SCARY SHADOW ARTISTS AND ME

Over the last few weeks, a mini-drama has played itself out behind my blog.

I received a “fan mail” from a person who wanted to buy a necklace. By the second exchange, the person wrote an email that sounded like she’d copied my work and had changed her mind about the necklace.

I ran the exchange by several people whose professional opinion I respect and trust. All read the email the same way, and all were outraged by it.

I wrote an article about how this issue affects artists. To make a dramatic point, I published some of the email exchange between this person and me. I felt I had something important to say about the people who–innocently or not–cause artists such misery. It happens to us all the time–the “fan” who says, “I just love your work, and I’m going to go home and make something just like it.”

I didn’t publish the person’s name or any contact information, but her words were out there for all to see.

The person wrote back, deeply hurt and claiming she’d meant no such thing. She insisted I retract the post. She said it was a personal attack on her, and not fair.

She said I was as much to blame as her. And though she said she was sorry things had gotten out of hand, it felt more like, “I’m sorry you’re so sensitive.”

I pointed out that I had a right to my feelings. I said I still didn’t know what her real intentions were. I said MY intentions were not to humiliate her, but simply to write about how much these incidents hurt, and how I got past it.

She responded again, insisting I remove the post, and saying again it was a huge misunderstanding.

I got angrier and angrier. I was determined to stick to my guns. I knew I was right. Most of my community supported me. A very few didn’t.

Then something happened.

I noticed that it just didn’t feel right.

Why?

Several issues came to mind, and they are convoluted. I’ll spare you the tangled workings of my mind there!

I decided to give the person a chance to show they’d acted in good faith.

I emailed her one last time.

Send me one of the little horses you made, I told her. I’d like to see it. Give me the name of the animal rescue organization you were going to give them to, to raise money. Let ME donate a horse necklace to them. It does sound like a good cause, and I’d be happy to help.

Do this, and I’ll take the post down.

Now, I haven’t heard a word back since then.

But I felt much, much better.

Late last night, though, I realized it still wasn’t enough. I talked more with my husband, whose opinion I always respect.

My husband said, “It seems that this particular person–who sounded like she was going to copy your work–took all the brunt of all the pain in you, caused by other people who did copy your work, and bragged about it.”

And he was right.

I also realized I was afraid. By selling my work in a more public online venue, I was opening up the likelihood that more people would indeed copy me. That’s scary.

But recognizing my fear just made me more determined to get back to square one.

I believe the world can only heal from all the anger and evil in the world when we step back from being right, and focus on being whole.

I believe when we make decisions based on fear, we are not acting in our best interest, nor the best interest of the world at large.

My art and my writing have always been about making better choices. Maybe even better choices than I can always make in my personal life. (I can be very impatient and judgmental of people. And I’m afraid of a lot things!)

Regarding this person’s actual intentions….I cannot fully know, or control, other people’s intentions.

I can only know mine.

My intentions are to make the artwork that makes me feel whole. My intention is to write in ways that inspire other people to know their true intentions. And to make their own powerful work. To play it forward.

I got caught up in being right. I may have been right. But maybe I was wrong.

I certainly have a right to my own feelings. And I have the right to write about them. But I can do it in a way that doesn’t make a scapegoat of a person who may or may not deserve it.

I want to focus on the power of my intentions, and get to a better place in my heart.

In that spirit, I’ve removed the post, and I fully apologize for my role in this.

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10 Comments

Filed under art, copycats, life, mental attitude, shadow artist

10 responses to “SCARY SHADOW ARTISTS AND ME

  1. Luann – for those of us who read the original post I think you were right to be hurt. Any artist whose work is copied is entitled to feel some hurt.

    The individual in question may have been completely thoughtless and inexperienced in the way she wrote to you. But how will she ever realise this unless it’s raised as an issue? By raising it in an unattributed way I think you were doing the right thing and providing a way of others learning from the experience at the same time.

    That particular individual needs to know that “a personal attack” can be a whole lot more pointed and personal than anything you wrote.

    As a blogging community I believe that we share a responsibility to protect one another from the potential ‘hurt’ which individuals can cause one another. It’s certainly very true that the internet can cause misunderstandings and it’s sometimes very difficult to asses a person’s real intent.

    Sometimes our community responsibility is about pointing out that there is another way of looking at something. We can all get it ‘wrong’ at times – I know I do. Sometimes it’s about advising a friend to take ‘time out’ before responding to avoid writing when hurt. Sometimes it’s about being supportive when a friend is justifiably hurt by individuals who try to profit from her endeavour or is hurt through ‘real’ personal attacks. Sometimes it’s about knowing when to back off because it simply isn’t worth it.

    I know I’ve gone on record and publicly protested when a close friend on mine had her work stolen and posted by ‘a kid’ on a certain well known art forum (it was “all her own work” of course!) as well as providing other sorts of support. I’m also been enormously grateful for the support I’ve received from others when it’s been needed – including messages about did I know my work has been seen on………

    Stay positive. Share your learning. Write about things with good intentions.

    …and do feel free to share when very silly people tell you that they’re going to copy you…

    I suspect there may be a few people who will now be keeping an eye out for any copies of your work posted online under ‘horse art’

  2. Katherine, thank you so much for your thoughts and support. The positive support from my community was huge, and welcome.

    And you’re right, it IS important to raise a hue and cry when blatant wrongdoing is going on.

    I WILL write about this issue again. The difference will be, it WON’T focus on one person who may or may not be copying my work.

    This incident (hopefully) turned into a “teachable moment.”

    That doesn’t always happen.

    But when it does, it’s wonderful.

  3. Hi Luann,
    I have been reading your blog for a couple of months. I love your work and admire your talent. I think we all have faced that person who says…”I can make that”. What they don’t realize is the time and money that goes into developing our skills and buying our tools. The fact is very few people can “make that” for the price that we charge for our pieces. And even if they do….it never has the same look. You certainly bring a special style to your pieces that this person will never match.

    I read the original blog and I believe that you had the right to publish your experience. You did it in a generic way and it helps other artists learn how to handle these difficult situations. And my gut tells me that you were right about this situation. Instead of an apology you got indignation…which to me says guilty. Stay strong!!

    On another point…thanks for the articles on booth displays. I ordered some pieces from Vilmain. Can’t wait till they get here. I also find Pier One a great source of unusal display pieces.

    Gail

  4. Luann;

    I know I responded to your first post, as I understood, and felt something similar had happened to me. At the time of my incident, my husband (the cool head), said “Don’t take it personal”, which for me is so difficult. It seemed to me distinctly personal.

    But I’ve been upset about how I handled my incident (I wrote a post too, and had a back and forth e-mail exchange with the person whose identity I never revealed). I thank you for your rethinking of the situation, and the reminder that right-wrong just doesn’t work, and, as difficult as it may be to even consider (for me), “IT”, whatever “It” is, isn’t personal. Life just happens, and sometimes we get in the way.

  5. marj kammuelller

    The most important thing is you took the high road
    and you can sleep at night. Someone once wrote
    and I can’t remember who, that no matter who copies
    you, you are always one step ahead of them and developing new ideas, and new creations. They can’t
    get into your head, and they can’t keep up. I think it was someone from the quilting world. You are the only
    you! Congratulations!

    p.s. How are you going to get all this great stuff into your book — Every post is wonderful, insightful,
    worthy of inclusion.

  6. Hey Luann,

    Copycats are frustrating, tiresome parasites. However, there are always those who can create and those who can only copy. Keep looking ahead and developing your ideas and I believe the copycats will have a hard time “catching up”

  7. Casey Klahn

    No one can truly copy your work, as it is your hand on it that is unique. I’ll bet the copies look awful!

    I’ve had young college students tell me they copied my barn image on their dorm wall; had paintings stolen (two!); had persons from another continent and country well known for it’s art rip-off factories walking around the art fair with a video camera!

    I hope you’ll take the flaming via e-mail experience and with time gain perspective- and it looks like you are. They had no right whatsoever to even talk about copying your work. Good on you for standing up, and I’m glad you’re out there in the market, too.

  8. Hi there Luann, I am new to your blog but just wanted to say – GOOD for you!! For working through this whole ‘whatever-it-is’ and for learning something in the process (whatever that may be for you) and then for taking the high road and extending that proverbial olive branch. In the end, being ‘right’ isn’t the most important thing….’doing’ right may be. I think you’ve ‘done right’ and you should be freed to move forward!

  9. oops, typed my web addy wrong.

  10. You’ve all said such thoughtful things, my head is reeling! Thank you for taking the time to write & share your experiences and your insights.

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