Toxicity in the art world...it's not what you might think.
|Original painting by Brenda Swenson|
It all started in early January when I received two separate messages on Facebook. Delilah and Suzanne notified me that one of my paintings was on the cover of a national arts supply catalog. It was obvious to them someone had copied my painting. I am so thankful that these women cared enough to message me. I owe them a debt of gratitude!
I sent an email to the company. What came next was weeks of countless emails and phone calls. The company was rightly concerned because they were in the middle of a copyright infringement…a bad legal situation. The company wanted to write me a check…I declined. It wasn’t about the money…it’s about protecting what is my property. Instead I asked if they’d give a gift certificate to my local elementary school, for the art program. They gave a generous gift. I also outlined what I expected from the company.
*My artwork to be removed from their website and e-publications.
*An apology from the student
*An apology from the instructor
*Implement an artwork/photo release form for all future competitions. All artwork and source material must be original. No copies.
*A written notice stating that the artwork was a copy of an original painting by Brenda Swenson and copied without permission.
The company has complied with my requests…but it’s too late to retrieve the catalogs that were mailed. I don’t wish to damage the company with negative publicity. They’ve made serious efforts to correct the matter immediately and put new guidelines in place to avoid something like this happening again.
As you can see I blocked out the company information. I also blocked out the teacher’s and student’s full name and school. The teacher and I had a chance to talk and she was genuinely sorry for what happened. She was not aware that the artwork was a copy.
I’ve included the catalog cover (left) and feature (right). The student, Cassie talks about her inspiration. She stole my words, too! She had no idea how much of me went into my painting, “CAL 46”. I own the truck in the painting, the vintage license plate is in my studio, the painting earned me signature status in a watercolor society, featured in my book and much more. She entered a copy of my painting in a competition and happily accepted national publicity… an award… for my work. She has not apologized.
This is where it gets tough. Why? Because I have to look at myself. I’ve allowed her thoughtless actions to interfere with my life. Being angry has cost me too much: time, energy and emotions. To remain angry is toxic. I have two choices. I can be in control of my feelings or remain bitter towards the young woman. To remain bitter or angry is toxic. I’m ready to move on…not because of her… but because of me.
Please don’t tell me how to watermark or reduce my artwork so people will have a harder time stealing. If you do you're missing the point. Please read my post on Ethics and Art and
***Update 2/14/2017*** Letter of apology arrived
I am so ready to put this matter behind me and move on. I can only hope the event opened people's eyes to how painful and upsetting it can be for everyone involved. I'm sure it was a painful lesson for the young woman, too.
I hope this post helped bring a greater understanding to teachers, students, schools, art supply companies and publications. Painters/Artists do have ownership rights to what we create. If you do NOT have the artists permission...do NOT download it, copy, save to computer... do NOT print, copy, sell or show work that is NOT yours.