Royally Fooled

In a recent Sotheby's Contemporary Art Auction, this Cano wax (on the right) sold for above the anticipated price. The catalogue quotes a line from an Architectural Digest article about Cano:

"In a moment where nearly no artist draws, Cano turns this discipline into the sign of identity of his work: black outline on white background. With ink on paper or with encaustic on canvas, his
craftsmanship is impeccable and the effects spectacular."

(Cristina Giménez, 'José-María Cano', in: Architectural Digest, no. 39, Madrid, September 2009, p. 152)

Ms. Giménez clearly did not do her research. I could easily draw it out for her. ;-)

The Nine Plus Two

The Nine Plus Two

Sent to me by a Supreme Court Correspondent, whose cubicle was featured in Time's White House Photo Blog. Appearantly, hedcuts are appreciated in their small size too!


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A wild ride to say the least.
I don't know what if anything will come out of this case, or if we'll ever hear from Mr. Cano himself, but I'm glad I raised the question and exposed yet another form of artistic manipulation. In fine art world, you might say it's nothing new, but it's a unique case taking in consideration all aspects and players.
Again, I have no legal claim to my artwork in this case, but I DO hold the moral ownership, which is why I'm talking about it. I'm absolutely humbled by how many of you are able to view this from my perspective and I thank you very much for your emails and comments. Looks like I made some valuable friendships out of this whole thing, and that makes me a winner already!

The naysayers don't phase me a bit. My art speaks for itself, end of story. I make a decent living because I take great satisfaction in what I do and never for a moment have I taken my job for granted. I've been perfecting my own style within the technique, for over 20 years. I regularly have more work than I can handle and my numerous clients can attest to that so no, I don't need more publicity. But, the point in this case is not whether you like me as a person or not, or whether you like my drawings or not. If that's all you're going to talk about, you're completely missing the point. And, the point is:

How closely does Mr. Cano's Obama resemble an illustration of mine?

He has cleverly made "series" of these paintings which he displays as a group in his solo exhibitions, like the one named "The Wall Street 100" (Funny, how all of you who claim that he credited the Journal in the title, failed to notice that the title has no "Journal" in it!!) there are series named "Welcome to Capitalism", "China Ten" etc. Now take one of the pieces out of this context, and place it in a group PORTRAIT show, for example:
I find this particularly upsetting.

Once more, I'm getting nothing out of this affair, especially not money, but would you like to know how much these pieces are going for? Check this tidbit out. It involves another of my drawings, that of Queen Elizabeth II

As one commentator pointed out, the fact that many of you are so divided on this issue, just proves there could be some wrongdoing involved. Too bad we might never find out.


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Credit: commentator "Paul said"

I loved that line so much I copied it, converted it to all caps and made it onto a title!

But seriously...

I need to reiterate a few things which may answer majority of your questions:
I will not sue because I can not sue.

My 5 colleagues and I are staff illustrators at the Wall Street Journal. The hedcut drawings we produce are hand drawn, pen and ink, spot illustrations, using a meticulous and laborious technique closely resembling old fashioned engravings. We base our drawings on photographic reference material, to which the Journal purchases usage rights. The paper owns the license and the copyright to all of our illustrations. Any decisions on legal action in this particular case, are solely theirs to make. For any inquires about Journal's affairs, you need to contact the paper directly. I will not comment on that any further.

However, I do want to participate in this conversation and answer more of your questions, so please don't think I'm ignoring the comment section. ( I have to make a living, you know. Dot by dot). I am intrigued by so many of your points, I wish I could be able to pursue this matter legally, although unfortunately, all signs point to what would turn out to be an unsatisfactory outcome for me. Now we are suddenly reduced to having poetic arguments about the ethics and the integrity of artists, but valid points can surely be made in my favor.

In reference to the Warhol argument. He has defined his artistic interpretation that refutes the legal term "substantial similarity". It's also known that Warhol came to terms with several of parties in question over this issue.
I want to bring up the case of Rogers v. Koons which sets precedent of substantial similarity. The element of size and media used bears no weight in the argument of copyright infringement. Koons lost his argument that the sculpture was a parody of Roger's photograph and of no substantial similarity. This decision, ruled in 2005 would prove difficult for many of Lichtenstein's earliest works, providing the copyright would have been executed by the party in question.
The art of appropriation seems to have no bearing if the artist can prove substantial similarity.

I appreciate all your great comments and input.

And to answer "Hayden" who asks: "His technique is amazing .. (I wonder if you've actually seen one of the works in the flesh)"
Hayden, I'd love to see the Obama wax! I'm sure it's impressive, but I'm afraid I'd find myself looking at my own drawing. Just bigger.



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No juicy developments to report on sorry, but thank you for all your comments and a lively and informative conversation. I can't possibly reply to all, but I'll do my best to cover all major issues you brought up.

Reading your comments, I'm convinced now even more that this issue is very unique in terms of legalities. Valid points could be made by both sides, but I think only a in a court of law can it really be clarified. I don't even know what to call it, so you're right ... I shouldn't be using terms I can't prove are correct.

All I know is this: I see a drawing which I made, copied and displayed as somebody else's art. It's not a small part of a painting ... it makes up the whole painting! Does it matter how he copied it? How large it is? He painstakingly recreated it dot by dot. It's not easy to "just get over it" so excuse me for expressing my displeasure. If this issue can simply be boiled down to an uninformed illustrator's whining, I doubt it would have crated such a long debate.
I have nothing to gain from this. I'm merely exposing the practice.

About the process I use to make my art:

Of course my drawings are based on photos! What is the point of even bringing this up? I make spot illustrations not fine art. My assignment is to create a close likeness of a subject based on a photo using a specific pointillist technique for an article in a daily newspaper. I am creating a completely unique piece of art and you could never mistaken it for a photo it's based on. And yes, of course the Journal has permissions for these photos. It's childish to even question that!

In any case, a commentator by the name of XenonOfActicus summed it up very eloquently (much better than I can) and it reflects exactly how I feel about this:

"Yes, your WSJ stipple work was a translation of an existing image (photo) into a new medium. The difference here is that you:
(presumably) had permission from the copyright-owner to use that image
made some substantial transformative visual changes to the image.

Whereas Jose:
Did not (presumably) have permission from the copyright owner (WSJ) or Noli (the artist) to use the image.
Despite changing the medium into a more difficult one (wax) did not contribute any transformative change.

In addition, by not providing any credit to the original artist, Jose implicitly allows viewers to think he may be the artist responsible for the stipple stylization.

Don't let criticism from dorks get you down. Even if you weren't the photographer, even if you don't own the copyright to your work-for-hire for the WSJ, your intellectual property rights are being disresepcted and should be honored properly.

For those who would cite Warhol and Campbells, one could argue that nobody could have mistakenly assumed Warhol designed the soup can. That is not the case here. Clearly a number of people have been mistaken that Jose was the artist behind the stipple-style transformation."
Thanks Xenon! ;-)

If you want to know more about hedcuts, how they're done, what's involved, how it started and evolved throughout the years, or just to ask any question, you can join our hedcut forum at

How different are they?



I want to expose a bold case of plagiarism (?). It's big not just by the amount of used art, but by the amount of recognition, praise and ka-ching this artist seems to be getting! We are talking major art galleries around the world, museums and auction houses. (This is the FINE ART world we're talking about here, baby!)
And, what does he do?
He cuts out portraits from papers, blows them up and painstakingly recreates them in wax paraffin ... dot by dot. He's flying under the cover of "newspaper clipping" appropriation, but does that apply in this case? I say no way Jose!

This is my stipple portrait of Barack Obama



Photo: Leslie Guttman

You can clearly see he is getting credited as the author of these portraits.

This is me in my studio holding the original drawing. On my desk are a few of other illustrations I made (all for the Wall Street Journal) also used ("appropriated") by Jose Maria Cano!

Now, here's something I found especially appalling.
Please check out this link:

It reads:
"Meeting with Vaclav Havel was the last point of Barack Obama's Prague visit. During this private meeting, Vaclav Havel presented American President Barack Obama - a portrait of the president by the Spanish artist José-María Cano.
"José-María Cano generously offered this painting to Vaclav Havel as a gift for Barack Obama", said Leos Valka, director of DOX, Centre for Contemporary art in Holesovice, Prague. The painting will be exhibited at the Centre from Thursday, April 9. until April 27, 2009. After that, the painting, measuring 210 x 149,5 cm, will travel to the White House. The portrait is created using the encaustic technique of painting with hot wax.
After viewing the exhibition Welcome to Capitalism!, which was on view at DOX Centre from last October to February this year, Vaclav Havel was enthusiastic about the Spanish artist's works. Therefore, DOX Centre's director, Leoš Válka offered President Vaclav Havel the option of presenting President Barack Obama with the portrait and Havel welcomed the idea."

This means a copy of a drawing I made was given as a gift to Vaclav Havel who then re-gifted it for president Obama?! And it's now hanging in the White House?! You can bet your knickers I will do my damndest to let the President know he was scammed by the Spaniards and the Czechs! ;-)))

All joking aside (yes, that up there is a bunch of winks, people!), this is no laughing matter and I invite all my friends, all you fellow bloggers, artists and anybody who's concerned about protection of artists' work, to please pass this post along.

Oh, and there's more:
He's having a solo show at the Riflemaker Gallery in London on November 9th, by the name "The Wall Street 100"! And yes ... you guessed it: he is "using" 100 of our drawings!

His website:

Check latest posts. (I'm somewhat calmer now)

To the Spanish and the Czechs ... I was totally joking! I thought that was clear, but since a few took offence, I apologize.