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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 88 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Using public domain art  (Read 4554 times)
Rexfelis
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Posts: 54


« on: March 05, 2004, 07:24:32 AM »

I'm puzzled why I don't see more public domain art in rpg's. There's a large body of works from the history of art to choose from. For fantasy rpg's alone, people like Gustave Dore, Albrecht Durer, and Aubrey Beardsley would be a great resource.

If I ever publish one of my rpg's, I'd be strongly tempted to get art from the public domain. Is there a reason why it's not done more often?

Rexfelis
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Valamir
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« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2004, 08:36:24 AM »

I would suspect that its hard to get the art at a high enough resolution to look good in print.  My guess is that most public domain art available on line has been scanned in at a low resolution that looks ok on a web page but would look pretty crappy in print.

But its certainly an avenue worth looking into, there may well be some real gems out there.   If you happen to find a source where a good bit of art is collected at good resolution, I'd sure love to know about it.

TROS did use some images from historical fighting manuals in the book which I believe came from ARMA's private collection.  They were some of my favorite images but IIRC did look alot like a copy of a copy.
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matthijs
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« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2004, 08:43:02 AM »

If you're willing to scan the images yourself, and you're lucky enough to find stuff that fits your setting, there's lots of good books of public domain art from the last few hundred years. However, as soon as you're looking for something specific, like this and this character type, or just that kind of weaponry/armour, you'll easily end up frustrated.

Ars Magica 1. edition used public domain medieval artwork, IIRC.
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daMoose_Neo
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« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2004, 09:28:59 AM »

Dee Dreslough (http://www.dreslough.com) is a fantasy artist whos put all of her work in public domain~ Some really nice dragon stuff there, free to use on websites or commercial ventures~
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Nate Petersen / daMoose
Neo Productions Unlimited! Publisher of Final Twilight card game, Imp Game RPG, and more titles to come!
Rexfelis
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Posts: 54


« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2004, 11:41:10 AM »

Quote from: Valamir
I would suspect that its hard to get the art at a high enough resolution to look good in print.  My guess is that most public domain art available on line has been scanned in at a low resolution that looks ok on a web page but would look pretty crappy in print.


True. I don't know a damn thing about publishing, graphics programs, or what have you, but I did know that. I figured it would be worth it to drop some cash to get a good quality print from an image archive or something. Cheaper than paying for original art, at any rate. And, there's a lot of really great work in the public domain.

Rexfelis
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Daniel Solis
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« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2004, 05:55:53 PM »

If you have a college near you, seek out their art history library. Keep in mind that subject matter tends to be limited the further back you go in history. The medieval and proto-rennaisance are dominated by religious subjects. After the reformation, protestant artists moved to doing portraits, landscapes and still lifes. So just keep these limitations in mind.
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Meatbot Massacre
Giant robot combat. No carbs.
coxcomb
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« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2004, 10:14:14 PM »

A large body of historical artwork and design is available in print form from Dover. You would have to do a little more in-depth research about their copyright-free usage agreements, but there's a wealth of good stuff there--and their books are dirt cheap.
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Jay Loomis
Coxcomb Games
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Peter Hollinghurst
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« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2004, 02:49:32 AM »

You need to be carefull  that the art reallis IS public domain. Some art that you would think is is actually covered by copyright still. Scanning famous paintings from books may not be a good way to get 'copyright free' artwork since the representation of the art in the book may be covered by copyright and the holders of the original artwork charge for reproductions. Its a tricky point of copyright and one where I believ there has been a lot of disagreements in the past. I would certainly suggest that you intend to sell a game with 'public domain' artwork that you check that it actually is, and where it is stated work is 'copyright free' check to see if there are terms in the small print regarding numbers of reproductions, use for profit and so on.
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madelf
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« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2004, 10:54:34 AM »

The dover books are useful, but they limit you to ten images from any given book per publication you are using them in. Still a few different books from them could get you a long way. Finding ones that fit the feel of the game would be the tough part.

The safest way to get public domain artwork is to use original sources published prior to 1923. Anything published earlier than that is in the public domain, however a newer reprint of something created earlier may very likely be covered by copyright.

I'm using quite a lot of art that has passed into the public domain for the game I'm working on. It's a pseudo-victorian setting and I have a sizable stack of bound Harper magazines from the 1870s that I'm collecting images from. Not only is it cheap (free), and convenient, it's also perfect for the setting. I'm hoping they'll help give it an authentic feel.
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Calvin W. Camp

Mad Elf Enterprises
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James Holloway
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« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2004, 11:16:51 AM »

Quote from: madelf
The dover books are useful, but they limit you to ten images from any given book per publication you are using them in. Still a few different books from them could get you a long way. Finding ones that fit the feel of the game would be the tough part.


For fantasy-type games, your best bets might be Devils, Demons and Witchcraft andtreasury of fantastic creatures. For my 1920s games, I get a lot of mileage out of spot illustrations of the 20s and 30s. Signs, seals and symbols is pretty good too. You may want to check your local public library -- I know mine has a bunch of Dover books, and this is a good way to see which ones would best suit your purpose.
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talysman
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« Reply #10 on: March 14, 2004, 01:36:49 PM »

if you're able to do your own touch-up work (or hire someone to do it,) one good overlooked source of public domain art would be still captures from films in the Prelinger archive. it's more than a thousand films, mostly '50s and '60s, all in the public domain (OK, maybe some aren't, but the entry for each film clearly indicates whether it's PD or not.)

if you're doing a mostly-modern game, then, capturing stills from one of these films and modifying it in a high resolution could be a good way tofill your art needs... at the very least, it's good for filler, so you can concentrate on spending your art budget on 2-3 commissioned pieces.
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John Laviolette
(aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
rpg projects: http://www.globalsurrealism.com/rpg
clehrich
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« Reply #11 on: March 14, 2004, 09:38:33 PM »

For artworks from the pre-20th century, look for late 19th century art books.  Some of them have lovely lithographs of artworks, and if you scan them yourself they really are free.  This won't get you very far with color art, but for black-and-white you get a lot for a little.

If you're doing medieval/early-modern Europe, that classic setting, look at drawings by masters such as Durer, Rembrandt, and so forth.  There was an AD&D historical setting book called A Mighty Fortress that had lots of art by people like Rembrandt, and let me tell you that is the most beautiful RPG book I've ever seen.  Not to disparage anyone here or anything, but Rembrandt's visionary sorcerer staring at an occult glowing sign hanging in the air is a different ball of wax from even very good RPG art.  Something I'd love to see as the frontispiece to an Ars Magica-type game!

Chris Lehrich
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Chris Lehrich
Pynchon
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« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2004, 09:19:47 AM »

I would love to see more supplements using Rembrandt, Rossini, Drurer et al. I agree that the best fantasy art doesn't come anywhere close to the above mentioned. I've just begun exploring the possibility. The problem seem that since it is difficult to find images that exactly illustrate your needs you have to look for illustration that create the 'mood'. A trickier activity but rewarding. If I come across good sources I'll pass them along. I'd apreciate hearing of any sources you've found.
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Storn
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Posts: 228


« Reply #13 on: March 26, 2004, 09:33:03 AM »

Quote
but Rembrandt's visionary sorcerer staring at an occult glowing sign hanging


You should see on of the original prints of that piece.  And if you are in Chicago... you can, like I did.  It is at the current Rembrandt exhibit at the Chicago Institute of Art thru May 8th (I think its the 8th, close to that).


but why not more public domain art?  

Because even historical settings, it is tough to get art to fit the words.  Often, Rembrandt, Durer are FILLED with anachronisms.  So, if you want historical accuracy, those aren't going to help you much.

If you are doing a fantasy setting, made up... again it might be hard to find artwork that FITS the text.  Not many elves running around in anyone's work except MAYBE Bosch.

Besides, there is a large crop of artists, alive and kicking , who certainly could use good patronage.
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talysman
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« Reply #14 on: March 27, 2004, 10:14:47 AM »

here's a question: what kind of costs are involved in using public domain works of Rembrandt, Bosch, and others?

I'm wondering specifically about whether there is some limitation on using a print in an artbook. the original painting itself may be in the public domain, but there's the possibility that the artbook's reproduction is considered a derivative work under its own copyright.

there's also the expenses involved in making a good quality reproduction of such art. woodcuts and engravings, here, would not be a problem, which is why the FUDGE book (for example) uses public domain art effectively. but I'm thinking Rembrandt hasn't really been used because of expenses involved. can anyone confirm any hard data on costs?
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John Laviolette
(aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
rpg projects: http://www.globalsurrealism.com/rpg
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