Face Making

Artist Gwenn Seemel’s bilingual blog about art, portraiture, free culture, and feminism.

Adrienne Lewis and me: 2 painters, 1 technique / Adrienne Lewis et moi: 2 peintres, 1 technique

2014 . 04 . 07 - Comments / Commentaires (19)

Recently, a friend pointed me to Adrienne Lewis’ work—her site is www.adriennelewispaintings.com, but if it isn’t up yet you can see more images here on Facebook. My friend had discovered Lewis’ art on Craig’s List and, since it reminded her of what I do, she passed it along.

Récemment, une amie m’a montré l’œuvre d’Adrienne Lewis—son site est www.adriennelewispaintings.com, mais s’il n’est pas encore prêt vous pouvez voir plus d’images ici sur Facebook. Mon amie avait trouvé l’art de Lewis sur Craig’s List, et, puisque ça la faisait penser de mon art, elle m’a envoyé le lien.



Adrienne Lewis painter

Adrienne Lewis Taylor

When friends do that, it feels like it’s my birthday—like there’s a yummy treat just for me! And when I saw Lewis’ work, I was thrilled. A lot of what she does looks like what I do, but it’s also very different.

Quand quelqu’un fait cela, j’ai toujours l’impression que c’est mon anniversaire—c’est un cadeau pour moi! Et quand j’ai vu les tableaux de Lewis, j’étais ravie. En gros, ce qu’elle fait ressemble à ce que je fais, mais il y a aussi beaucoup de différences.



Adrienne Zimmerman Lewis painter

Adrienne Lewis Riley

And that’s what I love about looking at work that’s similar to mine: it helps me to see where my originality is.

Et c’est ce que j’apprécie tellement en découvrant de l’art qui ressemble à ce que je crée: il me permet de mieux reconnaître mon originalité.



Adrienne Lewis artist

Adrienne Lewis Elvis

It’s like playing peak-a-boo with your own personality. What is it about Lewis’ work that’s just her? And what is it about my work that’s just me?

C’est comme si je jouais pic-a-boo avec ma personnalité. C’est quoi dans les tableaux de Lewis qui appartient à elle seule? Et, dans ce que je fais, qu’est-ce qui est moi?



Gwenn Seemel and Adrienne Lewis

Gwenn Seemel Lauan and / et Adrienne Lewis Cupcake
(To learn about the making of Lauan, go here. / Pour en savoir plus sur la réalisation de Lauan, allez ici.)

It’s hard to put into words, but I think it’s really obvious in a visual sense.

Il est peut-être difficile de l’expliquer en mots, mais je pense que c’est évident dans un sens visuel.



Gwenn Seemel and Adrienne Lewis

Gwenn Seemel Bridey and / et Adrienne Lewis Maggie
(To see the full portrait of Bridey, go here. / Pour voir le portrait complet de Bridey, allez ici.)

After seeing all these, it may or may not surprise you to discover that Lewis and I went to school together. We knew each other only slightly, but we were both at Willamette University at the same time—I finished up in 2003 and she graduated in 2004. Maybe it was something in the water there or maybe her way of painting evolved like mine did. Then again, maybe she developed her style in completely different ways, but I think the explanation is much simpler than that. I believe that Lewis’ style is influenced by mine.

Après avoir vu ces images, vous ne serez peut-être pas surpris de découvrir que Lewis et moi étions à la fac ensemble. Nous nous connaissions à peine, mais nous étions toutes les deux à Willamette University en même temps—j’ai fini en 2003 et elle en 2004. C’était peut-être quelque chose dans l’eau, ou c’est possible que sa manière de peindre a évolué comme la mienne. Ou peut-être que le développement de son style a suivi un autre chemin, mais je pense que l’explication est plus simple que ça. Je crois que le style de Lewis est influencé par le mien.



Adrienne Lewis painter Facebook

screenshot of Lewis’ Facebook page / capture d’écran de la page Facebook de Lewis

And these images from a Throwback Thursday post on her Facebook page are what convinced me. I believe that the influence of my style on hers began around the time of this enormous stylistic leap, which Lewis says occurred during the course of one year, from 2004 to 2005. I may be wrong.  I don’t have a lot of information about Lewis’ life, but, from what I do know, it certainly seems like she is inspired by my work. And that’s not just okay: it’s really wonderful!

Et ces images sur sa page Facebook sont, pour moi, la preuve décisive. Je suis convaincue que l’influence de mon style sur le sien date depuis qu’elle a fait cet énorme saut stylistique au cours d’une année, de 2004 à 2005. C’est possible que je me trompe. Je n’ai pas beaucoup d’informations sur la vie de Lewis, mais, d’après ce qu’elle a publié sur le Web, il me semble qu’elle est inspirée par mon œuvre—ce qui est non seulement complétement correcte, mais aussi entièrement magnifique!



Gwenn Seemel and Adrienne Lewis

Gwenn Seemel Flora and / et Adrienne Lewis Trenta
(To learn about the making of Flora, go here. / Pour en savoir plus sur la réalisation de Flora, allez ici.)

In the end, the interesting conversation about our technique doesn’t revolve around the question: “who did it first?” It revolves around the question: “what do you like about the work?” Because similarities between two pieces of art actually allow us to dig deeper into our feelings for the work. They help us be more observant—something that I explored with Subjective, a series of portraits of people painted twice, once by me and once by my friend and collaborator Becca Bernstein. 

When you look at my art and Lewis’ art together, you can really see who each of us is as an artist as well as what’s unique about our paintings. Our work demonstrates yet again that, where originality is concerned, it’s not what you do that matters, but how you do it.

En fin de compte, la conversation intéressante à propos de notre technique ne tourne pas autour de la question: «qui l’a fait en première?» Elle tourne autour de la question: «qu’est-ce que vous appréciez dans ces œuvres?» Parce que des similarités entre deux œuvres nous permettent d’examiner plus profondément nos réactions aux œuvres. Elles nous aident à être plus attentifs—quelque chose que j’ai exploré avec Subjective, une série de portraits de personnes peintes deux fois, une fois par moi et une fois par ma collègue Becca Bernstein.

Lorsque vous regardez mon art et l’art de Lewis ensemble, ça se voit tout de suite qui je suis en tant qu’artiste et qui elle est aussi. Ce qui est unique dans nos œuvres est éclaircie par la juxtaposition. Nos tableaux manifestent encore une fois que, en ce qui concerne l’originalité, ce n’est pas ce que vous faites qui compte, mais la façon dont vous le faites.



Gwenn Seemel and Adrienne Lewis

Gwenn Seemel David and / et Adrienne Lewis The lead singer
(For more about David, check out this gallery of images. / Pour en savoir plus sur David, visitez cette galerie d’images.)

And today I’m speaking about just this sort of thing at TEDxGeneva! The theme for the event is freedom in the digital age. With my talk, I’m addressing the importance of imitation in culture-making as well as how the copyright paradigm has damaged imitation. For more information about the conference, go here. (The video is now available here.)

Et aujourd’hui je parle à ce sujet à TEDxGeneva! Le thème pour l’événement est la liberté à l’ère numérique. Avec mon discours, je vais démontrer l’importance de l’imitation dans la création de culture, et je parlerai aussi de la façon dont le paradigme du droit d’auteur nuit à la l’imitation. Pour en savoir plus sur la conférence, allez ici. (La vidéo est maintenant disponible ici.)



- -—UPDATE / MISE À JOUR 2014 . 04 . 18—- -

In a comment on Facebook, Lewis indicates that my work didn’t influence hers and that she never took a painting class at Willamette University.

Dans un commentaire sur Facebook, Lewis dit que mon art n’a pas influencé le sien et qu’elle n’a pas suivi de cours de peinture à Willamette University.



Adrienne Lewis Facebook

screenshot of a Facebook comment / capture d’écran d’un commentaire sur Facebook

I’ve asked her to talk with me more about the evolution of her technique and hopefully share images of her work as it developed as well as pictures of her influences—other artists’ work or tools that shaped her marks like these ones shaped mine. I look forward to writing more about the fascinating ways that artists discover their styles very soon!

Je lui ai demandé de me parler en plus détails sur l’évolution de sa technique et même de partager des images du développement de son art ainsi que des illustrations de ses influences—les œuvres d’autres artistes ou les outils qui ont agi sur son style comme ceux-ci ont agi sur le mien. J’ai hâte de continuer la conversation sur comment les artistes découvrent leur manière de s’exprimer!



- -—UPDATE / MISE À JOUR 2014 . 11 . 17—- -

Lewis has not responded to any of my further attempts to contact her, so I made this video.

Lewis n’a pas répondu à mes autres tentatives de communiquer avec elle, donc j’ai créé cette vidéo.


RELATED ARTICLES:
- We can be giants.
- Social currency
- Copyright is for scaredy-cats. / Le droit d’auteur, c’est pour les peureux.


UN PEU SUR LE MÊME SUJET:
- Nous pouvons être des géants.
- Art that’s worth copying / L’art qui vaut le coup d’être copié
- Learning from copying / Apprendre avec l’imitation


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(19) Comments / Commentaires: Adrienne Lewis and me: 2 painters, 1 technique / Adrienne Lewis et moi: 2 peintres, 1 technique

-- Libby Fife -- 2014 . 04 . 07 --

Gwenn,

Before I forget, good look at the convention. It will be interesting to hear of the results.

Her work (Adrienne’s) is indeed similar. But as you said, there are individual differences made by, well, the individual! I don’t think we can ever fully hide the hand of the maker, even in a direct copy. It’s like fingerprints. And why not revel in the resulting creativity of being able to copy or to be inspired? It doesn’t diminish our own individuality or efforts.

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-- Kristina -- 2014 . 04 . 08 --

This is FASCINATING.  I admire your confidence in the originality of your own work, and your commitment to support the efforts of other creatives.  It makes clear how a culture of creativity, support and exchange can only lead to good things—for the artists and those of us who admire the art.  I hope a time will come when these views aren’t perceived as so radical. 

I have no doubt your presentation was a hit!

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-- Cassandra Tondro -- 2014 . 04 . 08 --

Kudos, Gwenn, for not falling into the trap of being angry about someone who’s work is similar to yours.  It’s a very refreshing point of view.

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-- Bhavna -- 2014 . 04 . 08 --

I agree with all the comments above. You sure have a big, wait, scratch that, really big heart and a unique, heart-warming perspective.

I will be thinking about what you said for a long long time.

I love your work and love your attitude even more.

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-- Jessica -- 2014 . 04 . 08 --

You are such a cool person.

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-- Gwenn -- 2014 . 04 . 10 --

Thank you, each of you, for your kind words and reflections!  I forget sometimes just how radical some of what I’m saying can be to certain audiences, but it was something I was reminded of at TEDx.

Afterwards, several people came up to me to explain to me what was wrong with my presentation.  While I could see where they were coming from since I too was raised under the copyright paradigm, I don’t believe any excuse to use copyright for art is a very good one.  As Cory Doctorow pointed out in RIP: A Remix Manifesto, technology gave us the ability to make reproductions and to sell them for a while.  Now, technology has evolved to a place where reproduction (of some kind) is so easy and low cost that it’s not possible to sell reproductions in the same way as before.  So we’d better evolve with the technology if we don’t want to be left behind!

Of course, for every person who took issue with what I said, there were so many kind people who shared with me much more positive reactions and said such nice things about my talk that I feel like I should have bottled what they said in order to enjoy it in a more leisurely and appreciative way over the next few months! smile

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-- Alisa -- 2014 . 04 . 18 --

Hi, Gwenn! Remarkable how two separate artists can have a similarity! Though the pieces are very very different from each other, because every artist has their own ‘signature / handwriting’ that is theirs alone. As an artist, I am very conscious about not being ‘like’ someone else, but am finding it clamps down on my creativity. So, thank you for your post! It has helped me realize that I can only be me, and paint like me, even if there is a similar artist out there, too. xoxo

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-- Gwenn -- 2014 . 04 . 18 --

The pressure to be original can drain the joy out of art-making for sure, Alisa!  I tend to think that true style can’t ever be forced.  We’re all exactly who we are, mo matter how hard we might try sometimes to be someone else!

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-- TD -- 2014 . 04 . 19 --

You’re being too generous. She claims she never saw your work, yet you went to college together and she remembers your paintings so much so that she can compare them to your current style and condescendingly pat you on the head for having “come a long way.”

The work is so strikingly similar in composition and mark making (trails of dots and circles, color placement, brush strokes, the red background and white accents on the bearded guy—even your signature circle on the cheek) that I wouldn’t be surprised if she had your paintings hanging in front of her while she worked. I can’t wait to hear how she started painting JUST. LIKE. YOU.

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-- Dave E. -- 2014 . 04 . 19 --

Gwenn, this person is absolutely lying. She is copying your style. You know it, I know it and she knows it. She will never be able to provide any progression to you to show you her “evolution”. She evolved by ripping you off. done and done. It is nice that you don’t care. I think it is sad.

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-- Gwenn -- 2014 . 04 . 19 --

@TD: Thank you for your comment.  I was starting to feel a little like I was crazy for thinking she had imitated me!  I have to admit that I too am really very curious to see how Lewis will explain her evolution.

@Dave: I do think Lewis lying, and unfortunately I do care. :s It didn’t bother me that she was inspired by my work, but it does hurt my feelings that she’s lying about it.  Then again, I think the reason why she’s lying about it is because of the way our society puts originality on a pedestal.  To admit that you were inspired by someone else’s work can spell death for an artist’s reputation in certain circles, and that’s just plain ridiculous seeing as we’re all drawing on the culture around us to make new culture!  In any case, thank you for your comment.

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-- Zoe Zuniga -- 2014 . 04 . 20 --

Hopefully she will evolve her own style out of this and eventually admit it if she is lying and why she is lying and we can all learn even more from it. Maybe she saw your work at some point and forgot about it or buried the memory?
for me making art is not about being original it is about the actual process and enjoyment of making it and sharing it and noticing how I change and grow.
The point is not to be original but to experience it for yourself. Other people have eaten food, fallen in love, gone to Europe and gone on a road trip but that does not make it stupid for me to want to do it too.
What i would do though is ask those people how they did it and learn so I could do it too and make it my own.

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-- Gwenn -- 2014 . 04 . 20 --

@Zoe: I love what you say about eating food, falling in love, going to Europe, going on a road trip, and things like that.  Such a beautiful analogy and a perfect way of thinking about art-making as a process!

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-- MB -- 2014 . 04 . 21 --

I know it took you worked diligently for years to arrive at your very unique style. It is preposterous that Adrienne Lewis proposes that she conjured the exact same types of marks without looking at yours for reference. Her “You’ve come a long way” statement is laughable. It would have been more accurate to write “*I’m* going a long way, taking a shortcut, by stealing from you!”

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-- Gwenn -- 2014 . 04 . 22 --

@MB: I admit that I found the “you’ve come a long way” bizarre coming from an artist who only launched herself professionally in January, but I’m trying to learn to not take things personally. Maybe she didn’t mean it to be patronizing…?

Anyway, I’m grateful for your comment. It really seems to me that she’s inspired by my art and I’m glad it seems so to others as well.

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-- Jessica -- 2014 . 04 . 23 --

Didn’t you write a post about not taking things personally and trying to assume good intent? I can’t seem to find it but could use some tips if you have anything to offer.

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-- Gwenn -- 2014 . 04 . 23 --

@Jessica: I don’t know that I wrote a particular post on those topics, but it’s something that I work on and something that I am struggling with in this instance, for sure. I like to try to think that if I’m feeling a certain way others might be feeling it too and, in that way, generate the compassion I’m having a hard time finding.

In this case though, I’m having trouble with the dishonesty (as I see it). That definitely is a trigger for me.

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-- Roopa Dudley -- 2014 . 04 . 23 --

Gwenn, Sensational is the (vintage) word that comes to mind after reading your post. If I did not know any better I would have certainly mistaken her work for yours because her style looks remarkably similar to yours which I have always thought to be as unique as our DNA.

When you put yours and hers side by side, I can see some minor differences (but not enough to really). Her work is heavily influenced by yours there is no question about it and we don’t need a bonafide art expert’s approval to state what is obvious.

This discovery would make such an awesome story and an amazing movie someday. I want to hear more on this. I mean what is the probability of this ever happening?

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-- Gwenn -- 2014 . 04 . 23 --

@Roopa: That’s a good way to think of it, as a movie! An exciting story full of twists and turns!

It reminds me of what my filmmaker friend said after making a documentary. He told me that people were wicked and fascinating IRL but that when he turned the camera on they suddenly chose their words carefully and drained a lot of the juice from their personality. My friend’s response: appreciate the villains in your life. They make things more interesting, and it’s not always easy being a villain.

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