The PFP project launch prompted a debate over the line between plagiarism and inspiration for digital art.
Is there enough room for two Western-themed art types in the NFT art scene? Some fans say that the “Outlaws” NFT collection, which was just released, is too similar to the work of artist Jeremy Booth.
Last Wednesday, Outlaws held a public mint for 10,000 profile picture (PFP) NFTs. Collectors could buy one of these digital collectibles for 0.05 Ethereum. Since then, they have all sold out, and OpenSea’s website says that the cheapest Outlaws NFT costs 0.067 Ethereum right now.
Explaining it as a moral grey area, one self-described NFT artist named Sadboi said the Outlaws initiative left them feeling “conflicted” on Friday. From their perspective, it is a “obvious reproduction of what another artist is doing.”
The statement was an allusion to Booth, a prominent artist in the NFT sphere that takes a minimalist and cinematic approach to Western-themed art. His latest series named “Dirt” is just one example of how, over time, the artist has developed a unique way of capturing landscapes and characters.
The pseudonymous art curator Artifaction? characterized the accusations of plagiarism as somewhat overblown, and he suggested that people look into the past of Western-style art before making any claims.
“The NFT space has a truly bewildering set of collectors and keyboard warriors that believe any inspiration taken from any artist is a rip off,” they wrote. “Just take the image and do a Google image search and you’re gonna find icons that have been executing this style […] for over half a century.”
Outlaws and Booth’s Western-themed works have a lot in common, like how they both have a lot of cowboy hats and wide-open landscapes. The backgrounds of both are made up of simple, pleasing shapes, and subjects’ facial features are often accentuated by deep dark shadows.
Yet, parts of both Outlaws and Booth’s Western-themed NFTs are similar to a set of posters made by artists for the National Parks Service between 1938 and 1941. These posters show places like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.
Before there was any debate about the project’s style, Outlaws talked about its roots at the beginning of April. They talked about how the backgrounds were chosen and how the colors for the whole collection were chosen.
In the blog post, the project also names “Frederic Remington, Charles Marion Russell, and Albert Bierstadt” as artists who influenced its Western look. In terms of how the characters look, the post makes comparisons to classic Westerns like “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” and “The Magnificent Seven.”
“By drawing inspiration from such a diverse range of artists, we aimed to create a collection that celebrates the rich history and culture of the American West while also offering a fresh and exciting perspective on the genre,” it states.
On Twitter, Booth made plain to his followers that he’s not affiliated with Outlaws, calling it a red flag that his name was mentioned by the project’s official Twitter account when it was reaching out to prospective collectors.
In reaction, the Outlaws Twitter account mentioned Malika Favre and Levente Szabo as examples of artists who paved the way for the flat style of the PFP collection. It also said that art with a Western theme is not new and that the project never tried to pass itself off as Booth’s work.
“We’ve never tried to pass [off] that we are him and have been clear on that,” the account wrote. “Please take a moment to compare one of his portraits to ours–if you look closely the difference is actually significant.”
In addition, the Outlaws account stated that it retweeted a statement from Booth on April 4 that claimed he’s not affiliated with the initiative back.
Booth said in a separate Tweet that he didn’t have a problem with the project’s style. Instead, he didn’t like how his name was mentioned in private messages and how he was tagged in some of the collection’s promotional content.
Booth said he doesn’t want to talk about the problem any more and wants to move on to making more Western art.
Outlaws was mentioned as a trending project on OpenSea’s home page as of Sunday afternoon. According to OpenSea’s website, the collection achieved a total sales volume of 2,668 Ethereum, or more than $5.6 million.
Even though the release of Outlaws “certainly” affected Booth, he said he’s making “a conscious decision to be better than bitter” on Twitter. He said, “I’ve been doing this for a long time, I’ll still be here when the smoke clears.”
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