Yesterday I delivered my entry documentation for an embroidery and creative fibres exhibition that is to be held in New Plymouth, my nearest city, in a community gallery October. The information that was asked for in invitations was the work’s title and description (e.g. method used), fibres used, size and price.


I duly provided the detail, including where I had sourced my inspiration from. For 3 of my works, I had been inspired by the work of other embroiderers or fibre artists, so I duly acknowledged them thusly: “Inspired by the work of Lee Westfield”, “Inspired by the work of Jennifer Rochester”, and “Inspired by the work of Annette Emms”.


I received an email today from one of the organisers of the exhibition today that read: “Unfortunately the label size means I have to limit the amount I can put on the description. How important is the acknowledgement of ‘Inspired by work of..?’ Would you prefer me to leave out some of the description or the acknowledgement?”


I didn’t have to think about the answer. I chose to leave out the method, the description of the work … all of the things with creative meaning to me, and chose instead to retain the acknowledgement.


Here’s my response:


“Thanks for your email. And thanks so much for giving me the option.


People have been badly *pinged* by the breach of copyright/intellectual property implied by failing to give credit where it is due. In fact there was a recent article in Threads magazine reporting on an overseas artist who saw something very similar to her work in an exhibition photo and got very antsy—yet it turned out that the artist had taken the care to give the acknowledgement but the gallery had thought it unimportant and left it off.


So I'd rather you leave out some description so that the proper people's ideas are acknowledged, thanks. After all, these creations are only semi-original, so I certainly can't take all of the credit for the work!”


I appreciate the sentiments that “there is nothing any more that is new or original in this world”, that “imitation is the greatest form of flattery”, and that all inspiration comes from somewhere. My work certainly wasn’t a copy of anyone else’s, but I feel that it is really important that we, as artists, give credit where credit is due.


After all, how would we feel if another artist took credit for the original ideas in a work that was based on our own designs and did nothing to acknowledge our input? I have had this happen, and I found it a very upsetting experience.


I wondered if anyone else has had similar experiences when exhibiting work. Do other galleries take acknowledging sources seriously? Do other artists bother to acknowledge their sources? And how important to you think it is to acknowledge sources or have your work acknowledged when it is the source of inspiration for other artists? 

Views: 145

Comment by Ev McTaggart on October 5, 2011 at 3:14pm
If I paint something that was inspired by another artist, I acknowledge the other artist in the work's title. For instance, the full title of my "Islands in the Stream" piece is "Nod to Norval: Islands in the Stream" because the work--and several others-- was influenced by the art of Norval Morrisseau. When I exhibit that series in January, I will use the full titles and write a little blurb mentioning the influence of one of Canada's most prominent aboriginal painters. When a group of artists copied Piet Mondrian's work, just changing one of the colours but keeping all the lines, they called their works "Infected Mondrian" and numbered the various pieces.
Comment by Meg Mackenzie on October 5, 2011 at 8:23pm

Thanks for the comment, Ev. Including your acknowledgement in the work's title is a nice touch.


As a follow-up to my blog post above, I was astounded to find at the exhibition opening on the 2nd of October that the acknowledgements have been left off the caption cards for the 3 out of 4 works I entered that were 'inspired by...'. Not only is it poor form to leave this information off (particularly when I had been specifically asked ot make the choice), but this is what gets artists into real trouble. I am still to get to the bottom of it. I am not a stirrer by nature, but I have requested that the hanging cards be changed to reflect what they should.

Comment by Sage Mason on December 1, 2011 at 11:11pm

Ah, this blog looks like a good place to ask my own question about copyrighting. I've recently taken a painting class, where the instructor handed me a picture from a magazine, which I used for my painting.  Then, I painted some photo's from National Geographic.  The pic's from NG, I can reference the photographer, but I can't from the magazine.  I'd like to post all of these paintings here (waiting for a new camera to arrive to do that), but am unclear about the ethical aspects, or, I guess, the copyright laws.  I don't plan on selling any of these works, but want to do this the right way.  Any advice would be appreciated. 

Comment by Meg Mackenzie on December 4, 2011 at 10:00pm

Sherril, if you are showing your work, even ona website, it is important to acknowledge your sources. This makes it clear that you have been using the source as inspiration, rather than copying with an intent to deceive. This, of course, doesn't let one off the hook with copyright laws, but it does acknowledge the ethical aspects of copying others' work as inspiration. You will find a lot of work on the site in which people have used another's work as inspiration and acknowledged this. Most people are understanding of the need to start in such a place. Obviously, this isn't legal advice, Sherril, and can't be taken as such. It simply gives you an idea of common and accepted practice. I hope this helps, and it is nice to see some of your art up on the site.


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