After reading the news this week that Luc Tuymans was found guilty of plagiarism I started to consider my own practice, and that of other major artist concerning the use of previous images, made by photographers and painters, to create new work.  As, to misquote Picasso:

‘Good artists copy, great artists steal’

How can the creation of new work be plagiarism? Where, if this is the case, can you draw the line? Here are a just few of examples where great artists have used images of others work to create new work, some changed radically from the original, some very similar:

Manet’s Olympia from Titian’s Venus of Urbino

J. Seward Johnson’s Le dejeuner sur l’herbe from Manet’s painting of the same name

Andy Warhol’s whole scale use of newspaper photographs, especially the ‘death’ series.

Sickert’s later work

Etc. etc, etc.

I am always using found images to create new work. Am I to be worried that if these works are shown or sold that I too might be taken to court for plagiarism?  Or is it a case that this will only happen if the financial rewards would be big enough for the lawyers etc. to involve themselves in such nonsense.

If we go back to Duchamp’s original urinal concept of (to badly paraphrase), ‘If (as an artist) I say that any object is art, then it is art’ and place this into the current court case scenario, then surely any designer and maker of any found object could, if they wanted, say that the artist has plagiarised their design and work, whether it is an exact copy or the original item.

Where does this leave us?  I am not sure. But I know for me it is all about context and creativity, maybe for others it is not, it is just about money.


What a week of bickering!  You would think there was an election looming or something of the sort.  The question is; will our dear prime minister enter the ‘big house’ reality TV show or not? Mind you, I can fully understand his position, let’s face it, would you like to spend hours with the charismatic Mr Clegg, the mastication’s of Mr Miliband, or suspect fantasies of Mr Farage without some female company that might just bring a more panoramic view of the world, not discounting, in my view, the sheer inner beauty of a woman (possibly discounting Mrs Thatcher of course).   Whatever the real reasons for Mr Cameron wanting Ms Bennett to be included in yet another ‘reality show’, will of course never be truly revealed, that is, unless we have some ‘off set’ discourse where the real dirt can be heard.  If only I watched reality TV!!

For me, the last week consisted of beginning my new project ‘BLURRED’, adding my name to a couple of art registers and applying for ‘FREE’ open gallery submissions across the globe:  San Francisco, Boston and London. The increasing trend of paying (under the guise of ‘administration fees’) to have your work added to a huge list of other artists, that might at some stage towards the end of the 21st century be viewed and politely or not so politely rejected is somewhat disconcerting. However, since my return into the ‘world of art’, this seems to be almost the norm.

I have also posted an entry for the ‘Open West’ exhibition, not because the £34 entry fee for the inclusion of four pieces of work seemed a bit of a bargain, but that I could actually put my work forward for selection.  This came as somewhat of a pleasant surprise, as most open competitions seem to have size restrictions that enables then to exclude my work before it has even been submitted.  Big must be bad is all I can surmise!!!  So here’s fingers crossed for the Open West and those free submissions around the globe.

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My thoughts in this week’s blog go to all those who were killed in Paris last week in the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices.  I pause for a moment.

I would describe myself as a ‘pacifist anarchist’; I am against all acts of violence, war, terror and intimidation, yet I am fervently against any person, state or religion telling me what I can and can’t paint, write or do. I believe that virtually all humans hold an inherent code giving them the choice to do the right thing. This is too often ignored through indoctrination, fear, greed, ignorance and laziness – think how much easier it is to actually or metaphorically ‘pull the trigger’ to solve a problem than discuss it.

It is now  two and a half years since I returned to work as an artist and in this time I have developed an uneasy feeling that in this so called ‘liberal and enlightened’ society in which we live censorship is more prevalent than we think or care to discuss openly. Yes, we may not be locked up, imprisoned, attacked or our liberty taken away if we create a piece of work that might, for whatever reason, ‘offend’, but the insidious  labelling, rejecting  or locking away of works, seems to me, out there and growing.

Maybe I am wrong, maybe it is the self-doubt about my work that feeds this, but I do, and have felt, that if I use certain types of images and words that they will be censored ( I personally believe through ignorance or intolerance) and I find myself subconsciously self-censoring it.  A true concern in the making of my work.


As Mr Cummins and Mr Piper were awarded MBE’s in the New Year’s honours for their ceramic field of poppies around the Tower of London, I pondered as to whether it is an honour or not an honour to receive an honour and what the nature of reward is.  In a conversation today, I found myself once again discussing the nature of reward for one’s artistic output. What truly drives me to create art, compose music, and write poetry and prose? For me it can certainly not be the financial reward (however a little would certainly be taken with due humility), as if this was the case I would have never created anything after leaving college.  Unfortunately, in the capitalist society in which we live, most people seem to unwittingly relate reward to financial gain.  The story I always retell, like the famously stuck record, is my father’s total misunderstanding of why I personally wanted to create.  I am quite a talented water-colourist and he could never understand why I didn’t spend every week churning out nice landscapes to sell and earn an honest buck. I always replied that I couldn’t see any difference between doing that and stacking shelves in Tesco’s.  I would fully admit that this is bit harsh on my father and all those artists who enjoy paining landscapes for a living, but for me that would turn my artist output into a ‘regular job’ not an’ outsider occupation’. (Ironically, can I also add that some of my favourite works are the 19th cent watercolours by Turner and Cotman.)

So for me the reward is the creative process, the journey to an uncertain conclusion that may or may not end in something that is worth looking at, reading or listening to.  I once wrote a musical play for some children who found our ‘normal world’ a little difficult to operate in.  The head teacher suggested that I should consider trying to get it published.  I replied that I didn’t need to; the work was complete by the ecstatic smiles on the children’s faces when the hall filled with applause. No financial reward could ever replace that.

Finally, here is a link to a new single I have composed, played, recorded, produced and just released though an on-line distribution service. Am I going to become a famous recording artist? Very unlikely, but making the music, as always, was great so COME REJOICE!