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)
4/19/2015 09:32:09 am
I'm learning how to paint ( I'm a teen ) and when learning, i reproduce other works so I get an idea of oil painting tecninques. If I wanted to enter a competition, would I have to make an original, or is it okay to use those?
6/12/2016 04:10:41 pm
I can appreciate your thoughts,as they are coming from the mind of a professional artist. I come from a long line of artists (not famous...that I know of!), however, I too decided years ago to pursue my own passions in art. When I was teaching myself how to paint, I would study the artwork of others and yes, re-create them. There are amazing artists in the world and their work is beautiful, and I did those I was really drawn to. No, I did not sell them. I do think it is a little unfair to say those who recreate the work of others lack talent, or inspiration etc... It's really very much an insult, just as it's insulting to you that someone would consider repainting. Now, if you do recreate, then you should give the original artist credit. Though no painting is ever an exact duplicate, there are always differences.
7/26/2016 10:34:11 pm
Hello Catherine, thank you for candidly sharing your thoughts. Most budding artists taught to study and learn from the great artists. I was encouraged during my teen years to create work in the "style" of those artists in order to learn various techniques. I am not at all opposed to student artists and developing artists reproducing work to learn technique or just for fun. Also having studied Picasso and having a great admiration for him as an artist, his quote makes reference to "copying or stealing" style, inspiration, and techniques, not actual images. His own work in Cubism came about after a trip he made to Africa during which he was much inspired by tribal and African art, particularly the tribal masks. In a manner of speaking, he "stole" the style he viewed. However, despite the obvious influence, his creations were very unique and distinctive.
8/28/2016 01:43:22 am
I wood burn. If someone other than myself makes a pen and ink print of the Golden Gate Bridge and I turn it into a wood burning (by tracing basic outlines of the print and adding my own shading with the burning tool) am I copying their work or am I creating a new piece of art? If I take a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge and turn it into a piece of art (by tracing it onto a board ...) am I copying or have I created an original? I want to take my work to a county fair and do I enter it in the arts division or the arts and crafts division?
8/30/2016 12:49:58 am
Hi Linda, first, wood burns are beautiful. I love wood, the way it smells, how it feels, the look of it. Oddly enough, I have never tried wood burns. I don't think many have so you're fairly rare in your art creation.
8/30/2016 01:07:17 am
Linda, I didn't address all of your questions in the recent reply so here's the rest. The pen & ink drawing may be a bit too similar to your ultimate wood burn (same lines, etc., only burned instead of inked). It would be a risk in my opinion. I think the p&i artist could argue the similarity in nature and that the work has not been transformed so as to barely represent the original.
8/30/2016 10:37:05 am
Vivian, Thanks for answering my questions. I have been wood burning for 2 years. I won 2 Best of Show ribbons at the local county fair last year in the arts and crafts division. I think part of the win came from the uniqueness of wood burning in this area. On a 1 to 10 scale I think my burning skills are around 7 or 8. My personal drawing skills around 2 on a really good day. There is my problem ... finding usable drawings for my burning skill level.
11/5/2022 02:08:07 pm
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vivian leflore mora, artist/writer, and business consultant.