Jul 18, 2009

Rogues' Gallery

My original tribal face tattoo art.

Over the past eight months I've been collecting a rogues' gallery of assorted people who have used my art to either get a tattoo or create a tattoo for another person. None of the people in this post sought permission to use my art and a few even posted my art within their own online accounts, listing it with their own copyright notice.

Every time I post about this topic I get a swarm of people saying "If I were you I'd be flattered!" or "You should be happy people like your work!" etc. Well let me say before I get any further that of course I'm flattered that people like my art and want to get it permanently tattooed on their body. Who wouldn't be?

That said, neither of those two comments excuse anyone from the obligation of getting permission to use another persons artwork. It's my art period the end and if they want to use it they should ask first. A handful have done this and I've worked out very fair arrangements with them and they've received flash sheets from me to assist them in getting my art tattooed with precision. The people in this post didn't do that.

Derived art by Michel Schwarz.

Michel did ask permission to use my art, but it came after he already had the tattoo done. Personally I think he should have just drawn the whole thing out himself, he obviously has the chops. But over all it came out pretty good and he was nice enough to share the picture with me.

My tribal face poorly executed on Natas Filth. (Screen Name)

Some one had emailed me a link that had the photo of the shoulder. I did some connecting the dots and found it's home on Natas. Beautiful women, but an ugly tattoo job. Too bad.

My original tribal bat tattoo art.

This design is becoming my most popular tattoo design. It's showing up all over the place like walking portfolios.

My tribal bat perched on the back of TheDeadAmongUs. (Screen Name)

Originally I thought this tattoo was used by a goth girl celebrity from Transilvania, Romania named Razor Candi? But the real persona behind the costume visual branding seems to be quite normal and answered my email informing me she doesn't have a tattoo on her back.

So I did some more poking around on Deviantart.com and discovered it is on the back of "TheDeadAmongUs" AKA Lauren. (Who apparently is a fan of "Razor Candi)

Lauren values her privacy so she doesn't reveal her last name in her profile, but she does share the fact she loves classic cars, death rock, body modification, vintage corsets, latex fashion, dermal implants, hairless cats, b-rated movies, roller derby and one could argue my tribal tattoo art as well.

My tribal bat on "Hell Ya Buddy!" (Screen Name)

I get asked all the time "How do you find these?" well usually I don't. Most often it works like this:

- Receive email saying: "Hey is this your art?" (Link provided)
- Visit link and usually see a hostage quality photo showing my art
- Shake head, groan, and say "Weasel!"
- Ask person to remove the image showing my art
- Blog about it here

My tribal bat on the leg of Helen Norcross.

OK, so my preference is shown on the left and reality is shown on the right.

If it were up to me I'd make some kind of tattoo law that only allowed well proportioned young people to get them done. Tattoos look great on beautiful bodies but not so hot on the modus operandi of the greater populace. (That includes me BTW)

I have no idea what Helen Norcross looks like? Flickr.com had all kinds of pictures of her family and husband but she always seemed to be behind the camera.

My tribal bat tickling Sherri Langfords leg.

It looks like a guy by the name of Bull Snook is claiming copyright ownership of my work. Well that is a bunch of bull! (Pun intended) And Sherri should know better being a photographer herself.

At best it's a clear case of derivative work.

My tribal bat kickin' it on the calf of Ramsey1984's. (Screen Name)

Kind of a strange location to put a horizontally oriented design? But thankfully Ramsey1984's calf muscle is as meaty as a ham hock with enough real estate to suffice. The tattoo artist seems to have done a nice precise job too, so props for that.

My tribal bat hacked together on Zoro4me3's gut. (Screen Name)

The following is another example of derivative work.

It's bad enough when people use my art without permission, but it's insult upon injury when nebulous screen names have hacked my art and produce a craptacular tattoo with it.

Of course this doesn't stop people from proudly displaying it to the world via the internet of course. So lets all hug one another and celebrate mediocrity!

My tribal bat gracing the wrist of Jakk636. (Screen Name)

Tattoos like this remind me of the old PeeChee folders everyone would doodle on in school. But in this case he chose to do it on his own body instead. So for the next 70 years or so he'll have to stare at this poorly executed art and cringe.

My tribal bat scrawled on EvilMuffinMan. (Screen Name)

Do you know the muffin man, the muffin man, the muffin man, that lives on Drury Lane, and apparently hires the blind to poorly trace my tattoo design on his back.

My original tribal lion tattoo art.

It's not just people wanting a tattoo it's also tattoo artists themselves who have no qualms about using other peoples art without permission. I know there are always exceptions and many good tattoo shops try to avoid this situation, but here is one artist who didn't.

My tribal lion on some persons body done by Pisopez. (Screen Name)

Well I've managed to figure out that the artists first name is Joel and apparently Joel is some what of a renaissance man. He's an artist who paints, plays the guitar, does tattoos (see image above) and even throws axes for fun?

Joel seems to be pretty accurate with those axes too, so I'll just say this:

"Next time axe me for permission Joel!"

For information about my stock tribal designs or to have me create a custom tribal design for you visit VonsterTattoos.com.


Barb Bick said...

Good for you Von—call them out. How stupid to commit to a design on your own body but not go to the trouble to do it right. But seriously, Pisopez's slick hairdo and pensive gaze belie his maniacal, axe throwing tendencies (brings back memories of "The Shining") displayed on his video. You might want to watch out for that one!

Eric Granata said...

Hey yeah! Way to capitalize on the situation. I hope the new website works out. I look forward to seeing what you put up there.

JenniferClement said...

That is a great idea! Your tribal work does make lovely tattoos (when executed correctly) and this would allow you to be compensated, and acknowledged as the creator while providing high-quality art for the tattoo artist to use. Can't wait to see your site. I'd want one but I also agree with you that only the young and beautiful need wear them — and I am neither. (Nor do those people that qualify stay qualified for long - certainly not as long as they'll have their tattoos!!)

jojo said...

good for you for making lemonade outta lemons. or whatever the analogy. I 've posted this before. Take one of them to court and as damages make them get it removed. ha!
I know! Your solution is better! But it would be a fun court case to follow. "Tattoo recipient being sued to remove infringement tattoo!"

Chuck / GrabBagComics said...

You obviously create some great stuff, though I think it's a bit much to assume that the black-and-red belly tattoo is yours. To my eye, it looks completely different from your own (superior) design, apart from the fact that bat silhouettes all have roughly the same outer shape.

Vonster said...


Look at the body shape. That is the tell-tale sign. The fact it's poorly done and looks different because of it is kind of the point I was poking fun at.


diana_11_6 said...

In a web design class, the instructor actually told us we could find and use items online and change them just enough so that there wouldn't be copyright issues. Here's hoping someone takes his original artwork, (if he has any,) and does the same to him!

Nick said...

As a part time tattooist (and full time designer), I'd say it probably isn't always the recipient of the tattoo who picked out the design. Some of the less motivated tattoo artists out there have no problem printing an image off the internet, tracing it out and showing it to the client as their design just for them.

Just as often we will get someone who comes in with a printout of what they want exactly and they refuse to accept any changes.

Definitely not condoning either, but it can be a frustrating industry.

brh said...

One thing I'm curious about… What can be done? Ordinarily you could slap a C&D on someone, but at this point it's already on their body. Permanently. Could you get a court order to have someone laser their tattoo off? Not that I would go that route, but it's an interesting question…

Also, I agree with diana_11_6… Professors seem to be consistently ignorant of how copyright actually works. Of course if you're only using it for educational purposes, there's fair use and all that jazz, bend the rules a bit. But most professors don't seem to be very clear in explaining that bit, and then students go on throwing their hacked-together creations around town…

Steve Spatucci said...

Von, maybe the real answer here to create some tribal illustrations of the violators, then get them tattooed all over you! That would be the ultimate revenge.

Looking forward to the tattoo site, even though I don't have any and don't plan to get any, either. Like you, I'm fickle.

Anonymous said...

It's unfortunate how clueless people are about copyright. Just because you make something cool and people appreciate or identify with it does not mean they use it however they wish! I think the site you mention is a great idea.

I do, however, think your remarks about Helen Norcross were inappropriate - and it was especially distasteful to contrast her with an obviously photoshopped lingerie model as if that were some kind of ideal all women should aspire to. Her behavior (assuming she was the one who found the artwork) is reprehensible but her body should not be up for public judgment by you or anyone else.

I love your work and I think you make a really great point in this post but I hope you'll take that part down.

- Lisa

Diana said...

and another

Anonymous said...

you used my likeness without my permission and slander me....My lion was changed significantly enough to not be your image and not intefere with copyrights....You did not invent tribal nor did you invent the Lion, so i dont believe you have the right to accuse a true artist of copying your Tribal Dog shit. If you looked me up then surely you know that tribal is nowhere in my portfolio except for the lion because i have a fondness for them.Ask me Before you use my Likeness and A picture taken by a professional Photographer! looks like you're in the wrong here and if you want to make this an issue i have a Whole Design School Called Art Institute who says you're wrong and I'm right!


Vonster said...


First off you said "My lion was changed significantly enough" well all I can say is you're wrong and you need to go do your homework regarding copyright law because that argument simply doesn't hold water.

Regardless of whether it's an exact lift and to what degree you "changed" it isn't the point, derivative work is still infringement. Once again, you need to read up on the copyright act.

FYI: Slander means I've stated something that isn't true about you, and for you to prove legal defamation you'd first have to prove that what I have stated in my blog post is in fact untrue. It isn't. So roll the dice and take your chances.


Antoine de Villiers said...

This is quite an interesting issue I recently had to deal with myself (http://antoineart.blogspot.com/2009/08/original-antoine-art-tattooed.html)

Von, good for you for calling them out! Like you I feel sure, it is a compliment but darn, asking permission is the least someone could do. (Now I’m not even going into making sure that it’s a good quality infringement…)

Bara said...

I'll be waiting for your tatoo site man...I love what you do and your tutorias are really good... I am still learning and thank you for all the good tips...hope people stop stealing your art... my illustrations aren't as cool as yours but check them out anyway and if you have time let me know what you think http://www.alebarahona.com

dot said...

Your blog is well-written and relevant, and I've enjoyed reading it, but Lisa's correct regarding your comment about Helen. Kind of uncalled for, and it was a jarring note in an otherwise professional and interesting piece of writing.

Joel said...

so basically your saying that 80 of the people who have tattoos should be sued or have their tats removed because they wanted someone's artwork on themor something SIMILAR too it. you're a moron.why do you think Disney or hollywood doesnt take action against people getting cartoon characters or hollywood hotshots tattooed on them?!! If you invented tribal then thats one thing, but you didn't, and you didnt invent the lion either. only so much you can do with the 2 ideas. by the way, thanks for spending all the time researching me and finding out about me! much appreciated! you've definitely upped my internet status!!!

Vonster said...


Sorry to burst your assumptive bubble Joel but it doesn't matter how many people infringe and get away with it be Disney, or any other garden variety usage of a trademarked image. It doesn't change the fact of copyright law.

But thanks for visiting the blog and keep tossing those axes.


Joshua Sharfi said...

I must strongly disagree with you, Vonster.
Every idea, in every discipline, is built upon somebody else's idea. Culture always builds upon the past. Joel built upon yours. Copyright law is a tool that helps the past control the future. Come on, Vonster, we have all illegally downloaded songs online before. I am sure most of us online, as well as your readers are NOT particularly patriotic and passionate about abiding copyright law.... o Yay! my Simpsons season 12 download is complete! ;)

Leet said...

Art and culture is for sharing and spreading! Copyright law is outdated. Copyfight! Remix culture!

Von you are a tool of the highest order. RIAA or MPAA or lawyer status of toolness.

suk yo mother.

Vonster said...


Your ability to communicate is impeccable I see.

I guess you consider yourself part of the "Entitled Generation" that assumes you can use anything someone else created and no one should question it.

How about you get off your lazy ass and create your own original work instead of trolling blogs and documenting your ignorance.


odd odyssey said...

to add:

Joan Hume said...

Von, I am an artist who has just begun painting faces- mostly children's but occasionally adults' as well. I love your designs, am learning to execute tribal styled brushwork, and would consider it a privilege if you allowed me to attempt these designs in face paint. My own style is unique and would alter considerably the original, but you have inspired me and I would like to try. I would be so pleased if you would grant me permission. I have 'pinned' three of the designs on this page for reference, but I won't hesitate to delete them if you don't want them in my collection.

Joan Hume said...

And for the record, I took the pins off the board- I won't do anything unless I hear back from you. I have had friends who are fellow artists become inspired by things I have done and "made them their own", interpreting my ideas in their own way- there is a fine line and I try to be very careful not to fudge the line or cross it. Peace.

Vonster said...

Joan, that type of usage is OK. No worries.