Posts Tagged ‘Copying’

I wrote the other day about an episode where my work- its format, content and style- had been seemingly appropriated by another artist in a city where my work regularly shows.  It was baffling because I knew and liked this person and had dealt with them in the past.  So I showed his work to a number of people who know my work very well and, to a person, they agreed that it was obvious that this was an attempt at replicating my work in nearly all aspects and that I was going to have to do something to counter this.  As much as I wanted to write it off as mere coincidence,  there were too many factors indicating otherwise for me to simply and philosophically shrug this off.

I contacted him and pointed out my concerns.  I really didn’t know what to expect.  In this era of rude and shameless behavior, I steeled myself for an argument.  But his response was quick and gracious.  He claimed to be ignorant of the similarities which, at first, I thought was a bit disingenuous but began to realize after a bit was truly the case.  This fellow really did seem to have a blind spot in this situation.  He asked his wife and some artist friends if they saw what I was seeing and they did.  Embarrassed, he got back to me quickly and agreed to pull the work from the website and would show the remaining pieces in his studio with “in the style of GC Myers” on the back and price tag of each piece.

That satisfied me and I consider the case closed.

I wished I felt more satisfaction.  I know I was in the right but part of me empathizes with this guy.  He is still struggling to find his own voice for self expression and has many long hours ahead before it will take shape.  Sometimes the prospect of that can be daunting in a world where instant gratification rules.

Perhaps that is why I was so protective of my work in this instant.  I realized, looking at his paintings that so resembled mine, the sheer amount of effort I have expended in the past fifteen years to get my work to the point where it now stands.  It is the result of spending literally tens of thousands of hours alone in my studio, agonizing over every aspect of the work.  I have struggled and sacrificed to make my work my own.  To make it an expression of who and what I am.  To make it my true voice.  It has been a long journey and there were no shortcuts taken.

It took this to make me realize what a precious thing this is to me, indeed.  These paintings of mine are not mere merchandise, products of commerce that can be easily copied like designer jeans or handbags on the street.  They are the products of spirit and thought, things that can’t be priced or simply copied.  But things that I now know must be protected.

I really hope this other person understands the journey he faces and is willing to undergo it.  You can only follow someone else’s path for so long before you must forge your own way.  But if he can stick with it, his efforts will produce something he can call his own and will be rewarded in some way.

I wish him well.

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Steal from everyone but copy no one.

—-Charles Movalli


I received a call yesterday from a gallery in another state that sells my work.  They mentioned during the call that a painter living in their city, who is a regular attendee of the events at their gallery, was selling work at another gallery there that was looked to be copies of my work.  They were a bit upset and asked that I take a look and see what I thought.

So I went to the other gallery’s website and clicking on the artist’s name was surprised to see four pieces that, at first glance, looked very much like my work.  All of the four pieces had compositions that were very much like mine.  No big deal, lot’s of paintings use similar elemental compositions. 

 The color palette was very much like mine as well but, again, no big deal. 

 The texture of the panel was very evident and one had a pronounced fingerpaint-like feel, one that I use often.  Again, not a big deal.  I often outline my normal technique at gallery talks and have described the process I use here in this blog.

The artist used trees as the central character in his pieces but who hasn’t at some point?  He used a blowing tree with reddish leaves and intertwined trees as well, both staples of my work.  Is any of this a big deal?

I want to say no.  I have had a number of people over the years do this with my work ( even to the point of adopting my own titles for their copies) and I have always resignedly viewed it as a form of flattery.  They obviously have seen something in the work that makes them want to try to recreate it in their own form.  There’s a form of validation for the original in this copying, a verification that something is working well.

It only becomes a problem for me when the copying painter stays solely in the realm of my work and doesn’t evolve their work into something that has its own voice and vocabulary of imagery.  Serving as inspiration and influence in the form of being copied is fine for the short term but a real artist will soon move beyond the inspiration and create work that is their’s and their’s alone.  Would we know the name Van Gogh if he had continued copying works such as Millet’s The Sower, as he did early in his painting life?

The problem of copying other people’s work is that, while one can try to emulate composition, strokes, texture and color, there is no way of copying the intent and mindset behind the original.  Or the rhythm of the actual physical act of the original artist.  Basing one’s work solely on the work of another reduces that person to the level of a musician playing in a cover band, playing the hits of others.  That’s fine and dandy,  if that is this person’s only aspiration but most people turn to art because they feel a need for self-expression, to create something that says who and what they are.

I know that’s why I came to painting.

Now, I happen to know this person whose work so resembles mine and have known him for a number of years, having done business with him at one point.  He’s a really good guy and I don’t suspect for minute there is anything amiss in his study of my work.  Hopefully, his work will soon start to make the evolution and I will see only his mind’s voice at work when I check on his work in the future.

Which I will…

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