A couple of days ago some artists called out sketch card artist Bob Hepner, also known as BC Hepner and Tattoo Bob, in an official accusation for not drawing his sketch cards and commissions. He is using a transfer process where he is editing images in Photoshop, printing them out and transferring the images directly on to the cards while in other cases he has attached the print out directly to the card, added some pencil marks or paint and is calling them “original art”. What is strange is that he has done original photorealism before and he has talent but this is just him being lazy and making money while doing the least amount of work.
This isn’t a claim to be taken lightly, there have been 20 artists who have worked with Topps, Rittenhouse, Upper Deck, Cryptozoic and Leaf who have gotten together to do individual investigation so they could compare notes before anything has been said. This is very serious in the sketch card world.
Hepner has made one rambling statement on Blowout Forums basically calling everyone a liar and he quit FB groups but he hasn’t said anything directly addressing the examples showing his work isn’t original but with this claim now out more and more people have gotten involved to show that his work isn’t hand drawn and is not original and this includes someone pulling apart his own Hepner sketch card to show that the “sketch” is actually a separate layer from the card.
This morning Brian Gray of Leaf stated that Hepner will not be involved with any future Leaf releases and he may be making an official statement release as to what Leaf will be doing regarding Hepner’s work in their sets.
You can find more information in this pdf file that was included in the announcement.
Here are just some of the examples showing Hepner’s fake work:
Image 1:This image lines up 100% to the reference image, anyone who has ever drawn knows this is nearly impossible even for photorealism artists to do this consistently. This is just one example, there are more.
Image 2:Same image from Image 1 but a close up showing the subjects right shoulder. Those peaks and valley cut outs are mistakes that happen in Photoshop when using the eraser tool and not smoothing it out. There is no logical reasons for these cutouts if it was drawn by hand.
Image 3:Another example of Hepner’s work lining up exactly with the reference materials.
Image 4:There is no question that something was attached to this card, there shouldn’t be a texture for a hand drawn sketch card and you can see where the printed out paper ends near the bottom of the card and you can see the base of the sketch card is a separate layer. Add in the full size Solo image is blurry, for a photorealism artist like Hepner claims to be that should not happen. This is a case of using a bad image before printing it out and attaching it to the card.
Image 5:A close up showing exactly where his printed image ends. He didn’t even try to hide or blend the obviously attached image to the card.
Image 6:Hepner’s comic book cover is on the right, on top of the wooden table. This was a comic book he claimed he created and says it is his “original art”, he was trying to sell this on eBay recently. On the left is Adam Hughes’ comic book that was published in 2016 and you can buy it on Amazon right now.
Hepner’s book is even dated ’17 after his signature so there is no question that Hughes’ book cover was published a year before Hepner did his cover, how he felt nobody would notice this one is beyond me.
Image 7:This is an image that someone from Blowout Forums posted showing what their Hepner sketch card looks like when it was pulled apart. Now sketch cards can be layered, mine are two layers, so that isn’t the point but you will see that beneath the top/sketch layer there is no ink transfer. If that was hand drawn, especially with the brighter reds/yellows/oranges, the colors should have soaked through to the next layer.
For comparison, here is a sketch I did earlier this year. As you can see it is those bright colors that soak through but Hepner’s card has nothing at all, which would be the case if it were printed and attached. He does some sketch lines and occasionally adds some white or black paint to make it look more artistic but this is still a case of sticking a printout on to a card.
Finally, I close with this. Hepner quit the Facebook groups he belonged to on August 3rd with this message. The statement from the artists making the claim came out on August 4th, seems odd that he would quit the day before it comes out that he is faking his art.
Sketch card artists and collectors are a pretty close knit group so things like this pass along quickly. I am not doing this to raise up a pitch fork and hunt down the evil artist, I am posting this because I am seriously disturbed by this. Some artists do use multiple mediums (John Soukup) well and that is part of the nuisances about his work and as a viewer/buyer I am seeing this knowing this is how Soukup works. Some artists use stencils and spray paint (Jason Adams and Bianca Thompson) but again, this is what we want when we look at their styles. Nobody wants to look at a photorealistic hand-drawn sketch card and purchase it not knowing it is just a print.
Since art is subjective based on the viewer so some people are ok with buying prints, but buying a print that is supposed to be hand drawn and paying the price of a hand drawn sketch card is different. Consider it this way, you buy a painting you are told was painted by Vincent van Gogh for $20 million and you hang it on your wall. You love it today but tomorrow you go to Hobby Lobby and see the exact same print as yours, same paper, same brush strokes, same backing, same frame, same everything except it is priced at $20 and you realize you just got ripped off. Do you still love your fake van Gogh? Nope, you are going to get your money back and raise some hell. That is what people paying commissions to Hepner or are buying his sketch cards should feel.