Ink (Pentel brush pens) in Aquabee Deluxe 6×9 sketchbook
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My painting group buddies Lea and Susie are taking a monthly portraiture class from local artist Myrna Wacknov. One of the homework assignments they’ve worked on during our painting group sessions is to take two sheets of watercolor paper and divide each into 8 sections using strips of tape. Then on one they draw the same person 8 times using different colors, techniques, lighting, etc. on each image. On the other they do eight different people but unify them in some way. Judith isn’t taking the class but jumped in anyway and is painting a sheet of 8 angelic portraits of George Harrison from an old Rolling Stone cover.
Then I found the book “In Character: Actors Acting” at the library, with 250 pages of photos of character actors’ faces showing every kind of expression and feeling. I couldn’t resist joining in. I bought a used copy of the book and plan to go through it, flipping it open to a page and making drawings or paintings in my sketchbook. This is the first one. There were two photos of this guy on the same page and I got distracted and accidentally drew his left eye from one photo and the right eye from the other photo. He was looking in different directions in the two photos–he’s not really wall-eyed, poor guy.
I did some research about whether I need copyright permission to use these photos in drawings. The answer is yes and no… BUT since I doubt anything I draw will look “substantially similar” to the original photo (or the person I’m drawing!), I’m probably OK.
Here’s what I learned on a page about copyright rules for illustrators:
Q: What are the rules when it comes to illustrating celebrities?
First of all, if you’re not working from your own photographs or memory, you need to obtain permission from the photographer who created the photo you will be using as reference material. (You do not need to get permission from photographers if you create portraits or caricatures based on dozens of photographs from different sources and you are careful to not to include elements that would make it obvious you copied from a particular photograph.)
Q: Can I use someone else’s photograph as reference material for a painting I’m creating?
If you’re copying a photograph, you must get the photographer’s permission…Even though it’s in a different medium, you’re violating the photographer’s copyright if you copy a photograph in your painting.
To constitute a copyright infringement, a “copy” must be “substantially similar” to the original work. If your finished illustration looks different from any of the originals you used as a reference material, you shouldn’t need to obtain permission.