Mindful Artscapes: Have You Been Copied?

Fresh Art is Vulnerable Art I think it began during my childhood. I would make something and another child would copy it. It did not feel like a compliment to be copied, it felt like a hit and run. And, as a child, I have had other painful thefts that happened to me that made me realize at a young age that people could and did take pieces of you without your consent. Yes, I fully realize that we all travel to the same raw, pulsing place where creative energy has not yet taken  form, and I also realize that creations or creative ideas cannot be owned. But sometimes you know that a person's idea or work of art has been a direct rendering of your fresh inspiration, and it can hurt. I don't feel the same ouch when someone lifts parts of my older blog posts or ideas from past art works; I feel that they are old enough to look after themselves. It's the new work that feels too fragile to have copies made of it. I just shared some new shy poems, which may still be in-progress and was not sure if they were ready to leave the safety of my notebook. Someone asked if they could photocopy them so she could reflect more on the writing before she gave comments. That was too much; a strong no emerged from my mouth. It was as if she had asked me if my several-week-old child could go with her for a sleep over. I know we all have a different birthing and incubation process for our work. But I feel it is important for me to really listen to my body and understand what I need when producing art and sharing it with the world. Yes, there are risks and fears that it could be copied, not understood, treated disrespectfully and/or laughed at. And there are needs; a wanting to be affirmed by another, admired, held and respected. I have revisited this for myself because I want to be mindful of what feels right. I feel that sometimes when I share work too fast, or I see copies of it emerge before it has strong enough legs to stand on its own, then I shut down. The creative process does not stop for most of us at the moment of birth. Many of us are attached to the tender, initial-incubation phase, first showing phase, and early days and weeks when we are still not sure if we will go back in and make changes. Then when it is done, really done we can slowly let it go. Does this resonate with you? How do you get through the early days, weeks and sometimes months of  showing your new creative efforts to the world? And how does it affect you when you see direct shameless copies of your work?   Read Karen's Contributing Editor Profile. Listen to a podcast with Karen and Ricë Freeman-Zachery.
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10 Responses to Mindful Artscapes: Have You Been Copied?

  1. CarolineA says:

    I have had my work copied, word for word and photo for photo, and while I do not charge for my work, or want to profit from it, as I am happy to pass on to others anything I discover for myself, it would be nice to be acknowledged as the author, instead of being it presented as someone else’s work. The height of rudeness was someone using one of my website pages to sell something on ebay; prospective purchasers were told to Google the item for the instructions on how it worked and mine are the only instructions online. I only hope they got as far as how to make it and realised they could easily do it for themselves and did not need to buy the item on ebay – which was why I wrote the page in the first place. Thats probably where the seller got the pattern from as well.
    Its a fact of life, and it is not flattering – its the sign of a lazy mind;and were it something I expected to use to earn my living, I would be furious. I know many magazines encourage readers to expect step by step instructions to make something, but its for their personal use, not to create in any commercial quantity, and that was how I published the information I have. I have not been successful in getting the ebay seller stopped, but I do sometimes still keep track of his sales, and there is a dark side of me that appreciates when he does not make a sale.
    I’ve moved on, and so have my interests, but I was very hurt the first time it happened. But in the long run, those people have helped disseminate the information I was making available to others, and since my purpose was to enable people to do things for themselves, that objective has been achieved, albeit in a round-about way.

  2. kwallace says:

    I agree with Tonia. This is a tough issue to come to terms with. Thanks Caroline. Warmly, Karen

  3. PauperArt says:

    But how do you cope with this when it cripples your creativity? Or at least your ability to share your creativity. I have taken some wonderful photos over the years, created digital remakes, even tried my hand at the “pop art” of the times. But I just can’t seem to share any of it online because I feel stunted by theives. In most cases I would gladly give anyone my last dollar, but to give them my soul or let them steal it… I just haven’t found the strength to go there.

    • Tonia Davenport says:

      PauperArt,
      I’m posting this reply for Karen, who was having difficulty leaving a reply.

      Hello. Robert Glenn in his Twice-Weekly Letter wrote this about online theft: http://clicks.robertgenn.com/problem-with-stealing.php.
      I hope you find a way to share your creativity with the world.
      Warmly, Karen

    • ArtExcavator says:

      I’ve been there too. Found some of my detailed sketches I had shared showed up licensed by the artist I shared them with! I almost shut down my blog, everything.
      And then I thought, no matter what we do, in some way shape or form, it can be taken by people with no scruples or talent.
      And making art makes me happy~~so I risk it. Yes, I can watermark it but if they’re going to copy, that won’t matter.
      I feel I let *them* win when I don’t produce and share, and I’m tough enough I’m not letting that happen. You just have to find a comfort zone with your work, and if it’s public, know there is risk. It doesn’t squelch the sting, but on the other hand, a lot of GOOD PEOPLE get to enjoy it.
      Hang in there!

  4. thecreativebeast says:

    Karen, thank you for writing about your experiences with being copied, especially the early childhood experiences! If only we could all remember those times when someone in our early classrooms copied our work then we might think twice about copying the work of others. I may dabble in ‘copying’ a style of work but I usually keep the end result for myself as a playful experiment. i can say that i have seen some interesting ideas that I took and ran with and THAT is what should be done when you see an interesting idea – find a way to really push it or elaborate on it in a way that moves from the original inspiration. That is what creativity is all about really…
    And I have to agree with CarolineA that most folks who copy line for line, word for word, etc, are being lazy. Creativity is not about copying someones work, it’s about finding INSPIRATION in the work and creating something in your own style that may veer off in a new direction =-)

  5. kwallace says:

    Thanks for your insightful comment. Yes, we need to look at what others are doing, get inspired, and go off and create in our own style.

  6. rasz says:

    What a great article. I use to make fleece winter hats with pom-poms, scarfs and mittens and sell them at the winter craft fairs to make some extra Christmas money. There were other vendors that sold fleece items and we all had our own style/patterns and that gave variety to the shoppers which was great. I sold out at every show and had orders for more! My patterns were simple and I sold everything at a very affordable price. I did this for two years. During my second year a girlfriend called me and said I had to turn on our local TV morning show. There were two women demonstrating how to make my fleece hats on TV! They even had one of my hats as an example of a finished piece. I remembered these two woman had bought several sets from me a couple weeks before. I was crushed.
    I’ve just started doing mixed media art this past year and I love it. I appreciate all the artists who share their “how-to’s”. Yes I do get some great ideas however I do not want my art to be someone else’s or to look like a cookie-cutter artist where someone can look at what I do and immediately know who I “learned” from. I want to be original, I want to be me. I am not at a place to sell my work but being copied is a huge fear of mine.
    Although being copied can be hurtful I have to say that I think for the one person, although very hurtful, who copies our creations there are thousands of other true artists who appreciate respect each other.
    Maybe a copy-cat may read this article and change their actions next time!

  7. kwallace says:

    Thanks for your story Rasz. I think that one of the most important things in this conversation is the surprise element. If someone told me that they were copying me and going public with it, at least I would time to digest it. Being surprised, shocked, caught off guard, adds to the complexity of how we react to this issue.

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