Monday, December 04, 2006

Young Girl in Costume - Copyright (or Copywrong!!!)

I won't be posting a daily painting for a few days; I am working on a commission that must be finished this week.

I am posting this because it brings up an interesting copyright issue. This pastel painting is one that I did last year, working from a photo that captured my interest. I loved the girls expression, and the colors in her costume were wonderful to paint. I did not have the photographer's permission to paint this, fact, I don't even know who the photographer is. I just saw it in a magazine and painted it on a whim. I am sure that because of this, I cannot sell it; no hangs in my home, and I love looking at it.

Do any of you daily painters ever run into this? You see a photo that you did not take, and you do a painting based on it? I see photos all the time that I like, but rarely paint from them because I feel that deep down, it is wrong. But sometimes I will see derivative works in a gallery or artshow based on photos that the artist did not take. I just wonder what the ethics are. Comments, anyone?


Daily Paintings said...


jenedypaige said...

Hey Rhonda,
First off, I wanted to thank you for all the postive comments you have given to me. As a young artist I am thirsty for any feedback, so thank you. I also want to compliment you on the work you've done in pastel... I think it can be a rather tricky medium, good work. As for the copyright question, I have always been taught that artists should work from their own reference. While in school, our teachers would really hammer into us the necessity of shooting our own photos. So, I have, and have found it to be very rewarding, I've even become quite the photographer because of it. This also gives you peace of mind as an artist that the piece is truly yours. You chose the colors, the design, the composition... So although I've heard that if you change the picture enough, it's okay, I'd play on the safe side and take your own reference. Good luck!

Jo Castillo (noblock99) said...

This is beautiful.

Using someone's photo or painting or work is a copyright infringement if you use it commercially. It is a great way to learn and make a keepsake. Most of us have copied something for practice or used part for an idea. has a large reference library for photos that have been posted to use. You can sometimes use the works for teaching. The photographer/artist did all the composing and work and it belongs to the artist. Even if you buy a painting the copyright stays with the artist unless you buy the rights. A local artist painted a football player from a photo in the newspaper. Double whammy. She then tried to give it to the player and that was a NCAA no-no as well. :)
You can use Google to find more than you ever want to know.

Collin Janke said...

Check out Gerhard Richters WOrk (
He appropriates photographs, that are purposely not art. He says he paints them because if someone else takes the picture who is not considering what they are taking a picture of you end up with an objective photograph, because the camera records what is in front of it. Unlike in paintings when there are deliberate choices of what is, and is not included. He also makes amazing abstact paintings.
I think the biggest issue is what motivates you to make a copy? Why is making a copy significant?

Thanks for the comment.


Janet Karam said...

Gorgeous painting. You bring up an interesting issue, especially with regards to subject matter we don't have the opportunity to photograph. I forget what the % is that you need to change in order to not infringe copyright laws. I have been fortunate enough to have family who have traveled, so been able to use their phots for reference, and I typically change the composition, etc.

Jean said...

I was told by a very successful commercial artist that if you use someone else's work as a reference that as long as you do not duplicate it exactly, no copyright exists.