I Paid For That Painting and I Can Do Anything I Want With It!

I recently met a new business owner that was using an original piece of art to help promote her business. I asked her if she had the artists permission to do that and got the very strong response, “I paid for that and I can do anything I want with it…It’s mine!” I very gently educated her about intellectual property and how original images are automatically copyrighted and the artist always has the right to be contacted for permission whenever the image is being used to garner money. She bought the painting, not the rights to use it to earn money.

Am I the only one out there running into people like this?  This outlook on art seems to be prevalent in the general African American community. I recognize the small percentage of astute African Americans that are in tune with the arts through parental education or home schooling. Since art appreciation is out of the average public schools, there is a serious lack of basic education about the arts from a business perspective to a huge population. It’s still considered a hobby, something to give away or get real cheap, everyone has someone in the family that can draw, and art is not considered a serious career.

Thanks to Prince (formerly known as The Artist) , artists now have to define themselves as visual artists instead of entertainment arts or they can get mixed up. I found that out at an art auction and entertainment fundraiser where I had my work win the highest bid of the evening. At the end of the evening a call for all artists to go on stage for a photo shoot came. I went up and the photographer realized that I was not an entertainer and wanted me to leave the stage saying he only wanted entertainment artists! I was so embarrassed and mortified that I froze where I stood and they had to take the photo with me there. I never saw the final photo. NO RESPECT!

There is currently very little awareness in our community of fine visual art or its value unless you are talking about the Entertainment arts.

I still get folks that want to “let me” paint their portrait or their idea instead of hiring me to paint it. So there is still room to respect artists and the work they create. It’s no wonder the average person thinks they can take an artist’s creation and use it any way they see fit. How many times has an artist spotted their work on T-Shirts that they did not make or on greeting cards or business cards and flyers they didn’t authorize? It only takes a minute to ask the artist for permission and it’s all good.

All visual art creations are automatically copyrighted in the name of the artist and if taken and used without permission is an infringement of that copyright. So have some respect for artists that are creating something that you are not able to create and don’t steal!


Marcella is a visual artist that made a leap of faith in 1995 and took an early retirement from a successful elementary teaching career of 27 years. She and her husband moved from California to the Atlanta area to continue as a full time artist. She has a formal education in the arts, and has been a creative visual artist for over 40 years.

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