Odds are...

... if you've been around the internet much for the last month or so, and have any interest in art, you've heard about Todd Goldman and how he's apparently been making oodles of money by ripping off art from online sources and selling it as "his creations" both on merchandise and as "original" paintings. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you can read about it here and here for starters, or just do a Google search.

One of the things mentioned much later in the SA Forum post is from ruth323. She said:

"Apparently it's not uncommon for commerical artists to trace photographs. I think it's a bit strange (don't artists go to art school to learn how to draw?) but I can imagine that when there's a tight deadline it would be necessary. Also, there are some artists who really have great ideas and wonderful execution, but they just can't get that leg to look right, so they trace it. Oh well. Okay. ..."

That reminded me of an instructor that I had somewhat late in my "art education", when I was attending Pikes Peak Community College. I can't remember his name, even though I had him for a couple of classes during my time there. He used to work at Hallmark, and had done illustrations for the Hallmark Movies posters as well as some other poster work and some greeting card work. All very impressive, to be sure. Far more than I've been able to accomplish. Apparently that all came to an end, I'm betting due to bad judgement of some sort. He would talk about the glory days at the drop of a hat. So there he was teaching at a community college, and there I was to learn. This was ’94 or ’95.

I've probably posted about this guy some time in the past. I have vague recollections of doing so. Still, it applies now even more than then.

We had been given an assignment to take a black & white photo of a woman that he provided to us, blow it up to three times its size and add color to it. We weren't allowed to use a photocopier, and there was only one wall projector, so rather than wait in line I gridded and drew the image by hand and eye. During the critique phase I was asked why I drew it instead of copying it. Compared to the others that had been traced on the wall, it was pretty obvious that I didn't trace it, grid or no grid. I answered, "Because I can." knowing that, for whatever reason, most of my fellow students hadn't taken a drawing class and weren't planning on it.

That was the wrong answer.

I was informed that in the professional world you HAVE to copy to succeed. It takes too long to draw. In fact – according to him – nine out of ten people working as professional illustrators don't even know how to draw. They have large photo morgues to pull from and they know all kinds of tricks to make it work. He didn't know how to draw, and look at what he accomplished!

I said, "I guess I'll be the one in ten." As it turns out I'm not a paid illustrator at all. Instead I'm immeshed in advertising graphic design.

By the end of the semester I had virtually no respect for the guy and a 'C'.

As I see it, Todd Goldman is one hell of a businessman and a perfect example of what my instructor was talking about, but until I actually see him draw something from his mind freehand I refuse to call him an artist. I'll bet that'll lose him all kinds of sleep.


Derek Knight said…
let me put it this way..."Ruth323" AND your instructor from PPCC are full of the shit.

Full. of. shit.

If you don't know how to draw, DON'T BE AN ILLUSTRATOR! Easy enough, right? I mean, it's not like I go looking for jobs as a surgeon or a plumber...I just draw fucking cartoons.
Totsie said…
I had no idea people did that.

I haven't put down a drawing implement since I first picked up a crayon. Digital illustration is learning to draw all over again for sure, but I do know HOW to draw. I would feel lousy tracing the work of someone else, no matter how much I might manipulate the image in the end. I would feel like a cheat, but that's me.

While learning this new stuff, I have found it useful to try and copy illustrations, to see if I can figure out how it was done and how well I could re-create it, but merely for practice purposes and I would NEVER try to pass it off as my own.
OH MY GOD! Was his name, by chance, Rob Olson? He was my instructor there... and JEEZ does that sound like him!
Heather said…
I remember you telling me this story and being shocked & dismayed! I still am and think he was merely jealous of your talent! Stupid washed up Hallmark fag!
Collin said…
Derek: They may be full of shit (although ruth323 was just passing along what she'd heard) but it seems to be true to a point. If you can fake it, and fake it well, you too can have a career as an illustrator.

Totsie: Yeah, drawing in someone's style to learn how they do stuff is fine in my book. That's an accepted way to learn. Don't pass it off as your own though.

Justin: "Rob Olson" sounds very familiar. I'll bet it's the same guy.

Heather: "Stupid washed up Hallmark fag!" I'm laughing. You're wonderful babe :)
Anonymous said…
you know what they say, those that can do and those that can't teach, and those that pretend to have done teach badly... idiot.

Good for you for taking a stand.

I taught in the college education system and was horrified at the discouraging way many of the trainers could be. especially with a student that looked like they had a future. Heather's right, it was pure jealousy I'm sure.

Horrible little man...
ValGalArt said…
I had not heard of this guy but I'm pretty shocked that people pay that kind of dough for his paintings in the first place! It's not very original stuff and it's pretty simple. Once again no accounting for taste! But if you can't draw you have no business being an illustrator! This is all so mortifying! I hope this guy gets sued up the ying yang he looks like a bit of a dick too!
Anonymous said…
Don't ask me how I found this blog. You won't believe me anyway.

I don't trace photographs. And interestingly enough, I attended a few art classes where I was one of the few who didn't trace. I even had an experience where the teacher told all of us to trace a photograph for an assignment. I saw no need to do it because I was pretty good at drawing freehand. So I didn't and never let him know. He didn't catch on.

Later on, I "came out of the closet" and made it clear that I would not trace anything. A few of the other students were irritated by this, but the teacher stood up for me. Because, in part, because he could draw himself and also because (I guess) my drawing skills were good enough that it didn't really matter either way.

I have also heard the line about "ALL ARTISTS TRACE BECAUSE THEY DON'T HAVE TIME" baloney from other artists. It never really worked for me, because in that one class (where the teacher wanted us to trace) he would usually ask us to say how long it took for us to complete our assignments. Even though I didn't trace, I almost always took less time than the students who traced. (I remember having to *LIE* about how long I took, because I didn't want to piss off these students anymore than they alreaady were.)

In my opinion, if you practice drawing a lot, you get faster and faster. If you trace a lot, you don't ever get very good at drawing, so you're left with this dubious belief that drawing "takes too long." But it doesn't, not if you've been practicing all along, like you're SUPPOSED to.

People who get all freaked out by the idea that drawing are just being defensive and in denial. They don't want to hear about how they could draw, if they wanted to actually work at it.

It's a crime how artists are being fed a line these days about how being able to draw freehand is some unreasonable expectation. It's obviously wasn't that way 40, 60, 100 years ago. Why would it be so now, except that people are lazy, or have a limited attention span and expect instant gratification?
former student said…
Wow,some people on here are criticizing someone they don't even know. I remember doing some tracing in that class you are referring to. BUT, it was an EXERCISE for cryin out loud! Most likely yours was an exercise in COLOR. Did you ever think of that? Sounds to me like you just went off and did whatever YOU wanted to do, not what was asked of you for an assignment probably more than once. Hence, the C.

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