Artsy Shark Action Takes Down A Copycat
Handout for lecture given for the MBMAG

Cultivating A Culture of Copycats

Recently another form of copycats was brought to my attention...just when I thought there could be no more versions of the copycat, here it is - the painting party.

Wine and Paint Party Studio out of  Bloomington, Indiana copying Megan Duncanson painting without  permission, recognition or compensation.

Megan-Duncanson-paintingAt the time of this post,  Megan Duncanson discussed"The Paint Party Studios and the Illegal Copying of Artwork."  She documented her "own art being copied in a Wine and Paint Party Studio out of  Bloomington, Indiana without permission or recognition/compensation in any way."  It seems that copying paintings is a thriving business model as she has found "probably close to 50 of this type of companies."**

Copying an artist's painting (or any other art or craft) as a business model without permission or a license is illegal.

This copycat example raises a couple of issues: 
1)The illegal copying of an artist's artwork without their permission as in the Megan Duncanson and example.

2) The cultivation of a culture of copycats.

With all due respect to the entrepreneurial efforts of a small business, a "paint party" copying another artist without their permission is unethical and illegal. So is teaching a step-by-step workshop or tutorial of another artist's work or style or work or signature technique.   I think there is a BIG PROBLEM teaching people how to copy a painting or any other art/ craft project. 

We need to STOP COPYING, even licensed copying. If you want to paint, learn painting skills. If you want to work in any media, practice a skill.

We need to STOP TEACHING COPYING OF OUR OWN WORK OR STYLE.  While I understand that this is all done in the spirit of goodwill and encouragement, it does not encourage a student to forge their own path. Copycat teaching is a tacit message that it is O.K. to copy.   

"While most authors and  teachers intend these tutorials and workshops to be inspiring, all too often participants  blissfully continue to follow the instructions without further innovation." Consider that if you don't practice your creative muscle it will never be strong. Copying a painting, or copying a craft project does not exercise your creativity.

In the age of the internet, we need to encourage people to move beyond the tutorials and invent their OWN techniques and develop their OWN artistic voice.

Mindset-DweckIn her book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” Carol Dweck describes the "growth mindset" and the "fixed mindset" and how it affects creativity.

Dweck describes the problem with tutorials saying,  “The tutorial gives you a fixed idea of a goal…..a fixed idea of perfection….and that accomplishment becomes an objective.” 


Creative-Confidence-Unleashing-the-Creative-Potential-Within-Us-AllI am currently reading the book "Creative Confidence - Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us Allby David Kelley of IDEO and his brother Tom Kelley. The premise of the entire book is that everyone can be creative.

In the book, they say "only 25 percent" of people from an Adobe Systems poll of five thousand on three continents" "feel like they're living up to their creative potential in their own lives and careers."  

At the bottom of this post, I embedded a short presentation from David Kelley's TED Talk David Kelley: How to build your creative confidence

With copycat-style workshops, the arts and crafts community has cultivated and nurtured a culture of copycats. By teaching copying and step-by-step tutorials, we fail to communicate that copying is not O.K. and that participants are missing the one thing that art and craft can teach - creativity.

*The Megan Duncanson images of her painting and the painting party were included in this post with her permission. She said, "Thank you so much for helping bring attention to this problem, it's running rampant across the country and not enough artists and patrons to these places understand the damage it does to artists."

**The CEO of Uptown Art (a paint party business) wrote to me saying: "At Uptown Art, we license with professional artists or purchase the rights to paintings from our rising artists. We not only agree with you on copying artist\'s works, we support artists by paying them for their work! We have so many paint studios which copy our work while we have paid significant money for the artwork. The integrity of using licensed/paid for artwork is what sets our studios apart from the competition. Providing quality artwork while supporting the artists!"

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This post was review and updated on January 5, 2022.