Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Copying Another's 'art'

I recently read an internet debate between two artists regarding one artist copying the work of another.  The denials go on and on with supporters of both camps accusing the other. 
Ever visited a gallery and looked at a particular piece of work and  left thinking "I can do that"; or "so simple, anyone could do that including 'me'". There are such people who do copy another's work. Copying is a pitfall  we must be careful of as artists.  Anything we post on the internet should be copyrighted.

There is a however a line between copying another's art work in order to lay claim the the originality and 'copying or imitating' another's style.

Copying past master's work is sometimes used as a method of teaching....better not become too proficient at this method of painting and think of selling them or you may be painting cell walls when charged with forgery; and that would indeed change your artistic view and inspiration.

An artist friend paints abstracts that I absolutely admire.  I would never consider 'copying' one of his works either to imitate style or as a teaching tool.  Analyzing his work I totally lack the vision, the heart and emotion I see in his abstracts.  But, not being the brightest pin on the block, I tried my hand at abstract painting.....well, let me just say I definitely do not have the depth of feeling required to work in abstract.

On a recent visit to an art gallery my grandson spied a simple canvas, simplicity itself in form and colour.....gigantic in size .... 12 feet x ?? (forgotten the other measurement).  His comment, especially after looking at the six figure price tag and imagining all the surf boards, wake boards etc. he could purchase "grandma, you can do that".  My response was of course I could not.  On arriving home he attempted his copy on a much smaller scale.  Not bad as it was produced from memory but it definitely served as a 'training exercise' and I knew he had learned as he commented  " not bad, but not quite right".  His attempt is attached as today's art.

He had not looked at the artist's entire portfolio, looking for a thread of thought or emotion.  Expertise aside he could not imagine the vision, the inner feeling that prompted the original.   Try copying another artist sometime; for instance a  Pollock - easy right?  You may wish to imitate a style and that is fine, but I would question seriously whether your finished product would stand with the original.  I think it would lack the freshness, translation of a particular moment, the immersion of the feeling.

These are just my ponderings, and they may well be off the mark.  Would be interested in what other artists think.


  1. I think you should try to promote this blog Ruby. This is an important debate and you add an interesting slant to it. I have in fact seen a couple of my abstracts copied but the artist made a better job of them than me so I learned something from him. There is a sense in which you are being honoured by the artist who uses your work. The jury is out on this one for me. I sure would love to hear others opinions though.

  2. This is a complex issue - I suppose everything is when there is money involved. I have seen photographs that I would like to use - not copy - but use in one way or another and I am hesitant to do so. If I know the photographer I can ask permission, but if not, permission is hard to attain. A lot to think about.
    Looking forward to more of your thoughts and art work, Ruby!