“Artists’ Copyright”, or “How I Learned My Lesson”

A few years ago, when I was still painting just for fun, had just discovered soft pastels, and was not yet thinking of selling my work, I had a brutal awakening regarding artists’ copyrights.  It’s a story about a bully, a photographer who shall remain nameless (I saved the emails, and I will never forget that horrible man and his threats).  But because of that experience and previous familiarity with literary copyrights, I educated myself.  And you know, he was right. (He’s a horrible excuse for a human being, but he was right.)

Friends of ours had recently been married, had honeymooned in the Maritimes, and I wanted to give them a painting that would recall their trip to the East coast. I had no photos of my own to work from, so I found a beautiful photograph on the Internet of a Nova Scotia village I knew they’d visited, and decided to use it as my reference.  I changed the composition very slightly and imagined my own palette for colour since the original photo was in black and white.  Before having it framed as a gift for our friends, I got the idea (I can’t recall how or why) to contact the photographer and share my humble tribute to his beautiful work with him, and to let him know that I’d credited his photo.   His response was swift, furious and brutal.  He ranted about copyright infringement, he threatened legal action, and finally, he demanded that I send him my painting immediately so that he could personally see to its destruction!  I felt like he had punched me – hard – in the solar plexus.  I didn’t understand – I had given him and his photo full credit!  I wasn’t pretending that the image was mine, just the ‘tribute’ painting.  That didn’t matter, and it wasn’t the point. Because there was one thing he said that wasn’t entirely malicious:  he said that if I’d asked him for permission first (“even without payment”), he would likely have said yes.  (Did he mean that? I don’t know.)  I wasn’t young, but I was ignorant, although I did know enough to give credit where it was due.  And that began my self-education about basic artists’ copyrights.

Simply put, unless you are a student working on your own or in a classroom, and do not intend to sell your work or show it in public,  you need to know that the works of visual artists (including photographers, painters, sculptors, etc.) are under copyright (in the same or similar way a writer’s work is copyrighted) and may not be used or reproduced without prior permission of the original artist, and full credit given.  And if you ask for but don’t get permission, you just can’t use it.  (It’s pretty darn simple:  You can’t just take someone else’s artwork and call it yours, whether or not you make changes to it (aka “derivative” art). It is also why juried art shows will not accept student work created in the classroom: the work is directed by an instructor and is not original to the student-artist.  And copying or using another artist’s original work or image and calling it yours is the same idea.

The only solution if you want to show and/or sell your art is to create work only from your own imagination and experience (self-evident), or from your own reference photographs (if you use photographs).  Even if you choose to use “public domain” images, give credit to the original artists and their image or photo. It’s just a classy thing to do.

This might be taught in art colleges and in university bachelor or master level programs, (I don’t know, because I am basically self-taught), but if it isn’t, it should be.  I suspect, but could be entirely wrong, that the majority of artists who copy the works of others to show and sell as their own, are also self-taught, but this is not in any way a comment about talent or skill or ability. (Some of the most talented artists have been self-taught.)  It is about the idea that art education, whether or not you are self-taught, shouldn’t stop at just learning skills like basic composition, how to draw or how to mix and apply colour; it should also include learning about basic artists’ copyright law, ethics and the rights and responsibilities of the artist.

Oh, to finish the story about the copyright-infringed photographer:  I took the advice of some sympathetic artists at WetCanvas, refused to send my painting to that jerk so he could destroy it, and I never heard from him again.  I almost feel sorry for him. His photographs really are stunning, but he’s such a nasty character, really a bully, that I imagine he must be a very unhappy person inside.

Here are a few links if you’d like to know more about Artists’ Copyrights and stuff:

Know Your Copyrights (CARFAC)

Copyright Terminology (Copyright for Visual Artists)

Copyright Law of Canada (Wikipedia)

P.S. I’m still working on my second “Painting a Week”…. it’s coming along, will post ASAP.





Posted in 2016, Artists, Artists' Rights and Copyrights, Photos, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Dear Artists, Think Twice Before Purging Your Work” – A Cautionary Tale

Wishing a Happy New Year and all the best in 2016 to all!  (This is a long post, so I hope you make it to the end, especially if you’re thinking of purging any of your art in preparation for the new year!) 

The lamp on my drawing table inspired me to paint this first painting of the year, “A Light For 2016”.  (I have three easels for my pastel paintings and large drawings.  My drawing table is where my laptop lives, along with sketchbooks, note pads and various pens. Thus the funky lamp on my drawing table.)

"A Light for 2016"_soft pastels on Pastel Premier Italian Clay pastel paper_9"x12"_Lorraine Young

“A Light for 2016″_soft pastels on Pastel Premier Italian Clay pastel paper_9″x12″_Lorraine Young

It’s the time of year for making resolutions, setting goals, and reassuring ourselves that the New Year is going to be better than the last (especially if last year sucked). I’m normally a fairly optimistic person (when I’m not being pragmatic or even cynical), so I’ll go along with the idea that 2016 will be better than 2015 (although 2015 didn’t suck at all).  I have at least one good reason for that optimism:  I learned a tough lesson last year, sort of a cross between the old carpenter’s adage “Measure twice, cut once,” and the classic “Don’t burn your bridges behind you.”   The lesson I learned is twofold: Think twice and get a second opinion before you purge your art.”

I’ve been following artist Robert Genn’s blog (The Painter’s Keys) for many years now (sadly, he passed away last year), and his long-forgotten article about purging – literally burning in a bonfire – bad or inferior work rose to the surface of my mind last July. It made sense to me, so I decided to get the “crappy” paintings, “second-rate” sketches and other “poor-quality” works off my studio walls, out of corners and drawers, and literally burn them. I would be ruthless but pragmatic, and keep the good stuff while purging the bad.

The problem is that I didn’t re-read the article first, and I was alone when I decided to do the purge. With no one else nearby to urge caution or voice consideration that some of my choices might not be valid, I went on a crusade.  I was on a mission, filled with a zeal bordering on the ecstatic!  I went through every piece of art that hadn’t already been framed, slipped the “keepers” into protective packaging, and literally tossed the rest into the fire I’d made in the fireplace.  It felt great! I had removed all the evidence of my mediocracy! Only my best work survived! Now I could truly move forward!  There’s a word I like to use when I’ve done something that seemed like a good idea at the time but wasn’t actually very well thought out:


As it turns out, I actually had more reasons NOT to purge than I did TO purge – at least, in the manner I chose.

First, I’d forgotten one of the reasons I kept many of those early works in the first place: To remind myself what it’s like to be a beginner and to see how practice and determination to improve make a difference.  Believing early or inferior work is good might be delusional,  but destroying those earlier attempts and failures was a denial of my journey as an artist, including the fact that the journey had a beginning, and that it is ongoing.  There will always be second-rate sketches and failed paintings – that’s how we learn and grow.  Destroying them is like trying to hide them and pretend they never happened.

Second, some of the works I destroyed (second-rate or not) had a special emotional connection for me.  There were drawings of family members (some have died, others have moved far away); paintings and sketches of places, of memories shared with a loved one that I would look at (pinned to my studio wall), smile and think: “That drawing isn’t very good, but I remember that time, that person, that place, and the drawing reminds me of that wonderful and special moment.”  I forgot that it isn’t always the technique that matters, it’s the emotional connection.  It’s not like they were for sale. They were a special part of my life.

Third, at least one of those paintings was destroyed by accident, and I didn’t find out until months later when someone asked about buying it after seeing it here on my art-blog site. It was one I liked personally;  the composition, palette and values were good, and I had no reason to think it was second-rate.  A detailed search and complete re-organisation of my studio hasn’t produced that painting.  I have no doubt now that it went into the fireplace by mistake.  (I keep excellent records of my sales, and it’s not there.)  A companion piece to it, of the same scene but with a different composition and a bolder palette and technique, survived the purge, although it wasn’t my favourite of the pair.

Fourth, working with soft/dry pastels, almost exclusively on sanded pastel papers, means that the pigment can be brushed, scrubbed or even washed off the used paper and a new painting can be applied over it.  I burned some pretty expensive, acid-free, archival paper because I forgot that it was reusable.

Fifth, deciding which of my works to purge, without the benefit of a trusted and valued second opinion, left me entirely at the whim of my own imperfect and not-exactly-objective mind.  Painting might be a solitary act, but art-purging really needs a trusted and insightful second opinion (but not your mum, best friend or significant other – unless they actually know something about art.)

Thank you for making it to the end!  Have a great 2016! 

P.S. As an aside, I felt so bad about destroying one of my paintings by mistake that I decided to do another, completely different interpretation of the same scene.  Here it is, a landscape painted in levels of full colour, greyscale, and monotone.

"Mill Creek at Jackie Parker Park"_Lorraine Young_ soft pastels on Pastel Premier sanded pastel paper 9" x 12" $150 unframed

“Mill Creek at Jackie Parker Park”_Lorraine Young_ soft pastels on Pastel Premier sanded pastel paper 9″ x 12” $150 unframed








Posted in 2016, Artists, Dry Media, Edmonton, Landscape, Mill Creek Ravine, Pastels, Still Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Pastel Artists of Canada Online Juried Exhibibion

I am pleased to announce, first, that two of my paintings have been accepted into the 3rd Online Juried Exhibition of the Pastel Artists of Canada; and second, that one of them (La Jeune Boheme en Vert) has won an award and Honorable Mention in the competition.

I am just ecstatic about it!  Here is an excerpt from the notification I received from Kathy Hildebrandt of PAC, including commentary by juror Dianna Ponting:

“Congratulations! On behalf of Pastel Artists.CA it is my pleasure to inform you that you have received an award in the PAC 3rd Online Members Juried Exhibition.  Dianna Ponting honored your painting  “Le Jeune Boheme en Vert”  with an Honorable Mention.

Dianna also had the following to say about your painting:

‘The gestalt of this painting is what immediately struck me.  From technique to subject matter, all of the elements work but the whole is much more than the sum of its parts. A very sassy painting.’

Here are the two paintings:

La Jeune Boheme en Vert_Lorraine Young_9" x 12" soft pastels on sanded pastel paper NFS

La Jeune Boheme en Vert_Lorraine Young_9″ x 12″ soft pastels on sanded pastel paper NFS  (Awarded Honourable Mention, PAC 3rd Online Juried Exhibition)


SOLD Bridge of Dreams_11" x 15"_Lorraine Young_soft pastels on Premier Pastel sanded pastel paper

SOLD Bridge of Dreams_11″ x 15″_Lorraine Young_soft pastels on Premier Pastel sanded pastel paper (Accepted to PAC 3rd Online Juried Exhibition)


Thank you so much!

Please click on the links in the text above to view the entire exhibition and find out more about the Pastel Artists of Canada.


Posted in 2015, Dry Media, Edmonton, Figures, Landscape, Mill Creek Ravine, Pastels, Portraits | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Van Gogh Comes to Edmonton!

I’ve been neglecting my art blog! My excuses are legion, but I’ll just say no excuses are good enough, and apologise:  I am sorry.   And on to the good stuff!

We attended the Van Gogh exhibit last week, featuring nine exquisite reproductions of the Great One’s paintings, and it was an event worth seeing again.  So we will!   I can hardly believe they’re only charging $5 to view these works.  A collaboration between the Van Gogh Museum and Fujifilm Europe, a technology called “reliefography” was used to carefully scan the paintings and then reproduce them in 3D with every brushstroke, crack and bit of exposed canvas faithfully recreated.  The effect is amazing.  The best part, aside from being able to see these works in person, is being able to go right up to them and even touch them!  What an experience.  The show is here until November 15, when it will travel to Vancouver.  These are the only Canadian showings and absolutely worth seeing.

Tip:  Go in the early evening, say between 5:00 and 6:30 to avoid the crowds.  The viewing spaces are quite small, and two to four people at a time is optimal.   Here are a few photos I took.  I got some great detail shots too where you can see that the texture of the paintings is just amazing.

Van Gogh exhibit Southgate Oct 2015 1

Van Gogh exhibit Southgate Oct 2015 1

Van Gogh exhibit Southgate Oct 2015 1

Van Gogh exhibit Southgate Oct 2015 1

IMG_0461 IMG_0462 IMG_0463 IMG_0464 IMG_0465 IMG_0466 IMG_0467

Details of the paintings. I just love the impasto, and what a tactile pleasure to actually touch each brushstroke!  CLICK ON THE IMAGES TO SEE THE JUICY TEXTURES!

Van Gogh exhibit Southgate Oct 2015 DETAILS

Van Gogh exhibit Southgate Oct 2015 DETAILS

IMG_0473 IMG_0474 IMG_0475 IMG_0476 IMG_0477 IMG_0478 IMG_0479 IMG_0480 IMG_0481 IMG_0482 IMG_0483 IMG_0484

Tomorrow, I’ll to post about this past weekend’s exhibit/event “Art From the Unknown 2015”.  I was honoured and am thankful to have been able to participate this year (plus, I sold 3 paintings!)  More on that tomorrow!

Posted in 2015, Art Exhibit Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Bridge of Dreams”, a pastel painting

I’ve been having tons of fun working on more pastel paintings based on past walks through Mill Creek Ravine.   Especially this one, where I took some playful risks with colour and I think it turned out great!   Here is “Bridge of Dreams”:

Bridge of Dreams_11

 SOLD Bridge of Dreams_11″ x 15″_Lorraine Young_soft pastels on Premier Pastel sanded pastel paper

Posted in 2015, Dry Media, Edmonton, Landscape, Mill Creek Ravine, Pastels, Urban Landscape | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments