Me. A long time ago…
Recently I was drawn to a conversation on Linkedin about the proper etiquette for using photography as a source material for other creative work.
The exact question was:
As a painter, is it OK to create a new work on the basis of a photograph that’s not mine? And should I request permission to acknowledge, even if the painting looks different?”
If you are a member of the Art Business group on Linkedin you can find the complete conversation here.
After some thought I decided to respond – since I actually have experience on the topic and not just an opinion. I think it bears repeating here because I know as a creative person sometimes I get the sense I am on an island doing this alone.
Below is my response:
As someone who makes a good living utilizing vintage and Americana photos as source material for my paintings, I will make three suggestions based on my actual experience.
1. Ignore the critics.
My partner describes it as the 10/10/80 Rule. 10% of the people are haters and will hate it regardless of what you do or how you do it. 10% are going to love it (sometimes even if it is slop). 80% won’t even remember it. Focus on the 10% that matter. Paint what you like. Snobs are snobs. Ignore them.
2. Do what you love.
I have a good friend that only paints plein air. He can’t understand why I would paint “dead things”. I on the other hand doubt the world needs another painting of a birch tree, cardinal or a barn – let alone another photo. We are good friends because we both appreciate the work and lifelong dedication to our own vision…but we certainly don’t critique each others art either. LOL – at least not face to face! lol
3. Listen to your Vision.
If your Vision tells you to paint something you see in a vintage photo, paint it. Stop worrying about what other people think. I like vintage, Americana, history, genealogy and portraiture. What I choose to paint touches all of those themes.
Sometimes I use photos I have taken as source material as in Bill’s Garage and the Magic of Junk.
Sometimes I use old photos from my family The Regular Dinner.
Often I use images that were donated to me by supporters and collectors of my work such as Seriv-car and Billboards.
On VERY rare occasions I use found materials but always ask for permission and check on the rights. I NEVER thrift shop for images as I want to know the history and stories behind my paintings.
In a nutshell. Ignore the critics. Do what you love. Listen to your Vision.
If you do those three things then you won’t have to worry about copyrights and infringing on other people’s work. Actually, as I’ve discovered, you will end up being the one copied.
If you are a member of the Art Business group on Linkedin you can find he complete conversation here.