The Problem with Photo-Based Concept Art

Photo-Based Concept Art & Why It Destroys Creative Development:

    Today I'd like to talk about something more serious, and what I've come to find as a problem not just on sites like Deviant Art, but on any site that artists show their work. I'm talking about one simple concept: "Photo Based Concept Art." In short, creating an "original artwork" built primarily from colors, textures, and often full images from other sources.
    So let's start with an example: while this image creates an amazing scene and is in my mind a very inspiring landscape, the image itself isn't really a "painting" or "drawing" even by modern digital standards. What we have instead is a perverse creation of a "completed piece." Now don't misunderstand my critique of the industry. For skilled professionals to submit such a piece to a client is perfectly alright. As being a "concept" in trying to convey the base for something larger, artists will find that clients don't care how the product is produced, just so long as they get what they want. However, as artists we should hold our work to a higher standard that what is simply "acceptable."
    As an analogy, let's look at a fast food restaurant. If I'm sitting at a drive through window and behind that wall the fry cook drops my compressed meat patty on the floor, picks it up, then throws it on the grill anyway. I will never know, because it is out of sight and out of mind. However, if you put a gourmet chef in one of these fast food "kitchens" the will probably vomit at the sight of lack of respect for the creative process.
    In recent years I have begun to make a shift in what I give my attention to here on the internet. The obvious use of stock photos to build a concept has become so disgusting to me, I usually don't even give the artist the benefit of the doubt. I'm not saying it didn't take time or skill to "arrange" these images creatively, but I am saying "what's really the point?" Even with this analysis, I find myself looking for the "cheaters" that try to pass of a "digital painting" as a painting with textures thrown in at the beginning or end as a cheat. In another example artist and designer Feng Zu's work often starts with photo and texture based images. In his FZDSchool's Episode 2: he builds his base color with several images rather than choosing and building up the colors from scratch. Sure this process builds a fast design and saves time, but when you create an image not for a class or client, and try to call it a stand alone piece of art, what you have is (dare I say) a form of art theft at the deepest degree.
    The biggest problem with using these techniques and even teaching them to beginners, we find that it teaches them to steal images (even stock photos). Rather than pulling from these images, artists need to learn the skills of drawing in perspective, building color theory, understanding composition, and the other base skills of drawing and painting. Without knowing how to draw, you cannot fully utilize the "short cuts" many of these artists advocate.
   For these artists I've listed and others I have not, I have nothing but admiration for what they can accomplish without the use of a brush or drawing tablet, but I do take each "piece" with a grain of salt as while they are "concepts" they are not "completed."