Monday, August 24, 2009

Integrity: The Artistic Variety

I've always had a problem with the word "artist." I remember a Halloween night where an older woman was inspecting all of my props and was fascinated by the use of glue mache to make a lawn of undead. With each cluster of children coming up for candy, she'd step away and let them, and me, do our thing. Then she'd return and study each prop. When she was preparing to leave, she complimented the display and said "You must be an artist." I replied, "Nah, I just love Halloween."

For me, art is something that a person does. It's how you spend the bulk of your free time. Even if it's dark and twisted and offensive, I think art is a form of sanity. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. once wrote that the arts are "a very human way of making life more bearable." And if you're passionate about your art form, it's magic. Sadly, I think very few people are fortunate enough to make a living from something they're passionate about. Thus the sanity requirement. I work in a business setting. As far away from creativity as a person can get. I keep a pad next to my computer where I'll jot words down like "corn witch" or "black paint for cloaks" or "sentinels" or "cheesecloth" or "Tin Man"... SANITY. Huge doses of it.

I love that my passion is a slave to Halloween. It's truly all I ever think about. Everything in my life is murky and inked and stained by it. And I respect it. I think a major component of my joy and success with my creative output is the respect I have for it. It's a way of staying on target, of pushing myself, of avoiding lazy pitfalls.

One of the things I absolutely love about having a Halloween blog is the exposure to other people's artwork. I'm always hunting for works that excite me. That can be original masterpieces or works that are re-imagined pieces. The haunting community is a neat and respectful one. It's always cool to see someone following a how-to on someone's site or recreating a popular prop with their own personal spin. The key here is integrity. If I'm building a piece that has been inspired from somewhere other than my brain, I'll make sure to cite the source. My HOLLOW scarecrow is a good example of that (scroll to the bottom). If one of my works would not have existed had I not seen it elsewhere, I make sure I mention it. It's really the only way I could keep that respect thing going.

I've been meaning to write about this topic for a while now, but never got around to it. A friend of mine sent me a link that brought it all home - an Etsy.com shop modeled after ours, selling extremely familiar items with equally familiar titles, descriptions, and store policies.

This is a perfect example of integrity. Sure the guy has a right to sell Halloween items on his shop. There were people selling pumpkins and corpses long before we started to. And thankfully there will always be macabre peddlers selling their dark and creepy wares. But it comes down to the litmus test of artistic integrity: Would this have existed had I not seen it elsewhere? Respect yourself when you answer that question. It's the key to creativity, originality, and integrity. And your artwork is going to show it.

31 comments:

amy said...

well...wow that kinda sux. You are the master.

Rot said...

Ironic side note: Someone stole my lunch from the office refrigerator today.

Rstynail said...

Wow, I can't believe some. I can't wait to post pics of my Crows so I can give you your props. You inspired me and I hope you don't let that one person get to you. Your stuff is way better anyway, a different class. Sucks about the lunch!!!!!

Rot said...

Currently eating a small and expensive sandwich from our cafeteria.

Rot said...

I should add that this post isn't really about that guy copying our shop, it's all about inspiration and integrity. For years I've seen props or components of props that are clearly "inspired" by other artists' works with no credit given to the source material. And I've always wondered how a person could fit that into the creative process.

Drop Gallow said...

I love it! you've got every haunter on the net (including me) scouring their sites and blogs to see who they've forgotten to give credit to.

Oh, to wield such power....

Jon said...

I'm so glad you decided to write this, not necessarily because I want to see cheap imitators criticized (though that is, admittedly, a part of it) but because it's great to see you transform the situation into a positive and informative piece on integrity. It takes some real creativity to turn a situation like this into an opportunity to talk about an important (especially these days) aspect of art. That you focus on this larger topic and avoid the temptation to be vindictive speaks volumes about your own integrity. The respect you write of is self-evident here.

I admire the fact that you've turned being ripped off into another opportunity to share with people. That's pretty damn cool. The good kind of irony.

Ghostsoldier said...

"I admire the fact that you've turned being ripped off into another opportunity to share with people. That's pretty damn cool. The good kind of irony."

Amen. Jon said it best....you are indeed unique, Rot.

(PS: Your lunch was good! Lol!)

RebelShade said...

I have seen props inspired by your work before, Like these they never have that emotion, that frozen piece of amazing movement. The anticipation of life that they posess.
The guy may not of made any attempt to give credit where credit is due. But your true fans know that these come no where close to your amazing talent. They know a Real PumpkinRot when they see it.
Way to take it in stride, I think people should be just as inspired by your attitude as your work :) ... Sorry about your lunch

The Frog Queen said...

As always, great post. I bow to your awesomeness :)

I would say that almost nothing I have created is original. It is a graveyard, please, almost everyone has seen those. Unlike you, who should call yourself an artists, I never claim to have your type of inspired originality. Your work is stunning and your influence in the haunt community is immeasurable. Sorry, that a haunter that owes so much to you would do this to you or anyone else. You handled this with a grace that I know I don't posses :)

Your writings harkened me back to a conversation I had with Webby last year. Your post just brought up the same feelings of embarrassment that I felt when talking with her. They say that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" - but I think some people do not understand what that means in what they are creating.

Webby has the how to out on the "Beloved" monument out on one of the forums. May people have one. Myself included, I made it at least ten years ago, based on a picture, likely hers. I was inspired. Although I researched other monuments like that so that I could make sure the size, shape and style fit my yard. It is so similar to hers, you have to call it "borrowing" :) She seems flattered that there are so many out there.....but is also quick to puff up her feathers (rightfully so) that it was her idea.

When I had talked to other people about that piece I had mentioned all the things I did differently and things that I did not like about her version and felt comfortable with what I created. But when talking to the original creator, the light changed dramatically, and I felt different about what I had created and none of my changes seemed to matter at that moment.

The piece is still in my yard, but anyone who asks about it, I am quick to tell them to look up her information on the web. The haunt community is very generous with their information, as part of the community, we ought to show due respect to each other.

Cheers!

I know, long post....you don't have to post it....just wanted to share.

Countess VonRauber said...

Rot, what you said about your passion for all that is Halloween and about your projects being your "sanity" is completely dead on to what I have thought over and over again about my own obsession for the holiday and my prop building. I could not have put it in writing better myself. It's really good to know that there are other people out there that feel the exact same way about Halloween that I do. Halloween = Sanity... I like it =)

clockwerk said...

Wow. It's like the Dollar Tree version of Pumpkin Hollow.

What is amazing is he is ripping off everything you sell in your store right down to not awesome versions of bean's awesome pumpkins. For shame.

It is also one thing to copy something for personal enjoyment and quite another to try to make money off of it.

I commend you for your positive post. I know it is hard not to criticize the guy. However, I have no problem with doing it for you.

Ghoul Friday said...

I think people underestimate their own talent and think that if they do something from their own mind...if they just experiment and explore, it won't be "as good" as something they've seen.

Obviously the person in question has the basic skills to create, so for me the curious part is why not celebrate your own imagination? Is it laziness? Is it lack of self confidence? Both?

I love when people create versions of my creations and send me images of what they've done. It's an honour to be in the creative cog that turns in our haunter/halloween circles. And I am always amused when someone says "it doesn't look as good as yours" or "exactly like yours" because you know what? It isn't supposed to. You're creating your own art.

Sometimes people honestly forget proper etiquette and don't give a tip of the hat to the people who inspired them. And sometimes, sadly, there are people who take advantage of the work others have done, and try to pass off a signature piece or style as their own. And it gets even dicier when money is exchanging hands for these pieces.

Kimily said...

I can't believe someone stole your lunch! It isn't like someone can 'mistake' their not bringing one to your tuna salad. That steams my knickers!

On a different note... I borrowed your blog entry for my own blog entry.
http://www.boo-spooky.com/2009/08/24/rots-words-of-wisdom/

Your the man! Keep on creating, blogging, writing, etc., we lesser minions need your inspiration until we can create on our own.

jay's shadow said...

i have seen alot of your scarecrows copied by others (pumpkinrot and johnny appleseed) but they give credit to you.
i just got done looking at that shop....and everything looks like it was just thrown together. the corpses look skinny and unfinishedand colorless, the pumpkins are way too shiney,the doorhangers look like they just went into the backyard and picked up a few sticks and put a small piece of creepy cloth on it looks like they spent no time on them,didnt put in any effort,no passion.
if you inspired them to do this,they didnt recieve very much of it cause their work does not show it.

they are just trying to make a quick buck

Brad said...

There are those among us, like yourself, who can look at nothing and see something waiting to be born. These people we call artists. Then there are the envious ones, like me, who lack the creative ability and look to your work for inspiration. I have no problem with copies of great work, just give the proper credit to the source. I was flattered beyond words when you displayed my copy of your iconic "TrickRTreat" on your blog, I couldn't imagine not giving credit to the original.

The Captain said...

The very first year that I made groundbreaker style zombies (2007) I sent you a video to the email address on your main website. (http://jasonemartin.blogspot.com/2008/09/dead-will-rise-2007.html)I don't know if you ever watched it, it doesn't even matter, but at the end of that video I gave thanks to all the people who inspired my work on those zombies, you were at the top of that list.

If anybody has ever taken any type of class where writing is involved they should know that plagiarism is a big no no. This guy is blatantly guilty of artistic plagiarism. It would be one thing to sell some ground breakers on his Etsy, everyone makes ground breakers, but he is trying to emulate all of the items that you and Bean sell.

Why would someone want fish sticks, when for a couple bucks more they could have Red Lobster?

Thank you for sharing your works with us, and thank you for inspiring me to be creative.

Just out of curiosity, what was in you lunch that was worthy of stealing?

Boudoir Affaire Photography said...

I have two of your wall art pieces on display in my kitchen, year round. People walk in and ask if I made them (we are the King and Queen of the Halloween Display on Our Block..according to them). I always tell them, "No way, there's this really cool guy I stalk on the internet..."
Your creations come from YOUR emotion and soul. I might copy yours, but they'd be completely different. But I'm not necessarily looking to make money. This guy has just made some imitation for the sole purpose, it seems, to make $$. They come across flat and lifeless to me. I'm trying to be kind, but does he have ANYTHING that's an original creation that doesn't copy ALL of your's and Bean's?
I don't know...just really sucks what he's done, flattery or not. Did he send you a note to let you know about the sincerest form of flattery he was practicing? Did he mention you in his Etsy description as inspiration? Hmph..
On a side note, I've told my King of Halloween Husband that he may want to sleep with one eye open - if I have the opportunity to purchase one of YOUR groundbreakers, I may bump him off and marry it ;))
Keep up the beautiful work, Rot!
xoxo

Nev said...

What a douche bag.

Devils Chariot said...

Let's set aside that Monk just made a bargain/chinese import version of Rot's shop. That's bogus. It's clearly a rip off.

As for as appreciating those who inspired you, I say sure if you just copied what they did say so, but I don't think anyone needs to annotate all their posts to recognize all their influences. There is a point where you copy your heros, but then you start to synthesize them and trust your own decision making . That's when your vision comes together and style becomes apparent. That's the goal to work to.

The wrong here is stealing Rot's Style to make a buck, and trying to undercut him to boot.

Failure to site your influences is no sin, and if your any good we can all see your influences, even if your gonna lie about it.

JHMDF said...

I can't ever say that any ones work on a Halloween prop is horrible since they are trying to represent in their own for the season.... but damn that guy is ripping you off every way possible!

You should buy one of his pieces, put the "Rot" touch to it, and then send it back!! That would be hilarious.

-Scott
Haunter's Headquarters

Mr. Chicken said...

I have so much respect for you, Rot...nothing much more to day than what has been said...but I sure hope that guy sees your post!

As a side not to your side note: a friend of mine's lunch was stolen out of the office fridge recently. He responded by writing in the middle of the whiteboard "Whoever took my sandwich, I hope it turns to ash in your mouth"

Otaku said...

Well said, John. Lemons into lemonade. Again, I'm inspired by your work - and again I find that some have no shame.

NoahFentz said...

WOW!! In contrast to you I work in an Art Supply store in NYC. I am surrounded by artist. We have this disscussion alot about what is an artist. Alot of the kids that work there draw comic book heroes. They can recognize the drawing styles of many of the famous comic book artist. They will spout out a name and time when it was drawn. I thought back too when I am at a Make and take and we discuss styles and I hear in the background that kinda looks like a Pumpkinrot or Born2haunt. Like in every artistic venue there is always a style that is associated with a look. The "Pumpkinrot Style" is now a part of the Halloween world.

I might have mentioned this before in another comment but I have been haunting since 95 and I have seen a few haunters change the evolution of yard haunting. Your work in papeir mache has done that. I remember when I was first introduced to your website in 2003. I said thats it thats what I have been seeing in my dreams. You made it a reality.

I have been thinking of an idea lately since the passing of Ironstock. I thought it would be neat to begin collecting assorted prop pieces from different haunters that have changed the course of yard haunting. A Terror Syndicated Monster mud creation, A Born2haunt latex monster, a Pumpkinrot Groundbreaker and create a traveling Museum. Bringing it to different Gatherings to show other hanuters medium techniques and maybe the inspiration of creating their own props.

I love reading your blog everyday and I try to get coworkers(artist) to read it. Beyond it being a Halloween related blog it still speaks about Art. I am fustrated by what this person is doing but I always think what would Leonardo do if he saw his Mona Lisa image on a coffee mug?

Sara said...

Well, at least his stuff SUCKS. LOL, it's really rather sad and pathetic. They are like....amatureish. I love how they are trying so HARD to be yours and your wife's...but yeah, he just doesn't come close.

I hope you don't stop sharing techniques because of this :(

Andrea said...

See? I knew I liked you. What's inside makes the man. And all this other rad stuff you do makes it even better. Thanks for setting a good example. You're the victor of both the talent and the character to this dude.
And also sorry about your lunch. I'll buy you a sandwich! Tell me where to send the ten bucks. :)

Amy said...

I always look at your website and love it! I am a scrapbooker and when working on books with friends we always say I cropped this, she cropped that etc. When we copy a page layout from someone else we say "I crop-lifted it from so and so". Maybe the new lingo when someone copies you could be "rot-lifted". . . just a thought. It sounds good don't you think?

Rot said...

I edited the blog post and removed the guy's shop link.

He removed the doorhangers and small pumpkins he was selling.

Nev said...

Nice job.
There was enough bad press through this thread too I guess.
Who did he think he was messn with?!
heheh

NecroBones said...

I remember discussing this topic on one of the forums with some other haunters a few years ago. I made the point that if you're honest about your sources, at the very least you'll avoid accusations. I've always felt it was better to be respectful of those who you are getting ideas from. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, yes?

So I've always made a point of mentioning my source if I'm borrowing an idea directly. Such as the eyes in my skeletons. When I first started making them, I put a link on my website showing where I got the idea for that method.

Grim said...

I think everything I've done since I found your site a couple of years ago has been inspired by your work in one way or another. I like to think of myself as the creator of the word "Pumpkinrottish", because that's a word I use a lot when trying to explain a new prop idea. Hopefully I have always given the proper credit. I want a cheese sandwich now, I used to love to cut slices of cheddar cheese right off the block then heat it just enough to make the cheese start melting... I can see that I will be going to the store to get a block of cheese and then it's going to be a cheese sandwich for lunch.
On a different note, I heard a story from a friend of mine that someone was stealing lunches where he worked so somebody made a dog poop sandwich and left it in the refrigerator. It was later found with one bite taken out of it. Who knows if that's true or not though...