Thursday, 15 October 2015

Ethical Questions: Using Another Artists Designs or Photos

Some ethical questions about face painting photos has come up recently to me, here are my thoughts.

Question 1: Is it okay to recreate another artists design?

Answer: If it was another more permanent art form, I would advise strongly against 'idea theft'. But the face painting community is a little bit different for several reasons. First being that our medium or art isn't as permanent as something on canvas. A Face painting can last any where from a day to only a few hours depending on the person wearing it. Also the community is very open to sharing idea's and designs with each other which is great because it allows all of us to grow and learn together, and create wicked art with out getting too hung up over petty arguments of "that's my tiger design! So one else can do that tiger design but me!"

While it's nice to say 'this design inspired by' or so forth as s hourt out to the artist who first created it, over all it's still an optional thing to do. I think for face painting if you can recreate other face painters design with your own skills then you have every right to post that photo as your work in your gallery, even if the idea wasn't. For the most part we all share designs anyway an draw inspiration from each other. I'm not upset when someone copies a design of mine, I'm either flattered or I merely enjoy the entertainment value it can some times provide.

Pictured: Pure Comedy

If you found some one copied your design, my advice is to not get upset about it. You can't copyright the moon, the look of a tiger, or the pattern of tear drops you used on your princess design. It's not taking business away from you, or effects you in any real way beyond how you allow it to make you feel, so it's best to get over it, and if you choose to feel any way about it, choose to feel flattered instead.

Question 2: Is it okay to post photos of other artists work on my website/facebook page, or booth display board?

Answer: Absolutely not. When someone is displaying photos of another artists work, done by another artists hand, taken with another artists camera, and having it on display in one form or another with out that artists express permission, it's theft. This could be on their website, facebook gallery, or even printed photos glued to a display board. The person displaying the other artists work, even if they can paint it just as good, is ultimately misleading the clients and partaking in false advertising. Even if you took a photo of another artist's work on your own kiddo, if that face paint was not done by you, then you should not mislead people to think it was by posting it in your gallery.

I've seen plenty of examples of photo theft on websites and face book pages, and even some at amateur face painting booths where there are prints from a google image search. Depending on the professional level of the artist, i mostly let the latter slide if they are just volunteers. But professionals with their own business, should have their own work on display and never someone else's
 in my opinion. 

Question 3: What if I have permission to use the other artists work?

Answer: This to me is a grey area, and is a question that mostly pertains to books, magazines, and the new Face Cards you can now find in face painting stores.

Lets start with the books. I really don't see that much harm in putting books out on display on your table for people to look though. I think the average person is smart enough to know that you didn't write or publish all the books, and the covers clearly states who the key artists are. So if you you don't mind your books being man handled, dog eared, dropped, used as coasters and touched with sticky fingers, then that's your call. Just know that the bibliophile in me is weeping. :( 

As for Face Cards, I have mixed feelings about them. This is a rare case of an artist giving permission for their work to be used for display purposes by other artists. But does that make it ok?

I know it's hard to build up a portfolio of your own, and then to also have photos that are 1) good enough to go on display and 2) have permission from both the parents and the model to display that photo. It is indeed a bit of a hassle and can for sure take some time to do. But there are several reasons why the Face Cards rub me the wrong way even though the artist if giving permission for their work to be used.

The main thing is that the client looking at the board doesn't know that the work they are looking at wasn't painted by the artist they are about to see and possibly pay services for. Unless the sign specifically states this, there is no way for the client to know. To me this runs in the field of misleading, or false advertising. Any one can buy these cards, so there is no way to tell if only artists who actually can pull of those designs are displaying them. More then likely artists will 'try their best' to copy the art and follow the step by steps, but everything comes with practice. In the mean time you have an upset parent or kid who just paid $5-$10 for the face they saw on the board, but that wasn't the quality they got.

And what if the artist can do that level of skill needed to paint that design? Well good on them, it feels less icky, but my main question would be, if you have been face painting for a while and are skilled enough to create those designs why wouldn't you have your own photo display board of your own work.

So the jury is out right now on the ethics of Face Cards, it still feels like going to a car dealership to test drive a new luxury car, deciding to buy it, then coming off the lot with a different model then the one you thought you were getting.

Question 4: I work with other face painters, is it ok to display each others work?

Answer: If you work for or own a face painting company then often times all photos taken while on the job belong to the company and they can do with them as the please. Thought it's my personal opinion that each artist should develop their own portfolio so the client has a reasonable expectation on what they will get.

If you often work with 1 or 2 other artists then this question is similar to having the permission of the artist to use their work. If you work with other artists at the same event then it's totally ok to have their work and yours on display as you are both at the event. If the other artist you usually work with is away, you should have that artists permission to display their work, and you should also be able to recreate it in a similar way to what is on display. 

For Example: My Partner Aryn and I work together a lot, so our display boards are usually a mix of my work and his. There are some of his creations I can't pull off as good, so when I'm on a solo gig I either remove them from the board, or I might tell the person choosing that design that it's my partners design that I'm still practicing. With Aryn and I living together as common-law spouses, we totally give each other permission to display each others work while on solo gigs. 

My assistant Hailey is a bit different, I often send her out on solo gigs and she rarely works with Aryn and myself. When she's out on her own she does not carry any of our designs, mainly because I want to encourage her to develop her own portfolio of work and not feel restricted to painting our designs. Each company or face painting group is different, but as long as there is trust, respect and honesty to your clients, then I see no real issue.

Question 5: Can I keep photos of other artists work with me for on the spot inspiration?

Answer: Yes, so long as it's not on display to the public. For example when I was first starting out in my early teens, I had an 'inspiration book' for myself. I kept it under my table, and looked at it to get some basic design idea's. But to be clear, I never kept it out on the table for display to the customers. They would ask to see it, but often times i declined, knowing i might not makeup it back under the table. I made sure to let them know that they photos weren't mine, so no to expect the same thing, if they did happen to glance at it. It was my own personal resource, and not meant for the public too choose their design from. Today, I keep inspiration photos on my smart phone, some times if i want to try doing a cat a little differently, or if some one asked for Iron Man and I really liked the way it was done in a photo I saved, I might bring it up for a quick peek to try something different.

If only I can find it....

But again, never the public shall use my inspiration folder to choose from. Luckily people are more reluctant to want to take your phone, then an old ratty binder you keep under your table, so I've never had an issue with them wanting to browse my inspiration gallery.  I'm not going to invite them to scroll through and find something they liked that wasn't mine, or have my phone display other peoples work for the public to choose from.

But what if some one DID do that? 

I give you Exhibit A.

This is a photo the face paint artist took of her own table showing how she use's her IPad as her virtual display board while on gigs. Basically putting her inspiration photos on display, with no mention that all the work being shown doesn't belong to her. This is a perfect example of misleading the public and being unethical, as she doesn't have permission from the artists to use their work, nor is the client informed that these photos are not hers.

So the next time you are thinking about using another artists work in your face painting display, here are 3 questions to ask yourself.

1. Do I own this photo?
2. Do I have permission from the artist to display this photo?
3. Am I being upfront and honest with my clients?