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Photoshop: Crutch or powertool

Editorial cartoonist Matt Bors has written a 5 minute tutorial to create an iconic caricature of the Ayatollah Khomeini by John Sherffius.

I wanted to see how fast I could replicate this master so I hit up Google image search and grabbed the first result. Then I opened it in Photoshop and applied the Threshold adjustment. Putting the levels at 128 seemed right. Next, I made his eyes appear like they were looking forward and extended his villainous black cloak a bit.

I added Elvis in the weird jail beard because those crazy Iranians hate that hip-shaking troublemaker and all the swooning the ladies do over him.

5 exhausting minutes later I was all done.

Check his blog for the full “recipe.”

Matt, you’re not helping dispel the theory that you’re the Bad Cartoonist with stuff like this. Interesting discussion however and the power (or crutch) that is Photoshop.

Community Comments

#1 Ted Rall
April/28/2009
@ 2:18 pm

Matt isn’t the Bad Cartoonist. (Neither am I.) It’s not even mildly amusing to spread the rumor that he is because, well, he isn’t.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with using Photoshop or, for that matter, spending as little time as possible creating a cartoon. What matters is quality. Some of the most overdrawn cartoons are terrible; David Rees’ “Get Your War On” took seconds to cut and paste but was consistently hilarious and effective. The idea matters 99%; the art matters 1%.

Where this becomes a pertinent discussion is when a cartoonist doesn’t have good ideas. At least the lame idea guys who overdraw are working hard. The lame idea guys who rely on Photoshop aren’t even trying.

#2 Alan Gardner
April/28/2009
@ 2:42 pm

I know Matt’s name comes up as a “suspect” of being The Bad Cartoonist and I know for a fact that he is not. My post above was meant in a light-hearted way of joking that Matt’s not helping dispel the rumor when he makes posts like this.

Sorry Matt!

#3 Nick Anderson
April/28/2009
@ 3:12 pm

I don’t agree with Ted that the art only matters 1%. I like John’s work, and it’s disappointing to see that this one was mostly Photoshop. I doubt that the 35% of people who voted that it was the best caricature on the Comic Riffs blog (which got this discussion going to begin with) realized it was Photoshopped…

#4 Wiley Miller
April/28/2009
@ 3:41 pm

caricature
noun
a picture, description, or imitation of a person or thing in which certain striking characteristics are exaggerated in order to create a comic or grotesque effect.

Cutting and pasting a photo of someone and combining it with another in Photoshop ISN’T CARICATURE. It is, however, lazy an unimaginative.

#5 Nate Fakes
April/28/2009
@ 3:47 pm

I’m still not up on Photoshop. I’m behind all you Photoshop hoodlums. Slowly, I’m trying to catch up and actually “color” my material via computer, but in the meantime I’ve been the old fashioned pen and ink guy (oh – and watercolors! Can’t forget the watercolors!).

I think Photoshop is great, but I do think that certain aspects of it can skew putting more imagination and orgigionalitly into something (on some occasions) that is done by hand. I’ve seen great work and lousy work in the Photoshop world.

Writing is a strong point, but anything with a visual impact needs more than words (obviously).

#6 Charles Brubaker
April/28/2009
@ 3:49 pm

I disagree with Ted that art only matters 1%.

I won’t dispute the fact that the writing is important, but an artwork can enhance a cartoon, and in the process, its writing. It’s like in old “Looney Tunes” where a funny animation can make the writing better.

That said, in order for this to work, the writing has to be at least passable. If the writing’s bad, then nothing can enhance it (unless your name is Jim Tyer).

#7 Carl Moore
April/28/2009
@ 3:57 pm

The only thing that matters in any cartoon is, does it work? Does it say something important in a clever way?

Khomeini with a jail beard works. How it was made matters not a whit.

#8 Charles Brubaker
April/28/2009
@ 4:00 pm

Why Khomeini in particular, though? As Matt pointed out, he’s been dead for 20 years.

#9 Stacy Curtis
April/28/2009
@ 4:05 pm

Until “Bad Cartoonist” is named, EVERYONE is a suspect.

How do you know Matt Bors isn’t “Bad Cartoonist”?
How do we know you’re not lying?

See how BAD of an idea “Bad Cartoonist” was?

I wonder how long it would take John Sherffius to draw a Matt Bors caricature?

#10 Stacy Curtis
April/28/2009
@ 4:25 pm

How is what John Sherffius did in his editorial cartoon any different than what Matt did in his “Cash Rules Everything Around Me” t-shirt, the ad appearing right next to John Sherffius’ cartoon on Matt’s blog?

A little Photoshop tweaking of an image found on the internet.

It’s easy to see going through some of John’s cartoons, he relies heavily on Photoshop and existing symbols and images, that’s just what he does to get his point across in his cartoons.
I don’t see Photoshop as being a crutch in John’s work.

How many editorial cartoonists do you see abandoning hand-lettering and using a font in their cartoons?

#11 Eric Millikin
April/28/2009
@ 4:36 pm

Photoshop isn’t the bad guy here. This would be just as awesomely bad whether it was photoshopped, photocopied, or cross-hatched for a month. Seriously? She’s reporting from inside Khomeini’s beard?

#12 Matt Bors
April/28/2009
@ 4:52 pm

I was motivated to write that post because The Comics Riff post listed it as a caricature and I found it strange that it was winning over things that actually were caricatures. In truth, as I showed, anyone could do it in a few minutes. The idea is what matters, as others here have said. I don’t think many people could have thought of that beard prison even if they tried all day–that’s funny stuff.

I don’t have anything against digital work. I use Photoshop. Millikin is great at computer illustration. David Reese uses clip art but still make kick ass political cartoons. You can be an accomplished draftsman and blow. You gotta have good ideas, opinions and humor to a good political cartoonist.

However, there are still standards and truth is Sherffius phoned that one in. We are talking about a guy who can draw very well and is a highly regarded award winning cartoonist. I don’t think it’s controversial to say that cartoon seemed a bit lazy.

#13 Garey Mckee
April/28/2009
@ 4:52 pm

Such a fuss over a blog that hasn’t been updated in over a year. The Bad Cartoonist has obviously moved on. We should too. Let it go already.

On the subject of Photoshop. It’s a tool just like any other tool. However, when a tool becomes a crutch, that’s when it becomes a problem and imaginations cease working.

#14 swanie
April/28/2009
@ 4:59 pm

if the cartoon – caricature – or whatever you want to call it achieved its objective, does the format matter?

#15 Wiley Miller
April/28/2009
@ 5:27 pm

“…does the format matter?”

Yes.

#16 Eric Millikin
April/28/2009
@ 5:41 pm

Yeah, it matters. Not all formats and objectives are created equal. Earlier today I drew a cartoon of a Dorito on the back of my hand to remind me to pick some up. It’s a horrible drawing in a horrible format but it has succeeded 120% at my Dorito-reminder objective … and it is still a horrible cartoon.

And for the record, I gotta think the “if the cartoon achieved its objective, does the format matter?” question is rhetorical, because I have no idea what the objective is behind this awesomely photochopped “reporting live from inside a dead dude’s beard jail” thing.

Other than maybe meet a deadline, collect a paycheck, better luck tomorrow? In which case, hey, good luck everybody!

#17 Nate Fakes
April/28/2009
@ 5:58 pm

I enjoy being a Frustrated Cartoonist – not a Bad Cartoonist (although it has a nice ring to it!). Maybe I’m both? Who knows…

#18 Howard Tayler
April/28/2009
@ 10:13 pm

“Crutch or Powertool?”

Both, obviously. Like any tool with such a wide range of features, it’s going to be used by some as a shortcut, and by others as a critical part of a very involved artistic process.

I’m not a digital painter. I flood-fill, and then dash some light and shadow here and there. It all goes on top of good, old-fashioned, scanned line-art, and my results are decidedly cartoonish — just like I mean them to be. I’m using maybe 5% of what Photoshop can do, but I still feel like I’m using it artistically as opposed to using it to avoid work.

A light-table is a similar sort of tool. Some folks use one and it’s obvious that they’re tracing their source material. Others trace, but any tracing they’ve done is lost under the weight of their final artwork.

#19 Stacy Curtis
April/28/2009
@ 10:44 pm

Everyone has an off day here and there, even John, who does five cartoons per week. I think it’s awesome to have someone sitting around pointing them out to everyone.

#20 Joe Rank
April/29/2009
@ 1:20 am

Electronic manipulation is only that.
Wiley is right..it is just being lazy ( for those that have drawing talent ).
For those that can’t draw, I suppose there is some utility.

Maybe I’m a dino, but the line art, old school stuff is what I like best. I also think it captures the “frozen” image in time best.

#21 Jeremy Nell
April/29/2009
@ 2:29 am

Dudes.

You were taught that 1+1=2, but that 3-1=2 too. Just enjoy the results regardless of how they came about.

#22 Dave Stephens
April/29/2009
@ 3:14 am

Don’t care how he does it, the end result is INGENIOUS and effective.

Lazy? Hardly. He used his knowledge of a TOOL to create.

Whether a technique took a millisecond or a month, what matters is quality. So he didn’t spend 10 hours drawing it – so what? How many hours did he take to hammer out the concept – 5 hours? 10? Is that enough? Would 20 hours be too much work? Who’s counting, anyway?

Of course, this particular illustration has nothing to do with caricature and it should not be named as such. I mean, you might as well call it a ham sandwich! LOL

#23 Tom Wood
April/29/2009
@ 5:17 am

All those crazy clerics look the same, so he really needs a big label on him just so we don’t miss it….

#24 Mike Lester
April/29/2009
@ 7:34 am

“Donâ??t care how he does it, the end result is INGENIOUS and effective.” -D.Stephens

With all due respect, this is the kind of comment made by a novice, -someone who hasn’t seen enough work to know a tired knockoff when they see one. (no offense, Im just a lot older than you)

I first saw this “jailed” imagery in a J.MacNelly cartoon 20 yrs. ago and Pulitzer Prize runner up Mike Thompson did it three years ago. And someone will ape it again w/ the imbecilic hope that no one remembers.

Technology has blurred the lines between the draftsman and the mechanic to the point that it doesn’t matter if you can draw anymore. I can teach my Orkin man to do Sherrfius’ cartoon in an hour but I can’t teach him to draw Elvis.

btw: this talent vs. tech debate has many parallels in todays music industry.

#25 Milt Priggee
April/29/2009
@ 7:37 am

Bors is questioning the use of Photoshop….. because it didn’t fit his criteria for the word …. caricature?

Next thing you know he’ll be questioning Breathed’s Pulitzer Prize for Bloom County which did not have ANY caricatures and the only facsimile of any person was presented via a Xerox machine.

The judges of graphic communication have spoken- let it go Mat….it’s a tool. He used his visual imagination and Photoshop to create a striking caricature of Khomeini. Drawing no longer matters in graphic communication. We are not interested in anybody’s ability to draw.

Ted is understating it, when he says an editorial cartoon is 99% writing and only 1% art. Art doesn’t have a damn thing to do with editorial cartooning.

Long live Dave Barry, the greatest editorial cartoonist….ever!

#26 Ted Rall
April/29/2009
@ 8:13 am

It’s kind of amazing that anyone finds this sort of thing “ingenious.” Drawn or cut-and-pasted (as in this case), the allegorical language used by many editorial cartoonists is opaque and incomprehensible to most newspaper readers.

When people find out I’m a political cartoonist, the most common reaction I get (after “you are so hot! can I sleep with you? do you accept American Express?”) is: “What’s with the donkeys and elephants?” Amazing to we cartoonists but true: most Americans don’t know that donkeys are Democrats and elephants are Republicans. These symbols have lost meaning and have been abandoned by modern editorial cartoonists, who rely on standard comic conventions and the English language.

This problem goes even further with allegories like the journo jailed behind Kholmeini’s beard (!). Most readers look at it and have absolutely no idea what the cartoon is about, much less what opinion it expresses. (I draw editorial cartoons and can’t tell what opinion it expresses, either. But I digress.)

Reliance on outmoded/outdated/irrelevant metaphors and symbols is the number one reason it’s so easy to lay off editorial cartoonists. No one misses them because no one understands them.

#27 Wiley Miller
April/29/2009
@ 8:27 am

What I see here is a lot of rationalization in an attempt to justify lack of talent and the unwillingness to work at improving ones work, seeking instead the short cut of having technology do all the work, then declaring what you as deserving equal footing with those who actually have, and work at, skill. Trying to communicate and with such willful laziness is an utter waste of time.

It is not caricature, nor is it cartooning. Nor is it creative or imaginative. If anyone can do it, then it is not worth doing.

By the way, this is not an example of an “off day” Sherrifus. It’s a typical example of what he does in every one of his “cartoons”. It’s an embarrassment to the profession… what little of it is left. Good for Matt to call him out on this dreck.

#28 Mike Cope
April/29/2009
@ 8:35 am

>>> Reliance on outmoded/outdated/irrelevant metaphors and symbols is the number one reason itâ??s so easy to lay off editorial cartoonists. No one misses them because no one understands them.

This reminds me of something Walt Kelly once said that goes something like this:

“What you have to do is make yourself understandable to as many as is necessary to keep you in the business.”

Of course, his next line was:

“Don’t try to make yourself understandable to the whole crowd because they’re not going to.”

#29 NoahRodenbeek
April/29/2009
@ 9:01 am

My vote is for powertool. Photoshop is just like any other tool on your drawing desk, it only works as well as you know how to make it work. Being savvy in Photoshop is just as impressive as wielding a paint brush.

I have an example to back that claim up. Artist Xia Taptara at http://idrawgirls.blogspot.com/ paints using Photoshop and his posted tutorials are hypnotizing. If you’ve ever needed a reason to respect Photoshop as a tool I suggest you watch one or two of his videos.

On the flip side of that coin there is definitely potential for Photoshop to be harmful to the craft. Worse than a crutch I would call it a “cheat.” For example, taking pre-existing material and applying filters created by true artists and calling the finished product your own work of art is CHEATING. Photoshop is the ingredient, not the entree.

Sorry to be long-winded!

#30 Wiley Miller
April/29/2009
@ 9:18 am

“Photoshop is just like any other tool on your drawing desk, it only works as well as you know how to make it work.”

Agree completely. A prime example of it being used as a creative tool is Bob Staake. Just try to emulate what he does in his illustrations. What Sherrifus and others do is not anywhere near using it simply as an art tool, as ANYONE can replicate what he and they do.

#31 Matt Bors
April/29/2009
@ 9:25 am

Milt, read what I posted here again. I don’t question the use of Photoshop. But as I said, certainly there are standards.

“Bors is questioning the use of Photoshopâ?¦.. because it didnâ??t fit his criteria for the word â?¦. caricature?”

Now, anyone can disagree over the idea in this cartoon, but I thought we could be on the same page about it not being a caricature. To repeat, it is a photo from google images ran through a simple filter in Photoshop. It may be a good or bad cartoons but that’s not a caricature.

#32 Corey Pandolph
April/29/2009
@ 9:46 am

I am the Bad Cartoonist

#33 Mike Lester
April/29/2009
@ 9:57 am

“Next thing you know heâ??ll be questioning Breathedâ??s Pulitzer Prize for Bloom County” -Milt Priggee

As a matter of fact I did but for different reasons than the absence of caricatures.

#34 NoahRodenbeek
April/29/2009
@ 9:57 am

“… it is a photo from google images ran through a simple filter in Photoshop. It may be a good or bad cartoons but thatâ??s not a caricature.”

Actually that’s more along the lines of copyright infringement. At that point good or bad stops being as important as legal or illegal.

#35 Mike Lester
April/29/2009
@ 10:13 am

Noah, Good point. The Collegiate collectibles market is rife w/ hyper realistic paintings of Dontarious Scatback scoring the decisive touchdown against Rival U. Some guy w/ a triple 000 brush and a projector spends 3 months painting a photo he stole from a sideline photographer and then sells ltd. edition prints. Mr. Sideline photographer ain’t happy and sues triple 000. As he should. This is where we should be headed.

#36 Bill Beard
April/29/2009
@ 10:39 am

“Actually thatâ??s more along the lines of copyright infringement. At that point good or bad stops being as important as legal or illegal.”

This is something that has me concerned, especially following the AP suing the artist who created the Obama “HOPE” poster. Are we going to see an increase of lawsuits from photographers, wire services, et al., when an artist or cartoonist draws in reference from a photo of a politician or celebrity? I’m a newbie so if this topic has been covered, I apologize for rehashing it.

#37 NoahRodenbeek
April/29/2009
@ 10:56 am

Reference drawing is a different animal from applying Photoshop filters to a pre-existing piece of material.

A better analogy would be if someone took Michaelangelo’s David, painted it purple and said “Behold, I have created the greatest statue of all time!”

The Obama Hope poster was an example of an artist creating an original piece using a reference photo, which is completely legal. Had he made the image in Photoshop using the digital image directly that would be illegal, or should be anyways… in my mind at least. However, he crafted a multi-layered lithgraph from reference of any number of arguable reference photos. The end result was his own art. A better example of this would be Andy Warhol work.

#38 Matt Bors
April/29/2009
@ 11:00 am

Using it as reference is fine.The HOPE poster was not an altered photograph but rather a digital illustration based on a photograph. The same thing with my Cash shirt, despite what was erroneously stated above. Also, altering something to the point where it is considered a new work is usually alright, which is what Sherffius did. You can make a case for one side or the other but I’d bet he win if it actually came down to it.

#39 Matt Bors
April/29/2009
@ 11:02 am

I guess it’s like cartoon sampling. In music, Sherffius would have to pay, but in our field the standards are more relaxed.

#40 Zach Trenholm
April/29/2009
@ 11:39 am

‘Using it as reference is fine.The HOPE poster was not an altered photograph’

Hi Matt—not to be contentious as you’ve made an excellent statement but Shepard Fairey Obama poster received the very same PSD treatment that you & Sherffius both gave Khomeini.

I’ve often joked that if Fairey had merely flipped the image & repositioned the eyes a bit he’d never would had been a recipient of a belated AP lawsuit as the work would have been sufficiently & creatively altered…

#41 Jeff Darcy
April/29/2009
@ 11:53 am

I’m a tech moron who’s just learning photoshop so I didn’t realize that was a stock image John used . I actually thought he created it from scratch- I’m not sure why he thought that was necessary since the Ayatollah pretty easy to draw. Maybe because it fits with his techy style?
But I thought the image was cool and effective the first time I saw it- I got it, and clearly so did the people responding to the poll.
Showing that, contrary to Teds claim the use of alligorical imagery isn’t incomprehensible to the majority of people.

Cartoonists are not losing there jobs because they work in metaphors. That has zero to do with it. Ted says -that’s why papers don’t miss them- In fact papers that fire a cartoonists continue to use syndicated cartoons- So they do miss them.

One thing this thread proves is that taste in what’s a good cartoon
is Subjective. I’m not surprised John won the Herblock award-I’m surprised he hasn’t won a Puliutzer yet. Yes, as Matt, proved anyone can do that Ayatollah graphic. But not everyone can come up with the simple and eloquent visual ideas he churns out consistently. (Just check out the AAEC web page daily cartoons) It’s not Ted and Wiley’s taste, fine. To each his own.
I think photoshop is great because it allows creative people with brilliant imaginations and ideas to work as illustrators when limited drawing skills would prevented them from being a success in the field. One of the most highly awarded photo illustrators in the industry I know can’t hand draw much better than a B grade high school student by their own admission. And yet because of their mastery of photoshop they’ve been able to florish- I think that’s a good thing-

#42 Jeff Darcy
April/29/2009
@ 12:02 pm

By -the-way. Pixar and Dreamworks are filled with animators who can’t hand-draw worth a lick. But clearly are loaded with creative talent a computer is able to translate

#43 Matt Bors
April/29/2009
@ 12:03 pm

It didn’t receive the very same treatment. He didn’t use Photoshop filters–he used Illustrator like you do with your (real) caricatures. The difference being you don’t trace your work and Fairey basically did, basing the color fields off of the AP photograph.

I’m not trying to split hairs–by all means, criticize him for doing that, but it is a different process than I used on the Ayatollah Beard Prison.

#44 NoahRodenbeek
April/29/2009
@ 12:07 pm

I’m from the good-drawing-isn’t-a-gift-it’s-earned-through-years-of-practice camp so I don’t like to give a lot of credit to creative people that can’t draw.

“I think photoshop is great because it allows creative people with brilliant imaginations and ideas to work as illustrators when limited drawing skills would prevented them from being a success in the field”

I can’t play piano, so is it okay for me to push the auto-rhythm button on a synthesizer and call it an original piece? I mean I know good music when I hear it, I just don’t want to take the time to learn how to make it myself.

#45 NoahRodenbeek
April/29/2009
@ 12:08 pm

“By -the-way. Pixar and Dreamworks are filled with animators who canâ??t hand-draw worth a lick. But clearly are loaded with creative talent a computer is able to translate”

False.

#46 Kevin Moore
April/29/2009
@ 12:41 pm

While I too have mocked Sherffius’ cartoon (http://incontemptcomics.com/2009/04/28/photosnark/), his is not a copyright violation, because he has significantly altered the work. That’s called “fair use.” Same applies to Shepherd Fairey’s HOPE poster â?? and why the AP suit will go nowhere.

All artists, btw, need to become more familiar with fair use law, because it applies to how they create art and how their work can legitimately be used by other artists.

My mockery of the Sherffius cartoon also falls under fair use by way of parody.

And the whole point of mocking Sherffius’ cartoon is to chastise Comics Riffs for ranking it at all as a caricature (as pointed out by others above, it isn’t) and to point out that Khomeini has been dead for 20 years. As unjust as the political persecution of Roxana Saberi is, Khomeini is no more responsible than the deposed Shah and his CIA-run torture machines. It’s like characterizing Russia with a caricature of Stalin. Things may be oppressive over there, but Putin is the man to make fun of.

#47 Stacy Curtis
April/29/2009
@ 12:51 pm

If Sherffius entered this cartoon into a caricature contest, I would have an objection. It’s not caricature. But as an editorial cartoon, GRAPHIC COMMENTARY, it is an editorial cartoon.

You can call it lazy. I don’t think it is.
John uses Photoshop and symbols, icons, popular imagery to create his graphic commentaries. It’s how he does HIS work.

Clay Bennett also relies on metaphors.

The “alternative cartoonists” rely on lots of words and multiple panels in their editorial cartoons.

Mike Lester, Wayne Stayskal, Larry Wright do very loose, sketch-like drawings.

Scott Stantis, Nick Anderson and J.D. Crowe use very sketchy lines, while Dick Wright and R.J. Matson do very tight, finished drawings.

I don’t think it matters HOW you get there, as long as the finished product is a graphic commentary or editorial cartoon.

#48 Stacy Curtis
April/29/2009
@ 1:07 pm

I went through John Sherffius’ archive on Daryl Cagle’s website and he transitioned from his cartoons drawn on paper to his heavily-Photoshopped cartoons almost simultaneously as he went from his job at the St. Louis Dispatch to his job at the Boulder Daily Camera in Colorado.

Interesting.

#49 Ted Rall
April/29/2009
@ 1:08 pm

I drew cartoons for TIME magazine from 1997 to 2001. On one occasion I did a cartoon that used photos of prominent news figures in a collage. TIME’s lawyers ordered us to pay the rights-holders for the relevant photographs I used.

I have since spoken to copyright attorneys about this subject. They told me that the kind of thing Sherffius does is illegal unless he obtains permission from the copyright holders. Cutting and pasting isn’t kosher.

#50 Nick Anderson
April/29/2009
@ 1:14 pm

KEVIN MOORE Wrote:
“While I too have mocked Sherffiusâ?? cartoon (http://incontemptcomics.com/2009/04/28/photosnark/), his is not a copyright violation, because he has significantly altered the work. Thatâ??s called â??fair use.â?

That’s not at all clear in this case. The Supreme Court ruled Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. that the mere existence of parody isn’t sufficient for it to fall under the protection of “fair use”…that there must be some comment on the original work being referenced. Most readers won’t even be aware there is an original work being referenced in the Sherffius cartoon, let alone any commentary on it. The commentary is on Iran, not on the photograph. Plus, Sherffius makes no attempt to attribute credit to the original, or even indirectly reference its existence.

Here are some key paragraphs from a web site about the court case (especially the 2d paragraph):

The United States Supreme Court in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. (1994) stated in no uncertain terms that a parody as a form of criticism or comment could be fair use of a copyrighted work. Oh, Pretty Woman is a rock ballad written by Roy Orbison and William Dees. Luther Campbell and his musical rapper group, 2 Live Crew, wrote a rap song entitled Pretty Woman that had substantial similarities to the Orbison/Dees song. 2 Live Crew attempted to obtain permission for their parody from Acuff-Rose, the publisher of Oh, Pretty Woman, but were refused permission. 2 Live Crew then proceeded without permission to release their rap song and accorded Orbison/Dees with authorial credit and listed Acuff-Rose as the publisher. Acuff-Rose then brought a lawsuit, which at the trial court level ruled in favor of 2 Live Crew based upon its fair use parody defense. This decision was reversed on appeal when the Sixth Circuit ruled against the fair use parody defense because of the commercial nature of the 2 Live Crew rendition and the presumption of market harm that the rap rendition might cause for the Orbison/Dees song. The Sixth Circuit’s decision was then appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court accepted 2 Live Crew’s song as a parody because the rap song mimicked the original to achieve its message and because it “reasonably could be perceived as commenting on the original [Oh, Pretty Woman] or criticizing it, to some degree

More here: http://www.publaw.com/parody.html

#51 Nick Anderson
April/29/2009
@ 1:18 pm

Stacy Curtis wrote: “I donâ??t think it matters HOW you get there, as long as the finished product is a graphic commentary or editorial cartoon.”

Good to hear you feel that way. I’m going to start cutting and pasting your drawings and rearranging them into my own cartoons. I like your drawings, and it will save me a lot of time. I won’t credit you, since the “work” will qualify as a new and original expression.

#52 Kelly McNutt
April/29/2009
@ 1:19 pm

“By -the-way. Pixar and Dreamworks are filled with animators who canâ??t hand-draw worth a lick.”

I… I… I don’t even know where to go with this. I guess I’ll just go out on a limb and say that no, I don’t think that is quite true. Even the technical directors more often than not are highly skilled traditional artists. (I only say “even the TD’s” because most people don’t even know what they do…)

To build on what’s been said already: Photoshop is a tool, just as the burnt stick was a tool lo all these years ago. While tools change, the underlying foundations of art do not. I don’t know enough about this John Sherffius to comment on his drawing skill or lack thereof. But I will say that I remember doing tonal studies of 40’s Hollywood studio photos with tracing paper and grayscale markers in school and I wouldn’t think of trying to pass them off as something of my own.

#53 Phil Wohlrab
April/29/2009
@ 1:24 pm

â??By -the-way. Pixar and Dreamworks are filled with animators who canâ??t hand-draw worth a lick.â?

“Iâ?¦ Iâ?¦ I donâ??t even know where to go with this.”

Pixar was born out of Lucasfilm and the combination of computor technology and fine art merged with the hire of John Lasseter a former Disney Animator. That statement is rubbish.

#54 John Cole
April/29/2009
@ 1:41 pm

“Thatâ??s not at all clear in this case. The Supreme Court ruled Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. that the mere existence of parody isnâ??t sufficient …”

WHOA, Clarence Darrow. You charging by tyhe hour?

#55 Nick Anderson
April/29/2009
@ 1:45 pm

“WHOA, Clarence Darrow. You charging by tyhe hour?”

lol…nah. I’m enlightening you pro bono. ;-)

#56 Kevin Moore
April/29/2009
@ 2:22 pm

Nick: Nice citation. You pwn me.

I think Sherffius altered the work significantly enough – not just with threshold, but adding a jail cell to the bear, adding a drawing of Saberi – that it falls under collage (an old form of “sampling”?) and that transforms the source photo enough to generate new artwork.

The images Matt and I made do not reference Sherffius directly, but they also do not exist independently of our blog posts, which clearly comment upon Sherffius’ technique. So those would classify as parody.

So much of “fair use” is up to interpretation; there are no hard and fast rules. Personally, as artists, we can avoid so much of th problem by doing the actual drawing ourselves. This is one thing I don’t get about the Sherffius cartoon: Khomeini is not hard to draw, Sherffius has the chops, it wouldn’t take that long to do â?? what gives? I could whip out a Khomeini in 5 minutes, the amount of time Matt says he spent photoshopping. My own effort took me a little longer, only because I wanted to get the jail right. Then I went in with my Wacom stylus and added facial hair so the jail bars would blend with the face. All along I kept thinking, “Pen and ink would be so much simpler!” And I am a Photoshop whiz. :-)

#57 Nick Anderson
April/29/2009
@ 2:45 pm

Kevin, it’s a common misconception, plus I’ve always wanted to pwn someone! Just because we are in the business of parody, we don’t have license to infringe on others’ copyrights wholesale. If a cartoonist references Mickey Mouse, the reader understands it’s a reference to something familiar and it doesn’t necessarily need to be attributed (but sometimes is with the usual “apologies to…”). Even then, it’s a de minimis infringement (sorry again for sounding like a lawyer).

Sherffius’ use of the photograph is definitely not de minimis, nor is it necessarily clear to the average reader that it’s from a photograph at all. There is no attribution. Perhaps he’s altered it enough to be protected, but I think he’s on thin ice. I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes if the photographer decided to hire a lawyer.

#58 Wiley Miller
April/29/2009
@ 3:38 pm

“I think Sherffius altered the work significantly enough…”

More rationalization.

#59 Mike Lester
April/29/2009
@ 4:28 pm

Editorial cartoon? Caricature? Editorial Illustration? Graphic? Fair use of existing image? Whether I like it or not, this style and others I’m not crazy about are out there for editors to buy or not to buy in a free market exchange.

Their buying decisions define my market rightly or wrongly. I have to deal with it and unlike GM, I think it’s healthy to welcome the competition.

Not everybody wins a trophy. -or should.

#60 Jeff Darcy
April/29/2009
@ 4:29 pm

I know someone who’s son currently works as a creator for one of the two animation studios I mentioned. I ask him about his ability to draw and his training. He said he can’t draw free hand and never did and that is not uncommon at all at these studios as you might think because its computer based and his generation learned on computers first instead of a drawing pad. This guy has worked as a designer and animator on two recent major releases. I’m sure they’re many at these studios who can draw freehand- but this guy proves my point that photoshop ,illustrator and the rest has allowed some obviously very talented people to have a career who might not otherwise.
Again, I know one of the most highly awarded and sought -out photo-illustrators working today. By there own admission and by my own eyes they have just so-so hand drawing ability-But there photoshop illustrations are masterfull in there concept and execution as one national competition after another has proven. It’s the ideas that count most.

#61 Jeff Darcy
April/29/2009
@ 4:42 pm

I like John and his stuff. But I think Nick’s probably right about his being on thin ice on this one. I’m a felllow cartoonist and even I thought that was his own work so what’s the average reader going to think. The look on the Ayatollah’s face is a big part of that cartoon. And in reality someone else besides John created that look—-ALLAH! -Ha, and the photographer. When I used a photo of Obama talking to the German masses last year I credited the photgrapher.

#62 Kelly McNutt
April/29/2009
@ 4:55 pm

J Darcy #60: Proven point? Ok.. whatever. I’m not going to quibble over what you said vs. what you meant vs. what it sounded like you said/meant. I’ll say that I have a friend who works at one of the studios you mentioned and he (and funny ’nuff, he said it’s not at all surprising if he’s surrounded by people who, like him) can draw really well no matter WHAT he’s drawing with, which goes to my point that be it a burnt stick or Photoshop or Sketchbook Pro, you have to have the underlying foundation to make effective use of those tools.

#63 Lippy Lippy
April/29/2009
@ 5:41 pm

I think it’s lazy to use a Photoshopped image like S. has done.

There is a beauty to seeing something hand drawn, and it’s becoming rarer every day.

Lippy
-www.faultlinescomic.com

#64 Dan Collins
April/30/2009
@ 8:20 am

Personally I prefer Painter. It’s a much more naturally artistic feeling that I get when working in it.

Corey, I was told that I am the Bad Cartoonist. Well, one of them anyway.

#65 Lippy Lippy
April/30/2009
@ 10:20 am

re: Painter –

Yeah, just to be clear.. I’m all for HAND-DRAWING inn P-shop or Painter or anything else.. Hell, I use Flash to do final inking (NOT recommended!), but it’s the photo manipulation without hand-tuning that I pooh pooh…

-Lippy
http://www.faultlinescomic.com

#66 Phil Wohlrab
April/30/2009
@ 1:49 pm

#60.. what does their son do? Specific job title please. He’s probably not a character animator. A modeler MAYBE, but even they need to sketch their models beforehand. He could do lighting effects or rigging or mapping textures .. things i don’t know anything about but he’s not a story artist, character designer or background artist.

for all we know his job could be exporting jpgs for an animation test.
there is no magic button in photoshop or illustrator that will magically create the characters you see on the big screen… hate to deliver the bad news.

#67 Pedro Molina.
May/2/2009
@ 11:04 am

In the end, pen, ink, brush, photoshop, painter, 3D, those are just tools, would somebody say that the Sixtine Chapel has less artistic value because Michael angelo used fresco instead of Mammoth blood?… of course, if you are lazy or in a hurry, you can easily fall in the dark side of the technology and just use filters, wich is some way, the new term for the old fashioned “tracing”…

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