Blog / 2019 / Responding to an Imitation of Your Art: Amy Constantineau and the Case of the Double Llama

June 4, 2019

A few years ago, Amy Constantineau reached out to me to let me know that my art had inspired hers, and the delight which this gave me is hard to overstate—it still makes me happy, even today! Recently, Amy’s art was imitated, and her reaction to the copycat artwork has given me plenty to ponder. What follows is an interview with Amy about her llama painting and the imitation it inspired.

Amy Constanineau’s art with an imitation of it
Amy Constanineau’s art (left) with an imitation of it (right)

GWENN: How did you discover the imitation of your art?

AMY: I was browsing through some llama hashtags on Instagram and happened across an image of a llama looking at a print of a llama painting. I found it instantly familiar and thought it looked very much like the first llama painting I had ever made. The Instagram post tagged the artist who created the print so I followed to her account and browsed through her images. I found the post, just about a year old now, of the llama painting paired with an inspirational quote.

GWENN: Can you talk about what made you decided to share about the imitation on your Instagram profile? And, specifically, what made you share about it without naming the other artist?

AMY: I finally decided to share this situation on my Instagram when my conversation with the other artist had basically come to a stalemate. She was certain this was not a copy and I couldn’t accept this level of duplication as just a coincidence. I wanted to kind of recheck how I was feeling and how I was seeing the two works so I reached out to Instagram for others opinions. Not all my followers are personal friends so I was hoping for some honest & unbiased feedback. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t being overly critical to the point of seeing similarities that weren’t really there. I chose not to name the other artist in my post because my intention at that time was for personal feed back and clarification of my thoughts.

GWENN: Tell us about how you reached out to the artist who imitated you. What did you want from her when you contacted her?

AMY: When I finally decided to contact the other artist I initially commented on her original post asking what inspired the llama. She commented back that a client had requested it for a family member who liked llamas and needed an uplifting message with it. Previous comments on the post had pointed out that the style was so different from her normal work, so I tried to dig a little deeper and asked her what prompted the change in style for this particular painting. Her response wasn’t terribly specific and definitely didn’t mention being inspired by any other paintings.

From there I decided to send her a private message, including my painting for context, and asking her again how she came to create her llama. I tried really hard not to accuse her directly of anything but to try and understand how two paintings, so similar, could have come about. I really wasn’t sure what I wanted other than an explanation.

GWENN: How was the situation resolved?

AMY: After a few days going back and forth we ended up basically where we started—her adamant this was her original work and me not able to believe in such a coincidence. I figured that was where this situation was going to end but I woke up one morning to a message from the artist asking if I could give her call. I did call her and we talked about the situation.

Without sharing some personal details she shared with me, she did admit that after some more digging on her part a screen shot of my painting had been included as reference material. I was very much appreciative of her willingness to reach out to me after all the back and forth we’d had in order to make things right. She apologized many times and said she pulled the post from Instagram and pulled the prints available on her website.

She had a handful of prints already on hand for events and was willing to shred them, but also wanted to know if I was ok with her still having them available if she included a label/sticker crediting my painting as the inspiration and noting my contact info on it. I was happy enough with that solution. I was mostly just happy to hear the truth.

GWENN: It’s hard to be caught doing something less-than-honest, and most people prefer to pretend that it’s not happening instead of making things right. Why do you think the other artist ended up admitting that she had imitated your work?

AMY: After the conversation with her I felt I had a pretty good understanding of the situation that led up to this and I could relate to a degree. I think the other artist is a good person who means well, her intention was never to be deceitful.

ADDENDUM

I was intrigued by Amy’s decision to leave the other artist unnamed. I love getting credit for the work I do, and I believe in naming others when I talk about their art—even if some people view the way I credit people as a kind of shaming. But I suspect Amy’s choice to leave the other artist’s name out is at least part of why the imitator ended up acknowledging the imitation. Amy’s handling of this situation is making me rethink my always-give-credit attitude.

For more about copying, being copied, and copyright, check out my book You Share Good.

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