This subject is harder for me, than it is for you. (Why do I feel like the parent when I say these words?) You often read my posts because you look to me for trust worthy advice and education. I feel a responsibility to teach. For some people this lesson will be easy for others it will not.
Here’s the question: Is it okay to sign and/or sell artwork that was done in a class, workshop, or online? Is a copy of an instructors work okay to sign and call your own? Is a copy of anyone’s artwork okay to share, show or sell?
There’s no way to sugar coat it and for some it’s a hard pill to swallow. Surprisingly many people do not understand what they’re doing is wrong.
Plagiarism and copyright infringement comes into the discussion when someone shows, signs, take credit or sells artwork as their own. Signing artwork, submitting to publications, selling…says, this is my original idea, concept and artwork. I’ve heard students quote what they think are “magic formulas” to get around copyright and plagiarism laws. They think if they change a small percentage of an image (5% or 10%, crop a photo…) it gives them the right to call it their own. In my mind they’re entering into a dark area. Why? Someone who wants to bend or manipulate laws to benefit their status or bank account tells me something about their character. Not good.
Create artwork you can proudly call your own. For that reason, don’t use photos or references material you don’t have permission to use and reproduce. I’ve seen well known artist stripped of awards, honors and paintings taken out of international shows. All of this for using photos without permission or worse plagiarizing (copying) another person’s artwork. It’s a huge black mark on their reputation, personally and professionally.
Images of my paintings, sketches and photos on my blog, Facebook, magazines, books, on-line courses and DVD’s are for educational and demonstration purposes, only. The information was provided as a teaching tool to study and learn from but don’t sign, enter in shows, publications or sell. I’ve seen copies of my paintings in art shows, Facebook, Instagram, cards…. and others have simply taken my artwork and removed my name.
It should go without saying, but here I go. Please do not use my teaching material as your own. If you are a teacher be one! Build your own curriculum on experience and knowledge. Support your lessons with images, text and demonstrations. You’ll be a better teacher and respected by your peers.
Some will want to debate the subject…I don’t. It all boils down to something pretty simple and I stand firm. When I was two years old I was taught, Don’t take something that doesn’t belong to me. Pretty simple!
My next post will be something fun…no more hard lessons. Let’s start the New Year with good choices and great art!
P.S. Please don’t tell me how to watermark or reduce my artwork so people will have a harder time stealing. If you do you’re missing the point of this post.
Reprinted with permission from professional artist Brenda Swensen, www.swensonsart.net