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Friday, February 13, 2009

Reilly Brown's Art Theft V Brian Bolland's Paid For Sketch...WTF?

You'd not read about this and believe it, but then the truth is always stranger than fiction. Bear with me here, I'll work in reverse because the most important message needs to come first. At the recent New York Comic Convention artist Reilly Brown had a pile of art stolen from his table.

This is the message from Reilly:

"I'm Reilly Brown, I'm an artist for Marvel comics and have worked on things like Cable & Deadpool, Hulk vs Hercules, and New Warriors. At the NY Comic Con I had a table in artist's alley and among other things, I was displaying pages of my original comic work in two black portfolio books. At the end of the convention I realized that one of the books was missing. The two books were stacked, and it was the one on the bottom that got swiped, so I think they just slid it out from underneath and walked off.

"So that really sucks, and I'm pretty bummed about it. I've never had anything stolen from a convention before, so I guess I'm going to have to learn to be more careful in the future.

"But anyway, since they took a whole book, they've got a whole lot of pages, so they'll probably end up trying to sell them. I've filed a police report already, and now I'm trying to get in touch with all the comic art dealers, collectors, and other people who are part of the original art selling part of the industry, and asking them to keep an eye out in case any of the pieces ever surface.

"Here's a list of the things that were taken. Most of it is from Cable & Deadpool, and the one bright side of this is that the book that was taken was the book of "cheap" pages I had, so very few of the pages were worth over $100. So anyway, if you can keep an eye out for me, I'd really appreciate it."

The art includes the following:
Marvel Holiday Special 2005
page 7
page 8
page 12
page 21

Cable & Deadpool #28
page 5
page 8
page 9&10 (plus page of hologram overlays)

Cable & Deadpool #33
page 5
page 12
page 13
page 18
page 21

Cable & Deadpool #34
page 11
page 12
page 15

Cable & Deadpool #35
page 4 (in the original art it's the Naked Cowboy with a guitar,
not a construction worker with a tuba)
page 10
page 18
page 19
page 21

Cable & Deadpool #40
page 9
page 11
page 16
page 17
page 18
page 21

Cable & Deadpool #41
page 1
page 6
page 18
page 23

Cable & Deadpool #42
page 10
page 23

Cable & Deadpool #45
page 1
page 6
page 7
page 8
page 10
page 12
page 13

Cable & Deadpool #46
page 21

Cable & Deadpool #48
page 11

Cable & Deadpool #49
page 5
page 19

Cable & Deadpool #50
page 6
page 11
page 15

That's a lot of pages. Around 50 pages, most not worth more than $100 per page. You do the maths. If you see the art then email Reilly directly and tell him. A police report has been filed, so anyone attempting to sell or trade this art will be doing so knowing that it was stolen. If you have it and don't want to tell Reilly then email me and I'll broker a deal between you and Reilly and make sure he gets his art back.

A crime indeed. An up and coming artist (who I've never met, spoken to or emailed) has several pages stolen worth a few grand, hell you'd expect the comic art collecting community to be up and arms. Well, wouldn't you?

You'd be so wrong if you said you would. You see all a lot of them can focus on right at the moment is this: a Brian Bolland sketch. Seriously. Was the Bolland stolen? Nope, it was fully paid for, a simple convention sketch. Yet this sketch has gotten so many people up in arms, claiming that it violates all ethics and should be against the law. So what's wrong with it?

Nothing. It's a perfectly good Bolland Judge Dredd sketch. It'd look good framed and on a wall. So why the fuss? You see the person selling it bought it from Bolland at the same show that Reilly had his art stolen and then listed it on eBay the next day. According to some this is a crime that should be punishable by death. Some akin the 'flipping' of the art as being a breach of trust, a violation of the personal connection that has been established and built between an artist and the person buying the sketch.

What connection? An artist at a show isn't there to be your pal. He's there to make money. The odds are they don't know who you are, even if you have emailed them more than once, and they won't recall you after you're gone. They might recall the sketch, but wouldn't be able to name who they did it for. If you don't know the artist beforehand then you can count on there not being a personal connection between yourself and the artist, after all how deep a connection can you establish with someone in a few minutes at a busy show? Not a great one.

It's a sketch, that's all. I've bought several convention style sketches over the years from eBay. I own a Bolland Animal Man sketch that I bought from a well known dealer a few days after Bolland attended a show. I'm happy with it - I can't contact Bolland, I can't travel to the shows (although there are some comic art collectors who feel that if you can't attend the shows then you don't deserve the art....ok...) so it's not like I'll be able to get him to do the sketch I want. I own a stunning Walter Simonson Judge Dredd convention sketch - someone lined up to buy it and then sold it, via eBay, to myself. I love it. I own some amazing convention style sketches, a lot of them Norm Breyfogles, and there's a lot more I want to get. I could email a few artists tommorrow and get a sketch, but I don't because I don't wish to impose. I'd love an Alan Weiss sketch, but I'd rather buy one, hopefully directly from Alan but if not, then from either eBay or the ComicArtFans site. I'd adore a physical sketch from Michael Netzer, but I won't ask him because that'd be rude - one will turn up eventually. I could go on and on with the names of artists who I'd love to get a simple sketch or a commission from, but I won't bore you anymore than I need to.

In the grand scheme of things the selling of a convention style sketch on eBay, ComicArtFans or any such site isn't a crime - it's serving the comic art community as a whole, and that means serving those collectors who live outside of the busy convention circuit - ie: America. The comic art community is a world wide community and those outside of America use any means possible to buy art from and by those artists they admire (I generally attempt to buy directly from the artists, but hey...if it's a good piece...). And when over 60 messages are devoted to the ethics, the rights and wrongs of selling convention sketches, especially those sold a few days after the event, and nothing is said about a major art theft at the same show...well I can't help but wonder why I bother interacting with some people in this community. Note: I said SOME, not all. There's a few who have their heads screwed on firmly, others have enough room between their ears for a flock of seagulls to fly through without hitting the sides.

Get a grip boys and girls. It's art, we all love it, but there's a far larger picture on hand. Help Reilly get his art back and stop bleating like stuck sheep about a Bolland sketch, a sketch that the owner bought and well within his rights to do whatever he wants to do with it. He can sell it, burn it, colour it in, use it for toilet paper or line the bird cage with it if he wants. I bet Bolland doesn't feel a personal connection with the guy who bought it, and I doubt the guy who bought it feels any connection with Bolland. It's a sketch. In a hobby where people routinely rip people off, where dealers prey on the unsuspecting collectors and artists (using that great excuse of, "Well, they should have done research before coming to me,"), where collectors and dealers alike knowingly deal in and trade stolen art, well this isn't even on the minor end of the scale, it's not even on the scale. I ain't gonna win any new friends with this post, and I'm sure I'll lose a few, but so be it.

Bolland got paid, Brown didn't.

Perspective. Ever heard of it? Look it up kiddies...

6 comments:

Satima Flavell said...

While I feel a tad uncomfortable at the idea of buying only in order to sell on at once and no doubt at a profit, I throughly detest the idea of stealing an artist's portfolio from under his very nose. That's absolutely not OK, by any standards of decency, and more to the point, by the law. Any fan who does that and is caught deserves to be ostracised by the fannish community.

Jerry said...

I do believe in karma and whoever took off with that portfolio is in for it. I really hope they get caught.

As far as the Bolland sketch goes, you're right, this is a business. While I probably wouldn't do that (never say never) with a paid sketch, it was a PAID sketch. This kind of thing is why a lot of artists don't do free sketches (understandably) or charge a premium for certain characters, like Erik Larsen does with Spidey or Byrne does with group X-Men pieces.

And like you said, I've benefited from this, as a buyer. I'm not able to go to many cons, so I love being able to get con pieces from artists that I normally would never see.

I will NEVER sell my free sketches, and probably not even my paid ones, it just feels dirty, but it is the right of the owner. So yes, the outrage should be over the stolen portfolio, because you know what? Any true Bolland fan knows that he inks almost exclusively digitally now and new original artwork is going to be hard to come by, and I bet they bid on that Judge Dredd piece.

Danny said...

I do wonder about the motives of people who scream so loudly and passionately about a flipped sketch and yet remain so silent about a portfolio of stolen art.

I have thought about bidding on the Dredd, but I have other fish to flay. My own Bolland was a flipped sketch and I won't be parting with it.

Anonymous said...

Danny, You're absolutely right here. This is something I've heard argued quite a few times. Not only with convention sketches either, but commissions, comic pages, prelims, you name it. You and I are in total agreement on this one. If the artist gets paid for his work, it's over with. The buyer can do whatever he'd like with his purchase(s).
George "The Stooges"

Harry Mendryk said...

While I agree with 99% of this post, I will have to disagree on one point. I do not believe that when someone buys art they now have the right to do anything with the art they wish to. Legally they do, but morally a distinct and definate NO. No one should willingly alter or destroy art. Never.

craftkitten said...

man is there a lot of anger or hurt feelings here. sorry, I have a different viewpoint.

Anyone who buys the artwork from me has the right to do with it whatever they want. That is why it is called "buying". They take ownership of the piece. I believe that the first con sketch that I ever sold was back in 1988, and I've done tons since then.

Since I collect original art, I've spent a great deal of time going trhough stacks and stacks of artwork at cons, looking for the hidden gems (something that hte internet has taken all the fun out of really) and occassionally finding an old sketch, an ink job over a ron lim pencil from '91 or '92 when we would sit together at cons. It didn't hurt my feelings, quite the contrary, i loved having a piece that was "in circulation", on the market so to speak. I love knowing that one of my pieces is down in Australia in Royd's collection.

I detest that the artist got his portfolio stolen. That is awful, and i truly feel sorry for him. It is a crime and I hope that they catch the scummy thief. Same thing with the guys who stole the starlin splash from Moy three years ago. But a piece that has been paid for? Forget it, the artist already has. We're used to having our work handed over to the publishers and manhandled. Same thing here. There is no overarching moral or ethical right when it comes to a con sketch. sorry.