What belongs to you? What can you use, be inspired by?
At any given moment in a day, somewhere in the world, you can find people discussing art, the creation process, ownership, inspiration, and on and on. Some ideas as simple as what IS art? That is an old topic and a question that will never be answered. It will be discussed as long as there is art and people with air in their lungs to wonder and talk about it.
Today on NPR the artist Shepard Fairey discussed art, inspiration, creating with Terry Gross and photographer Mannie Garcia. Their discussion can be narrowed down to this: what can a person be inspired by and who owns what when it comes to photography, art and the creation process. Garcia took a picture and Fairey used it as reference in an art piece. The photograph was taken by Garcia as a freelance photographer so he feels he owns the photo. The AP, who he was hired by, seems to feel that the photo is theirs as they approached Fairey and wanted him to pay them royalty for using Garcia's photo as reference. Fairey is now suing the AP. In an article on npr.org regarding this issue it says, "Shepard Fairey says his work is protected under the principle of "Fair Use," which exempts artists and others from some copyright restrictions, under certain circumstances." (CLICK HERE to read this article.)
This issue upsets me because I am an artist. I see inspiration all around me every day. I often draw people that I will never meet. The only way for me to draw them is to find reference either in books, magazines or on the internet. Here is my process. I see something that I want to draw, or I want to draw some thing and find reference. I take that image in to Photoshop so I will have it handy. I look at the image as I create my own drawing. I reference how a person looks, I draw this person or thing and then about half way through the process, I get rid of the original image as I don't need it anymore. I then continue my drawing with my own set of elements, my own colors, my own touch. I accentuate what I want the viewer to see first, I add, subtract and rework the entire picture until it says what I want it to say.
Since art came into existence, people have used the world around them to be inspired by and use as reference. There is a difference between copying, stealing, and referencing. Fairey has every right to create his artwork and use reference where he needs it. He's not stealing. This is ridiculous and an artist myself, really frightening. I hope Fairey wins his case. If not, many artists, myself included, are going to spend more time writing for permission than actually creating anything. Like this drawing for example, I used Kate Winslet for my model, no I don't know her, I used a photo I found; but I only used it as reference. I drew every bit of it with my own hands, my own mind.