What is and isn’t considered art theft is a hot, controversial topic. Art theft is a nasty thing, and is a much more touchy subject that many artists don’t seem to realize. Many non-artists seem to take art for granted, and don’t take time to appreciate the amount of effort placed in a piece of art. Depending on the detail, a single piece of artwork can take anywhere from two to hours to even several days combined of work. Not only does the artist pay for their work in time, but the prices of art materials and supplies are very expensive. Non-artists think of art supplies, and brands like “Crayola” and “Roseart” come to mind, but worthwhile materials from brands such as Prismacolor and Winsor and Newton can be quite pricey.
Many people don’t realize that they’re stealing art either. Art theft can be as complicated as breaking into the Metropolitan Museum of Art and stealing a masterpiece off the wall, or as simple and thoughtless as posting a picture on your instagram and not crediting the artist. Before I was an artist, I really didn’t understand the anger and rage behind not crediting artists, but now that art has become one of my favorite passions, I get angry even at the thought of someone posting my art without crediting me.
Another common issue regarding art theft is that people do not understand commissions and even refuse to pay for an art request. With art commissions, many times an artist does not care for the subject and does not gain anything out of creating the commissioned piece, and it is merely a waste of the artist’s time if they don’t get paid. In one case, I commissioned a piece for a “friend” and after the piece was completed, they refused to pay me when we agreed that I would be compensated for my time,and they merely said “Why can’t it be a little favor as a friend?”
It is often debatable what is and isn’t even considered art. Many people think art is paintings and drawings, and nothing else. However, art is considered as anything that is created, whether it is photography, tattoos, woodwork, pottery, or even an idea. Seeing an image online and recreating it and calling it your own is a very serious form of art theft.
Believe it or not, a very common form of art theft can be found in the tattoo industry. Majority of tattoos are ideas found online and copied onto their skin, and are not unique. Not only does the original creator of the art have no idea what their art is being used for, and not get anything out of the tattoo, but the tattoo artists are making money of off someone else’s art! A severe contributor to this are “scratchers”. A scratcher is the name for a cheap tattoo artist that uses cheap, bad ink. Scratchers are usually found in strip malls containing a Walmart Cato, Sally’s Beauty Supply, and other stores found in strip malls. Scratchers benefit off of other people’s art and don’t have a specific style-just the style of those that they steal from. They use bad ink that is often blotchy and harmful to the skin, and their tattoos do not heal well either. To avoid scratchers, come up with an original idea of your own and find an actual tattoo artist that uses higher quality ink and has their own defined style. If you wish to use someone else’s art as a tattoo, please please please ask them for permission! Most of the time they will say yes, and probably even be honored that their art is loved enough to be permanently placed on your skin!
In the end, art theft is thought to be a grey area when in reality it is very black and white. Not being an art thief is as simple as crediting an artist whenever you post their image. I hope that more people become educated on the subject of art theft,and that the rates of art theft decrease in the future.