So, a note on copying another artist's work. When I was on Chris Van Dusen's website, I saw that he has the painted illustrations for the Mercy Watson books by author Kate DiCamillo listed for sale. They are very reasonably priced, I think, around $200-$350. Even so, that is more than I could afford. I had been thinking about practicing new painting styles and techniques by copying other artist's work. This is a practice that artist's have used through the centuries to learn. I copied some of the great master's paintings in college to better understand their painting methods.
Since I really loved Van Dusen's painting style, I thought it would be fun for the kids to have a painting of Mercy Watson hanging in their room. I decided to give it a try. A few days after I started the painting, I came across an article titled "I love your work and want to make one for myself." The article expresses a lot of frustration and anger about people creating knock-offs by using techniques to create art that looks like another artist's work. At first, I was concerned but then I realized that it was never my intention to steal another's artist's work and I would never claim it as my own. I made this image for personal use and that falls into fair use.
The article got me thinking about what artists, writers, dancers, and sports players do when they create. Is anything original anymore? In one of the most inspiring and liberating books I've read about creativity, Austin Kleon tells us that "nothing is completely original." In Steal Like an Artist, he shares that "writer Jonathan Lethem has said that when people call something 'original,' nine out of ten times they just don't know the references or the original sources involved." Kleon tells us to copy and imitate to learn and then find out what makes your work different. What do you bring to the world that no one else can? do that.
We all get inspiration from the world around us. Just look at the website for Saatchi Art. There is a whole search category titled Inspired By followed by a list of over 20 famous artists. I just clicked through a few of them and I definitely see the similarity to the famous artists work. Is this legal? I can't answer that as I am not a intellectual property lawyer. Austin Kleon has a great image in his book that quantifies good theft vs. bad theft.
There are definitely instances where artist's images are stolen. Artist Kal Barteski recently found out that an image of her script art painting was used on tote bags at J.C.Penny by the company Call it Spring without her permission. She has had other experiences finding her images being sold by other people. She has had success with lawyers having these situations resolved.
No one has ever stolen my work. The closest that I have come is having an image of mine copied by children in a class. I do have to say that at first I was shocked and would have liked to be asked first. These images were inspired by my work and even though they did not look like mine, they were trying to look like mine. However, their images were obviously not intended to be used for commercial use and I am flattered that they liked my image enough to try to make one of their own.