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Copying a Painting to PRACTICE | Is acknowledging the original artist required?

So today we're going to talk all about copyright and specifically with regard to whether or not you should cite when an original artwork is a duplicate of somebody else's work. This is something that I came across in a question in an online art group and it's a worthy question. It's something that we should be thinking about.

So anytime that you throw out a question like this you're going to get a whole bunch of answers from people. And here's the truth—the reality is that nobody can really stop you from duplicating their work to practice.

Artists copy work to learn how to paint different techniques all the time. Professional artists do this. They will look at somebody's work and they'll say, “I'm gonna try and create this thing to see if I can do it and understand how it was created.”

How much they really duplicate is up to them, but what they do with that artwork when they're done is really what matters. First of all, if it is a duplicate of somebody else's painting, if you want to sign your name on the front (because you actually painted this copy), that's fine.

What you’re doing in this case is acknowledging that you created the work. But on the back side of the work, since you can't really jam this all in on the front, I would definitely write in permanent marker who the original artist was, what the name of the painting was, and maybe when you painted this duplicate.

This is a record for you or for anybody else in the future, because what we want to do is not suggest to somebody that you made this artwork. You should probably not be selling this painting at all, but let's say that it's gotten into a garage sale or it's out in a second hand store or something like that, because it unintentionally got pulled into things that people are getting rid of.

So now it's out in the world. What you don't want to do is have something that's really duplicating the likeness including the expressive elements of that original artist, and especially if it has the same ideas or concepts. So if it was a horse for example, in a particular position and using certain colors and lines and styles, and you did the exact same horse in the exact same position with the exact same colors, lines, and styles, you don't want to suggest that you were the original thought creator of that image. So what you want to do is to make sure that you are acknowledging and paying respect to the original artist.

This was just practice right? You put the information about the original artist on the back of the painting and then that way if it ends up in a garage sale or something, then at least people aren’t looking at it and thinking, “I found an original [enter your name here]!” But since it was not your original thought idea, you did not come up with that particular composition and those particular styles.

So my opinion, and remember I am not a lawyer, is as an artist—I'm trying to actually teach people by allowing them to copy my artwork, right? I am personally very comfortable with you even going as far as taking what you learned from me using my artwork and at a local paint party, you could go ahead and teach friends and family. You could say, “let's paint this—we’ll stick with the horse. This horse was originally painted by Shaley Paige. It would be fun to do this. We're going to use her exact colors and style for everything.”

Now it would not be okay with me for you to teach this online—you can’t start creating your own membership using my exact design ideas. That's clear copyright infringement. But if it's just for your friends and family in a small group setting, you can even go and join the Art Elation membership list, which just requires your email, to get a black-and-white template to help you draw the horse.

If you use the template, then the likeness is going to be very similar. Especially if you know you're looking at mine as a reference and you're trying to match those colors and those techniques.

But what would not be okay, is if you signed your copy and used the artwork to sell products online. Or to sell products anywhere for that matter. It's okay with me if you print a couple of small gifts or something for your home but even if you get into printing more than three, or you said you were going to give one to everybody in your company for example, that's definitely copyright infringement as well, because you're making it into a product. You're trying to give it out on a mass scale or make money from it. doing that with someone else's design is against the law.

You can definitely sign your own copy of the artwork where you are learning using my painting. You would just want to do like I mentioned earlier, write on the back that, “This was originally painted by Shaley Paige at Art Elations. The title is Heartland the Horse. And add the date when you painted it.”

Let's be real. This is copying, but it's not copyright infringement. It's thinking through and taking apart a painting the way that a mechanic would take apart an engine. It is trying to understand the pieces, and that's when it's okay. When you start to cross into the boundaries of, “I created this beautiful thing, and I'm going to print it on products. Now I'm going to sell prints of it. I'm going to sell it as if it were my own original idea, my thought idea.” That's when it's not okay. That's when you're stepping into the realm of copyright infringement.

So I think it's pretty easy to keep things clear in your mind. I really think it's more about just making sure to let people know, even when you're posting something online, that “Hey, I did this. It was from a tutorial by Shaley at artelation.com.”

I'm sure that I'm not the only artist who feels this way. There are many different tutorials online. Lots of things to learn from, and you can even practice with actual paintings that aren't tutorials, if you want to deconstruct and learn how things are put together.

We do a lot of that at Art Elation. And we make sure to always mention the name of the artist, where we're getting this idea, and we're we're learning this sort of technique from.

See the Technique videos at the Art Elation YouTube channel for examples.

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