Friday, February 27, 2015

Fraud? Really?

Recently there have been suspicions and claims of fraud from some people over social media. I'm here to set the record straight and to try to understand their claims.

Two photos were presented as portrait paintings of Sonja. One was painted by CAS director Ryan Brown, and the other was painted by me, Katie Liddiard.
Sonja, 20"x 24" Oil on linen
by Ryan Brown

Sonja, 18"x 24" Oil on panel
by Katie Liddiard
The claim is that I copied Ryan's work and that I'm trying to pass it off as my own. This couldn't be farther from the truth. It's true, the positions are similar, but I would argue that the handling of each portrait is very different.

So a little back story on how this all came to be-
Sonja is a tried and true model for the CAS. She's posed for us countless times and is an absolute beautiful woman. So when Ryan posed the idea of painting a portrait with Brock Alius and I, it was a no brainer that we would ask Sonja to sit for us. We opened the session up to other students as well. In total there were about 6 of us gathered around the model, sharing the expenses to have her pose for us 6 hours a day/ 5 days a week for a month. As per protocol at the CAS for picking spots in the model room, the head of the school (Ryan) picks first, then top student,  then the next best student, and so on and so forth. Ryan picked his spot based on what he wanted to capture in the beauty of the pose, and chose to sit down to paint the portrait. Sonja's profile is extremely beautiful and I chose a spot where I could try to capture it. That spot happened to be behind and slightly to the side of Ryan. Everyone else in the room picked their spots around the model based on what they wanted to capture in their work.

Sonja is very beautiful, but her features can be elusive. This painting, quite honestly, was difficult for me, though I'm not disappointed with the outcome. Ryan's is extremely beautiful and I think captured her very well. I'd buy his piece in a heartbeat if I could afford it. If anyone wants to see the progression shots he did, you can see them here: . He has far more experience than I do at painting portraits, especially at the time that we painted this particular pose. 

So my question is where is the "fraud"? The person on social media said she would never promote a work that was similar to a colleague's or teacher's work. But why? Because the teacher or colleague deserves all the recognition? Because the teacher or colleague has more of a name for themselves so they get first and only claim to promote their work of a particular pose when others worked on it as well? Perhaps because the teacher or colleague is a man? Though I would hope that's not the reason. Maybe because the teacher or colleague shot progression photos, so that gives him first and only claim to the pose? Because the teacher or colleague was first to send theirs to a gallery? I don't think so. 

Ryan has made more of a name for himself because he's been a professional painter for a while now. That gave him the confidence and ability to shoot the progression photos and come up with a really nice piece. I could have shot progression photos of my piece, but it would not have been so inspiring because there was a lot of fussing over it. Ryan did get his framed and sent out to a gallery before I did because of all of my fussing, but when I did finally send mine out I sent it to a different gallery. Never once did Ryan say, "Hey, you can't show that! It looks like mine!" And why would he? He's not threatened by me, nor I him. We're completely supportive of each other and the pieces were done independently, though from the same pose. 

This idea of artists working for the same pose is not, by any means, new. Here's an example of two, extremely talented professional artists from the 19th century working alongside each other. The paintings are similar, but they are by no means the same. 
Unexpected Intrusion or Boy Feeding Parrot, 1876
by William Merritt Chase

The Turkish Page, 1876
by Frank Duveneck
So which one, using the logic introduced by the person on social media, would have gotten the opportunity to promote their piece? The answer is that both of them showed their pieces. Because they're both works of art.

Look through any academy's photo album.
Students and instructors of the CAS working from the same model.
You'll see students and teachers consistently working side by side. This is how the students learn from each other and from their instructor. Here's some pieces from some of our students at the CAS showing this exact principle. 
Brian Johnson
Emilae Belo
Randy Peay
All are figure studies of Alexanna in the same pose, so all probably have similar titles. So if one person chooses to frame and send their piece to a gallery, do the others not get that opportunity? Seems silly. 

I hope this sheds some light on the issue for those confused as to how can I feel morally and legally okay about showing, and hopefully selling, my portrait of Sonja when Ryan has a piece similar to it. There is no foul play involved. I would never knowingly pass something off as my own if it weren't. Ryan and I have known each other for a long time and care for and support each other a great deal. He would never want me to not promote my work because one of his paintings is similar. "Similar" is not "same".