Public Domain Images & Footage – An Artist’s Ultimate Colour Pallet

I don’t know if it’s like this everywhere where National Geographic airs, but that’s certainly the case here in the UK and back in Singapore. In fact, a South African buddy of mine says it’s the same in his country, that being how National Geographic basically seems to create many different shows with the same extensive library of footage they have.

You see it particularly with NatGeo Wild, where you’d be watching one show about something like a countdown of the deadliest killer animals or something like that and then you notice that some of the footage featured has in actual fact been used in a different show. It’s all about re-packaging and narrating it from a different point of view and I see nothing wrong it at all, don’t get me wrong. In fact, it’s the inspiration for this post in that as artists whose craft is what puts food on the table, basically what we’re doing is recreating a lot of what already exists and if you’re really good at what you do then you can find so many different ways to use one piece of footage, one jingle, song or sound bite and even one image.

That’s where all the content which is in the public domain comes to the fore as this is essentially a creative artist’s gold mine.

Sure, content which is in the public domain has probably been used and reused to death, many of which content’s use is even protected by something like the Creative Commons License (basically you can’t gain any monetary value out of your use of the content, as is), but if you’re a half decent artist of any sort then you’ll know that there are infinitely more ways it can be further utilised and reused.

Something as simple as using those free (or even a paid one) apps to convert a photo into what looks like a pencil drawing should have you licking your lips by way of what you can create with public domain images, for example.

Any half decent artist, however, likes to look at a final work they’ve produced and be able to say that they created it out of their own creativity, in which case public domain content should still be utilised for some inspiration. If you’re an animator for example and you want to create a space scene with asteroids flying past the earth maybe, how long is it going to take you to build up the required capital to buy a seat in a space shuttle set to orbit the earth next, if that is at all possible? Instead, you can dig into the open archives to get that much-needed inspiration in the form of some footage that was made public by the likes of NASA, for example, just so that you can get a good idea of how things work up there and so that your depiction of how it’s all supposed to work will be accurate in your animation.

Otherwise, there’s a whole lot you can do with public domain and free content as an artist.

Shaun Greaves

Blogger of arts and liver of life. Singaporean at heart, but living in the UK. Life is art, appreciate it.
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