Exploring the roles of inspiration, collaboration, and delegation within the world of rare digital art through the lens of two distinguished artists 

*This article appears as a Guest Post in MagNFT’s first ever physical edition, get your copy here*

Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up. — Oliver Wendell Holmes

The rare digital art movement is reaching new heights as we continue to welcome an influx of artists from all walks of life and backgrounds to join us in propelling it forward. An inevitable result of this influx has been an increase in artistic collaborations marrying the unique styles of different artists across the world to create holistic creations that speak to a multitude of styles and mediums.

Collaborations are nothing new in the art world, but the digital arts realm benefits especially from the opportunities provided through its virtual nature — The ability to seamlessly connect, plan and execute collaborative projects across oceans and continents has opened the doors for artists who not long ago may have not even known their collaborative partners existed. A prime example of this being the exciting collaboration set to unfold between two heavy hitters from different factions of the traditional art world, José Delbo and Trevor Jones.

A Common Approach to Two Distinct Styles 

At first glance, José Delbo and Trevor Jones appear to be completely different types of artists: Delbo, being a prominent figure in the comic art world for his illustration work on timeless classics like Wonder Woman, the Transformers, Billy the Kid, the Beatles Yellow Submarine comic, etc; and Jones, a revered contemporary artist whose caused quite a stir among traditional fine art institutions (and consequently gained the admiration of the rare digital art community) by fully incorporating technology into his artwork as a subject matter, medium and tool.

All That Remains by Trevor Jones, which sold on MakersPlace in 18 ETH (at the time, approximately $4,226 USD)

Yet these two artists have more in common than you may assume: They’ve both made waves, no, tsunamis in the rare digital art scene, becoming commonplace names in the space essentially from their arrival (Jones entered the space in 2018 and Delbo made his cryptoart debut in July of this year). They also both embody the bridging of traditional art institutions with the emerging rare digital art space. With practices rooted deeply in physical art mediums, Delbo and Jones have both intensely studied traditional forms of visual art in a formal setting and independently, through years of experience; Yet both have also fully come to terms and embraced the new digital forms of expression and communities that the rare digital art movement has given way to.

The Last Son of Krypton by José Delbo which sold on MakersPlace in July 2020 for 27 ETH (at the time, approximately $8,191 USD)

These similarities in experience and approach, plus the help of the new globalized rare digital art ecosystem, has enabled them to combine their distinct forms of expression into a series of creations that touch on their common goal of carrying their physical artistic legacies into the digital age and beyond. Yet although artistic commonalities played a crucial role in the initial conception of this project, it is these artists’ differences in style that will make the execution and delivery of the final artworks so exciting.

This collaboration series is set to officially release on MakersPlace, the premier marketplace for creating, selling and buying rare digital art, on October 15th at 1PM PST.

A Controversial Collaboration? 

A sneak preview of one of Delbo and Jones’ collaborative creations set to release on MakersPlace on October 15th at 4pm PST

The release of this collaboration is already highly anticipated amongst the growing community of rare digital art enthusiasts due to the obviously exciting nature of two great artists combining their different styles into a set of unified visual stories. But what most people don’t know is that the structure of this collaboration varies quite greatly from those traditionally initiated within the space.

Usually a collaboration consists of two or more people working alongside each other (virtually or physically) towards achieving a common goal. This usually requires a constant back and forth between collaborators to ensure visions are aligned. However, as important as cohesion and communication are within any collaborative project, too much consultation can get in the way of productivity or in this case, creativity. This is why Delbo and Jones have decided to take a rather “hands-off” approach that allows for maximized creative freedom and experimentation while still maintaining an unquestionable sense of technical mastery.

A sneak preview of one of Delbo and Jones’ collaborative creations set to release on MakersPlace on October 15th at 4pm PST

Here’s what it looks like: Delbo, obviously known for his iconic work in the comic industry has put together multiple illustrations of a certain city dwelling bat character depicted in the classic pencilling style that he’s illustrated the same character in multiple DC comics issues. Jones has taken these illustrations, and is serving them multiple ways. The twist being that Delbo will not know the full direction that Jones takes his illustrations until they have been completely finalized. An act of playful, creative rebellion on the part of Jones and a willingness to test the depths and directions his artwork can go on the part of Delbo, the end result of this collaboration is sure to shock us all.

While we aren’t in the business of spoiling surprises, what can be revealed is that there will be four artworks in total: Two will depict side-by-side digitally rendered artistic interpretations by Delbo (ink-illustrated) and Jones (oil-painted) of the same subject matter, shining a light on the extreme influence style has on initiating feeling and reaction. The other two will be depicted in an animated form, and are arguably what makes this collaboration so contentious. Besides the end result being a surprise to Delbo, these animated artworks which will bring a heated topic of debate within the art community to the table: That is the topic of artistic delegation and fabrication.

The Art of Delegation

The two animated artworks are at the center of controversy behind this collaborative release not because of their presentation or message, but because of the way the final result of the artworks was actually reached. What started as an illustration and idea presented by Delbo was orchestrated into an immersive story line with multiple plot twists by Jones. But in a plot twist of his own, Jones has revealed that none of the animation was actually completed by him. Rather he enlisted an animator to follow his explicit instructions as a means of incorporating his own artistic visions within Delbo’s original illustration.

This is not the first time Jones has enlisted outside help in the completion of his projects, something that has stirred up much debate amongst constituents of the rare digital art community. He explains the rationale behind this decision as a means of adding additional components while still preserving the integrity and quality of his work. As Jones puts it, “I’m a professional artist  and not an animator; therefore, it’s my responsibility to create the highest quality work rather than try to animate my paintings myself and produce subpar creations. I develop the concept and the narrative and then hire a professional to carry out my vision.”  .”

Many were appalled by the fact that Jones was not crediting those he hired as collaborators. However, as Jones reminds us in his blog article Who is the Creator (appropriately named after the artwork that initially led to this debate in the first place), this has been common practice throughout the history of visual art. From journeymen in the Renaissance ages, like painter Verrocchio who employed Leonardo da Vinci before the young artist rose to fame, to modern day contemporary legends like Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons, artists have been delegating the physical execution of their works for centuries.

The overarching question that must be determined is what differentiates collaboration from delegation and when does attribution become necessary? Jones’ answer to these questions echoes the general consensus of the art world: It all boils down to ideas. For a project to be considered a true collaboration, both parties must contribute an idea/s that plays a part in bringing the final product to fruition. By this definition, simply following instructions with no creative input can not be considered true collaboration, thereby unless explicitly stated otherwise, attribution is not necessary. Delbo and Jones can be viewed as true collaborators, as both contributed ideas, visions and tangible work that resulted in the artworks’ core being.

A Historical Collision of Styles

The animation tells the story of the creative process, which includes my roles as writer, director, and producer working with a team and making edits and changes ‘in real time’. The dialogue between myself and my ‘hired guns’ plays out in front of the viewer. The music written for the piece adds to the nostalgia of the comic book superhero theme but other elements such as the snapping and kicking of the pencil and the signing of my signature at the bottom incorporates further layers and challenges the viewer to ask important questions, such as, is the ‘Art’ the final animation (the creation) or is the ‘Art’ the concept/credit for the creation itself?

-Trevor Jones on the creation process and purpose of “Who is the Creator”

No matter where you stand on the delegation debate, it is hard to suppress excitement for this collaborative release, consisting of four thought-provoking, nostalgia-evoking artworks available for purchase exclusively on MakersPlace. It is arguably the first of it’s kind involving two highly respected analogue-turned-digital artists combining the styles of comic and contemporary painting to tell stories, inspire contemplation and spark debate through their artworks.

The Artworks

This drop will feature 4 original artworks. Two 1/1 animated pieces which will only be accepting offers, and two 10/10 static pieces to be sold at a fixed price, with the last edition being auctioned.

The Protector

A side by side comparison of Delbo and Jones’ distinct styles, this artwork, featuring one of Delbo’s most beloved characters, started with an ink drawing from Delbo which was transformed into an oil painting by Jones.

The Protector by José Delbo and Trevor Jones

Editions: Ten
Pricing: 3.7 ETH / $1,400 (The 10th and final edition will be auctioned)

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Another representation of the unique styles of Delbo and Jones, each has portrayed the beloved protectors in their distinct visual languages: Delbo’s consisting of strong expressions and bold, defined lines while Jones’ consists of an explosion of brushstrokes, textures and a moody color palette.

Vengeance by José Delbo and Trevor Jones

Editions: Ten
Pricing: 3.7 ETH / $1,400 (The 10th and final edition will be auctioned)

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A controversial creation and playful act of rebellion by Trevor Jones, Who is the Creator 2 inspires contemplation and sparks healthy debate around the subject of creation and delegation, through the guise of the world’s greatest detective.

Who is the Creator 2 by José Delbo and Trevor Jones

Editions: One
Pricing: Accepting offers only

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An entrancing look inside the creation process of Jones and Delbo’s The Protector. This creation highlights the intricacies within both artists’ creative process from conception to completion.

Genesis by José Delbo and Trevor Jones

Editions: One
Pricing: Accepting offers only

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Trevor Jones’ spoke with us about his background, inspiration and hopes for this collaboration. Check out the interview here:

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