Lesson Learned

I love to gather inspiration from sites such as Pinterest, Tumbr, and Instagram.  However, as I have recently been reminded, one must be careful of how that inspiration is used in our own art.  

Most artist’s know never to copy someone else’s art and if you reference photography, you must gain permission and licenses (and,even then, there are many pitfalls and gray areas). But, in this age of internet image posting, re-posting, and sharing it is easy to forget those rules. Or, at least it was for me.   

I got lazy, saw an image online and created a scratchboard from it. I sold it to a woman who later found that the original was from an artist named Shaub. His original and beautiful woodcut print had been manipulated, cropped, posted, and reposted online with no credit or labeling and I did not realize (or know that) it was his. Dumb of me? Yes.

Even so, I never should have replicated it to the level that I did - regardless of the image. But, I was in a zone, personally challenging myself to create as many boat themed sketches as I could in one month. I was referencing pictures of boats, making some up, moving fast and generally not keeping my eye on the ball.

My mistake created anger and stress for others, refunds had to be granted, and the art destroyed. It was ugly and I am definitely scarred by the experience. I think the most painful part was being accused of malicious intent and bad character. I would never purposely try to make money from someone else’s art…..

The experience has made me go back on every piece I have created and think about where I got the inspiration. Was it from a photo that I took? Something I saw? Was it made up? Did I reference a seemingly random image online?  Did I look at something online and then allow it creep into my subconscious? I am now completely paranoid that one of my other pieces may have remnants of others art in it.  And, that feeling sucks!  Overall, I believe my work to be in the clear, but what if? All I can do is move forward. Move forward with more intention and a sharper eye.

I would like to tell myself and other artists out there, “never look at the internet for inspiration”. But, is that realistic? There are so many beautiful images online and having exposure to them is gold. However, if you choose to reference something from the internet, be sure you know where it is coming from and make sure that your interpretation of the image is unique and never copied.