Do you love Pinterest? I do. Do you look at artwork on Pinterest and get inspired? I do.
Recently, however, I noticed that some inspiring pins are ending up as finished paintings with eerily few innovations or changes. An internal debate began about whether this is copyright infringement, or merely an easy way to nail down a composition that you find pleasing so that you can get to the painting part. A little research revealed that it might or might not be illegal, depending on whether the new work is the same size, whether the copied painting has been copyrighted, and whether there have been "enough" changes to declare it original.
As I'm considering all of this, it dawns on me that I am not squeaky clean and above reproach either. Last year I did three paintings that might fall into this realm.
1. My painting, Extra Vivid, was inspired by the "pin" that follows it:
Are these two paintings identical? Would you say that mine is a rip off of their technique? I think that there are enough differences in these two that I am safe from legal prosecution. (I don't think I even looked at the inspiration painting after I got my paints out.)
2. The second one is a bit stickier of a situation. Verdant Hillside was inspired by the one following it as well. Is it too much like the inspiration to be original? I would love your opinion.
3. My painting, After the Rain, was based on the blue boat. Your thoughts?
What conclusions have I come to? In all three of these cases, I used a crutch because I didn't know what I wanted to paint and it was easier to scroll my Pinterest inspiration boards and copy something than start from scratch. I think all three are a bit mine, but this isn't the way that I want to choose my subjects in the future.
My Pinterest boards should be more about "This is a color palette that I want to try." or "I want to have more aggressive brush strokes like this artist." I have plenty of my own photos to use as inspirational subjects. Then, I also have memories and stories for the resulting painting. Bonus! I am going to stick with that moving forward.
I think the best test might be if you put the shoe on the other foot and think if your painting came first, and you found their pin on Pinterest, would you consider the inspiration piece a copy of yours? Therein, lies the truth.
(BTW, I'm currently reading The Art Forger. I am REALLY enjoying it and that is probably the reason that I have this subject on the brain.)