Ethical dilemma or part of the trade?

  • I was recently approached by an independent author that I have worked with before. They requested that I do the illustrations for a sequel, using the first book’s illustrations as a guide. They asked that I do the illustrations in the same style as the previous book so that they would match.
    The ethical dilemma: would I be “stealing” the style of the original illustrator? Would the work truly be my own, or just a shadow of the original illustrator?
    Part of the trade: Don’t illustrators pull from other illustrators works as inspiration all the time?

    I generally weigh out commissions based on whether or not I would be proud enough to promote the finished work. However, I’m comparatively new to the illustration world and can’t really be picky about what work comes along.
    I’m interested in hearing some different perspectives/experiences. Thank you for reading my post!

  • Moderator

    For me it would depend on what the contract was with the original illustrator. If it was work for hire I believe that it would be legally acceptable. If it was not work for hire, then I think the original illustrator would have a problem with it. I know I would. I don’t know about the legal stuff, @davidhohn did a great post on copyright stuff. I’m not sure if this falls under copyright or intellectual property or what, but I would find out before you start. And also ask yourself if it’s worth it to work on a project for what could be months using someone else’s art style and characters.

  • If the author owns the characters it is probably not a legal issue. I don't think a style can even be copyrighted but individual images certainly are. The characters could also be copyrighted and/or trademarked. If they are new images done in the same style then it is probably okay. If you think about it this happens all the time in comics. But as a disclaimer I am not a lawyer just done a lot of lay research. I would contact a copyright lawyer before proceeding if you are not sure.

  • If its an independent author I would imagine they did a 'work for hire contract' with the previous illustrator, so the author would possibly want you to do the same. The author basically owning your illustrations at the end. For me it would come down to money, are they going to pay you well for your time. Because if the style is not something you are comfortable in reproducing it will need to be a well paying gig, to be of benifit to you.

    Personally I think working in different styles is good practice if your relatively new, however some artists have a very unique look. So it really depends on what the original looks like? How different is it from your own stuff?

    I understand what you mean about being new and not wanting to be too picky when work comes along, but you have to be careful, with a book you are committing to a lot of work. So it needs to be worth your while in some shape or form.

    Also with them being a self published author try agree some money up front if you take the gig and have a contract in place. Not all but some self publishers are notorious for just falling off the face of the earth.

    Hope this helps
    Good luck

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