Portrait gradually coming to life on my easel.
I will be adding the hat and facial features next.
Having taken workshops last week I found myself facing a familar question that many artists get asked from time to time.
"How do you cope when someone copies you?"
This is a question that requires careful considertaion when offering an answer. Firstly I teach,write books and film DVDs in order to inspire other artists. If my workshops were not successful in aiding other artists to paint in a loose style there would be no point in teaching. Neither would there be any point in writing books or filming DVDS if I didn't want readers or viewers to follow the included step by steps, that I work so hard to make interesting and achievable. So to all the new teaching artists who have asked me this question I need to ask you to consider why you are teaching. This is a part of my art life that I adore and I am thrilled when artists who have come to me win competitions, get into galleries for the first time or start teaching themselves. But I do aim to teach new artists to be unique from the word go.
We must remember that copying is an invaluable way of understanding technique and building confidence. Many amateurs worldwide learn by following professional artists who are further along in their own art journeys. It is a valid point that inspiration not only comes in following an artists painting style but from their career path as well. And we mustn't forget that it really is a huge compliment when someone loves your work so much that they wish to paint like you.
But there is a fine line between being inspired and directly copying for financial gain. Copying to learn is a simple form of studying a style and perservering until you can work alone finding your own subjects and compositions. To anyone who is copying to learn, well done. But to those who are copying and passing off the ideas as your own please think twice. Copying an image from a book, from facebook, a blog or web site and then trying to sell it as your own is not ethical and it is breaking copyright laws. Even sharing a copy of someone elses art online and pretending it is your own work, without the aim of a sale, is wrong.
One question regarding copying posed to me this week was from an emerging artist, whose work is wonderful. They had been directly copied for the first time. I can understand their frustration. I am afraid when sharing online this is going to happen from time to time. However the internet world is a very small place. No sooner has anyone copied a painting and shared online, than it often becomes a focus of conversation that doesn't always throw the copying artist in a good light. Nor is it easily forgotten.
In my case, I have good humouredly watched an established artist copy not only my ideas at times, but they also add to their blog in line with my posts. In fact they started a blog because of this one. Part of me finds it amusing, the other part of me finds it really sad because unless they start being themselves they will always be a shadow of someone else. More recently there was the email I received when I first started painting Kingfishers. Another "artist" started painting Kingfishers. A background had been added to one of their paintings trying to make the composition look different to mine but it was obvious where the inspiration had come from. It could have, of course, been a sheer coincidence but the timing and similairty made their post look questionable. Did I mind? To tell the truth I didn't. If someone is picking up their brush and painting because of me I am thrilled because that is the aim of my books and DVDs. To inspire. But I do feel sad when people cannot openly admit when they have been affected by others art. There is no shame in honesty or admiring art that you think is beautiful.
I haven't contacted either of the artists mentioned. I am so happy in my own life and art career that I don't feel the need to do so. But I do understand how frustrating it is for the new artist when this happens to them for the first time. I have been there and in all honesty I think I handled the situation years ago very badly. A " friend" had directly copied a demonstration of mine and passed it off as their own idea online, putting their painting for sale as cards on a well known site. I was genuinely hurt by their dishonesty at the time more than anything else. And I was very naive.
Maybe that is the key word. Dishonesty. For anyone to pretend they have come up with an idea for a painting then passed off someone elses' creativity as their own is in effect stealing. The real problem is that once anyone has this label of using anothers' work it is very hard for them to shake off. Trust in a copying artists integrity is non existent.
So please, learn from other artists but don't pretend their work is your own.
And if you teach, be compassionate because not everyone who copies is aware of what they are doing. The excitement of a painting turning out for the very first time can be such a wonderful feeling. I know some very innocent amateurs who in their wildest dreams would never wish to offend anyone by enjoying their art style so much that they wanted to simply be able to achieve a good result. If you have helped, as an art mentor, someone reach their goal be happy because that is such a rewarding feeling.
Lets' all help and guide each other and if someone makes a mistake there are kind ways to help them learn from it. Unfortunately there will always be those who care little about ethics or honesty, but I like to think they are in the minority.
So the question raised deserves many answers. What would you do?
"How do you cope when someone copies you?"