. I wouldn't have been asked to join
Eidos and to come up with high quality pictures for marketing purposes for
their hit game Tomb Raider 2 if I didn't have what it takes. I wouldn't be
at Eidos if I was merely capable of copying other artists as some people in
the scene claim.
Atleast in the professional industry artists are being treated as they
should be. People know what they are talking about. I'm afraid I cannot
always say the same thing about the scene.
If people agree with what I have just stated, then I hope they take a bit
of notice. I have no intensions to try and change the scene other than by
trying to open up some eyes and put the facts straight...
On a final note I'd like to state that there still are a lot of good things
about the scene. Like friendship for instance. I'll still be reachable on
IRC once and a while (if you can find me that is :) to spend quality
chatting time with my friends and EX-TBL groupmates. I hope you all enjoyed