Every single day my eyes take in images, live ones, printed ones, and images from television and computer screens. Those images trigger creative impulses for future drawings or paintings or photographs. I tuck them into the reserves of my brain and when it is time to create I am never without ideas. Some people complain of writers block – but I never have artists block – instead I have a lack of time in one single lifetime to create everything floating around in the reservoirs of my imagination.
Yesterday I received a Cease and Desist order to remove a certain piece of art from my website. There is a copyrighted image out there that looks remarkably like mine. My piece was created many years ago and I don’t fully remember the circumstances. It was for a baby shower and I was given a very specific description of what was wanted. At the time, I was mainly doing art for friends and donations. It never occurred to me to ask if the person was asking me to recreate something they had seen elsewhere. I quickly removed that painting from my portfolio along with many others and I shut down the Wind Inspired facebook page for the time being.
I stayed up most of the night googling images.
I have a favorite painting that I did of a rubber duck 4 years ago. I remember working on that piece with an actual rubber duckie sitting on the table as I worked. Yet, today I can google dozens if not hundreds of paintings of rubber ducks. Can I prove that I didn’t copy another’s? If there’s another painting of a rubber duck with a polka-dot background have I fundamentally emulated the key components of that painting? I can’t prove how I created that painting.
I have dinosaur paintings that I love. Based on a mother’s request to do brightly colored creatures that weren’t scary, I set to work. I KNOW that they were envisioned in my own mind before they were put on canvas. But can I prove that they weren’t inspired by something I might have seen a month before? Or in a story I once read to my son years ago?
My recent poppy works were created in my studio while I was surrounded with pinned up photographs that I took a decade ago in England. Do they resemble other poppy paintings out there? Of course they do. Did I copy those others? NO.
I have been incredibly careful on this blog not to lift photos off of the internet. The writing and photography are all mine. But can I be accused of taking a photo that has the same artistic elements as another photographer’s work? Are there that many different ways to shoot a child on a beach holding balloons? Or a bowl of apples? Or a girl playing the flute?
Ironically, just this week I have been discussing a local art program for elementary students. I am disappointed that the curriculum involves so much tracing, stenciling and copying. I believe that children should be taught to use their imagination and be encouraged to create their own exciting work and not copy the example presented to them. So here I am, completely sickened over the thought that I may have inadvertently done just that.
For the moment, I am taking a step back. I will re-evaluate my past work and make some changes as to how I create from today on. I will look into copyrighting my own artwork and photography so that I have proof of when I created them and have legal possession of the artistic elements. I will limit, if not eliminate my online presence for now, and return with only copyrighted images.
To those who have my work – thank you for enjoying my love of photography and painting. If you would like to discuss any future work, I’d love a message or email and we can discuss the possibilities.
Life is full of lessons and we are never too old to learn.