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Copyright Guidelines for Artists: How to Avoid Copyright Infringement

If you’ve been following my blog posts for a while, you’ve probably seen my Voices and Visions poetry illustration series, which I have posted on my blog. Some of these feature celebrity portraits, such as my Maya Angelou portrait, And Still I Rise, and my biographical portrait of singer/songwriter, Sting. To create these portraits, I have combined several photographic sources to make a photo collage in Adobe Photoshop as references for the drawings and paintings for my poetry series. I want to avoid copyright infringement, especially since some of the photos are photos of celebrities.  In addition, I have seen celebrity portraits often on websites such as Etsy and Pinterest and I have wondered, what constitutes copyright infringement when using photographic sources other than your own?  Is there such as thing as changing the photographic source “enough” to make it your own, or not?

Since I am new to the word of art entrepreneurship, the concept and understanding of copyright infringement with regard to the visual arts are somewhat new to me. On the other hand, I have heard about the subject in passing, such as in the celebrated case of the Obama poster campaign portrait, in Associated Press vs. Fairey, (2009), in which a photo of former President Barak Obama taken by AP freelancer, Mannie Garcia, was used by graphic artist Shepherd Fairey to create a campaign poster for Obama. ( Source: Kaitlyn Ellison, 2014, 5 Famous Copyright Infringement Cases (and what you can learn, retrieved from https://99designs.com/blog/tips/5-famous-copyright-infringement-cases/). Accessed 16 January 2018.  As a former history major in college, I am much more familiar with the issue of plagiarism with regards to the written word, as in not citing your sources in research papers and essays, etc. When I was a student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, if a student was found guilty of plagiarism, with regard to a term paper or essay, they would be booted out of the University, permanently. As a result, I meticulously cited my sources as I took notes, and double and triple checked for paraphrasing and direct quotes during each draft of a research paper. I know many of the guidelines which refer to that sort of subject, such as you should always cite your sources when you give direct quotes or paraphrase another person’s ideas, both in the body of your paper as footnotes and at the end of your paper as works cited page. In fact, there are even websites devoted to the study of specific types of citation methods such as APA style, Chicago style, etc., which you can learn about on the Purdue Online Writing Lab which can be accessed on the following link,https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/08/, and how to implement these styles in a college essay.

On the other hand, the world of artistic copyright infringement seems murkier to me.  How do artists avoid copyright infringements when creating art and how do they protect their own works from unlawful use or theft?  To find out, I started researching some articles online about copyright infringement…I discovered that there is no magic formula for changing a source photograph enough to make it original and that it is far better to use your own photos if at all possible, according to the author, Helen South, 2017, of the article, What Artists Need to Know About Copyright. On the other hand, if this is not possible, as, in the example of using photos of celebrities, artists can make use of websites such as Wikimedia or Wikipedia to look up photos of specific celebrities. (ibid) These websites give details about the provenance of each photo, such as whether it is copy written, the photographer’s name, date of creation, and whether or not this photo is available for use, and under what terms. The photographs have a citation that states, its sources, such as the photographer that took the photo and whether it is labeled public domain or creative commons. (ibid)

Be sure to read all the notations about the artwork to be sure it is not copy written and to understand the conditions for which it may be used.  Finally, another example of copyright usage is when artists make master copies of other artists work for their own study and development. For example, well-known artists such as Mary Cassatt, considered studying the old masters and copying their work to be an integral part of an artist’s education, and she copied old master masters, by Italian artist, Correggio.  (Source: The Art Story: Modern Art Insight, Mary Cassatt, American Draftsman, Painter and Printmaker, retrieved from http://www.theartstory.org/artist-cassatt-mary.htm, Accessed on 19 January 2018. Biography.com, Mary Cassatt: Painter, (1844-1926), retrieved from https://www.biography.com/people/mary-cassatt-9240820. Accessed on 19 January 2018. and Getlein, Frank.  Mary Cassatt: Paintings and Prints, Abbeville Press Publishers: 1980, New York, pg. 12.

It is important to label your master copies with the notation, After (Artist’s Name). You can also add additional information such as the title of the work, date of creation, medium, and the date that you executed your version of the masterwork on the back of the painting. In addition, to avoid claims of plagiarism or worse yet, art forgery, I never sell my masterworks and only use them to learn more about technique and I always give credit where credit is due. If I post them on my website or elsewhere, such as Instagram, I clearly indicate that they are master copies with all of the details about the picture’s provenance. This article is by no means comprehensive about the ins and outs of copyright law regarding visual art

portrait of Sting
Here is the updated version of my biographical portrait of Sting. It is a mixture of acrylic and watercolor paints and pencil. I am still working out the composition and the water reflections.

and is only intended as a basic introduction to the subject. Thank you for stopping by!

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The Art of Finishing

The Art of Finishing

      This week I am returning to a favorite topic of mine which is the importance of completing a painting or work of art. I have several unfinished paintings and sketches pilling up in my studio lately. They are the remnants of ideas not fully thought out, false starts, or brick walls I didn’t know how to climb. In trying to figure out what caused this to happen, I have a few theories…Maybe life got really busy, I got stuck and didn’t know how to fix a problem with composition or color, lost interest in it, etc. I call these paintings and sketches, UFOS, unfinished objects. They clutter my studio, and remind me reproachfully that I have unfinished business. What to do, what to do?

       About two weeks ago, I tried to break this trend in my work flow habits, and I returned to a sketch that I have been working on and off for about a year. Facebook reminded me of this event this week with a post about the sketch, And Still I Rise.  The sketch is called, And Still I Rise, and it is based on a Maya Angelou poem entitled, And Still I Rise. This poem describes the struggle that African Americans have endured as a legacy of slavery, prejudice, and Jim Crow Laws of the South, and the power that they ultimately exercise when they rise above it. I’m sorry to say that my own ancestors played a part in the history of slavery and plantations.

        I’ve been looking at my various attempts to finish this sketch and make it into a painting, and the below photos demonstrate my struggles to complete the painting. Some of these struggles include: breaking out of old habits of just putting things in the middle of the page, or not really thinking about art as a story to be told, or not knowing what medium and color choices to use in telling a complicated story like this one. Ultimately, I decided to limit the color palette to burnt sienna, black, and white, with tonal values, so that the focus is ultimately on the symbolic content of the painting’s story line, such as:  the slave ships, slave manacles, (all to symbolize slavery), the phoenix bird (re-birth), and the sun (which rises every day). Two other central figures in this piece include a Caucasian woman, to symbolize the legacy of slavery and white prejudice, and the other, an African American woman, in this case, Maya Angelou, who serves as a representative of the African American population. She has risen above her circumstances and refuses to be beaten. Here are a few lines from the poem, which demonstrate Angelou’s indomitable spirit:

“You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.” (Source: Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org).

                 So why is this important? I feel that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and saw some growth happen, despite the frustration. Sticking with this sketch and making it into a tonal watercolor painting, forced me to re-think my art process and habits, and it has been helping me to define my unique voice as an artist, by making work that is content based and tells a story. It’s also been a good lesson in problem solving and determination. And I felt great when it was finally finished! Here are some progress photos, starting with the three value graphite sketch, oil painting, pastel, and finally the mixed media watercolor painting. The biggest inspiration I had in bringing this painting to a conclusion was Pablo Picasso’s, Rose Period. These paintings are limited in color and feature narratives about various characters, such as circus performers. Without the inspiration I received from this work, I doubt I could have brought it to a conclusion. All of which reminds me of an earlier post I wrote about the importance of copying master art works, in this case, they can provide new ways of thinking about value and color. I definitely want to keep studying the masters as I continue in my journey to define my voice as an artist. What about you? Do you have any tips for completing unfinished art?

 

  

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Master Copy Tutorial: Girl with a Pearl Earring

Last week I talked about the importance of copying the work of the old masters and this week I am going to give you a step by step tutorial about how to get started. I have several master copies in the works, but I am choosing to focus on Vermeer’s well-known work, Girl with a Pearl Earring, circa 1656, according to Maritshuis, 2014. If you wish to read more about this painting, you may visit the following link: Details: Johannes Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring, c. 1665, Mauritshuis. Retrieved on 9 December 2014. This citation is from an article about Vermeer’s painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring, which I found on Wikipedia. The original painting was painted in oils on canvas, but to save drying time, I used acrylic paints.

Step One: Make a Grid from a Photocopy of a Master Copy

My first step in creating a master copy of Vermeer’s, Girl with a Pearl Earring, was to locate a good print copy which I could use to create a grid for the initial sketch. Creating a grid helped me to make sure the proportions of the head were proportionate to the copied image. I photocopied an image of Vermeer’s painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring, from the book, Vermeer, by Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr. After I made the copy, I created a grid, measuring one inch from the horizontal and vertical edges of the printed copy with a ruler. After I measured out the markers for the grid, I drew vertical lines to create the vertical axis. Then I drew horizontal lines for the horizontal axis.  Each box on the horizontal lines of the grid should be numbered starting with 1, and the vertical boxes should be labeled A, B, C, etc. After that, I created an exact duplicate of this grid on a clean sheet of sketch paper. Note: it is very important to ensure that you have the exact amount of boxes on both the vertical and horizontal axes on your grid copy as the one from the original, or the proportions may be incorrect. Also, be sure that when you draw vertical and parallel lines that your ruler is perpendicular to the picture plane and doesn’t shift, or it make affect the measurements of the one-inch boxes.

Step Two: Create a Duplicate Grid and Transfer it to Canvas with Carbon Paper

Next, I located my first set of coordinates on the vertical and horizontal axes, on my grid copy to start drawing in the edge shape of the portrait, i.e. A1. The artist, Thaneeya McArdle, gives an excellent description of this process with detailed visuals of the grid method at https://www.art-is-fun.com/grid-method/?rq=draw%20a%20grid. To complete the portrait, I moved on the next grid coordinate, and so on. My next step was to trace the completed grid sketch onto a clean sheet of sketch paper, using my window as a light box. I taped the original sketch to the window with masking tape, then taped a clean sheet of paper on top of the original. Then I traced the image to the cover sheet. The traced image was then transferred with a pen to canvas paper, using carbon paper, with the dark side taped face down.

Step Three: Paint a three value underpainting in Acrylics

Are you still with me? I know it sounds like a lot of steps…Don’t worry I am including some photos of this process to help jog your memory. So now we move on to the fun part, the painting itself. To break down the light and dark values, I consulted a well-used book from my art library, The Complete Oil Painter, by Brian Gorst, which gives a detailed demonstration about how to paint a monotone underpainting. I mixed up three values from darkest to lightest with Liquitex Acrylic paints and a palette knife using Burnt Umber, Titanium White, and Ivory Black. The darkest value was applied to the background, while the middle and lighter values were painted on the figure. Intermittently I sprayed the palette and the canvas with water from a spray bottle to keep the paints wet so they wouldn’t dry up, especially while I was mixing them. I also stepped back every so often to view the painting from a distance and be sure that the drawing in my painting was accurate, and made corrections as needed. These values will give me a roadmap of where to put light and dark values when I get into the color portion of the painting. They help to simplify the lights and darks without the difficulty of color matching. Next week, I will paint a “limited color lay in” with the local color

Meisje_met_de_parel
Photo copy, Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer ca. 1656
Vermeer copy with grid
Photo copy, Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer ca. 1656, with grid 
Vermeer paper copy with grid
Copy of Grid with pencil on sketch paper 

 

Vermeer Copy Light Box
Traced image of grid using window as light box

 

carbon paper trace 1
Carbon Paper used to trace image to canvas

 

Carbon Paper tracing, complete
Carbon paper tracing completed

 

Jodie Schmidt after Vermeer three value
Three Value Underpainting in Acrylic 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Making art a Habit

Well, here I am a week after I said that I was going to start a daily sketchbook…It ended up being very difficult to make time for it, and unfortunately, I only got to work on it one day out of seven.

 

I also started thinking that perhaps my topic for last week’s blog about doing what you love and making it a habit, may not necessarily correspond to the prompts in the sketchbook I was thinking of using for this project. The sketch prompts in this book tends to focus more on still life and architecture, and less on portraits, which is something I really want to get better at doing. So I have decided to make a slight topic change. I am going to be posting photos of my oil and acrylic portraits in the process.  Here’s a youtube video that inspired me to finish my work and to make this topic change: Finished Not Perfect, by Jake Parker, at https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=finished+not+perfect+. I felt that the speaker hit the nail right on the head with his mantra of “Finished not Perfect.” I tend to struggle with perfectionism and find it hard to bring projects to a close because of my high expectations for the work.

I’d also like to alternate my own work with master copies to try and push my art making abilities forward and try to break some old habits in my painting practice, such as putting everything in the center of the page. This is an idea I got from the artist, Noah Bradley’s, article: 21 days to be a Better Artist at https://medium.com/@noahbradley/21-days-to-be-a-better-artist-48087576f0dd#.bzzgdsrp6, mentioned in last week’s post. Bonus, Noah Bradley includes a link to a youtube video where he teaches you how to make master copies of artwork!

So once again, my change of topic will be posting weekly portrait paintings and sketches, alternated with master artwork copies. My goals will be improving the level of my artwork with regards to drawing accuracy, composition, and harmonious color choices. And another important goal will be making sure to complete each work and post the results before moving onto other projects. Time management will be a crucial part of reaching this goal. Here’s an article that I have read about time management, which I plan to re-read. It’s called: Five Ways to Make Time for Art by Julie-Fei Fan Balzer, http://balzerdesigns.typepad.com/balzer_designs/2012/12/five-ways-to-make-time-for-art.html. She lists five ways to make art more of a priority in your schedule, and I am going to try the first two to help me in this quest of making more time for art, and getting really good at portraits, being sure to complete each piece.  The first two suggestions Balzer mentions are using a crockpot for cooking and limiting computer time. Let me know if you have any time management tips for making art that you’d like to share! Here are some portrait paintings that I have been working on this week…An acrylic painting of Emily Dickinson, which illustrates the poem,  Hope is the Thing with Feathers and a master copy of a Mary Cassatt oil portrait, Sara in a Green Bonnet, c. 1901.