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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Art: Recreation vs Copying; Part II

More comments and thoughts on the previous post about art recreations have been coming in thick and fast so I thought I'd do a follow-up. One of the first people to email asked why didn't I touch on Mike Zeck's recreations as an example of how they can be approached the right way. There's no real reason except that I thought the post was long enough, but hey - any excuse to look at Zeck art is a good excuse.

Mike started to do recreations back in 2000. As he's created some memorable cover images of his own it should have come as no great surprise to know that he was in great demand. From the outset Mike established a number of rules, which he outlines on his site. "I'm willing to do the same cover more than once as long as there are some differences from the previous re-creation," he states. "I still plan to close the door on a particular piece after about 3 redos to keep them collectible and to keep from drawing the same cover every week. A list of completed re-creations and a list of covers which are closed to requests are on the re-creations page."

Above you can see the original, published, cover to Web Of Spider-Man #32. Here you can also see a recent recreation of that cover. Mike does full pencils, and inks when asked, and the pencils are usually very detailed. As you can see this is a straight recreation, only it's missing the cover logos. As Mike will only do about three recreations these pieces are highly sought after. "(A) standard re-creation will be in the area of 10.5 X 16 inches, without logo or other cover copy, and I'll take the freedom to hopefully improve upon what I did years ago," says Mike. Thus you'll notice the differences and it keeps the original cover art more valuable than the recreation.

The other thing that Mike does, and does brilliantly, is to change the elements of the cover simply by changing the characters. This is the same cover drawing, only with two major differences, which even Blind Pew can spot. What this also does is to add to the number, so the covers will be 'closed' before the ideas ever run out (and let's be frank, you could adapt any character to any cover). One of my favourite Zeck covers is the cover to Captain America Annual #8, as seen on the right here. Zeck has been asked to deliver this cover more than once and as such he's closed it off. No more covers. In the meantime he's changed it to include different costume elements for the main characters and to also include other characters (Batman was a no brainer). My favourite recreation of this particular cover is one where Wolverine is replaced entirely by Iron Fist, as seen here. In the area of recreations though Mike Zeck certainly leads the field for conception and execution. Go and visit Mike's site and you'll see plenty of other examples of what he does with his recreations.

Someone also emailed about Fred Hembeck and wanted to see how he draws recreations. No problems at all - much like Mike Zeck, I'll take any excuse to showcase Fred's art. I like Fred, he's a great guy and almost too damn funny. Fred emailed me and mentioned that his recreations are, "...kind of the odd step-cousin of recreations, and they are what they are, and not much else." I beg to differ. Fred's work, like it or not, is unique and gives us yet another angle on things. The artist in Fred here won't do a line-for-line recreation, instead he offers up a faithful rendition in his own unique style. That works for a lot of people.

Another aspect that I didn't cover is the practice of up and coming artists learning their craft by inking established artists. Any number of people have started this way and it's common practice for artists to share pencils scans and copies amongst themselves, especially inkers. My good pal Jimmy T has this to say about that topic, "I did a couple from the original pencils but I put "Recreation" on them and a big "Not for sale or duplication" "If this is sold it means it was stolen!" notice on the back. That way I won't lose them. I think recreations of artists that have expired is ok for people to do if it is clearly stated. That way no one will accept it as a forgery. For sale...that is something I couldn't see in a line by line. I would rather pay for a good scanned copy by the owner. I did a Jack Kirby from the original pencils but I did it 11X17 instead of the large size he did the original on. And it is definitely not line for line.

"I do them for myself only if I get a scan of the pencils, as tracing would cheat me out of the chance to ink a try legend. I would not ink a scan for money though. They would have to provide the original penciled page.

"It is great fun to hold a penciled page from an artist 30, 40 years or more ago, and to be able to ink it as a new page. Of course I am not good enough to line for line, it would be my ink style.
But then again, I do it for myself.

"All in all I think the consensus is right, if you do a line by line and you were not on the original team and one or both are alive they should be asked and paid a % of the commission.
If they both have passed then I think a line by line should have both sides stamped Large enough to clearly see that it is an 'unpublished copy or recreation' as well as the artists name and date. That way there is no intent to defraud. If someone was actually good enough say to do a line by line copy of your work, you would think they would be good enough to be making real good money on their own stuff."

This time around I'll leave the closing words to Paul Ryan, one of the nicest guys in the business and also one of the more talented. "Yes, I have done recreations," says Paul. "No, I have not refused one for anything other than time constraints and a heavy workload. If I am recreating a cover that I had done in the past I do not match it line for line. I try to fix the mistakes of the past and make a better cover than I did originally.

"In one case a fan asked me to recreate the wedding scene splash page in the Spider-Man wedding issue (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21). I fixed some of the mistakes of the past and sent the buyer a scan for approval before inking the piece. He wrote back that he wanted the picture to be exactly the same as it was in the Spidey Annual. He didn't want a better picture. He wanted what he had seen in that issue. I "unfixed" the pencil art and inked it. He was very happy.

"Another fan asked me to recreate the FF issue, "And A Blind Man Shall Lead Them!" (Fantastic Four #39), that preceded "Battle of the Baxter Building!" in which the FF teamed up with DareDevil. He asked that I pencil and ink the cover in my own style. He was happy with his piece.

"On occasion I get requests to recreate a cover with alternate characters replacing the original lineup. One request I have on the back burner recreates the famous X-Men cover that introduced the New Lineup back in the seventies. The fan asked to have the X-Men replaced with his choice of Avengers.

"I appreciate the chance, when offered, to recreate some of my own work if I am allowed to improve the piece. Some of these covers or splash pages were done 10-15 years ago. I think I have improved since then and I would like to show how I would handle that same assignment today."

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