Monday, October 12, 2009

Where is the line, exactly?

So, with Christmas rapidly approaching, and South Carolina employers still stubbornly allowing me to carry out the 'immigrants take our jerbs!' stereotype, I got it into my head to crank out some more artwork for my online store.

This time around I decided to hedge my bets a little. The few drawings I've sold in the past have conformed to the 'sex sells' principle, consisting of risqué artwork with a gimmick to give the buyer an excuse to buy it. (Porn? This isn't porn! It's ART!)

So I sat and thought about what I can draw the best (women), the best 'genre' that scantily clad women fit into and can still be considered 'art' (fantasy) and finally a concept that someone would want to buy, but was still 'family friendly' enough to hang on a ten year old girl's wall.

I mulled this over for a few days and came up with one word…'Fairy'.

That was easy from a conceptual standpoint. Somewhere between cartoony and realism, a fairy (or fairies) flitting around next to flowers or toadstools. India ink on Bristol, with maybe a touch of glitter as a gimmick and I have something that someone would part with twenty bucks for.

The problem is the concept is easy, the details aren't.

I pulled out my sketchbook and started with some concept sketches, the sketches I use to block in the basic composition. I'd draw in the figures, even pulled some references off the net of pretty flowers…when I suddenly realized that, other than tinkerbell, I had no idea what fairy clothes looked like, what jewelry they wear, how they style their hair, etc, etc.

This might not seem like such a big deal, but pu a figure in the wrong clothes and suddenly you don't have a drawing of a fairy, you just have a chick with butterfly wings.

So I went to Google image search and started to look for some reference…which brings me to my main problem.

Picasso once said that good artists borrow and great artist's steal…but where exactly is the line between inspiration and plagiarism? For example, if I find a drawing of a fairy online, is it stealing if I completely copy the outfit, even though I'm putting it on a completely different character in a completely different pose? How about if I take one part of an outfit from one drawing, another from another and so on and so on.

This is kind of a big deal to me because after I put my first few pieces up on etsy, I was browsing the 'competition' on eBay when I stumbled across a drawing that was very familiar…and it turned out that someone had downloaded my preview images off etsy (I hadn't thought to watermark them), and was selling them as 'prints' of their own work.

Yeah, failing to sell a drawing then finding someone's selling copies for two bucks a pop kinda pisses you off.

So what do you reckon? Where does inspiration stop and stealing begin?


MC Etcher said...

A complete copy of the outfit doesn't seem very creative, but I don't know that it's stealing.

Also, even if you tried to copy the outfit exactly, there would be any number of small differences.

As long as you create the image from scratch, it's your image - stealing would only come into it if you're copying and pasting, making a few changes, and then posting it as your own work.

Evan 08 said...

I would look at several different outfits and make a composite. Make sure to not print your pictures, that way you're using using your own imagination on the final product.