Friday 19 March 2010

Copyright Guidelines: Himba Girls

My fascination with Tom Angs Himba girls is still very much with me. I am looking forward to the day  when I  know it is time to start the full painting on a large fresh piece of white paper. For now my studies are growing as is my information on what was happening the day these girls walked together. All thanks to my communication with Tom.  As I was not there when he took this  image I can't possibly know what was happening and as the story unfolds my painting will change greatly in the next piece.

 Himba Girls   Study III.
Inspired from the original photograph taken by professional  photograher and well known author Tom Ang.

  When I shared the first Himba Girls study I posted a blog entry on copyright and theft issues . Since then I have recieved wonderful emails from confused beginners new to the art world and from established professionals thanking me for bringing the topic up. It is an area we all avoid because it can lead to so many arguments on what is and what isn't right.

For the beginner there is more to understand and I promised I would explain further on my blog. Please bear in mind  you can seek advise on and offline but the basic rules regarding copying are as follows.

1) Original Art. If you paint from your own resources such as photograhs you have taken or from life, anything that is not influenced by others this work is orginal and yours to do whatever you wish with. You can sell the piece, exhibit or use it in magazines. It is yours and you own the copyright.

2) Inspiration You may have purchased an instruction art book and wish to follow the step by steps.Perhaps you have been to workshop.  The artists who write including myself expect to be copied for learning purposes only.We teach workshops and demonstrate so that others can  share our passion. But to sell these copies is an infringement of  copyright law.

3) Copying with intent to sell is a criminal offence. So if anyone is looking for an easy way to make a sale by using another artists work then they could be walking into an area where not only their reputation could be affected.Their bank balance could also.

4) Making Changes Without Permission This area I did not  fully understand until recently but if you change an artists original without gaining their permission you are also  infringing copyright. For example if you paint the same scene but add another detail or change the colour slightly you are still copying and breaking the law.

It isn't worth taking the risk when there is so much that is so beautiful to paint. Be original!

I have had many questions regarding workshops and  books. Let's use an example. In the case of my copied rose painting which I mentioned in my previous post. I had discussed what colours I  used, where I would start and painted the whole composition fully describing my technique and brushstrokes. The copying artist then returned home and painted an almost exact painting. There is no confusion.The copying artist knows they watched me paint the roses and they know  the compositions are identical.

Legally there is an issue here that a solicitor could deal with. This is where any artist who has been copied has to make a decision. To take action or not. However if you do as I mentioned before quite often yes,you are seen as the guilty party. I fully sympathise with the professional artists who feel as though they should almost apologise to the copying artist for  asking them to remove the copy.  But people do sometimes make genuine mistakes if they don't understand the law. In less serious matters simple and kind communication is all that should be needed to solve the issue,on both sides where both parties need to respect the others feelings.

Unfortunately those who deliberately continually copy to sell often do know exactly what they are doing and this makes the whole situation even harder harder for beginners as they are misguided unfairly.

So to close when you paint ask yourself a question which only you can answer.

1 ) Is it really mine ? Can I honestly say this is my own work or should I say it is inspired by another artist.

2) Should I contact the original artist? If your painting is inspired by another artist contact them and  explain why you would like to share your painting. You will be surprised at how delighted the artist could be to  hear from you. But this is only step one.

3)  What should I tell them?  Be honest! Don't just ask if you can paint it. Let them know you intend to sell your copy too. Tell the artist exactly what you wish to do with the painting. You may need to share the profits from the sale so be warned.

There is another way of dealing with copies that both sides could  agree on. Contact the artist and suggest you donate all proceeds from the copied painting to charity and add Inspired By with the original artists name. That could be a solution that does the most good! 

So if you are copying or feeling inspired get in touch with the original artist and wait until they reply before you risk breaking the law! Please respect their decision, if they have the original on sale they may reject your request but it is always worth following the copyright laws.Your name and reputation is seriously at stake.

Himba Girls Study II inspired by a photograph by Tom Ang.

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