Robot 6

It’s OK to mimic artistic influences, to a point

Dustin Nguyen's evolving style

…I strongly believe you should start out with a great influence, learn from them, mimic them if you have to, its all healthy for the creative learning process. But at some point, once you start getting paid for your work and considered a professional in a certain field, you have to realize that it’s sort of lazy to mimic another artist’s style for your own profit. It’s insulting to the artist you consider a hero or inspiration, and also insulting to yourself as a creative individual in a sense. We ALL have done this, myself guilty, but you have to know where to draw the line for yourself. If clients wanted, say a … Travis [Charest], or Joe Mad, or Adam Hughes, those guys are still alive, they can hire them.

Dustin Nguyen, on the development of artistic style.

Every artist I’ve ever talked to about influences — and this includes writers, too — has shared this same story of mimicking someone else’s style until developing his or her own. As Nguyen says, the trick is knowing when to get out and be your own thing.

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Comments

10 Comments

Glenn Simpson

June 3, 2013 at 12:15 pm

I don’t really have a dog in this hunt, but technically just because a publisher wants to hire a Travis Charest, Joe Mad or Adam Hughes means that those guys will take the job or are available. So having another guy who draws the same way could be a good thing.

People used to give Phil Jiminez a hard time for looking like Perez, but to me, that’s great, because we need more Perez artwork.

Well, I like imitation when it’s used in a “period piece.” Steve Rude was the artist on the early 2000s Hulk/Superman crossover, which was set at the beginning of both heroes’ careers. Rude brought a great Kirby-esque Silver-Age vibe to the story, which worked in context.

Erik C. Jones

June 3, 2013 at 12:37 pm

A perfect example of this is Nick Bradshaw. His stuff looks so much like Art Adams that I often have to check to make sure it’s not.

Nick Bradshaw looks nothing like Adams.

RegularSyzedMike

June 3, 2013 at 1:10 pm

There has been a constant confusion in comics about the definition of “art”. As illustrated in some comments above it is often mistaken for “craft”. If you’re looking for a particular person’s style or a specific type and would be satisfied with emulation then you are interested in craft. You want someone to technically synthesize a particular style or aesthetic. You aren’t concerned with individual expression so much. If you were, you’d want to see what Adam Hughes or Mike Mignola or whoever SPECIFICALLY could make out of a particular theme or script. Instead most in comics prefer an aesthetic over any real form of expression when it comes to illustration.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but I prefer referring to the illustrators with no particular artistic merit like Jim Lee or Greg Land as “draftsmen” since they’re not contributing anything uniquely artistic to the projects they undertake whereas someone like Mignola or Hughes undeniably does.

When it comes to artists…we do what we gotta to find our voice! Same goes for music and any other form of expression.

Comics were better in the past.

Andrew Allenpeat

June 3, 2013 at 1:57 pm

“Comics were better in the past.”

You mean back when everyone was doing “homages” to (a.k.a. stealing from) Kirby, Neal Adams, Alex Toth, and a half dozen other artists? Or maybe you’re talking about the period when every writer was (ineptly) copying Stan Lee?

No, he’s probably referring to the age when we had quite distinctive, and groundbreaking artists like Kirby, Kane, Adams, Ditko, Heck, Infantino, Swan, Buscema (John and Sal), Trimpe, Romita, Wood, Steranko, Eisner, Byrne, Brunner, Crumb, Ploog, Mayerik etc etc (apologies to any I’ve forgotten.)

There are plenty of excellent artists out there today, but these guys were breaking new ground, creating the comic art styles that were to be homages by artists today. And the Stan Lee crack doesn’t apply to DC, and also needs to take into account the “Marvel Method” of comic writing back then. Stan Lee wasn’t writing these comics himself but co-writing with the artist on the book – Kirby and Ditko would be perfect examples of their writing credits going unrecognised.

But like I said, lots of good artist out there today as well. But they wouldn’t exist without the aforementioned artists.

Dave Sim is a great example. Line for line BWS until he realized he could do his own.

That’s the thing though, for the longest time you COULDN’T hire Joe Mad, he’d decided video games were his domain. And even he has admitted to being heavily influenced by Art Adams (a guy that Nate Bradshaw most certainly does look like but at the same time has a lot of his own personal tweaks, like beefing all of the characters up), although he evolved his style to look more unique. There’s nothing wrong with having a similar style to your influences, just don’t become an inferior clone like most of the Liefeld knock-offs from the 90s, or the way Roger Cruz swiped Jim Lee and Joe Mad (although like another Lee imitator ie Charest, he’s gone on to refine his own unique style).

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