To print or not to print
Recently, I got into a conversation on Twitter about copyright law and what artists can do when their intellectual property is misused. While the discussion revolved around the question of why artists are so often promised exposure if they work for free and how inadequate that system is, I found myself parsing the issue and making exceptions. Although I am adamant that artists should be paid for their work, I realized that I don’t include reproductions in my definition of an artist’s work.
To my mind, reproductions are for free and for exposure, and originals are for money and for the full value. Trying to get people to pay for reproductions devalues originals and cuts off a useful promotional tool. I believe that the original is my only real product and I act accordingly by driving sales to my paintings.
This is a matter of believing whole-heartedly in free culture and of participating in it* as well as partaking from it. But it’s also about protecting my originals. If I asked people to pay for reproductions of my work, I would be implying that they are worth it even though, in reality, the best reproductions can’t compare to my originals. So, while I believe in using reproductions to get my work seen by as many people as possible, they are not an end, only a means.
All that said, I have published an exhibition catalog which is for sale. I sell reproductions of my work in this format because an exhibition catalog adds value to my oeuvre in a way that individual prints cannot. The image quality in the book is very similar to that of my free cards, but, presented in the context of the full series and with the added weight of a catalog essay, the reproductions become more than just knock-offs of my originals. The catalog is a critical addition to my résumé and one that has changed the way that potential venues and clients view my work.
Then again, when I really think about it like this, it becomes clear to me that I would give the books away for free too if I could afford to shoulder all of the printing costs and the writer’s fee!
*Online, my reproductions are free also. By that I mean that I do not mar the reproductions and photos that I post with a watermark. As a result, my images are traceable only by their distinctive style. I don’t try to force people to credit me if they steal my images, but I do hope they’ll have the decency to do so. This is a risk I’m willing to take because my style is unique and consistent, but also because I believe that my originals are more valuable than any reproduction.