Blog / 2015 / 6 Steps to Freeing Yourself and Your Art

January 29, 2015

I don’t copyright my art, and recently I released You Share Good, a book that talks about why I made that decision and why other artists might want to as well. What follows comes from the text. It sums up nicely how you go about remaking your art career with sharing and freedom in mind.

  1. Recognize that you imitate other artists.
  2. You need the context of all the art that came before you and of all of contemporary art in order to make your work and to have it be enjoyed by others. Acknowledge this fully and rid your brain of the copyright paradigm’s influence.

  3. React positively to others copying your art.
  4. If no one is imitating your work yet, make it happen! Sample from a friend’s art and have them do the same with yours. Figure out what you like about being imitated and dissect what you don’t like while keeping in mind the way the copyright paradigm can influence your reactions.

  5. Cite your sources.
  6. Start by talking privately about the artists who influence you if that’s more comfortable, but don’t fail to do it. This is an essential step in breaking down the myth of the genius artist whose creativity comes out of a vacuum.

  7. Use Creative Commons licenses.
  8. Even if you’re not ready yet to give up most of the rights which copyright affords you, use the most restrictive of CC licenses. Doing so not only supports this more transparent form of licensing, but also shows that you’re fully aware of what all copyright entails and that you’re interested in educating others.

  9. Free your work completely.
  10. When you get to this place, don’t forget to name your art’s freedom and telegraph it widely.

  11. Enjoy the special status that all this behavior confers on you.
  12. People will think you’re being something of a rebel and also that you are surprisingly selfless. And while questioning established paradigms is the definition what it means to rebel, it’s important to remember that, if you free your art, you’re not actually being selfless. It only appears so to a world that’s caught up in the idea that culture can be divided up into pieces and owned.

Maybe the seventh and final step in freeing yourself and your art is living in a world where the copyright paradigm has been toppled. In a lot of ways, that world will probably be similar to this one. It will likely still believe that competition is the way to get ahead, though the focus will have shifted from competing to be the most original (whatever that actually means) to being the most recognized, which is what’s really underneath all the competition today anyway.

That said, the world without copyright will still be a better place, if only because the artist’s process will have been demystified some. No longer will what we do seem quite so magical, and that means we might have half a chance at having our hard work be respected and, in that way, artists might finally manage to get paid properly.

The illustrations for the book, like the one featured in this video, were a pleasure to make, because I was inventing a new way of creating for myself. They’re done on unmounted canvas and they’re painted quickly.

a cat and a parrot
Gwenn Seemel
Making Language #2
2014
acrylic on unmounted canvas with digital addition
12 x 12 inches

This painting already has a forever home—see a list of works currently for sale—but there prints and other pretties with Making Language #2 on them in my Redbubble shop.

UPDATE

May 30, 2018

These 6 steps are the backbone of this 30 minute talk about freeing your art and yourself from copyright that I did in Quebec!

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