A conversation about finding your way and growing your skills.
I wanted to share with you an email I recently received from a student.
It brings up a sensitive topic that I think needs some discussion. I’m changing the name of this student because it is a bit personal so we are going to call her Cindy. I have asked Cindy if I can share this message and she has given me permission.
Here is the email she sent:
I’ve had a concern bubbling around in my head and I want to vocalize it.
I studied studio art in college and have worked off and on as an artist for years. I heard your work and classes highly recommended from a family member and started doing a few of your classes this past fall. I really enjoyed taking painting classes for the first time in many many years!
I also love your work because your style is similar to what mine was already in that I also loved big brush strokes and adding pops of bright color from my heart. It’s fun to add your opposite color under painting and use your very defined step-by-step approach to adding bright color and loose brush strokes. I also really appreciate your painting tips that you share!
That being said, I feel a bit guilty honestly because I feel like I’m copying your artwork that you’ve poured years of work into developing.
I’ve been working to develop my own style using some of your tips, but I feel bad like I’m copying you or stealing from you. I also had in mind to do more of your online classes for art around my home, but I feel conflicted even about people coming over and seeing it and sharing work that’s so similar to yours.
I keep telling myself that you’re a teacher and offered these as a teacher to students, so it’s not artistic infringement.
I also try to go overboard on blasting about you and your art and classes if I ever share things on social media, as a thank- you to you, to be open and honest about my content, and to point people your way.
In addition, I’m working on a website for sharing and selling my art and I’m conflicted about whether to share the flower paintings I’ve done from your classes on my website.
How do you feel about professional artists sharing work from your classes on websites/ social media?
Is tagging and sharing the link to your classes enough? Is there a good way to do that in a website? Would you prefer I don’t share it at all? I don’t know the etiquette and want to respect your amazing talent! My faith in God is also very important to me, as I see yours is to you.
I feel God is commanding me to go out and paint and fill the world with joy and beauty.
I want to make sure I’m supporting and respecting other artists while doing so- especially you and your art as you are sharing Gods love through art!!
Thank you for your honesty and for the beautiful community you’ve created online! It’s really a light and encouragement to me! 💕
Sending a big hug,
Thank you so much for your thoughtful and honest email. I hope that I can take away some of your concerns. I’m glad you reached out about it because you brought to light an issue that I really should have better addressed in my information about my classes. I’m sure others might be having some of the same conflicts.
I have never felt that my art is really mine.
Even before I taught, I did mostly commission work and my goal has always been to simply create work that would make others happy and help me to earn a living doing what I love. When I started teaching, it never even crossed my mind that there would be anything wrong with students “copying” me. I learned through copying.
I have always taken bits and pieces from things I admire in other artists and implemented them in my own work. I think every artist does.
I do understand your concerns about literally creating the exact same painting that I did. The pieces I use for teaching are exactly that. I design them as a tool to share my techniques. I love seeing other artists find success when they follow along with my instruction.
It makes me feel like my teaching is effective.
I love for you to share what you do in the classes, because that helps other artists find me. I do appreciate when you tag me and my class when you share it, but it’s never required. I guess I feel like some people will and others won’t and that’s okay.
What I hope for is that students will learn so much in my classes that they will find a new confidence to try implementing some of the skills that I have taught them into their own personal pieces.
Loose brushwork, underpainting, and bold color were not invented by me. Millions of artists are doing these same things and still we all have our own swing to it. I can see your own style when I look at your work. It shows through.
I say share away, and tag me if you want to.
When it comes to your website, you are welcome to put up whatever you like, but I hope that you will do so much painting that you have lots of your own pieces to mix in with any you may have done in a class.
A few more thoughts on copying
I should really mention that my opinions about being copied and shared might be different from other instructors. It’s always best to find out how teachers feel about sharing the work you do in their classes before you do so. Many instructors do have restrictions about putting your class samples on your website or in a show. I might be a bit unique that I don’t want to put limits on these things.
I also recommend only using images to paint from that you have permission to use if you are going to recreate them directly. I might design new works using found images from the internet, but only if I plan to manipulate them dramatically from the original content. A great website to find free-to-use high quality reference photos is Unspash.com
Are you ready to learn by copying my samples
now that you know it’s okay?
Why not join me for one of my weekly Paint Alongs? I offer free live painting demos every Monday at 5est! You can also download the outlines and paint with me for just $10! All samples are 8″x10″ or 8″x8″. The download includes a link to the replay of the live video, the printable template to trace, and a list of materials used.