Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Rip Everybody Off

I'll never forget the first day of my TDS (trans disciplinary studies) painting class when one of the professors said to all of us that the best advice he could give us as young artists was, 'steal, steal, steal'. 

A few days ago an artist who I greatly admire posted a comment on her facebook page that was very interesting and thought provoking. The topic was in regards to teaching techniques to other artists and what those other artists then do with the techniques. Apparently some don't learn the technique and then use it to create their own work as the classes are intended but rather they copy the techniques step by step, pass them off as their own then turn around and teach them to others for a profit. Of course my first reaction to this was, 'how dare they?' But then I got to thinking about it, and I do think that trying to pass off anothers technique as ones own is dishonest, but I'm not sure that I necessarily think its wrong to re-teach the technique as long as credit is given where it is due. 

As you can imagine the topic received tons of comments and there are those who believe that since the teacher was sharing her technique and the student paid to take the class they are free to use it in any way they choose. Others believe that this is absolutely wrong and should never be done and that the offending teacher should be reprimanded in some way (and obviously quite teaching the classes.) 

When I worked as a tour guide and relayed information to tourists about the art and history of Florence I certainly didn't site the author of each book I read or professor who lectured on the subject and I was certainly working for profit. I this really any different? Why? How? 

Where is the line between copying and being influenced by other artists? And is there really anything wrong with copying in the first place? Is imitation the best form of flattery? Or is it immoral and lacking respect?

I know that I am always looking at other artists and designers for inspiration as well as their handling of space and materials, of course these influences are bond to come out in my work in one way or another. Every artist would like to think of themselves as one of kind and completely original but  influences and the world of imagery that we live in tends to creep in. What is the difference between influence and copycat-ing? And do we as artists have a moral obligation to each other? 

Manet clearly copied Titian's Venus of Urbino (above) and the Olympia became one of his most important works. Is it ok to copy as long as its not a contemporary? Is there a statute of limitations?*

I'm interested in what other's opinions are on this subject because I truly have mixed feelings about it. On one hand I understand the frustration of an artist who works hard to create new and interesting work in a field that is difficult to make a living in to begin with,  but is there really anything that hasn't been done before and can we truly claim anything as our own? As artists when we put our work out into the world we essentially give up control of what happens to it from that point forward. Personally, I try not to worry so much about people stealing my ideas and try to concentrate more on the work itself. I also wonder why this is such a touchy subject in the art/handmade world and not so much in the fashion industry? Or is it an issue there too and I just don't know about it?  A trend is generally started by one designer and the the rest follow suite and then there are knock-off's galore! 

Let's discuss. What do you think?Where do you stand on the subject? How do you interpret Picasso's quote about stealing? Please comment below. 

* I know that there is indeed a statute of limitations when it come to copyright laws, but I'm more interested in artist edict.  

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