|"Seated Giraffe." Oil on canvas, 20 x 20 inches.|
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?