If you have the Pink Panther theme laying around, load it up.
It might just set the mood for the following journal post.
Where do I start?
So I was hanging out in a chat room the other day when a new member joins.
Formalities aside, when the topic came around to art he was quick to note that he's an awesome artist. After some struggle to get him to show us his stuff and some general chit-chat and bragging later, something started to feel.... off.
The small size of the images, the way he was talking about certain works, how long it took to create and the vastly different styles between them. The more he talked about his art, the more and more things didn't add up.
Eventually it dawned on me and when I decided I've heard enough, I asked him one last time if any of the art he's showing is all his handy-work (giving him the chance to come clean). After a confident "Yes, of course it is!" I immediately popped onto Google reverse image search and dropped the various links to artworks from the artists sites he was stealing credit from.
As you might expect, shoddy explanations and excuses followed immediately before fleeing the scene of the crime because I was "being mean to him".
Art frauds and both easy to spot and not so easy to spot at the same time. The problem is that people tend to be quick to look at a good piece of art and say "Wow, you're amazing!" with a pat on the back without thinking about it twice. Naturally, artist are the ones to spot art frauds the easiest mainly because there are certain common trends and practices that most forms of art follow, and when someone starts talking about their art outside those common trends, alarm bells start ringing in the head.
So for anyone who's interested, here are 10 tips for spotting an art fraud:
1. Trust your gut.
There's a saying "If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is". Art frauds are usually caught out when someone's gut tells them otherwise. If something is off or doesn't make sense, call the artist out on it. If the artist is legit, he WILL have some form of reasoning, work-in-progress or original draft sketch to prove he's the owner.
A lot of the other points discussed below fall into this one as well. It's usually not just one thing that makes you spot an art fraud, but a few things poking your gut-feeling at the same time, forcing you to think: "This guys sounds like a fraud..."
Don't disregard that feeling until proven otherwise.
2. Obscuring artwork.
Art frauds tend to obscure the stolen art to stop people from figuring out it's not theirs. These include making them ridiculously small, to flipping/rotating/cropping them to odd angles to even adding cheap Photoshop filters over it to stop people from instantly recognizing the original stolen art. Luckily, since they lack proper art knowledge, they lack the knowledge to properly mask them as well, so an unnecessary small scale, flip/rotate/crop or Photoshop filter does more to reveal something as a fake than to mask it as a fake.
Remember that these people want instant gratification and will only show their art long enough to hear "Wow, you're amazing!". If they are blatantly avoiding discussing or properly showing said art pieces, then they are most likely masking the legitimacy of their claim.
3. Impossible time-frame.
This is by far the area where most art frauds get caught out. Anybody who has ever picked up a piece of art equipment and tried to make something that looks good will admit that it took them a while. Professional speed-painters take a minimum of around 30 minutes to do their most rushed works. Some artists spend hours, days, weeks even months on a single piece.
Art frauds are the ones showcasing an artwork of grand scale and precision while noting "...Oh, this? I quickly did this under 10 minutes or so...".
It's laughable how art frauds tend to get this so vastly wrong so many times. Hell, it probably took the original artist of the piece around 10 minutes just to get comfy in their chair. So remember that when the art doesn't match up to the time-frame at all, you've most likely caught yourself an art fraud.
4. Varying styles.
This one is a bit harder to spot. Usually it's a good thing to practice and apply different styles, so don't go jumping the gun when an artist post two different styled pictures. This isn't so much "He has multiple styles" as "I've seen all these styles somewhere else before". For artists dedicated to one unique style, having an art fraud post their art as his own is a sure-fire way of getting themselves caught, especially if they (in their ignorance) tell everybody it's their own unique style.
So remember, it's not about having multiple styles but about having multiple iconic styles you've seen before that should give you a hint that you're dealing with an art fraud. Also, even if an artist practices multiple styles, there tends to be a little "flair" of himself somewhere in it across the various styles. Just taking different artworks from different artists tends to lose that flair and can likely reveal them as an art fraud.
5. Lacks common art knowledge.
Don't laugh. This seriously happens a lot. Actually, if this happens, call yourself lucky that you found the really stupid ones and that you can put his claim at being an awesome artist to rest so quickly.
What is this exactly? Let's put it this way. Would you believe me if I told you I fly fighter jets for a living if I called every part on a jet a "thing-a-ma-bob" and "doo-hicky" while I can't tell the difference between a military and commercial jet? Of course not, and the exact same thing applies to art.
So you tend to get those laughable moments when they claim to have hand painted that obvious un-rasterized vector image or CG'd that pencil sketch that has the obvious scan marks on the edges. The so-called techniques used get more silly the more ignorant the art fraud, so you may eventually find those trying to convince you they sketched that in-game screenshot from that latest hot game with crayons.
Easy one to spot.
6. Inconsistent learning curve.
Also another easy one to spot depending on how far-fetched it goes. I believe there are very talented artists out there that started drawing one day and just realized it all "clicked" together, making them jump leaps and bounds in their work in short amounts of time. The ones posting a picture of Sandro Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus" claiming "Oh.. I've only started painting last week!" are NOT one of those people. Even the most talented and fast learning artist still take a realistically considerable amount of time to better themselves.
Be on the look out for the unrealistic claims. When something is well executed, but the artist claims he's only been doing art for 1-3 months, then you have a right to think something is fishy, because to advance that quickly you'd have to spend every waking moment of those 3 months constantly drawing and studying art techniques.
7. Quantity vs. Quality
No artist out there really put all their effort into the creme of the crop every single time he sits down to do art. Sometimes it's just random doodling, other times it's playing around with a new style. Usually some of these make their way to online galleries and sit next to the high quality art, old art and style/technique testers. To get to the point, a realistic online gallery usually has a decent amount of variety in terms of quality, themes and purpose of the artworks involved.
Things tend to become fishy when you are linked to a gallery that not only contains the most pristine works of art, but VERY few as well. Self improvement is usually tied with lots of practice and lots of practice is usually tied with lots of art creation. Along the way artists feel proud about their milestones by posting their latest creations along the way. This is the usual flow when it comes to art and self-improvement. Make something, showcase it, learn from it and make something better next time.
For that reason, seeing a gallery with only 3 high quality artworks in it doesn't convey that the artist has ever followed that flow of self-improvement that many artists have, and in most cases, they probably never did in the first place.
8. Question and information dodging
I don't know about you guys, but I love talking about art. Whether it's my own or someone else's, it's something I most likely won't say no to when someone wants to have a chat. Now I know there are those who don't want to discuss every little detail of their work and are quite discreet about the creation process.
On the other hand, you get those who post very well done pieces, but then go and blatantly dodge or make excuses for every question directed at them. It's the same type of people who posts the stolen art in the gallery with a description something along the lines of "I made this today" while the original artists description of the same piece probably contains step-by-step details on the whole thought and creation process of said piece.
9. Lacking Gallery/Portfolio
We live in a day and age where people, who have never participated in any form of art in their entire life, will have a DeviantArt account. To claim you are a fantastic artist yet act dumbfounded when people ask for an online gallery of your stuff, while you sheepishly reply "Lemme just... upload a few things..." is just a dead giveaway.
Most artists usually have AT LEAST 3 sources where they quickly pull links from for instant online viewing. (An this doesn't even include scanning and uploading physical pieces if they were asked to)
So remember, anybody who claims to be a great artist (especially in regards to CG images) but claims he has no online gallery whatsoever is most likely trying to pull a fast one on you.
10. TRUST YOUR GUT!
As I already stated, it's mostly a combination of things that tips you off, so (once again) trust that gut and speak up!
When someone posts something and gives an overview of how quickly they made it and you find yourself thinking "How in the hell did he do a good looking piece of art so fast?!" then you're most likely already in the process of disregarding the legitimacy of their claim without solid proof.
Remember that art is a visual medium and as such you are not an artist until you can show something to back up the claim. When things tend to feel off at the "showing" part, dig deeper. Ask questions, look for details and do online reverse image searches. Until you can prove your gut instinct otherwise with conclusive evidence, believe in it to reveal an art fraud for who they are.
Now you may ask: "Why? Why should we pick up pitchforks and lit torches and crusade against these art frauds?"
The reasoning is simple; It's an easy and effortless ploy instigated by a selfish individual that effect a large majority around him/her.
Let's take a head count, shall we. ONE guys goes into a chatroom or forum, claims he's a professional artist and posts stolen art from... let's say... FIVE guys. Those five artist instantly lost all the credit that was due to them, heck some people believing the art fraud might one day find their galleries and call THEM the art frauds.
Now the other member in said chat/forum are still beginners/amateurs. Now they see these amazing works of art that the art fraud posted, claiming he did them all in 10 minutes each and that he only started drawing last week. Now let's say out of the 45 people in the forum/chat, a 1/3 of those members gets discouraged by this news. Looking how long and hard they are working to better themselves, around FIFTEEN of them will end up pretty discouraged, some of them might even call it quits.
So a bunch of good artists don't get the credit they deserve, while others gets discouraged to the point where they just might quit.
And for what?
So that one selfish insecure person, who has no passion or interest in the medium whatsoever, can get a tiny bit of an ego boost right then and there.
We don't like losing at a game or sport we're good at when we know our opponent is cheating.
We don't like hearing the spoiled rich kid bragging about all the things his parents buy for him when we come home tired from a long day of work just to get by.
We don't like seeing someone arrive on the last day when a team assignment is due, and write his name on it to get a share for something he did no work for at all.
At the end of the day, it comes down to the principle or working hard to achieve something and having someone steal that away from you without effort, and more importantly, for little to no value whatsoever in their eyes. Nobody wants to feel that taken away from them, so let's work together to keep the credit in the hands of those who deserve it and out of the hands of those who don't.
So stay vigilant, trust your gut and expose those art frauds for who they really are!
Here's hoping this guide has helped some of you in that field.