I struggled to identify a topic I wanted to amplify this week. Was it a worthy cause? Another case for fine arts in school? The potty training book I just read? (Ha - jk) Then I knew. The importance of crediting the work of artists.
This can be seen as a tough topic with a lot of gray area. After all, nothing is original. We are constantly inspired – and our experience shaped – by the works of others. Take music, art, dance. However, we should always make an effort to acknowledge our inspiration and give credit where it’s due.
Let’s talk about this huge moment:
First of all, like most, I love Beyoncé and Jay-Z. My husband took me to a concert for my birthday when she was in the middle of her Lemonade tour a few years ago. It was life-changing. Second of all, I love Meghan Markle. To have both collide in this one photo? I almost passed out. How brilliant of The Carters to commission this stunning portrait of the duchess and to echo the Mona Lisa moment in their APESHIT video during their acceptance speech. Wow.
But then I discovered they did NOT commission the painting! It had already existed, and for quite some time. (It was originally created for the Summer 2018 cover of Kappa Kappa Gamma’s magazine called, The Key.)
In fact, the artist behind Markle’s portrait, Tim O’Brien, had no idea it was going to be featured in the acceptance video. In an article by Oprah Magazine, Tim says:
"I started seeing a ton of e-mails from reporters in my inbox, and I was like ‘wait a minute,’ and then I saw a link and Googled around and I was in shock," says O'Brien, who lives in Brooklyn. "As an artist, whenever anyone uses your work without asking, you're less than pleased, and I always encourage asking artists permission to use their work...but it's Beyoncé! And the response I've gotten in 24 hours has been great. So it's safe to say it was worth it...although I wouldn't have minded a phone call from her or Jay-Z."
He acknowledges that he had been #blessed by Beyoncé and will reap the benefits from the publicity. (You can order a print of the portrait here.) But at the same time, he admits that it would’ve been nice to be asked.
I’ll be honest. This a “unicorn” scenario. It’s not the norm, and will probably never happen to most illustrators.
The reality is, creative work is often shared on social media, uncredited, or in the worst case, stolen, licensed and sold to manufacturers for profit. (An example you might’ve seen in the news is large retail companies stealing the designs of artists for a graphic t-shirt.) For a small-time illustrator, or small business owner, this can be devastating and legally, too expensive to address. On social media, images are shared, re-shared, and re-re-shared to a point that people don’t even know who created the original image. We’ve got to stay vigilant and protect the work we do appreciate, and make a point to acknowledge the brilliance of others.
On our Instagram account, we often repost the wonderful words and works of others that inspire us. We make sure to give credit. (A good rule of practice is to tag the creator in the photo AND credit them in the caption.) After all, at the heart of it, we want to show our appreciation for the beauty these artists are bringing into this world and tell others how great they are at the same time. We may not have the reach or golden touch of Beyoncé, but just a simple tag can result in extra followers, a sale, or commission – and that could make all the difference.