View Full Version : copyright free material

jade fox
05-25-2004, 01:55 PM
I ask this question because of how many of my photos have been used as referances for other artists work :D not only here but on other sites as well (not that mine are something great at all, just an observation). Is there a general lack of un-copyrighted material availible as reference pieces for artists to use. Recent book store browsing has only dug up one volumn dedicated to photos for recreation and sell (no strings attached). How many of you out there look for good quality reference pics for inspiration or to recreate but never find what you can legally and freely use. Just curious! :cool:

05-25-2004, 02:08 PM
I am working from my own photograhs as much as possible. I have copied a few (class assignment) but knowing that it is strictly for my own learning, and will not even give them away. I've copied and changed a bit on two--same restrictions. From here on out, i doubt I'll even do that very much.

I hold copyrights as pretty sacred: I only hope to someday produce work that someone would WANT to copy :D I don't have an issue with using pieces of copyrighted material--I think the criteria is that it can't be recognizable at all as coming from the original reference.


05-25-2004, 02:25 PM
I need another entry in the poll: I will *kinda* use a ref photo from the library or elsewhere, but usually only for parts and pieces. Say it is a sunset, and I like the colours- but I don't like the whole landscape thng going on- I may retain the pic for the colour palette, but if I use it, that palette goes into my *own* landscape. I make substantial changes to anyone else's photos- and have been taking my own, mostly, for the past half year or so. Even those are just reference- I change 'em to suit my mood.

05-25-2004, 02:47 PM
I probably use WC's ref image library for 99% of my work

Funnily enough, a year or so ago, there used to be an artist here who took the most wonderful photos for her still lifes, she shared a couple with me, one I painted..... and said to her at the time, you should compile a book from all your photos am sure they would sell .... photographs themselves are classed as an art form, perhaps they dont like the idea of seeing tons of reproductions of their works ..... but I like ya thinking :)

For me personally I would love to be able to get my hands on more free un copyrighted images to use

05-25-2004, 07:42 PM
I've worked a lot from calendar pictures, but I always add a little something of my own. I hate to copy anything religiously. What's the point? The picture is there already.

Sometimes I take a number of similar photos and make up a lanndscape from those, or if out painting I'll see a tree I like and place in in the painting instead of the one that's there already!

I feel that every artst should place his/her own mark on a scene taken from a photo. As my tutor used to say, "Take control of it."

Kitty Wallis
05-25-2004, 08:39 PM
I voted never, but I have used other photographer's work a few times when doing a demo. I use slides in my studio so come up short in the demo situation.

I agree w SweetBabyJ there oughta be another category.

K Taylor-Green
05-25-2004, 09:24 PM
I use photo refs, some my own, some I buy from wildlife photographers for the express purpose of painting. I buy a lot of photos from Monty Sloan of Wolf Park. They are better than the ones I can take through the chainlink
fence! And the wolves there are fantastic.

Since joining here, I have earmarked several from the ref library to use in the future. My chances of getting to go to Africa or India in the near future, to photograph some of the animals I want to paint, are slim and next to none!!

05-25-2004, 10:23 PM
Up until my last two paintings, one in watercolor, one in pastels, I NEVER used anything but my own photos, set ups, or eyeball view. After using those two copyrighted photos I was sorry, sorry, sorry.:crying: The watercolor looks okay, actually it looks darn good, but way too much like the orginal to allow me to ever do anything with it. sigh. I don't even want to finish it. The photo I made the pastel from was one more step in that direction that I should not have taken. My pastel instructor gave me a lecture which I detailed in another post and won't go into again. The bottom line: she was absolutely right.

I will use the reference library in the future and I am grateful for it, but like another poster I will change things around a bit, and overall, I don't trust photos to give me accurate information with regard to color, value, and perspective to mention a few things. Also many times, what works for the composition of a photo is terrible for a painting.

All in all, using copyrighted material is self defeating in every way. I don't like the way it makes me feel, and I'm over it in a big way.

In a way, I also think using someone else's photo reference, even a copyright free one, in a literal way may also take away part of the creative experience (and also a learning one), that of composing your own picture/painting. You aren't the artist from start to finish so to speak. Some times that doesn't matter, but it's something to consider.

Thanks for reading my post. If I sound like I'm on a soap box it's because I'm a reformed thinker,... you know how they are :D insufferable until they calm down a little.

05-25-2004, 11:39 PM
lol gofish!
Yep, I use ref pics a lot, but never copyrighted. I'm fairly homebound and I'm not much of a still life person and when I do get out I take landscape pics, but not much of a landscape artist. I don't see many people anymore, so limited there and not many critters around to get pics of. The thing with photos is that you have to change them to make them work. That white reflection isn't white, just washed out and the black shadow probably has tons of color in it. Everything in a photo is flat plane and you have to do a lot of work to dimensionalize things. I do different crops most of the time and I play with color or texture to make it my own. There's no sense in painting it the exact same way and it would look bad if you did. I always ask the person who took the ref pic if it's unpublished and tell them I'd like to paint it. If I'm lucky enough to get a photo of my own that I want to paint, then I use it. I won't use anything from a magazine, newspaper or a photographer's work other than the ref library here. Even if I stay fairly close to the photograph's content I consider it a challenge to take it and do it my own way, to exaggerate or minimize, to pick my own color scheme, etc. It would be lovely if I could just run out and get the photos I need but I can't and there's a lot of talented photographers that have put pics up in the ref library. I'm really grateful for the inspiration I get there. :)

05-26-2004, 06:31 AM
copyright, floppyright.

If you haven't heard of creative commons yet, let me point you in the direction:


(quoting from the web site) "Creative Commons is devoted to expanding the range of creative work available for others to build upon and share."

All works under one of the creative commons licenses are still copyrighted (it wouldn't work if they weren't), but the license grants permission to use the works in various ways. It's like wetcanvas, lots of love being shared around.

There's meant to be a stack load of photos (and other types of content) available for use. The biggest problem is they aren't categorised very well, so it's a bit of luck if you find what you're looking for.

It might be worth spending a few minutes learning what it's all about if you make works available on the internet, want to contribute or look for photo references or other creative content.

05-26-2004, 11:12 AM
I voted never but in fact I did one once for a project...but I never framed it. I have looked just to clarify something I cam working on, but don't work from the photos.
I have no problem with other people using them, but for myself I prefer using my own photos if I am working from a reference as opposed to life. Not that my photos are that great...they aren't. But it just feels more comfortable to me.


05-27-2004, 12:10 AM
I voted Never, because I haven't used WC's ref library, and I don't generally look beyond my own backyard, or life experiences, for my inspiration. But that doesn't mean I don't use photo's for reference - I take all my own photo's and will use several of these to constuct a painting (except for some portraits).

I don't think I could really relate to an image that was unfamiliar to me, (buildings I'd never seen in RL, landscapes I'd never walked, animals I'd never seen myself) and as a result I think the final painting would lose something ... passion/integrity and all that...... :)

But that's not to say things may change in the future when I may be unable to collect my own references...... :(


05-27-2004, 10:22 AM
I voted Never, because I haven't used WC's ref library, and I don't generally look beyond my own backyard, or life experiences, for my inspiration. But that doesn't mean I don't use photo's for reference - I take all my own photo's and will use several of these to constuct a painting (except for some portraits).

I don't think I could really relate to an image that was unfamiliar to me, (buildings I'd never seen in RL, landscapes I'd never walked, animals I'd never seen myself) and as a result I think the final painting would lose something ... passion/integrity and all that...... :)

But that's not to say things may change in the future when I may be unable to collect my own references...... :(


Ahhh, but you have the entire country around you for inspiration! :D But you're right...I believe one would have to have some relationship with a subject to do it justice. Still, a nice photo of a rose can be fun on a winter's afternoon; I can certainly remember the velvety petals and the lovely perfume well enough to give that a shot, and a rose is a rose is a......

Kitty Wallis
05-27-2004, 03:54 PM
I've been toying with the idea of using the b&w photos from the famous exhibit 'Family Of Man' as a series. My idea is to do them in color, abstracting the color, Using colors I feel express the emotion in the picture, chosen as values, using the grey scale of the picture.

But I've been stopped because of the copyright issue.

I saw this exhibit as an art student in NYC in the 50's when it first opened. It made an indelible impression, a formative experience. Now I think I could do something worthwhile with my idea, but I'm unsure about the ethical question.

05-27-2004, 07:36 PM
I know exactly how you feel. I had ideas along the same line ie; using old b&w photos to experiment with and expand to a color paintings. I've revised my own idea to be restricted to photographs contained in my old family albums from the 20's, 30's, & 40's. There are some pretty good ones in these histories.

The Family of Man would be a great one, it had the same impact on me back then, and I still have a book with the photographs from the exhibition.

My thoughts:
Very old materials, photos, paintings, etc. do not have the same stringent copyright protection. Here's a reference:http://www.unc.edu/~unclng/public-d.htm. The book of photographs was published in 1955 with some of the photographs obviously taken much earlier than that, but in my copy individual photographs have no date, although they name the photographer, the publication and/or country of origin.

Seems as though many, if not all, of the photographs in The Family of Man would now be in the public domain.

For me, using a copyrighted photo is a constant worry. Can I change it sufficiently from the original so it is no longer recognizable? How does one know? Is my conscience going to bug me indefinitely? Seems like it does, until I put the idea away. Then I feel relieved but disappointed.

Anyway, it's a wonderfully creative idea, I hope you can find a way to do it.

Kitty Wallis
05-27-2004, 08:16 PM
Thanks Georganne,

I appreciate your thoughtful reply. I'll check into it further. Thanks for the link.

Mikki Petersen
05-27-2004, 10:08 PM
I voted "Yes but I change them" but I was not referring to copywrited work. I use images from our Ref Library some times because there is such a wealth of stuff I would otherwise not have access to. Mostly I use my own or my daughter-in-law's photos. She is studying to be a photo-journalist and does her work mostly in black and white so I have to imagine the colors, which I like anyway and her tastes and focus parallels mine. Like Sue, I'm housebound much of the time so when we travel, I take literally thousands of photos. I find my best work does come from photos of places I can see in my mind and only use the photo to job my memory. I see wonderful photographs everywhere that I would like to incorporate into my work but it's just not worth it. I used a "Webshots" photo of an aquarium scene to do a small piece and it came out so good but I cannot do anything with it because it is literally stolen...not cool :( . I decided then and there I would not use copywrited stuff ever again

05-27-2004, 11:18 PM
I like browsing our image reference library. I have printed several pics for "future" use,.....but somehow they wind up in my files without being used. I like knowing that if I want to paint a street market scene from Belgium, that resource is available to me. And if by chance it turns into a keeper that catches the eye of an art consumer, I can legally and ethically profit from it. Some of the photos are so rich in subject matter that more that one painting can be executed (extracted, lifted,) from them. Also, I think browsing the library is cathartic for my own creativity. Lot of really good photographers here at WC that don't label themselves as such! I tried to promise myself that I would only paint from my own, no-flash, photographs, but that turned into an excuse to avoid working.(what can I say....I'm basically lazy.... :) )

Good poll topic with very interesting responses.

Regina McMullan
08-31-2004, 10:14 PM
This thread (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=116513) contains links to copyright free images for those who are interested.

Kathryn Wilson
08-31-2004, 11:17 PM
Thanks Regina! I'd forgotten where that thread was - saved them to my Favorites place - :clap:

09-01-2004, 06:01 PM
I do use the image library here for things I can't take my own photos of. I take my own when I can. I usually change something but not for copyright (since they aren't copyrighted) but just to make it more pleasing.
I have used a copyrighted image for a painting for my Mother. I changed alot but I think you can still tell it's like the original & I won't sell prints of it. I avoid using anything copyrighted unless I just can't get around it - then I change alot of it.
There aren't many non copy-righted photos out there. I'm so grateful for the Wet Canvas library.

09-02-2004, 04:44 AM
I cannot vote anymore as the poll is closed, but just for the record :D, I use photos from the reference library, but sometimes I change them, sometimes I don't. It gets changed anyhow as I cannot copy literally and that would be boring to do. I don't aim to change anything as the reference library is free to use. I don't use any other photographs except my own or sometimes some taken by a friend or family member who has given permission.
As long as I know the copyright is free I don't bother about 'how much to change'. Is there copyright on it, then I simply don't use the photo.

09-07-2004, 10:08 PM
I, personally, have an issue with the term "copyright free". As far as I remember from my Multimedia Business course in college last year, the creator of a piece of work holds copyright on that work, automatically, until 50 years past the death of their last living relative. That may be just a Canada thing...but something cannot be "copyright free". Royalty free, on the other hand, means that the holder of the copyright has given up the right to collect fees based on the use of their copyrighted material.

That being said - I will use images from the reference library for my work, but only because I also offer my own original photography for others to use in their work. It is this spirit of trading work for the expansion of the artistic community that really appeals to me.

Of course, I tend to work from my own photographs more often than not, simply because I framed the original shot and I feel I can interpret a piece better through my painting of it...