Friday, January 8, 2010

My two cents on copyright... and lots of other thoughts

I'm going back and forth between Margot Potter's and Ricë's blogs and my mind is spinning.  If you are an artist/crafter and hope to make a living and not get sued, copyright is important!  So thank you both for doing all this and helping to educate everyone.   This post actually started as a comment and it was getting so long that I figured I had some ideas to "process."

I know copyright is important, but I've got to admit that this whole dilemma is very discouraging and so frustrating, but it's making think about all sorts of new things - a very good thing (thank you, Martha).

My personal story: I don't yet consider myself a successful artist (that's a whole 'nother issue), but I've been copied too (maybe).  My avatar is a skull/rose - a photo I took of a cheap Halloween plastic skull nestled in a pale pink silk flower.  Soon after I found a very similar jewelry piece in polymer clay, I think, on ArtFire, within my own guild group even.  My initial reaction was "Hey, not nice!"  But then I thought, "Okay, hand sculpted, glazed, totally different medium ... and am I the only person who has ever put a skull inside a rose?  Of course not.  My daughter has tons of printed shirts with the motif of skulls in  flowers.  I've seen crafters locally (after I created my avatar) selling barrettes and pins with skulls and roses.  There is a point here, really, bear with me.
 - reposting this from someone else's comment on Margot's or Rice's blog, so thank you whoever-  
          The idea of cultural detritus - there is all of this stuff in the air, on the net, and on the ground, in your grandma's attic...  the whole green movement encourages us to reduce, reuse and recycle.

The idea that one page of a $5 fashion magazine(that exists in possibly millions of copies, for which the photographer and publisher already received compensation) should not be used at all - ever - to make a new piece of art seems kind of silly and wasteful to me. 

The image was taken by a photographer and is that person's intellectual property... or does it belong to the publisher?  What about the model, the fashion designer, the hair/makeup/clothes/prop stylist? What about the digital artist (who makes an already beautifully styled young model into an impossible ideal),  the layout designer, the printer, the fashion editor?  Do you see the point I'm making here?  So many of the images in our culture are already part of a long collaborative process.  Current copyright law, and more importantly, common understanding of it doesn't even come close to addressing the complexity of modern image making.

The academic in me totally feels the above paragraph to be incompleteIt is hardly specific enough to make any sort of point.  Show me the magazine picture.  Who is the photographer, the publisher?  Okay, stop pussyfooting around, give me an example of an artist who uses fashion magazine images and almost completely paints over themBut I have the feeling that it would be completely improper within the artistic blogging community that I strive to be a part of to do this.  Am I offbase on this?  But I do think this lack of specificity is necessary and polite, but it really bogs down a critical discussion.

Then there is the scrapbooking and craft industry (billions of $$, someone else can go look up the facts and figures on that if they wish).  This could open up a whole 'nother aspect....  All of these patterned papers, vintage digital image collections, emphemera kits, etc. that are marketed to us, so we can all be artists and explore our creativity. 

There is also the craft/art publishing juggernaut of Stampington and Company, which publishes mixed media and collage artists who use found objects/papers/photos/rubber stamps.  I subscribe to Somerset Studio and purchase far too many of their magazines, and they published my Provence-inspired ATCs (and I'll be in the next GreenCraft), so I really like them, I really, really do.  But there is a "look," a milieu of art using a wide variety of image sources, which also contributes to the muddiness around copyright and what is acceptable and appropriate to use.

For awhile, my inner art historian has been wondering about this, the art/craft environment I've found myself in: creative bloggers, Somerset Studio, Handmade Nation,  the growing number of art retreats, DIY, indie art...  How is all this relating to traditional fine art, contemporary art, museum art? 

Right now in Art Literacy at the elementary school I'm teaching Romare Bearden (1911-1988), Harlem Renaissance, jazz muscian, painter, printmaker,  primarily known as a collage artist.  In preparing to teach the volunteers I thought about something my art history professor at Hartwick College once said, "Collage is the refuge of the uncreative mind."  That stuck with me for many years, and I wish I could remember more of the context or find the source, since I believe it is a quote.  Is it something early critics of collage said or an artistic elite enshrined in the disciplines of Painting, Sculpture and Drawing?

I now think that collage is just as creative as painting, sculpture or drawing, but it is less artistically technical by its very nature.  Collage is accessible to everyone. The use of collage in art therapy, its ability to tap the subconcious, is such an amazing thing.  Please don't let copyright kill the collage!  From an art historical perspective, collage and new technologies have led to a democratization of art-making and creative process causing traditional ideas about creative property and copyright to come into question.  Which all might be elaborate justification on my part, either way I am enjoying the discussion?

But as a working artist, concerned with the business of art and authencity/originality, copyright is huge and personal: 

"Am I ever gonna make any money?"

"Is someone going to steal my ideas?" 

"I know I am influenced by this artist - is what I am making different, is it new, is it me, is it any good?"

"Should I use a free blog background that looks like scrapbook paper?  Where did those images come from?"

"Is it okay if someone uses my images from Flickr, facebook?"

"Should I go with my gut on a case-by-case basis, 
or just not ever use any outside text/image/stamps ever?"

"What about the many artists who do soulful portraits of doe-eyed
women with long necks? Modigliani?" 

"Should I get rid of all my Stampin' Up stamps?"

"Should I just go look for a job?"

1 comment:

  1. Really insightful and interesting writing! Heavy too. These thoughts run through my head all the time. I haven't read the blogs you write about but I will. One of the reasons I don't sell some of my work is because I am copying the images/characters from, usually my favorite stamp company. I think collage can be a really artistic and beautiful medium. How much does one have to alter the image/inspiration for it to be their own? I wonder! Thanks for sharing Deb! xoxo Tam