Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Forgery, Piracy, or Artistic Licence?

This is a sketch of the opening of Danny Rock's show "The Urban Art Forgers" that was hung in March. I did a drawing of Danny working in his garage studio on one of the pieces for this show. In response to that article, I got an e-mail from a Tampa artist named John LaFree. This is part of that e-mail...

"On February 23, a Facebook follower of mine messaged me with the discovery that another artist (Danny Rock) had not only forged an illustration of mine, the "Arrogant Airedale" and signed it as his own original idea.... and proudly proclaimed on Facebook that he had SOLD IT. And not only sold it... But had the audacity to state in his post "Support Local Art Always." Now, first and foremost, I am flattered that Mr. Danny Rock thought so highly of my illustration that he felt compelled to replicate it. That's what he does. I get that. The issue that I want to point out to you is that your article quotes him as saying that "All the reproductions are open domain." However, the artist that you featured forged MY artwork - the work of a local artist - placed his signature on it and sold the piece.... Without giving any indication that he recreated an original idea from an artist an hour and a half away... Without consent. The artwork is absolutely NOT open domain. I own the copyright and intellectual property. Yet, he forged it and gladly accepted payment AS IF it was his own original idea. In fact, the piece that I drew was one of over 50 different illustrations that I created as a commission for a children's dog-themed card game produced by Greymalkin Designs. My commission and involvement ended with the final illustration. But because of the recent events, I have reached out to them. Looks like the game is "coming soon" and has been renamed as "Pooched".
Once we learned of the forgery, we immediately contacted Danny Rock via his Facebook page and voiced our displeasure. Within hours, the post was deleted. And as a "Thank You" to the Facebook follower who alerted us to the issue (who is a volunteer with the National Airedale Rescue), we created a week long sale on our site to benefit the NAR. I encourage you to view my website as well as Facebook and Instagram to get a full understanding of how hard My wife and I work to market myself as an artist."

The irony is that this show at  Loft 55 Gallery and Boutique, (55 West Church Street, Suite 114 Orlando FL) was a show about forgery. All the paintings were replicas painted by Danny Rock. Ashley Small is a partner and director of marketing for this small storefront gallery. These types of boutique galleries are becoming increasingly popular. Ashley has an amazingly kind heart. She spoke to several disadvantaged individuals who stopped by the opening, and she took the time to listen to their stories, which is in itself a gift.

I asked Danny about the issue of the Airedale. He explained that the client had insisted that he use a very specific reference to do the painting. This client could have probably purchased a print from John in Tampa for less than the commission paid to Danny. Danny admitted that he made a mistake in copying the art and he is willing to head to Tampa with me if or when I sketch John's studio. John has moved on from this incident deciding it isn't a large enough issue to stay upset about. Danny said it was an isolated incident and he learned from this mistake.

There have been quite a few incidents where people have lifted my sketches offline to promote their events or neighborhoods. The Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival used one of my sketches without asking me to promote this event which features Artists from around the country, so I understand John's frustration. My work, done at art openings often has small postage stamp sized reproductions of others artists paintings in the context of the sketch. These sketches are meant to promote that artists work. Part of me wonders if I am infringing on that artists copyright. Is a sketch of another artists work always a theft?  Since these drawings done at openings seldom sell, I might be safe. My work is so loose, rough and simplified that there must be plausible deniability. So many artists in town work from reference from photographers they have never met. Pop culture seems up for grabs. Is every image online considered public domain? Movies proclaim that piracy isn't a victim less crime. Are all artists in this digital age pirates? Pablo Picasso said, "Good artists copy, great artists steal." Perhaps copying means a direct forgery but when we steal, we make it our own.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at analogartistdigitalworld@gmail.com

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