My man calls my head "the coconut".... He wakes me up early every morning and will tease me about how fast my mind starts spinning. I have about 50 new ideas a week. Most of them are not worth pursuing but every now and then there is a nugget that will influence 50 more ideas. Not sure how that relates to this post, only that it was the first thing on my mind.
Since I got published in Where Women Create, the emails that I have received from artists and crafters have been eye opening. I have come to realize there is very little true "nuts and bolts" information about turning Pro in the art world and what that looks like. It seems there is a great deal of "control" that people think they have to give up to do so. And in my opinion, it is the NOT letting go of control that will keep you from turning Pro. For all of my issues, control is not one that I have held onto- Thank You GOD.
The last few emails have been on the subject of copyright infringement. Here is my experience and opinion about this issue.
I started painting seriously about 10 years ago. That means for real money- turning Pro. Coming off of a career in fashion hair and make-up design, I was an avid fashion magazine subscriber. It was a borderline addiction! I would plan days to just sit around and read my magazines. In a word- INFLUENCE.
My career in the high profile make-up world started with being an educator for Sebastian International. My job was to teach make-up artists new trends. My REAL job in that was to try to sell the salon the make-up line Sebastian had. Every season, I had to compile a story board of current fashion trends. It was old school...no internet google searches. I would take poster board, tape and a stack of magazines to make this compilation of photos and words of fashion. I got really good at spotting trends and predicting the direction that any one designer would take. I got a reputation in the hair world of being "ahead of the times", when in reality I was just researching what people were already doing and pulling the trigger early in my own work.
When I started painting seriously, I had no idea that it would take me into a world very similar. I started off just painting what I felt like with no thought to what influenced me to do it. It took me a few years to realize that the art world is very different than fashion. In fashion, "copying" is expected. Hair clients bring in photos of a celebrity and want that exact hair. It is a testimony to your talent that you can pull that off. There is nothing proprietary about being the first to do it. The only bonus is the slew of celebrity clients you get for having the original "design". I am sure Jennifer Anniston hated everyone having her hair but we loved the idea!
As a licensed artist....your job is to be "on trend" and original at the same time. That is tricky. I still do the same research as my fashion days but it is more to make sure that someone else hasn't had the same idea. It is remarkable how many times an image has popped in my head and I will search it and find how many millions of people have had the very same idea! There was a time when "putting my own spin" on it was original enough. And sometimes, it still is. It really all depends on the trend (take chevron for example). If let's say....I have never painted with shades of gray and I do an entire series with gray because it is on trend....some artist that usually only paints with gray might get all up in arms because I have switched colors. There is no copyrighting a color. Someone being upset doesn't make it proprietary or me a thief. Blatantly stealing their idea does. There was a time when I didn't research at all what someone else was doing. And showed up a few times at an art show with similar subject matter to someone else. It didn't feel good. Now, I spend hours researching to be sure I have a copyright on the idea. There might be someone that hasn't yet published their work with the same idea but you get the picture. And there is a big difference between copyright infringement and being "trendily original". Let your gut be your guide. If originality matters to you DON'T COPY ANYTHING FROM ANYONE. Most importantly, you can't have it both ways. You can't copy and be original at the same time. I had an artist last year accuse me of copying someone else's work. The hilarious part of it was the first time that I ever saw her (the accusing artist's) work, it was a painting hanging in someones bedroom and it was a copy of mine. The owner started apologizing (before I even noticed) for asking an artist friend of hers to copy it. I truly didn't care about the copying but the later hypocrisy of the artist- I did care about. I contacted the artist that she accused me of copying to make sure that she didn't share that opinion. She didn't but it made me stop using a palette knife! My gut told me that the palette knife made it too close for ME to be comfortable with and that was all that mattered.
To try to force originality, I have made several changes in how I work. One of the biggest changes I have made is what I let into my brain. I have hid in my Facebook news feed any images that could influence me. I moved my studio to a private place and I rarely have visitors. I no longer read magazines or go shopping in gift shops. I barely even hang out with creative people!! It sounds extreme, I know. It all depends on how serious you are about originality and what works best for you. I have an inability to see images and not be influenced by them and it is mostly subconscious. I have started reading spy novels and there is no influence there! I also don't pay any attention if someone is influenced by my work either. By the time I show it, it is on it's way to China for a million of them to be made. And that is copying on grand scale! Because of that it needs to be my idea.
At times I will see an artist using a technique I have been wanting to try. I ask them if it is ok and if they will share any information. More often than not, there is a technique of mine that they want to try and we share our resources and knowledge.
In close....copyright infringement is defined as "using someone else's trademarked ideas for your commercial gain". Be clear on what is true infringement before you start. When you turn pro just picking up your brush offends some people. The stakes are higher for me now and I take even the hint of it seriously.
If it is an idea that cannot be copyrighted- it's fair game. It will be frowned upon by your artsy and crafty peers but that might not matter to you. I had someone once tell me that she only copies people that don't live near her! I guess she doesn't need any friends in Texas;). And if that is the stance you are going to take, be grown up enough that when that person in another state confronts you and tells you that the 3,000 miles is too close for her; be gracious and not defensive. Again, let your gut be your guide.
Here is my take on Chevron and the Oh So Trendy vintage paper craze...
Here is my original idea for a Christmas collection in 2015. Everything under the sun has been done for Christmas so I am extra proud of this one.