02 July, 2007


Subject: Re: Teaching Not To Plagiarize

Jean ... wrote:

Someone gave me the idea that government photos were not copyrighted, so it was all right to base my art on them if I wanted to. Is that correct or was someone giving me bad advice? Is it OK for the kids to use photos of ducks if they come from the US government?

From: Diane Gregory
Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2007


Are you asking a legal question or a creative question? Legally it is okay to use pictures taken by someone else as long as you change them to a great degree.

In my opinion, ethically and professionally, art educators should discourage students from using photographs of any kind unless they themselves take the photograph and take a series of photographs. The only exception I can think of is when you are talking to students about authentic reasons for appropriation. Many artists use other's images as a parody or appropriate to say something about that art or artistic issues in general--but this is still done as an original statement.

If you are talking about "copying" it should only be used as an exercise to gain experience.

I suggest getting students to identify with ducks. Go see a duck. Have students take pictures of ducks, study ducks in the wild. Artists need to have an authentic experience with ducks to truly make it something that has come from within. To make something original must come from some kind of personal connection, in my opinion.

It might be worthwile to interview past Duck Stamp winners. I knew someone who had won a duck stamp contest. He was an exceptional watercolor artist. Doing paintings of nature was his usual subject
matter. He spent much time in nature and studying nature. He studied the habitats of ducks in nature. He observed them in the wild. He took his own photographs and would sketch them in the wild. He became intimately acquainted with them. Perhaps if
you would talk to naturalist artists your students might gain some insight into the impetus for their work and their working methods.

Simply to copy a duck picture is not not making a work of art of a duck. It is making a copy of a duck picture. In my opinion the value of art is found in its original correction. To copy a duck photo is merely an exercise in low level skill building...it is
not an original creation and robs the child of the true value of an education in art. It cheapens the word art itself. It also fails to communicate what art is all about. When I know something is a copy, I know it does not have the same value of an original.

Making art is hard work and giving students the idea that one can make art by copying is giving them the wrong idea. Van Gogh used to copy works of others art as an exercise. He did it to train his eye and as an educational experience. This seems okay as long as
students know that this is not original nor creative. They need to be told it is an exercise.

I would never display these as originals or submit them into any
kind of contest, etc. I believe the US Postal Service Duck Stamp Contest expects original creations not copies.

Even artists who use the camera obscura are doing this themselves and are creating the compositions themselves. Photographs have arranged compositions and light/dark patterns, negative/positive space, etc. Many decisions have been made before hand.

It has been my experience that copies of original art look like copies. They are usually lifeless and lack some kind of authenticity. They are usually flat and lack the vitality from an authentic experience.

To me the value of art is the act of pure creation from within the original inspiration of the person who created it. It comes from within, the birth of a true authentic vision.


TEACHERARTEXCHANGE Digest for Friday, June 15, 2007


well said

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