Bad Artists Copy. Good Artists steal


Bad artists copy… good artists steal. Picasso said this.

As an Artist, I completely understand this, however…. As a young girl, desperate to learn how to paint and draw, one of the very first instructions that I can ever remember being given by an older and accomplished Artist, was to copy, copy, and copy! This is how you learn!

When I was in London in the National Gallery I came across 3 different Artists on different occasions with their easels and canvasses set up in front of some of the great masters works and they were doing just that. Copying. There is something to be said for this. It does teach you! Remember, these guys (the Masters I mean) had achieved what we are all trying so hard to achieve. They figured it out. They already know the secret to great art, otherwise their work wouldn’t be in these massive big Galleries all over the world, would they? Mind you, many of these Masters, like Vincent Van Gogh, were not recognized until after they were already dead. Van Gogh only ever sold one painting while he was alive. (No wonder the poor man lost his mind!)

However, getting back to what Picasso was on about…. Art and painting has evolved so much and there is so much really great Art out there today (and some really bad Art too) that is being recognized and what is happening more and more to day is that Art is being stolen (I mean blatantly stolen!) by other Artists. In researching this, I have stumbled across so many blogs and write ups done by Artists themselves where their design or creation has been blatantly copied by another Artist and what is worse, the latter is receiving all the credit and glory for the work that they stole. This is really sad. I can only imagine what the original Artist is going through.

Walking through Galleries today even in my own country, I have stumbled across work that I know really well simply because I know the Artist personally and yet there is a signature on that particular piece of Art of someone who I do not know. I have seen work by Artists like Tamara Lempicka, a Polish Artist who lived in the early 1900’s being reproduced by Artists and being sold for massive amounts of cash, with absolutely no reference to the work being a reproduction of Tamara Lempicka’s work whatsoever. I would like to give an example of copying a Masters work, simply because I myself have done it.


Goldfish by Gustav Klimt (left)- Klimt by Jax (right)

Now whether you think this is a good or bad rendition of Gustav Klimt‘s Goldfish is really irrelevant. The point is that it is blatantly obvious that this is a copy of sorts of Gustav Klimt’s Goldfish. There is no denying it.

I love his work. I wanted to create this painting over in a way that I wanted it to look. No disrespect to Klimt, it is just my interpretation of it. However, it is a copy of his original work which is why it is signed “Klimt by Jax”. This is considered a copy of his work.

Danae by Gustav Klimt (left) Deanna by Jax (right)

When I created Deanna (on the right) I once again used Gustav Klimt’s Danae as a reference. In Klimt’s painting, he had a very definite story that he was going with here. It was a very daring composition, depicting Zeus, the chief of the Olympian gods, entering Danae disguised as a shower of gold coins. I loved the composition. The way that her body wrapped around creating an almost round effect. I didn’t want to copy his work, I just wanted to ‘steal’ his composition. I used very different colors and omitted a lot of the detail that he used and included my own. This I would imagine is what Picasso meant by “steal’. The name of the painting that I gave mine is not really a play on words. I love to listen to the music of NICK CAVE while I paint and there is a particular song of his called “DEANNA”. It worked for me.

Gustav Klimt- The Kiss (left) Gail Josselsohn (middle) Slaine (right)

This painting in the middle is a silk painting created by South African fine-Artist Gail Josselsohn.

It is a beautiful interpretation of Gustav Klimt’s painting on the left called The Kiss. Not just the pose, but also the detail which she has changed somewhat to reflect the African culture. I was blown away by this magnificent piece of Art.

I came across the creation on the right but I cannot find the exact detail of the Artist simply because this is Slaine, a comic hero from the pages of 2000AD, one of Britains most popular comic books. The Artist for this comic book has changed many times. I would hate to assume who the Artist is, but I am sure that you can enjoy it anyway. In this painting, the pose is different, but look at the beautiful design on their clothing! Absolutely magnificent!

I also did a lot of research on “reference material for Artists.” Another controversial and touchy subject. As with most Artists, I carry a camera with me all the time. However, there are millions upon millions of photographs all over the Internet. Many can be copied by a simple right click of your mouse. This however, does not mean that this photograph does not have copyright. Many photographs that you can copy have been labelled with the name of the photograph and the photographer, so it is relatively easy to find the Photographer and ask their permission to use their photograph in your painting. Sadly many don’t and photo’s in my circle of friends change hands all the time, so it is sometimes difficult to track the photographer down to ask permission. Photo’s file names can also be changed too, so this is not an excuse either for not obtaining permission before you do use the photograph for reference purposes. I always attempt to obtain permission, but it is not always possible. Unfortunately this can become quite a problem in the future so my advice to you is this…. If you have a photograph that you would like to use for reference, obtain permission from the photographer. Photographers like to sell their prints. By creating a painting from a photograph that actually looks like the photograph when it is finished is as good as stealing, but in a bad way. Not the way that Picasso intended. Also, give them credit! If you have a website where you display your work, or if you are exhibiting your work, mention the photographer! They earned it. Many of my paintings are created from photographs as models are hard to come by (as discussed in FINDING MODELS.) I have yet to come across a photographer who has refused permission. Sometimes they ask for a small fee, maybe the cost of a small print, but usually they are happy to oblige an Artist. It is just the respectable thing to do. These guys are Artists too.

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