Are you asking a legal question or a creative
question? Legally it is okay to use pictures taken by
someone else as long as you change them to a great
In my opinion, ethically and professionally, art
educators should discourage students from using
photographs of any kind unless they themselves take
the photograph and take a series of photographs. The
only exception I can think of is when you are talking
to students about authentic reasons for appropriation.
Many artists use other's images as a parody or
appropriate to say something about that art or
artistic issues in general--but this is still done as
an original statement. If you are talking about
"copying" it should only be used as an exercise to
gain experience. I suggest getting students to
identify with ducks. Go see a duck. Have students
take pictures of ducks, study ducks in the wild.
Artists need to have an authentic experience with
ducks to truly make it something that has come from
within. To make something original must come from
some kind of personal connection, in my opinion. It
might be worthwile to interview past Duck Stamp
winners. I knew someone who had won a duck stamp
contest. He was an exceptional watercolor artist.
Doing paintings of nature was his usual subject
matter. He spent much time in nature and studying
nature. He studied the habitats of ducks in nature.
He observed them in the wild. He took his own
photographs and would sketch them in the wild. He
became intimately acquainted with them. Perhaps if
you would talk to naturalist artists your students
might gain some insight into the impetus for their
work and their working methods.
Simply to copy a duck picture is not not making a work
of art of a duck. It is making a copy of a duck
picture. In my opinion the value of art is found in
its original correction. To copy a duck photo is
merely an exercise in low level skill building...it is
not an original creation and robs the child of the
true value of an education in art. It cheapens the
word art itself. It also fails to communicate what
art is all about. When I know something is a copy, I
know it does not have the same value of an original.
Making art is hard work and giving students the idea
that one can make art by copying is giving them the
wrong idea. Van Gogh used to copy works of others art
as an exercise. He did it to train his eye and as an
educational experience. This seems okay as long as
students know that this is not original nor creative.
They need to be told it is an exercise. I would never
display these as originals or submit them into any
kind of contest, etc. I believe the US Postal
Service Duck Stamp Contest expects original creations
Even artists who use the camera obscura are doing this
themselves and are creating the compositions
themselves. Photographs have arranged compositions
and light/dark patterns, negative/positive space, etc.
Many decisions have been made before hand.
It has been my experience that copies of original art
look like copies. They are usually lifeless and lack
some kind of authenticity. They are usually flat and
lack the vitality from an authentic experience.
To me the value of art is the act of pure creation
from within the original inspiration of the person who
created it. It comes from within, the birth of a true
--- Jean Womack <email@example.com> wrote:
> Someone gave me the idea that government photos were
> not copyrighted, so it
> was all right to base my art on them if I wanted to.
> Is that correct or was
> someone giving me bad advice? Is it OK for the kids
> to use photos of ducks
> if they come from the US government?
> Jean Womack
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