Saturday, May 16, 2009

But is it "original art"?

I cruise the internet for photographs and where the photo is not copyrighted (sp?) I save the photo(s) to my computer hard drive. Sometimes I use the photo as a starting point to make a painting. Sometimes I use part of picture A, part of picture B and some of picture C to make a painting. None of my paintings look like any one photograph. There are a few blogs where somebody posts a photograph and "challenges" artists to make their art using the photo as the basis. Are the works of those artists "original art"?

Is original art only what comes from working from plein air sketches, using my imagination or working from my own private photos? Can I call my paintings from various outside sources "original"?

What do YOU think?


  1. Well, I don't think I have a very deep response to this question, but I would say "Yes, it is original art." All art is an expression of how how the artist interprets...sight, sound, experience, ideas. Even if your paintings looked *exactly* like the photographs, I still think they are original. (Of course, it would be different if you were photographing a photograph and submitting it as your own photo.) --Allison in Seattle!

  2. 5/19/2009

    Hi "Allison in Seattle" :-), thanks for your (so far the ONLY) opinion. Be you my friend "Allison D"?

    I just don't know. I live in the country and my interest (in making paintings) is people. There just aren't many people around that would agree to or appreciate having their pictures taken.

    Maybe I should just buckle down & do (ewwwww) LANDSCAPES.

    Ken B. - in Avoca, AR :-)

  3. Hi Ken!
    This is the second time I write this comment (the first time, yesterday, I erased the whole thing, I still don't know how!).
    My personal point of view is: try to use your own photos if you want to call your art work 'original', but I still find some grey areas (what if you modify the original image/s).
    Second, if you like someone else's photo, always ask permission to use it as reference. Proceed only if they give it to you.
    I remembered a post on Katherine Tyrell's blog about this, especially regarding the 2008 American Watercolor Society Gold Medal Award ( After reading this post, and other about copyright, I just feel lost in the sea, with no lifesaver at hand. Or maybe what I said first would work as one.

  4. Thanks, Carolina. If I use "internet" photos, I try to stick to public domain web sites. Then I try not to copy the photo but use it as a basis for the composition e.g. my "Two Dollars An Hour" painting. It is a gray area that's for certain.

    Thanks again.
    Ken B.

  5. Hi Ken, just picked up on this post - sorry so late. I tend to agree with Alison up to a point and think that what you're doing is fine. As far as I know, if you change the pic by 30%, you are within your rights to publish/sell/whatever. It is also nice to acknowledge the input of the photographer if possible. I am currently (trying) to do a painting from a newspaper clipping of one of our rugby players and it was no trouble at all getting permission from the photographer. All he wants is a pic of the final painting!

  6. All three of you have valid points and thank you for your input. Often it's difficult if not impossible to find who took the photograph(s). I'll make greater efforts to find the "owner" then ask for permission. As I said in my post, I might use the background in photo "A", the middle ground from photo "B" then people's poses from various other photos - an amalgum, I guess. In this case, I suppose it's MINE after all of this little bit of this and little bit of that.

    Thanks, folks. I appreciate it.
    Ken B.


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