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Monday, September 22, 2008

Major Issues with Show Prospectus-sss'

WOW! All kidding aside, this is SERIOUS! Lawsuits and stuff!
Just when our itty-bitty local pastel society has been torn asunder about prospectus rules...and every member has their own opinion of  'original', defending their views vocally to death (hey, this is supposed to be fun, people)...these articles arrived in my blog in-box today. One from ENGLAND! And all about not following the rules.

Sue Smith's 'Ancient Artist' blog here:

Katherine Tyrrell's 'Making a Mark' blog here:

All brought about because people (read, artists) want to make their own definition of 'original'. What part of original is confusing? Or, 'from your own source photo'? Or, 'not done under supervision"? Or, 'must have a wire, not a sawtooth hanger'? Or, 'maximum frame size'? We have all missed fine points of the 'rules' from time to time, and most of us are quite embarrassed about it...most of us never argue or make excuses for the lapse or not having laid hands on a prospectus before delivering a painting. (Moi did that recently). Mistakes happen, lapses in judgement don't.

For my readers who don't want to sift through the above links, this involves a MAJOR national award from a prestigious 'old' art society (American Watercolor Society) who has been embarrassed by the recipient as one of their 'winners'. Apparently there is reason to believe the painting (or maybe a giclee print on paper) was done from TWO stock photographs easily found online from Shutterbug (stock photography is work of photographers who post their work for download, for fees, and limited public usage). If the accusations are verified, the painting could be scrutinized for authenticity (actual pigment on paper), the artist publically embarrassed (that has already happened in this case), awards (cash and product) stripped, and forbidden to enter the particular show again. AND the artist could still face lawsuits from the photographer and copyright infringements! At this point, the winning painting has been removed from the AWS website, the artist's website taken down...but you can still find the painting with a simple search.

Stock Photography and Clip Art have been around many years, available by subscription and hefty fees for use by graphic designers, advertising agencies, newspapers, etc. Stock Photography was always (well in the last 50 years) available for huge fees, determined by the exposure a client desired...local, regional, national, world...and exclusive only for huge-er fees. You even had to pay someone to research a particular subject for you! A limited license, if you will. For example, we once did a campaign for a local chamber of commerce involving a great photo of an iceberg. It was several thousand dollars, and limited to local distribution. I sure couldn't go to the Artic for a snapshot! and Randy wasn't available for hire.

ClipArt was available by subscription (monthly fees) and meant exactly what it says, CLIPART. The books were printed and mailed to subscribers for use to be 'clipped' and pasted into a layout for advertising. They were, for the most part holiday themed, or subject...including banners for 'SALE' or 'FRESH APPLES' or nice drawings of 'SANTA'. I guess before that an illustrator had to be hired locally to hand draw the art. I'm not that old. In the recent past (10-15 years) these 'books' were replaced by digital, CD, online subscriptions. In other words, you pay for the right to use in non-commercial usages. NOT for use on T-shirts for sale, or other products for sale. Strictly for advertising, marketing.

Definitions are dangerous...try to describe it and someone will try to find a loophole. Some will argue beyond any semblance of sanity, even when Webster's says otherwise.

How 'bout this:

o·rig·i·nal  (-rj-nl)
1. Preceding all others in time; first.
a. Not derived from something else; fresh and unusual: an original play, not an adaptation.
b. Showing a marked departure from previous practice; new: a truly original approach. See Synonyms at new.
3. Productive of new things or new ideas; inventive: an original mind.
4. Being the source from which a copy, reproduction, or translation is made.

From your own source photo...YOU took the photo...YOU were on site...YOU did the composition/cropping in YOUR own viewfinder. YOU decided to add another tree to make YOUR painting more interesting. YOU did not use a National Geographic magazine photo for your painting!

Not done under supervision or workshop...YOU did not pay a teacher for space to paint...YOU did not follow the teacher's advice that it was OK to enter it...YOU did not receive 'helpful tips'...YOU did not allow anyone else to make a mark on your painting...YOU solved your own problems with color, technique and composition! Not very many of us paint in a vacuum, and we all get advice from time to time from friends, spouses, etc., but this is addressing organized painting...

Original...YOU did not modify someone else's painting by changing the color of a background...YOU did not add a fin to a fish...YOU did not change the flower in a vase...YOU did not copy another artist's style and compositional flair...YOU did not make excuses that 'but I made it my own'!

It is not that difficult to take photos of the shadow of a tree, the tilt of a flower looking at the sun, your own children, the way the light hits the stairs in your house, the way the sun sets in your backyard...heavens, you don't even have to pay for film developing anymore. blah, blah, snore.

Yes, it is true that the old master's taught in their atelier's that the way to being a real artist is to copy the people who painted before you. And yes, you can learn much about technique and composition by doing this...BUT, it should be named 'after Sargeant', 'after Picasso', etc. There could be credit noted on the back of the canvas so that whoever inherits the painting (should it last long enough) KNOWS the source. Or even signed that way on the front.

AND. NEVER, EVER ENTERED INTO A SHOW COMPETITION AS YOUR ORIGINAL WORK, THOUGHT, SOURCE. AND NEVER WHINE if you are caught or suspected. There are cases of photographers who have sued and won big judgements from agencies and artists...not to mention embarrassment by other artists (your peers) who own the same book that you copied from.

rant done. dennis miller, move over.


Anonymous said...

well said! Here's a question - say you are ancient (old enough to find getting out in the high mountains difficult) can you hire a photographer to take your source photos for you? Since Randy is a photographer, I thought he would know. Just the photos - the artist could then crop, change, whatever.

vickiandrandyrossart said...

Yes, high mountains are not on my list of things to do. Yes, I have had this discussion with bff Erika, who relies on her wheelchair for transportation...and mountains are definitely not on her radar.

I don't know the answers...just raising the questions. In my mind, what you propose 'should' be OK (man I hate shoulda-coulda-woulda). However, this issue with AWS appears to be WAY on the other side of your question! Be interesting to see how this one plays out. And like I said, when you over-define something you create more loopholes.

It should just boil down to following the prospectus for the individual show you are entering. They are different. And if in your heart of hearts you KNOW your work is original, as original as it can be, go with it.

Obviously, some people look for ways to 'cheat' the system. If they would spend as much time studying and 'seeing' for themselves they might win major awards under their own steam.

As for Randy, he wouldn't mind a bit...or take your camera to shoot with...but that's Randy. Sometimes greed and ego rear their ugly heads and that photographer wants some of the glory your national award winning painting received. Oops, then you are in a position of defending yourself.

GREAT QUESTION! Hopefully we'll get some other ideas.

Erika Nelson said...

Well said Dennis oops I meant RED! I think we all just need to read the fine prints before entering shows.

That controversial AWS piece is just so suspicious I wonder if the artist made it a life challenge to put one over the organization because of the strict rules lol Some people just don't have anything better to do. I do highly suspect it's a giclee or "digitally enhanced" image printed on watercolor paper.

vickiandrandyrossart said...

Makes you wonder, doesn't it? Like I said, I've misplaced, not read, and goofed up on a few prospectus-sss, and was embarrassed when I realized. Mistakes happen.

Outright deviant actions are abhorrent! Not fun to 'compete' with artists who copy...when most of us try intensely to do 'original' work. Kinda gives the copiers a head start.


Theresa Rankin said...

In my early years I painted from photos of others...never sold them though. I still copy the greats, Sargent, mostly....but would never think of trying to pass it off as my own...the differences are obvious to anyone. As for now...Max does take pictures under my direction, my set up, my pose etc. But I also use a self timer if I am in the photo for lack of a model. Many great points brought up here, Vicki, and all easily understood.

vickiandrandyrossart said...

Theresa, as you know, I goofed up big time on one show, but laughed (somewhat embarrassed) when I figured out that I hadn't even read the prospectus!

There are lots of grey areas, and I still do not know how art 'powers' manage the grey areas. Randy (a photog) says the only SURE way is to send the photog out with YOUR camera.

Obviously a difference between professional photography and casual snapshots you just happen to see 'a painting' in from the shapes, etc. Artists see different shapes than a prof. photog...values, masses, etc.

It is also easier for me to find the painting in bad snapshots...Ann Templeton is a master at this.

Erika Nelson said...

I'm sure this controversy will be humming in the art community for a while and some professionals will be surprised to find out that their normal practice is in question. For example the wildlife artists who rely on stock photos for their careers because for one, they are not skilled as photographers and don't have the time or the inkling to brave certain environments for their art.

vickiandrandyrossart said...

Yup. Amazing how many artists skip over the word 'original' and 'from your own source photo or set-up'. I guess my main issue is with teachers who don't stress this issue with their students. As a matter of fact, some even encourage copying from calendars, newspaper photos, etc. without ever giving them the consequences.


Dianne Mize said...

WELL SAID, Vicki. I guess I live in a vacuum but I had no idea this controversy was going on. Have had my nose in my own stuff lately and have not been keeping up with the blogs. BUT...I just spent a chunk of time chasing after your links and I'm hearing myself say, "well, well..."

You've said it all so well in your blog entry. And I so much of approve of every word. The concept of "original" is one I've fought for all my career and there have been some bloody battles, believe me.

It's actually simple, isn't it. But there will always be folks who seem to find all sorts of ways around simplicity.

Anyway, fair forward brave one! I've got my shield and sword and am in step. So let's go.

vickiandrandyrossart said...

WHEW! the silence has been deafening...lots of local artists looking like the cat sat on the canary :). This was a HUGE eye opener at a local art club meeting last saturday when they came to pick up paintings from our last show. My hubby, Randy, is Prez of the group, which is part of a national group.

Seems like everyone has been turning a blind eye to some of the entries (30% or so), and one of the guilty birds squawked, the squawkee sqawked back...which is in part what triggered my rant.

Also, these squawkees were all upset because we have no 'rules' in place for artists who win multiple awards (me, got 4 this, got 3 last year).

As it turns out, the rules that HAVE been there have been ignored.

Has taken a bit of the smile from my face, knowing that judging with signatures covered that I could actually do so well.

Anyway, I've never blanched from taking up the flag! It is damn easy to work from your own source material...and much more entertaining and challenging! AND, then win 4 out of 17 awards out of 105 entries.