Monday, 6 April 2009

Inspiration, Imitation or Rip Off?

There is a talented painter I met a couple months before I took off to Europe. His name is Jeff Lyons and his paintings are fun, colourful, and full of life. He is dedicated and has worked hard at developing his his style which has become quite distinctive. You can check out his work here: LyonsART (http://www.lyonsart.com/index.html)

Today on Facebook I saw a link to "Kimmi's Attic" (http://www.flickr.com/photos/kimmisattic/)
(Note: several of the images I found particularly interesting were removed shortly after I posted this entry. Imges no longer available include:"Dejanae", "ginny", "Rebecca", "Ling", "Shaye", "Blair", "Mona", "Eve", "Annie", and others.)


For the sake of comparison, here is one of Jeff's paintings "April" and one of Kimmi's "Raeanne", and here is Jeff's "Luna" and Kimmi's "Just Thinking".

It really bugged me, so I looked a little further. I found Kimmi's web site, where she says "Please pay special attention to gallery 3, this is my "Girl Friend Series" (http://www.kimmisattic.com/Gallery%203.html). Even the NAME is a taken from Jeff's work, and she is drawing special attention to this series of images over her other works. Maybe they are selling well? Kimmi says that she feels that "art speaks to a person's inner being in a way that words cannot convey." Funny, there are a few words that spring immediately to mind when I see Kimmi's "Girl Friend" paintings.

On her blog, Kimmi thanks everyone that left messages after her paintings were selected by "Minor'e Gallery" where she had a great time showing her paintings and meeting other artists and inspiring people. She goes on to mention that the Girl Friends paintings have been selected by "Prairie House Gallery" to be sold as prints.


Surely, this sort of thing happens all the time, right? Should Jeff Lyons just be flattered (and maybe he is, I've not spoken to him about this)? In my opinion Kimmi has crossed a line here. She is showing these paintings in galleries and is now selling prints, and to my eye, they are more than just similar to Jeff's work. I can't be sure when any individual painting was made, but it appears to me that she was painting in a colourful, folksy style, showing scenes of domestic life, when she suddenly went off on a tangent making rather thinly disguised versions of Jeff's paintings. Again, I'm not entirely sure of the order of events, but my guess is there was suddenly some buzz around her new paintings and it snowballed from there. It's hard to hide stuff out in the open on the world wide web though.

I wouldn't be making a fuss about any of this if Kimmi had simply stated that these works were her own versions of paintings by Jeff Lyons, or even that this series was inspired by Jeff Lyons (although I think that would be a stretching the concept of "inspired by"), some sort of acknowledgment. Instead there was the repeated assertion that her paintings were "100% original". I think that is a rather extravagant claim for any artist to make!

When I was a kid I used to trace art work from books and magazines. It helped me get a feel for how they were drawn. I even drew a comic strip in which all the characters were copied from other well known comic strips. It was fun. But I never tried to sell them or pretend that they were "100% original" (a claim Kimmi makes for her paintings on various blogs). I wanted to make my own characters and did. Even when they were just stick men it was more satisfying than copying work by other people.

As artists, we draw inspiration from all around us. Anything we see can get taken in and influence what we do later. Some times it can be unconscious and one unintentionally makes something that comes very close to another artist's work. There are famous examples of this (like George Harrison's song "My Sweet Lord") and much less famous examples. I'm thinking of a piece of animation I made several years ago called "SeXXXy Doll". When I wrote it (with help from my friend Jeff Kenney) and animated it, it all seemed like an original creation. It wasn't until two years after it was finished that I watched a collection of animated shorts from the NFB and realized that I had come way too close for comfort to a short called "George and Rosemary" by Alison Snowden and David Fine. Of course I had seen their animation many years before I made mine, but never consciously thought of it while making "SeXXXy Doll". It would be a pretty stupid thing to try to do on purpose as "George and Rosemary" is widely known. I'll never forget how I felt while watching it and realizing how heavily I had drawn from it. The influences were so strong and obvious. I felt sick about it! I find it hard to watch either mine or theirs now.

Surely there is a line beyond which influence and inspiration becomes out right rip off. Has Kimmi crossed that line? It can happen once, sure, but repeatedly, with works by the same artist? I know what I think and I'd be interested in knowing what others think.

She still has a gallery at ebsqart.com (http://www.ebsqart.com/Artists/cmd_21007_profile_portfolio.htm),
and an Ebay page (http://stores.shop.ebay.com/KIMMIs-Attic__W0QQ_armrsZ1),
and a boundlessgallery page (http://kimmisattic.boundlessgallery.com/profile/index.html).


UPDATE:
Just a few minutes after posting this, Kimmi's blog was changed so it can only be viewed by invitation. Several paintings were also removed from her Flickr page.
Of course, you can still view some of it with the handy cached version
(http://74.125.95.132/search?q=cache:eGfqx90FihkJ:kimmisattic.blogspot.com/)
.

16 comments:

Kimberly said...

Hello Ed,

I hope that you are having fun at defamation of character. Copying my photos without permission. Please be advise that I have contacted my attorney and I will be back in contact with you.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's pretty bold of here to call you would for copying her photos without her permission, seeing as she copied Jeff's paintings without his permission. Is copyright infringement of a copyright infringement even possible? Or is it like a double negative and the whole this is a wash. At least if she just posted a series "inspired by" Jeff's series, she could justify it. But to have examples that so closely match his works just stands out so much.

eebee said...

Yeah... "inspired by" or "a tribute to"... but the "100% original" claim is going a bit over the top!

Anonymous said...

She must be a man because she has balls to come at you for defamation.

eebee said...

Point taken... it is "ballsy", but I've seen her picture and she looks like a regular, nice person. I think she's just in a corner and reacting badly.

Jeff Lyons said...

Thanks for the blog post, Ed! It's obvious that she is using many of my painted images as sources, but at least they are not direct copies of them(like some Asians have done), rather, they are folksy interpretations. She should at least say this on her websites and give me credit where it is due, especially since she profits from this. About 12 of my paintings have been "copied" by her, maybe more. I've downloaded a few in case her websites are deleted.

I'm going to post her website link on the homepage of my own website and let my viewers interpret this situation.

eebee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eebee said...

I would agree with "Folksy Interpretation" if there had been some mention of the source material. I think you are being very generous using that description; but of course, these are your paintings that are being "interpreted", so I say your opinion trumps mine on this matter. Take care, Jeff! Always a fan of your work.

godofodd said...

It's the blatant claim on each of her pieces, websites and stores that say the work is "100% Original" that really gets me. Jeff is the one who should be contacting an attorney.

Jeff Lyons said...

There have been cases where alleged artists have directly copied my artwork. A friend of mine was in Thailand and saw an oil painted reproduction of one my my paintings selling for $100.00CAD. My artwork has been online since 1999 and about a million visitors have been to my websites since then (maybe more). So I'm not surprised when I see interpretations or variations of my work online. It's flattering for the most part. To me, Kimberly hasn't crossed a line, but I've been watching her online for 6 months now to see if she eventually does.

eebee said...

Yes, the mass market of forgeries in Asian countries is a big problem. And really, what can one do about it? It just sucks. For whatever reason this particular instance got me "up on my hind legs", as they say.

Jeff Lyons said...

The more I think of this the more it disturbs me. Threatening legal action against you, Ed, and calling her women series the girlfriends series are 2 things she really didn't think out too well. Google her in a few days...

Oh well, it's time to head into the studio to produce some 100% originals.

eebee said...

It's hard to understand. Who knows what the deal is in this situation.
When a person is exposed doing something they know is wrong, they either fess up, slink away and hope it all blows over quickly, or lash out in a desperate attempt to save face. They may do all of the above.

Perhaps the only action that makes sense is expose the deception. That's been done.

If she is a reasonable sort of person, she's already suitably embarrassed and regrets what she did. She will most likely stop borrowing your work from now on.

If not, well, then you are dealing with a different sort of person... and frankly, who wants to go down that rabbit hole?

eebee said...

Oh yes, and that "100% original" thing... it is astounding, isn't it? I mean what artist says that about anything? We don't create in a vacuum. Influences are unavoidable!

I don't even have a problem with her paintings, just as they are, if only she had represented them as what they are. If she just said "these are my versions of paintings by Jeff Lyons" and "here are some of my own paintings I made in the style of Jeff Lyons". Then, perhaps in the not-too-distant future, when her work became more distinctive and truly her own, she might one day have said "the work of Jeff Lyons is one of the influences in my painting".

Anonymous said...

Rather sad interpretations! But very obviously interpretations of Jeff Lyons' OBVIOUSLY SUPERIOR work. What gets me is the claim of originality and the fact that she is profiting dishonestly.

Kenneth said...

She for sure is ripping off his work. I am a CG artist and have done several tributes that have come a bit to close to the original work therefore I have never posted them even though there are major differences. But hers are almost spot on to the originals and that is for sure a copy right violation. Let her come at you. Then she will be found out. I belive Mr. Lyons has a case for sure if he wishes to pursue it. I have had my work posted at anothers website claiming it was there work. It's kind of flattering in a way but still stealing. Good catch on your part.