Tutorial by Rob Sheridan and the Issue of the Chuck Close Filter

Short entry today, because I a) have been trying to sort out moving-related stuff and b) need to keep working on my first paid commission! May show some teasers soon but it’s supposed to be a surprise so I’ll have to be a ninja about it.

Clicking the image below will take you to a digital coloring tutorial by Rob Sheridan for his piece, “Mascots”.

"Mascots" by Rob Sheridan

“Mascots” by Rob Sheridan

The tutorial is mainly Photoshop-based and very thorough; he talks about how he got the textures in the wood paneling of the walls as well as the dingy old carpets. His attention to detail is pretty amazing. For example, he drew, from scratch, the labels on the beer cans by researching old labels from the 70’s and redrawing them vector-style. For the magazine cover and the playing cards, he found high-res scans (or scanned them in himself) and warped/yellowed them to look appropriate. I like this tutorial because he really takes advantage of Photoshop for digital artwork by using tools like the perspective tool and the many filters that come standard with SP. Very inspiring work, must have been painstaking; totally worth it though, looks fantastic!

I came across an article on my feed yesterday titled My Chuck Close Problem by Scott Blake. The article describes a project (coded by Blake) that essentially recreates Close’s style in a program accessible online through a web browser. You’d submit a photo and get it back Chuck Close-ified. Blake is/was very proud of this project and a huge fan of Close. Unfortunately, when it became popular Close demanded that Blake take it down. It’s worth taking 15 minutes or so to read through the article for more details.

Scott Blake Self Portrait (via Hyperallergic)

Scott Blake Self Portrait (via Hyperallergic)

The website was free to use, so Blake wasn’t making any money off of it. Nevertheless, Close claims that Blake was “devaluing” his work. On the one hand, I can understand where Close is coming from. No one wants to have their style (in Chuck’s case, something extremely personal to him, developed over many years because of his physical condition) copied and used in ways they can’t control. On the other hand, nothing made with this “Chuck Close filter” will ever be as good as what Close does himself. The program uses already-painted squares from previous paintings and rearranges them to mimick the photo. Anyone familiar with Close’s work knows that his process is much more involved than simply gridding out a portrait.

It’s a tricky subject and I’m not quite sure which side I come down on. A lot of the comments on the article criticize Blake for spending so much time (10 years!) on a project that’s based so heavily on another artist’s work. Even though Blake put a ton of effort into this, I’m leaning towards agreeing with these artists. It’s fine and dandy to spend time on fanart, or studies or copies of other work, but in order to be successful as an artist you need to try and come up with, and explore, original ideas. Blake argues that he’s taking Close’s work in a different enough direction but I have to disagree there.

Either way, the article brings up an important discussion about what constitutes copying, and about stealing/borrowing/building off of someone else’s idea; at what point does it become your own?

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3 responses to “Tutorial by Rob Sheridan and the Issue of the Chuck Close Filter

  1. Thanks for your feedback on my Chuck Close problem. I just wanted to correct your misunderstanding. I made the filter 13 years ago, and it took me about a week. In the last decade I have made 30+ Barcode Portraits, a 300 year animation, and 9/11 Flipbook.

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