October 18, 2012

Whoa - did I just get plagiarized?

Hey everyone,

I am editing this post because I have been in contact with the artist in question and she is a very sweet person who admitted to having come across my work online. A few days after seeing my owl she drew one of her own, and, as happens to all of us when we wade into the vast imagery of the internet, a little bit of what she saw stayed with her. She had no intention to copy my work or to make a profit from it - after some friends saw her drawings they urged her to sell them. Her drawings are really good! I'm glad she has friends who support her.

The internet is a really tricky thing. It has upped the anti on our already-imagery saturated world (from billboards, to TV, to ads in washroom stalls, on buses, in bus shelters...we see a lot every day), and made it really easy for artists to see each other's work. This is an amazing thing! We live in the best time ever to be an artist. There is endless inspiration at our fingertips and it is so easy to make contact with each other. We are able to sell our own work without relying on others. The downside is that it is easy for elements of other's work to make their way into our own a little too unadulterated. I am sure that I have been guilty of this in the past. I hope that I am coming into my own more as an artist and looking to others less for inspiration. 

Someone wrote to me and pointed out that it's not like I have a claim to this style, and I couldn't agree more. I actually really liked her take on the form - I think she has a lot of great ideas that have not occurred to me before. Who knows, an element or two from her brain might creep in to my work some day. She's making really cool stuff. That's what happens as an artist when you see work you like - elements of it stay with you.

I probably went overboard in putting this blog post up before I had contacted her, but I have to say, I really was not expecting her to be so humble or so kind. I guess I've heard too many bad Urban Outfitters-type stories (and had several friends have major plagiarism problems this year). If the work had only been on a website I hope that I would not have reacted so harshly (I really don't think I would have but it's hard to say). Seeing the print for sale for 47 Euros bothered me. I've put a huge amount of my life into creating a platform for accessible and affordable art. I try to keep the price of my own prints low. It was such a shock to see something that bore such a resemblance to my own work being sold for so much. Add to that my insomnia from last night and some other stuff that's been going on lately and I can attest to the fact that I definitely was not in the best mood today when I came across this. 

I'm leaving my little guy up at the bottom but have taken her name and all her work down. You know, at the bottom of my heart through all of this was a voice saying, "Who cares, the world is big enough for two patterned owls, isn't it?" But at the same time my heart was racing all day and I definitely felt upset, as much as I didn't want to. It's a tricky line to walk: wanting to be constantly inspired by others, wanting to adapt and grow your own style, wanting to not be too attached to the things you make because at heart you do not agree with the concept of originality, but then also being offended when you see your stuff riffed on a little too hard. I appreciate all the comments and the feedback. I think I can say with certainty that this has been a learning experience for both of us. 

xo - K

Owl by Kirsten McCrea


Alicia said...

ahhh! so frustrating! i understand your feelings. and i have to say, what makes being plagiarized the worst is trying to keep down those angry feelings and telling yourself not to be 'petty' but you gotta right to be mad~!!!

Bettina said...


you're right, it's a blatant copy. Not a 'reference,' nor an 'hommage,' just a good old rip-off.

It's a pity that Caroline Sillesen, the illustrator in question, has so little talent and creativity that she needs to plagiarize other artist's work.

Maybe she thought noone would notice? I suggest you ask her to remove the illustration off her website.

Good luck!

Paul Alex Thornton said...

In my opinion this is a clear cut case of plagiarism.
As an artist myself I have come across a lot of people who have taken ideas from me, a little bit here and a little bit there, and I have also seen people who have clearly said "this work is inspired by Paul Alexander Thornton" and that's fine, and even flattering.

But this is particularly extreme, without so much as mentioning your name and then also going ahead and selling it. It's hard to know what to do other than inform the artist that they have been caught red handed and maybe they will panic and take it down. Good luck.

Best Regards,

Paul Alex Thornton

Brendan Bruce said...

Yours is so much better, Kirsten! BETTER!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, you have been ripped off in a way that artist as changed it just enough to get away with it.

Chloe said...

yo , you should submit it here : http://youthoughtwewouldntnotice.com and send her a cease and desist.

electric ant said...

That truly sucks! I have one of your owl drawings and love it! (Purchased, legally, from Puces Pop) It's always my fear about putting work on the Internet. It's gross that people have to problem with just taking other people's stuff and copying it.

Morgan said...

Ok, here are my thoughts.

The first things that strike me are the overall shape, the angle of the owl's body, and the monocolour. All these things are very, very similar, and are immediately apparent.

Then, I notice the eyes: the white space around the pupils is the same width in both. There's the scalloped edge around the eyes, as well as the tiny white pearl like dots that rim the eyes (yours have a blue dot inside).

Then I look at the area above the eyes. There's a chevron like pattern of angled lines, split by a sort of undulating midline...in both images.

Caroline Sillesen has taken some liberties with your drawing. She's decided to go for more of a feathered texture, she's lengthened and pushed in the face, and she's emphasized the turning position with the decorative band that curves down from the left and an accentuated wing. And she's darkened the colour. That's all.

It seems to me that this is a foolishly done copy. Caroline could have chosen multiple colours instead of one colour, another shape, another angle, another style. She could have realized that these aspects jump off the page and scream plagiarism. She didn't.

She could have taken some inspiration from your work and pushed herself to invent something of her own. But did she, really? No.

Kirsten McCrea said...

Thank you everyone! I really appreciate your thoughts. Sometimes it's hard to know in moments like this if what you see is just your opinion, so it is really helpful to know that other people see it too. I wrote to her, I hope that she fesses up and stops selling the print and takes the drawing off her site. Yeesh.

Mary Pinkoski said...

Honor your inspirations as an artist and the diversify into your own art, end plagiarism!

I stand in support of Kirsten McCrea and her work.


Usually it makes one feel better to say "imitation is the best form of flattery" but when the imitation is making money off your hard work, then there's a problem. If they live within a reasonable distance, I would confront them personally, but if not, I think a letter from a lawyer is a good idea.
I know of someone who plagiarizes other people's work all the time and steals ideas from others without giving credit. The only reasons I haven't called him out are because 1) he hasn't done it to me yet 2) I don't want him getting more attention and I figure he'll disappear soon enough since he posses no actual creative talent.

Patt L├ęger said...

Funny how the only person who "supports the copy and why it should stay"

...Unfortunately, you have been ripped off in a way that artist as changed it just enough to get away with it....

is the only "anonymous" poster.

Getting bitten for hard work is definitely a drag. The artist path has been down this road so many times.

I too would ask them to remove the image nicely and if they don't, then find a more creative way to show your displeasure (social media is a hard b*****) and the more you talk and show the similarities....

...the less people will talk about the percentage that makes it different.

Sorry to hear you are going through this.

Anonymous said...

Owl's well that ends well. And I do hope this ends well. Good luck!

Angela Boyce said...

It doesn't matter how old or experienced the artist is - plagiarism is plagiarism. THIS artist is over 20... Come on. Draw from other sources to educate yourself but DO NOT pass it off as your own! Unacceptable.

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