In this blog, I'm going up on my "buy original" soapbox to put forth a definition of "original" art. Bold, huh? It gets more audacious, keep reading. I'm going to immediately put forth that it is NOT merely art that is produced by an artist's hand. Let's begin my opening argument with the most obvious case of unoriginal art, intentional copies.
I've just finished an article that was linked to a post on Art Fair Insiders about a copier out of the Norfolk, VA area. No, this is not the type of copier produced by Ikon or Xerox. This is a person who intentionally chooses to copy the art of others due to lack of inspiration, lack of talent, or because he or she is trying to take advantage of the public (see def for con artist). This person illegally re-produces by their own hand images of other artists work. This is definitely NOT original art!
My next argument is somewhat softer but just as insidious in nature. This is the re-production of other artists work by someone that I think is not as rare as we would like them to be, a person who is fairly ignorant of the violation they are committing. The artist often with little to no formal training who just doesn't know that it is not only not alright to copy or sample work but that it can be illegal. So this artist creates from or peppers their work with images they have seen in books or on the internet. Some of the images are other's original copyright-protected art or photographs. Their artwork looks very much like artwork you see over and over again. Can you really look at another stand of trees sitting on an undulating landform without rolling your eyes too? Do you think we can agree that this is not original art?
Now, we are moving into the Public Domain. There are plenty of famous artworks that are considered to be in the public domain, meaning no longer under copyright protection and therefore available to used, copied, reproduced at will. The Mona Lisa is the most prominent of these. So artists can create artwork featuring this and other artworks in the public domain. Da Vinci obviously painted her first and best so anything else is NOT original.
Having gone through all of the above, what exactly is original art? I would put forth that original art is art created by an artist's hand and from his/her own thoughts and references which provides a new or unique perspective on a subject; imagery that is uncommon in its presentation even when dealing with common subjects; and/or a compilation that is not ubiquitous but imaginative or intriguing in nature.
Whew!! I am certain there are many who hold this definition of original art. So how do you make certain you are buying original art especially when the highest form of flattery, imitation, seems to show up without warning? You keep your eyes open and you ask questions, always.
I have a few artist friends who get annoyed when someone walks up and asks in some form, "Is this all your work?" or "Did you really paint all of these?". I love that question because it gives me an immediate opening to talk about just how original my art is. Keep asking, please!
Yours in Art,
Vivian Leflore Mora
Fine Art & Illustration
PS You may also want to check out another post within this blog titled, "Is it Authentic? How do I tell?" (http://www.vivianmoraart.com/1/post/2010/10/is-it-authentic-how-do-i-tell.html)
Art Scams: What do we look like?
We are artists. We are by and large optimistic in nature. But do we really appear to be fools? Apparently, the scam-mers of the world, with their poor grammatical skills and obvious tactics seem to think that we are. In the past several weeks, I've made greater efforts to locate and select online art sales venues to broaden my reach as an artist. My efforts to bring my art to the attention of a wider audience of art lovers and collectors has also caught the attention of much less than scrupulous individuals. Within the past month, in addition to others, I received wonderful compliments on my artwork from one of the world's wealthiest businessmen with an invitation to contact him directly via his personal email address (his full name with a several digits after it) to answer the questions he had about my art. He indicated that he wanted to buy not just one but all three of the art pieces that I recently listed with _rtF_r_. I think I was supposed to become so excited that I would immediately email him back from my own personal email address to make offline arrangements. After all, being one of the wealthiest men in the world, he obviously would be sending out such an inquiry himself and...he would not have taken the time to read my listing which answered each of the questions he had sent. Oh, and, of course, this was too important for him to delegate to one of his many personal assistants and/or all those other people who work for him. Hey! Wait a minute...something IS rotten in the state of Denmark! By the way, people of Denmark, don't take offense...Shakespeare started it! Back to the scam, if using the name of one of the world's wealthiest businessmen was not a clear give away, the poorly put together message and insistence on working outside of the site where my art is clearly listed for sale were!
I understand how "your" scam works and I hope all my artist friends also know the scam. You offer to do business directly. You agree to my pricing as is or you tell me "Oh, you're selling yourself short. Your art is worth $$$, so how about I pay you $$$." I'm flattered so I agree. You intentionally or "unintentionally" send me a "cashier's check" or some other financial tool for more than the agreed upon price. But you say, "Don't worry, just deposit it, and you can refund me the difference." So I am supposed to send you the difference in money from my bank that is "good" along with the art you've paid for, only to find out later that your "check" was not good? Not going to happen!!
I have my work listed with sites that offer a "store front" so that purchases can be made safely. Any offer to do business outside of the site in which a buyer found me and my art work is not acceptable. I do sell directly here in the local market, at various art fairs and festivals, and to people I know or who were referred to me. If you found my work through Etsy, please go ahead and buy through Etsy or any other site I've chosen to list my work. I chose them carefully and I want to be able to do business with you through them and for you to conduct business with me through them, safely and confidently.
These scam artists must take their name to heart given their determined efforts to take artists for a ride. We artists are a hopeful bunch. We do hope that someone, many someones as a matter of fact, really likes our work and we hope they will want to buy it. That's probably why these con tactics manage to catch a few of us sleeping often enough that they continue to make the rounds. I'm sharing this to hopefully remind all of us to stay vigilant. Whenever I receive a message from anyone unfamiliar to me, the first I do is pull up Google. I like to know with whom I am to do business. So far, 10 out 10 times, I've found the person or his or her connection to me through someone I know OR I've found the person's name with big letters after it reading SCAM!
P.S. For more detailed descriptions of various scams and a list of scam names, take a look at this blog post by another artist: http://www.kathleenmcmahon.com/info/scammer-names.html
The Little Tile that Did!
This is truly the story of "The Little Tile that Did!" Did what, you may ask? Well, I'm about to tell you exactly what it did. Be a little patient with me though because there is a back story!
Sometime back in July of this year I began looking for an affordable quality product to offer alongside my original artwork. I decided it would not be prints although I have offered them in the past. I do still have some prints in inventory and will still produce a limited number in the future I'm sure. However, no, there were some qualifications for the "product" that would eliminate prints from the competition. First, the product would have to complement my original artwork and promote it at the same time without replacing it (i.e. an appropriately sized print might replace the purchase of an original artwork). I also thought that it should be usable "as is" meaning that the buyer would not have to take any additional steps once he or she purchases "it", such as framing it, etc. So, Mr. or Ms. Buyer should be able to take said product home and immediately be able to enjoy it. Now, the third qualification helped me to truly narrow the field. I wanted it to be something that could be and would be handcrafted by me! Now, as an artist, I generally only want to produce original art so this product would have to be "art" requiring creativity on some level without distracting me from painting. To close the competition, my final requirement was that it would have to be something that I don't see many other artists offering. Yikes! That made it really difficult.
But suddenly, it was right there before my eyes! This is where I would like to say that I woke up in the middle of the night with a genius brainstorm but, alas no. It really was right before my eyes and under my tea cup! A stone coaster! If you know me at all you would know that I am just a little particular about some - okay, a lot of things - so coasters are a requirement in my home. And a couple of years back I bought two sets of beautiful stone coasters that were made by the mother of one of my friends. She had made very creative use of stamping to produce her sets. That was it!
Now I only needed to figure out how to get images of my artwork on the tiles. I work primarily in acrylic paint and had used an acrylic gel transfer method within my artwork and figured the same should apply here. It's just a matter of substrate. Okay, the substrate is stone so there were a few additional steps needed to produce the result you see here. But it worked!
And how it worked! I started offering these during a show in August. I've offered them at five (5) separate art fairs that I've participated in since that time. I've had to restock after every show. The little tiles have wings! This was intended to be essentially a "marketing" item. You know, sort of like an art souvenir! It would remind you of that wonderful original painting by yours truly that you are considering contacting me to purchase! This still could happen. After all, hope springs eternal! In the meantime, the universe had other plans. My original artwork sales are moving along at an expected pace but the "little tiles" have forged their own place in my offerings. Many artists count on moving prints and other lower cost items because not everyone is able to fork over the dollars for an original art piece. I love the fact that while I am offering a lower investment item, these tiles actually are originals in that each one has its own unique characteristics due to both the stone itself as well as the qualities achieved when I apply the transfer method. This is the little tile that did it!
Vivian Mora Art
Fine Art & Illustration
P.S. The tiles have their own page on my website now. Click on this url or the tab for art tiles: http://www.vivianmoraart.com/art-tiles.html
Homogeneity and Art Marketing
We all want homogenized milk, right? Okay, many of us said yes, only knowing that it must be a good thing because it's featured so prominently on the carton. I was one of the us. I was not really sure what it meant for milk to be homogenized so I went to the Guru, wiseGEEK.com. WiseGEEK says that homogenized milk is any sort of milk that has been mechanically treated to ensure that it has a smooth, even consistency. The homogenization process typically involves high temperatures, agitation, and filtration, all aimed at breaking down milk's naturally occurring fat molecules. Once broken, these molecules stay suspended in the milk and resist separation. The process makes fat filtration much easier for manufacturers, and lengthens milk's shelf life. Apparently, this is also the key to longevity as an artist. Who knew that art and milk had so much in common?! Let's examine this odd connection I have stumbled across.
My light bulb moment came when I sought out the counsel of a respected art business consultant to focus my efforts in building my budding art career. One of the first lessons I learned was that I had too much "stuff" just flung out on my website, in too many different styles, and not connected by a "story" of any kind. A rookie mistake! In trying to present something for everyone and show my versatility, I was failing to truly be anything. Back to the milk connection, nothing in my presentation of my art was smooth or consistent. Given this, I was challenged to determine just what it is that I am since I cannot be everything to everyone. Who is Vivian Mora as an artist? What do I want to define me and represent me in the art world? This is the step where high temperatures, agitation, and eventually filtration occurs. Those first two processes are also known in humans as stress.
What am I willing to give up to ensure that my presentation of art, essentially, my body of work, is smooth and consistent?
Filtration meant passing my art through a strainer to determine what genres or styles would be left behind or extracted and what would emerge as the work I want to speak for me as an artist going forward, the pure work. Of course, there's nothing that prohibits me from creating art for my own edification in many different styles but if I want to establish myself publicly as an artist, my public presentation would need to be homogenous. Why? Alan Bamberger, the art business consultant I sought out, phrased it as people want to be able to "peg" you as an artist. They want to understand you and what you represent. I should have gleaned this from my understanding of sociology which was my major in grad school (forgive me, Dr. Long). People simply like to know what to expect. They want to know the story of my art and how it is connected. I took this advice out for a "road test" this past weekend. I participated in an art fair. I displayed only the work I am continuing. Each piece was part of one of two series that I decided would represent my current work and help define my future work. Now, I'm not a wallflower and generally contribute my fair share to a conversation. However, for some reason, I had often found myself at a loss in talking about my work with potential buyers and the public in general. At the art fair, it became easy for me to talk about my work because suddenly my work made sense! It was all connected and fit together perfectly.
This cohesive collection of work also apparently makes it easier for buyers or collectors to follow my work. Once my style was filtered and the "purified" works identified as a complete body "resistent to separation", an art buyer knows what he or she is going to get if they buy a Vivian Mora art piece today or 10 years from now. They seem to like that and I think I do, too.
Come visit again for the next installment in making art-sense!
Vivian Leflore Mora
Fine Art & Illustration
VivianMoraArt.com (fine art)
Art, the business of art, that is, seems to be calling for a sea change. The economic times worldwide is the driving force behind the call for business, including the business of art, to change the way sales are approached. The term, sea change, pulled from the pages of William Shakespeare's The Tempest, is meant to indicate a broad transformation. Paradigm shift is a more contemporary term and is said to be what happens when one replaces his or her conceptual world view with another. Artists who wish to continue to earn a living selling art may need to significantly modify their approach to selling art to the world. Lack of consumer confidence describes a strange behavioral effect in which even consumers with the means to purchase are hesitant to do so. During uncertain economic times, art becomes a luxury that many consumers choose to do without. For others the expenditures may become harder and harder to justify and easier to resist. These conditions can present rather large obstacles for artists who are well known and have had previously steady sales but what of the emerging or newly launched artist? Do they stand a chance in such an environment?
Answer is possibly yes! "Possibly yes" sounds "somewhat vague" but there are conditions that an artist who is willing can undertake to sell in less than ideal economic times. Let's start with the scariest of these conditions. Art business consultant, Alan Bamberger, has thrown out the idea of reducing prices! For many established artists this may be unthinkable blasphemy. However it may be one of the best ways to continue to earn a living when art becomes one of the easiest luxuries to put off buying. As an emerging artist, I have chosen to establish reasonable and affordable prices. With luck and God's blessings combined with my own hard work, I believe that my price structure will be able to move up as my work grows in it's collectibility and as the economy improves. But until that time comes my patrons will be able to get more for a lot less. I've always personally enjoyed knowing that I got more than my money's worth. Another option could be to forego the gallery route. Yes, it is desirable to be featured in galleries. I don't know any artists worth their salt who scoffs at the idea of being featured in or represented by galleries. The "price of admission" is a a percentage of the art sale price, usually anywhere from 30-50%. The price a collector/buyer may get if the artist's other work is purchased outside this venue may be 30-50% less. I say other work because once a piece is in the gallery, the artist would jeopardize his/her relationship with the gallery as well as his/her reputation in selling that piece while in an agreement with the gallery. If an artist chooses not to go the gallery route, he or she can seek out alternative venues to showcase their art. An artist can host his or her own show solo or with a group of artists. An artist may also choose to participate in art fairs. Art fairs take place all over the country and serve as a great source of art. Artists at all levels participate in these shows, established artists as well as emerging artists. Many of the shows are juried, meaning that the artists have gone through a selection process to get into the show. For artists this can be a great way to show and sell art and it is a great way to patrons of the art to get access to good artwork outside of the gallery setting.
Earlier I mentioned the idea of reducing prices as a means of matching the economic times and within this realm exists the universal notion of bargaining. I think artists should be open to negotiating on prices. I'm not thinking used car sales negotiating but, for example, having a willingness to make a sale at 10% less versus returning the painting to inventory at the end of the day.
These are but a few of the ideas that I've run across or which have come mind while I work to move beyond emerging artist into the realm of established artists through the sale of my artwork. I am making use of each and every one of them on my journey and will keep you posted on my success! Feel to share your own ideas and experiences in the comments!
vivian leflore mora
fine art & illustration
We see it often...reproduction of artwork. As a matter of fact, many of these are valuable, authorized, and legitimate. But what about those that are presented as originals when they are nothing but knocked-off copies? I can clearly see the profit motive in reproducing a Van Gogh, a Jackson Pollock, or even a well-known mainstream contemporary artist. But why would one local or regional artist copy another local or regional artist? I've become the victim of such an act. A good friend who supports my art endeavors, forwarded a text to me including a screen shot of a local artist's facebook page showing a copy of one of my original paintings. She recognized it immediately. It wasn't exact but it was unmistakeably copied and it was marked as SOLD!
This was devastating on such a high emotional level. I could compare this to someone coming into my home and making off with our electronics but it is more significant than that. I could replace those things easily. They are produced in mass quantities. They are not unique. My artwork is unique. It came from only me. No one else had this vision. I have often stated that selling a piece of my artwork was similar to sending a child off into the world. Your artwork is a part of you because it emerged from you. When my artwork sells, I am happy that someone has already shown enough appreciation for it as to buy it. It's what I want to happen. As an artist, my hope is that my creation is going to a home that will care for it and love it. We create art to share what's inside us with the world. We want our art to make that transition from our care to someone else's care, but not under false pretenses.
The impact of having my creative output taken and presented to the world under false pretenses has included anger, hurt, confusion, and discouragement. I was initially shocked when I received the message and but anger followed so close on those heels that the only remnants of shock was my inability to stop my hands from shaking as I jumped on the computer to get more information on this act. It was hurtful to see my work misappropriated. I wanted to understand why. Why would another "artist" do such a thing? Could she not put herself in my shoes? How would she feel if her original work was copied and presented as someone else's work? This was the hardest and most disappointing part. Until, I realized that I could not look at my own original creation without pain taking hold of me both mentally and physically. It hurt to see the piece that had been copied. It was particularly hard since it's one of my signature pieces. It's the piece displayed prominently on the back of my business cards. It was sitting in my kitchen yesterday because I was preparing to take it with me to an arts market in which I was to show my work. I could not go. I could not imagine setting up, putting my work out, and having normal conversations with patrons. I further found that as I stood at the entrance to my art studio, I did not want to work on anything. That's the moment I decided I would not let this situation take me out of the game. I would take action, fight back, and those actions would help me to get over this faster.
What could I do? What can you do if you're ever in this situation? The first thing you can do is assert a copyright on your work. Fortunately, I had done this. In the US, we follow the Berne copyright convention. Almost everything created privately and originally after April 1, 1989 is copyrighted and protected whether it has a notice or not. A notice strengthens the protection, by providing a warning to people, but it is not actually necessary. The U.S. Copyright office would strongly encourage you to officially register your work, and so would I. Registration can permit you to get more and different damages if you find an infringement on your rights under the copyright laws. The next thing you might want to do is put the offender on notice. I notified the offender via her Facebook page that the work presented there was a copyrighted work of original art and that it was illegal to duplicate it. I further sent a more detailed message indicating what actions I would like her to take to remedy this violation. I provided her with 24 hours to resolve this before I take it further. What does it mean to take it further? Contact the legal community. Most major cities have nonprofit arts advocacy groups including lawyers. I did a search and found Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts (also known as TALA, http://talarts.org). A lawyer can take several steps to help address copyright infringment spanning from "cease and desist" notices to court trials. Visit the site listed for TALA to get more details on legal remedies. I also posted a notice to my local artist community of the occurrence. Houston is a large city but the arts community is close knit so I thought someone may be familiar with the person who committed this act. I got a response on my first posting. I show my work on a regular basis at First Saturday Arts Market in the Heights here in Houston. The person who copied my work has been known to frequent the market and had just exhibited on a trial basis the day before. If she is copying my work, who is to say what other artists' works may be at risk? It was this last notion that pushed me to really go after this.
As artists, we work very hard to develop our abilities and create unique art that will be appreciated by the world. Do we have to hide it in a closet to keep unscrupulous individuals from stealing it? It's sad to have to deal with this. I hope no other artist has to pursue this type of issue. It has left me feeling violated and, although I am fighting back, I can't help but realize that it has had an effect on the way I think of my work, especially when I think of showing my work.
Vivian Leflore Mora
Wednesday, May 9, 2012 Addendum
"All's Better, That Ends Better" - forgive me Mr. Shakespeare for taking liberties with the title of your play! I am adding this footnote because much has happened in the couple of days since I wrote the above blog. I've had the good fortune to become introduced to someone who willingly and openly chose to be accountable for their actions! The artist who created a copy of my original art piece reached out to me and asked for my forgiveness. She is an artist who had begun painting again recently. Her daughter had admired my work at a show and had an image which had been taken with a camera phone. The artist painted it for her daughter and gave it to her. She explained that the copied painting was marked as SOLD when it was posted to indicate it was not available for sale. She acknowledged that she should not have painted it and she has taken all the steps I've asked her to take to remedy the situation. In my books, she has answered for her actions and she has my forgiveness.
In the end, my only other wish is that this situation had not occurred at all, but I feel much better because I know that it is her wish also. Thank you.
How are art prices decided?
There are so many different methods used to price art. But my response will attempt to keep with the confines of contemporary art, that is art produced by living artists.
Where an artist is in his/her career may (should) dictate pricing of artwork. An established, award-winning, recognized artist's work will generally be priced by demand. The price is determined by what buyers are willing pay for the work and competition for limited output may push this along depending on the collectibility. For the rest of us, we use a few methods. One of the most popular for starting artists is to price by time & materials. This method takes the artist's time and adds a numerical value to the hours of work going into a piece and then covers the cost of materials used to produce the piece. Emerging artists, for this purpose I'm referring to artists who have sold work and who are starting to get more attention, may also use this method and then add a premium which will usually increase as his/her popularity increases.
There are also artists who arbitrarily price their work. It may be based on how emotionally attached they are to the piece or a number he or she wants to get at that moment. Scary but true! Other more methodical artists look at the market, comparing their work to other work being produced by artists similar to them or to whom they aspire to be compared, and then price their work to follow.
Most artists do strive to be consistent in the pricing of their own work and you may be able to detect a pattern by reviewing that artist's portfolio of work along with the pricing. There are times when the size, complexity, originality, or even the simple genius of a piece will dictate the pricing so don't be surprised when a small, detailed oil landscape outprices a wall-sized floral in the same medium or when the price of that landscape pales in comparison to a simply stated abstract with two straight black lines intersecting on a white background.
It's generally not polite to ask an artist how he or she sets prices but it's perfectly okay to inquire as to whether he or she would consider $X amount for a piece. As long as the asking price and your offering price is not too far apart, the worse that can happen is that he or she says no and you've lost nothing for asking.
vivian leflore mora
Is it authentic? How do I tell?
Great question! This is a query that should always be top of mind when buying original art. Given the technology we now have available there are many reproductions today that can trick the naked eye. So how can you tell if it's authentic?
This may seem a bit simplistic but the first thing to do is ask. No artist should be offended or put out by the question, "Is this an original piece?" Most artists will welcome the question because it now provides a platform for engaging you in talking about their work and the artistic process s/he uses to create the work. Being a trusting soul, I've always started here. However, the part of me that is firmly rooted to the earth, now says you must go deeper.
It's time to put on your best Sherlock Holmes impression and give the piece a closer examination while asking more questions. Don't be shy about standing face to face with the artwork, get close, and then get closer. The thing I love most about visiting museums to see my favorite artists' work is that I can see the brushstrokes that went into creating the masterpieces. I hate it when the museum puts up those ropes. I can't see the total genius behind the work if I can't get close.
The brushstrokes you see in oil, acrylic, and egg tempera paintings should be strokes of color not clear coatings. Unscrupulous artists may touch up reproductions and present them as originals using a gel medium to simulate brushstrokes. Look at the artwork on several angles and in sunlight. There should also be texture throughout that is not uniform as you may see with textured papers.
If you are commissioning a work, the best possible way to ensure you are getting an original, authentic piece of art is to visit the artist in his/her studio throughout the production. This can be unsettling for some artists, but it's your money and your artwork. If the artist is unwilling to permit this, I'm sure there's another talented artist longing for the commission who is more than willing to allow you access!
Bon chance y buena suerte!
vivian leflore mora
Art Buying 101
How do I start an art collection?
The joy of building an art collection is now available to everyone given the proliferation of technology and the ease of accessing local artists today. In the past, galleries often intimidated beginning art collectors but today the competition with available online art and self-represented artist has changed the scene drastically. While there is no set formula for building an art collection, here are a few tips to make your collection the best it can be, regardless of your budget.
Trust Your Instincts
Fill your collection with pieces you love – not pieces that feel like a good investment opportunity or a "good deal". Your collection should be a reflection of you. If you’re not sure what you like, spend some time just looking. Browse local art festivals and markets, or go to your local bookstore and read up on art basics, pay attention to the subject matter, color combinations or styles that capture your interest.
Buy Original Art
Much of the magic of an art collection is in the subtle nuance and energy of the artwork itself – how the work makes you feel when you look at it, what it says to each individual. Original art is unique, one-of-a-kind piece and allows you to make an exclusive statement about who you are and what you like.
Choose the Right Mix
You may wish to build your collection around a common element (style, color, theme), but selecting works of different size, shapes and mediums will help diversify the overall collection.
Should I only buy from famous artists?
While owning a work from a famous artist can be exciting, it is typically not a practical option for the majority of art buyers. However, as a new buyer, you may also focus on buying original artwork from emerging or lesser-known artists. Selecting work from artists that are up-and-coming gives you the excitement of being a part of their growth and, in most cases, will give you access to a steady stream of vibrant new works as the artist continues to evolve and grow. Cultivate your own leads amongst artists themselves. They are usually on to a winner before anyone else.
The bottom line is that you should collect art because you love it and because it will enhance your life and your living space. After that, the investment potential becomes incidental and merely a potential bonus to your overall enjoyment of the work.
That's enough for now but come back for coverage on the following topics!
Is it authentic? How do I tell?
How are art prices decided?
Is art a good financial investment?
Information compiled by
vivian le flore mora | fine art | 713.385.5548 | vivianmoraart.com
vivian leflore mora, artist/writer, and business consultant.
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