It has been over a week since the Justin Osbourn/Slasher Design art plagiarism story broke at MBA and it just seems to get bigger. It is still a hot topic on this site and other message boards. A lot of people have been diligently searching the internet to find his original source material and a bunch of them have been posted in the comments of the original article. At the bottom of this post, I am putting a few more examples. However, after this post I will not be posting any new images. I think the evidence is pretty clear. Anyone posting links to images in the comments section, please make sure that it belongs to him, as we do not need to drag an innocent artist’s name into this mess.
I have gotten a lot of feedback from visual artists as well as bands and some have asked to not have their comments posted. From the artist’s perspective, they all seem to be blown away by what is an unprecedented legitimate art scandal. From the bands and companies, it seems they are scrambling to distance themselves from him as they all clearly have been duped.
Below are some of the statements by clients posted in the comments sections as well as statements that MBA got from a few big artists in the metal art genre.
Whilst it is true that ALL artists begin by copying other artists, most of us take what we learn away with us to create new things of our own, using our own style and sensibilities. The artist in question clearly is not doing that, his artworks are simply collages of pieces and elements slavishly (and quite accurately) copied from the works of others. This goes far beyond being influenced by another artist and is actually considered copyright infringement, the only way to stop this is for the injured parties to take up a legal case against that artist. This kind of thing is not unique, it turns up from time to time in the commercial art world and usually end badly for the artist involved. Over the years I have seen several such cases.
There is also a case to be made by the bands he has done covers for, his behavior opens them up to copyright lawsuits as well. They hire an artist because of his style and talents and they trust him to provide a service which is free of such legal issues. Clearly he has not fulfilled his part of the bargain in this respect. Both the creator and the band who use that kind of artwork are liable for copyright lawsuits.
The artist does do it very well though, even though he is breaking the law.
This kind of parasitic practice of selling other people’s art as your own is not only sleazy and dishonorable, it’s also callous in that it can create serious financial repercussions for the clients who were swindled into buying these bootleg collages if the original artists were to ever pursue legal action.
File > Open > Colleagues-Work-Without-Permission
There’s no excuse for this.
If he was just referencing, I wouldn’t think anything of it. The difference between reference and what Slasher Design is doing, though, is that he isn’t just looking at something off to the side of his canvas and then doing his own spin of it. He’s literally using a lasso tool in Photoshop pressing CTRL+C (cut), then CTRL+V (paste) and using other artists’ copyrighted works into his own when he does not have permission to do so. He isn’t even painting over them (which is also an ethical gray area) in many cases, he’s just using the original art whole-hog with barely any alterations. The problem here is that he presents himself as an absolutely astounding painter by using these paintings from artists that have decades of painting experience. When you cut and paste from art legends like Frank Frazetta, Julie Bell, Zdzisław Beksiński, Boris Vallejo, and countless other pulp magazine painters, you are literally stealing their paint strokes and combining them with your own work to suggest that you painted those strokes yourself. When people see the amazing Beksiński background in your piece, they think that you toiled away for weeks painting those details one-by-one, when in fact you did an action that took you less than 30 seconds.
As artists, we shouldn’t be setting a precedent that it’s okay to google a famous painter (or unknown painters, for that matter), take their art, and resell it as if it’s yours.
Famous Metal Cover Artist who has asked to remain anonymous:
I think it’s a huge mistake to frame this in terms of “reference”. EVERY artist uses reference. That dude swipes a Boris piece… fuckin’ BORIS, one of the biggest fantasy artists who ever lived and dropped into a new piece without changing a brushstroke. That’s inexcusable. It’s sort of like when a comedian steals another comedians joke and doesn’t change one fuckin word. I guarantee this guy is just waiting for everything to die down so he can quietly sneak back in.
We were blindsided by posts regarding album covers designed by Slasher Design. Unfortunately, one album art in question was our “S/T” release.
To our knowledge, we purchased original art. To our dismay our art may have not been 100% original. We apologize to any artist, and or artists, whose work was used without credit and without our knowledge. We intend to cooperate with any issues due to this.
This has been a real bummer for all the bands affected.
Jaysin at City of Horror brought this our attention and I thought I would echo my response to him here as well.
We have been working with Justin for a few years now and the first shirt we ever printed from him was the Phantasm design. That particular piece was one he approached us with, (i.e. we didn’t commission it) and we bought it from him already complete. It wasn’t until recently that I found out about the original image he used to lift the Tall Man face and sphere. To be completely honest, I thought it was an isolated case. However, it has caused me to reconsider any future printing of that design because of its origin and we will most likely pull it it once the remaining stock has sold.
I have looked back at all the other designs he has done for us so far I have not found any further evidence of lifting — at least with not our commissioned designs. With all the rest of the work he’s done for us, the images he uses are from the film, or poster artwork for the film, and used in context to the property he’s referencing. However, the article was definitely an eye-opener, and it is pretty clear on those album art covers that images were taken from other sources. I think the main difference here is that his artwork for album covers is supposed to be original, whereas the work he does for us (aside from the Phantasm design) should be using images/reference from the films.
I’m sure you can agree that Justin is talented, however I do not condone what he did. My only hope is that he enters the conversation started here to apologize and explain why he did what he did. In the meantime, I will be opening a dialogue with him in regards to where our designs originate, to ensure that this doesn’t happen with the work we commission from him.
From the desk of TROGLODYTE:
We were stunned by emails and recent postings regarding album covers designed by Slasher Design. Unfortunately, one album art in question was our 2011 WELCOME TO BOGGY CREEK release.
We asked, and to our knowledge, purchased original art. It appears now that this may not be the case. We apologize to any artist, and or artists, whose work was used without credit and without our knowledge. While no civil matter has been raised against us, we intend to cooperate with any issue brought before us to resolve this matter.
Furthermore, we have no plans to use this artwork for the future vinyl release or any possible CD re-issues.
(*previous comment on MBA)
I wanted to come on here and publicly apologize for my earlier comment! When this all started I did not believe this all to be true but after the mountains and mountains of evidence obviously it’s true and Justin Osbourn is a complete thief!! I did not understand the copy/paste stuff with art, but after all this I wanted to say me and Howling do not support Slasher Design whatsoever! and wish we had never hired him for our cover! I was hurt and frustrated at first because I didn’t understand what was going on fully and was pissed and lashed out! I did not want to come off as an asshole and I apologize to any one I offended by my comment! Please know that I no way endorse what he did! and hope no one ever hires him again and I’m sure if Razorback does a second pressing of our album we will be getting new art! Again I apologize and hope no one looks down on Howling for having his art associated with our band! Thanks for reading!