Thursday, March 24, 2011

Plagiarism or 'passing off' - it's got to stop

Two years ago I was originally going to call this post "Duane Derivatives".  At the time I decided to let the matter pass - but time passes and the 'passing off' which has been going on for a long time continues.

Hence this post today - which is all about the issues arising from plagiarism and copying the artwork of other people - including:
  • what is plagiarism
  • what is derivative work
  • when artists copying other artists is OK
  • how to avoid accusations of plagiarism
NOTE:  Please note this post has been revised since it was first published for two main reasons.  First, it's very apparent that some people are skim reading and then asserting elsewhere that this post says things which are simply not true.  In fact it was written very carefully to avoid such statements being made.  

I'm also concerned that people focus on the principles rather than an individual artist identified.  While I believe the artist and I would agree mistakes were made and remedies were implemented, the example appears to be distracting people from the vast majority of the content of this post.  

I've implemented a revision which has removed all but one of the images and some of the text and added some text of a more general nature.  The first 50 or so comments on this post were made when the images and the original content was still in place.

This post is about principles and practices and not individuals.

Beware - this is a very long post.  I suggest you go and get that cup of tea you've been waiting for before you start!  

Note:  If you have only skim read please refrain from commenting on it either here or elsewhere until you have reread it carefully.

What is plagiarism?

Here's a couple of definitions from authoritative sources of the meaning of plagiarism
the practice of taking someone else‘s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.
Oxford English Dictionary

the use of any source, published or unpublished, without proper acknowledgment
Princeton University
While the Merrian-Webster Online Dicitionary defines the verb "Plagiarize" as follows
Definition of PLAGIARIZE
transitive verb
: to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own : use (another's production) without crediting the source
intransitive verb
: to commit literary theft : present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source
It's interesting to note that the word is first noted in the early 17th century and comes from the Latin word plagiarius which means 'kidnapper' (This, in turn, comes from plagium 'a kidnapping' which, in turn comes the Greek word plagion.  The Romans were rather good at plagiarising Greek!)

Clearly plagiarism is a very serious issue.

Anybody who has been to university will know and understand what plagiarism means.  It's a very major issue when it comes to the presentation of original work for assessment.  This has become even more impotant of late within the context of a digital world where it is very easy to purloin without acknowledgement.

In the 'real life world', plagiarism should always be a major consideration for those presenting artwork for sale especially if they are generating a financial benefit from plagiarism.

While plagiarism is never acceptable its can sometimes be understandable.

Those who don't have the benefit of a college education may be less well schooled in why intellectual honesty demands that you acknowledge your sources. However that's an excuse which simply won't do for some individuals, especially those who ought to know better. 

What is derivative work?

Creating what's known as "derivative" work is also an aspect of creation and copying which is well known - but not always well undestood - even by professional artists.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines 'derivative' as
imitative of the work of another artist, writer, etc., and usually disapproved of for that reason
So a benchmark for artistic practice is that outright imitation is disapproved of.

However derivative work is generally considered to be within the bounds of what is reasonable when an artist borrows but creates something wholly new.

When it isn't reasonable, in particular where the level of differentiation is insignificant, the artist producing the derivative work stands to lose a significantly in terms of artwork, reputation and sometimes financially.

See for example the ruling reported yesterday in The Guardian Richard Prince ordered to destroy lucrative artwork in copyright breach.  Richard Prince specialises in what's known as "appropriation art" which has made him a lot of money.  I should imagine there will be rather fewer artists appropriating images from other artists in the future given that particular ruling.

Interestingly there is no copyright available for a derivative work
To be copyrightable, a derivative work must differ sufficiently from the original to be regarded as a new work or must contain a substantial amount of new material. Making minor changes or additions of little substance to a preexisting work will not qualify a work as a new version for copyright purposes. The new material must be original and copyrightable in itself. Titles, short phrases, and formatting are not copyrightable.

Examples of Derivative Works

The following are examples of the many different types of derivative works:

• Television documentary (that contains archival footage and photographs)
• Motion picture (based on a play)
• Novel in English (a translation of a book originally published in Russian)
• Sound recording (CD in which two of the ten selections were previously published online)
• Sculpture (based on a drawing)
• Drawing (based on a photograph)
• Book of maps (based on public-domain maps with some new maps)
• Lithograph (based on a painting)
• Biography of John Doe (that contains journal entries and letters by John Doe)
• Drama about John Doe (based on the letters and journal entries of John Doe)
• Super Audio CD (in which all the tracks were previously released in a CD and have been remixed)
• Words and music (that include words from the Bible)
• Words and musical arrangement (arrangement is based on a piece by Bach)
• Musical arrangement (based on a work by Bach)

US Copyright Office Circular 14: Derivative Works (pdf file) 14th May 2010
It never enhances an artist's standing with his or her peers where there is insufficient differentiation between the old and the new.  People notice and draw their own conclusions - which often involve pejorative terms!

I'm thinking here of the comments made about some of Damien Hirst's "borrowing" of items created by other people where there was apparently far too little change between what was produced (and documented as produced) by one person and what subsequently appeared under the name of Hirst (a man who readily admits he didn't even paint "his" own spot paintings).

Virgin Mother by Damien Hirst
Here's a sketch I made of a work exhibited by Damien Hirst at the Summer Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts in 2006.  Hirst 'borrowed' the look and shape of the girl in Degas's Little Dancer bronzes and then created an enormous 35 foot tall 13.5 ton bronze statue of a girl who was clearly pregnant.  (See Sketching at the Royal Academy of Arts).

The other side provides an anatomical exposure of what's going on inside the body - which follows on from some of his earlier work which had also 'borrowed' rather more closely from existing artefacts - which in turn had generated a number of critical comments about his artistic practice.  However in this instance I'd argue this was a derivative work notwithstanding it was a fusion piece relating to two different sources.

In 2008 leading art critic Robert Hughes said Hirst was responsible for the decline in contemporary art. Hughes said Hirst's work was "tacky" and "absurd" in a 2008 TV documentary called The Mona Lisa Curse made by Hughes for Channel 4 in Britain. Hughes said it was "a little miracle" that the value of £5 million was put on Hirst's Virgin Mother (a 35 foot bronze statue), which was made by someone "with so little facility".
Wikipedia - Damien Hirst
It's worth noting that being a very famous and successful artist/media darling certainly does NOT exempt you from legal claims of plagiarism either (see Damien Hirst faces eight new claims of plagiarism  The Guardian 2010)

Why do people copy artwork?

Copying artwork is a well-established and lauded tradition within the art world - for educational purposes.  It's all part of the process of learning.  I'd go so far as to say it is actively promoted by very many artists who teach as a wonderful way of understanding HOW other artists created their work.  It gives you an insight into all sorts of aspects of work which you cannot grasp simply by looking at the work.

It's no coincidence that one of the copyright exemptions relating to "fair use" is related to educational use.

I've personally made copies of all sorts of artists - past and present - from Hockney to Chardin, from books and sat in front of their drawings and paintings in museums.  EVERY time I've done this I've learned something about the artist and also about how a painting came about.  The process of making art through copying imparts a much better understanding of how the artist approached their task.  It's certainly a practice I highly recommend to others.

Thus copying for personal educational use and development is absolutely fine.  In fact it's more than fine, it should and is positively encouraged.

However, that doesn't mean you can present your artwork to the public without clearly identifying the source of inspiration.  People normally use "After [name of the artist]" somewhere in the title - such as my piece which I posted about recently After Bonnard

So what's the difference between plagiarism and copying artwork?

So copying artwork for personal education purposes is OK and plagiarism is not.

What's the difference?  How can you avoid making a big mistake?  Here's a few suggestions about the ways in which they typically differ:

Copying to learn
Plagiarising to make money
Should always involve acknowledgement of sourcesAlmost always involves a failure to acknowledge sources and influences
No direct financial benefit as work is usually
  • not sold;
  • not entered in art competitions etc
Frequently associated with a desire to make money - whatever the cost
  • sells artwork which copies another artist's work
  • The extreme: the fraudster who also adds a copied signature to the painting or mimics the signature of another artist
Learning and process often shared online if work posted online 

Many professional artists cite the artists who influenced them
Plagiarist may share the process online - in different media - but often fails to acknowledge openly relevant influences

How do you avoid plagiarism?

Within the arts, it's recognised that nobody has a copyright over things found in the natural world  - such as eggs, oranges, clementines, oysters, asparagus etc - see my previous post You cannot copyright nature
  • you cannot copyright nature because you cannot claim ownership as the author
  • consequently you cannot corner the market in depicting a particular aspect of nature
  • you can only copyright those elements which are the artistic elements of the work - the aspects which you personally add to what nature created and make it distinctively your own work
  • you can only prevent other artists from copying the elements you added - ie those aspects which make your work unique
So, for example, it's perfectly OK to paint the same subject from nature as another painter - such as a pear or an orange or a fig. You just need to make it your own.

However if your subject matter or set-up has been influenced by another painter it's appropriate and indeed courteous to acknowledge the role played by another artist in stimulating that painting - particularly if the subject matter is unique to that artist.

Here's a couple of examples by Julian Merrow Smith (Postcard from Provence - started February 2005) to illustrate the point.  The first is a painting of a wrapped orange where he comments on his own personal experience but also pays tribute to the still life paintings of object and wrapping paper by Sadie ValeriObjects in wrapping paper are an age old subject for artists and there is absolutely no copyright on this topic.  Other painters who have gone before include painters such as William Joseph McCloskey (1859-1941).

Julian highlights in another piece Beurre d'Isigny how artists look at lots of art by other artists and often the influences for a particular work can become subliminal.  In his comments he references Vollon's Mound of Butter and Connor Walton's 2008 painting Butter.   Duane Keiser has also written about the Mound of Butter in the sort of blog post which is always guaranteed to influence people and stimulate them to have a go for themselves - in their own unique way of course!

Lovehearts is another good example of a different sort.  There are thousands of photographic images on the internet of this iconic sweet arranged in any number of different ways. Interestingly there are incredibly few paintings by even fewer artists.

More sweets - notice the positiong and colour scheme.
Duane's painting is on the left
Who else other than Duane creates a small painting from just one Loveheart - in the manner of Duane?  Good question.  Back in 2009 somebody supplied Duane with the answer - on the right (the image has been removed).

When an artist also manages to pull off the same trick with a completely different set of sweeties....and then yet another (image removed) - some very serious questions start to be asked - which is what happened back in 2009 when these images started to circulate on the Internet.

With subject matter which is in the public domain - the issue for an artist is how to paint the subject in a way which is unique to that artist.

Hence if one artist has made an iconic painting how can artists coming after create derivative work which is sufficiently different to justify its own copyright.  It's not surely enough just to move the subject slightly on the paper.

Why raise this issue now?
Sometimes the best policy is to let sleeping dogs lie, but I find myself unable to ignore such a flagrant violation of intellectual honesty. I'll have to think about this further.
Duane Keiser (email to me in June 2009)

First let's retrace some steps to provide context.

The start of the painting a day phenomenon

The painting a day phenomenon has been embraced by very many different artists who all sought to become as successful as some of the early practitioners.

On 3rd December 2004, Duane Keiser started his blog A Painting A Day.  I've never come across anybody doing what he did at an earlier date - and I've looked at ALL of the early painting-a-day/daily painters blogs.

Back in August 2006,  Duane explained - on his blog On painting - how he it all came about and also what he has learned as a result.  This is an excellent example of an artist sharing his learning with others.
You can also read some of the extensive national press and premier blog coverage he has received for his iniative in Articles and Interviews - Duane Keiser Press

The essential point to remember here is that
  • Painting small was not new.
  • Painting for the internet was not new.
  • Painting on a daily basis was not new.
  • However producing a small painting every day, regular as clock work and then posting it on a blog which people could subscribe to and selling artwork via eBay auctions where people who don't normally enter art galleries could bid for it was sheer genius!
I don't think anybody had appreciated until Duane started his painting-a-day blog:
  • how much art could be sold through the Internet 
  • how many small works could be sold via the Internet- and what sort of prices they might reach
  • how buying patterns and distribution channels could be changed forever
  • how the 'painting a day' phenomena might generate
    • so many new daily painters
    • so many new art collecrtors
  • how the internet could enable some artists to derive their income wholly through painting small works
It was a prime example of somebody recognising how it was possible to transform the interface between artist and collector such that both could benefit hugely.
  • the artist no longer had the price paid for his work topsliced by a gallery
  • the collector could buy more affordable works and also know that all the cash was going to the artist
  • the relationship between artist and collector became more intimate
  • creating small affordable works meant more people bought more works and became 'art collectors'
  • collectors who started with small paintings started to trade up and buy bigger works from the same artist
Very many of the painting a day followers have over the years repeatedly demonstrated their own personal intellectual honesty and acknowledged in writing Duane's pioneering role in creating what became, for many, a very stimulating experience and, for a few, the start of a lucrative career as an independent professional artist.

One example of an artist who has always been at pains to acknowledge Duane's role in his success is another early adopter of the painting a day mode of operation - Julian Merrow Smith.  This is the statement that has been on his Postcard from Provence website ever since 2005 when I first started following him.
The inspiration for the site came in 2004 with the arrival deep in the French countryside of a high-speed internet connection and Duane Keiser's pioneering a painting a day blog.
In December 2006, in my very first Making A Mark awards, the first Painting a Day Stickability Shield award was shared by Duane and Julian who received the following accolade
They posted a new painting a day on their blogs for well over a year and, although they're not now posting a new painting absolutely every day, they're still managing a lot more than most 'painting a day' blogs 
Is it plagiarism?

So much for the ground-breaking transformation engineered by Duane - so what about the plagiarism?

At the beginning, when painting a day was taking off, those who 'led the pack' realised that people were going to copy what they did.  After all if you've got a "recipe for success' which works it's not at all unusual if people try to do a "me too" and emulate you.  This was to be expected - and, of course, this is exactly what happened!

What many of us then saw from 2005 onwards was wholesale and superficial copying of motifs by a number of the PAD artists.  I know I personally saw many people trying to copy Duane and Julian and the other leading PAD artists with varying degrees of success.   Many seemed to think that it was easy to make money simply by repeating the use of the same motifs rather than paying attention to making their art unique to them.  How many of us can list the motifs we saw again and again and again and again.

How much was plagiarism and how much was derivative art and how much was legitimate?  Good question!

The humorous comments which were passed about people "doing a Duane" tended to dry up when somebody who was a much better painter was observed to be doing the same thing and sometimes doing it rather more than others.  In my experience, that was always when the "crossing the line" comments tended to start.

Rather than getting agitated by it, the early painting a day artists hoped that over time the artists who were 'copying' their ideas and styles would find their own feet and in due course start painting the subjects which were meaningful to them using an approach and style which is uniquely their own - their signature style if you like.  After all, that's what normally happens as artists practice, become more accomplished and mature.  Some would say that you become a painter when you stop producing derivative work.

However we must note that artists have always drawn inspiration from other artists
Good artists copy, great artists steal
Pablo Picasso
The important point - as Steve Jobs, Jeff Veen and this blogger have pointed out in Design Ideas: 'Good artists copy, great artists steal' is as follows
The key here is to be intentional with what we steal, to look at what the principles are behind the things that are successful, and steal those, rather than just a...superficial copy.
Jeff Veen
Duane has recently commented on Julian's own painting-a-day initiative as follows
Julian is a perfect example of that principle: he took the painting-a-day idea, used what he needed from it and made something completely new and, in many ways, better than the original idea. His auction system is ingenius and a massive improvement on eBay, his blog design is beautiful and clean, the book, and, of course, his work, is utterly his own.
Duane Keiser March 2011
I elaborate on this in the next post - Make your own art!

So what's the issue with the Duane Derivatives?

In 2009 Duane was sent a letter by an art collector which enclosed a montage of images of some of his paintings and ones by another artist which looked uncomfortably similar to his own work.
  • I've split up that montage and included it in this post (all but one of the images have now been removed)
  • Take a look again at the visual images in this post - the ones I've labelled Duane Derivatives - Is it Plagiarism?
  • In each painting the artwork on the left is by Duane Keiser.  
  • On the right the very similar artwork is by another artist.
Having considered the matter at some considerable length and after having shown these images to and consulted with a number of people (which included me) Duane concluded that, in general, they looked to other people very much like a copy of his work.  Accordingly he sent the artist an email. 

The artist did not directly respond to the email but did remove some of the images identified in the email (and previously seen in this post) from the artist's website and blog. 

Which, to my mind, rather answers the question "Is it plagiarism?"

Have lessons been learned?  Has the practice stopped? 

The thing is there are those who are very much of the opinion that Duane is NOT the only painter whose work has been copied by other artists or continues to be copied.

For example, content continues to be a major challenge for many painting a day artists

There are still far too many artists copying other artists in ways which lack originality.  Indeed if anything it's getting worse because people have grown used to seeing it and some seem to be accepting it as 'the norm' and 'OK'.

However sometimes we come to a point when a line needs to be drawn in the sand - such as when artists appear to need help to see more clearly a line they have been crossing on a regular basis.  If it helps them to become more mature in their professional practices and move on then that's all to the good.  Lessons can be learned at all ages.

It's very important to note that I am not in the business of hounding or flaming any individual artist with talent who fails to make wise choices at all times.  On the whole it's seems pointless to 'name and shame' since an artist either "gets it" or doesn't.  Many of us also learn from our mistakes.  Plus artists can also grow up, develop, become more self-reliant and move on and change to more professional practices.

The way forward

I don't know whether you agree that it's time to take a stand on plagiarism - whether you are an artist or an art collector.  It's a very contentious issue and I do readily acknowledge that not everybody will agree about what is and is not OK.

I have two suggestions for a way forward

First, in future, we can and should demonstrate our values through our actions.  We should:
  • only endorse artists who copy other artists when it's part of an educational learning process
  • applaud all those who have the intellectual honesty to identify their influences openly
  • value and invest in the unique and the original always and everywhere
  • value and encourage the artist who makes an effort to find their own individual style
Second, it seems useful to me, from an educational perspective, to have a discussion - with an educational intent - about what is and is not OK in relation to copying, plagiarism, imitation and derivative art.

Comments are welcome - even 'mea culpa ' ones by recovering copyholics! :)  However PLEASE note:
  • all comments are moderated - and I'm not at my desk all the time
  • if you have identified the artist highlighted in this post do NOT identify her by name - your comment will not be published.
This is also very definitely NOT an invitation to any sort of flame war!  Quite the opposite, this is an invitation to stand up for a more mature and responsible approach to the practice of making art. 

If you've got a constructive contribution to make please leave your comment below



  1. "Be careful that you do not write or paint anything that is not your own, that you don't know in your own soul. It's stealing and hypocrisy and you'll fall into a hole. [...] If you're going to lick the icing off somebody else's cake you won't be nourished…"
    ~ Emily Carr (Canadian artist and writer 1871-1945)

  2. As always a detailed, honest and incredibly useful post Katherine. I am in 100% agreement with you.

  3. Wow - what a really GREAT quote!

    I shall doubtless pinch that and use it in another blog post sometime. ;)

    Many thanks for highlighting it.

  4. Hi Katherine
    phew. What a large subject, and well done for tackling it. The Painting-A-Day Movement (for I believe it IS a Movement) has in some ways exposed both the Strengths of the Internet, and its greatest weaknesses too. As a teacher, as well as a painter, I can see both sides of the wobbly fence, with honest, focused artists painting away on one side, and eager Learners on the other. I recently started a blog myself, and have been very restrained about what I put on there - and I know other artist-teachers who have put too much instruction on their blogs and have suffered hugely from plagerism, but feel there's nothing they can do about it. Personally, I talk Copyright (and what that REALLY means - everyone has heard of the word, but mostly they don't understand it) and very many are surprised when I say that no, I wouldn't be flattered if people started copying my work without asking, thanks very much... In fact, when it HAS happened, I've been raging, and I am usually very passive! Regarding your post, I can't say I'm surprised at what is happening, and perhaps it won't be long before we are all as brazen as those who plagiarise, and begin to Name and Shame them. The only alternative is Education, and that is a slow battle, when the opponent is the World Wide Web. Such a shame, for part of the joy in painting is creating the image yourself, in noticing the light on something, and just HAVING to paint it. A whole different world to copying someone elses....

    1. Brilliant reply. I can sympathize. It happened to me on a watercolor site twice on Facebook. Galling doesn't begin to describe the feeling. It's more like an upheaval of everything in one's mind, heart and soul.

  5. Katherine, this is a timely and wonderfully done post. It's a measure of integrity whether an person (not just artists) openly defines their influences (and I don't think my daily painting blog does so properly, which I will have to address). This situation is just one of another sad indicators of how lazy society has grown. I am meeting fewer and fewer people who are genuinely creative in that they process their world and give us their take - they want to take shortcuts or a direct route instead of doing the work themselves, learning in the process, and coming out ahead in the long run. Thanks for a great post!!

  6. Thanks Bob - please fell free to highlight to those who might also find it useful

  7. Julie - I agree it now qualifies as a movement.

    I also agree that the problem with copyright and plagiarism is that unfortunately far too many artists on the onternet have never had any sort of formal art education which addresses that issue.

    It's such an important thing to know about - not least because of the way it impacts on the artist who is being copied in ways people maybe don't even think of.

    The way forward has to be education.

    Please share this post if you think it will help.

  8. I'm very thankful not to belong to the "me too/get rich quick" generation. I find it all too depressing for words!

  9. Katherine,
    Wow, thank you for this well written, very helpful post. I have linked it to my blog and will post it on Friday with a few words of introduction.

  10. What a great post and high time too, this has been going on for a long time. I suppose that just shows what a generous and nice lot most artists are. I cant quite understand how someone could be so brazen, could not wish to develop their own style and take on things, could have so little artistic integrity, its not as if she has no skill, they are, after all , well done! It is sad and just a few acknowledgements a long time ago would have gone such a long way.

  11. Interesting and honest post on this subject, Katherine. Copying and plagiarism are subjects that come up all the time in forums and in personal discussions, and will no doubt continue to be a debated and controversial issue.

    I went through the blog archives of the artist I thought you were talking about, and sure enough, I found at least 3 of the images you show here. As a talented painter in her own right, I don't understand why she would feel the need to copy another artist's work, or at least not give a nod to the subject influence. I'm not sure I agree that the mango or peeled citrus are copies; a piece of fruit sitting on a wood box is hardly a unique idea, and I've seen several other renditions of peeled lemons, oranges, etc. But, the candy series? I agree that the similarities are too close to be coincidence.

    It does at least appear that she has moved away from piggybacking on Duane's ideas and now has her own. I find it a shame she doesn't offer credit to peers, though; what is the problem with that? I happily do that on my blog every chance I get, both historical and contemporary influences. I don't think it 'takes away' from what I'm doing, but maybe that's what her concern is?

    Regardless of whether she acknowledges Duane as spearheading the daily painters movement, I think many or most of us certainly do give him that credit! I think both he and Julian M-S can be proud of positive influence they've had on artists and the profound shift effect it has had on both the buying public and art economics for the reasons you've listed in your post.

  12. Katherine, what a courageous, informative post...I will have to bookmark it and read it in pieces! I'm astounded at the depth and complexity.

    I've seen those copies too, and wondered WHY?? What joy is there in appropriating someone else's image? Duane's concept is brilliant, but copy his work?? I don't understand.

    Granted, LEARNING by copying from the Masters is an ancient and honorable tool for understanding, but we're not talking about that, are we!

    I find myself in a very odd position, as a dedicated artist and teacher, as well as writer of how-to books. I tell my students what copyright is, and means, and explain about asking permission, crediting the originator, not selling or entering the piece in a show...

    ...and yet I have still found myself in the position of being asked to judge a show and seeing a copy of one of my own paintings from a book. Talk about stunned...

    The format of some of the art how-to books is "take this color on that brush and make this mark..." I've fought that, sometimes with success, sometimes losing the argument. I don't like TELLING people to copy; no wonder they're confused.

    I'm astounded by the fad for "Wine and Design" in this country, where everyone is given paints, brushes, and canvas and led to create the same piece so they can "take home a piece of original art." Um...original??

    Again, thank you for tackling this prickly subject in your usual thorough manner!

  13. Sonya - I very carefully framed this within the context of asking "are these derivatives?" / "is this plagiarism?" for a reason.

    My own view is that every artist when creating a work needs to ask themselves what are they bringing to the party that's new. One of the very significant difficulties and major challenges for the painting-a-day crowd is actually coming up with new small things to paint. It's not easy as I've been told by more than a few people.

    When it comes to clementines and the like I agree the subject and the presentation has been done many times before. We've all seen a few too many marbles as well!

    I do think Duane started to find NEW things to paint quite a bit before other people did. You could argue the sweets are a spin off from Wayne Thiebaud's cakes but that's what I would see as derivative art which works. He was also the first person I ever saw paint a PB&J sandwich.

    Also you can look at people like Carol Marine who has taken a very simple approach of a narrow range of objects placed on a plain or patterned background - and yet again and again and again she manages to produce a new variation which simply astounds me.

    Then look at Karin Jurick who enjoys painting people - and then completely out of the blue starts painting 100 faces of felons for her BUSTed series. This is a woman who thinks about her paintings.

    That for me is what marks out the leading proponents of a painting day. They never ever look like anybody else. Even when they're painting the same subject as any number of other painters they still seem to me to produce a painting which is uniquely their own.

  14. Many thanks for commenting Kate

    As a long time painter, author and teacher, you will appreciate much better than most the issues re copying which crosses the line!

    Like you I've been told by artists of being asked to jury the entry for an open art exhibition only to find they are looking at work completed from a set-up created in a workshop they taught. Or a piece which is a very close neighbour to one of their own paintings. I've had the impression on occasion that it's made them want to give up teaching or contributing artwork to books - which is so sad given they are really talented artists and teachers.

    You're aware I visit and review many exhibitions. I cannot tell you the number of times I see work which "lacks originality". I know people say "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" but I'm not sure everybody sees it that way.

    I come back to the notion highlighted in the post which is about take the principle and improve upon it - but what you produce has to be better!

    Every talented artist has it in them to take an idea and make it their very own - in a way which doesn't cause a jaw to drop or cause an eyebrow to be raised. It's not easy and it doesn't happen overnight but it is certainly possible.

  15. Hello Katherine. Thank you for an excellent post and for asking for feedback. I am truly getting very sick of all the subject plagiarism I am seeing in the daily painters movement. However, I think some of the artists have themselves to blame. So many of them are very actively promoting copying of their work in their workshops, which are increasing in number by the day. They are creating the very copyists they wish would find their own voice.
    I do hope your post will go viral, and if I have your permission, I would like to post this to my own blog (where I try to be very careful to be original, as well as not to be undervalued -another bugaboo, but for a different day)

  16. Sharon - it's not a problem to post a link and you can excerpt very short quotes within the context of a review.

  17. I honestly don't know if anything was done wrong here. Its hard to say without seeing the full body of this women's work. Specifically to see if this is a small portion of her work.

    I think part of the problem here is that both Duane and this woman work in a very popular style that mimics the 17th Century Dutch still-lifes. So on the style front I don't think this woman can be faulted for not having a different style from Duane. Actually I find her paitings much more vibrant than Duan's and feel like if there was a lineup I could tell them apart easily.

    As far as the subject coincidences - there's no doubt the paitnings are very similar... but if you paint in a classic style and its mango season (is that a mango?) and you need to get a painting finished in a day - you are going to put the fruit in the middle of your panel and surround it with that jar of mixed grey for the background.

    I don't know - I really don't see anything done wrong here.

    I have to say I am bored of the dailypainter movement as well. So many paintings of a single subject. I do applaud those dailypainters that have transcended those boundaries and come up with something really unique - Carol Marine and her fun colorful paintings comes to mind.

  18. Seems as though everything placed out there on the internet is 'up for the taking', the internet promotes people to think and behave like others. "When people are free to do as they please they usually imitate each other." - M. LeBoeuf/Imagineering. Good ideas attract $. This person got caught in the 'draft' of something bigger. Creativity includes the ability to be flexible and adaptable. The other's who enviously copy and profit from said copying must have some gut level guilt feelings of their decision - down the line. I enjoy the process - the joy of experimenting. Creative ability and creative behavior are two separate things. Bottom line for me, the world is so full of artists, my response is to make art so undeniably 'me' that only a likeness could ensue. Many top "PAD" artist's work speaks for itself. If nothing else the copying or derivative could be seen as a form of flattery.

  19. I reviewed the artist's work too. It sure seems to me that they (the ones posted in your post) were a direct result of seeing Duane's paintings.
    It is so easy to simply acknowledge those before you, inspired you, whose work a particular painting was influenced by... then it is ok.

    I saw no mention of Duane Keiser starting the movement in video interviews, this leaves the viewer with the implication that SHE thought of it first. At the very least a mistake.

    Once it was all brought to light she could still make that acknowledgement.

    I get the feeling it is a bit like children who are being taught to say they are sorry. The longer they wait the harder it becomes to do.

    If I were her I would post some kind of recognition on blog now, it isn't too late.

  20. Fascinating to see the paintings on the right... in the way it is morbidly fascinating, perhaps, to see the aftermath of an accident. CLEARLY, the woman can paint and paint well.. what on EARTH possessed her to cripple her own creativity and integrity with this blatant stealing of subject and composition (some more blatant than others)? This is self-sabotage, suicide of the spirit. Normal, psychologically intact people don't steal from others' geniuses in this way and not suffer in their souls.
    I very much disagree with your commenter Nicole. There are not just stylistic similarities here.. this is out and out theft.
    Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention. I am quite sure this post will have at least some deterrent effect.

  21. I think the issue is bigger than any one individual.

    I guess I see the post as being more about an example of what can happen on occasion rather than about an individual per se. Hence why I am keen to keep personalities out of this.

    The post is about much more than one individual and one set of paintings. The bigger picture and the wider issues are also highly relevant to all artists and the comments above highlight yet more issues in the connection

    I feel the focus needs to be much more on the constructive aspects to be promoted in the future.

    Shouldn't we try and talk more about how can we promote an environment which loves art which is unique and original and speaks of the artist rather than favouring yet another would-be Duane look-alike - there are an awful lot out there!

  22. Very interesting and timely post. I recall seeing, about ten years ago or more, a printed calendar of an artist's work being sold in malls and major brand name stores all over the place and I thought at the time the images seemed familiar. I finally clued in that they were direct copies of photographs from a few issues of Victoria magazine from just a couple of years earlier. I had liked and saved those magazines and found the photos, wrote to the magazine and told them that an artist was plagiarizing all these photos but never heard back on it. I don't know who the artist is that you are concerned about in this blog post but I am well acquainted with Duane's work. I find it hard to believe that anyone would feel a true sense of satisfaction and accomplishment by such blatant copying of another's ideas and/or images.

  23. Thought I was going mad... thanks laureline, I love you!

  24. Excellent post Katherine!
    One should never lick someone else's cake (love that quote Michelle shared.) It's odd to me that such a talented chef would not just make her own cake or at least credit the recipe for Duane's cake.
    Thanks, once again, for such a well written, to the point, thought provoking post. How you write such interesting posts day after day is amazing!

  25. Laura, that's what I was just telling Joseph! The artist is OBVIOUSLY talented, beautifully clean handling, singing colors, why on EARTH copy from someone else!? Creativity is so special, so unique...

    And Katherine, exactly! I find myself in the position of explaining this issue, often. I don't even like to see someone work in an obviously-Wyeth style, or obviously-O'Keefe, or even another well-known teacher's style! Nita Engle comes to mind, as do several other well-known author-artists!

    I guess it's just as well I don't really HAVE a style...the painting I referred to was a direct copy of one of mine!

  26. Bravo! There is learning and there is stealing.
    If you take a workshop and the teacher never touches your piece, and you finish it, technically it is your work. But it is NEVER your concept, NEVER unique, NEVER original. If you display it you simply MUST (if you are at all moral) acknowledge the influence and the direction taken from another's work.
    Because there is some validity to there not being anything new under the sun, anyone's work at some point could be called derivative. But for the consistently flagrant abuse of this concept, in this case, the artist should offer an apology and simply not engage in the practice again.
    She is a good artist, simply not a good original artist.
    Michelle's quote says it all.

  27. I think, had this artist added something along the lines of 'after the painting of the same name by Duane Keiser' when publishing her artwork then what she has done would be acceptable.

    Whilst not condoning the lack of acknowledgement, I have enjoyed seeing the differences of representation by both painters in the same way that it's fascinating to look on the portrayal of an identical subject as viewed through several pairs of eyes during an art class, for example.

    PS Now is a good time to admit to being an admirer of Julian Merrow Smith's daily paintings blog 'Postcard from Provence' which in turn inspired the title of my painting blog 'Picture from St Ives'. Thanks Julian.....

  28. Julian Merrow-Smith? Get back to your painting immediately!!!

    (ps Thanks for starting such a big, painty, boulder, rolling!)

  29. I've had somebody who has posted a comment which I can't publish because it includes a link which identifies the artist

    I have no intention of identifying the artist.

    If the poster would like to have another go in a way which does not identify the artist I'll be happy to look at it.

  30. This comment has been removed by the author.

  31. I agree this type of discussion is most productive when focusing on bigger picture topics. I do feel the need, however, to clarify a few things. If you take some time to research the artist being used as an example here, you will see that she painted almost all of these “example” paintings over 300 paintings ago, when she was first starting out as a daily painter. She has made hundreds of beautifully rendered still-life paintings since those early days when she was just leaving grad school. Perhaps even more important to mention is that she has an unquestionably heartfelt post on her own daily blog (July 2009) which credits those who have influenced her, including, and most prominently, Duane Keiser.
    I agree her paintings do echo back to the 17th Century Dutch paintings. To further her authenticity and voice, she even has bottles crafted of her own design to use as props in her paintings these days. Has anyone who is referencing her actually followed her in earnest?
    I think there is a lot of assumption and misrepresentation coloring what could be an interesting conversation here. Over the last few days, I’ve seen some pretty excruciatingly agenda-driven posts about a few of her paintings that have not been provided any context (i.e. the fact a gum drop may be one of numerous painted by the artist, but only pulling out the one that is the same color; only one piece of similarly positioned candy in a whole series on chocolates; cropped subject matter to make something appear more duplicative than it is in reality).
    No one who follows this artist in earnest can reasonably assert that she hasn’t: (1) developed, as we all do, over time into her own unique voice, (2) had successes that fly in the face of the typical level of recognition received by young women in this field (and, as we are currently seeing happen, been experiencing some of the more negative, but avoidable, consequences of that success), and (3) appropriately credited people who have influenced her. I urge you to look more deeply as, sometimes, our passions overshadow our vision.

  32. Thank you for an excellent post. I saw this article in my inbox directly having come from here: youthoughtwewouldntnotice , and I felt compelled to comment for a variety of reasons, although I’m not sure I have anything dreadfully insightful to add. I’ve referenced links from my own site not for purposes of promotion, but of illustration. Happy to rewrite and remove them if preferred.
    As 1) an artist who has been working in this space for a while, 2) as someone who has had a friendly correspondence with the artist used an example of a larger issue, 3) as an avid consumer of art on the web, and 4) as a collector (I have four Keiser pieces, for example) I have reactions on all points.

    1)Julian Merrow Smith’s response with reference to Beurre d’Isigny was pretty awesome; although I wonder how truly subliminal inspiration is for other artists working in a similar vein. I know that for myself I actively seek out subject matter inspiration from other artists, and that at times that inspiration can be fairly overt, as I mention in the comments in this post: watermelon slice ). I try to stay away from the ‘big’ stuff of established artists, like eggs or PB&Js which I think of as “belonging” Keiser, and by extension too cliché. On the other hand I have been so in love with Merrow Smith’s figs that I just *had* to paint them for myself (through my eyes). I have had several occurrences of serendipitous coincidence, ( Book as an example) and there’s not much you can do about those.
    For me the approach has been to openly acknowledge those around me and the inspiration/learning I derive from them, while at the same time trying to attach my own voice. It is entirely possible people look at my work and put me in the same bucket as those who plagiarize (I hope they don’t!) at worst or are derivative at best. I guess I don’t terribly mind accusations of being derivative of others provided my own attempts were founded in an educational sense (I learned something), I added something of value (some reinterpretation), the quality met a high standard for the marketplace, and I honor those who I respect. On the other hand, I hope at this stage of my development I wouldn’t put something in the marketplace that I thought lacked enough of ‘me’ in it.

    2)I have corresponded on occasion with the artist used as an example in this posting nearly from the beginning of her posting odyssey. She has created quite a few pieces that are distinctly her own voice from the very beginning, and she paints with great skill. Although she no longer links to other daily painters, she *used* to, including (if I remember correctly,) Mr. Keiser. She certainly has found her own strength as of late.
    Many of the examples posted above are certainly guilty of being intellectually lazy; two or three are *way* over the line, especially without attribution. Without taking that away or excusing, I would say that for the most part she has made her own way.
    It would be really good for her to acknowledge that her progress is due in part to the trailblazing of others.

    3)As an avid consumer of art on the web… yes, the blatant ‘mine the same vein as someone more successful’ has got to stop. I mind less the thousand different variations of the hundred ways you can paint a satsuma (I did not have Keiser *or* the unnamed artist in mind when I painted this peeled ), than I mind the artists who’s EVERY painting is a knock off of Karin Jurick’s fantastic gallery attendees series.

    4)As a collector, I will not buy paintings that are cheap knock offs.

  33. Thank you so much for drawing attention to the issue and giving so much background beyond the immediate case.

    Many may be interested that a similar controversy is going in the world of paleontology art ("paleoart"). Individual artists put a lot of work into background research on skeletal and muscle configurations for a reconstruction. They then may use that background in many individual pieces of work with similar posing but different scenes, etc. Other artists who are less fastidious about research may borrow substantial elements from these final products. They work faster and cheaper and are more competitive for some installations and museum work.

    Last month, the paleoartist Greg Paul focused attention on this situation, basically laying claim to a certain style of dinosaur posing which is widely recognized as his work. This gave rise to a long debate in mailing list and blog form.

    The question of plagiarism is more relevant than copyright, and in the paleoart field competition for commissions is the most visible means of earning a living, the book and original markets are both near-nonexistent.

  34. @Hannah

    Thank you Hannah for trying again. I'm always pleased to put the other side of the story. I hope you appreciate I was not trying to draw attention to the artist in question but rather the issue in general.

    I was also going to post after some recent comments to remind people that the images do relate to two years ago - and could they please temper their comments accordingly.

    On the question of timing which you raised. I did take some time to do research both in 2009 and this week. So far as I am aware the images were extracted in June 2009. Also that some at least (I checked and still have my note of the dates) had been posted just prior to Duane being alerted - so no, I'm afraid they don't all date back to 2007 when she was just starting out as a daily painter.

    Your point about the fact she has painted many paintings and developed as an artist since then is of course valid.

    It's certainly good to see that the role of Duane has in fact been properly recognised. I don't know if the artist ever drew Duane's attention to that undated and truncated post on her blog (inbetween 9th and 10th July) some 2-3 weeks after he contacted her in June 2009. Maybe not?

    Hannah - you may also not be aware that the July09 note about her influences is not included anywhere on her website. I know this because I went through the website very carefully twice before I wrote my post.

    It strikes me that it's entirely possible that posts you've read this week may never have been written if an adjustment had been made to the website at the same time as the blog.

    Maybe that's something which could now be fixed in an appropriate way?

    So far as the blog is concerned, I'm afraid my spotty cataracts and tiny font sizes don't mix too well. I can only apologise for having defective eysight and missing that particular link despite the fact I trawled up and down the side column more than once.

    In overall terms, I have to say that when I looked through through her blog prior to writing the post that:
    1) I could certainly see development although to be honest the still life paintings still do not speak to me of the life of the person who painted them. (We could debate whether or not that's necessary - however I do prefer still life which is more than an arrangement of objects!)
    2) The notion of the pots project seems to me to be a very good one. It provides a unifying element to her work which was missing before.
    2) I was still reminded of other painters. Although this was triggered by a few paintings and the impression was certainly not as strong as it used to be in 2009. I would also point out that I have seen her work on a regular basis since 2009.

    For me this unfortunate affair comes across as an example of where much better communication back in 2009 might have gone a long way to resolving the issue there and then.

    I guess there's a lesson in there somewhere for the artist.

    So far as daily painters are concerned, I think the lesson is to try and find subject matter which you can make your own, make it relevant to you and always openly acknowledge those who have influenced your art!

    Finally can I say the artist has an extremely good friend in Hannah! You made a good case - even if I didn't agree with absolutely all of it.

    I'm going to amend the post to direct people to read the comments and in particular the reference to the fact that recognition has been given to Duane's role in the painting a day movement.

  35. Maybe I'm thinking simplistically here, but....

    I don't think one can copyright a mango or a rainier cherry or a piece of candy. Just because one artist paints a single lemon sitting on a table, does that mean noone else has the freedom to also paint a lemon sitting on a table? Someone got drawn and quartered. I think the same article could have been written without the obvious reference to a very fine artist.

    My two cents..

  36. @Jason
    Karin paints and I draw people attending galleries - and I before I go any further this is not a defensice comment but rather one making a point about two people can enjoy doing the same thing and work in different ways

    Nobody would ever confuse our work - not because Karin paints and I draw - but rather because we produce different crops, emphasise different elements and have different styles of working.

    To my mind this should be the way it works with every subject we paint.

    I do wish people would stop painting what they think sells and started painting what they enjoy painting. It's the artist's enjoyment of a subject which can make all the difference to the impact of a painting.

  37. @John

    My goodness - I had no idea there was such a thing as paleoart - I must look it up. Sounds like a hot bed of intrigue!

  38. @Cindy - the post makes it very clear that there is no copyright over anything in nature.

  39. Hello Katherine & nice to meet you...
    Most importantly, as I sort through my thoughts, the first that comes to mind is to congratulate you for your work & your scrutiny & your honest efforts to create meaningful dialogue among artists...
    I don't agree with you on every point, but I just love that you care enough to bother...
    This for me is closer to genius... This is what art is about... Communicating & response...
    So here is where I differ...
    I have not ever copied anyone else's work, even for educational purposes... I have always found this method questionable & I don't feel my skill as an artist has suffered because I don't... Even as a child I did not copy- I just thought it was wrong...
    I feel that the endorsement of copying other artist's work for educational purposes, in art school programs, causes confusion for those students when they graduate... I think that art students should be made aware that there are other positions on the subject & that some artists do not endorse it as a method... I am one...
    In terms of the subject at hand specifically- honestly, photo realism really has its limitations artistically- I mean, Duane's work by itself is not really travelling that far anyway- like, how many times can we see a piece of fruit portrayed realistically in paint???
    I just don't think there is much to really talk about, except for his marketing plan, which bridged the gap a bit between the real world & the land of the web, as well as the fact that he has engaged many hobby artists who strive to paint a perfect pear...
    He's not making millions, neither are his copiers...
    His work is not that original, neither is that of his copiers...
    Is it wrong that people are copying him? Well, considering that you & many others seem to think that copying is ok if it is educational- well, then the line gets blurry...
    From my perspective, all copying is wrong...Maybe punishable by death or worse...
    But the whole painting a day thing was really intended to refine skill- for those who think that the daily thing works as a skill refiner...
    So, he really set himself up as a teacher of sorts...
    Funny thing- when I read about the whole thing, it increased my resolve to slow down, & every year I have been creating over longer & longer periods of time- convinced that slow art like slow food, tastes better...
    The daily thing fad made me think that everyone had ADD (attention deficit disorder)- something I was surely going to avoid at all costs...
    Last year I took six months to do one painting...
    This year I am taking the whole year to work on a sculpture...
    Again- to reiterate, the true genius is you Katherine, who cared to ask the questions... Who took a long time to research & put together this post...
    This- the act of talking about your feelings & examining issues in art in depth, that is just great!
    If the copycats start getting rich, Duane can sue them...
    But that ain't gonna happen...
    I'm not even sure if he is going to get rich... Though I hope he does succeed- like his work or not, it is fun that he has stirred something up...

  40. "I do wish people would stop painting what they think sells and started painting what they enjoy painting. It's the artist's enjoyment of a subject which can make all the difference to the impact of a painting."

    Amen to that, Katherine. Life is too short...and frankly, buyers' whims are too uncertain. I have NO idea what sells. People often like something I'm not happy with while ignoring something I poured heart and soul into, so I might as well paint what I want and make ONE of us happy!

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  42. @Katherine

    Just for clarification: my Karin Jurick comment was not directed at you. Rather it was pointed at a particular class of artist who, as you say, are "...painting what they think sells..."

    Amen to that!

  43. @Jason Thank you - I knew it wasn't. I just thought I better add that in for anybody who thought it might be.

  44. Greatly informative post, as usual, Katherine!

    I completely agree with the case made here that these paintings are inspired by Duane's, no doubt about
    that. But, in support of the artist, these are definitely not painted with Duane's painting as a
    reference. They are not copied verbatim from the painting. They have, on the other hand been painted from life with the set up very similar to Duane's. Atleast as far as the painting style goes, the artist here has painted these in her own style, not in Duane's.

    That said, I am not a great fan of painting just one object bang in the middle of a painting, because
    it gives great room for others to do the same. As Nicole says, painting a tangerine is not something new in the first place. It has existed for centuries. But with this concept of one object in a painting and all information so freely available in blogs, when one artist paints a tube of paint, a dozen others do the same. When one artist paints a piece of pastry, the next day the blog world is filled with pastry paintings. In most cases, Duane has been the one who paints a new subject first, so his work is undoubtedly the most influential of all. Funnily though, it is Neil Hollingsworth who first comes to my mind when I think of sandwiches, and not Duane :)

    I am more concerned about a more prominent form of plagiarism which involves trying to emulate another
    artist's style to the greatest extent possible. I've lost count of the number of "daily painter still
    lifes" that are wannabes of Carol Marine. This really is very depressing, as no matter how much the artist paints, he/she will only be a poor copy of Carol Marine. The thing with these wannabes is that
    they are so easily identifiable even to a not so discerning eye. They think that setting up a glass
    bottle/vase with some sliced fruits is all there is to Carol's work, and comlpetely lack the color harmony or the innovative compositions that she brings in every single day.

    I think it has also got to do with artists encouraging workshop students to paint like them from their set up. It would be great if artists let the students choose their own subjects and offer critique on how their work could be improved in terms of technical aspects. But I have never attended a workshop and really can't comment on how feasible that is.

    While the Daily Painting movement has empowered artists and collectors in a huge way and doubtlessly enables an artist to make huge strides as far as skill level goes, this downside to the movement is quite apparent. People using calling their blogs as "XYZ's Daily Paintings" itself has to be avoided unless and until they really are producing a painting everyday. Artists probably think that a Google for "daily painting" will show up their blogs too and use it as a gimmick? Even if google picks it up, I am sure an art lover would really stop by and enjoy the work only if it is original enough.

    How about inexperienced artists taking ideas (as in big picture) from the experienced ones than ideas for paintings in a very shortsighted manner? For instance, I always mention in my blog and elsewhere that Karin is a great inspiration to see a potential for a painting in the most unexpected of places. She could turn a set of wigs into a fabulous piece of art! That eye for art is what other artists should get inspired by, and of course acknowledge as well.

    Also, ignorance is no excuse in this age of information overload. Artists who are self taught with no
    formal art education also need to behave equally responsibly, for the lack of art education doesn't
    justify lack of awareness of copyright issues.

  45. I freely admit to being a big borrower of other peoples's paintings, I sometimes appropriate their styles sometimes their subject matter, perhaps if someone put up a couple of my paintings next to Duane's it could be a little embarrassing: an example. Still think it looks like mine, but others might disagree. Anybody who's read Katherine's piece and understood it will realize that nobody is trying to copyright peeled clementines or even ' a painting a day'. This is about crossing a line, and excepted, a line that we each have draw personally. In my opinion, if in doubt, then do like I know Jason does, state your source or at least link to the source inspiration. One of the great advantages of the web is hyperlinks, use them, people are interested.

    I'd like to add that I am often surprised at the insensitivity of some artists speaking out loud about other artists in public - If you want to see how interesting painting a piece of fruit can be go see Charley Parker's recent post on Duane Keiser's Peel. Have a little respect.

  46. This is the link to Charley Parker's post about 'Peel'

    I have to endorse Charley and Julian - this is an absolutely fantastic video. It really demonstrates the benefits of being a painter who practices his craft on a very regular basis.

    Nice twist on the clementine conundrum too!

  47. I feel compelled to make some points here.

    This was, and never has been for me, an issue about this artist giving me credit for A Painting a Day. Anyone who has read my blogs or heard my interviews knows that I have always encouraged the use of the PAD template. I am also educator and one of the prerequisites to being an educator is that you share your ideas freely. To paraphrase Annie Dillard, if you lock your ideas away in a safe you will one day open it to find only ashes. That this artist has given me credit as being an inspiration was not necessary, in my opinion, though I appreciate the gesture. If she had misrepresented herself as starting the movement, I would obviously take issue. Otherwise, have at it.

    As for her work, this is not , for me, a condemnation of her larger body of work to date. If you look through any of my writings you will notice that I have rarely comment on the work of another PAD painter, good or bad. I do not feel my work good enough to be handing down public verdicts. However, I’m going to make an exception here and say a few things about her body of work in general: She, in my opinion, has her own voice. Her work is more distinct now. She is finding a rhythm. This is clear. To get where she is now is impressive of many levels. She took some of my paintings, set up the same composition etc and made a very good copy of them. Who knows, maybe it is better than the original. But it is a copy. Nonetheless, if she is finding her own style doesn’t that mean she is doing some honest painting at the easel? That does not happen if copying is all you do. So something good is happening there.

    I’ve known about the paintings in question, and others, for years now. Aside from the email I sent to her (mentioned in this article) I ignored it. I have not been intently watching her blog for transgressions or calling lawyers. I am not angry with anything other than my decision recently to discuss the matter online via a discussion thread started online. For the most part it was a civil conversation, but her name should have been made anonymous nonetheless and I should have insisted on that early on. It was unnecessary to the discussion and distracted from the main issues.

    I should also say that I have never accused an artist of copying my work. Ever. I do not claim ownership of subject matter or style of painting. No artist can. All of our work has some ancestry to past work. But it is possible to cross a line. She made some mistakes and I was, at the time, a little miffed. That’s all. That, in the end, will not take away from her body of work.

    I do not think having a conversation about plagiarism is unhealthy. The internet makes the issue more obvious, certainly, and perhaps it even makes it more acceptable because we simply become used to seeing various aspects of it. Maybe this is even a good thing because the emphasis will become the deeper ideas and meaning behind the work rather than the surface features of technique and subject matter.

  48. Thank you for that contribution Duane.

    It's much appreciated.

  49. I should add that the following: "This is clear. To get where she is now is impressive of many levels. She took some of my paintings, set up the same composition etc and made a very good copy of them." was not meant to imply that she got where she is by copying a few pieces of my work. The second sentence should have been a new paragraph and thought.

  50. Duane wrote: "I am also educator and one of the prerequisites to being an educator is that you share your ideas freely. To paraphrase Annie Dillard, if you lock your ideas away in a safe you will one day open it to find only ashes."

    I expect that's what a lot of us feel who also teach; you share your work and ideas so freely, Katherine. Brava!

  51. I'm sympathetic to the point Katherine is trying to make but I think one thing that should be acknowledged here is that creating a body of work that is clearly your own is, in my opinion, much much more difficult than painting well. There are hundreds, if not thousands of artists posting paintings online. Many of them are accomplished painters but only a handful are producing work that is recognizable as their own, IMHO. And they didn't start painting that way without first making work that looked like somebody else's.

    I dare say that every artist has done derivative work, I certainly have. In fact I hope to produce something original before I die.

  52. This is an important issue and I hope that your post will educate artists online who are just starting out.

    I've been plagiarized twice (!). I wrote both of the bloggers and insisted on removal of the plagiarized works. They did remove them. If they had not, I would have named them in a post. It is fraudulent. Strong word, I know, but like a splash of cold water, helpful in finding clarity.

    As long as everyone is "gracious" enough not to call out the offenders, there will be a tacit condoning of the ignorance, and or, offensive behavior.

    My husband wrote an interesting post last year on the subject, that you might find helpful. Reading the comments were fascinating too, as some were confused or in disagreement. Arty Fice: Picasso was a Sonofabitch

    There might be something to value in the ancient custom of "shunning". Without accountability, there can be no change.

    p. s. I, too, agree whole heartedly in copying work we admire, to be used as an educational tool, but never to pass it off as one's own!

  53. A very good, worthwhile post and should be read by many since the problem goes way beyond copying paintings. I regularly read/hear that if it is on the Internet, it is free with regard to copying things whether a painting or a photograph (or text).

    Thank you. I'll be referring people to it.


  54. Duane Keiser, you are a class act.

    I originally found this artist through her (then) Etsy shop. From there I looked at her blog (2008) and that is where I first discovered the concept of art blogs. From her blog, at the time, I found a link to Duane Keiser's Painting A Day blog. She was clearly influenced by him and to my mind acknowledged him through the link. Perhaps a written word should have been there sooner than her 2009 statement, though. I do agree that she has truly found her own voice. She has hit her stride and has shown more depth than simply being a copycat. She really is on her own journey and, I think, deserves some of the acollades she has received. None of this takes away from the recognition and accolades Mr. Keiser has received and more than definitley deserved in his career. Hopefully if she has been a little lax in the mentioning of her inspiration(s) this article will have caught her attention and forever cured her. Heck, I broke out in a cold sweat for her!

    Early in those days when I had just discovered art blogs and the daily painting movement, I spent hours surfing around wishing I could paint like Karin Jurick, Edward B. Gordon, Duane Keiser and just about every other excellent artist I discovered. Quite frankly all those art blogs really messed with my head. I wanted to be like them, as many do. The problem was (or at least at the time I perceived it to be a problem) that I had zero interest in painting still lifes or street/gallery scenes. I couldn't even muster up the inspiration to try. Now as time has passed, I no longer wish to paint like someone else. I just want to get better at painting like me. It is way too obvious these days who has taken a workshop from who. And it is getting boring. I'm not sure that I have my own style yet, but I do know I love the subject matter I choose and I am passionate about putting my take on the world down on canvas.

    Thank you, Katherine, for initiating this important dialogue and for presenting the information so concisely.

  55. For some background... let's say... on the peeled citrus?,stilllife

  56. “You can’t step into the same river twice” what I find missing from this conversation is any mention of the work as a daily practice. When you commit to a practice, whether its yoga or painting, you quickly realize that you cannot paint the same thing twice, or follow the same sequence of postures without feeling like it is a new journey. Every day something changes, the light, the weather, the warmth or coolness, we are affected by it all- even the breath affects how your body moves in yoga or painting. What I admire about the daily painting movement is the discipline and consistency that these painters show. It takes great effort to do anything in a sustained and thoughtful way. The other thing that I appreciate about the web is that you get to see the full arc of the development of an artist in a way that was never possible before. I would challenge anyone to think about how it might feel to have your earliest works up for scrutiny without the broader context of the development that has taken place.

    What we look for in any work is presence, attention, ease and time. That is what we hunger for as viewers - that is what we long for as makers. To think that anything is off limits because some one else has made it does not acknowledge traditional ways of learning or developing one’s own voice. This has less to do with originality and more to do with becoming more you, more your own hand and eye and heart in the practice. You cannot do anything at that daily level without revelation. Those qualities will always prevail against superficial claims of originality. Keep working everyday for your own attempts at transcendence.

  57. For people who have not seen it already there is a continuation of this debate on Sue Favinger Smith's Ancient Artist blog

    When Art Becomes a Business Model - A Response to Katherine Tyrrell

    This reflects on the whole topic of creating art where people use the same motifs.

    I would like to highlight yet again that my post does:
    - feature a section on why you can't copy nature and
    - offers explanations about why questions get asked rather than providing definitive answers based on my judgement.

  58. @billsharp - on the question of developing a body of work that is clearly your own

    I'm between a rock and a hard place on this one. I could have written a book on the topic but the post was already a very long one - and much as I would have liked to you can't include everything in one post. That's why the next day I followed up with the post Make Your Own Art!

    That starts with a reference to Stapleton Kearns recent post concerning how people develop their art - which can be summarised as "Make your own art, make it good and then market it"

    In essence Stapleton is commenting on the wisdom of pursuing the marketing of your art BEFORE you've actually developed your art.

    The accessibility of the Internet prompts people to jump in feet first and inevitably what we see a lot of when people first start posting is a lot of derivative art. Some more so than others. I'm always completely amazed by some of the art which is put online for sale. I'm with Stapleton and wish people would spend rather longer on developing their art before they start trying to sell it on eBay.

    We see people trying to be like their favourite artists. They then go off to workshops and they learn more about how to be like their favorite artists. They then come home and resume trying to be like their favourite artists. 'Twas ever thus I guess if you think about how the atelier system has worked in the past.

    One of the reasons for writing the post was to highlight the fact that it is possible to go a bit too far - to cross the line.

    Another reason - and the more important one - was to prompt a much better understanding of what plagiarism is and what derivative art is. They're topics that do not get a lot of air time and well-informed discussion.

    My own personal view is that we need to look at lots of different artists - as much art as we possibly can - and try and work out what it is we like about EACH of them. Then try and work out what we want to try on for size and work with that for a while and then see what unfolds from there.

    Working through a process which enables us to develop a visual lanaguage which we can call our own and then develop content which is based on who we are and what we are interested in leads to art which looks like ours and not like that artist who sells a lot of art on eBay!

    I absolutely agree that's a process which takes quite a bit of time.

    How about new artists having a goal of NOT looking like any other artist?

    Or in an era where we seem to prize the painting that looks exactly like a photograph is that too much to ask?

  59. I believe that the artists who are truly original and have something personal to convey in their work are the ones who will rise to the surface in the sea of artists. A good artist is not only adept in painting (or other medium) but highly creative as well. The others can't fool the smart person.

  60. So beautifully said, @beverly fisher.

    Like you, my interest in the PAD idea was the daily practice plus I was completely taken with the idea of following an artist on her/his journey and watching and hearing about the steps and mis-steps and revelations that occur as an artist develops - or not. Not every person who starts down this path is going to have great success but it is still fascinating, to me, to hear the stories.

    @Katherine Tyrell
    We've wandered a bit from the original topic of plagiarism and maybe gotten closer to what prompted me to want to comment, in the first place.

    If you're suggesting these ideas as recommendations to artists who are trying to develop themselves professionally, as I believe Mr Kearns was, then I think it's very good advice. But if you're saying that there should be some professional standard an artist must meet before showing or trying to sell their work, I disagree.

    As for Mr Kearn's article, I had a different interpretation of it. I read Mr Kearn's piece to be saying don't OVER market your work. He also states in his piece, "Again I am not saying that you shouldn't show and you shouldn't do some marketing, I think you should, but try to keep your marketing efforts commensurate with the quality of your art." You may disagree but, to my mind, posting work on a personal blog on the internet is not over marketing. I don't mean to insult anyone who markets their work on eBay, but, let's be honest, eBay is not a 'high falutin' art market. It's a digital flea market. Anyone can sell anything on eBay (almost).

    I don't believe every artist who writes a blog aspires to a career as a professional artist or intends the blog to be an integral part of their professional life. There are many different reasons people may write about and post their artwork.

    I paint because I'm unhappy when I don't and I post the work online as a way of sharing, since I do not show in galleries or sell. I try not to offer advice but, as someone who tends to agonize over the quality of my work, if I were going to give advice, I would say that it has not been productive for me to sit and think and worry about whether my work is original or has any value to anyone else. The only way I've made any progress as an artist has been to make art. You may not care for my work but it has been valuable to me, to share it on my blogs and I think I'm a better painter for having done so. I would encourage everyone who wants to, to make art and share it on the internet. I look forward to people sharing freely without restraint or over-thinking.

    Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts, Katherine.

  61. Thank you for an excellent clarification of what is a murky subject. Like others I have bookmarked it and will read it "in pieces".

    You may have covered my question in the part of the blog that I have yet to read, but I would appreciate your views on the use of photographs as source material from time to time, ideally our own. But there will occasions when those available on the web and elsewhere, that are not the intellectual property of the painter, form a basis for a piece of work.

    Inevitably many people use photograhic images as source material, but where does that use become plagiarism (as opposed to breach of copyright)?

    Thanks again for illuminating (for me) a complex subject.

  62. I'm a writer who occasionally deliberately models a short piece on someone else's poem or storyline. As you say, it produces learning for me to use someone else's style, but not with his or her words and with my context. And it generates in me a deeper appreciation for what that writer is doing, how he or she is doing it. Of course, I alway supply the source of inspiration for these pieces when they are published.

    What I had hoped to find in your article was more on the idea that all art is derivative ... that it's impossible to separate other influences both historical and contemporary from ones own work. This of course doesn't justify plagiarism as you've defined it, but it does leave room for producing work that draws from other periods and artists.

    At any rate, I'm writing a piece about the value of deliberative derivative writing and promise to quite you even if I use my own words to represent (hopefully accurately) your summary of the issues above.

    Ray Rasmussen

  63. I read your article and it's well written but um I still have a few questions, I guess. I am drawing a few designs/posters for my school's play. For a few of them, I was going to draw some of the poses and elements found in queen/king cards, particularly certain ones but then add my own things and change some of the elements. There is no monetary gain or anything.

    Would that still be plagiarism or derivative work? How much is too much? If it's just the pose, is that okay? Even if it's a major element of the original work/reference?

    I don't wish to copy or be disrespectful or anything to the original artist. Or um should I just do that and say that it was inspired by the artist or something?

    If that is too little information or something, I can post pictures (of the original and drawing) I guess when the drawing is done or tell you more information.

  64. My guess is you can use the symbols used on playing cards (clubs, hearts, diamonds and spades) without a problem.

    The problem might arise if you are using anything distinctive which is unique to one set of cards.

    My view is that even though it's for school and could be deemed educational (e.g. fair use) it's always best to develop the best habits early i.e. do not copy.

    Instead of being derivative why not try being imaginative and create your own take on playing cards?

  65. Excellent article! I linked to your article on my FB page.


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