The Use of Someone Else’s Photograph in Your Work



Worry has been quite the topic of conversation today. The QuiltArt List (an online email list for quilters) has been abuzz since someone brought up the subject of this piece at IQF-Houston — and not in a good way.

Many people are familiar with Dorothea Lange’s iconic photograph from the Great Depression — titled Migrant Mother — from which this piece is inspired. The original poster thought that I had merely printed the picture onto fabric and then thread painted it — therefore saying that it was a gross violation of Dorothea Lange’s copyright.

Well obviously Dorothea Lange’s photograph is in black and white and this is not. My piece is all machine appliquéd from commercial fabrics. It is NOT a colorized version of her photograph that was printed onto one sheet of fabric.

Also, I am clear that this is inspired by Dorothea Lange’s photograph, and if you look it up, you will find that — however famous the photograph is — it is in the public domain and therefore free of copyrights.

I also assure that there was extensive drawing from the original photograph to create this pattern. I make a value painting of all of my pieces that start from a photograph, but photographs rarely ever tell you everything you need to know. There are many details that photographs don’t tell you — like fingers and eyes — and many shadows have to be deepened and highlights have to be brought out. You can obviously and easily posterize any picture in Photoshop, but these patterns will never have the level of detail for which I strive.

Furthermore, since it’s a black and white photograph, the color story is entirely mine.

You can make an argument regarding composition. I understand that. In using Dorothea Lange’s photograph, I used her composition. I did not violate her copyright nor did I break any of the rules of the competitions in which she has been entered.

It’s a decision. A couple of years ago, I researched how to make my work more marketable. One way to do that is to use historical figures as subjects. This means using someone else’s composition — essentially. I don’t always do this, but sometimes I do.

There are people that don’t agree that this should be viewed as art.

It’s interesting. I only find this discussion among quilters. I hung this piece in an art exhibit back in May. Everyone knows its inspiration is a well-known photograph — and no comment was made about whether or not it was art. It was not brought into question whether or not it was eligible for a ribbon. I am sharing this merely to contrast the differences between the two communities.

Is it art? Have I created something that hearkens back to the story Dorothea Lange created — and yet made it my own, using my own medium? Does anyone see the modern era mother who has the same stress as the mother from the Great Depression about caring for her children in times of economic hardship?  I suppose the answer will be a personal one to everyone reading this.



twitter.jpgI’m into the second week of summer and still trying to figure out how this works with teenagers. I have more time than when they were smaller — but still not as much as you would think. They come get me in my studio, asking for help. I started using the timer on my phone trying to keep better track of my time with all of the interruptions.

This week was mostly administrative. I put a bunch of old studio things on eBay for sale and I entered a couple of shows — a process that ALWAYS takes longer than it should. I’ll write more about that in another post.

This is my weekly wrap-up — and these are a collection of my tweets from the week. If you want to follow me in real time — I’m @vsgreaves — or hit the social media icons in the upper right above the menu.

This is an interesting discussion of the direction of the High Museum here in Atlanta. In my mind, it should be the center of cultural activity for the arts in the Southeast — but the fact that it is not pursuing the replacement of a folk art curator (and, in my mind, not creating a fiber arts collection) — are all reasons to question their status relative to other museums who are pursuing these directions.
High Museum stalls on hiring new folk art curator; collectors fear interest has waned | ArtsATL

There have been many articles recently about artists fed up with being asked to do work in exchange for exposure — which is to say that artists are routinely asked to work for free. This is fascinating considering the huge sums being made in the art market — largely NOT ending up in the pockets of the artists themselves. A new study in the UK gives us all facts to ponder. There’s also mention of the blog “Who Pays Artists” that has been collecting anecdotal stories about artists being paid (or not) for their work.
“Artists Still Not Getting Paid (But at Least We’re Starting to Talk About It)”

Procrastination — something we all need to deal with. I need to work on making my processes more portable — so I can still be with my daughters but also contributing to projects along the way.
“Dash Your Way Out of Procrastination” — something I really need right now

This article explains the Flame Challenge at the 2014 World Science Competition and the event “What is Color?” There is discussion of the biology of the human eye relative to other animals and how that affects our perception of color. This article also discusses how surrounding colors change color perception — meaning that the proximity of one color to another can affect how it is seen by your eyes — as can wavelengths of pulsing light.
“The Complications of Color, as Explained to an 11-Year-Old” — color is relative

It seems that Harper Lee has reached an undisclosed settlement with the museum of her hometown as both sides petitioned for dismissal of the copyright suit between them.
“Judge ends lawsuit by ‘Mockingbird’ author Lee”

Although this link is in French, the video shows an installation of photography in the Paris Pantheon by the French artist JR. I’m so fascinated with this that I’m considering a similar project with my daughter’s senior class. It’s so wonderfully cool.
French artist JR has covered areas of the int & ext of the Paris Pantheon with a mosaic of 4,000 faces — cool!



twitter.jpgThis was the last week of school for my girls so there was a lot of interruption and not a lot of studio time. I did manage to finish my latest small piece — a still life — but blocking it caused some fabric crocking that I will correct tomorrow. I’ll post about how I do that. I also took some in process pics that I’ll share. I admit I’ve been a little stingy with sharing my studio time lately. I think the truth of it is that I’m a little burned out creatively.

I also have not had a lot time for reading — so I only have four Tweets this weeks. Remember that if you want to follow me in real time, I’m @vsgreaves — or hit the social media icons in the upper right above the menu.

I thought it interesting, after writing a recent post Branding Yourself As An Artist, that Winkleman has carried the torch and furthered the discussion. Being a gallerist from NY, he has a lot more wise thoughts on the subject.
“Branding for the Fine Artist : Part I” Wise words of Winkleman.

Brain Pickings presents yet another thoughtful essay on the secret to creative success as demonstrated by the masters — work ethic.
“The Long Game:Brilliant Visual Essays on the Only Secret to Creative Success, from Leonardo da Vinci to Marie Curie”

Although it’s curious enough to follow the bullying ways of WalMart, it’s equally fascinating to ask the question — who own the photograph? Although federal law says that it is the photographer, I have had subjects that are adamant that they are the owners of their own image.
“Walmart Goes After Photographer’s Widow” — who owns the photo — the photographer or the subject?

Harper Lee again takes her hometown to court for copyright infringement as the town continues to capitalize on their claim to fame.
“‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ author Harper Lee heading back to court in fight with hometown museum”



twitter.jpgIt’s been a very long week here. I spent double duty in the studio in the days I was home because Tuesday and Wednesday were lost. Tuesday I spent 12 hours waiting in jury duty — and Wednesday I spent volunteering at school. The rest of the week I worked like a mad woman trying to finish another appliqué section of the piece I’m currently working on (pics coming soon).

I did find time to share articles on Twitter — this is my weekly summary. If you’d rather follow me in real time — I’m @vsgreaves — or hit the Twitter icon in the upper right hand side above the menu. The FaceBook icon next to it takes you to my Page — I post daily studio pics there.

This is a book review, full of helpful information for Creatives and anyone else that wants to live a more fulfilling life. “So I suppose the best piece of advice I could give anyone is pretty simple: get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. . . . Turn off your cell phone . . . Keep still. Be present. Get a life in which you are not alone.”
“A Short Guide to a Happy Life: Anna Quindlen on Work, Joy, and How to Live Rather Than Exist” — Get a life! 

Julie Zhou reminds Creatives that when we fall into “the Pit of Discomfiture,” working through it to come out the other side is the only way to truly grow.
“The Pit: Where Creatives Fall Into Despair” — “Everything is hard before it is easy.” – Goethe 

This is another book review (very long) but an important “exploration of how ‘discoveries, innovations, and creative endeavors often, perhaps even only, come from uncommon ground’ and why this ‘improbable ground of creative endeavor’ is an enormous source of advantages on the path to self-actualization and fulfillment…”
“Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Crucial Difference Between Success and Mastery” – taking the long view 

One last book review — there were several really good ones this week on Brain Pickings — this one from the author of Steal Like an Artist — his new book:
Show Your Work: Austin Kleon on the Art of Getting Noticed” another great book review for creatives

Elizabeth Barton writes this week on her blog about the famous NYC art critics Jerry Saltz and Roberta Smith — and their feelings about how words change your interaction with art.
“Hearing Yourself Thinking, Hearing Yourself Seeing.” How words affect how we see art — good read. 

I often find frustration with taking pictures of people. Many people presume that they own their image — but that isn’t entirely the case. It’s a gray area that a lot of photographers work in. Hungary has taken a stand and outlawed the practice completely — a controversial move that will generate a lot of lawsuits and create a lot of discussion about who owns the image — the person in the photograph or the person taking the photograph?
Taking Photos Without Permission is Now Illegal in Hungary, Photographers Outraged 

At one time, in my youth, I was certain I would be a writer. (There — I said it.) I still consider plot scenarios in my head from time to time and may one day start writing them — and although I’m not personally a Stephen King fan, it can’t be denied that he’s one of the most successful modern writers of this century. He regularly produces a large volume of work, and in this article, gives some guidance to the frustrated writers among us.
Stephen King’s Top 20 Rules for Writers — for my writing friends — “kill your darlings” 




twitter.jpgI have been in a state of flow this week — creativity blinding me to the outside world. It’s one of my favorite places to be. My new photography stand came and I took new pics of some older work (which ironically ended up not coming out well at all) — and I started fusing and cutting my latest piece — my favorite part of the process — my zen.

This is my weekly update on my Twitter feed. Admittedly, most all of the Tweets were done today — as I didn’t do much reading until today.

If you would like to follow my Twitter in real time, my handle is @vsgreaves — or hit the Twitter icon in the upper right hand corner above the menu. The FaceBook icon next to it takes you to my FaceBook Page where I post about what I’m doing in the studio during the week.

I posted this week on a subject I’ve been thinking about a lot lately — how an artist should consider marketing and how it relates to choices in subject matter.
New blog post on Marketable Subject Matter — art marketing is invited into the studio:  #art #marketing

I started many years ago making portraits — and I started the series with “faces in cloth I.” All of my monochromatic portraits had this title and at some point, although I dropped the serial naming, I continued working in portraits and have found that serial work has helped me grow a lot. Elizabeth Barton has a great post on her blog this week about why an artist should consider serial work.
“Serial Work” another good discussion from Elizabeth Barton 

Many people do not understand me — but this article does. It’s a great description of the kind of personality and temperament a lot of artists have.
Definitely describes me — risk & creative flow: 18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently 

A lot of people think that creatives sit around and don’t do much — but really, the best way to overcome a block is to move forward with something — really, anything. Movement creates inspiration.
“Content, Creativity, and the Role of Habit” — show up & do the work 

My studio is at home. We have the perfect space for it and it works well in our situation. However, for those artists living in New York — studio space is shrinking.
“Rising Rents Leave New York Artists Out in the Cold” Not everyone has the luxury of studio space at home. 

It’s always frustrating to find an iconic image and realize that it’s all tied up in Getty Images. They have gone from issuing nasty legal threats for the use of their images to realizing the fluidity of pics and replacing threats with social media sharing buttons and a simple request for attribution to the photographer.
“Easing up on Litigation, Getty Images Goes Free for Non-Commercial Use” – Getty recognizes fluidity of pics 

I had not previously heard of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, an American that married Napoleon’s brother — but her journey looks like a fascinating view into a Renaissance woman who catapulted out of the restrictions on women in 1800’s American society into her own independent life.
“Wondrous Beauty: How Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte Pioneered the Ideal of the Independent Woman” 




twitter.jpgA frigid week but a good one for reading. Here are all of my tweets for the week.

If you’d rather follow my tweets in real time, I’m @vsgreaves or hit the Twitter icon in upper right above the menu. The Facebook icon is next to it & will take you to my Facebook Page where I post about my studio and what I’m working on.

I’m developing almost a study on what art is more likely to sell. There is not as much published on this subject as I would like:
The Most Popular Subjects For Art That Sells 

Another artist had put this pic of a painting on her blog. It was painted by John Baldessari 1966-1968 and looks more like a modern day JPG — but it’s actually a painting — and it offers some suggestions for subject matter:
“Tips for Artists Who Want To Sell” by John Baldessari 

Is it OK to make work that is not that good? Of course! It takes time for your work to match your taste. You need to make a large volume of work to close the gap.
In Just 2 Minutes, This Video Will Make You Feel Silly For Ever Having Doubted Yourself  via @HPGoodNews

I am beginning to contemplate my taxes and my successes of last year have some bearing on what I might need to do differently on my taxes. This list gives some helpful tax advice for artists.
Great tax info, checklists, and worksheets for #artists RT @abstanfield

It’s hard to miss the coverage of the Winter Olympics going on now in Sochi — and there was an incredible moment last week when Shaun White DIDN’T win a medal — and came out a real winner:
“The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.” RG Ingersoll

There was also an female snowboarder at the Olympics who used a board with an artist’s work on the back:
“Artist Judith Braun Finds Her Work Part of an Olympic Medal Win” 

This was yet another example of a corporation taking an independent’s artist’s work and using it on their products without prior agreement — very similar to what happened to Lisa Congdon. The end of the story, however, is good news — JCPenney has given the artist a contract to pay her for license of her work:
Winnipeg artist’s work taken from website, sold at J.C. Penney  via @DaleAnnePotter




twitter.jpgThere has been a lot going on this week — a lot of great articles for Creatives were written (or recently found) — all of which I shared on my Twitter feed — and I finished my latest piece Worry. Today, I bring you my weekly wrap-up of my Twitter feed.

Remember, if you want to catch my Tweets in real time, you can find me at @vsgreaves — or hit the Twitter icon above the menu in the upper right. Also, if you want to see what’s going on in the studio, check out my Facebook Page by clicking on the Facebook icon next to that Twitter icon.

According to the authors, and I would agree, “we live in a “permissions culture,” which values copyright permissions above all else” and that “permissions have become such an issue that they’re interfering with professionals’ work — the ability to educate, to undertake scholarly studies, to make art.” It’s a different point of view from the endless discussions regarding the protection of copyrights.
“Are Art Professionals Afraid of Fair Use?” 

“Creativity & Listening” — “What we learn from the creative process is that giving up control … is a necessary path to success.” 

I live in Atlanta — I was shocked that it made #1 on this list:
Best cities for artists: 

This article on the ethics of altering photographs digitally is sure to inspire a lot of debate:
“Nature Photography: Objectivity, Manipulation, and Ethics” 

I was so struck by this life-like statue of a man sleep walking in his underwear across the Wellesley campus — and he’s garnered a lot of public discussion — which I appreciate in the same way Banksy brings the discussion of art to the masses:
Tighty whitey’s take a stroll — “Artist Responds to Wellesley College Students’ Concerns With Sculpture: 

This was just a grand idea — to replace huge sign boards in Paris with classical works of art. It made me realize how cluttered our modern lives are with constant marketing of inane things.
“Parisian Advertisements Replaced with Classical Works of Art”  @mymodernmet

Bringing to mind the discussion of altering photos, Annie Leibovitz’s photographs (and resulting digital alteration) create the most stunning photos. The fact that she finds inspiration in Disney characters makes the work all the more relatable:
“Annie Leibovitz’s Celebrity Disney Dream Portraits”  @mymodernmet

I made the point the other day on someone’s Facebook wall that one of the discriminations made in the art world today is towards abstract versus illustrative work — and although I was soundly flamed for such a ridiculous statement, the wonderful Winkleman, an art dealer in NY, wrote a post fairly exactly supporting my argument just this week:
“Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Abstract Paintings so Different, so Lucrative?” Winkleman wise words

I didn’t know the the Olympics once had art competitions — did you?
“Back When the Olympics Had Art Competitions” 

This is about the importance of visual language, which is not valued in our current education system, and its effect on our brains:
“Why Einstein, JFK, Edison, and Marie Curie All Doodled” 

I loved this article because he talks about making marketable art and going through the thought process of figuring out what will sell:
RT @ArtsyShark: Success for artists is not complicated …  Thoughts from Jack White

I actually went looking for articles on marketing art — and found this helpful piece from July of last year.
Selling Art: Is your artwork marketable?

A friend of mine posted this article on Facebook and I found it fascinating. I had never heard the controversy over whether Van Gogh committed suicide or was murdered — and I didn’t know that he died two days after being shot:
Van Gogh: murder mystery or straightforward suicide?  via @maggieinsc




This is my weekly Twitter update. It’s been a rough week but I had a lot of time for reading.

If you want to follow my Twitter posts directly, I’m @vsgreaves — or click the Twitter icon in the upper right just above the menu.

This is a very fun video to watch. Brene’ Brown is hugely entertaining — and she gets creatives & what we have to do to produce our work. It’s 22 minutes long, but it’s worth the investment of your time:
Brene’ Brown does an amazing speech on “the sweaty creatives”: 22 minutes that all creatives should invest in: 

Don’t we all need guidance about how to price our artwork correctly:
A Guide to Pricing Your Artwork – via @ArtsyShark

I have both an undergraduate & graduate degree in business and I’ve always wondered what you do if you’re starting with nothing. This article tries to answer that:
“The Secret of the Chicken and the Egg” : what to do if you’re starting with nothing 

This is an video interview with a brilliant mathematician about how he approaches impossibility (he died a few days after the interview):
“How to Tackle Impossible Problems” interview with the creator of fractals Benoit Mandlebrot 

To find that our support of the arts in the US is dwarfed by our support of football is unsettling at best:
“Where’s the Money? US Arts and Culture Economy By the Numbers” does our culture in the US support the arts? 

Let’s face it — as artists, we are our own worst critics — and it’s good to hear that we’re in good company:
“Bruce Springsteen, Woody Allen, and the Long Tradition of Hating Your Own Work” 

This is not art related at all but I found it fascinating because it explained a hole in history that I rarely see discussed — the decisions of the British & French & how they shaped the current state of the Middle East:
How the Middle East was shaped after the Ottoman Empire “The map that caused a century of trouble” 

This is a photography article but its discussion of using the Golden Mean for composition is applicable to all visual art:
“Beyond Basic Composition: Line, Shape and Form in Photography” 

Again, not an art article but a scientist interview about how having widespread technology without widespread understanding of how it works will lead to a controlled society:
“A Science Icon Died 17 Years Ago. In His Last Interview, He Made A Warning That Gives Me Goosebumps.” 

“British Library uploads one million public domain images to the net for remix and reuse” 

It Takes Two to Tango


Sometimes, it can be difficult to get on the computer in my house. I have been continuing to work and take a lot of pictures, but I can’t always get on my blog to share them. I’ll start with some catching up.

In my current piece — I have finished my first face and started on my second face. I tend to start with the faces and build the rest of the piece around them. I’ll explain that more when I start adding pieces around the faces.

These are the first two values in my second face.

This particular person has Autumn coloring so I went back to my wonderful orange beige paisley. This is a risky fabric to use but I love the movement it gives to the face.

Then the darker shadows begin to show more of the outline in the face.

I have started adding dark around the eyes to give them more depth.

Once the eyes have been added, the outlining is a subtle difference — but an important one.

The irises of the eyes are a dark green — although not quite as dark as this picture shows. The true color of the eyes are a light green — but then the contrast would be lost and the eyes wouldn’t be as engaging.

Once I’ve added the mouth, you can see more of her personality. Like the first figure, she also shows some gum in her mouth — and I’ve added the same experiment as before.

This is what she looks like on my design wall before I’ve added her hair. Her hair is much more complex than the last figure. She has long tresses down the right and left sides — and then a cap over the top. (Notice the color shift my camera made from a white background to a black one — the tones in the face look more gray now.)

This shows the first three values of her hair on the left side of her face. She has a lot of blond in her hair, although the deeper tones go into brown.

This is the completed left side.

The right side is more flowing — and with only three values, the pieces won’t fuse together as one large piece yet.

The darker values bring it all together though.

This is what they begin to look like on my design wall. The second figure still needs her hat but I’m putting off adding it because its color will affect the rest of the piece — and I want more elements added before I decide what to use. Her hair also drapes over her jacket which will be more obvious once those pieces have been added.

I wanted to point out that I’ve complicated my process. In order to create more complex pieces, I have one very large vinyl overlay — and many small ones. I use the small ones to tape onto my fusing sheet and create the smaller pieces. I can then assemble them back together under the large overlay.

Also, I have returned to a white piece of muslin for my base. Because the background of this piece will be dark, the faces need something light underneath them. A dark fabric underneath them would change the color of the fabrics on top.

I have also starting adding a watermark to my images. I don’t care for watermarks — but with the advent of Pinterest, many images of my blog have started floating free. Although many kind souls give attribution, there are still instances in which it goes unmarked. Promotion is always welcome, but for a visual artist, lack of attribution can be quite damaging. It’s also important for the servers to which my pictures are copied to have some idea of the original copyright holder. So I have turned to watermarks. Interestingly, I can find no quick way to add a watermark to all pictures already existing on a WordPress blog (the latest version) — that works. I tremble at the thought of adding them all manually.

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