Monday, April 23, 2007

Way too long since I last updated this thing. Too much negativity on the news lately so I won’t even go there. Let’s keep this light and happy today shall we?

Been keeping busy with a job for Extra Gum (which was my gum of choice in high school), and been painting/drawing for my September show at Jonathan Levine Gallery. So I’ve been grinding away in the studio the past month, not a whole lot happening (which is why there’s no blog updates lately).

Hmm, so what has been going on? I must have had some adventures this past month? Hmmm....

Brad Keech from Pressure Printing came out for a studio visit. What an awesome guy. I took him to Tio’s Tacos which is this Mexican restaurant in Riverside with a crazy/cool sculpture garden. He has some super secret stuff he’s working on with a very well known artiste, I better not say anymore. As for myself, we’re planning on doing an etching at some point, probably after my NY show when I have more time. Stay tuned.

Brad is making a few new prints of an old plexiglass plate I scribed in 2005 in RCC printmaking class. I only made one press at the time and it turned out pretty cool. But then I dropped the class.


Easter was fun, the whole family came out and stuff. Shannon had a great time, especially playing in my parent’s pond thingy. Lots of eggs to be found. Some had money in em'! That last photo is by my brutha Tim of his GF Karen. It's all Batman-villain looking sideways.


Got a new phone, one of them razor ones. Had my old trusty one for like 5 years, and there was no way to get all the old contacts off it. So I’m doing it all manually. Yuck. Uh, I think my phone just permanently died just now when I scanned it. I can’t turn it on! Shit! R.I.P. old phone? R.I.P all my contacts? Maybe it's good to start fresh.


Our mailbox got tagged by some white power dumbshits. The assholes also tagged on some cars and people’s garage doors in the neighborhood. I painted over it right away. Losers.


A couple weeks ago Jennifer’s parents came over and I said, “I feel like I should be wearing kelly green too”. They looked around and started laughing. Strange when that happens huh? I had to take a photo to preserve the moment. I don’t know why the donkey is in there, and I don’t know why Ralph is muzzling it...


I saw a UFO but it was too far away by the time I pulled over, plus my camera sucks. It looked really weird, like a balloon with dark stuff in it and tentacles hanging down. Maybe some sort of weather experiment from UCR? Maybe a Metroid? It sorta feaked me out.


I’m working on new paintings and a wall installation. Tons of sketches and doodles, gonna get busy up in dis shit soon. september is coming fast. and yeah, that is Snoop dee oh double gee.

I'm doing a zine and a 2008 calendar with Mark Murphy. It's looking pretty rad. Email him for more info...


Just finished and sent off a new piece to Art Prostitute Gallery in Dallas. It’s called “Stars Over the Hanging Gardens of Babylon”, acrylic on wood, 12” x 22.5”. The show starts April 28th.

And, lastly, I’m dealing with artists who are imitating mine and other’s work. They say imitation is a form of flattery but when people are doing stuff very similar in style to what you’ve been doing for years and they’re selling it, it’s more of a slap on the face. I am not naming any names but I’ve seen alot of imitation the past couple of years and it’s getting worse. The good thing is that for some reason people tend to copy the stuff I was doing right out of school- sun rays (hehe which I copied from Alex Gross), robots, boxes with wings, etc. It still sucks. I don’t know if the artists are to blame or the galleries that show them. Or it could be the buyers who are supporting this. So here’s some advice for everyone...

Artists- if you find yourself with a lack of ideas or have trouble finding your style, DO NOT take the easy path. Don’t look at who’s successful and steal their ideas. Do not copy them. Do not imitate them. This might help you sell some paintings, you may even sell out a show or two. But in the long run it will come back to bite you in the ass. You’ll be but a flash in the pan. A one hit wonder. If you are a serious artist and you make art because you have to, it’s in your soul, it’s in your heart, you will eventually find your own style. I’m not saying it will be easy. It takes sacrifice, dedication, and experimentation. And once you think you found your style, throw it all away. Because your shit will get stagnant if you don’t keep evolving. The artists who are copying will not be around in a couple years. Watch.
*Note- it’s alright to be a little derivative right out of school, no one can help that. But if you’re out of school for a while and selling your paintings and deep down you know it’s not totally original, then it’s time to refocus and get onto a better path.

And..

Galleries- You have a responsibility to show original work. When you show work that is overly derivative, it cheapens your gallery and the entire “scene”. This scene is small. Really small actually. If you are showing work in this genre you should have at least an understanding of who the artists are, what their work looks like and where they have shown. You have to have the backbone to be able to tell artists to come back in a year with new work if it’s derivative. Galleries used to be tougher. It was special if your work got in. It meant you were making original, thought provoking work. Realistically not everyone is going to be able to show Viner or Camille Rose Garcia, but that doesn't mean you should find someone who is making similar work.
There are tons of young artists out there who are deserving, hard working, eager and super original. Go find them. Promote them. Teach them.
There are tons of young artists out there who are copying. They will come to you. Educate them. Push them. Be honest with them. They will return better artists.

And...

Buyers- You’re gonna hopefully buy a piece of art because you love something about it. Investing in art is not bad either. I hope you also really research the artists you are interested in (especially if you're looking at it as an investment). It’s hard to keep track of everything but try to stay informed. Most of the artists being copied have shown at some time at La Luz de Jesus (now Billy Shire Fine Art), Jonathan Levine Gallery, Merry Karnowsky, New Image Art, BLK/MRKT, etc. They have higher standards and will never show anything derivative. Research some of these galleries that have been around for a while (there are more, don’t limit to those I mentioned), get back copies of Juxtapoz, Giant Robot, check out American Illustration, there are also some great books on the subject. Most artists also have their resume’s listed on their websites. In short, do your research. Unless you don’t mind buying work that may be derivative, and that’s your prerogative (cue Bobby Brown here).

So that’s my little rant about this situation. I’ve talked to a lot of people about this and everyone agrees that it is getting to be a widespread problem. Any ideas on this? What are your thoughts?

38 comments:

Mr.Letterman said...

Hey Mr.Soto, I completely agree with you, but I´m sorry to tell you

Mr.Letterman said...

Argh, sorry for the last incomplete post. I meant that I completely agree with you but that the main problem is that those assholes (if they go on) will make your art go down. I mean: it´s like Ryden. We all like Ryden art but everybody is starting to feel tired of bunnies and blood and so because everybody copy Ryden. It´s the same for the boxes with wings and so. We all love your art (that´s why we check this blog) but if everybody that appears on Juxtapoz and shows on galleries paints boxes with wings, people (AND IT´S NOT YOUR FAULT OF COURSE) will get tired of that.
I hope we all can do something for that you call "derivative" (I call copy) because you nor Ryden nor Baseman and so on (all of you who has people copying your art), you don´t deserve that.
Good luck and we´ll be here supporting you.

Baxter said...

That has to be so frustrating to see people imitate your work, but its capitalism, most people are in it for the buck, and there are a lot of art graduates who are trying to make a living. Its sad but look at any product or any business that is successful, there are imitations of every success out there. The internet has only made it worse, cause now an artist half way around the globe can study an "original" artists entire body of work to a T without ever paying a dime to him or walking into a gallery. If anything I think it would just give you the drive to continue and step up your game to a point where there it is very difficult to recreate.

The moment artists, musicians, writers look at someone or something and say that is what I want to do is where it all goes wrong, do what comes naturally if it is influenced by another artist so be it, if its true to you it will come across that way.

steven said...

Wow!
Shannon is getting so big man!
You must be a proud poppa.
I need to come down and visit you guys.
See your studio and such.
It's been a long time dadio!
good to see your doing well.
When i get the first copy's of my books i'll come down and bring you some copy's.
take care man
s

Anonymous said...

i never thought i'd be a chick who finds older men attractive, but your dad is hot!

the chung said...

hey man, i was about to say...i'm seeing crazy shit coming out of a specific gallery that i won't name (but it used to be a gallery that i've always wanted to get into back when i was in school...now it seems like the place that i can't give much respect to) but they've been showing an artist lately who also i won't name (i'm sure you know who i'm thinking of) who's been snagging on your style

anyways, i know how you feel. and it's bullshit about what's going on. however i don't think there's anything you can do, except to keep evolving to fight for survival. it's like a zombie infection....you gotta shoot everybody in the head with your awesomeness....even if your grandmother turns into a zombie...you know what you have to do.

CMR said...

I've been on a silent cruade agianst this epidemic for years now. The thing that gets me as of late is how blatant and shamless these people are. They're not even trying to hide it, and it's a total slap in the face, especially to those who are making art as their sole source of income. There are also a lot of devil's advocates out there, I like to call them "cowards" because they either don;t want to make waves or they don;t want ot lose friends, who knows.

I agree with you 100 percent man, if you want to talk to someone who gets fired up about this shit, give Shawn Barber a call.
Keep up the good fight.

And thanks for not stealing my noses anymore Chung. Ha

josh said...

that's really sad that La Luz de Jesus would sell those paintings...I think someone wrote this earlier and they're totally right.....the people that are ripping you off are all slightly worse and after a while who knows...people might start associating you with those same artists. It is a slap in the face because now maybe people will think that they can pay less for something that looks sort of like what you do.

I guess all you can do is keep moving forward and know that you can always keep two steps ahead of everyone.

Levon Jihanian said...

Jeff, the thing I've always loved about your work is that you keep changing it up.

Those pretenders know in their hearts they are a bunch of frauds and that stuff always happens so I wouldn't worry about it. You can always hire a lawyer to protect your intellectual property.

And Alex ripped off the sun rays from Tadanori Yokoo.

Ray Jones said...

As a soon to be graduate art student(illustration), I definitely understand that sources of inspiration can take over a developing style. If you study your heroes often enough, eventually you'll be working in a similar sort of knock off of their style. I'm always worried that the people who I'm fans of will eventually hate me for my work getting maybe too close to theirs... so I'm constantly exploring more ways to step out on my own and develop my own style or visual language. The way I see it, if my work looks anything like my heros work at this point, its a good thing-- because it shows professional growth, but if it gets to the point that you can't develop your own visual language, somethings wrong. If anything Jeff, know that the people who look up to you and are riding the train of success off of your hard work will eventually run out of steam. The people who take the easy way out to try and get quick fame will disappear because they never really took the time to really develop a personal voice. Good luck, and try not to get too bummed out.

Anonymous said...

glad youre finally back!!!

Silent Bee said...

I agree with you also..sometimes I find myself copying other artists but I do it subconsciously. It's not until someone points it out that I realize I did..then I trash it, burn it, bury it. Being original is hard now-a-days..everything is being copied, tweaked, and claimed original. Just like an old Simpsons episode: If we didn't copy each other, we'd all be up in trees throwing feces at each other.

There are those that are ignorant to whom original artists are..that, to me, is more frustrating. Giving glory to someone that doesn't deserve it.

I feel..artists shouldn't look at other artists work, copy a piece of it and call it inspiration..that's straight up biting. Inspiration should be found around you, your personality, lifestyles, interests, etc..

Keep doing what you've been doing, which is making great art

-Bee

Anonymous said...

i can't believe you saw a ufo!

please be friendly said...

I have heard it said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I guess that doesn't help any when someone bites your style. It must be an empowering feeling to have your own marked stlye, and an enormous challenge to evolve from there with out losing what made your work great to begin with. For me (and the thousands of otheraspiring artists) the challenge is to refine a style to begin with, the battle continues.

Your stlye is so contagious, it is damn hard for me not to repeatedly sketch tentacled robots over and over. Fortunately (?), I can't blend paint to save my life, so the odds of ever being accused of being a Jeff Soto rip-off remain slim.

Anyway, great to see an update! I always enjoy the shots of your sketches up on the wall. It is fantastic to see a bit of the process. Thanks!

Jeff Soto said...

Thanks for the comments. Seems like this topic has been on a lot of people’s minds- I’ve gotten a lot of private emails from people saying thanks for bringing it up.

I want to make a few things clearer, I think I might’ve sounded a bit harsh, and the last thing I want to do is discourage any artists (even those that may be overly influenced by others). We’re all creative people, we all deserve some love, and hopefully we’re all evolving with our work.

I was talking about progressing as an artist and I hope people don’t take it the wrong way. When I’m talking about becoming stagnant I’m not saying you need to reinvent yourself every year or anything like that. I’m just saying you want to be able to see some progress over time. Everyone works at their own pace, some will take a decade or two for their work to mature. Some move around fast and will be doing original stuff from the get go. Work at your own pace, it’s not a race. It’s NOT only about making money. Yes that is part of it, but (in my opinion) it shouldn’t be your only goal. We’re artists not businesses, don’t forget that.

And about the galleries I mentioned, I threw out a few gallery names that I feel do a good job. It wasn’t meant as a decisive list of where everyone should show, and I wasn’t trying to say every other gallery does a bad job. There are thousands of galleries, and they range from awesome to very bad (like the galleries that make YOU pay them for a show). It’s up to the artist to find the ones they get along with. No galleries are perfect for everyone (including the ones I listed).

In this genre there are tons of new galleries that have popped up over the last few years. Nothing wrong with that. There’s a lot of demand because this work is so accessable. Some will be run professionally, some will not, and some mediocre ones are still figuring things out and could be the next big thing. Don’t feel bad if you’re an artist and you’re showing at a gallery that’s not your first choice. Most likely they are learning the business themselves and could very well turn out to be a very professional gallery after a few years.

For some really wonderful reading about managing an artist’s career check out Alan Bamberger’s site: http://www.artbusiness.com/artists.html I love this guy’s articles, really gives you some things to think about in terms of career longevity...

Em said...

Yes, I've seen ther blatant copying also. My feeling about it is that $ is confusing what should have been an honest and good process.

Back when Picasso was starting to roll in Paris, he and other the other dudes traded ideas and built upon them in an honest way. And Picasso had such vision and originality that the other dudes would seem something in his art and then take it and run with it. They were all strengthened by this and it eventually gave rise to a true, lasting artistic movement.

But these copy-ers aren't really honestly responding to your work. Perhaps on some level they are trying to, but they get locked in to copying rather than 'reflecting' on some of the ideas you're putting down. And like you almost suggested, some buyers are buying collectible commodities, so the $ are out there without really discriminating between honest 'imitation' and copying.

Jaime said...

This subject is a bit tricky. The last post reminded me three cubist paintings I saw last summer in Madrid, in some fine exhibitions about Picasso, his influences, contemporaries, and brackthroughs. These cubist paintings, one by Picasso, one by Braque and one by Dali were practicaly impossible to tell apart, who did which one (dark colors, small grid, similar sizes...). I didn´t even know that Dali had painted cubist stuff.They knew each other and they were probabily friends, and talked about painting so that´s an element to juge whether there is rip off or influence. Now we are living in a diferent time, with daily overdoses of visual stimulation and a suspect can just claim comon references from tv, comics, toys, etc.
But imitating recognizadle elements from sucessful painters just to earn money, isn´t right.
Great work, Mr. Soto.

Anonymous said...

Picasso and Braque (and a couple of other artists) actually lived in the same building, hanging out together constantly... They (purposely) invented cubism together working from Cezanne's body of work as a starting point (still lifes, etc).

An example of influence that goes in a positive direction might be the Impressionists who eagerly supported each other while investigating a new way of expressing themselves, yet each came up with his own voice, utilizing his own strengths & vision. Supposedly, van Gogh was so impressed with what he witnessed after hanging out with them that he changed up his style going forward - yet he never stole from them and as we all have been lucky to witness created astonishing works in his lifetime. Cheers to the wicked talented and jeers to the biters.

Mr.Letterman said...

Picasso and Braque invented cubism. DalĂ­ did some cubism paintings only to learn, to investigate but he didn´t painted the same guitar as Picasso did or took those famous collages from Braque. What do I mean with this?: That I agree if somebody wants to take Soto´s art as inspiration and he uses the same style, the same brush technique... the problem comes when that person copies even the same elements. They paint those robots with wings, the sun rays, those famous blue clouds!!!. Tell those kids to learn copying the style but not making money with the same characters.

Anonymous said...

I saw a ufo at night in moreno valley a couple weeks ago and then one in corona the day after it creeped me out too, but I go to the art institute and I see students ripping off other students work or other artist work, I just do my own thing, stick to my own style, and try to keep a low key because I dont want to see any kids copying my work. Lately I have seen a lot of people ripping off Jeff's artwork in the clothing industry heres a good example- http://a817.ac-images.myspacecdn.com/images01/35/l_6c71fe84c41a04d6b569564c4fc86708.jpg (you have to be logged into myspace to view it)

Fabritzio said...

Great insights and comments - An artist has to find their own voice and a way to tell their stories and dreams - It's easy to trace someone elses footprints.....scream out your own message...you can even whisper it sometimes - but as long it's your own message, you'll keep on moving.

Andrew Marathas said...

I'm most definitely a proponent of constantly evolving with one's artwork. More than half the excitement for me comes from my ability to take what I'm working on and the way that I'm working, and just throw the whole thing out the window and start fresh. I draw inspiration from other artists, but that's just a natural part of the process; and there's a fine line between being inspired by something inadvertently and being a ripoff who's consciously trying to sell themselves off of someone else.


Take care,

Andrew from Montserrat

Andrew Marathas said...

Also, as a random, researched aside: you play World of Warcraft? I just recently quit, myself. I was quite the trusty tank, if I do say so myself.


Take care,

Andrew from Montserrat

n-i-kola said...

Grat work, I like your crasy style

jds said...

Homechinchilla,
You know that I only comment on your blog to give you shit, so here goes:

You're gonna "keep it light" then get into one of the deepest issues I've seen you discuss on your blog. WTF?

Your dad has a fan! That's awesome.

I lost my cellphone so I don't have your cell, home or studio number. I could probably find them, but I'm a lazy mofo. You're probably enjoying not havin' me bug you, so I don't expect you to rush the digits off to me :)

To weigh in on what appears to be the topic of the week, I think it's a bit like jazz. It is part of the culture to take the work of another and to use that as a starting point for improvisation. But to straight replicate the work of another, well, a band shouldn't cover a song if it can't improve on the original. That's the main reason no one should do cover versions of Beatles or Jimi Hendrix songs.

Later.

Em said...

Hey!
Here in London I just saw an insurance commercial that featured hoardes of Sotoesque creatures, some of which were direct copies of Soto radio creatures and box creatures. Without a doubt they've been ripping off your stuff!

narangkar said...

I'm always seeing biters and rip-offs, and sometimes, as an artist and gallerist in Oakland it gets a little embarrassing to see it so overwhelmingly rampant in our little local scene. As if the curators haven't ever heard of Barry McGee before... and his work's been ripped of for like ten years now...

But on a note about Picasso and Cubism. Has anyone ever scene photos of art classes in the 50's? I've seen a bunch from California School of Fine Arts back when Bischoff and Park were painting/drawing teachers. ALL the student work looks like a bunch of Picasso clones, but in figure drawing class. good greif.

It makes me think that many artists are encourage to clone someone famous, or become clones of their mentor or teacher. CCAC has many Baron Storey followers and clones. very few move on to truly individual work. Now Christopher Brown at CCA has a heck of a lot of disciples taking bits and bobs of his style,which is in and of itself derivative of the Bay Area Figurative artists.

And honestly? I think it strokes those peoples' egos a bit to know there are young lads and lasses that are ready to be molded and shaped, and by just enough coddling and cajoling, they've done just that - created a disciple, rather than a true individualistic artist.

So, you see in the 50's there were hundreds of Picasso clones - but none were Picasso except for Picasso. Even some of Roy Lichtenstein's earlier works were highly derivative of Picasso. I seen it with me own eyes. I guess in hindsight it all seems pretty trivial.

Anonymous said...

I read this post just before I went to check out the Sheridan Illustration grad show (Toronto, Canada). As an illustrator myself (who isn't nowadays?), I was almost relieved to find that the only artists producing professional caliber work in their graduating class were essentially cut-rate versions of yourself and other notable illustrators. The fact that the only people in the group who had the chops to create good work were completely unable to think for themselves means just a few less competitors this year. And, honestly, I'm thinking that's not such a bad thing.

fillstheills said...

i was surprised to see the last comment from "anonymous" re: the sheridan illustration grad show. although i can acknowledge the fact that there are indeed many in my class who are influenced, (and some who downright lift elements and 'style') by jeff soto- there were many who are not. there were many illustrators in fact, who were doing some very cool things and making some very cool, original images.

this is my point: i do professional caliber work. i was part of the sheridan grad show. and i am insulted that this "anonymous" would be so bold as to group every illustrator with "chops" into a category that is "unable to think for themselves" and simply copies other people's work. i am influenced, as is any other emerging illustrator, by many of the visuals we see each day- but it is simply not true that i, and i am speaking for myself here, am so mindless and shameless to lift other artist's work.

ps: there were many original illustrators at the show.

pps: i think this guy was just trying to kiss your ass.

fillstheills said...

i was surprised to see the last comment from "anonymous" re: the sheridan illustration grad show. although i can acknowledge the fact that there are indeed many in my class who are influenced, (and some who downright lift elements and 'style') by jeff soto- there were many who are not. there were many illustrators in fact, who were doing some very cool things and making some very cool, original images.

this is my point: i do professional caliber work. i was part of the sheridan grad show. and i am insulted that this "anonymous" would be so bold as to group every illustrator with "chops" into a category that is "unable to think for themselves" and simply copies other people's work. i am influenced, as is any other emerging illustrator, by many of the visuals we see each day- but it is simply not true that i, and i am speaking for myself here, am so mindless and shameless to lift other artist's work.

ps: there were many original illustrators at the show.

pps: i think this guy was just trying to kiss your ass.

Martha Rich said...

Hi Jeff I am procrastinating right now reading your blog.

Liz said...

it made me pretty depressed to walk into a gallery recently and see work that i thought was yours but was really someone else's. i think a lot of people can see right though the imitators though. good luck with everything.

cata said...

" We’re artists not businesses, don’t forget that "
I'm agree with you.
Your art is amazing!
thanks for sharing
Regards from Italy.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, I think you are an enigma as an artist in your own right and I am huge fan of your work, but I also have some thoughts on the subject that I hope you don't take the wrong way. I do notice quite a few imitators out there, and you certainly have a lot of trademark imagery, but do you truly think you are the first person to paint a box with wings and eyes?

Certainly a combination of things make up a style, and your style is unique, but I have seen some of the subject matter that you use regularly in the past. Organic tentacles, inanimate objects with wings and I'm going back 15+ years.

I think each individual as an artist definitely evolve/borrows from their influences and that is what makes an artist come into their own.

I do agree that there are people out there directly ripping you off . I just hope you understand that people are genuinely influenced by the things that they see.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, I think you are an enigma as an artist in your own right and I am huge fan of your work, but I also have some thoughts on the subject that I hope you don't take the wrong way. I do notice quite a few imitators out there, and you certainly have a lot of trademark imagery, but do you truly think you are the first person to paint a box with wings and eyes?

Certainly a combination of things make up a style, and your style is unique, but I have seen some of the subject matter that you use regularly in the past. Organic tentacles, inanimate objects with wings and I'm going back 15+ years.

I think each individual as an artist definitely evolve/borrows from their influences and that is what makes an artist come into their own.

I do agree that there are people out there directly ripping you off . I just hope you understand that people are genuinely influenced by the things that they see.

Cort said...

hay Jeff i love This Pic "sorry if that HTML code didnt work or was incorrect, but i was relating to http://bp0.blogger.com/_cdpdOTlnb8A/Ri1VN5SuGcI/AAAAAAAAAG4/N646shWPCUM/s1600-h/dps18.jpg"














Anny way! i was going to say....
i really like the little guy on the right, he is cool, do i have your permission to have him as a tattoo on me?

Cort-s@hotmail.com

fickilians said...

u really like your work. and those canvas's of yours are just great :D they look delicious without the paint on .. what if their was;)

alanac said...

what can you do? imitation is what art students are taught from day one. draw from life. draw what you like to see.. draw your favorite this/or that. of course there are going to be overlaps, and you might feel like you deserve credit, but then again, you might get over yourself and stop complaining. really. imitation is publicity/propaganda. why not ask juxtapose to include more variety in their shitty publication? maybe those galleries would find different artists to latch onto and find similar artists to represent for the sake of making an easy dollar.