Saturday, March 27, 2010

The (Potential) Pitfalls of Fame

Thanks to another Printsy member, I was pointed to an image that was featured on a recent Etsy Finds post, which looked remarkably like my Hibou here:

Somewhat surprised, I contacted the seller and expressed my concern that the seller's image was significantly similar to mine, could be construed as copyright infringement, and requested that they remove their work from their shop (and any other online location). The seller responded very quickly and very positively, and has not only agreed to remove the work from their Etsy site but have done so very promptly, and has apologized for any problems that it might have caused.

The only negative aspect to this exchange is that their opinion is that their work was influenced by Jacques Hnizdovsky, and that the image was more similar to his work than mine.

I can understand being influenced. It's entirely possible that the connection between my work and Hnizdovsky's could have been made here (and boy am I ever flattered to be even mentioned on the same page as him!), since when you find either of our owl images on Google Images, chances are pretty high that you'll find them via that blog post.

Obviously, though, I'm not the only one who thought that the seller's image and mine were remarkably similar, otherwise no-0ne would have thought to tell me, and it would never have cropped up as a potential issue.

So, I post this because of a few points that I'd like to make:

1. Artists, please be very, very careful where you garner your source material from. There are some excellent, fully open use reference photos available in various places, but make sure that the image you're using as your starting point has had all rights removed and that you're free to use it as you please, especially in a commercial aspect.

2. Being on the internet with your work has a lot of great advantages: look at all the people who see it that would otherwise be ignorant, since the only place it might otherwise live is in your portfolio in your basement (like my work!). And apparently, I've got enough connections out there now that people actually recognize my work as mine (who'd have thought!), so that's quite an advantage to having it "out there". Related to people being able to find your work easily is being able to buy it - if they can't even see it, how are they going to know that they want your work hanging on their wall?

3. Being on the internet with your work has a lot of potential disadvantages: someone else either using your work directly and claiming it as their own, or making copies and selling the copies without your permission, or creating a work based very much on your work, are all examples of that.

4. As artists, we have a right to our original work, and no one else does, without our express permission. But we don't have a right to be jerks about it. It's always worth taking as polite and careful approach as possible. If I'd flown off the handle right away, I think that artist could very well have not responded so positively. While I don't want this to go any further, I do like sharing my artistic experiences with my interweb friends, especially those that might help others in their own art or life.

5. Some artists feel that watermarking their work is sufficient protection. I choose not to do so: the software used to create a watermark is just as easily confounded by other software by those who are determined to make use of your work. You decide for yourself.

So as always, thank you to the many readers of my blog, and visitors to my various sites, who support my efforts towards my art, and who share your experiences with me. I think the advantages of the internet that I've garnered have so far outweighed any disadvantages. I deeply value the connections I've made with other artists & printmakers all over the world, through my work and my sites, so thank you all for the opportunity to get to know you all a little bit better!


Diane P. said...

Thank you for posting this Amie. It is an important topic.

becky said...

Interesting post! As a beginning printmaking/art student, I have been researching a fair amount on different techniques, artists & artwork. (I actually found your blog by entering "printmaking/nature" on google & your blog came up- I've been "following" your blog for months.) First let me say, I love your prints!! I have also found some great artist's blogs through the one's you follow. I'm finding A LOT of great artist's come from Canada! :)
In response to this post, I do not fully understand why someone would want to copy another's work. As a beginner, I look to others work for inspiration, and to see how they go about such work, but my desire would always be to create something unique & original. :)

Unknown said...

Thanks for your comments, ladies.

Diane - thanks; I definitely wanted to share the experience; it was certainly a surprise from my end!

Becky - I agree with you; the idea does seem somewhat stultifying of one's own creativity. I appreciate copying a master's art so that you can learn techniques of the media or composition or style, but that's not the same (and I'm certainly no master of anything). So, I guess I'm a little flattered by this experience (certainly by your lovely positive comments about my work, thank you), although also somewhat not!

Mariann Johansen-Ellis said...

this is a really tricky topic, I agree that being on the net opens you up to all kinds, but that's the chance you take...... I am glad you brought it up, it is a subject that it very difficult as we all have influences from somewhere or the other, it would be horrible to be thought of as having copied someones work...ugh.... can't think of anything worse.... but then, I have recently made a bit of a discovery... go on to the net, google, etsy, printmaking sites etc
and look under girls and bird.... wow, there is a whole thing going on with girls and birds.... it made me laugh though, because it also shows how unconsciously you are always influenced and affected by what's out there..... makes it very difficult to "stand alone", Becky makes some points that are kind of obvious, but I think she'll find as she goes along working as an artist that sometimes artists skirts very close to one another, without having any intention of doing so.... so am also very glad Amie to see, that you took the kind route.... kindness at the end of the day, might be what was needed!
And being original is the most difficult path of all!!!

Unknown said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Mariann. Yes, there's certainly a lot of opportunity for cross fertilization, especially now that we're so easily exposed to so many artists. I don't think it's truly possible to be 100% unique - with all the artists out there, and all that have gone before, I'm sure there's a lot of stuff that's not "original" as it were. But it is important, I think, to strive towards your own voice, and be true to your own muse, in the long run, even if you're using others for inspiration along the way (and how can we not?).

Serena said...

This was an interesting post for sure. What's the phrase? "imitation is the best form of flattery" But I certainly wouldn't want someone using my art for their profit. It seems like a printmaking style might be easier to copy than an oil painting style. Yesterday I celebrated Superb Owl Sunday, your owl is certainly superb! I linked him to my "fan" page to day for others to enjoy! Thank you!