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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Original Art


    All work submitted to the Massena Artists Association’s Annual Juried Art Exhibit must be original.  So just what do we mean by “original art.?”

    Essentially, it means that you, the artist, must be the sole creator of the work.  The composition of the piece must be yours, and you must also produce the work.

    There was a controversy at a recent exhibit when a copy of a Bob Ross painting received an award.  Although it was attractive and very skillfully produced, it was not the artist’s original composition, and many feel that it should not have been considered for an award. 

Are “program paintings” original art?

    No.  There are several talented artists who have produced interesting and informative TV programs on art.  Many give step-by-step directions on how to reproduce their original compositions.  It is possible to buy books, videos, and DVD’s that allow the student to follow the steps at their own pace.  No matter how skillful you become, if you produce artwork by this method, it’s not your original work, and should not be entered in a juried show. 

What about class projects?

    Maybe.  It depends on the class.  There are instructors who become certified by the TV artists to teach their specific methods.  If you have taken a class where the instructor leads you step-by-step through the production of a copy of his work, (or of the TV artist’s work) then the product is not your original composition, and should not be entered..

    However, if the instructor demonstrates certain techniques, then tells you to paint something using that technique, the product is your own creation.  Even if he sets up a still life for you to paint, or tells you, “paint that birch tree in the yard,” you still make many decisions about the composition, the paints you use, how to mix the paints, how much of the background to include, etc.  Everyone in the class will have a different interpretation of the same subject, and you will all have original paintings, even though they are similar.

What about reference material?

    It depends.  Very few artists know enough about animal anatomy to paint an animal without looking either at the animal or at a good photo of one.  Unless you paint outdoors,  you probably will  need reference material to paint a particular scene or building.  If you’re using a photo you took yourself, there’s no problem.  But don’t make a copy of someone else’s work, whether it’s a famous painting, or a pretty picture you found on a calendar.  Copying someone else’s work may be a helpful learning tool for students, and if you like the product, you may hang it on your own wall.  But it’s not acceptable to claim it as your own work, or to enter it in a juried art exhibit. 

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