We've had these discussions before, it's not my intent to disrespect other artists but to caution you, my students and friends and help you avoid some traps, especially those of you who wish to build a genuine art practice.
Recently I visited a cafe with lots of art on the walls, every painting was under $100. I then realised all the work was copied from photographs and other artist's work. I know it's not their photos because the subjects were too wide ranging – landscape, still life, portraits and many different birds from all over the world.
There were also other improbable subjects and paintings I feel I've seen before. Depth and detail was missing - a level of understanding the artist had failed to perceive because their reference material was substandard, they lacked study and observation.
If they had done their own preliminary sketches and workings and took their own photos they would have captured a greater understanding of their subject, form and atmosphere and detail.
Of course, will the buyer/viewer notice? who knows? for $100 does it matter? Yes, it takes all sorts and let’s face it, times are not going to get any easier, we all need to put food on the table.
But if your goal is to build an authentic art practice, break out the big guns, command higher prices, sell your work in a commercial gallery, it will show and it will matter.
My caution is from an authenticity point of view, to help you build a genuine art practice. We don’t all have access to everything to paint. That’s excellent, you like to paint different subject from me, you’re already passionate about a subject that is meaningful to you. For example if you love birds and painting them, I suggest you get a good camera and go take your own reference photos. Go and sketch from life – sketch 1000’s and 1000’s of birds and get good at what you want to do. If you love painting landscapes go and get amongst it.
I guess I get a bit antsy about this because I and many artists I know feel they’re doing the hard yards creating original works and series, only for someone to come along and copy. From the first inkling of an idea, some of my work took 3-4 years of brewing, mulling and working before they became a painting and then a series.
The reason I bring this all up is because just last week I was asked "does it matter?". How can another artist prove their work is their work? Are we likely to be held up for breach of copyright? Yes it’s a distinct possibility, especially as times get tougher and the internet is more and more clever.
If you are painting from other people's reference and photos, your paintings are not your work. More than this, your sketches show your integrity, your commitment to your artistic development and demonstrate a body of work which is your own.
The devil is in the detail. Take your own photos (proof), create studies, preliminary sketches and workings (more proof). With a continued course of study you will capture a greater understanding of your subject - form, atmosphere and detail and develop a more interesting and cohesive body of work that is your own, beyond question.
non ferma cari amici!!
From TS Eliot
TS Eliot once said “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that which it was torn”.
Very timely comments, Amanda - yes it is frustrating when you look at artworks for sale and know that they're not original. I believe it does come back to bite people though - sooner or later these painters will either get bored with copying or realise that they have to do the hard miles to produce original work, there are no sustainable shortcuts 😊 Thanks for your newsletters, always enjoy reading what you're up to !
thanks Siobhan!! and thank you for reading my blog!! xx
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