Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Copyright and the creative process

"Seated Giraffe." Oil on canvas, 20 x 20 inches. 
As those of you who follow this blog probably know already, I have launched into a new body of work. I was basing the new paintings on animal-shaped toys. I thought it was fun. It even felt like a good progression from what I have been doing - both with painting animals and also with the simple "circle" paintings I have painted recently. I was excited about the new idea, and I jumped right in, as one does when one feels excited. I truly believed that painting these little toys was the same as painting a wine bottle, a Coke can, a car or any other random item that you might find in your house. Just like a still life. After all, Andy Warhol painted Cambell's soup cans! However, after painting a couple of these little animals, I began to have some doubts. I needed to put my mind at ease, so I began to do some internet searches. I pulled out my copy of Tad Crawford's book Legal Guide for the Visual Artist and began to read. The more I searched and read, the more I began to doubt that I should continue with my new paintings. I began to think I was violating a copyright. It was keeping me awake at night.

I finally decided to speak to a lawyer. The lawyer I talked to started out telling me that IF someone discovered what I was doing and decided to sue me, he thought I would have a pretty good case for "fair use." He was careful to explain to me what that meant, and why he believed that. Then I told him about some of the things that I had read, both in my book, and on the internet. As we talked, he was able to look up some of the cases I mentioned, and he began to change his mind. He then said that he would ask a colleague for another opinion. After hanging up with the lawyer, I no longer felt that I could continue to work on my "toy" paintings. I decided that I would write a letter to the company that manufactured these toys, and ask permission. The lawyer had advised against this, and told me that he believed that if I did ask permission, I would not get the answer I wanted, and more likely than not, the company would want me to pay royalties or a licensing fee. That is probably true, and I expect to be denied permission, or to have permission granted if I pay a licensing fee. I may not even get an answer. It doesn't matter. If my answer is "no", then I know I shouldn't keep painting these toys. (I have already stopped working on them.) Then, I am free to come up with another idea (which I am working on already.) There is always the small chance I will get a "yes!"

What have I learned through this whole process? Well, to begin with, I have learned that good ideas are only a starting place. They have to be turned over, tried out, bungled and refined before they become great ideas. I have learned that I have to listen to my own instincts. After all, this is my art, my life, and my little bum on the line if I do something that may be questionable. I have to be able to feel good about myself and my decisions, no matter what others may say. I have also learned that even things that feel like major setbacks at the time may end up being a launch pad for something even better.

I have also learned that when a deadline looms, small problems seem to become giants. Where's Jack and his beanstalk when I really need him, anyway?

Thursday, January 24, 2013


You know you need to buy new jeans when you discover that every pair you own has a hole in the knee. (and for some reason, it's always the right knee that seems to have the hole. ???)

Hi. I have been so quiet lately, and I wonder if you have all given up on me. I wouldn't blame you if you did. The studio has been taking up so much of my time and energy, and what I have left is for the husband. Oh, and the dog finds a way to wedge himself in there, too. Of course!

How is the painting going, you ask? Well, sometimes, you have a day where you spend two hours painting a background in, only to decide that you don't like the color of the background. So you do it all over again. And some days, you wipe half of the painting off and start over. I hope this means I am overdue for a magical day when everything I touch turns to gold.

At least some new paintings are being finished. Here's one, which I will be showing at JTAG in February:
"Pedicure." Collage, acrylic and oil on board, 12 x 9 inches. ©Karine Swenson2012

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


"Released." Oil on canvas, 16 x 20 inches. ©2012 Karine Swenson

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

New Year, New post....finally!

2013! Here it is.
"Priority." Security envelopes, oil and graphite. 16 x 20 inches. ©Karine Swenson2012

I had to crawl into a little hole for a while there, but I am slowly emerging, back into the cyber world of blogging. And what an interesting world it is! I have begun to catch up with some of my fellow artist/blogging friends. They are all doing wonderful things. Just one example is Liz Holm, who has challenged herself to paint 30 paintings in 30 days. Stop over and see how wonderful these paintings are! I have been thinking of doing wonderful things, but I often feel as though the things I do are still not wonderful yet. You may think that sounds slightly pessimistic of me, but I see it as a necessity. If I really believed what I was doing right now was wonderful, do you really think I would keep painting? Would I continue to stretch and push myself as an artist? I tend to think I would not. I would keep doing the same thing, convinced that it was wonderful. I would never stretch. I would never push. I would stop exploring. And, in all honesty, I would most likely quit painting out of boredom.

So, into the studio I go once again. To keep striving. To impress myself. (The toughest critic I've ever had.)

I have found one of the best things I can do at the end of one year is reflect and write down everything I accomplished that year. It is an extremely rewarding exercise, and I highly recommend it. It helps me create the kind of feeling I want when thinking about all I want to accomplish in the New Year. One proud accomplishment for me in 2012 was completing 76 paintings. Ten of those paintings were 36 x 36 inches or larger. What about you? What accomplishment are you proud of last year?