So I've plenty of time to think on yesterday's revelations now and I guess here's what I want to say. It's a long 'un and sadly image free, normal posting to resume shortly.
When i first opened my emails and read about Samantha Beeston presenting Lauren Nassef's and my own work as her own I felt a bit sick. It was a real sudden punch in the gut and sat in the middle of a starbucks on Marylebone high street it was one i wasn't expecting. One of the things I worry about as an illustrator who has a website, a blog and a flickr is that my work is accessable to anyone and that is both a blessing and a curse. Whilst it allows me, and thousands of other artists, to present work and connect with people all over the world it also throws my work into the public domain where anyone can find it, post it, print it, or copy it. The internet is a largely anonymous place, sites like ffffound although often enjoyable and useful, regurgitate images, often without crediting their creator which renders them orphans to many viewers. They appear totally without origin. As a result it is far too easy for people to take their 'inspiration' that bit too far.
In this case the culprit was clearly aware of who created the images concerned (the handwriting that was lifted from me was posted only on my blog which is a far from anonymous source and the images from Lauren's 'A drawing a day' project are only available on her personal site) which sadly makes it a far less innocent crime. It is one thing to copy someone's work and keep it hidden in a sketchbook, (when I was at school I loved drawing paintings from The Art Book, it seemed like good practice) but it is quite another to present it as your own publically and then to enter it into a competition. Alas short of her tutors and the competition's judges following every illustration website and blog going how on earth were they ever going to know? I guess that is what made this all so easy. I'm sure that there are hundreds of people out there presenting other people's work as their own. In fact I know a fair few people who have fallen victim to it recently. I can consider myself lucky that someone spotted this when it could quite easily have gone unnoticed. In that respect the internet and the community of people who follow illustration blogs like my own are invaluable.
This whole thing has raised many questions (not least over at BBIC) about copyright and ownership. As someone just starting out professionally I am hardly equipped to answer them (but Julia Rothman is!) however it is safe to say that if you are taking heavily from someone else's work then you are likely in breach of copyright. It is never ok to rip off other artists, especially if you intend to make that work public.
My advice, though no one has asked for it and I am not really licensed to give it, would be to look at things other than illustration if you are an illustrator, look at fine art or film or read some good books that way you can feel safe in the knowledge that your inspiration has come from an emotional reaction rather than a desire to ape something you've already seen. Listen to conversations on buses, draw in unlikely places and avoid the internet when trying to start work!
I would also emplore people to put notices on your blogs claiming possession of your work...when posting to flickr make sure it is clear that this is your work and not for other people to copy. It seems anal but it could well help. I know that from now on i'll be making sure I tag everything I ever did as my own!
OK. I'm done. Apologies to those who come to this blog for cheery posts about drawing bears. I assure you this is a one off musing and hopefully we'll have no more of this nonsense! Thanks again to everyone who has contacted me about this and offered kind words of support. Knowing that people are keeping an eye out for each other is the only reason I am happy to keep on posting my work online.