The Attack on Sharing


Rarely do I use my blog for any sort of activism, but something came to light recently and I’m having a hard time keeping quiet about it.

Earlier today, Abduzeedo posted this article about an incident that happened last week. A polite outline (as expected from Abduzeedo) can be found explaining what happened and how they dealt with it, but let me highlight the section that rubbed me the wrong way…

“We featured a beautiful photo in a post, giving full credit and linking back to the photographer and his work. We loved his work, it was on 500px and featured all options of sharing including on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and even an Embed Code. Maybe too used to the idea of sharing and fair usage, we included his image.

Unfortunately, we received a series of requests, like removing the content, which we did right away, a demand for public apology, which we more than happily did on the same blog post and a penalty fee. We apologize for featuring his work on our blog. Our one and only goal was to share what inspired us with others. We are truly sorry.”

Right, so Abduzeedo shared a photo in an inspiration round-up (with credit and link) and he wanted it removed. Fair enough, we all have final say when it’s our artwork in question and he has every right to request removal. He wanted a public apology. Kinda weird given there was no damage done, but alright. And of course, Abduzeedo obliged.

Then I read the part about the penalty fee… that’s when I got uneasy. As far as I can tell, a “penalty fee” means a demand for monetary compensation. A fee… for sharing a photo with full credit? Abduzeedo never claimed ownership of the photo, nor did they re-sell the image. Confused, I clicked on the link to where the photo is housed, and arrived here on 500px. Let me draw your attention to the giant social share buttons in the upper right corner of that page, which includes an option to embed the photo in your site. See where I’m going with this?


Now, lets have a look at what 500px has on their About page… I circled a pretty key word.


As I said earlier, we all have final say when it comes to our artwork, but this raises some important questions… if one does not want their photos shared, then why would one put them on a site BUILT for sharing then attack someone who shares them? Are these penalty fees demanded from everyone who shares a photo on Pinterest? Facebook? Twitter? Ffffound? Tumblr? Where exactly do we draw the line on what sharing is acceptable and what isn’t?

Rarely do I use the Signalnoise platform in this manner, but I can’t sit idle and watch this kind of thing happen… especially to a site which has done nothing but foster creativity and inspiration for the design community for 7 years. Designers depend on sharing in order to spread work across the web, whether it’s for promotion or inspiration and I’m worried this is setting a horrible precedent.

Am I coming to the defence of Abduzeedo? Of course. But there’s a bigger issue here, the core idea of sharing.

I urge you to discuss your feelings and views, because man, I really think this needs to be discussed. The louder the better.


Superman by James White

I’m proud to release the poster I contributed to the SUPER poster art show for The Roost in Newcastle, Australia. I was thrilled when the team reached out to me, all the way on the other side of the globe to contribute. They didn’t want duplicate heroes in the show, so selecting which hero you wanted to do a poster of was first come, first served. Luckily for me, the Man of Steel was up for grabs. I jumped at it.

I’ll say this: creating a Superman poster was nowhere near easy, and halfway through I found myself in a tough spot. Here’s the scoop. I knew straight away that I wanted to create a Superman poster that honoured MY Superman. The classic costume, bright colours, smile on his face. Proud. Not the strange version of Superman we have today with that weird costume, desaturated colours, leaking heat vision whenever he gets pissed off… I don’t even know who that guy is.

No, I’ll be designing MY Superman which was a bigger challenge than I expected since he’s been my hero my entire life. I planted about 12 hours into the initial design, only to scrap it days before the deadline and redevelop it from the ground up… while on a plane to Wisconsin. I’m an idiot.

I started with some quick digital mock-ups to figure out the pose, colours and overall composition. The poster had to sum up a number of ideas and not just be a portrait piece. I toyed with the idea of putting in the chrome Superman symbol from the Bob Peak poster, but couldn’t make it look right. Even messed with a “Fortress of Solitude creating the Superman logo” like an Olly Moss piece, but I didn’t dig it. Eventually I arrived at a simple flying pose that looked proud and strong.

Superman by James White

Digital sketch concepts: Photoshop.

Superman by James White

Digital sketch concepts: Photoshop.

Superman by James White

Digital sketch concepts: Photoshop and Adobe Ideas colour mock-up.

That design on the right was created in Adobe Ideas on my iPad during the flight and ended up being the foundation for the pose and palette seen in the final. It was my first time using Ideas, and it really worked for what I needed. Well done, Adobe!

But I didn’t settle right away. I pulled out my Field Notes and started sketching the composition, playing with Superman’s design, angle, arm position and a bunch of other things. What would Superman’s body and face look like? I needed these things nailed down before I got to the hotel in Madison WI so I had very few guesses to make. I had basically 1 day in the hotel to build the entire poster. Yikes.

Superman by James White

Sketchbook concepts and thumbnails.

Superman by James White

Sketchbook concepts for Superman’s design. Right: Head and shoulders sketch.

Superman by James White

Final sketchbook concept and vector design.

After I felt everything was ‘sort of’ in place, especially after roughing that sketch on the left I opened Illustrator and got to it. A lot of scrutiny went into those vectors before I moved into Photoshop for all my effects, texture lighting and construction work. The final looks more ‘Bruce Timm-y’ than I intended, but I always kind of drew Superman in the style of the ’90s cartoon… sort of. I also shifted the style and process to mimic my console illustrations done earlier this year.

The addition of the jets and planets was VERY last minute, and I’d like to thank the crew at The Roost for allowing me the slight update. Those little elements add so much to the poster and I’m thrilled they let me get away with it, especially after I had sent them the ‘final file’. You guys rule for putting up with me.

Superman by James White

Initial concept. I scrapped this direction after 12 hours of work.

And seen above is the initial idea I started to build. 12 hours of digital painting. I got to the point where the image looked forced. The concept wasn’t very inspired and I became bored looking at it. This is when I made the tough decision to scrap the entire poster and re-think it from the ground up. Now, I KNOW someone is looking at this and about to type “I like this one better”, but when you boil down the 2 concepts this initial one is just a portrait piece. Nothing more. It’s not designed at all, and stylistically it’s pretty dull. I couldn’t deal with that and wasn’t about to sell this piece short. This is Superman, afterall.

So, here’s all the details straight from The Roost!

SUPER art show

A big thanks to my new friends at The Roost for approaching me to contribute to this amazing show. SUPER opens this Friday in Newcastle, Australia at Curve Gallery. Here is the Facebook event page.

Happy Canada Day 2013

Happy Canada Day

Happy Canada Day from Signalnoise!

The Great Discontent


I was blown away when a couple of the internet’s top brass reached out to do an interview session. Super proud to announce that I’m this week’s feature on my favourite designer interview site out there, The Great Discontent. I sat down (or Skype’d) with Ryan and Tina and we got to the bottom of all kinds of dirt.

This feature also kicked my ass to get some official and high-quality photos taken, all professional and stuff. I enlisted the help of my talented friend Krista Comeau to make me look all 80s, and she made this scumbag look like a million bucks. Just look at that lighting! Thank-you Krista!

So, take a break from your Photoshops and go have a read on The Great Discontent. A huge thanks to Ryan and Tina for the awesome chat!

A dedication

A Dedication

On April 3rd, 2008 my work was featured on one of my favorite tech and culture blogs out there, Josh Spear. Not a huge feature, just a little write-up with a few pieces of my art from the time. I was thrilled as this site was a daily visit. Later that day I returned to show someone the post and discovered the above comment from the aptly named “itdoesntmatter”.

Over the years I’ve grown a thick skin to this sort of random internet dumbassery, but this one in particular will always stand out in my mind for it was the first negative comment I ever received from an anonymous whoever.

At some point we all take knocks like this through the internet. Somebody sees what you are doing and tries to stop you through name-calling and bullying, not unlike that one kid we all knew in junior high. Victory comes not through shooting back with (typed) venom, but through shrugging and turning away to focus on what you really enjoy: being creative and having fun. You need to play the long game.

5 years later. 60 months. This post is dedicated to you, “itdoesntmatter”.

The Rocketeer comic book cover

Rocketeer cover by James White

Proud to release my first official comic book cover, a variant design for The Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror #1 coming out next month. This alternate cover will be fairly scarce, only available in select shops in North America. The cover was commissioned by Cal Johnston, owner of the best comic shop in the world, Strange Adventures and printed by the nice people at IDW Publishing. Written by Roger Langridge and drawn by the awesome J. Bone.

What’s even more exciting is the screen-printed poster edition in the works.

A huge honour to pay tribute to Dave Stevens’ creation, man. We will know more details on availability when the release date draws closer, so if you’re interested in tracking one down drop a comment here or follow me on Twitter for updates.

Happy Holidays from Signalnoise

I’m currently parked on my parents kitchen table and will be working from here on and off over the next week or so. Just a small note to send out a big Happy Holidays to everyone. Hope you all have a great and safe Christmas!

A Fistful of Wicked 80′s Print Ads

The 1980′s were wicked-awesome and the print ads of that decade were par for the course. They were playful and sophisticated, the focus trending toward less copy and more imagery. Ads often consisted of a bold, catchy headlines with a single large product shot bathed in a spectrum of color. Doesn’t get much better than that.

After sifting through thousands of these 80′s ads, the layouts and type choices can admittedly become quite predictable; but they never become tiresome to me. It’s true that we often romanticize the past, and that’s very possible what I’m doing here, but I can’t help but feel coming up with these ads thirty-some years ago was a lot of fun. I can’t say I look forward to doing any ads in this day and age.

You have to admire the strong grid foundations these ads are constructed on; so solid. Desktop publishing really didn’t make a strong push until the end of the decade, so I’m assuming these ads were created using physical layouts. Rubylith anyone?

I’ve got folders teeming with this stuff, more to come…