I've just finished an article that was linked to a post on Art Fair Insiders about a copier out of the Norfolk, VA area. No, this is not the type of copier produced by Ikon or Xerox. This is a person who intentionally chooses to copy the art of others due to lack of inspiration, lack of talent, or because he or she is trying to take advantage of the public (see def for con artist). This person illegally re-produces by their own hand images of other artists work. This is definitely NOT original art!
My next argument is somewhat softer but just as insidious in nature. This is the re-production of other artists work by someone that I think is not as rare as we would like them to be, a person who is fairly ignorant of the violation they are committing. The artist often with little to no formal training who just doesn't know that it is not only not alright to copy or sample work but that it can be illegal. So this artist creates from or peppers their work with images they have seen in books or on the internet. Some of the images are other's original copyright-protected art or photographs. Their artwork looks very much like artwork you see over and over again. Can you really look at another stand of trees sitting on an undulating landform without rolling your eyes too? Do you think we can agree that this is not original art?
Now, we are moving into the Public Domain. There are plenty of famous artworks that are considered to be in the public domain, meaning no longer under copyright protection and therefore available to used, copied, reproduced at will. The Mona Lisa is the most prominent of these. So artists can create artwork featuring this and other artworks in the public domain. Da Vinci obviously painted her first and best so anything else is NOT original.
Having gone through all of the above, what exactly is original art? I would put forth that original art is art created by an artist's hand and from his/her own thoughts and references which provides a new or unique perspective on a subject; imagery that is uncommon in its presentation even when dealing with common subjects; and/or a compilation that is not ubiquitous but imaginative or intriguing in nature.
Whew!! I am certain there are many who hold this definition of original art. So how do you make certain you are buying original art especially when the highest form of flattery, imitation, seems to show up without warning? You keep your eyes open and you ask questions, always.
I have a few artist friends who get annoyed when someone walks up and asks in some form, "Is this all your work?" or "Did you really paint all of these?". I love that question because it gives me an immediate opening to talk about just how original my art is. Keep asking, please!
Yours in Art,
Vivian Leflore Mora
Fine Art & Illustration
PS You may also want to check out another post within this blog titled, "Is it Authentic? How do I tell?" (http://www.vivianmoraart.com/1/post/2010/10/is-it-authentic-how-do-i-tell.html)