How Can I Prove My Inspiration Is My Own?

Painting of British DeerYesterday I posted my latest painting (still a work in progress) on my Facebook page and, as I’m thinking of making some canvas prints, I asked for comments.

The first comment I received was from a photographer: “I think you should come up with your own ideas instead of trying to copy others!”

To say I was flabbergasted would be an understatement. Also horrified, aghast and absolutely furious that anyone would think my art is based on other people’s work.

For the record I state categorically that I have not copied any of my paintings from any other artists work, with two exceptions: (1) as a schoolgirl when I didn’t know any better and (2) I once made a copy of a painting to see how the artist had achieved a particular effect*. That copy was for my own interest, was never exhibited or claimed to be anything other than a copy and was later destroyed.

Reference resourcesBut how can I prove that I didn’t copy this one? The answer is that I can’t. I can certainly prove that I didn’t copy the individual images as I have my own original sketches, photographs, layout drawings and some antlers for reference. What’s impossible to prove is where the original inspiration came from.

Sometimes an artist gains inspiration from a single event, sight, piece of music, phrase… Sometimes inspiration comes from a number of sources, as mine did on this occasion:

  • I’ve been working with the Deer Study & Resource Centre so needed to demonstrate a painting of deer for them.
  • I’ve been thinking of making a new deer puzzle which made me think of the six British species as a group.
  • I’ve recently been looking again at the work of Rien Poortvliet and like his sketchy style of showing several species on the same image.
  • Originally I wanted to show the species in proportion to each other but the size difference between them was too great for that idea to work.

When challenged the photographer produced a link  to a painting that he wrongly assumed I’d copied. ( see the last painting on the originals page.) In the interest of fairness I agree there are similarities, but they are pure coincidence. I have never seen Ms Davis’s painting so it certainly has no connection with mine.

Some similarities can be explained by the constraints of viewpoint. For example, a fallow buck’s antlers are best seen in profile or three-quarter view – the shape is less clear when viewed straight on. That’s my opinion and I can only assume Ms Davis felt the same when planning her painting.

As for the similar square format: I have no idea why Ms Davis chose that. I chose it because it was simply the biggest board I had ready and available when I wanted to start the painting. In retrospect I wish it had been slightly taller as that would have aided the composition.

So that’s how this particular painting came to fruition, and my conscience is clear.

I am still angry though that someone can make unfounded accusations, that damage my personal and artistic reputation, under the guise of making a “comparison”. I wonder how the photographer would feel if I accused him of copying another photographers work? In future I hope he ascertains the facts before making wild accusations.


*Copying a painting for personal study is an accepted artistic tradition dating back many centuries.

About Jackie Garner

Wildlife artist.
This entry was posted in Art, Business of Art, Wildlife Art and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to How Can I Prove My Inspiration Is My Own?

  1. I wouldn’t say that looks copied. The idea is similar, a deer montage. It’s going to be hard to ever come up with something 100% original and of course some similarities will always be there. I’m sure that this photographer has taken pictures of say a sunset that look like a lot of people’s shots of sunsets.

    It’s a study of deer on a canvas. I wouldn’t worry about this commenter, he’s entitled to his opinions but you don’t have to listen to them.

    • Thanks for your input, Rowena. I quite agree that there will always be similarities when artists choose the same subject, but that doesn’t mean there was any connection between the two images. I hope my post puts the record straight.

      This photographer puts me in mind of a Snoopy cartoon, the caption of which read “Everyone’s entitled to their own stupid opinion.” I’ll waste no more time on him.

  2. Citybird01 says:

    “Were you influenced by…?” or “have you seen…?” would have been more reasonable comments. Accusing you without even enquiring is just plain rude. But be charitable – it was probably a gut reaction and he typed first and thought later.

    The beauty of social media is that people can express their opinions. Some do it better than others.

    • Thanks for your comment. I’m just concerned that he expresses his incorrect opinion to other people. I’m relatively new to the sporting art market, and the last thing I need is for people’s first impression of me to be based on a lie.

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