Starting Out
Hints & Tips
Art Forum

Don’t be afraid of copyrights

This is a tricky subject and I’ve found that most beginners fall into one of two categories … those who have complete disregard for copyrights and those who are afraid to copy something in case the copyright police descend on them. Both of these extremes are wrong. Copyrights should be respected but not feared.

As beginners we need to copy photographs or paintings, and we have to find these in books or, more commonly these days, on the internet. Virtually all of these images will have been created by someone else and that person ‘owns’ the picture. It would be wrong of us to copy it and pass it off as our own work. Copyright laws are there to stop us doing that.

However, when we are learning to paint we are not planning to sell the artwork. We are using it for our own personal pleasure to help us pursue our hobby and there will be no commercial gain. Copying like this is not being done for profit and will not take anything away from the original piece or deprive the original artist of any sales revenue.

A great way of finding images that are not bound by the laws of copyright is to use websites that specialise in ‘copyright free’ images. There are lots of these that can be easily found by searching for “copyright free images” and one that I have used in the past is Pixabay.com. In a similar vein, Paint My Photo (pmp-art.com) is a site where photographers post their pictures solely for artists to paint them.

Another option is to ask the original owner of the image for their permission to copy it. Explain why you want to copy their picture and what you intend to do with your resulting picture. I have done this a few times in the past and the photographers in question have always been very happy to give me permission and all have appreciated that I took the time to ask.

If you intend to exhibit your work, sell your work, or display it publicly online as I do, then much greater care needs to be taken, but in the main don’t let the fear of copyrights stop you from painting whatever you want to paint … just respect the rules.