I am stunned right now. Just stunned. 


I found out that an artist took another artist's work, TRACED IT, painted the picture, and calls it his own original work.


I cannot believe the lack of integrity, the deceit, just everything about this totally turns my stomach.  I have no idea how to handle this.  Distance myself from the fraud? Keep my mouth shut?


Just unbelievable.

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  • A friend of mine takes painting classes where they learn using overhead projectors for extra large tracings as well as doing regular tracing from books.  She thinks this is a 'normal' thing to do and that 'everyone' paints this way.
    • Using a projector to trace a smaller drawing or a photograph onto a larger surface to paint it is not, by itself, inherently wrong or unethical. For example, Leonardo da Vinci did it, using a "camera obscura", a crude form of a a projector. Many famous illustrators have used this method to piece together compositions from various sources. It is, in fact, a "normal" way of working for many painters. Look up Chuck Close, for example, who creates photographic portraits from smaller sections transferred to the larger work.

      I met a painter who draws his original sketches, scans them, has them printed larger and uses that as a basis for his underpainting, before going on with various levels of color, glazes and detail work. Nothing wrong with that, either. In his case, tracing is just a method.

      Using reference material as bits and pieces to create a new and original work is not unethical, either. The US Copyright Office allows derivative works in many media to be copyrighted, but there are rules governing this type of use. Many artists have created masterful works from magazine clippings, paint, drawings and other ephemera. As mixed media, the original bits are often obscured to the point of recognition. Robert Rauschenberg was a pioneer in this area. Sometimes the reference pieces are incorporated as under -drawings for a larger painted piece.

      We used to do this in advertising quite a bit, before computers. We had huge clip files which we'd use to make sketches of the final idea. Usually the reference pieces were just that, reference, as it was cost prohibitive to go out and photograph the idea before the client had approved it. Several concepts were usually presented before one was chosen, so it was fruitless to move forward without a budget and an idea pre-approved.

      But to copy another's work outright by tracing and then sell it as your own is wrong. No question. 

      • Using a projector to trace a smaller photograph or drawing that is created by the artist in order to enlarge it onto a canvas is totally ok in my book too.  But, using a photo taken by someone else, then copying it by projecting it or tracing it onto a canvas to paint and sell is not ethical to me.   I do see what you mean about mixed media works.  Often magazine clippings and things like that are used within a piece to add to the total design.  That doesn't feel to me like copying or plagerizing. Some of that use would go to the artist's intent.  I think what Jennifer was referring to was outright stealing someone else's concept and design. In reference to Geri's post, I do wish instructors would let their students draw their own interpretations on the paper and paint from there.  However, I can see the instructors reasons for allowing copying.  I think it's the instructor's responsibilty it that case, to instruct the students that originality from beginning to end should eventually be the their goal. After all, one valid method of learning is by copying but the hope should be that we eventually evolve with our talent.  Especially, one would hope, by the time we are offering our work for sale.
        • Well, they can send out a cease and desist order.

          This is what was suggested to me by an attorney when I had something similar happen to me. In my case, the person who did the copy decided they would not sell the item, and just put it in their home. So I never pursued.

      • Jim, I do the same. I have a projector that I use regularly to try out different sizes, angles, etc. I may do a small sketch to work out the kinks, then transfer it to my larger canvas. No problems with that at all. Example: today I need 4 different shapes of the same item. I printed 4 photos of the generic item, traced them, and they'll go in my work. However, the composition, the use, all of the minute details that go into my pieces are all mine. All created by me, designed by me, painted by me.


        The pieces I referred to were without question copied from someone else's creation.  And then had the nerve to put their name and © on it!

    • I've taken painting workshops over the years that use projectors as well as the instructor actually handing you a drawing on the paper that you will be painting.  I think they're reasoning is that you are learning to paint, not draw and they don't want to waste time getting the sketch just right.  Most of the time, the instructor will tell people that they cannot sell the painting they produce in that class because it is not originally their own design. I know one high school art teacher that allows the students to use photos from magazines, or wherever and project it to trace and then paint.  I disagree with these methods and any painting I would produce in a class using a projector or tracing would end up being given away or tossed.  If a painting isn't my own creation from the very beginning I wouldn't feel right calling it my own work.
  • I'm a photographer and just started in the fashion industry this year. For us, imitation is a sign of flattery, but what this person did is just despicable SMH
  • A sign  of no inspiration, no originality, no integrity.   Definitely let the person being plagiarised know - be anonymous if you have to.
    • I once heard of someone who photographed someone else's painting and sold it as their own. They got caught red handed but turns out they are really popular in certain circles so the whole thread was deleted. Its just really interesting what gets swept under the rug if you have the right friends.
      So my advice it to just forget it. If they are making a living selling images of some else's work they will continue to do so. Just tell your friend to make another better painting.
      • I hear ya, Willie.  But I don't have to have them as MY friends.
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