Monday, November 14, 2011

Giving and getting....

I get asked to donate to a number of local - and well deserving - events. And it grows as I get better known. I believe that for most artists with a recognized name this is a fairly common occurrance and as most people with a concience ( yes, ok, we could debate that statement especially for some artistic souls) you want to help when and where you can.
Therein lies the issue.
For most artists.....say around 95%.....selling your work is a 'few and far between' scenario and generally by the time you do sell something, the bills are red lining and the phone is on 'screen calls'. So when you are asked to donate, you kinda go through this 'why-should-I-donate-when-I-need-money-how-revoltingly-shallow-I-am' thought process.
How do I soothe my fevered brow at this time and still retain a sense of win-win?
Well, I donate my 'practice' work.
This is a fine line here kids and you need to follow along with my logic.
 I am self taught. That means in my case, I find paintings that intrigue me or offer an image that I'd like to paint I copy it. (oh I can hear the intake of breath from here) It teaches me new techniques and color choices and ways of painting I have not tried before.
There is nothing wrong with copying, by the way, it has been a time honored tradition artistically for students to go to galleries and reproduce the 'Masters' work to learn by trying to duplicate what they believe the Master has done. (And you can find many examples of famous artists having done this)
The thing that is WRONG about this is when you SELL that work as one of your own creations without giving recognition to the originator. As an example see my 'Self Portrait - after Egon Schiele' on the side bar.  I have copied lots BUT I have never gotten any money for any piece I've copied from another artist. Ever. And I ALWAYS mark the painting as being 'after so and so' (the original artist)
And these are the works I donate. The money they make goes to a deserving charity and someone gets a nice painting that is done by me.
I have discussed this practise with other artists and aquaintances and get a dual reaction. Some feel this is dishonest in a way....copying something after all makes it not original but it after teaching many many classes and having folks paint exactly the same thing, I know for a fact there is no such thing as everyone painting alike (let's just bypass forgers here because that is dishonest right from the get-go) your own hand is inherently unique. That point brings on the 'other' side of this debate, wherein that anything you paint can be claimed as yours. And you shouldn't feel that you can't take money for it.
Yes, well, that doesn't sit right with me personally but I know and have seen work for sale that obviously was a copy. Once even one of my students selling a piece that was done from an original of mine. (Imitation the highest form of flattery....)
Anyplaybothsidesway, this is a strange 'grey' area, is it not? I'd love to see what other people to weigh in on the debate?
The Paintings: Top - "Thinking of Summer", Acrylic 24" X 24"
Bottom - " Experiment in Abstraction - Maple Seed Pods", Acrylic 24" X 24"
Both after Ann Tuck.
 Donation to the Christmas Gala - raising money for Tofino General Hospital Extended Care Wing and the Forest Glen Seniors Center.

PS* After a timely comment from a reader, I have contacted the artist to ask permission from the artist to donate these 'practices'. This is the smartest thing to do. Thanks again to P.


  1. Recently I donated a painting done from one of the many workbooks I have. However, I did contact the artist first and ask permission, which he kindly gave; it too was marked "after..."
    Ask first, because it will still be sold, even if you are not doing the selling. That's my logic. :) xx

  2. Thanks for the comment, Pat. And a timely reminder as well! I will go and do that now.

  3. Oh, thank you, for articulating EXACTLY how I feel about copying. Nothing wrong at all, as long as you give credit where it is due, and it's best to ask permission from a living artist.
    I have, on several occasions, made a painting and later come across something very similar elsewhere. How do I prove I hadn't seen it and copied? Grey area indeed.It HAS all been done before. I admit to getting confused the more I think about it...til now.

  4. Maria, glad I could be of help. Cautious is my middle name, but I'd like the same courtesy if it was mine.

  5. Hi Sharon!
    It IS a 'grey' area indeed and one all creative souls struggle with I'm sure. I believe I read somewhere that there is no such thing as 'absolute originality' as we all are influenced by what has happened before - it's just our own spin on the exsisting idea. Picasso was influenced by African Art, Matisse from the Japanese woodblock prints and so on and so on. I guess it boils down to being as ethical as you can.